I wonder why

Day 16

It’s Friday evening and I find myself without words of any kind. My eyes are heavy, my sweatshirt a little too comfortable. I marvel that a week has once more passed and my “to do” list stretches long before me like a desert road.

With dismay I realize that somewhere my Bible and time with God became pushed to the side as the week’s demands piled higher. And I think, maybe that is why I feel so exhausted.

And I wonder why my deadlines take precedence over my relationships. Time and again I am blinded by them.

And I pray God gives me another chance.

But tonight I have nothing to give. I am spent.

 

 

Djembes and discipleship

Day 15

You know that awkward moment when people look to you as more of an expert on something than you feel that you are? When others come to you for some advice or some lessons and you promise to try, but feel completely, totally unqualified?

I gave a djembe lesson last night and while I have been playing for years, I was never taught and technically know very little. Every week I sit and play this beautiful African instrument and yet teaching someone else is rather intimidating and a great reminder of how much I do not know.

But it gave me reason to do some research, to work on some rhythms and to push myself to focus on the djembe which I do not normally find time for in the busy day-to-day life.

And it made me think…

It’s a lot like discipleship.

It can be uncomfortable to disciple someone. Maybe you feel completely inadequate and wondering why in the world someone would expect that you could be up for such an enormous task.

Me playing during a Burn 24/7 in the park in Berlin, Germany
Photo taken by Chuck Magnet, 2010.

Then you find that it pushes you to become more of the person you need to be as you are helping another person walk in a closer relationship with God. And I think that is one of the reasons why God asks this of us.

 

It is humbling.
Sometimes it is difficult.

But in the end it is beneficial for both of you.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?

Have you ever had someone ask you for lessons of

something and you thought they were crazy for asking you? How did it turn out?Are you helping disciple someone? What are some insights you’ve gained from such a relationship?

Bible and Life: Photo Blog

Day 10

Since I don’t own a DSLR camera, one of my friends graciously allowed me to borrow her “baby” for the weekend.

Here is a glimpse into the first day of Bible and Life Conference. There will be plenty more photos on my Facebook page later.

If you would like to see an image larger, just click on it.

One of the old soviet statues in Bucha

 

 

Praying for each other

 

Looking in on Danil’s teaching time
I’m not sure what happened but apparently it got a great reaction

 

One of the opening skits. I’m not sure what was going on here either because since I was taking photos I was nowhere near my interpreter. So most of the conference I’m kind of clueless.

 

Olya is trying to hide. I caught her attempting to take a nap

 

Zhuquing is one of Christian students. He is also an International student from China. He is full of life and everyone loves being around him.

 

Oh no! Dasha and Pete have been framed!

 

Yulia explaining the game we were about to play.

Salt and Light

Day 9

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:13-16 (NASB)

This weekend is our annual Bible and Life Conference and the theme is “Salt and Light”.

We are outside of Kyiv in a little town called Bucha, which is absolutely breathtaking clothed in autumn colors.

About forty university students and staff from Ukraine’s central region have gathered to study the Word of God, to discuss the basics of the Christian faith and living that out on campuses, and to fellowship as a community of believers.

My jobs for the weekend? Decorator, drummer and photographer.

This is one of our annual events that staff and Christian students always look forward to. I am certain that it will be a wonderful time together.

 

For the Sake of Those Like Lena

Day 8

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a woman who had been trafficked from Ukraine. When I met her she had the most beautiful, contagious smile and long blonde hair. She praised God constantly and spoke of His redeeming love and mercy.

Lena had been deceived by a guy and was eventually smuggled into Greece where she endured day after day of terror, abuse and rape. I don’t remember all the details but she was one of very few that was able to escape her life of horror.

Ukrainian women are known and sought after worldwide for their beauty. Unfortunately this also means that sex trafficking is a terrible reality in the country.

Here are some of the statistics and facts taken from theA21campaign.org, an organization that is working to see the end of sex trafficking:

  • There are 1.39 million victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide3.
  • Over 25 percent of sex trafficked victims are trafficked from Southern and Eastern Europe4.
  • 90% of victims trafficked into the European Union member states will end up in the sex industry5.
  • Tragically, only 1-2 percent of victims are rescued, and only 1 in 100,000 Europeans involved in trafficking are convicted6.

 Ukraine- A Key Source

Ukraine is a source country for trafficked women, and is currently one of the largest exporters of women not just to the European Union, but also to the Middle East and South East Asia.10 The “exotic beauty” of Ukrainian and Russian women has made them the most valuable commodities in the current international sex trade11. Over 420,000 Ukrainian women between the ages of 15 and 27 have been trafficked in the past decade12, just less than the 440,000 people in Ukraine with HIV, considered one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in Europe13. One study reveals that one in every 10 Ukrainian persons knows someone in their community who has been trafficked abroad.14

Ukraine is also increasingly becoming a destination country for trafficked victims, as its popularity as a sex tourism destination grows. These victims originate from South East Asia, Africa, and other Eastern European states.

In addition, Ukraine suffers from a huge domestic trafficking situation. Unofficial numbers state that there are 250,000 prostitutes in Ukraine, 200,000 of whom are in the industry against their will and could most likely be classified as domestic traffick victims.15 Domestic trafficking is not just for sexual exploitation, but also for organ removal and labor exploitation.

The statistics are overwhelming, but each number represents that many faces, stories, souls. Each one is important to God and therefore MUST also be important to you and I. And while the fight may be difficult, it it necessary for the sake of others like Lena.

Thankfully there are many men and women who are standing up on behalf of these victims and fighting for their lives. It isn’t enough that others are involved though, we all need to be a part of seeing this end.

Visit thea21campaign.org for more information, for resources and a few ways you can help fight sex trafficking.

 

Resistance isn’t futile

Day 7

Resistance sprang up from nowhere like a psycho jack-in-the-box
And sucker punched me.
In the face.

Resistance has quite an arm.

Flying backwards through the smoke
Crash landing into a puddle
Ashes rain down
Defeat
For now

Meet my arch nemesis Resistance
His faithful minion is fear

He does not play fair. Villains never do.
Can’t win that way.

BUT he underestimates
stubborn persistence

Refined by fire
Strengthened by flames

Maybe sitting stunned in this moment
But only until the smoke clears

Already I see the flaw in his plan
What he thought might break me
Will in fact help to make me

But that’s what villains are for

The Cost

Day 6

Recently I have fallen in love with music from the group Rend Collective Experiment. I love their sound, their lyrics and they are Irish.

This is a YouTube video of a song that I found myself putting on repeat. Well last week it was on repeat… this week I’ve reconsidered how much I sing it because obviously it should be true but maybe I don’t really hold quite so much conviction when faced with difficulties. But you have to love the stump fiddle. I think I should learn to play one!

Since it is a live video and the sound is a bit distorted, here are the lyrics:

The Cost by Rend Collective Experiment
Album: Homemade Worship by Handmade People

I’m saying yes to You
And no to my desires
I’ll leave myself behind
And follow You

I’ll walk the narrow road
’cause it leads me to You
I’ll fall but grace
Will pick me up again

I’ve counted up the cost
Oh I’ve counted up the cost
Yes I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it

I do not need safety
As much as I need You
You’re dangerous
But Lord You’re beautiful

I’ll chase You through the pain
I’ll carry my cross
’cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed

Jesus
Take my all
Take my everything

I’ve counted up the cost
And You’re worth everything

Three Years Ago… Reminiscing

Day 5

This month marks three years since I first came to Ukraine, 10 months into the craziest thing I had done at that point in my life – The World Race. I say at that point because I am now convinced moving abroad is the craziest thing I have done. So I’ve been reminiscing a bit and came across this blog about how it all began…
____________________________________________________________________________
The air was thick, stifling and laced with the smell of body odor. Sweat ran down my neck and the corridor seemed to narrow as the weight of my pack gave in to gravity and let itself hang from my tired shoulders.

After much confusion over numbering, my space for the evening was procured – a curtainless, few feet of “bed” that looked like nothing more than a precarious shelf from which I fully expected to fall from in the middle of the night.

From stephaniepridgen.theworldrace.org

As luck would have it my placement was right next to the door for the restroom, a door much in need of WD-40 as it whined then slammed with every usage.

To top it all off, my throat protested every swallow, my head pounded like a stampede of wild horses and my sinuses refused the passage of air.

The rocking motion of the train finally lulled me to sleep, a lulling that would happen a dozen or more times throughout the night as restroom goers, coughing fits and border guards disturbed my not so peaceful slumber.

By the time we arrived, I wanted nothing more than to die, or at least to just go home. We were entering month ten and frankly I decided I’d had enough.

After more miserable travel to the place we would be staying for a few days, an old sanitorium on the outskirts of the city, I reached a bed and crashed. Despite layers of clothing and bedding I awoke hours later chilled, feverish and jumping up to quickly locate a trash can.

The first few days were nothing but a blur as I tried to fight whatever had claimed my body, rising from bed only to use the restroom, which is a rather miserable affair when you have no energy and are forced to use a squatty.

I managed to miss the orientation for Ukraine. Regardless I would have had no idea what I was getting into even if I had made it.
_______________________________________________________________________________

The original posting is here in case you want to read further, but finding this again just made me smile. It is true that I had absolutely NO IDEA what I was getting into!!!!

If I had known I would have turned and started running for sure (and somedays still consider that option), but the truth is that God has just given me a love for this country that I cannot explain.

Rejoice and be thankful ALWAYS?

Day 4

Friday afternoon I met with a couple of students from Shevchenko. We discussed Philippians 4:4-8 and then we took some time to pray together.

In case you aren’t familiar with this passage, it’s this (emphasis mine):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (NASB)

We talked about thankfulness and how it turns our focus to those things which are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. It helps us shift our focus from all the crap that is happening around us and to us and reminds us of the greatness of God, His faithfulness, His promises, and His love.

I thought I had a lot LAST week to be thankful for, but I have had quite the opportunity for thankfulness since Friday evening. It hasn’t come easily though.

Part of me doesn’t want to rejoice, doesn’t want to be thankful. I want to know why. I want the answers. I want the person responsible to pay and not me.

And yet, I find that I must CHOOSE to be thankful.

So here’s a partial list:

  • I’m thankful that I still have an apartment!
  • I’m thankful that one of us came home to find it and get help (though I still wish it hadn’t been me!)
  • I’m thankful that I had enough clarity of mind to turn off the stove where I was cooking dinner so we didn’t end up with two fires!
  • I’m thankful I hadn’t passed off my phone yet to get the iOS upgraded or I wouldn’t have been able to call anyone.
  • I’m thankful there’s a “what to do in case of fire” sign by the elevator that I could point to and use my limited Russian and amazing charade skills to get the point across.
  • I’m thankful for all the people who called, messaged or expressed concern, willingness to help and huge hugs.
  • I’m thankful for the neighbors who ran into my apartment and started helping throw water on the fire.

I have a lot of reasons to be thankful every day, but events like this make you even more aware.

If you ask me how I’m doing and I’m honest then I’ll probably tell you, “I’m not okay, but I will be okay.” I just have to keep focusing on all the many blessings in the midst of the overwhelming and I’m still working on the rejoicing part.

What are you thankful for today? 

мой кошмар (My Nightmare)

Day 3

мой кошмар is Russian for my nightmare, which consequently was lived out last night.

The smell of something burning has become a scent so familiar since living in Ukraine as that nauseous feeling when your stomach is staging a coupe and you have 7 seconds to make it to a trash can or toilet has become since beginning to travel abroad.

However, when I returned home from movie club last night the smell didn’t really bother me. The heat had finally been turned on in the building and I just thought it was the dust burning off the unused heaters.

About five minutes later as I began cooking my supper of eggs with a side of salo (that’s unrendered pork fat for my non-Ukrainian friends), I was keenly aware of a lot of smoke and it wasn’t coming from my cooking. I walked into the hall to notice huge flames on our balcony.

Home alone. Panicked. Unable to communicate.

I struggled to find my phone… to think straight. I threw some water on the flames but realized it was too much for me alone. So I ran down stairs to the keeper of our apartment building and played charades trying to explain there was a fire.

пожар is the word I desperately needed and in my overwhelmed state could not remember. So I dragged the lady with me to the sign by the elevator with instructions for what to do about a fire. She finally got the point.

By the time I made it back upstairs all our neighbors were in our apartment trying to throw water on the fire. In my panic I had ran downstairs and left our door unlocked.

A few minutes later my roommate arrived and took care of talking with everyone as I melted into a sobbing, shaking mess in the hallway.

So I think I have a good reason for not blogging yesterday, but you can decide.

Everything will be okay and we are okay. My heart still races every time I think about it and I didn’t sleep well last night for nightmares and being so tense.

The slightly funny thing is that just the day before one of my leaders asked me why I find living in Ukraine so stressful. I don’t think I need to comment further on that.