Wedding Bells Heard Throughout the World

 

Photo taken from abreakingnews.com

So I admit that I got sucked into the royal wedding hype today. I put aside my to do list and instead turned on the live feed of Prince William and Kate Middleton even though last night I swore to my roommate that I could care less. I was quickly taken in by the excitement of the crowds, the beauty and splendor of the bride, the blushing and handsome prince, and of course all the pomp and circumstance. Those Brits sure know how to throw a wedding.

 

I was also secretly glad to be ahead of London time, meaning that unlike all my American friends, I got to sleep in this morning and still enjoy the wedding. (Sorry had to rub it in…)

As I was taking in the whole event via internet, I was trying to imagine what it was actually like to stand among the cheering crowds. What the atmosphere must have felt like in London today! Even online as I watched with people from literally all over the world, you could sense the great anticipation.

Of course it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a fairy tale wedding. The handsome prince. The common girl who has won his affection. The horse drawn carriage. Yes, in some ways it is like a Disney film being played out in reality.

In the midst of it all, my mind couldn’t help but wander to another anticipated wedding… no not mine, but gee that would be nice *sigh* No my mind wandered to the day the Church has longed for decades to see come to pass… the day of Christ’s return for His bride!

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”         (Revelation 19: 6-9, NIV)

What a day that will be when finally the Church has made herself ready to meet with Christ! I think it’s a day we too often forget about, or at least I do. It is easy to get caught up in everything that has to be done in the day-to-day demands and pressures of this life and I forget the point of it all, the culmination of history that is to come, the day when we will finally be united with Christ for all eternity.

Today’s wedding was beautiful, no arguments there, but for me it was also a reminder that there is an even greater wedding to prepare for.

Something tells me that no matter how “perfect” today’s wedding seemed THAT day will top all the royal, fairy tale weddings in history.

Moving, Moving, ALWAYS Moving!!

Among the happenings of April was an apartment move. On the first of April our landlady called to inform us that her son now has a girl and no longer wants to live with mom and he wanted our apartment, so she was graciously calling to inform us that we had until the end of the month to get out.

One thing is certain in Ukraine and that is as soon as you get accustomed to something it WILL change!

So our landlady’s son came by with an interior designer the next day to take photos and make notes, while my roommates immediately jumped into action to find a place to stay. Thankfully for me, they decided they would keep me.

Long story short, within a week a place was found so while I was away in Poland getting a visa, my roommates moved us into a new home. It is a bit more expensive but is also larger, nicer and closer to the Metro station. Also nice for me is that we are close to a large supermarket, which makes trying to buy food much easier for the non-Russian speaking American (though we are working on my market language). Oh and I am also a ten minute walk from the CCX office!

Below are some photos taken from before we moved in.

 

A Young Afternoon

Love or hate it, The Shack by William P. Young has made an undeniable mark in literary history. It has been translated into over 40 languages and is listed as one of the top 60 bestsellers of all time.

Personally I enjoyed the book. To me it is a very creative approach to dealing with concepts the human mind has a hard time grappling with – the trinity and why humans suffer.

CCX staff with Paul Young
CCX staff with author William Paul Young

Regardless, at the beginning of April, the author, Paul Young, came to none other than Kyiv, Ukraine for a Christian publishing fair. We were able to set up a meeting with him at Taras Schevchenko National University (which also happens to be where CCX  holds an English club every week that I co-lead with Dasha). Over 200 students came out to hear Young speak and it was pretty exciting.

 

He mostly told how The Shack came to be. See Young never set out to become an author. He just always enjoyed writing and would create things for friends and family. The Shack came about as he worked through much of the shame from his past and as a way to appease his wife. He originally had 15 copies printed at a local print shop and gave them as presents.

And he was completely okay with there only being fifteen copies. He never thought it would get any bigger. It made me wonder how many times we underestimate the potential of something… or how often we just settle… but I digress…

Then he told his story, which was  full of pain and suffering, some of which others caused and some that he brought on himself. It isn’t my story to tell and I’m sure the details are too fuzzy now to accurately portray anyway, but it shed so much light on how he could write a book like The Shack.

One of the statements he made seemed very accurate so I jotted it down:

Shame destroys your ability to distinguish between an observation and a value statement.

He spoke of how his wife would make an observation (ex. oh you didn’t wash the load of clothes yet) and he would hear a value statement (ex. you are completely worthless) because of all the years of shame. He had a mountain of secrets that he had never told anyone, including his wife, and the shame was killing him. After it nearly ruined his life, he spent the next fifteen years dealing with all the shame and secrets.

Then I started to wonder how many of us walk around in so much shame that we cannot distinguish when someone is just making an observation? How many of us do the same in our relationships with God?

God says, “You haven’t been spending much time with Me and I miss you.” Then we beat ourselves up about how stupid we are for not spending time with Him, how horrible and worthless we are, etc. instead of recognizing, “Oh yeah, that’s true.” and then spending time with Him.

It seems to me we needlessly waste so much time and energy living in shame, beating ourselves up over and over, instead of bringing it to God, dealing with it and living.

God can use even the worst experiences, failures, mistakes, life events for His glory, but we have to relinquish control.

Or at least that’s what I took from my afternoon with Paul Young…

 

 

 

 

Proud Owner of a барабан

This is what my drum looks like... yep it even has a hat

барабан (pronounced ba-ra-ban) means drum in Russian.

Music draws people and the chance to play around on an instrument seems to be especially appealing when it is a drum. I am not sure what it is about drums but it is like everyone is fascinated by them. Perhaps there is just something inherently fun about being able to bang on something. It can certainly be stress relieving.

After much debate, several years really, it seemed it was time to own my own djembe. I wrestled with this decision quite a bit, knowing finances were already tight and it was not exactly a small purchase, but in the end it seemed worth it.

Since coming to Ukraine three months ago, I have had numerous opportunities to play. ICA (my church here) was gracious enough to buy a church djembe so I could join the worship team and I thought that would end my agony over deciding. However, the same day we gained the new church djembe I had to ask to borrow it for ministry at a student event. Not really a problem except it’s not  fair to the church if they paid for an instrument that I am always taking with me.

 

... and the case too!

When I found out that the music store the church purchased it from was cheaper (by about $100) than the ones I had been able to find and that the church got a discount there, it made buying one a little easier (though it still hurt!). Amazingly, however, the drum also came with a case, which is very needed here with public transportation.

 

This past Saturday evening we hosted an International Night at the office. As part of the event we did some worship in English and Russian so my drum came in good use. There is more to it though than just being able to play for events, conferences, etc.

Several of the students have asked if I could possibly show them some basics of how to play. While I in no way consider myself to be a teacher or a professional drummer, I do see the opportunity available here to connect with some of the students. I am happy to say that I gave my first ever “djembe lesson” this evening. Not only was it a lot of fun to see the student’s excitement and a chance to build relationship, but I also was paid… in the form of ice cream!

I am excited by the possibilities that owning a drum opens up and now I  can actually practice and possibly learn how to do some of those complex patterns I have wanted to learn for so long (you know in my infinite spare time).

 

I’m Legal!

I have so much to say and catch you up on, but, alas, thanks to sickness and my recent required trip to Poland I have a “to do” list that is several kilometers long.

However I wanted to give you a quick update for all those who may be wondering…

I’m legal!! wooohoooo!! Praise God!!!!

I got my Ukrainian visa with no problems and am now able to stay in country until next April (if I so choose). I did find out that I am now required to get health insurance (another added, unexpected cost but I guess health insurance is good to have, eh?)

So that’s the quick update. I am back in Kyiv and back to work. May holidays are coming up soon and I am hopeful that I will be able to do some catching up (and get a newsletter update out) at that point.

Thank you for your prayers. Love you all.

I’m kind of like Carmen Sandiego…

Since graduating college in 2005, I have moved more times than you can count on two hands. I am not sure how many apartments/houses I have called home in Royston, Georgia alone, but I think I have lived with half of my church family. Apparently hopping around the southern region of the United States wasn’t enough so in January 2009 I left and circled the globe

Sometimes I think I should have a theme song… like Carmen Sandiego, except not based on thievery. In fact, I was shocked when I revisited this childhood favorite to discover the first line of the theme song is …

“Well she sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina…”

Hmmm… never knew Carmen and I had so much in common.

I digress…

I have now been in Kiev (Kyiv) for three months. This is officially the longest I have been in one place in more than two years!! Honestly it seems a little odd.

Last week I found myself considering the costs to go to India from Ukraine, and if I could just volunteer to lead a missions trip or something (you know with all my spare time and money – ha!). I thought it seemed a bit of an odd consideration knowing myself, but now I think it makes sense.

Lucky for me since I seem to have the travel itch, I am heading to Krakow, Poland. No I am not moving (well technically I am, but that is for another blog) and no I didn’t just plan a trip for the fun of it. I will be leaving Sunday morning and if everything goes as planned I will drop off my visa application and money on Monday morning and be able to reclaim my passport the next day with a nice, new Ukrainian visa. Then Wednesday morning I will be back on a plane to return to Kyiv.

Please pray for safe travels, that there are no complications getting the visa and all goes smoothly.  Thankfully I have a colleague traveling with me so I do not have to make the trip alone. Another colleague just returned from getting his visa and gave us detailed instructions for finding the embassy and the bank where I will have to pay. We are also hoping to visit Auschwitz on Tuesday, but I guess it will all depend on when I need to pick up my passport from the embassy.

I cannot believe it has already been three months!!!

 

You are Still a Part of Me.

I find there are bits of my heart scattered all over the world these days. There are people I count near and dear literally spread around the globe. So sometimes I find my mind wandering to them and to their countries.

Today it is Haiti.

Last year I was wrestling through heat induced sleepless nights, while this year I grumble about needing more than one layer of clothing to stay warm. I have found myself  thinking of the precious people I worked among last spring.

How are the people? How are the churches?

and…

Has the world forgotten?

With little effort I can recount several natural disasters in the past year, most recently the earthquake and tsunami that rocked the nation of Japan. Having seen the devastation of a major earthquake first hand, my heart goes out to them.

Japan had a 9.0 followed by a killer tsunami and the final death toll is expected to be around 20,000 deaths.  What astounds me though is knowing that the earthquake that toppled Haiti was a 7.0 and resulted in 316,000 deaths according to the Haitian government.

I recently read that there are still more than a million people living in tents and reconstruction has barely begun more than a year later.

I wonder about how Evansbord and his family are…

I wonder about the Marassa communities…

I wonder about the kids I fell in love with at the Fleury Foundation…

I wonder how our translators and their families are…

You get the point.

I haven’t forgotten Haiti, and I hope that you haven’t either. They still need our prayers. They still need our hands and feet. They still need the hope of Christ.

One of my precious sisters in Christ is helping bring that hope. Teri Gunnink and I were teammates on the World Race in 2009 and God gave her a vision for the children of Haiti during that time. Over the last year she has worked with Adventures in Missions to help bring aid to those effected by the earthquake and then moved to a position in an orphanage. She has recently signed a two year contract with Kids Alive International, an organization that shares the vision God placed on Teri’s heart back in 2009 of raising orphans in family units.

God has truly given Teri a heart for the children of this beautiful country, but she cannot do it alone. She needs to raise $1,500 a month plus $8,750 in one time start up costs to return and fulfill her commitment as a special projects and communication coordinator with Kids Alive International. Please visit here if you are interested in partnering with Teri and the work that God continues to do in the nation of Haiti. If you would like to see her Vision Letter or follow Teri’s blog, please visit her blog!

Africa in the Heart of Europe?

In so many ways Ukraine seems like a land of contradictions, maybe it is one reason I fell in love with her. Examination of my own self often leaves me baffled at the apparent walking contradiction that I tend to be, so maybe in some ways I understand.

At the turn of the 20th century millions of Ukrainians left their homeland, emigrating to Canada and the US. Ivan Franko, a Ukrainian writer, said of his country that it was “Africa in the Heart of Europe”. I find that to be an interesting and striking statement.

It never ceases to amaze me really. The social divide here is glaringly obvious to me as I notice such posh brands as Bentley, Maserati, Hummer and Aston Martin (to name a few) parked along downtown streets right in the face of babushkas in multiple ragged layers trying to sell their wares to passersby. The wealthy become wealthier and the poor work, borrow, beg, steal and become poorer.

Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, Ukraine is both tenacious and fragile. The people of Ukraine have a history of being invaded and made captive to others and this year marks a mere twenty years of independence. As a people group they are amazingly resilient and strong, but history has left them wary, searching for hope and fairly cynical about the future.

Many of the students I work with look longingly on the thought of going to America or just another country because, let’s face it, the grass just seems much greener on the other side. Is it really though?

The American Dream seems to be a glamorous thing worldwide, this idea of freedom, prosperity and success for anyone, regardless of social status or ethnicity as long as you are willing to work hard. It is the whole “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” deal. It is a great idea but I think we too often have a WRONG idea of what freedom, prosperity and success are. Too many people go after the dream and end up in a nightmare.

With that said, I love America. As Lee Greenwood would say, “And I’m proud to be an American…” I recognize how blessed I was to grow up there and know that many of the opportunities I have had just do not come to the majority of the world’s populations.

I also love Ukraine – this place where the old paradigms are meeting the modern world and in some odd way they are mingling and trying to function together.  I want the students I work with to see and know that what appears to be greener grass is sometimes a mass of brambles. I want them to see that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t just mean lots of money, amazing looks and being able to do whatever you want whenever you want.

I hope for  students to love Ukraine and to see the beauty that is here. I hope they will see that they are part of the answer to the injustices they are faced with daily. I want them to see that God cares about each of them and that ultimately to have hope and a future they have to follow Christ.

As Charles Habib Malik, former president of the UN General Assembly, said at the Pascal Lectures in 1981, “‘Change the university and you change the world.” Maybe in some ways Franko was right and Ukraine is an “Africa in the Heart of Europe,” but I don’t think it has to stay  that way.