This past week we hosted our Club 180 Christmas party. Around 30 gathered for food, fun and karaoke! Our family actually sang our agreed most annoying Christmas song, “This Christmas, I gave you my heart.. but the very next day..” The Ukrainians had their own funny songs, it was a fun time 🙂
Next week we host our widows for a similar time of food and fellowship, maybe we should do Karaoke with them too! It’s a tough time of year for our widows, the temps drop at night and homes become more challenging to heat. This year the government increased the gas prices by 40% – if our Cafe is struggling to pay the heat bill, you can be sure these sweet old ladies on fixed income of $60/mo are.
I returned from Slavyansk, Ukraine this week. Spent two days touring the warn torn areas of the City. It’s been 5 years, and some areas have just sat, entire hospitals and apartment complexes half standing. One neighborhood we drove down, by each metal gate you could seen hundreds of bullet holes. The battle took place in that area for two solid weeks, and many stories of mothers and babies trapped on the floor literally starving to death waiting for a break in the action to move to safety. Other stories, such as the Separatists seizing upon a local church after service let out, they picked 4 young men from the crowd, took them to the local fire station which was the torture house. After torturing these men, they took them outside the town, set them on fire to their death and shot others. The reason given by the men, “To discourage the ‘american’ religions” in that area. These men’s pictures remain on display around a monument, all in their 30’s, fathers of many children, two of them were the pastors sons.
It was stories like this, as well as generally feeling the area, walking around, that helped me realize the haunting nature of war well after it leaves an area. This town, the first to be seized and first to be liberated back by Ukrainian forces, lost over 1,000 in total (soldiers and citizens) during the battle. The fabric of the town was forever changed, the emotional and psychological effects through things like depression, suicide, they show their ugly face long after the tanks roll out.
We were blessed to stay at the house of the pastor of the local church ‘Good News Church”, which has been at the center of the humanitarian effort during and now 5yrs after. The church trains short term teams of 5 to the ‘front’ to serve, start bible studies, deliver aid, and generally represent Christ to the soldiers who guard the Ukrainian borders. They currently have 35 of such groups along the front which stretches for 100’s of miles. I didn’t go to the front, but I could have – the pastor is eager to show anyone that is interested just how real the war still is, and need. Yet, as a missional church they see the opportunity as well. The world has forgotten for the most part that Ukraine is in a stalemate, a purposeful de-stabilization of it’s nation along the Eastern border. They welcome any and all bodies, hearts, hands and feet to come represent Christ, that God has not forgotten and the pain still felt has an ultimate answer in the eternal love of God.
We met with some other new friends that work with widows, refugees, and orphans. One such guy, Max, I connected with on a deeper level than normal. In his late 30’s, Max has given his life literally to the well being of transitional orphans. Those leaving the ‘system’ of orphanages are susceptible to incredibly high suicide rates, drug abuse and forms of sexual exploitation. They are ill prepared for even the most basic life skills, and extremely naive. Max is serving both in Donetsk still, with his own apartment complex turned dorm-style training for these mostly teen orphans, but also serving on the pro-Ukrainian side. To move in and out requires a border crossing unlike anything I’ve heard or experienced – up to 12hrs of lines, not less than 4 checkpoints, this is to cross within the same country – it’s easier to cross into Russia than into Eastern Ukraine. While with Max, he received a call from an orphan who had some savings accumulated at the bank he wished to take out. Orphans do get a government stipend and after several years, this particular young boy had $1,000 saved, to the surprise of everyone including Max. However, the bank wouldn’t release it, stating that they believed the boy to be a criminal, and to get this money he would need a release from the Police. Next thing you know, the boy called Max, the police had confiscated his money, and threatened his life if he told anyone. In Slavic countries, orphans, widows, they have no-one to defend them, to demand justice, to be their guardian angel. Max is this for many kids. We’ve invited Max to join us at our next leaders meeting in January, both to be encouraged, and to refresh our leaders with his deep faith in Christ.
We also met with a beautiful young couple that has, or is in process of starting a worship ministry 24/7. They will also hopefully join us in January, Lord willing. They have access to pretty well known studio (at the same church that we visited) that has a lot of potential I think, in line with what God is doing in our world, with Visible Music College, LIT worship and other things. Pray for Joana & Oleg!
I just started a Facebook fundraiser. We have a couple generous legacy donors that fueled with their finances many cool things this year, including our family in the Russian speaking world. However, I would really love if more people got involved on a smaller level too, like $50 per year, and just prayed and cared for what God is doing in this generation here. I’m promoting our team, we’ll post their video introductions, and let social media family and friends know, and then trust the Lord. That balance between just trusting God quietly and yet also needing to do my part to tell the story, let our needs be known etc. I despise fundraising, its the death of me – I honestly don’t know why disciple making, like legit expanding the Kingdom ministries need to do this, it’s quite tiring having to gather stories, post info, and then not really see hardly any interest. I want to focus on the lives, hearts, opportunities here fully – this fundraiser is honestly sort of a last horah attempt at seeing if social media is of any use to us moving forward.
Bronwyn is back, Broderic returns after new year for a 2 weeks. I’m on break with Fuller, so going to enjoy this! I have a 4.0 GPA and got a 99% on my final paper on Nature of God in Light – (click here for portion to read).
Donate to our facebook fundraiser