Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday St. John UMC Lviv!

The United Methodist Church in L'viv celebrated its second birthday this Sunday. It's hard to believe that it was just two short years ago that this wonderful community was planted.

The Sunday School is still going strong. The weather was very cold and the youngest kids weren't allowed to walk to church. Here the pastor's son writes a card with the help of one of the Sunday School teachers.

We began with a worship service. During the coldest months our numbers dip a little, so it was refreshing to have everyone come out for worship and communion. We are so proud of our leadership and the wonderful job they are doing!

Erika found birthday hats for us to wear and everyone came together for cake and tea.

Not everyone wanted to be in the picture, but here we are gathered around our two birthday cakes. Maybe each year we'll have another person bring a cake until the church is old enough that everyone bakes a cake and shares it with their small group! This could be a dangerous tradition!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


As we read through the communion liturgy, the sound of children enjoying Sunday school in the next room begins to grow. It always seems as though the children store up all of their energy during the noisier parts of the service and hold on to it until it comes time for the silent prayers of confession. As we bow our heads the dam breaks and mighty roars of laughter flood our worship space.

It's one of the charms of worshiping in a minuscule space. It's one of the joys of having a full children's Sunday School. It's one of the challenges of making do and making things work.

The other day I mentioned the large out-door staircase that leads to my house. The day after I posted about it, I fell into one of the potholes while going down the stairs.

It was dark and I should have been going slower; being more deliberate with each step. But, I was in a hurry and I rushed down the stairs. A grandmother with her small grandchild was occupying the safe section of the steps and I moved to a different section to get around them. I felt my ankle twist under my leg as my foot found its groove in the missing section of step. I caught myself and managed to gain some traction before any further damage was done. I hobbled forward and didn't feel anything. I regained feeling at the bottom of the stairs and realized that there was no way I was walking back up the stairs - so I went on my way.

My ankle is feeling better now. It's still sore some times; but thankfully I didn't have to go to the hospital and I only had to stay off it for a few days.

I'm spending the month of January focusing on reconnecting with Ukrainian culture and improving my ability to communicate in Ukrainian.

I'm the kind of person who enjoys getting things done. I accomplish things. This is my personality. For me it has been very frustrating to not get wrist-deep in the day to day life and ministry of the student center.

But I have to realize that there are many pits and potholes along the stairs in Ukraine. If I don't slow down and take each step deliberately I will certainly fall and this time I might do some serious damage.

These first few steps [learning more grammar, improving my vocabulary, working to pronounce sounds more distinctly, and making statements with the proper (read: non-American) intonation] are boring and difficult. It's easy to fall into a full-force run and to assume that everything will be fine in the long run.

This is the joy of making do and making things work. It applies to small worship spaces just as much as it applies to getting more disciplined about language lessons.

As my mother always pointed out, "A stitch in time saves nine."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


It is always good to return somewhere you love. Lviv is treating me well. It has been nice to slowly return to the customs and culture of Ukraine.

My new apartment is very nice. It is a small two-bedroom apartment in an old Soviet-block building in city center. The kitchen has been recently remodeled and is very nice. It has a very efficient stove and oven, plenty of cabinet and counter top space, and a dishwasher. Sadly, we don't have enough dishes to ever need the dishwasher - but eventually my boxes will arrive and we will! The bathroom is split into two rooms, which is a nice feature when guests are over.

The neighborhood is quiet and safe. The building is very secure. Each apartment has its own door code for the front door, and the apartment itself has a sturdy wood door. I feel very safe in the apartment, and the hallway is always well lit and I never feel unsafe. The building also has a (somewhat rickety) elevator - which is an oddity for city center.

I live with a good Ukrainian friend who helps me understand Ukrainian culture and language better every single day. It's good to have someone to talk to and to help me process through things - it was very frustrating before (when I lived alone and then lived with non-Christians) to not have anyone to help me process through things. We found a cat already. His name is Mefodyi (Мефодій) named after one of the first missionaries to the Slavic world - Methodius.

Each room in the apartment has a giant window and a spacious balcony. The view isn't tremendous (the view from the stairwell side of the building is breathtaking!) but at least we don't have neighbors five feet across from us looking in our windows. There is an old building with a few offices, but at night there is no one behind out building.

The biggest drawback is the tremendous hill and the long hike to get to the apartment. One road is a little less steep, but it's further from the center. Behind our building is a large staircase to traverse the hillside. The stairs are in really bad shape and poorly lit at night. There is also a trail through a wooded area that is steeper, but a little prettier. I keep hoping to find some shortcut on level ground ... but so far I have been forced to put up with the slopes! This is also nice in some ways, though, because it makes the neighborhood more secluded and keeps the monthly rent low for an apartment so close to city center. It's only 5 blocks from the main square - but two of those blocks happen to be very steep!

Every day is an exercise class, and I feel healthier already. I'll try and post some pictures of the apartment as we get each room settled.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Christmas in the village

I had the great joy of visiting the small town of Xodoriv for Ukrainian Christmas. I interviewed my friend's grandmother a while back so that I could better understand the history of Ukraine. She invited me to enjoy the Christmas feast with their family.

Nazar's grandmother grating eggs for one of the many dishes we would eat for Christmas. The Christmas meal consists of at least 12 dishes!

Jessica cat eyeing up the fish covered in onions. Luckily, she sat at my feet and ate plenty of fish during the meal!

Nazar's grandmother cutting the Christmas bread - it literally covered half of the table.

Nazar and his mother overshadowed by the giant Christmas bread!

Nazar's other set of grandparents. His grandfather is a wickedly funny old man, but at the same time his prayers were wonderfully deep and heartfelt. I really loved being around him.

Some of the many dishes. On the right you can see the traditional Christmas doughnuts.

The new Greek Catholic church being built in Xodoriv, as seen through the eyes of a young boy.