This is something which is really difficult for me. It's hard to live with a foot in two different countries. I want to keep up with my family and friends in the states, but I want to move forward with new relationships here. It's a constant struggle and it's exhausting, really.
In Ukraine, most people have a circle of about six friends. People who connect with lots and lots of different people are an oddity here - and they tend to only have surface level relationships with no real depth or substance. I have a thousand friends on Facebook. This is a terribly embarrassing fact for me to admit - but what is even worse is that I routinely delete lots of people. I can't keep my list under a thousand people! Even in Ukraine I have lists of people from other Methodist churches, from the Pilgrims student worship service, from St. John's UMC in Lviv, from English Club, from my volunteering at the University, from Schools I've visited - and the list of lists continue listing away!
I could count about 12 people as "best friend" level - people with whom I am inextricably connected. Another 100 could easily count as "close friend" level - people with whom I have a friendship of length and depth. Back home these numbers are proof that I am an energetic, gregarious, friendly person. Here in Ukraine these numbers show that I don't connect well with others - or at the very least that I am stretched to my limit.
And sometimes I really feel that. On my birthday all I wanted was to sit down for a nice meal with my two closest friends and to call my grandma. Sometimes I feel that I am stretched too thin on the inter-personal communications side of things.
What is most interesting to me is that in Ukraine, most churches try a programmatic approach to discipleship. They set up seminars, preaching times, and Bible studies. This is funny because Jesus' model of discipleship is really the natural fit. One person disciples his or her closest group of friends who do the same with their closest friends and so on and so forth. In America this approach would never work - it would necessitate people becoming uncomfortably close to one another.
I'm really proud of one of our young men. He counts David as one of his closest friends, and David has consistently discipled him. This young man has grown so much in his faith - and he is now beginning to disciple others. We didn't institute a program - we just lived life.
I'm going to keep trying to keep connected with supporters and friends in the states. I'll keep blogging, will Skype more of my best friends, and will try to connect with my sister as often as our schedules allow! But, in Ukraine I'm realizing that I need fewer friends and to work more consistently in building into their lives.