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 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.