potpourri

This afternoon we leave for Kiev; but it’s no small trek to Kiev from here. I’ve ridden on many trains in Europe before, but this will be the first time to sleep on a train. Although Kiev is about 800 kilometers (500 miles) from here, the train ride is 17 hours long. Josh and I will be sharing a “Kupeh” (a closed-door cabin) with two strangers…who have already claimed the two bottom bunks. It seems like a weird experience for me, but Emily (a missionary in Ukraine) has reassured me that it’s really not a big deal. I am actually looking forward to the train ride mostly to see the country and to have the time to just sit, think, meditate, and read.

Our week was full of what I can only call “wonderfulness.” A little recap for you:

Sunday – I attended three churches: A Ukrainian church at 10:00, a Russian Church at 3:00 and a Hungarian/Roma (Gypsy) church at 7:00. The day was very busy with time inbetween only to eat, but i chose to go to all because the Spirit within me was just urging me to go. Attending church here really is difficult, not because I’m spiritually dry or frustrated (which I’m not), but because i do not yet understand the language; which can make for some really long sermons. Fortunately, this day, two of the 3 churches had English speaking guest Speakers! The Russian church did not, but they have amazing worship and it always refreshes me.

Tuesday – visit from our landlady and her son’s English teacher to serve as a translator. We are having all kinds of repairs and remodels going on at our apartment building. Our landlady wanted to make sure we understood everything…but the translator was so excited to just be able to speak with native English speakers that she really did not translate much of what our landlord said. Mostly she just asked us a bunch of questions about us, what I was cooking, about our experiences here, and even wanted a tour of our flat. I just realized that I wrote about this (and some about our train ride) on an earlier post. sorry for the partial rewrite! :)

Wednesday – Off to the Roma church again, this time to hear special guests from Germany. It was awesome – God moved – lives were changed – spirits refreshed – and new friendships made.

Thursday – Natasha set up a little get-together for me to talk with her English students from the University. There were 5 young women all, 18 – 19 years old. At first they did not want to talk, admitting they were very scared to meet me and speak with me; but I just kept asking questions and made each one answer. Natasha was there, but she basically sat back and just let us talk, interjecting only when they could not fully understand something I said or when there was a small lull in conversation. After our small meal, Natasha said her goodbyes. wouldn’t you know…the girls became alive and soo talkative…they were terrified of speaking English in front of their teacher, not so much me! They joked with me, asked all kinds of questions, and we even had a mini photoshoot out in the middle of the square. (no pics from me though).

some of these young women do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, but they now have a relationship with me…and i pray that God will continue to use me in their lives to show Himself. God is doing something here through me … something I hadn’t expected…

Friday – There are some Roma who want to learn English, but the only people to teach them are other Roma who can speak limited English! Most Ukrainians who can teach English won’t give them the time of day, or they charge way too much. And, when they (the Roma) can’t even afford food, they won’t have money for lessons. So, these Roma asked Josh and I to help them out. We’re not teaching the class yet, but went and just offered our friendship and conversation. I tell you, God is really doing something in this church; it’s quite inspiring…and a very long post…so I’ll save it!

I know this post didn’t have a lot of depth to it…but many of you have told me you’re interested in my daily events…so this one’s for you! Actually, some of these stories have some great depth, and I’ll try to write them out on the train and post them later. If you want some good deep spiritual reading, check out Josh’s blog that he wrote this week…it’s good stuff. You can read it by clicking HERE.

Now, off to pack and make homemade tortillas for our trip!

Random updates

The last few nights have been filled with severe thunderstorms.  The lightning is so bright it’s like someone is standing in the room taking flash photography, and it takes a moment for your eyes to readjust.  We have an attic, but the pounding rain echoed through our apartment.  I love it!  But, the result was loss of internet in our apartment.  So, right now I’m at the internet cafe trying to get everything done as quickly as possible!

Our building is in the midst of reconstruction and repair.  The downstairs neighbor had some kind of patio space torn down and they are now rebuilding – with much clanking and banging and yelling.  At the same time, our water cistern in the attic somehow broke and flooded.  Luckily, the flood bypassed our apartment, but, unfortunately, it did not bypass our downstairs neighbor who was upset that water was pouring into her kitchen.  Our landlord is in Poland on work, but his wife has come by several times trying to figure out exactly what is wrong and what to do  about it.  Until it’ s fixed, we only have water for 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours at noon, and 2 hours in the evening.  We are storing up water old coca-cola bottles…a true Ukrainian experience…limited water availability!

Yesterday, the 20th of May, was our 8th Anniversary!  We spent the day by shopping at the market, buying train tickets, walking a looong way for pizza, and then studying Ukrainian; then topped it off with sloppy joes and a visit from our landlady about the water cistern.  Nothing spectacular – but that will come later this week when, thanks to our government, we will be taking a trip to Kiev.  The journey is twofold – to get my Chinese visa and to celebrate our anniversary.   Our 17 hour overnight train ride begins on Saturday afternoon and we will return home next Friday morning. We will be sleeping on top bunks and sharing a room with strangers – hopefully, they will not snore or smoke..but, likely they’ll do both!

I can’t believe it’s been eight years!  Wow, the Lord sure has brought us through many different adventures!  But, he’s been good to us all along the way.

language barriers

Josh wrote a little bit on his personal blog about some of his frustrations with the Ukrainian language, and some of our experience this week. Here’s an excerpt:

Wednesday evening our neighbor came up and knocked on our door. She is Russian and was trying to explain something to us (In Russian). All I could understand was “No gas, …tomorrow…9am…..11am….” Which is all I needed to know, but she was very frustrated I could tell because of our confused looks. They are doing construction on our building and needed to repair some of the pipes.

Yesterday, I had another fun experience. We visited a orphanage as a possibility for future ministry. We took our tutor, Snezhana, to a nearby town (1 1/2 hour – bus ride) where we met her friend and met with the assistant director of the orphanage. Snezhana translated for us. As we were leaving, I thought I would impress my tutor and our new friends by saying “it was nice to meet you, and thank you” in Ukrainian. The assistant director smiled and said something to Snezhana, to which they laughed. She said that we need to learn the different dialects of our region (Transcarpathia) because she isn’t Ukrainian. But Snezhana was pleased.

When we returned home from our outing, our landlord was coming down our stairs. We haven’t seen or heard from her since February when we paid for our first 3 months rent. We knew that she would be by soon for the next three but were unsure when. She is Hungarian, and of course speaks, you guessed it, Hungarian! She quickly had me go with her to the attic area. She showed me that our cistern (water storage device – we only have city water certain parts of the day and the cistern is what we use when the city water is shut off) was leaking and that the surrounding overflow was full of water. She used a lot of sign language to explain that we need to let our sinks run to drain all the water. After about an hour we had drained all the water and refilled the cistern. She told me to check on it to see what the problem was or is. This was a very fun experience trying to figure out what the heck she was saying and interpreting all the sign language.

Needless to say, I have a lot to learn here.

To Hungary or Bust

Lori needed to go into Hungary to wire some money to the States, stopping at Tesco and McDonalds as well. Tesco is much like walmart – low pr lefices, lots of selection – more options that what we have in Ukraine. McDonalds because it’s just fast and a small taste of America.

I tagged along with her – as the idea of eating something other than potatoes, carrots, and onions sounded well worth the 2 hour drive. I don’t really like McDonalds, but I have not eaten beef in over a month, so a hamburger was sounding pretty good. Overall, though, I really just wanted the chance to hang out with a good friend.

The Ukrainian/Hungarian border was a breeze to get through. No hassles. The weather was nice, despite a little bit of rain. And, overall, it was a pleasant drive. We talked about life in Ukraine, life in the States, and God in our lives.

t the day feeling refreshed and spiritually encouraged.

After about 2 hours of driving, we came to destination in Hungary (I can’t remember the name – probably couldnt’ spell it anyways). As we drove past Tesco, our stomachs twisted – there were NO cars in the parking lot!! What? Looking around we noticed that ALL business were closed. It was a holiday – part of their Easter celebrations. So – No bank, no Tesco. But…you can always count on McDonalds…

After a messy big mac, hot, salty french fries, and a coca-cola, we spent a little time walking around the square and then headed back home. Although we weren’t able to accomplish the goals we set out for, I still returned home feeling refreshed and spiritually & emotionally encouraged.

(Click on the picture to a larger view)

The Valley of Narcissi

Every year, for only about 3 weeks, wild Narcissi flowers bloom outside a small town in Western Ukraine. Thousands of people from Ukraine and surrounding countries make the journey to “The Valley of Narcissi” to take in this beautiful site. Some of the interesting things about this Valley and the flowers:

  • the valley is the biggest habitat of the narrow-leaved narcissus and is situated only at two hundred meters above the sea level, which makes it the lowest known place where such narcissi grow. Mostly, this species of narcissus — out of 30,000 known species — grows very high in the mountains
  • Narcissi gets its name from the Greek mythology of Narcissus (short version: the beautiful man who, when seeing his reflection in the water, fell in love with himself. He could not get himself to leave his reflection, so he stayed on the river’s edge until he died there. His body then transformed into the Narcissus).
  • In the medieval times, narcissi were used in making love potions; its fragrance was believed to inspire love of beauty and bring peace of heart.
  • It has been written about in poetry, and is today celebrated with its own festivals in many countries throughout the world.
  • They are in the same family as the daffodil

If you want to read the detailed history and facts about this valley and the flower, you can click HERE (which is where I got my information).

Josh and I were among hundreds of people that visited the Valley on Sunday. Friends invited us along, and since we really haven’t had the chance to venture out, we jumped on the chance. The hour drive was enjoyable, almost more than the actual valley – as we drove over lush green mountains, past shimmering lakes, and through quaint villages. We realized we were getting close to the valley when we hit a traffic jam (one day I will have to write a post only about the driving here!). After parking on a cow pasture (see picture below) and walking through a labrynth of cars and people, we made our way to the entrance and then on to another long walk to the fields of flowers. There’s only so much you can do in a valley of wild flowers, so after about an hour of walking around and taking lots of pretty pictures, we headed on out. On our drive home, we decided to stop for a relaxing picnic by a river. the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Friends Natasha and Ivan

Dreams

Since I was a little girl, I’ve had some of the most vivid dreams. Unfortunately, many of those were either horribly nightmarish or included Joey McCintire (during my New Kids on the Block phase) – perhaps they were all nightmarish, then! Many of those dreams I still can recall in great detail. Even now, I dream several dreams a night.

Up until last October, I was plagued with grisly visions filled with demons, death, and torture. I used to tell Josh about them until he finally told me to stop…they were too unpleasant and gruesome and he didn’t want those visions in his mind. I used to just deal with them, saying that I can’t affect what I’m dreaming about. But, last October I had enough. i was tired of these dreams…not only did they keep me awake at night, but I was plagued with them throughout the days. Satan kept bringing them to my memory and I would replay them over and over again, as i tried to pray them away or quote scripture to replace the negative with God’s powerful words. After telling our mentors about this problem, we prayed together. since then, i have not had one of these dreams. I still dream several dreams a night, and sometimes they’re a little odd, but nothing gruesome or demonic. Plus, I decided to help the situation by not watching any kind of gory movies or tv shows (such as CSI: Las Vegas – which I LOVE! But, honestly, that show if full of twisted, horrible situations and gruesome deaths). So, although we can’t control our dreams, we can control what we put into our minds. As it says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

The other day I had a dream that I would say was from God. I think we all, at times, have felt inadequate or unsure about ourselves when it comes to evangelizing or sharing the Gospel with others. As i have started to make new friends here in Ukraine (some who are not in close relationship with the Lord), I know that a time will come soon when it’s time for me to share. or even, when I learn the language and i start talking to strangers – some who are going to be vehemently against even the idea of God. I’ve shared my faith many times, but now it just seems different…i guess, because in this land, I am different. So, anyways, I’ve had some doubts about myself…

then i had this dream Thursday night.

As i was visiting some friends, an older man was also there, I believe he was the father of one of them. Rugged in appearance and brass in his demeanor, he openly criticized me for my faith in God. Instead of arguing or debating, i just lovingly listened to him rant, treated him respectfully, and prayed silently. Before I left, I took a thick, black marker and wrote on the deep freezer “TRUTH”, knowing that as he exited he would see this word.

A little time later (maybe the next day), I was washing some dishes with the same friends. As I had my hands in the greasy water, the old man approached me. With tears in his eyes he grabbed me by my shoulders as exclaimed, “I believe, I believe.”

“What?” I inquired.

With a joyous smile he explained, “I saw the “Truth” and it did something happened inside of me. I can no longer deny Christ – i know the Truth.”

Then, as we were rejoicing together, I woke up.

I have pondered this dream over the last few days. Its meaning is clear and nothing new to my knowledge of scripture- but it’s a reminder that brings excitement to my spirit. There is nothing that I can say or do that will bring people to Christ; Only the TRUTH – God’s Word will convict people, and the Spirit working in them. All I have to do is be faithful to present the Truth.

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” ~John 8:32

Victory Day

Today is Ukraine’s “Victory Day.” In short, this day commemorates the Nazi surrender to Russian forces in 1945. It is now a celebration remembering those who fought in the Russian Army in WWII against the Nazis. Although i could not understand the speakers’ words, i still trekked down to the center of Mukachevo to observe this special day. Ukraine definitely does a good job at honoring it’s veterans – a huge celebration and free cars!

Later, on our way home from dinner, we came across a children’s gymnastic show set-up on the street. So, not having much else to do, we stayed and watched. These kids had incredible talent – and no fear considering how their apparatuses were rigged! I realized as we were walking away, that their coach (the man in red) was one of the WWII veterans honored that morning.

What is that?

One of the coolest things that I’ve seen looks something like this…(this isn’t the exact one I’ve seen because I’m always in a bus or a taxi)…

The very first time I saw this, the city was removing it. I didn’t know what it was. Now i do…And I look for them everywhere I go.

A huge stork’s nest. They’re beautifully amazing. Whenever I see them, I am reminded of God’s grandeur and artistic hand.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…

Jeremy & Katie with their 4th baby carriage!!!

That’s right…baby number 4 was born over the weekend. After 3 boys, they now have a daughter, Lexi.

CONGRATULATIONS Jeremy & Katie! We love you and all your precious kids!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOSH!

Today, Josh turns 29!  He is the most amazing husband and companion.  Happy Birthday, Josh, i love you!

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