Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Baby Jesse Goran crawling in front of the Christmas tree at the Goran apartment.


Olya Savchinska, Laura Walden, and Ben Beasley browsing at the book market.


Just a statue and a pretty building. Don't you like my new camera.


Olya, Laura, and Ben enjoying the book market.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Church and Sunday School photos


Church Christmas lunch.


Church Christmas lunch.


Nastiya, who was an exchange student in St. Mary's PA and Michael Airgood.


Michael Airgood reading the story during Sunday School.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

On Globalization and Mission

I'm increasingly interested in the idea of globalization - and while riding a bus today I realized that I am a part of it.

My socks are made in Norway and purchased while on vacation in Latvia. My jeans are G.A.P. They are made by an American company, in Mexico - but they were purchased while I lived in South Korea. My t-shirt was designed, made, and purchased in Germany. My sweater has no label, but I purchased it in Russia at a second hand store called "Euro-Second Hand" so I know it's been around a few countries and was probably produced in China or another Asian country. The bus I was on was purchased from a bus line in Poland.

I have visited over a dozen countries and had the opportunity to really experience daily life and culture of half of those. While I only speak English comfortably, I can have conversations and entertain guests in Russian and Ukrainian. Given a children's book with pictures I could read and understand a good bit if it was printed in Korean, Polish, German, French, or Mongolian.

I have only lived in one country without a McDonald's (Mongolia) and other than that I have failed to successfully live further from a McDonald's than I did as a child growing up in Kane, PA (It's still a forty minute drive to the closest McD's ...). I have never been more than a few miles from the closest bottle of Coca-Cola (I was in one convenience store high in the mountains of southern India when the urge for a coke hit and couldn't be satisfied, but the next stop offered three of my favorite colas.)

I am a child of this highly globalized generation. While it would have been bold and striking if my parents had back-packed through Europe - it's only striking that I have traveled on such a shoe-string budget and that I generally avoid the tourist traps. It's only bold that I come with a message.

It's important that we don't lump mission and globalization together. We aren't another McDonald's or Coca-Cola that needs to get our brand name goods into people's minds.

Mission is the activity of connecting God and people. Missionaries ideally listen as much as we talk. A wise older missionary told me once, "If you go to another country to bring God to them you'll always be a failure - because God is already there."

McDonald's goes to build something new in a new place - it goes to expand the size and revenue of something back home. The motivation is misplaced. Missionaries go to connect people with something old and ancient that exists inside of the people. Our motivation is love. Really, these two concepts couldn't be more opposite.

But sometimes they are closely linked. People want to know why we're bringing a "new religion" to people, or why we want to cause more wars in the world, or how we will justify the cost or the resources when our own country has so many problems.

The call to missionary life is the call to be God's littlest. We share and express our faith most sincerely when we find ourselves in a position of humility. Missionaries find new reasons every day to be humble. [[Crying in a corner store because I couldn't remember the word for orange and I had already stood in line for an hour and I really needed some Vitamin C to get over my cold was probably not the proudest moment of my life.]] In our brokenness God finds possibilities to share the good news of the Broken One.

While my outfit is a multi-national assortment that could make the U.N. proud - religion knows no country. A Mongolian could find faith in Jesus Christ (a Jew from Modern day Israel who lived in ancient Rome) thanks to the efforts of an American missionary with ancestral roots in Korea and Germany; but none of that matters. God has been present with that man and with his people for as long as they have been on the earth. Ultimately there is no country or flag, but only the heart and mind of the peasant Mongolian who has always wanted to know that someone loves him unconditionally.

God's littlest has the blessing of connecting God and people. There is no room for pre-tense or facades in a heart that is filled with God and people.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #7 - wrap up

Today was spent mostly at home. I had a friend over for tea and then went with him to the supermarket. I only needed one thing - oil. Most Ukrainian food is fried - and Ukrainians use massive amounts of oil when they fry. They always balk at how little oil I use - but they're always impressed by the fact that my food is tasty and not greasy. Sadly, my roommates use my oil copiously and I wanted some onion rings for dinner. (Oddly, if I eat onion rings it makes my body feel as though I have eaten steak and it makes my craving for meat go away ... for a little while.) 13.74 UAH

A good day off wouldn't be complete without a little entertainment. Sadly, my friends all have finals now, so it looked like I was going to watch a scary movie and "hold my own hand." But, luckily, my roommate Andriy called at the last minute and invited me to run to the local Orthodox church and come watch his sister in a play. The annual St. Nicholas play was excellent. Maybe 40 or 50 people gathered inside a freezing cold church to watch the children and youth beautifully perform a Christmas play. At the end we prayed the Lord's prayer and sang for St. Nicholas to come to us - and he came out and brought gifts for each of the children. It was the best entertainment I've seen in a long time! 0 UAH.

Afterwards I was invited to join Andriy's family for pizza night. After we arrived, Andriy explained that he had a date and had to leave - and he left me with his non-English speaking parents and his sister who speaks a little English. So, not only did I get a free meal - but I also had a high stakes Ukrainian lesson. 0 UAH.

Money Spent: 13.74 UAH
Money Remaining: 26.27 UAH
Steps Taken: 6,885

So ... in summation. I managed to live a whole week and only spend 73.73 UAH. That's less than $10. I think it was definitely worth it to walk to city center, but I plan to take the bus on early mornings from now on. While it's good exercise, it's getting bitterly cold here and I'm a little more tired than usual this weekend.

I managed to walk 68,471 steps. For me that equals about 34 and a quarter miles in one week! Just short of my five-mile-a-day goal.

I have enough to treat myself to some steak tomorrow (I'm babysitting baby Jesse and will use the Goran's oven to cook a nice, meaty piece of steak!).

I hope you all enjoyed seeing a little bit of my day-to-day life and the small pleasures of living in a country like Ukraine.

100 grieven challenge - Day #6

I just can't live without milk. A morning without milk and cereal just feels wrong. I needed a bowl of cereal so badly this morning that I was willing to throw on my coat and run out to the store to buy some. 7.50 UAH.

Friday is usually a day of rest - but this particular Friday was a special party to celebrate St. Nikolaus day. I had to buy a secret Santa gift. So, I saved money by baking some "no-bake" cookies. I used butter that my roommates grandmother hand churns at her home in the mountains - so the cookies are unbelievably good. I also wrapped it in old cloth I had lying around and used an old Christmas card as the name tag. Everyone thought that it looked very, very nice. 0 UAH

After the party I had friends over to relax. I had to buy some cloves to make the mulled beverage - but it was totally worth it. Afterwards we walked and sang in the streets. I finally feel like it's Christmas. 3.44

Money Spent: 10.94 UAH
Money Remaining: 40.46 UAH
Steps Taken: 11,405

Friday, December 17, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #5

Today was a zero-sum day. I didn't spend a dime or a 10 kopeck piece today.

I brought scrambled eggs for my lunch today. Interestingly, scrambled eggs deflate in tupperware. I filled the container up to the top - but a few hours later I found a small egg-brick, roughly the shape but half the size of the container.

My friend Valodiya also had some lunch sent by his mother from the village - so we shared together and everyone got a great lunch.

Thursday is Pilgrims and with David and Shannon still sick there was a lot to do around the student center. The whole leadership team comes on Thursday mornings to clean - and it was fun to clean with good people.

I'm trying to decide if I want to keep walking after this week. While it's still a long slog through snow and ice, it's getting easier and quicker every day. It almost makes arriving at the student center (or back at home) a celebration. I feel that someone should at least greet me merrily when I arrive.

Money Spent: 0 UAH
Money Remaining: 51.40 UAH
Steps Taken: 12,346

Thursday, December 16, 2010

100 grieven challenge Day #4

So, I spent a lot of money today. I ordered a Christmas present on-line for a family member and I bought a nice gift for a friend. But, this money came out of a special fund I keep tucked away - so I'm not going to count it toward my total.

The walk into work is becoming easier every day. Each time I make the trip it seems shorter. I've mentally broken it up into 3 parts and I can encourage myself to just keep walking. It's always tempting to just take a bus - but I've been pretty good so far this week. 0 UAH

My food supply is running a little low. The only necessity I had to purchase today was sour cream. I substituted mayonnaise in a few recipes - but sour cream is 15% fat and mayonnaise is 78% fat. I decided that for my health I should just bite the bullet and buy some sour cream. Sour cream is in every dish in Ukraine. 7.35 UAH

Cat with sour cream.

I spent most of the day working on paper work. It was difficult to not get distracted and go out for lunch. I forgot to even pack something tasty, but I managed to scrounge up some food at the student center. I ate a salad made from cabbage, onion, corn, and crackers. It was surprisingly good.

Money Spent: 7.35 UAH
Money Remaining: 51.40 UAH
Steps Taken: 10,615

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #3

I spent 1.75 UAH on a bus ticket. I walked most of the way into town, but had to rush for an early morning appointment. Of course the people I was meeting showed up 40 minutes late. Oddly enough, my appointment was for a photo shoot. Apparently I’m going to be part of an article about foreigners living in Ukraine. The pictures were really, really nice – I hope I get to keep some of them.

I joined some friends for lunch at a café. I had packed a lunch, but I try to never pass up an invitation to share a meal with friends. I just bought a desert and ate slowly. 10.50 AUH.

English Club was on the topic of drugs and alcohol. We did an exercise (ostensibly to practice bad/worse/worst) where we ranked major drugs on a sliding scale. I had a prop for each category. Luckily I was able to find something to represent every major drug group around my apartment. A pro-legalization newspaper for marijuana, an empty beer bottle, a spoon and lighter – these are things my roommates just keep around. Just in case. My students provided the cigarettes and junk food categories. As all teachers know, it’s all too easy to spend a small fortune on materials for classes. I pay for all prizes out of pocket – but luckily, today a friend gave me a candy bar, and I didn’t have to spend money on a prize this week! 0 UAH!

Money Spent: 12.25 UAH
Money Remaining: 58.75 UAH
Steps Taken: 13,008

Monday, December 13, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #2

Today my normal market was closed due to sanitation concerns. So, I had to purchase my vegetables at a supermarket this week.

Vegetables are a little more expensive at the supermarket - but it's easier to guess how much your total bill will be. In the supermarkets they have two styles of most vegetables: washed and unwashed. Unwashed carrots cost half as much as the washed variety - which is a real puzzle to me because I assume that people still peal the washed carrots.

The day old tomatoes are much cheaper - but there was a throng of little old ladies six women deep and I simply couldn't get to them to see if there were any quality fruits left. Apparently I wasn't the only shopper a little upset by the hasty closing of our market.

I managed to squeak out of the store with a bill of only 19 UAH. This is no small miracle as the entire store is designed to lure shoppers into spending more money than they originally intended.

Money Spent: 19 UAH
Money Remaining: 71 UAH
Steps Taken: 4,092

Sunday, December 12, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #1

Ukrainians always want to know how to translate the word “grechka.” I explain that we don’t eat it in America and thus we don’t really have a translation. This answer has yet to satisfy anyone. Usually the student runs to a corner store to buy a bag of it to show me what they mean. After assuring them that I have understood, I continue on in explanation that we feed it to chickens sometimes – so maybe a farmer would know what to call it.

Buckwheat groats are a staple in Ukraine. That's really the right translation.

It's entirely fiber and absolutely indigestible. Your body would get more nutrients by boiling up a pair of old sneakers. But, it's cheap and plentiful. With enough salt it's also tasty. today I boiled up some gretchka and used up the end of my groceries from last week.

I gave 10 UAH at church and didn't spend any money on myself. I walked to church and home - 5 miles round trip.

I plan to stay at home and relax for the rest of the day - so I'll go ahead and log my totals.

Money Spent: 10 UAH
Money Remaining: 90 UAH
Steps Taken: 10,120

Saturday, December 11, 2010

100 grieven challenge

This is what 100UAH (UkrainiAn gHrieven) looks like. Currently it is worth $12.55 in US currency.

My goal this week is to only spend 100UAH. I've been in a celebratory mood recently and have plunked down a 100 note on a few occasions for a single meal. (Honestly, it's exciting to live in a place where steak for two - plus sides! - comes to less than $15 ... but I digress) So, this week I am going to challenge myself to be thriftier.

So, I can spend just over 14UAH a day. I need to buy a secret santa gift this week, so unless I get crafty, I'll have a little less to spend on food.

Also, I'll try to save money by walking to and from city center, weather permitting. It's 2-3 miles - so I'll also post my daily step counter.

So, check back each day to see how much money I spent, how I spent it, how many steps I took, and creative things I did to save money. ... or ... check back in to see how miserably I failed and how much I went over budget.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


So, for the last 6 years I have participated in No Shave November. Usually at the end of the month I just keep the beard - but this year I can't wait to get rid of it. Here are some photos from the Thanksgiving party ... and my beard in its final days.

Jesse Goran loves my beard.

This is Dale and Olya. They're a really fun couple who are super helpful around the student center. Dale teaches our guitar course and Olya is on the leadership team. I just love them.

Here is the first food crew at the Thanksgiving celebration. We never dropped below 30 people at the party - even though there was huge turnover. We don't actually know how many people we fed ... but it was a huge number.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

As a missionary, I am constantly attempting to not offend people.

Not the little things - I mean, I know that I offend people when I stand in front of a window (in slavic cultures all sickness is derived from being in the way of a draft. Even in 100 degree weather train windows are kept closed because the draft will kill people.) I know that when I eat, I eat like an American and this sometimes offends people...

No, I'm talking about the big things. I prolong the conversation and save the bad news for last. When I'm preaching the gospel I slam down the parts that they can accept and I push back the parts that they might reject. I'm so afraid of losing people.

In small group we're talking about the rich young ruler. It's beyond my imagination that Jesus just lets this guy walk away. He's charismatic, connected, and faithful. You could sprout up 10 churches around this kid. But after their encounter, Jesus just watches him walk away.

I wonder what things would look like if I were to be fully honest. If we greeted people at the door and said, "Welcome, you have to be willing to die in order to come here." "Hi, my name's Michael - are you ready to drink the Kool-Aide?"

What if our membership policies actually demanded radical faithfulness? My mentor believes that a church's average attendance should be much higher than the membership number. There should always be a couple of dozen regular attenders that just aren't ready to commit to the level required to be a member. I don't know how I feel about that.

[Membership is something from a by-gone era to people of my generation. If we're there every week and we're giving our tithe; we are a member. We don't need a piece of paper to prove that. If the United Methodist church is radically successful in reaching my generation - average attendance will increase while membership continues its downward spiral.]

What if we genuinely asked our people to make the hard sacrifices required of the Gospel?
1. I bet that more poor people than wealthy would be willing to take this challenge.
2. I bet that there would be a huge domino effect.
3. I bet that there would be huge internal division and eventually a split resulting from this.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday School


L'viv UMC began a Sunday School program this semester. Erika Pushkarova, in the maroon sweater, leads the class.


Jesse Brian Goran, in his Easter outfit which will no longer fit by Easter, is the youngest and most adorable member of the Sunday School class.


Erika does an excellent job planning a weekly lesson, recruiting kids, finding volunteers, and making sure that everyone has a great time will learning a lot.


Here's the group shot of all of the students (Minus Jesse who was probably eating or napping by this point!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I spent a few days in Warsaw. Oddly, I never once thought to pull out my camera. I was having such a good time that I didn't have time to stop and take pictures!


Riga, Latvia basically looks like a city in a fairy tale. It's big, but absolutely beautiful. I stayed with friends and they were very excited to show me their city.


Bill and Helen Lovelace hosted me in Kaunas, Lithuania and we had a great time just strolling through the city.


The hill of crosses in Siauliai, Lithuania sends an enduring message of hope to Christians being persecuted. The Soviet government bulldozed the hill and removed the crosses at least 3 times ... but the people continued to come back and bring crosses.


This picture isn't from my vacation ... but it should be. These are two of my roommates. I live with three Ukrainians and I'm the only meat-eater and the only non-artist. In this picture, my roommates are conducting a photo session. A good time was had by all!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010


Hi friends,

I wanted to update everyone. I'm currently on a ten day vacation. While it would have been really enjoyable to outline every detail of the trip - that tends to confuse people. It seems that people have a hard enough time remembering that I'm in Ukraine and not Uganda without me writing the names of dozens of cities every day. Here's a brief look at my vacation.

I spent a weekend with a friend in Warsaw, Poland. He had a break from school and we saw literally everything worth seeing in Warsaw. I met a lot of his friends, and in general it was a perfect weekend. I walked more than 20,000 steps every day!

I spent a few days in Riga, Latvia with some friends there. I rested a bit more and did a bit less touring. My Latvian friends are quite keen on theatre, so we did a lot of artsy stuff.

Right now, and for the next few days, I am enjoying Kaunas, Lithuania. My friends Bill and Helen Lovelace work here (as well as in Kiev, Ukraine) and I'm with them. I might tour one or two buildings - but the rest of my time will be spent just sitting around, resting, and enjoying good company.

It's been wonderful to recharge a little bit in Europe. It's been a huge blessing spending some time with old friends and depending on the hospitality of others.

Love, Michael.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More photographic evidence that I really live in Ukraine.

So, I'm in Warsaw visiting some friends, and I found some great photos on one of their computers.

This might be the best picture I've ever seen of the Opera House.

As a general rule; when I look good in a picture, everyone else doesn't. Michal Kurek (pronounced Mikow, and he's my host in Warsaw) is on the right. And Gosha is on the left.

I think this picture just sums up my life in so many ways.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Our hands fold around mugs of hot tea. With only three days until the city turns the heat on for the year, these final days are cold and sometimes painful. I'm nursing an old back injury, brought back by lifting too many heavy things these last few weeks.

After a morning of conversation with the students around the center, my numb fingers try to peck out a sermon. Maybe my mind is frozen, too. I just can't get my thoughts across. As with any writer's block - the key is to not panic. Just accept that today probably won't produce a hum-dinger, but hope that something foundational can be created.

The chanting is always distant at first. Some days it seems that a riot is inevitable. The Minister of Education will be imposing a fine of 50 UAH for each lesson missed by every student. My friends who have managed to find employment generally make about 5 UAH an hour. Yes, it would take 10 hours of work to pay the fine for missing a SINGLE class.

We work with University students. That's our ministry here. We pray them through the bi-annual seasons of finals where they labor over tests for more than a month at the end of each semester. We teach conversational English to supplement their grammar-intense English courses. And we march beside them in opposition to unfair laws which attempt to place the blame for the poor education system in the laps of students.

A few more days and the heat will return to our apartments. That minor gripe will disappear. How long until the students are given a quality education which supports their desire to learn and to grow?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Experiment in Practical Christianity

So this semester will be a little different for me. Last semester I taught some English courses. After some long discussions we decided that this wasn't the best use of my time. While I think that my English courses were very good, and I feel that the students really learned a lot - teaching English simply isn't my passion; and it's not that effective at bringing new people in the door.

This semester my English courses will be replaced by a weekly English language small group. [I will still lead a weekly English Club - open to people of all ages and English levels. We have 11 year olds who speak quite well and 45 years olds who don't speak at all!] We will be studying "Experiment in Practical Christianity." It's a wonderful resource written by two Candler professors from the 70s/80s. During this semester we will look at Christianity as though we had never been introduced to it before. We will experiment with the acts of Christian discipline - like we're trying on new outfits to see which ones fit best.

Nastiya (on the left) spent a year in St. Mary's Pennsylvania and attended the United Methodist church there. I think we met once in Bradford at a Methodist youth retreat ... but when I tried to speak Russian to her she told me that she spoke Ukrainian! Nataly (on the right) came to my English course last semester and is a student at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

I really love blurry pictures! I'm on the left. Dale is another American young adult who lives in L'viv. His girlfriend is part of "Youth to Jesus" and it's great having another American in the group. Michael Maiko comes to a lot of English language events - and I'm glad that he's joining us for this small group.

So, in case you didn't notice - these pictures are all taken in my bedroom! The small group meets in my room at my apartment. I only rent one room - and I couldn't ask my many Ukrainian roommates to vacate the living room every week for a few hours ... so we all squeeze into my bedroom. Luckily, They don't make single-serving furniture in Ukraine. Every bed also folds into a couch. So fitting seven people is not problem and it's actually quite comfortable. The Ukrainians don't think anything is strange about the arrangement ... but could you imagine inviting seven people into YOUR bedroom once a week???? It feels super bizarre to me as an American.

So far things are going really well. I just hope that we can get a consistent group that is willing to make it every week.

(I borrowed these pictures from Facebook. Mariya Zelman was willing to document our first meeting - and I really enjoy these photos.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This is Lily - she's one of the students from the student center in L'viv. She's currently a contestant on the Ukrainian version of American Idol. This clip is in Ukrainian and Russian, but she sings in English. It's worth a view or two. We're super proud of our Lily.

(Lily gave me my Ukrainian nickname, Mishko - which is a very villager form of the name Michael.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010


These last few weeks have been busier than anticipated. I apologize for not writing as often as I should.

I am juggling two cities, two languages, and two VERY different jobs. These things come together to form one AMAZING experience, and I will forever be indebted to this time for the things it is teaching me.

I live and work in L'viv, Ukraine; still. I do the English Language ministries for Youth to Jesus inter-confessional student ministry. This means Tuesday night English Club as well as a new small group in English (which promises to be quite an adventure!). The only language spoken in L'viv is Ukrainian.

I spend time in Kyiv, Ukraine. I work with the United Methodist center for street children - but I also work with the ongoing church plant in Kyiv - specifically in working to reach out to people of different socio-economic levels. I speak Russian in Kyiv because it is easier for me to speak and understand than Ukrainian and both languages are spoken.

On top of this, my roomates and I have been welcoming couch surfers. The idea is to allow strangers to sleep on your couch or in a spare room - with only the promise that they will pay it forward. We are a bit zealous and might be trying for a world record. We had 25 couch surfers in one week, and as many as 15 people at the apartment at one time!!! It's a whole, crazy, extra-layer to life, but really quite wonderful. It has been a huge blessing to get to know people from all over the world and to show them the most beautiful city in the world (because, truly, L'viv is unimaginably beautiful).

So, some weeks I sleep two night a week on a train, and others I have people sleeping in the hallways of my flat! But, I consider myself very lucky to be leading a very full and fulfilling life.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yura insisted that I sit next to him in worship. The strong smell of glue overpowered the strong smell of sweat and dirt. Neither is appreciated. On a weekday, I might need to make the difficult decision of asking Yura to return when he was sober - but it's Sunday and it's worship and high or not he's here and his presence is ultimately good for him and for our community.

The songs are familiar and I'm grateful for that. With the language barriers some days few things seem familiar. Even parts of the sermon come into focus - my Russian is getting strong, but I'm still easily confused.

On Monday I'm thankful for the safety net of Dima and Yana. As I talk with their parents my tired tongue forgets to roll its Rs. My weary lips forsake grammatically correct endings and press onward to the point. Occasionally, mid-sentence, I realize I'm in too deep. I started out in the wrong tense and would have to switch all the endings in forms I don't remember to finish the sentence. I look to the Kabakov children and, with "that look" in my eyes, I finish in English while their parents wait for translation. I'm getting closer. Soon I'll be able to capture the full meaning.

I'm working on writing and typing in Russian and Ukrainian. I learned audibly, and my spelling is atrocious. Facebook status updates and large-font signs are turning Cyrillic. Good friends gently correct the misshapen words as they appear.

About once a week I have one of "those" conversations. One of those interactions that makes it all worth while. I talk with a kid about why he's sad. I laugh with an old lady about some funny anecdote. I share in worship with young believers.

Because, ultimately, I'm learning for those Sunday mornings when I'm sitting next to someone who smells like glue. I pray for the day when those difficult conversations become a little less murky. I pray for the day when I can make a difference.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


My amazing Kyiv friends Yana Kabakova and her brother Dima Kabakov - on a hill overlooking the city.


Yana Kabakova and I posing in front of one of the churches in Kyiv.


Nina tries to wake one of the guys from the center for street children from an afternoon nap.


The kids from the center waiting for a bus before our big excursion to a museum.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I saw the church today

And it is beautiful

Andrei is closer to my age than I give him credit. Sometimes he acts like an adult, but more often he's a little child. He refuses to slow down his speech; so I simply don't understand what he's saying most of the time. He has a three inch long gash on the underside of his foot. It's visibly infected and at least a centimeter deep.

Nikolai seems to be around 14. I don't think he's new to the center; but I met him for the first time today. His left arm is bandaged tightly, its muscles atrophied from disuse. Maybe it's strained or pulled, or maybe the bone broke a while ago and hasn't recieved medical attention yet.

I'm instanly concerned by their injuries because I can do nothing. While I know what to do and how to do it - I do not have the authority. I cannot storm in and bellow, "I'm a doctor" and treat their aches.

Andrei and Nikolai care deeply for each other. It's clear that Nikolai is like a kid brother to Adnrei. Nikolai carefully applies the bandages to Andrei's foot and Andrei gently re-wraps Nikolai's arm.

Isn't that the church? Isn't that what it SHOULD be? Homeless kids who carry one another's burdens and gently attend to the wounds of others? Aren't we all just the blind leading the blind?

<< So, I wrote this during the day and it made me think a lot. I prayed that I would get a chance to be the church to someone else. As I folded my laundry that I had washed at the center, I realized that I had brought WAY too many clothes with me. I thought about giving some of them away, but I'm not very good at gift giving etiquette. The rules are different here, and they're hard to learn. On my way home one of the people from the center saw me walking and came up to me. Another homeless man had stolen his shirt and shoes while he was sleeping. Luckily, I had my bag of clean laundry and I quickly fished out a shirt to give away. It is good to be the church. >>

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

more photographic evidence

UMC.org posted an article about the Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly. It just so happens that I'm in the photo they chose.

It looks like I'm a little confused by the legislation; which, I probably was.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010



Me at the Brandenburg Gate. See, I really was in Germany.


My tough competition at UNO and Trouble! Some of the kids from the center for street children.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

A little explanation

Well friends, I'm aware that someone new to my blog might be a little confused, so I will try to clear up a few things. I've just been moving a little too fast and haven't had time to recollect all of my thoughts.

My "usual home" at the moment is in L'viv, Ukraine working with an inter-confessional student ministry.

I'm away from "usual home" at the moment. The last week of July was spent in Berlin, Germany at the Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly. And, I'm spending the month of August in Kiev, Ukraine working at a center for street children.

The center is open 6 days a week from 10 AM until 5 PM. It's a safe place for homeless children, youth, and young adults; formerly homeless individuals; at risk families; and staff/volunteers to gather together in community.

Our main task is to model an alternative to the family life that people may know. We eat meals as a family and we pray together before we eat. We watch the TV one day out of the week. We play card games and board games and we listen as much as we talk. (This is easiest for me, because my Russian/Ukrainian skills are pretty rudimentary so I don't do a lot of talking! - I'm also forced to be an active listener, I have to constantly reword things to make sure I have understood.)

It's August, and it's a HOT August so there aren't many people at the center. Some of the at risk families go to the village, some of the street children are offered a home by a distant relative looking for a field-hand for the summer months, etc.

On Saturday we really only had two people come through during the day - we were able to give them our full attention and I had a good chance to really interact with one of the staff members. None of the staff speak any English (and if they do, they have strict instructions from Bill and Helen Lovelace - the GBGM missionaries who run the center but are out of the country for a short time - to NOT use it and to FORCE me to use my Russian.) It's hard not having anyone around who speaks English - but it really forces me to function entirely in Russian. Which is a good thing.

I'm having a little bit of a difficult time fitting in to my new setting. I'm having withdrawal from the constant community of the Youth to Jesus student ministry. I went from having dozens of English speaking Ukrainians who could meet up for a meal or coffee to Kiev - a huge city where I know almost no one. It's a big transition, and I have my work cut out for me.

The other difficult aspect is feeling useful. The first few days/weeks in a new ministry setting is all about building trust. I don't really feel like I'm DOING anything - and that's okay, because it means that I'm building trust. But, I'm a doer. I feel guilty if I'm not DOING something. So, I just need to push those feelings out of the way and work on building trust through playing UNO and listening to people.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Because we only provide two meals a day to the students who come to our center, we try and pack a lot of calories into those two meals.

"There's barely any mayonnaise in that soup, here - add some more."

"Wait, let me put some chocolate flavored butter on that bread before you eat it."

This would be funny in an abstract way, but I don't need so many calories!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reading the scripture in all five languages of the Global Young People's Convocation (From left to right: English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and German)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Berlin was absolutely amazing. It was wonderful to meet so many great people and to explore such a fascinating city.

After a few days of travel, I'm back in Ukraine. I'm spending the month of August at a different post.

During my "normal" life I work with Youth to Jesus student ministry. During the month of August I will be working with a center for street children in Kiev, Ukraine.

This will be a real change of pace for me and I'm a little bit nervous. While I think everything will go well, it's still a very new setting for me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 4isch

I don't really know what day it is.

I know that sounds awful, but really it's a great thing. Evenings blend into mornings quite quickly when days are full of new friends and long legislation.

Last night's plenary session was filled with controversial social topics in five languages and dozens of cultures. Even with one language and one cultural, these conversations are difficult. With so much in the mix, and Robert's Rule of Procedure (ish) overlording, it's difficult to find common ground.

But, at the end of the night, we had some time for people to reflect and pray. Many people have strong opinions and ideals. Feelings were hurt, but ours is a God who heals hearts.

We gather together - and legislation happens - but this is not the focus. Our focus is unity. Even amid the conflict we manage to find unity in our God.

This is what we may show the world - we may show the world how to disagree with grace. It's not easy. And sometimes we failed. But we learn in the process and over the next few decades as we grow into the adults and older adults of the church - I pray that we will have learned from our experiences and grown in the process.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 3

Some people believe that "unity" occurs when all people agree. When we think and act the same we are unified. On our cultural excursion to Sachsenhausen concentration camp we experienced the vision of "unity" signifying one belief, one people, one race.

As young people at this Global Convocation we have the unique opportunity to express what true unity looks like to a world that has lost faith. True unity doesn't share a skin color, language, or country. Unity shares faith in a God who still speaks to people. Unity shares life together.

After a painful and difficult visit through a former death camp, we shared in the fellowship and unity of a meal with the United Methodist believers of Church in a Container. KiC is a recent church plant which took on the challenge of creating new communities of faith for new people seriously. Their bright yellow building shows the community around them what unity can be to the world.

Some people don't believe that we can achieve unity this week. They feel that the legislation and Robert's rule of procedure will bog us down. If people hope that we will vote with a two-thirds majority on hot-button topics legislation, they will probably be disappointed. But, those people are probably using the wrong definition of unity.

If people hope that the youth and young adults will join together and see eye to eye, that we will connect with one another and our loving God - DONE. Done and done. Every day we share together in worship of God and fellowship with one another. We are living proof that unity is a reality.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 3

At the moment I'm sitting on the floor of a legislative section. We're discussing controversial topics. I really tried to not end up in a controversial group - but I'm here and I'll make the best of it.

We had an amazing worship service this morning - the delegates from Russia led the service and it was excellent.

Well, I had better get back to the legislation. I'll try to post every day, but internet here is expensive.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Notes on day 1: travel day

Today has been frustrating. I couldn't get on the right tram this morning. I swear there are dozens of airport trams until you need one. So I got on the wrong tram and had to walk a mile to get on the right bus, but at the wrong stop so I had to ride it for a long time.

I got through customs without any problems - which is increasingly becoming a small miracle. The flight was great - short and sweet. In Dortmund I had all kinds of problems getting to the train station and findig an ATM machine. I can't imagine why these two things were so hard; but I managed both AND I found a Burger King. Let's face it, few things make me as happy as the King and his perogative that I have it my way.

Overnight train to Berlin.

Global Young People's Convocation

I'm leaving this afternoon to fly to Germany for the Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly. (GYPCLA) (I think my favorite part about Methodism might be our addiction to acronyms!)

GYPCLA will be in Berlin, Germany. United Methodist Youth and Young adults from all over the world will gather to discuss issues of importance and to spend time together in fellowship.

You can watch Live video from the event if you are interested.

I think that the Legislative Assembly has a lot of potential. It has the potential to be very divisive and embittering ... or it has the potential to be very unifying and uplifting. I believe that the youth and young adults elected to the Legislative Assembly (I'm one of the 11 voting delegates from the NEJ) will be more able to find common ground than adults.

There are some major pieces of legislation - some I believe passionately in and some that simply don't interest me - but ultimately we must focus on the things that will make the United Methodist church stronger and more faithful to our call to "Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Busy Season

Things have been going just great in Ukraine.

The last few days of June and into July were spent with friends, old and new, at the Kerch United Methodist church a few paces from the Black Sea.

A team of Americans from Tennessee led a youth and young adult leadership conference for United Methodists across Ukraine. Five of the students from the student center joined in on the fun and they were a huge asset to the team. We all found ourselves translating and leading - in Ukrainian and Russian. It was exhausting but a huge amount of fun. I swam at night in the warm water - but never found a chance to lie on the beach and soak up any sun.

I trained for a day in Kiev with Bill and Helen Lovelace. In a few short weeks I will begin volunteering full time at the center for street children that they run in Kiev.

The Virginia-L'viv team flew into Kiev and put me up at a nice hotel. I stayed with one of our students who was from the village. It was so much fun watching him play with all of the levers, knobs, and switches in our fancy hotel room. He spent about 10 minutes trying to open the window - and when I told him that we probably had air-conditioning he said, "No, Michael." When I turned the air-conditioning on his eyes got as big as saucers.

The Virginia team led us in a trek into the Carpathian mountains for a week of English camp. 30 students and 18 American helpers shared a week of fun and learning. It was great to spend time with people and to rest. I napped not infrequently.

This week is Kid's Club. We had 15 kids this morning (as well as several moms, dads, grandmothers, and grandfathers!) show up for a Bible based Kid's Club. Erika will begin holding Sunday School on Sundays - so we're praying that at least some of these kids and their families will join us.

Next week will be spent in Berlin at the Global Young People's Convocation. When I return I will immediately travel to Kiev and set up residence there for a month of volunteering with homeless children and at risk families.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Directions

These next two months will be incredibly busy for me. As you may have already noticed, I'm around a computer much less often then usual.

Last week was spent in Kerch, Ukraine. Youth and young adult leaders from all over the conference gathered at the sea-side to learn better leadership skills and to work with the street children in the area. It was great to meet other young people who are in ministry in this country. More than 30 of us gathered for a conference led by a wonderful team from Tennessee.

Yesterday I trained with Bill and Helen Lovelace to begin volunteering at the center for street children in Kiev. I will fill spots whenever I am able, balancing between my ministry with college students in L'viv and working in a social justice ministry in Kiev.

This next week will be spent with a great team from Virginia in English camp with many of the English Club students and others from L'viv. This is a huge week for us, and we are excited to share it with such great people from the states. The following week will hold VBS for kids in L'viv.

In late July I'll be heading to Berlin for the Global Young People's Convocation. It will be one week of sharing in the global nature of the United Methodist Church as youth and young adults from around the world gather together to examine what it means for young people to be United Methodist in the world where we live.

When I return I will head straight to Kiev and spend a month working daily with street children and at risk families.

Whew! I get a little tired just looking at my schedule, but I know that it's just right and I'm very thankful for it. I look forward to blogging about each event as it happens. Keep me accountable if I stop writing!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

and the week begins again....

David and Shannon have returned from the US. They brought Shannon's parents, Bob & Betty, as well as a little bundle of joy, Jesse Brian Goran! We are all very excited to have them back.

I'm in my new place. It's a room in a nice apartment in a nice apartment building. The guy who owns the apartment is an engineer - there's a big drafting table in the living room. My friend Victor also lives there. It's a little less convenient, but it's affordable and I'm happy.

This week will be a big adjustment as I find my new spot in the system now that David and Shannon are back.


Tuesday is a day of teaching.

During the school year I teach English courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During the summer my primary English outlet is weekly English Club.

"I Will Learn English" is a free weekly open event where anyone can show up for an hour and a half of English. It is an incredibly challenging endeavor to create a lesson for "anyone who shows up."

Some students speak English flawlessly and others only know a few words. Some are teenagers and some are in their late 30s.

I work hard to find topics of interest to engage people intellectually. My highest priority is to know everyone by name. There is a core group of 10-12 students who show up regularly. Last night there were 20.

English club begins with some kind of mixer to get people talking to one another. This helps the students find other people with similar English skills. Ideally, this would also build some level of community so that the students keep coming back.

Each time a student comes to English club, they get a hole-punch in their card. It's like a "10th cup free" card at a coffee shop. They can earn candy, ice cream, PB&Js, or private English classes.

The lesson varies from week to week. Some weeks we focus on a topic. I really believe that once students realize that their English level is high enough to discuss important social topics that they will realize that they can talk about anything. In a conversation about poverty, social injustice, or crime it's quite natural to discuss the Christian faith in a non-threatening way with the students.

Some weeks we watch TV shows or play board games. Occasionally we get visitors and the students can practice with an American other than me!

It's a huge challenge, but so far it's been fun to create these lessons. I hope to work more music into the lessons in the future.

Also on Tuesday I went apartment hunting and joined some friends for a World Cup game.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Monday is a work day.

Usually on Mondays I work on my sermon for Thursday night or I create my Tuesday night English club lesson plans. During the school year I plan out Tuesday and Thursday English courses.

But today was a special Monday. I'm apartment hunting. David and Shannon return on Wednesday, and I need to be out of their apartment by then. Now, I have a back-up plan, but ideally I won't need to use it. Ideally I'll be in my own apartment by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

So my friend Yura has been helping me. He's not a student and he doesn't work - so he has free time. Free time is more precious than oil was before the gulf spill, and having a friend who has two (2) days of free time is a gold mine! We went to the agency and got some leads to track down. The real estate agent tried to marry me off to either of her daughters. Rent a two-room apartment and get a free bride! What a slogan!

We went to three apartments. One was on the 5th and 3rd floor of a downtown building. Yes. You read that right. No, it doesn't make much more sense when you see it. The bathroom was on a balcony of the 3rd floor and the apartment was on the 5th floor.

One was a dungeon room in a bad part of town.

And the best option was a large, soviet style one-room apartment with no kitchen sink. It's a little bit pricier than I had intended (with utilities it will be about $250 a month), but unless I find something much better tomorrow - it will be my new home.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Sunday is a day or worship.

L'viv United Methodist church began meeting for weekly worship in January of 2010. In May our average attendance was 13 - we're on track to average 16+ for June! Our church is a little bit like the Island of misfit toys. You'd really love it if you came.

Today the pastor's son turned off the computer in the middle of the sermon. Our pastor uses the slides as his notes and we all had to wait until the computer re-booted for the sermon to continue. Adamchik (the pastor's son) is adorable, so it was easy to laugh and enjoy the break.

During communion Pastor Lyubomir puts Adamchik in my lap. I think that the little fellow is just overwhelmed by how incredibly large I am and he always sits quietly and politely until I hand him off to someone else. Today I was still holding him during one of the songs. He held on to my neck like there was no tomorrow and sang a song completely different than the hymn we were singing. He would sing just as loudly as I could, but his own words and tune. As soon as I stopped singing he would stop and as soon as I would start he would start in on his own melody. I have no idea what he was singing, but it felt very fun and lively. I couldn't stop laughing and it really brightened my whole day.

In the morning I went to a cathedral for mass. Even though I don't understand what's going on most of the time - I feel very comfortable in Greek-Catholic services. I stand in the back and pray and hope that no one notices my shorts and flip-flops.

Tonight I'll go out with friends and enjoy the city.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Saturday is a day or rest.

I really love everything I do, but sometimes life can get a little hectic. Having a day of rest really helps make the rest of the week seem much better.

I'm apartment hunting, so I bought a newspaper and spent a few hours going over the classifieds section. I managed fairly well and have a few locations I'm going to scout out on Monday/Tuesday.

A friend and I might catch a movie tonight ... we'll see. The weather is nice, so maybe I'll just go for a long walk.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday is a catch-up day

Theoretically, Friday is a day off. I've actually had a few Fridays where I've managed to do nothing, but usually it is the free-day to which things get put off.

Yeah, I'll do that on Friday.

Sure, let's meet on Friday.

So I was up at 8AM for a morning meeting with our pastor. He works full time as a computer programmer, so our meetings have to be early in the morning. (Generally speaking - because we work with college students - my mornings are completely free.)

We're working through Adam Hamilton's Selling Swimsuits in the Arctic. It's really a wonderful little book that people involved with growing a church or a ministry should read. It uses business terms and some people are put off by it's lack of spirituality - but frankly, if you think the only answer to help ministries succeed is to pray more then you really shouldn't be reading any books anyway. I tend to be more pragmatic and feel that God has given us the tools to be effective in what we do and we should use those tools.

Today we talked about getting little changes that could make a big difference.

At 9 AM we met with a man who could help us print posters. I don't like salespeople because they talk too quickly for me to understand anything and I always feel that a lot has been lost in translation. But, I liked this guy. He was about my age and seemed nice. I almost feel as though we got a good deal.

I went to the market and bought some food and then came home and baked a few things for when David and Shannon get back.

I'm apartment hunting at the moment (just lightly - I have a back up plan, but if I can find something cheap I would like to live by myself) so I went and visited a friends apartment to see what I could get within my budget.

I tried to take a nap, but quickly got a phone call from someone who needed something ... and I was up again. My second nap attempt also failed.

I went for a long walk through the city - just enjoying the architecture.

I ate terribly unhealthy McDonald's food - which I know I shouldn't do.

After dinner I had an incredibly painful conversation with a friend. It's very painful to be so far away during what might be his last few months.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Thursday always feels like the "big day."

Pilgrim's student worship service occurs at 6:30. In a flourish or organizational activity everything comes together and 20-some 20-somethings show up for a time of prayer, praise, preaching, and (more) prayer.

It's finals month (yes, the students take finals for a whole month) so attendance is always up in the air. The last two weeks we had better than average numbers - but past success is no gaurantee of present reality. We had as few as 13 a few weeks ago (and a high of 36 a few weeks after that.) We have a great time regardless of the numbers.

This morning I paid some bills, did some work around the house, and had a haircut.

The man who cuts my hair could have cut Stalin's hair as well. He's well past retirement age, but the line of old men who wait patiently for his clippers - even though the other chair and barber in the shop are free - is a sure sign that his haircuts are the best. He uses a strait edge razor around your ears and neck. He keeps bottles of vodka, pure alcohol, chloroform, and old men's cologne on his counter. It's really the best haircut I've ever had. It costs $2.50.

I watched some TV and ate some polenta pizza and a baked potato. I've been trying lots of recipes with corn-meal because we have a lot of it and it's cheap.

I re-worked a few parts of my sermon before practicing and timing it. I'm working towards memorizing my sermons. I have 4 or 5 parts where I can step out from behind the pulpit and preach without any notes. It still makes me nervous and we'll see how I do in front of people.

Continued ... sorry, I wrote half in the afternoon and half at night ...

We had about 14 people when Pilgrims started, and around 30 by the time the sermon started. The sermon went well and was followed by a great prayer time.

One of the students said that he liked my sermon ... and then he asked me where I downloaded it from. Haha. I guess he couldn't believe that I actually wrote the sermon I gave.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Wednesdays are a day of preperation.

This morning I woke up in time to get some e-mails out before my Urkainian lesson. Lyu and I swap teaching skills for two hours on Wednesday mornings. At 10 AM I learn Ukrainian and at 11 AM she learns English.

I'm begginning to form sentences and straining for case endings - so the first hour is a relentlessly painful experience where my brain goes into hyper-drive and I try to retain as much as possible. We're to the point where most of the class is in Ukrainian and Lyu doesn't speak any English to me.

I look forward to the second when the tables turn and we only speak English! I basically help Lyu polish her English skills. I'm not teaching her English as much as sanding smooth some rough edges.

I spent a few hours going through files after my lesson. We're looking for some documents (everything is in Ukrainian and my head hurts most of the time) and so I'm tearing apart every file at the student center.

I also managed to finish sorting the file cabinet full of English resources. It's full of really good resources that I will never use, but which shouldn't be thrown away because someone else might use them in the future. It's a little frustrating to not be able to create your own system, but to just tinker with someone elses and hope that future people can understand it better after your changes.

I put the final touches on my sermon for tomorrow (really, I'll re-work a few things tomorrow, but it's finished enough that I could preach it right now and be satisfied)and sent out a few e-mails about Pilgrims.

I'm in the process of spring cleaning the apartment before David and Shannon return. I've been slowly working my way through the house - moving stuff out of a room, mopping and dusting, and then moving things back. I'll hit the "half-way mark" today!

After a relaxing meal and some TV, I went to Ukrainian language club. This was my first time, and I'm glad I went. It's a group of foreigners from all over the world, and Ukrainians who love their language and want to help people learn it better.

I made some new friends and had a chance to practice my Ukrainian.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mongolia video

Congregational Development in Mongolia from Sushil Bhujbal on Vimeo.

So this is the new GBGM video about Mongolia. I was lucky enough to be in Mongolia when they came to film, and free enough to be able to help the cameraman every day. He like photography better and would often let me take video while he took photos. So, some of this video footage is very dear to my heart. I love these people and miss this place very much.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

GBGM video

Leadership Development In Ukraine from Sushil Bhujbal on Vimeo.

This video is awesome. It's one of the four areas of focus videos. Tomorrow I'll post the video from Mongolia (the one I helped film.) Today, enjoy the video of the ministry I'm working with right now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How you can join me

To Contact me:

The following address is the P.O. Box in L’viv. This address is fine for sending cards and letters (please do not send packages to this address, they will be pillaged).

Michael Airgood
c/o David and Shannon Goran

a/c 7998
Lviv – 8
Lviv, Ukraine 79008

This address is my physical home address. This is where I would prefer you send anything bigger than a letter. It is still not a good idea to use the Ukrainian postal service, David and Shannon recommend that you use MEEST. We have used MEEST before and they are a reliable shipping company with very comparable rates. You can visit their website here.

Michael Airgood
c/o David and Shannon Goran
Voronoho 11/3
Lviv 79000

My cell phone number in Ukraine is 8093 6789362.

If you would like a cheaper option, you are welcome to contact me on SKYPE, a free internet telephone service whose website you can visit here. Follow the directions to set up your own account. I talk with my parents at least weekly for free through Skype.

My "Skype" name is michael.airgood

You can send e-mails to mairgood@tfc.edu

I also blog theological thoughts and other reflections on life at Barneyisfat.

Here is a list of things I can't get here, but really enjoy receiving:
Brown Sugar
Ranch Seasoning (the students rave about ranch and we are the ranch tree)
Crunchy Peanut Butter
Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Let me know when you send something so we can keep an eye out for it. Thanks!

How you can support me:

Please pray for me and the ministry here in L'viv. Every day is different, and I can use all the prayer I can get.

If you would like to support the entire General Board of Global Ministries missionary community through a covenant relationship with me, my Advance number is #3021393

If you would like to directly support the student center and the ministry there, you can make an on-line donation through the Advance. You can do that here.

100% of all gifts given through the Advance directly support the mission and ministries of GBGM.

Thank you for your continued support of my time serving overseas as a missionary.

What I'm doing

I am a General Board of Global Ministries standard support missionary.

I serve in day to day life as a United Methodist missionary, the dream job I've been working toward since I was twelve years old.

I was invited by David and Shannon Goran to come and be an intern for their ministry in L'viv Ukraine and served as a volunteer for a year. I'm currently in my first three year term.

It has been a huge blessing to be part of this ministry and working with these students. I teach English, preach occasionally, work on leadership development, and help people connect in ministries which speak to them.

Our weekly student worship averages around 40 people. Two new United Methodist congregations have been planted through the ministry in L'viv.

Where I'm at

I live and work in L'viv, Ukraine.

Ukraine is between Russia and Poland and borders a half-dozen other nations and a beautiful sea. L'viv is on the far western side, only an hour from Poland. At various times L'viv has been an Austrian, Polish, Soviet, and Ukrainian city.

L'viv is a beautiful, ancient city in Western Ukraine. It functions as the cultural and religious capital of the country. In most cities in Ukraine, Russian is the dominant language. Ukrainian is used exclusively in L'viv and other western cities.

Molod do Isusa is an inter-confessional student organization just one block from the state university. You can view a video about the ministry created by GBGM.

Leadership Development In Ukraine from Sushil Bhujbal on Vimeo.

I'm in my first three year term as a GBGM standard support missionary.

I have eaten sour cream at least once, every day, for the last 3 months - it might be the national food.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

For four years of college we were taught that to be a good missionary we had to love the people who worked with. I'm not entirely certain this is true.

Don't get me wrong. I love the people I work with ... at least most of them. 99% of the people I interact with on a daily basis are outstanding. The students are fun and trendy. They work hard and play hard. Their lives are a reflection of God's love and in their company I feel the presence of God.

But every so often I end up face to face with a truly miserable person. He or she usually works for the government. Like a sweet-sacherine grin doing a headstand, their frowns manage to take up the vast majority of their faces.

Sometimes they manage to show up at our doors. They always want to complain about everything that's happening. Or they're here to shut off our gas.

Spending time with fun people is great - but I strongly believe that the real ministry begins when you don't really like someone. I have a hunch that ministry is the same everywhere - but overseas and in youth ministry you can't pronounce people's names. When you have to genuinely work at loving people you've discovered real ministry.

Monday, June 7, 2010


My parents made it home safely! Their first big trip is officially over and they are looking forward to their next one.

I essentially took the week off while they were here ... and after my week of vacation, I am exhausted. Haha. We had a really great time visiting the city and introducing them to my friends. I think they've learned to plan longer periods of time for visiting overseas places.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures we posted. I might find a few more of their trip to put up here.

At the student center we're having a Pancake Night which I'm pretty excited about.

Some friends and I got a car REALLY stuck in the mud last night while returning from a lake. It was a pretty rough situation and after I've processed it I might write about it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Because I never post pictures of me ....


This is another shot at the meat market. My parents are just fascinated by the whole concept.


Mom and I in the city center.


Bogdan is one of my best students.


At dad's favorite "restaurant" in L'viv. It's a full time job keeping him away from Micky D's.
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