Today in the center of our small town, something felt different. At first I thought it was just the traffic from one of our regular market days. Soon realized it was a political protest with flags waving, and a couple dozen walking down the street. It’s kind of neat how I can spot a foreign presence in our town – the way they dress, the cars they drive.. I felt like a real local looking puzzled at the gathering and witnessing troublemakers. I felt like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, “Get off my land.”
It turned out to be nothing an attempted provocation, Kiev TV station was there videoing what they hoped to be something news worthy. From what I gathered and was told, the former Presidents ‘Party of Regions’ was given permission by our mayor for some meetings, then another rival party showed up to boycott their presence. I have no idea if that is accurate, I just know it felt like a couple rival gangs getting ready to ‘dance’. There were special unit police there to watch over the proceedings. They don’t give you much comfort though with their automatic rifles.
I talked with the news folks, invited them to the Cafe, and they came. I wasn’t there at the Cafe when they came unfortunately. They questioned our Russian language (sprinkled along with Ukrainian) inside the Cafe. Something I find unfortunate. A year ago nobody would have thought much of the two public languages, after all they have so-existed peacefully for decades. Russia has been viewed as the big brother, only recently as an enemy. It’s sad how these two very similar cultures have been exploited for political gain – and now a very real chasm has emerged.
This week I had a really cool meeting with the Mayor. It took several days to finally get him to sit with us. He’s a hyper energetic sort.. A.D.D. if I’ve ever saw it with a Mayor. It seems to work to his advantage though, as he’s always got a phone in his ear, barking instructions and keeping the town moving. His biggest passion is ‘football’ or soccer. He has personally overseen a new soccer field, complete with benches for about 100. He visits it regularly, it’s his first love and nobody is allowed on it without specific permission.
Anyway, we talked for 45 minutes, and it would take too long to give you the details, but he’s really been encouraged by the foreign missionary influence over the past few years. He knew of our “refugee’ hire at the Cafe (Sveta), he knew of families staying with the Gollan’s and Ewings, of various ways Christians in town have cared and helped during this past year. He knows we want to clean our property and prepare it for a fundraising campaign for a Skatepark Lord willing. He acknowledged some antagonistic foes within the City government that want to protect Orthodoxy and would like us to leave or at least stay out of view. However, he admitted almost in a conflicted tone, that “all you guys do is invest into people and this town, but all our Orthodox leaders do is take.” He said, “You guys need to promote what you are doing more in the paper, write articles etc.” I thought of the verse, “let another man’s words praise you and not your own”. After a few minutes of surprising praise towards our local efforts (foreign missionary community, not just us), I felt emboldened to speak candidly about the heart of the Gospel. I replied, “Mayor, I appreciate those kind words, but the reality is that are are not good people. None of us are. We have been forgiven a great debt because of Jesus Christ, that’s what motivates our activity here – Jesus Christ means something very real to us.” Thankful for Masha, she’s an incredible translator and was able to quickly let me communicate this as we closed our discussion. It was only a few minutes, but I believe some seeds were planted.
Please pray for our Mayor. As we are more public and purposeful with sharing God’s love and worshipping with whomever God draws, he’s sure to be caught in the middle with this spiritual tension. He already is. May God continue to work on his heart and all those who may be currently in opposition to God’s heart to heal, save and deliver!
Just finished meeting with our friends from Kiev who have parked their two donated tractors on our property. We fired them up just now and they both came right to life after a long winters nap. We’re now looking for a farmer mechanic to give them a quick service so they can begin plowing area gardens next week, particularly those who can’t afford it as another way of showing love. They delivered a new 6 row plow, now sitting in Neil’s garage:) May God oversee this, and in the next few weeks allow us to continue to build bridges and solid testimony in our town, but also area small villages where they are extremely poor and depend wholly on their gardens. A tractor like this would take weeks of work and complete it within an hour – God doesn’t waste our experiences.. back to farming for us? 🙂 I actually look forward to plowing some if God permits. Make my farmer dad proud. They take their gardens very seriously, so I really hope our friends do a good job, straight rows!
Last night a handful of us went to Kiev to celebrate Simeon and Shane’s b-days. It was a guy thing – Indian food and go-karts. It was neat to witness and experience the adrenaline and thrill of speed again. It was Vlad’s first time, and he did incredibly well. It’s a pity the price is well outside the average Ukrainian’s financial ability – about a day’s wage for 10 minutes!
Tomorrow is a big day for us as we hope to get the houses situated for the team coming in less than two weeks! We have spent all funds we brought back with us from various donations to get things ready to date both at Cafe 2nd Floor and for the housing setup. If you’d like to contribute so we can buy dishes, remaining bedding, and fix a water heater in the one house, it would be gladly received – you can click here to contribute any amount from your debit/credit card or paypal account.
Remember to check out our Awaken Ukraine facebook group page – 40 members and counting! 5 churches committed to pray for the events coming up! https://www.facebook.com/groups/awaken2015/