Warm clothing and weatherproof shoes are procured.
A foot of snow over the Christmas weekend (coupled with the other snows of December – how odd!!!) have ensured that I can in fact live in wintry conditions and possibly enjoy it part of the time.
But there is still something amiss. Frosty sums up my current feelings well in Frosty Returns:
Upset? “Upset” is waking up and finding out somebody forgot to give you a belly button. “Upset” is finding out somebody stole your nose to play fooseball! This ain’t “upset”, kid! This is PANIC!
I’m trying to not be, but I’m kind of there. Why?
I leave in 14 days and while I have a ticket, I have responsibilities, I have fur-lined boots and I have Cuddle Duds… I don’t have support.
Currently I have about $200 a month pledged in support, that doesn’t even get you a rented room or food and it is just a wee bit too cold to sleep in the streets (plus there are scary people in the city… like guys who have rats on their shoulders and try to pick up girls.) I need at least around $500 more a month when you add in food, transportation, communication, insurance, and those pesky unforeseen costs.
I’ve racked my brain for genius ideas and I’m fresh out EXCEPT knowing that many people seem to enjoy my photos I thought maybe an incentive would help.
Several weeks ago my quiet, enjoyable afternoon curled up outside in the wicker furniture reading a novel came to a screeching halt. I bit into a sweet, succulent mandarin and a bolt of pain shot through my mouth that almost made me jump from my chair. Off and on for the next couple of days I experienced shooting pain, throbbing and couldn’t chew on the left side of my mouth. Since then the shooting pain has subsided but occasionally when I bite down just right it begins throbbing again.
If you don’t know, I have a huge phobia of dentists. As a child I was scarred for life by one yelling at me because the pieces you bite down on for x-rays made me gag badly and I couldn’t keep the adult size ones in my mouth (shocking since I was a CHILD!). Anyway since then seeing a dentist is painful simply in thought, but with the idea of needing dental work in Ukraine seeming even more unappealing I faced my fear.
Today I called the dentist.
I am not joking when I say that my hands were shaking just dialing the number. When the receptionist answered and I explained about the tooth and wondered if I could be worked in this week she responded, “Well what are you doing right now?” Not what I expected. I had already figured that if he could work me in this week it would be in a few days and I would have a little more time to convince myself it wasn’t the end of the world.
Long story shortened…
My dentist has a heart for missions. Apparently he has been many times to Ukraine and we may have chatted more about that then about my poor tooth. This made me decided I could possibly find room in my heart to like at least one dentist in the world.
After lots of tapping, scraping, biting and x-rays the prognosis is a cracked tooth. The unfortunate side is that there isn’t anything to be done about it for now other than some sensitivity toothpaste and biting on tougher things with the opposite side of my mouth.
Oh and the dentist trip only cost me my time.
All in all a blessing of an afternoon and I NEVER thought I would say that about a dentist visit.
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without carols to be sung. So imagine my delight when I discovered that one of my favorite carols is actually Ukrainian.
Known the Western world as “Carol of the Bells”, the “Ukrainian Bell Carol” or “Schedryk” was composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych. The original work was intended to be sung a cappella by mixed choir and tells the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful and bountiful year the family will have.
It first premiered on December 1916 by a choral group made up of students at Kiev University. The “Carol of the Bells” version we are familiar with was adapted to English by Peter Wilhousky in the 1930s. Another popular version “Ring, Christmas Bells” features more Nativity-based lyrics and was written by Minna Louise Hohman in 1947.
So for your listening enjoyment I tracked down a version from Ukraine (what did we do before YouTube and Wikipedia?)
Christmas is the holiday most likely to bring out the child in all of us, even those of us who know Santa started laughing at our wish lists long ago unable to help. There seems to be anÂ awe, a sense of wonder and, dare I say,Â “magic” to the holidays. There is anticipation and hope of what is to come.
So in some ways it didn’t surprise me when God began pointing out my need, our need, to be childlike. What did catch me off guard, and pain my ego, is the difference between being childish and being childlike.
Reference Matthew 18: 1-5.Â The disciples were being childish jostling amongst themselves in a way that proclaimed “Me first,” “I’m important,” “Hey, Look at me and what I’ve done!”Â They were being childish vying for the number one spot as greatest in the Kingdom. At the core of being childish is being selfish and I am the chief of sinners, part of the Generation Me crowd.
Then Jesus shocks them all. He picks up a small child to place on His lap and says to be the greatest you have to have the humility of this little one. What?!
I have thought a lot about this lately and this is where it has led me.
Children live fully in the moment. Nothing is impossible in their eyes until we tell them otherwise. They see the world through a lens of infinite possibilities, with awe and wonder, which I would certainly do well to emulate. Then when you begin to look around at the amazing magnitude of beauty, detail, creativity, you begin to recognize how huge God is… and how itty, bitty you are.
Children are dependent and so are we. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all dependent on God just as a babe is dependent on someone to care for his/her needs. It reminds me of an old song with the lyrics, “I can’t even walk without You holding my hand.”
Which should lead us to a place of trust. If we see how big, how caring, how articulate God is and we recognize how weak and dependent we really are then it should bring us to a place of running into the arms of the Father, knowing that He is good and He alone is our strength, provision, salvation, etc.
Then there is anticipation. Just as children anticipate the joys of Christmas morning and the world anticipated the first coming of Christ (though they had the wrong expectations), if we are being childlike we find that we are in a constant state of anticipation. We hope and long for the day of Jesus’ return, but we also anticipate that He will show up in the day to day, the mundane moments of life, and transform them into places where Heaven touches earth even if for a moment.
In what way is God giving you the opportunity to walk out a childlike humility and faith today instead of throwing a childish fit?
It seems there is a never ending list of justice issues that need to addressed in our world. Really what do we expect from a bunch of fallible, sinful, wicked humans running around? One issue that is gaining more and more media attention is that of human trafficking.
I had the opportunity to get to know some amazing women in Thailand that are forced daily to sell themselves. They are beautiful girls but you can see the emptiness, the hopelessness, in their eyes and it will suffocate you. It was a joyous occasion when earlier this year one of the girls that I came to love sent me an e-mail with pictures of her no longer in the bars but working with a Christian organization.
Today I came across a disturbing article from Myrtle Beach, SC. It is about the luring of foreign university students with summer work programs in the U.S. It isn’t that I am unaware. I know the problem is huge and it is a major concern for the university students I work with in Ukraine. Here is a brief excerpt:
An Associated Press investigation found students forced to work in strip clubs instead of restaurants. Others take home $1 an hour or even less. Some live in apartments so crowded that they sleep in shifts because there aren’t enough beds. Others have to eat on floors.
They are among more than 100,000 college students who come to the U.S. each year on popular J-1 visas, which supply resorts with cheap seasonal labor as part of a program aimed at fostering cultural understanding.
A Ukrainian woman who said she was forced to strip in Detroit asked the AP to identify her only as Katya, because she fears for her life.
Katya, who used the same alias when testifying to Congress in October 2007 about how sex trafficking brought her to the U.S., said she was studying sports medicine in Kiev back in 2004 when her boss told her about the J-1 program.
Instead of waitressing for a summer in Virginia as she’d been promised, however, Katya and another student were forced to strip at a club in Detroit. Their handler confiscated their passports and told them they had to pay $12,000 for the travel arrangements and another $10,000 for work documents, according to court records.
Katya said he eventually demanded she come up with $35,000 somehow, by dancing or other means.
“I said, ‘That’s not what I signed here for. That’s not right.’ He said, ‘Well, you owe me the money. I don’t care how I get it from you. If I have to sell you, I’ll sell you.'”
The women were told that if they refused, their families in Ukraine would be killed, Katya said.
Over the next months, the two men beat the women, threatened them with guns and made them work at Cheetah’s strip club, court records state. Katya said one of the men also forced her to have sex, a memory she still struggles with.
The two men are now in prison, and Katya’s old boss in Ukraine is a fugitive. Katya was allowed to stay on a different visa designed for victims of human trafficking and other crimes, and her mother was allowed into the U.S. because of threats on her life in Ukraine.
Many of the students I have come to love participate in Work and Travel programs during the summer. I read this and thought, “That could be someone I love.” I am simply not ok with that thought. Part of my responsibility is raising awareness, not just in Ukraine, but here because trafficking isn’t just an “over there” problem. It is here, right outside our doors. Home of Chick-Fil-A, the Braves, and Turner Broadcasting Network, Atlanta is also one of the top cities in our nation for trafficking and there are organizations standing up and fighting.
Personally I love it when I see a campaign that is creative and well done. To raise awareness about this issue, director Brandon McCormick has created a 30-minute film called the Candy Shop: A Fairytale about the Sexual Exploitation of Children. Street GRACE and Whitestone Motion Pictures have partnered together to launch a 12-month campaign against CSEC, which is the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
I encourage you to take 30 minutes of your time to watch this film online and then visit their Web site to find out what you can do to be part of ending this atrocity.
If you would like to impact the lives of students in Ukraine by supporting me, I am still in need of roughly $1,000 a month in support for this coming year and am leaving in 32 days. One time, monthly, there is no gift unappreciated or too small and you will be helping change lives. Click here to find out how to give.
Indulge me for a moment to tell you how I feel. Past the cultural lie that “I’m fine” … this is where I’m really at.
When the vision is large and the goal seems miles away I become lost in the in-between. I lose sight. I lose heart. It all quickly goes downhill. I’m sprinting at the beginning, crawling in the middle and somehow manage to pull myself over the finish line. It is a serious flaw in my personality, a weakness that sometimes undermines my strengths.
Some goals seem so far away I’ve all but given up hope, thrown in the towel, ready to proclaim myself forever single and misunderstood with no knight riding in to save the day. Other dreams have their corner staked out in the recesses of my brain, like having a greeting card line, but I haven’t seemed to find the umph to extract it from thought and implemented into reality.
Returning to Ukraine, however, is always in sight of my mind’s eye, yet logic and insecurities scream obscenities in my ear. Tears seem to forever be pushing to spill past the lidded dams that struggle to contain their salty captives. It seems so close yet still utterly unattainable.
Admittedly I’ve somewhat gone into hiding. Applications for employment have gone unanswered or returned with friendly rejection. With the passing of time, my plan shattered like an unfortunate Christmas ornament that took a tumble from its prominent place on the tree and found its fall broken by a hard wood floor.
Too much time spent comparing myself to those of my peers and my culture and I feel like a failure. The truth of God as my provider seems a lot easier to grasp and accept when I’m not at home. If I’m brutally honest, I’m just depressed. It’s hard to see the point in getting out of a nice, cozy bed or changing from pj’s into real clothing when you are stuck at home hanging out with furry feline friends day after day. It’s not very world changing or inspiring.
And so asking for support feels like holding out a tin cup on a street corner and begging or playing a tired, old song off-key on a busy sidewalk. It’s annoying, easily overlooked and, frankly, I’m not a beggar. However I believe in CCX and I deeply believe in God’s plan for the students in Ukraine and for whatever insane reason God has called me there. Living in a different culture is hard and I’m not even sure I can hack it, but God has placed a love in my heart for that country and it drives me to keep trying, to keep getting up, to keep asking. Call me stubborn.
So that leaves me praying, hoping, planning, fighting against the notion that it’s all in vain because I know what I’m fighting for and they are more than worth it.
Below is a feature story from our most recent CCX newsletter. Vika is a friend of mine and a precious young woman of God who I look forward to spending more time with once I return.
My name is Victoria. I am a graduate of Kyiv Linguistic University. When I was a sophomore, my friend invited me to the CCX English Club that was held in my university. I really liked it there because people were so friendly and welcoming. When summer was approaching, they invited me to the CCX English camp. During the entire camp, I was quite reserved and didn’t want to hear anything about God. But thanks to my wonderful small group leaders who were open and vulnerable during our Bible studies and discussion groups, my attitude began to change. As a result of camp, I became a Christian and began attending a church.
My lifestyle has changed completely and I grew up in my faith. It was a radical witness to my family and my fellow students when I refused to go night clubs in order to get drunk. Instead, I decided to praise and serve God. In my church, I joined the Teen Challenge team – the ministry dedicated to rescuing people with various addictions. This ministry is important to me because I have an alcoholic father. I am an outreach leader in this ministry, leading outreaches to homeless people and drug addicts.
When I look back, I see how powerfully my life has been changed by God through CCX-Ukraine and through my believing friends. I am so thankful that CCX-Ukraine exists!
Vika is one of many whose lives have been touched through the ministry of CCX in Ukraine. Here is just one of many reasons why I am volunteering. Would you be part of reaching out to other students like Vika? Click Here.
Recently I find myself perusing the toy aisle. While I have yet to catch on to the Ukrainian version of Uno and have a huge aversion to looking like an idiot, the only child in me is screaming with delight at the thought of hours of laughter, fun and friendly competition.
I found several that seem like loads of fun and I can’t seem to decide between them all. These are the ones I’m currently considering…
Has anyone played these? Suggestions? Have I missed a game I should consider? Which would you choose?
As much as I enjoy a good game, support raising isn’t one.Â Would you consider supporting me this coming year? $10, $25, $50 a month goes a long way and allows me to go where God has called me and allows you to be part of the lives He touches there. Click here if you’re game.