Splendid Spontaneity

Marina approached me on Sunday morning with a question. “What are your plans Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?”

The rest of my ministry team was away with a group of students bonding on a hike that would be something like 80 kilometers throughout the week (that’s like 50 miles). No thanks.

My week was left pretty open and in a moment of spontaneity I said, “What do you have planned?”

on the train to mukachevo
My morning surprise

That’s how I found myself on a trip to the western part of Ukraine with one of the students and her friend that I met about five minutes before we stepped on our overnight train.

I awoke the next morning on that train to freezing cold and a rather unexpected sight. There were large flakes of snow falling from the sky and settling on the land outside. Oh and it’s the month of May.

 

Thankfully that stopped before our final destination was reached an hour later.

We visited two cities during our day – Mukachevo and Uzhhorod. It was a gorgeous day filled with castles, walking, flowers, more walking, good pizza, and a little more walking.

 

Me and Marina
Me and Marina

What impressed me most, however, was Marina.

 

If you know her, you love her. She is the kind of person that seems to bring light into any situation. She’s also a bit mischievous, which is probably another reason I love her so much.

We had a lot of fun and interesting conversations during our 36 hour trip. It was clear that her friend that joined us was not a believer, but she did not shy away from difficult conversations (like when he wanted to argue that fasting is just an imposed diet that is pointless).

On our train ride home, two older men boarded with tickets for seats across from us. There was some polite conversation as they consumed a very manly, Ukrainian fare of bread, salo, and vodka. (I just said hello and smiled, since my Russian doesn’t extend much past that.)

During conversation it was discovered that one of the men was an atheist and Marina politely (and ever with a smile) jumped into the discussion armed with Bible verses, theology and historical references. I only caught what Marina translated for me, but she clearly did not need my assistance.

 

uzhhorod
In Uzhhorod

It was exciting though to see one of our students so willing and able to witness to a total stranger on the train and to her friend that was with us, and I mostly just listened from the side and prayed. This is what we want to see happening with our Christian students, and it gives great hope for the future!

 
It was an unexpected trip full of surprises ..including the giant spider that sneaked up on me as I was using the bathroom in a cemetery… and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.

As we near summer camp, please pray that our Christian students will be a light to their peers at camp, that they will be bold in their faith and willing to share with others the hope that Christ offers.

 

Uzhhorod castle
Uzhhorod Castle

 

 

Health update

Just a quick update to say thank you to everyone for praying.

For the first time since Tuesday my stomach hasn’t been upset and I am slowly starting to be able to eat.

I’m still really weak and definitely have a long way to get back to 100%, but it seems I am on my way there.

Time For Change

It seems Pridge (that’s me) is in spring cleaning mode. Since I don’t have the energy to do the housework part yet, I’m beginning here!

I decided today that it is time to do some work on flutterbpypridge.com starting with a clean, crisp design. I thought maybe it was time to become a bit more professional.

I chose this one because not only do you see my main tabs, but can also visit blogs based on my main categories, though in the coming weeks those tabs and categories may change some as I rework the site.

Let me know what you think.

The Last Week

This was the last week of English clubs for this semester… and I missed them all.

I was supposed to be playing Apples to Apples, Uno and other games with students.

I was supposed to be interviewing for our summer English camp.

I was supposed to be spending time with the people I love.

Instead, I spent the week on my sofa bed curled up in a ball, well, when I wasn’t curled up on the toilet.

I still don’t know what has captured my intestines this week, but it started Tuesday afternoon and it is now Friday evening and I am still sick. I talked to a recent med school graduate today and she advised me on a few things to pick up from the pharmacy, but also that if anything changed I would need to go to the doctor and have some tests run.

Please pray this passes.
I’m basically trying to stay hydrated and rest, but I’m beyond frustrated and a little more than concerned at the thought of possibly needing to go to the doctor here (I mean, I don’t even like them in the States where I basically trust that they know what they are doing and we speak the same language).

_____
Christmas present idea: I know it’s half a year away but I think the gift of a physical exam would do wonders for my health… it’s been way too long. Just sayin’

Help Matteo Walk

Matteo attends my church in Ukraine. He is twelve, but he has a huge dream. Recently, he has been given an opportunity that will change his life and the life of his family, but he needs help to see this dream become reality.

Matteo lives with the effects of Cerebral Palsy, making it extremely difficult for him to walk. Doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital have evaluated Matteo and found him to be a good candidate for a surgery that will allow him to walk on his own. An appointment for Matteo to have the surgery is available on August 18th, 2011. This procedure is expected to cost about $80,000 and is not covered by his family’s insurance.

Please watch the video below and visit his web site for more information.

 

 

Goodbye May 21, 2011

Here in Ukraine May 21, 2011 is coming to a close. Nothing chaotic or unusual happened at 6 p.m., except my apartment’s cold water stopped working. I guess when you need a shower that is a bit of a tragedy.

Regardless, I’m glad the world didn’t get any crazier today. The apocalyptic prophesies do bring to mind a few things though.

1.How much different would we live if we really did expect it to be our last? What would we do differently? And why don’t we live that way?

I’m sure I would be much more intent to let those in my life know how important they are to me and how much more God cares for them. I’m also sure I would spend less time online and more time investing in those relationships.

2. We can poke fun and ridicule the followers of this belief that the rapture would occur today, and for the most part that is what the whole world is doing right now. If I’m honest even I’ve been singing REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it”all day.

Think about it, are snide remarks and laughter at the expense of others how we should treat our deceived brothers and sisters? How often do we not tell others about Christ because we fear people will treat us the same way we are treating them?

They are probably in need of some prayers right now as everything they have based their hopes on didn’t come to pass as expected. I’m praying that they find truth instead of turning away from God completely (and that they find a new pastor!!)

3. I’m glad the rapture didn’t happen today. Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited at the thought of being in the presence of God and out of the muck that comes with being on earth. There are a lot of people that don’t know Him though, that won’t be enjoying the beauty and majesty of eternal glory. There are many people I love included in that number.

Just this week as I talked with students planning to come to summer camp I heard statements like “well I’m not really a spiritual person” or “I don’t believe there can just be one answer” or “Of course I’m a spiritual person, I’m Ukrainian.”

Though if I really cared, wouldn’t I be quicker to tell them about Christ despite what they may think or say simply out of love?

And on a selfish note, I’m glad we’re all still here ’cause I’m not married yet 😉 Just sayin…

An Unexpected Friend

His father took him by the hand, looked him in the eyes and said, “Son, I am old and sick. Leave me. You have a chance at life, but only if you run. So run.”

That was 17 years ago. Johnny paid $1,500 to a man that promised to fly him out of Babylon, away from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Johnny found himself in newly independent Ukraine as a refugee.

It took him about five years to learn the language. He married, has since become separated, and has two little girls. Diana (“Like the princess,” he told me) is ten, and her younger sister, Angelina, is seven.

Johnny spends his days in a small booth selling pastries and pizza outside the metro stop near my apartment.

I walk by this booth and many others on a daily basis, usually in a hurry, and almost always with my iPod pumping rhythms and melodies into my ears.

Tuesday, however, I was heading somewhere but I wasn’t in a hurry to get there and along the way decided a piece of pizza would be nice. So with one earphone in and the other dangling I ordered. I stumbled over one of the words, giving myself away that I don’t actually speak this crazy language, and he asked me something. So I gave my pat answer, “Sorry, I don’t speak Russian” (said in Russian and yes I’m aware of the irony).

The next sentence caused me to remove the other earphone from my ear and pay attention.

“Are you from America?” he asked.

Shocked I replied that I was and from there conversation continued. He told me that he once spoke very good English but after 17 years of speaking Russian and with no English practice he has forgotten a lot.

I spent the next twenty minutes standing at his shop window and talking. He told me a great deal about his life and how hard it is in Ukraine. He works six days a week because, as he said, “Sunday is the Lord’s day.” However he only averages about $10 a day.

I never expected to make a friend in the market by my home, and I guess he never expected some American kid to show up at his stand. It completely made his day to have someone to speak English with and I promised to return again for pizza and more of the story.

For me it was also a reminder that God shows up in the most unexpected ways, but usually I am in too much of a hurry to notice. I have lived in my new apartment now for two months and this was the first time I stopped at this stand. I cannot help but see that God knew Johnny needed some encouragement and, for some reason, God decided to use me.

Has God showed up in any unexpected ways in your life lately? Maybe He is just waiting for you to slow down enough to let Him.

 

It Feels Like Home

I have realized over the past few days that Kyiv feels like home. In fact, one of my friends noted recently that I’ve become quite Ukrainian in some ways.

1. If you know me well then you know that I have never been a big fan of bread (except Red Lobster garlic biscuits, which I can eat my weight in). I’ve also never been a huge sandwich lover (except if you count Subway). Imagine my joy in being part of a culture that really enjoys bread… and бутерброды (pronounced: bew-ter-bradt or open-faced sandwiches). However the past couple of weeks I have frequently found myself purchasing a loaf of bread (which costs less than $0.50), some cheese, and meat to make sandwiches with… and enjoyed it!

2. I’ve started posing for photos. I spent years running away from camera lenses pointed in my direction, now I’ve started jumping in the middle of photos or saying “Hey, take a photo of this!”

3. My 15 minute walk to the metro station (and back later) is normal and not a long walk. Consequently one pair of my jeans can be pulled off without even unbuttoning (but don’t worry I always wear a belt).

4. I am starting to understand more Russian. I can’t always say it myself but am starting to recognize more. I have also semi lost my mind and am planning (hopefully) to take a one month Russian intensive course . . .  more on this later.

5. It isn’t uncommon for me to carry тапочки (pronounced: tapochki) when I travel. тапочки are slippers you wear in the home.

6. It also isn’t uncommon for me to carry my own mug, tea, sugar, and spoon on trains because hot water is free.

7. Most days I don’t walk out the door without makeup on. (Say WHAT?!?!) Don’t worry I haven’t started regularly ironing my clothing, though I have started polishing my shoes.

What does this mean?

Well… I’m saving those thoughts for another blog.

Miracle Tranformation

I love to hear updates from ministries I have worked with in the past. Michael’s Children’s Village (MCV), under the umbrella of Iris Ministries,  in South Africa was one of my favorite ministries on the Race, and one of the places I hope to one day return to visit.

This update came from the director’s of MCV , Jean and Teisa Nicole, and I wanted to share just a glimpse of how God is using MCV. It is so exciting to me to see children’s lives being changed through this ministry after all the blood, sweat and tears that went into getting the property ready for these precious ones.

In early January, we got the phone call about a sick little boy from the local hospital. The Holy Spirit immediately told me, “Take him or he will die.” I called the social worker back and told her to bring him over to MCV without asking any other questions.

As many of you know from our blogs/FB, Thapelo came to us extremely sick and malnourished.  He had just endured months in the hospital and was just beginning the ARTs (the HIV treatment which is extremely hard on the body).  When he came, he was on over 10 different medicines for HIV+, mild
lymphopenia, anemia, latent TB, enlarged liver, and some strange skin fungus.

The first 2 months were pretty rough, but the global MCV family was praying for Thapelo. God wondrously healed a blocked bile duct and enlarged kidneys which saved him from life threatening surgery.

After four months of lots of food and lots of love, Thapelo is dramatically transformed. He has gained heaps of weight and almost all of the above problems are gone (keeping praying for healing from HIV!)

Believe God with us for a HIV free zone at MCV!!!