Larrisa was married yesterday. We’ve known her since we moved to Ukraine. She’s the sweetest, kindest young lady who is now the bride of Abe, a young man from Oregon who had been dating her from afar the past year. Tomorrow Larrisa begins her new life in America – what culture shock lies ahead for her!
Ukrainian weddings are such an oddity to us. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the ceremonies have become a diverse (ecclectic perhaps a better word) mix of tradition and western import. One thing is for sure, they are long. The average wedding lasts no less than 10hrs.
Hats off to Cheryl who labored tirelessly putting together most of the wedding decor and planning. It’s not a job anyone would want, especially where most things need to be designed from scratch.
The funeral is not a serious one. We’ve lost 3 chicks. We have 5 remaining from our original 8. All things considered, it’s going pretty well 3 weeks in with cats and predators on the lookout. Claire loves to visit the turtles and chicks each morning scatter the seed. It’s enjoyable for me too, I feel like a little farmer is trying to come out.
We just said goodbye to our friends Steve and Joe Harder and their 2 little boys. They are with Youth for Christ down in Zaphorishny (closer to the war). This is their second visit passing through – it’s cool to have a place for visitors to stay and hopefully benefit from some sincere fellowship. It’s been encouraging to get to know their hearts, their faith and desire for God to breakout among this next generation. They also feel a bit like us, charting new territory for the Kingdom, not always understood.
Tonight we host a worship evening at the Cafe – our friends from Khargalyk will lead the times of prayer and worship. We have AC installed on 2nd floor (one smaller unit) and hoping it puts a dent in the suffocating heat from the past week – it’s been hot and very humid. About 100 people are wadding currently in our river – I’ve talked to a beer tent owner about delivering pizza to the beach dwellers who seldom make it to the center during hot summer days. It would be great for the Cafe to tap into the Kiev cottage folk driving down for the weekends.
Pizza is going really well! We just added the larger size – it’s immediately selling to the tourists. About 50% of our business right now, since the students have left, are the tourists. Our residents still struggle with the prices – even though a pizza only costs $3-6. We’ve had quite a few folks ask about Beer – one lady was quite upset with our staff because “How in the world am I supposed to eat my pizza without Beer?” – she was livid.
Slowly, we’re seeing some cultural shifts in our little town. When we first arrived, there were only bars – we were scoffed at for thinking a non-alcoholic place would be embraced by the community. Last week a new Cafe opened in our town – it serves ice cream and coffee! Down the street, there’s another small cafe that serves specialty coffees now. Further down towards the gas station there’s a Pizza / Sushi spot. In the center of town the once bar only spot has developed into a restaurant that is slowly building up regular clientele. In the past, there wasn’t enough customers just wanting to eat do have things ready on the menu – so it was mostly a place to drink and occasionally get some borsch or some prepared meal. It’s really cool to think that we’ve helped expedite I think, some of the changing cultural shifts in town. If folks steal our idea for a family friendly cafe or even just promote coffee culture over drunkenness, it’s a win for the Kingdom.
We met with our staff to discuss our new ‘competition’. We talked about how this is great for the town – it keeps us honest and sharp. Our staff is now wanting to make smoothies (or smoozies as they say in Ukrainian), and expand our menu. Probably only 10% of our guests currently think we’re strange for not offering alcohol – but the other 90% both accept it now and embrace it, parents don’t mind their kids coming and hanging out, ladies and people of all ages feel safe and enjoy the benefits of a alcohol free zone. For us, it’s not about being anti-drinking, it’s about supporting a culture that doesn’t need it to survive and can face reality head on. Ukraine is a difficult, extremely depressing place when you consider all the challenges ahead – yet a sober people willing to face these realities of sin, corruption and despair can find Jesus. With Jesus, real hope and a real future.
So here’s to a changing community (raising my latte), embracing some new ideas – pray for us that more steps can be taken for the Kingdom – larger Kingdom footprint established for the next generation to expand upon. It’s not about Coffee, it’s about Christ. It’s not about Pizza, it’s about casting a vision for eternal life in and around our neighbors, friends, fellow believers and skeptics.
The Kingdom of God is like a seed. The Gospel is growing, changing, evolving, moving all around believers that are sowing themselves and the hope that is in them – I love being a part of the most powerful movement in human history. It’s conspicuous, it’s sown in blood, sweat and tears. It surprises the hopeless, shuns the religious, defies the doubter. The Kingdom and it’s Gospel message is the Roman triumphal procession. The victor is Christ, the conquered you and I, the weapon love.
Bruce & Deb