Tuesday, July 29, 2008

VBS--1st day at Yulanivka

We got a bit turned around getting to the village so came in at the last minute. Kids were already waiting for us. This was the looks of the "parking lot." As they road home most of the bikes had a big brother and little brother on them.

Around 20 children were there--in a town that had 2 first graders last year, not a bad turnout.

Our theme is about building, especially building a solid life on Jesus. So our crafts all have to do with building.

Little Dennis is totally concentrating on his project.

Danik is the one missing from the Shevelenko children posing around Marina a few posts back. He wanted to pound in every nail himself.

Picture Perfect

Marina Shevelenko got a beautiful new white skirt sewn by her mom for her birthday. Along with her sweet smile, it made for pretty pictures.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A bit of everything

This is one of our smallest Kids' Klub attenders hanging in the window, while his mom alternately scolded him and chatted with me on the driver's side.

Allona has said she didn't know how to cook. These last few days she's been getting a crash course. Here she is with her cabbage burgers. That's cabbage and hamburger and spices inside a homemade bread bun.

It made a welcome break in the push of the week to take Katrina to the bazaar for some chickens. The look on her face when she discovered the feed bags she was so helpfully carrying were for grain for her own chickens "just cracked me up." (There's a better picture on her blog.)

Hurrah! Seth and Katrina finally finished cutting out the pieces of our VBS crafts today. By the time we make for 4 VBS's there were hundreds of pieces.

The last of our confrontation with Ukrainian bureaucracy/paperwork ended today with getting the inspection sticker for our trailer. Now we, our vehicles and our trailer are all legal for the next six months.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Zaccheus' friends

Sputter! Sputter! Complain! "It's not fair!!!!" . . . but it's Ukraine! There I've gotten it out of my system (maybe).

We were in a rush to get both vans inspected. Dave drove one. I drove the other to the suburbs of Kyiv. I do not even try to drive in Kyiv's crazy traffic. We arrived at 9 pm, bagged up some junk and headed out to find a 24 hr car wash because the vehicles have to be clean for inspection. We found one, the van was power-washed and chamois wiped. . . it must have been surprised to get such attention. At midnight we got back to Osikova to sack out on the mattress on the floor.

6:15 am found us getting up, washing the dash and the floor of the Volkswagen and bagging up stuff in the Mazda. We left the Volkswagen off with a friend for him to run through inspection and headed into Kyiv.

Today was the Mazda's turn at the car wash. I asked Dave if I could stay inside while the wash was being done. The attendents looked surprised but didn't say anything. I actually semi-slept through the car wash.

Then we headed to inspection. First step, all the fees have to be paid at a bank. Dave waited in the 30 person line until it was his turn and paid the fees. Then we had to carefully angle our car amid the crowded lot to the inspection lane. We got in right away. . . well and good!!!

(Here's the parking lot. One vehicle has to move a few feet before another one can move to get in a space or get out of the lot, etc.)

The inspector only found two problems, the fire extinguisher wasn't big enough and the brakes weren't strong enough . . . again a sigh of relief; there could have been lots worse things to deal with.

We walked to an auto parts store and got the extinguisher. Dave jacked up the van and tightened the brakes. After lunch hour we headed back to the inspection lane. Yes the extinguisher was what we needed. They said there was no difference on the brakes. . . . first sign of problems--they weren't even looking at the machine used to measure the brakes strength.

Since we've been to the same inspection and had problems every year with the brakes, Dave decided maybe there was something dark and hidden that he didn't know about. We got out more money from the bank and headed to a reputable mechanics' garage.

They took the brakes apart and examined them carefully. "Nothing's wrong!!!" They followed the brake lines and the emergency brake cable. "Nothing's wrong!"

Now we got the picture. We were in Ukraine. That had been the police inspector's way of asking/complaining that they didn't get a bribe.

We returned the next morning, armed with the mechanics' receipt. Although the mechanic had done nothing except loosen the brake that had been getting hot from where Dave had tightened it last year, today the brakes were pronounced "excellent!!"

We went to the final step, taking the now signed and approved check list to get our sticker. To our surprise the policeman at the window told us we had to pay for inspection. "Funny," Dave said, "that the bank missed THAT!"

We went to the long line again, were about three people from the front when Dave found a receipt that we had already paid for inspection. He checked with a couple of people. Yes that was what we needed. We stepped out of the line and went back to the policeman and handed him the receipt. "Yes, that was what we needed," he said. We filled out an application and returned it to him. He flipped through the receipts again. "Where's the SECOND inspection receipt? I sent you to pay for inspection!"

"But we already paid!!"

"But you had to use our equipment to go through a second time. If it had just been a matter of looking, like at the fire extinguisher there wouldn't have been an extra charge, so now you need to pay for inspection again."

We returned to the long line, advanced to the clerk. "What are you doing here?" she said, "you paid yesterday! It doesn't make sense." She hadn't heard of a second charge. We paid anyway. It was obviously their way of getting more money out of us since we hadn't paid the bribe.

We went back to the policeman, waited an hour for him to "quickly" get back to his desk and he duly gave us our inspection sticker.

There was a pocket on the wall for a book that has been advertised as the consumer's protection. A friend noticed that the pocket was empty. "Do you see that?" she smiled. I asked her what kind of book it was.

"A book for complaints."

Because we were expected eight hours away at a birthday party at 6 pm in the evening and it was already 11 am, we didn't bother asking for the book or trying to register a complaint.

On the way home, I decided that we were dealing with Zaccheus' friends. He, too, wangled his way into dishonest money. That's why the common people detested him and his ways. But Jesus loved him and took part in his hospitality. Maybe I should be praying for these dishonest policemen?

PS. The Volkswagen took 2 turns in the inspection lane without bribes and any further problems while we were working with the Mazda. We were done with inspections for both vans and could take our weary selves home. Thank God!

Marina, girl at far left, at her birthday party . . . 10 pm. . . . they waited for us.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This is the pizza that Dima's mom made for her birthday. It has berries of all kinds, eggplant, mushrooms and cheese on it. It was good.

Dima, his mom and her friends.

Seth is working hard cutting out the board pieces for birdhouses for VBS.

Faith and some of the kids that show up at our house have been cutting building tools out of foam.

Problems and Praises

Because of what is going on with Dave's mother, he needs to get to the US. We needed documents on ourselves, both vehicles and the trailer done before he left. We decided it would be quicker to cross the border into Moldava than to wait for hours in the passport office and it is equally legal. We headed to Odessa, bought a part for the Mazda and then on for the border. We went across the border drove around for a short time and then returned to the border crossing. The officials yelled and griped but gave us what we needed. We praise God that this was accomplished.

The next morning Dave finished the work on the trailer and took it for inspection . . . the inspector wasn't there. AND our Volkswagen broke down on the way home. He needed to leave the Volkswagen for me to drive. We could imagine the worst, engine problems. By about 4:30 the problem was found and solved. The covering had worn off a wire. It had shorted out and blown the fuse.

Praise God for the timing!! It could have happened any time on the trip yesterday and would have been much more frustrating!! It could have happened while Dave was gone and I would have been lost! It could have happened on the way to Kyiv for inspection and would have been much harder cope with then as well. Praise God that the problem is fixed.

Now the vehicles and trailer still need to pass inspection. Forward, MARCH!

Another praise is that the city water was on today, on Wednesday. We washed as much as we could, as quickly as we could, right after the TLC team left. The next weekend water was on Sunday and Monday. We washed all day on Monday, but still had piles of dirty laundry. We've washed all day again today. Thank God for water!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Not boring!!! . . . # 2

We got up this morning to the news that Dave's mom is in the hospital with possibly serious problems. We still have paperwork to complete on ourselves, our vehicles and trailer before the end of the month.

We went to have our children's service at Mikhailivka. Today was game day. We played the game we played last week at Kids' Klub (if you're reading this TLC team). I was tagged. My partner turned around to run the wrong direction and rammed his head smack into mine. My glasses made this cut. So I have the first eye swelling/possible black eye in my life.

We still have four VBS's to do with the possibility of Dave not being here.

The whole situation is very . . . "not-boring!" Please pray that God will help us with the paperwork and give especially Dave and then the rest of us comfort and strength.


Artyom quit his job in a bar after youth camp. He's still looking for another job . . . he is readily accepted to work under age 18 in a bar but not in other positions.

Dima is asking for guitar lessons. His mother has invited us over for a birthday celebration on Saturday evening.

Allona celebrated her thirteenth birthday. She decided that she liked EZ Economy Chocolate Cake so that's what we baked and put ice cream inside for her birthday.

Faith snapped this picture of a daisy just in time.


Katrina did not want to drive the van or sit in the tiny, hard middle of the front seat or hold the plywood on the roof. So she squeezed in behind all the seats in the cargo area of the Mazda. She very much enjoyed the expressions of passers-by when she smiled and waved.

Not Boring!! . . . # 1

First of all the TLC team had to get to the airport. We dropped in to Pastor Ramon's for a singspiration type service on Monday evening. After service Nadia, the always gracious hostess offered us tea. Then there were pictures to get and good-bye's to be said.

Because some team members wanted some more chocolate candy bars, we tried to go to a 24-hr Cilpo (grocery store) at midnight and found it closed. Since we were in a small parking lot and had no trailer lights, backing the trailer around was a challenge. Especially when someone drove up behind us to block our way! So we went forward to find another place to turn around. This time a panel truck came up behind us to unload at the grocery store dock. We went forward again and caught our bumper in a rut and tore it off the front of the van! . . . ah-h missionary adventure!!! We finally found a way back onto a normal road and stopped at the next store, bought the chocolate candy bars.

(No, we didn't get pictures of the van without a bumper or the bumper tied on top of the luggage in the trailer or the policeman who stopped us, asking, "Where is your bumper and tag plate?" We were too tired to think about pictures.)

Then it was supper time. We headed to a McDonald's. We arrived five minutes too late to go inside. The workers shooed us out of the drive thru with our trailer. The only place to park was behind other vehicles. We had to move to give them room to get out twice. In the middle of one move our order was delivered.

About 1:30 am we got to the airport, showed the team where the scales were to weigh their suitcases. After we made sure they had our phone number in the event of problems we left them on their own.

Too tired to drive safely farther, we napped in the pay parking lot for a little while then drove on to Osikova. At about 9 we started moving. We stopped at a small bazaar and got the tools needed to re-attach our bumper (so every policeman wouldn't stop us) and fix the trailer lights and headed home. We arrived home to a hot meal that Katrina kindly prepared for us.

Since then we've been trying to get things wrapped up from youth camp and started for VBS. It just barely, barely rained during youth camp. When the tents were finally being packed up after the campers had gone, the rain began in earnest. So the tents were quickly packed up to be hauled home. Now each one had to be set up, dried out and cleaned up for next year. When the campers had been cold, we brought out all our spare quilts. So now we had laundry for the week of camping plus the quilts.

Another special blessing was that Monday was a holiday so city water was on. Seth and Faith did around 10 loads of laundry on Monday.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

In an Old Apricot Orchard

We didn't pay any attention to what kind of trees were by the beautiful lake. We simply took the first load of people and tents there, showed them where the tents should be and left after the next load. The first day was pretty much confusion as we all tried to get our bearings. The meals weren't on time. The services happened when we could squeeze them in. We tried to match tent mates who had come for a long time with people who were new and hardly said a word. . . but they wanted to be with their good friends. Confusion. About the second day people began to bring out handfuls of apricots. The trees who sheltered our tents formed an apricot orchard.

Twenty-six campers came to spend time with us. Our theme was "breaking the trail." The TLC team heard about the theme as they travelled down from Kyiv. They took the idea and made it fly. ("Samson" is being bound with new reeds.)

Judean Presley told animated Bible stories in the morning service that vividly illustrated the different ideas: getting supplies--obtaining renewal spiritual strength, putting down tent stakes--forming godly boundaries in our lives, following a reliable guide--being careful what influences our lives and how we influence others, dangers on the trail--dangers on our spiritual journey and counting the cost--making the choice whether the trip was worth it. Hayli and Stephanie took over the object lessons and made them come alive. . . as tents dramatically fell with the wind because someone in a hurry hadn't put the stakes in the ground. Courtney, Raelynn and Tiffany worked with Faith, Seth and Katrina to bond with each of three teams, listen to memory verses, learn songs and practice Bible story skits.

(This picture is from a sermon/story about "Billy, the bad banana who refused to obey and hung out in the dark jungle with his friends. Because he disobeyed a gorilla came along and ate him, sucked all the life out of him, just like sin does. Note our elegant pulpit!)

Nathaniel McCasland and Nathan Hunt prepared sermons for the evening service, helped get a hot camp fire going for cooking, did guard duty in the evening and planned activities. Dave was continuously on the road for supplies and fresh drinking water. I answered questions and tried to cook. Most of the time with all the help from the campers and everyone else it went well. But we had one major disaster! Does this look like macaroni salad?

Pastor Ramon and his wife Nadia filled in cracks everywhere. Ramon played the guitar, translated listened to memory verses and helped with the fire. Nadia helped cook, listen to verses, lead singing. The last day she had team devotions with one group.

At least six new children whose lives we have never touched before came to camp from both churched and unchurched homes.

"Kodak moments" were many. I'll try to catch some more of them later. Here are a few.

Hayli, TLC team leader blows bubbles with Pastor Ramon's daughter, Evelina.

This sign shows that this tent is Tanya's and Varduyi's

Several, but not as many as two years ago, cut their feet on shells or trash in lake. Here a cut is being disinfected and bandaged while other campers look on.

No, this firewood isn't large in size but we had to have something to cook with!

She's practicing the special for the evening service, just happens the keyboard is still in the van!

This family came to visit for the day.

This is one of the games the kids played.

But the best part of the story is this.

Ramon and Nadia's son, Valik, had wanted to come to youth camp but he also had the opportunity to go to the Crimea, a famous, beautiful resort area in Ukraine. His tickets were bought for the Crimea. They reconsidered the situation and brought him to youth camp. After one of the services, he came in tears to his parents, "I want to pray." The next service he testified, "I thank God I repented."

Dima A, a young man who has been faithful to come to all the services and tender in spirit has been more and more pulled recently between the way of the world around him and God's way. He prayed for forgiveness. Afterwards he said, "I don't know how to explain how I feel inside. I just feel like I could fly."

Artyom made it to youth camp. We didn't know if he would accept our invitation. He came. Many services, it was visible that God was speaking with him. The last service he prayed. "I've given up so many times. I'm afraid I'll fall." Nathan Hunt told Artyom that he could make it, "I'm counting on you," Nathan said.

Artyom answered, "I'm counting on God."

Little Olya, Tolik and Vova Drummond sought God.

Vova from Mikhailivka, a quiet, sweet kid was one of the first to acknowledge his need.

One lad was pestering a fellow camper before he went to service. After he had prayed and God had dealt with his heart, he came back to apologize.

At last tired and smelling of smoke we made the trip to take the first load to the train station. It was the last day, July the 4th. We, Americans, missed being with our families and friends to watch the fireworks. So on the trip, Dave did a special favor and stopped to pick up some fireworks. When he drove back to camp, he promptly left again to go around the lake away from people and trees to set them off. A few of them lit up the sky celebrating America's freedom and the new freedom and joy in the hearts of those who had repented.
We roasted a few marshmallows after the fireworks and even made a "s'more."
Saturday morning was clean-up, pack-up and taking the children home. We carried the supplies in and made a line at the bathrooms for baths. Nathaniel scrubbed soot off of camping pans. We put supplies up and cleaned. A load of wash was put in the washer. Youth camp was over.

It's Sunday now. Tonight the TLC team will leave to begin their journey home. The children who found God will meet Satan's temptations and life's trials. We will continue to try to minister to them. Pray for each of us, especially that God will keep and shelter the new spiritual babes.