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!