Some Ukrainians laugh at my optimism. I thought for sure by now we’d be smelling the fresh baked dough and rich aroma of coffee at the Cafe. I made a sign this past fall which confidently declared, “coming soon!” out front. Instead, it’s a dark, cold, lonely place and my once proud flag annoys local passerby’s.
This is Ukraine. I’m sure it’s like this in some of the neighboring countries as well, but Ukraine continually ranks near the world’s worst Corruption Index’s and terrifies most international business investors. It is the opposite of ‘business friendly’, and seems to systematically attempt to grind your optimism into dust. If Ukraine was a person, it would be saying to us, “Who are you to think you can waltz into our country and just sell us pizza? Are you a son of the president? No. Do you have rich powerful friends? No. Do you think we will just let you pass by without extorting every possible cent? Silly foreigner, this is no place for optimism.’
Sometimes it works. I get discouraged. We’ve spent our savings on property downtown to be a light for Jesus Christ. We’ve received countless donations from friends and family to renovate the building into a beautiful space, complete with kitchen equipment, tables, chairs and bathrooms. We’ve been engaged in a series of document challenges over the past two months which are requiring even more money.
I’m writing this not as a complaint. This is for us to remember personally how trying and costly this investment was. So often we forget to document the reality, the difficulty. To bolster our faith when it is opened, and we encounter even more difficulty. We know that we’ll be touching hundreds of lives through this property. It won’t be just pizza and coffee. We’re spending money hand over fist for stamps and a ridiculous amount of paperwork because lives are important to God. The second floor at the Cafe will be an amazing spot for ministry collaboration, for prayer, study of God’s Word, planning and changing of lives. I have to remind myself of this daily, because the effort it’s taking just to legally operate a small pizza cafe is daunting.
We’re currently awaiting the conversion of the building to business. This is a series of 5 steps (actually more like 20, but 5 is a nicer number). We’ve completed step 1, the supposedly most expensive and time consuming one. It wiped us clean of all our resources, but we were very thankful to have the funds set aside for that. Step 2 is underway now, and supposed to be finished within 3 weeks. They’ve come back to us however last week and changed the price, from $1,000, to $2,000 for this particular document. We’ve contested this increased charge and they are going back to re-negotiate the final price with their extortioners in Kiev. Once we have step 2 complete, step 3 is only a few hundred bucks (only!) and should take a week or two. Then, Step 4 is the last one to achieve final ‘business permit’ status, which will allow us to sell to the public. This is supposed to be about another $1,000.
Besides the actual business / building permit that is taking months to secure, we have to get our Gas back on. Right now the head chief in Khargalyk has been kind and now that our step 1 (from above) was completed, he’s approved us moving forward. We ‘could’ have Gas back on in the Cafe within a month or two. At this point it’s anyone’s guess, they don’t move very quickly, there isn’t any competition so why would they? We are trying hard to not ‘gift’ anyone to expedite things because it only creates more expected giftings and in turn establishes you as a ‘gifter’. When its appropriate and someone does an exceptional job or shows us real favor, we give chocolates, sometimes a tip, to reward excellence vs paying for something that should be done legally without a gift. We all feel good for being rewarded when we do a good job, nobody feels right taking money because you are holding a situation hostage. Yet, it’s the norm too often.
So, big question, when will the Cafe open? I answer:
– When the Building and Land Documents are 100% finsihed (1-2 months?)- When the Gas is back on (1 month?).
– When the Electric and Fire are activated under the new business.
– As the Lord provides the finances and help to expedite all of the above.
For everyone else that doesn’t read English or our blog, the answer is “skora”, or in english, “soon”. I could be spiritual and say, “God knows”, the Ukrainians chuckle at this response in agreement mostly. We’re swimming in mud. It’s slow, messy and not a lot of fun. I don’t know what God really ‘knows’, but I do know He understands our situation, the layers upon layers of bureaucracy, and our limited funds to navigate through the final steps. The fact that I believe He knows this, and cares, and is with us, is all I need for the final push. He’s also given us friends and family that are praying and holding us up for the journey – that is comforting and we encourage you to not let up!
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9
Bruce & Deb