Have you ever met people and from the moment you meet them they just seem like family? Or visit a place and half-jokingly but half-not-joking-at-all declare that one day you will live there?
This happens to be the case with the Blessing family in L’viv, Ukraine.
The cityÂ is just about as far west as you can go and still be in Ukraine. It is one of the cultural centers of the country with an extensive list of noted writers, poets, musicians and artists. The first time I visited in the summer of 2010 itÂ tugged at the fairytale lover in me with High Castle Hill (despite the missing castle component) and the “City of Lions'” stunning architecture that includes hundreds of lions. It doesn’t hurt that it is also known for itsÂ chocolate and coffee. (There’s even a coffee festival in the fall.)
The Blessing family, which isÂ Mark and Rhonda and their daughters Bria, Lindsay, and Kirsta, have lived in Ukraine since the early ’90s. They are the kind of people that overflow with God’s love, have a huge heart for Ukraine and for the Jewish community, and are just a lot of fun to be around. It’s a long, slightly complicated story, but over the course of a year or soÂ I became friends with the entire family, after meeting Krista through a friend of a friend on my first visit to L’viv.
They have built there home, Bethel House, as a place of ministry, first to the Jewish community, but I have personally been blessed to find a bit of refuge for a few days on my visits, too. Mark and Rhonda also planted and are pastoring Living Word Church, a non-denominational congregation in L’viv.
A couple of months ago, they asked me to pray and consider coming to L’viv to help with their young adult ministry. Serving with CCX in Kyiv for several years helped show me just how much I love working with university and young adult age because there is so much curiosity, creativity and hope for the future. Also, it’s just a crazy age range with so much happening and so many decisions to be made, and I’m so deeply grateful for people that listened and cared and helped speak truth in my own life at that age.
So a few days ago I said yes to moving back to Ukraine and working alongside the Blessings. There are other ministry opportunities we discussed, and I’m sure I’ll get to share some of that in the future, too.
For now, I am hoping to sit down face-to-face in L’viv with the Blessings next month to solidify some ministry details and ideas and start the process of returning to Ukraine.
Stephanie, do you mean this March? Like just a few weeks away March?
Yes, yes, I do, and here is why that is so soon:
I have been blessed to maintain so many close relationships from my time as an CCX worker. One of those, Inna, started out as one of the university students and became one of my closest Ukrainian friends, to the point that we call each other sister. She is getting married March 5th. She has asked me if there’s any way possible for me to comeÂ to Kyiv for this special and important day in her life, and I cannot put into words how deeply I want to be there.Â
The hope and tentative plan is to make a trip to Ukraine from March 1 – April 5. This would mean I could make Inna’s wedding, have some vision casting time with the Blessings, and have a few weeks to meet up with other friends and former students. Currently, roundtrip tickets are at a ridiculously low price of about $750. That means, including food and travel, I only need about $1,100 total to make the trip a reality.
There are a few people that have been part of this process that are prayingÂ about all that has been mentioned in this blog, and I’d be honored if you would also join in praying for what God is doing in Ukraine and the great things He has in store.
If you feel led to help financially toward this trip, tax deductible giving can be made through Re-Generation (that’s the non-profit I help with in Los Angeles)
or by check with a separate note attached indicating it’s towards Ukraine to:
1905 N. Wilcox Avenue, Suite 219
Hollywood, CA 90068
You can also keep up to date through my Facebook page, here, since I tend to post articles, videos and short updates that don’t turn into long blogs there.
It’s an exciting time, and I cannot wait to see where this is all going and to share it with you!