Romantic Jellyfish and Artistic Adventures

Steph! Do you have:
1. Plain t-shirt, or actually any garment you don’t mind to spoil?
2. free time on Saturday
3. acrylic paints?
4. a desire to see me and so something creative with the help of screens?)

This was the greeting I received on Facebook last week. Excited? Totally!

Saturday came and it was a gorgeous day to be outside so we met up at a park for our creative adventure. I am sure you can imagine the looks we received as we sat on a park bench, speaking in English, and painting t-shirts. Wonderful fun. Potential business venture? I guess we will see.

Below are some photos from our outing.

One Less Concern

Debt Trap
Photo by Johngard -

It’s that dirty “d” word that makes most of us shutter a little bit. It brings to mind  lurking paper monsters received every month without fail.

And if paper cuts and hand cramps aren’t enough punishment, “d” also come complete with distant people calling at all hours of the day, relentlessly pursuing you.

Yes, I speak of DEBT. As some wise person by the name of Henry Wheeler Shaw once said:

“Debt is like any other trap, easy enough to get into, but hard enough to get out of.”

Today I am very thrilled to announce that I just paid off my credit card! Wooohoooo!!! I canceled the card before leaving on the World Race in 2009 and it has taken me until now to get rid of it officially.

Now if I could just say that about school loans. . . ah well, one step at a time I guess.



Study Time

Silly me, but I thought life would be less crazy after camp.  It may be officially time for me to agree with my roommates in saying that I have only fooled myself into believing I am an extreme introvert.

Since camp many of my days have been filled with conversations and time with students, one on one, the way I operate best. And all I can say is that I LOVE IT!!

I have NEVER considered myself a teacher or someone who should be leading a Bible study. So when I moved from being the inexperienced co-leader during camp Bible studies to the one who is the veteran I was a bit concerned. However if you didn’t gather from my camp comments, I absolutely fell in love with my small group. More than once I also witnessed God coming to my rescue when confronted with a tough question.

After camp one of the girls (not in my camp small group) asked if we could study together so I am now meeting with her weekly. She has many sincere questions and thankfully has said she feel comfortable discussing how she feels and her struggles with me.  This time with Tanya is becoming one of the highlights to my week and I think it is helping me just as much as it helps her.

Moving forward I ask for your continued prayers. Tanya is an amazing young woman and I am thrilled to see how seriously she is approaching the Word of God and I know God is at work in her life.

Visa Changes Update

ukraine passport stamps
What my passport will look like in the future 🙂

About a month ago all the expatriates here received a notice that the visa laws are changing and will go into effect September 10th. Currently I am here on a religious visa, but under the new system the only visas you available are short term, long term, or transit. From the wording of the letter it sounded as if all current visa types would be null as of September 10th and we would all need to get new visas and register in Ukraine.

This news coming in the midst of camp planning brought me to tears. Already attempting to live on a very small amount each month, I couldn’t help but view the cost of leaving the country, getting a new invitation letter, applying for a new visa AND registering in the country as a threat to send me home early.

Yesterday I was informed that Ukraine has said they will honor current visas until their expiration date!! Praise the LORD!!!!! I have been praying about this since they first sent word of the changes. I have not heard for certain, but expect that I will still need to pay the fees of registration this fall. Regardless I am rejoicing at this favorable news.

Thank you for all your prayers! Please continue to pray for us as we minister in Ukraine.

Taking Flight

“I dream of flying,” Iryna told me during our first night’s discussion. “I realize I cannot physically fly like a bird, and I cannot afford to fly in an airplane, but I hope that somehow one day I may be able to fly.”

My response was simple, “Who knows, maybe it could happen this week.”

She gave me a quizzical look, but we said nothing else about the subject.

Thursday was our team’s turn at what we named the Portable Pamper Pole, a 4.5 meter (about 14.5 feet) pole that students needed to climb, stand on and then jump from while reaching to catch a flag suspended in the air.

I watched as Iryna climbed and, like most of the participants, stood on trembling legs before her jump. I joined with the rest of our group and cheered her on.

Later in the day I found a note that read, “This camp makes our dreams come true!!! We can fly!!! 🙂 Thank you for being our group leader!”

Yeah you guessed it, I cried a little. (But that isn’t the point….)

Ira catching the flag
Iryna taking flight

This all made me think about dreams a little more. Here are those thoughts. I don’t think it is anything profound, but maybe it’s a good reminder.

  • The opportunity may be right in front of you, but it still requires that you do your part

    I’m 100% certain that Iryna did not expect one of her dreams to come true this past week. Those unexpected moments are fun and exciting for everyone involved.Have you ever had a dream realized in a surprising way? Are you open to being surprised?
  • The opportunity may be right in front of you, but it still requires that you do your part

    Iryna was able to fly in a sense, but she still had to put forth the effort. She had to be willing to trust her teammates and the safety system enough to climb up the pole, to stand, and to jump. This was the part that myself or others could NOT do for her. Seeing any dream realized comes with some kind of cost.Is there an open door to your dream, but you are hesitantly counting the cost? Are you open to the sacrifice?
  •  God may choose to use you to unknowingly help someone else fulfill a dream.

    Myself and the others planning camp had no idea we would be helping someone fulfill a dream. We were just doing our “job” and praying that God would somehow use it for His glory. God certainly works in mysterious ways and He has no obligation to let us in on the fun, but I love it when He does.Do our busy schedules allow for God to show up in surprising ways and work through us? Are you open to being used to help fulfill a dream?

Of Bonfires and Ukraine

Abi and I on July 4th
Thanks Carrie for the July 4th Inspiration... it was a big hit!

Last Monday evening as many of my friends back home were undoubtedly celebrating our nation’s independence with fireworks and BBQ, at camp we had our own little fiery celebration complete with s’mores and campfire songs.

Some of the American staff came together to put on a brief dramatic history lesson with a few patriotic songs, followed by our Canadian friends, and concluding with our Ukrainian family.

Katya and I July 4th
Katya and I are all ready for the celebration

My dear friend Emmanuel, who is a student leader in Vinnitsa and part of my small group, did Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech so powerfully that it would give you chills. One of my other students, Mariana, also helped lead in the singing for the Ukrainian portion. They are both so amazing.

It was a night of great fun and celebration that concluded with the hugest marshmallows I have ever seen in my life, which ended up as gooey goodness and a few sugar highs leading into late night game time.

Below is a brief sound byte from our International bonfire. This is during the Ukrainian portion of the evening. The name of the song is Катюша (Katyusha), you can click here for the lyrics.


Just One More Week… PLEASE?!?!

Veronica and Jane
I LOVE these two girls and am so sad they both live in different cities... and I may have already promised to visit them. . .

This week I fell in love all over again.

The very first evening of camp, my co-leader Matt and I were shocked at how quickly our small group opened up to us. We asked our students to tell us about their families because Ukraine is a relational culture and family is very important.

One student shared of a broken father relationship. Another student shared that her father had been an alcoholic and committed suicide when she was two. Still one of my other students told of a strict, military family that doesn’t understand. While yet another told of a recently retired father who is having a difficult time accepting retirement and no longer knows what to do.

Ummm… wow!

It isn’t that I was surprised that these things were going on in the lives of my students, but the mere fact that they told me about them on the very first evening! From the very beginning of the week Matt and I knew we were in for quite a ride, and we were correct in our assumption.

As the week continued our students were open and honest in conversations. During Bible studies they grappled with tough spiritual questions (so did Matt and I trying to respond)!! Again and again I saw God at work in them throughout the week. Several times their responses simply blew us away. For example during the Bible study about the Samaritan woman at the well, one of my students that is not yet a believer said, “So, with faith we live, without faith we just exist.” Matt and I just looked at each other in amazement from across the circle we were sitting in. That was just Tuesday.

Wednesday evening I walked into conversation time and a few minutes in one of the students said, “So Steph I would be interested to hear your story and how you came to be a Christian.” I kind of had a “umm what did you say?!” moment before having an open floor and very attentive group to share my testimony with.

During the physical challenges (when I wasn’t in meetings), I watched my group learn to work as a team. At the end of the week one of my students made the comment that the team never gave up on him even when he was convinced it was impossible. I even saw them cheering on the other team they were partnered with at one of the challenges even though they were supposed to be racing each other. I kind of felt like a proud mom.

They even cheered me on as I faced my own fear and climbed a 4.5 meter pole (that’s like 14 or 15 feet) and jumped. It was a challenge they faced earlier in the week, but it was optional for staff. Honestly I would have never done it, except out of love for them and a realization that it’s good for them to see their leader struggling and vulnerable. Yeah, I learned a few lessons this week too.

These few words do not in any way do the past week justice, but I wanted to write something to say it was amazing, I survived, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. God is definitely at work in the lives of our students and I’m looking forward to more of the conversations that I had this week.

I am also fully assured that I want to be in Ukraine for a long, long time.

Camp is Coming…Tomorrow!! Please Pray!!!

While I’m sure most of my American friends are making plans to celebrate July 4th, here outside Kyiv the CCX staff and volunteers are frantically pulling everything together for the beginning of Summer English Camp.

Tomorrow we are expecting almost 100 students to show up for the week. I am already sleep deprived and they have not even arrived yet. We are all expecting God to do great things this week and I look forward to sharing those stories with you, though I expect this will be my only post until after the chaos of camp is over.

However, I do have several prayer requests. Please pray for:

WEATHER: It has been raining everyday for the past week or so and there is quite a bit of rain forecasted for the week ahead. A lot of our activities are outside and in eight years of camp CCX has never had a year where rain threatened to cause so much trouble for our schedule. Please pray for good weather.

STAFF: There are 55 camp staff (a mixture of local, American, Canadian). Many of our staff are still getting over a bit of jet lag. Pray that the times we have to sleep will be good, deep rest. Pray that we will be able to foster good relationships with the students that will last for years to come and that will impact their lives. For the local staff I especially ask for those connections with students.

STUDENTS: The majority of our students are not Christians and for many this will be the first time they have ever studied a Bible passage. Please pray that God will use small group times to open their eyes to their need for Jesus. Some of our students have been around for quite some time and seem to be right at the door of decision, please pray that this is the week they make that decision.

PERSONALLY: This year is vastly different for me than last, since I am involved on a leadership level and it freaks me out a bit. 🙂 Pray that I don’t get so focused on the details and trying to make it all perfect that I forget the reason we are here. Pray for a clear mind to be able to capture all the details I need to. Aside from helping direct all the program components, I am also a small group leader. Thankfully I have an awesome co-leader for the week and I don’t have as much trepidation as normal about leading the group.

I know it’s a lot to pray about, but I thank you in advance for all the prayers. I can’t wait to tell you how the week goes.

Love you all greatly!!