Monday, January 14, 2008

By the Way

Monday, we travelled farther than we normally do, to visit Lena, (center between Katya, her friend on left and Anya, her sister on right) on her birthday. She travels a lot so we weren't totally sure that she would be home. She was really excited to see us but there was a funeral in her church that day so a lot of hustling and bustling was going on in her home.

But along the way there were a couple of interesting shots . . . the first came at the police post just outside of Nikolaev. It looked like that day was on-the-job training for a whole group of new recruits. Probably fifteen policemen stood along the road, stopping just about every vehicle that passed. We saw three policemen point their batons that indicate that the driver is supposed to stop at one car. Yes, we were stopped and sent on our way without incident. This was the best picture I could get of one cluster.

In homes, people take their shoes off at the door. In stores, no one takes their shoes off. But outside of both homes and stores will be a metal bar on which to clean shoes. Here's the store.

Here's the fellow just finishing cleaning his shoes, the farther one is a bit blurry with his movement.

As traffic increases on Ukrainian roads, so do the accidents. This is one we saw today. The driver is sitting in the truck. The first time we passed two semi's were sitting on the shoulder. The second time, just this one.

As we came back into home territory, I enjoyed the beautiful sunset.

Most of these were just incidents along the way, not really anything major to us. . . except we're thankful for God's protection on the highway!

Some things not quite so unimportant that are going on right now. A church family is preparing documents to go to Moscow for an interview with American immigration authorities, contemplating immigration to America. This will involve us helping their family with a trip to Kyiv. While they are gone for around a week, we'll be responsible for their four children.

Everyone except one child said memory verses at Kids' Klub this past week. They've earned the required number of points to have a special event. Pray for us that we can prepare something both fun and spiritually meaningful.


Our game in Kids' Klub this last Sunday was to see how many balloons each child on a team could hold. Yep, people bent over in half trying to hold more balloons than the other fella so their team could win. It was hard to get a good shot of several because they were all bent out of shape!!!
Here's a couple.

And I know that cats climb, but normally it's trees that they climb not ladders!!! Our cat loves to snuggle up close to people but not usually on their laps in a warm cozy spot. This time she climbed the ladder to the box of clothes on top of the closet!


A couple, who had enough marriage problems earlier to be separated for several months, yesterday came to us for advice and prayer. He wants the family to move to one place. She is not totally comfortable with that move. She wants the family to move to another place. He is willing, if he KNOWS without a doubt that that is God's plan to move to where she wants to go, but otherwise, his heart is just not in it. We're praying especially in the next few days for this couple that God will reveal His will, not the husband's, not the wife's, not ours, but God's.

We're posting no pictures for privacy's sake. But would you pray with us for this couple in crisis? This decision could make or break their family.

Apples, apples everywhere!! (and a testimony)

Trying to help our neighbors out, before we buy from strangers we bought three boxes of apples from him for the holiday season. We planned on giving lots of them away in Christmas treats. But we didn't check them out and they were full of spots, not good enough to give away. We bought another box to give away. We had part of a box put away in the cellar that we had bought about a month earlier.

We took the better apples for 80 treats and had three and one half boxes left. Our family spent one full day processing apples. Seth used an apple peeler/corer and froze one box for pies. Allona, Vova and I worked on another box and a half and made it into applesauce all day. None of us wanted to see apples very much for awhile.

We've had applesauce cake. We've had plain applesauce. We've had applesauce cookies, two kinds so far. We've had apple pie.

And most of a box of apples were left.

Olya came in last Friday. "Twila, your apples are spoiling! Let me help you with them. I'll mop floors like normal and then work on your apples." So she cut off bad spots, peeled and sliced apples for another two or three hours.

We have maybe a peck left for eating after all of that was said and done.

I washed some apples and then worked on fixing supper while she worked on peeling and slicing. She chattered non-stop. She talked about her family. She talked about men's role in the church. She talked about her own church history. Among other things she said, "I think God sent your family here for me. I'm not happy with my daughter and her husband. I want them to serve God, too. We left the orthodox church when we started reading the Bible. We left the other church when the pastor started using narcotics. He's in prison now and women are taking turns preaching there. God sent you here for me."

St John the Baptist's Day

We went for children's service in the village of Mikhailivka. At the end the hostess, Valia, asked us, "Don't you celebrate St John the Baptist's Day? On this day we can get a glass of water from anywhere, the river or our well, it doesn't matter, take a drink of it and it won't spoil or get old the rest of the year."

As we continued our day, we noticed people out enjoying the ice on ponds and on frozen rivers, a few more than normal, probably because it was a holiday.

We also saw a priest in one village going from house to house to bless the people with "holy" water, in honor of this holiday. I snapped a picture of him to show you but it was hurried and too blurry.

For the Guys out there!

We teased Vova that this should be his car. It's a souped-up Moskvich, Russian made, year probably mid 80's. Notice the extras: front bumper guard, air scoops on the hood, a spoiler and special wheels.

Cars no matter what make, how old or new are quite frequently still a prized possession in Ukraine.

Notes of Culture

"Christmas" lights at last . . . I took this picture on the eighth of January. I'm not sure you can call them Christmas lights when the only place I could find a Christmas card was in a Bible book store. There were plenty of holiday greeting cards, all emphasizing the New Year. Last year we didn't see lights like these in Nikolaev.

A group of holiday carollers left the fine arts building of Nikolaev as we were parked in front of it on January 14th. These are Ukrainian folk carollers, what they do only very slightly resembles Christian carolling in that they sing. Notice the goat's head held up as a holiday emblem. The person in the back with the long blond braids and red painted cheeks is another part of their celebration, a cross-dresser. Seth told me a girl was there, dressed as a guy as well, but it didn't catch my attention.

Elaborate baby carriages are considered a necessary item for every city baby and a few country babies as well. Babies need fresh air, you see. So good mothers take them on walks almost every day. Sometimes a brother, a cousin or a grandma or grandpa will take the baby out, standing in for mama.

Cleaning the streets is still a manual job in most cities here. Vehicles of every sort carry mud and debris into the city streets. Workers go along sweeping it all up into piles and then shovel it into trucks as this one is.

Notes of Praise . . .

After the retreat, I had lots of extra laundry; sheets from all the beds, what the family had worn that I had been too busy to bother with, tablecloths. On a normal week the city water is turned on, on Friday and off Sunday evening or Monday morning. If I do more than 3-4 loads a day and add any mopping, baths, whatever, we are out of water before it comes on again. Because this has been a holiday season the city water has been on every day and this is the last of last week's laundry hanging up to dry! Thank the Lord for this blessing!

This is our dog, Gabe's water pan. Seth has been adding fresh water every day during this last cold snap. As you can see, there is not much more room for water. We brought this pan into the house so it would thaw enough to get the ice out of it. Our neighbors were planning on walking across the ice-covered river behind our house to go hunting. So after two weeks of weather from 7 degrees to the teens, it was really pleasant to wake up to a thermometer that showed a balmy 29 degrees!!

I suppose it's going all around the bush. BUT a mother in America was enough concerned about what her daughter was getting involved in, in Ukraine, that she was ready to visit a local holiness church to find out what it was all about. If things happened as scheduled, the mother, the father, who rarely attends service and earlier a member of management for collective farming, a sister and her family were supposed to pay a first time visit to a holiness church in their American city. This is the best note of praise for the last!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Christmas Program Highlights

At 2:00 am on Saturday morning, January 5th, I thought, "we'll never get it all done. There's just too much." Dave had built a temporary wall for the front of the meeting "hall." Seth and Timothy Boyd had built a framework for our night sky. We had hunted and hunted for Christmas lights that were all one color. Finally we found a string, only nine meters long. We had to use the colored ones we bought, too. We placed black plastic over the frame and punched holes in the plastic to let the light shine through. The idea came from the time we spent back in Kansas years ago. We used cardboard boxes to make a "well." (Here's Pavel sitting in the finished well.)But the treats needed to be sacked and the costumes needed to be touched up and the cardboard boxes needed to be painted and the dishes needed to be done and . . . you get the picture. Allona and Vova were sick.

Saturday morning we had Christmas program practice at 10 am. Then our friends stuck around to help. One person burned the trash. Some of the youth helped sack treats.

This is Tolik. Another friend sewed and ironed costumes. We got to bed at a decent time with everything pretty well finished. God had made a way.

Sunday morning we sang Christmas carols. Sunday afternoon we tried to pick everyone up for a last minute practice.
Four pm, program time, came all too soon.

Our program was about the Saviour with promises from Genesis to Revelation. Our skit was about one of the Magi who taught his younger student that there was a time and a purpose for everything. One of this man's companions was full of gloom and sure that nothing good could come from following the star. Another was eager and impulsive. King Herod was wickedly clever. But the wisemen paid attention to the dream that had disturbed the eager Magi from the start and did not return to him. The wisemen meet Jesus in an ordinary home. But God witnesses to their hearts that this is no ordinary child. They return home understanding that this was God's time to send the Saviour of the world.

Several highlights (pictures taken during practice, not the program):

  • The senior magi (Seth) teaches his apprentice (Dima), that there's a time for death and sacrifice.

  • The child acting as Jesus makes a play cross

  • The magi meet a Hebrew woman (Varduye) and her daughter (Olya) at a well and ask for a drink. She tells them the local beliefs about the star.
  • The wise men (Artyom, Dima, Dima and Seth) go to King Herod's court
  • Mary and Joseph (Tanya and Alyosha, a married couple) relaxing
  • The substitute Herod, when the "real" one had to go home to help his sick wife.
  • The children sing their special Christmas songs.
  • The half-sick sound man who played eastern music for the wisemen, thunder for Herod's court and made the birds sing.
  • The reason for a Christmas program, reaching out to families who don't know God. Dima, in costume is very faithful and shows a real, continued hunger for God. He got his mother and a friend to come to the Christmas program.

  • The Reason for the Big House

    When we first bought this house a few years back, it seemed so very, very big, bigger than anything we had lived in, in the US or Ukraine. In fact others teased us about having the "big" house. The time was coming closer and closer to the public school's winter vacation when we had planned another family retreat. Some of the visitors were supposed to be housed at Katrina's and some at our place. But the boiler at Katrina's turned absolutely cranky. Only when it wanted to, did it work. "We can't put anyone in a house that is only 40-some degrees! Where will they sleep?"

    Believe it or not, we fit four families into our big house for about five days. God had a reason for letting us have a big house. At times, there were lines for both bathrooms. We overflowed the kitchen when everyone sat down for a meal so tables had to be moved into our ministry/church room. Breakfast was more informal as people came into the kitchen.
    The four families lived here during that time; others came and went. Basically each family had its own room to sleep in, with an extra room for the girls upstairs. Here's one of the rooms a family slept in.

    Before the arrival of the first guests, we met up with a major problem. Our water ran out. What do you do when you can't flush toilets for 13 people for 12 hours? Dave went after a bucket and got the last bit of water out of the cistern. We ordered a tank of water brought in. Then the pump wouldn't come on. And as I tried to fix lasagna for a Christmas-y meal with fellow Americans, it seemed the food wouldn't cook right, either!! Nonetheless, we all enjoyed lasagna and just as we were heating water to do dishes, the pump decided to give us water from the faucet. What a blessing!

    Sunday, the Boyds helped in services. Brother Boyd preached in the morning service. His oldest daughter, Lalia, a GBS student told a story in the children's service.

    Monday was the first extra event of the week, a New Year's Eve party for any who wanted to come. Several weren't allowed to come because of it being a major family holiday here. But several did come. We played many games: "Swat," the game where you have to remember another person's name quickly helped everyone get acquainted; "Upset the Fruit Basket" had everybody cracking up;


    Around the World table tennis, charades and mafia.
    We wanted to give the youth an alternative to the partying elsewhere, good clean fun and a emphasis on Who everyone needs in the new year, God. One teenager (above) came and left before the party was over. The struggle inside over which way she will take is continuing.

    At midnight, we paused, sang two songs, "I'll Say Yes, Lord, Yes" in English and "I Surrender All" in Russian. We prayed asking God to help us in the new year. The neighborhood around us erupted with fireworks, big bursting stars in the sky and small pops. We watched them, played a little bit more and then everyone went home or to bed.

    The next day around noon began another family retreat, lasting through Wednesday evening. Pastor Ramon and his family from Kenyazachee were here this time. Here's his youngest child, cute, little Sasha. We had times of service, Bible discussion and prayer. Brother Boyd ministered in the adult services and discussions. Lalia Boyd, Oksana Grishenko and Seth worked with the children.

    We don't have pictures of those times because we were too involved. But we pray that God will use this time for strengthening of His people. Here are Tanya, Pastor Ramon and his wife Nadia and their youngest.

    After supper on Wednesday we took our table back into the kitchen. Thursday everyone left to go home.