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

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.