One of our favorite movies. This week, the real ‘bob’ in the flesh visited us, live from Worcester , MA (outside Boston). Bob & Dennis Stone were friends of ours during our days at CFNI (1992-1994).
Thanks to facebook, we’ve begun reconnecting with good friends that we had lost track of over the years. This connection resulted in a plane ticket and week of catching up, re-telling funny stories, and encouragement. It was so nice to share struggles, and praise God together for the things ‘He has done’, in the last 15yrs. Bob had visited the former USSR during college, and still remembered how to say some things. It didn’t keep him however from being a tourist for a day, here he is with a Russian Sea Border Patrol hat, sized for his 8yr old son.
It was a tremendous week. We met with so many people in the town. We designed a calendar (thanks Jon @ Cypress!) with pictures from the special Christmas Dinner, and tried to get each of their pictures sprinkled somewhere within the months. We had them printed at Kinkos in Boston, then Bob grabbed them and brought them over. We then used this opportunity to visit each official again, which resulted in unexpected, and frankly overwhelming responses of gratitude, long conversations, tea, a tour, and even a full course lunch. I personally underestimated the impact of this dinner/event, and have been inspired by the gestures of friendship and continued interaction. It’s difficult, without writing a novel of a blog, to describe each of the unique relationships, but I feel I need to communicate a couple so you too, can give praise to God with us, and continue praying.
Our police chief has been a friendly fellow from the start. He was based in Cuba during the Soviet Union in the 80’s, so he has some exposure to other cultures. I find this makes a big difference when talking to various locals. If they’ve every been to a foreign country, they are much more comfortable, and even confident to engage in conversation with a foreigner. I guess this is true in any country, but I think especially to those who have been under the iron thumb and dissalusionment of communism. Anyway, he served Bob, Svetlana and I some ultra strong coffee, espresso like… and we spent 30 minutes talking about a variety of issues. He invited us to ‘please stop in anytime’, and plans to meet up with Daniel soon as well.
Pictured below, the associate director of one of the 4 technical colleges in town, treated us to a tour of the school. After the tour, he instructed us to go into this small back room, where some ladies brought us soup, bread, then a full plate of Ukrainian food (not sure what it was, but it was good, even the beats). Prior the meal he also took us on a small tour of their history museum, located in the school. It displayed original coinage, army gear, traditional cloths/emblems, and general community artifacts. He instructs in the army, and used to serve in the USSR as a commander of some sort. We were very blessed, not just for the tour and food, but to hear his heart for the kids, and his own faith. There are some opportunities in the school for further involvement that we will be looking into which could be interesting.
We found each person, without exception, exceedingly friendly and even encouraging discussion. Both Bob and I, after the first day were just looking at each other, thinking the same thing, “Wow, what is going on?” These are the kind of inroads to a community, through relationships, that can take years in some cases, and it’s only been a few months. God has something special planned for this town, and opening hearts, perhaps for a season, who knows, but we must be faithful moving forward. I was invited to call and basically invite myself anytime to speak at another technical college, to their programmer/computer classes. I will be following up with this soon. The cultural director inquired if we could have the same ‘girls from Khargalyk” come to their National Women’s Day in the spring, which is a pretty big national event (their ‘mothers day’, but bigger). She asked if they could come and sing about God, and love… basically anything positive. They are without much funds this year, due to the economic crisis, and looking for any involvement we can provide to make their day of celebration special. It will take place in their brand new facility downtown, and most of the town will participate. We have an opportunity to help in other ways too, for example their sponsor can no longer provide a flower for each woman, a tradition that I’ve been told is very special for the ladies. I need to find out how much this costs, and I would like our church here to provide this, another way to show our support and also involvement in the community, helping to pass them out etc. I could go on, seriously, please pray for the church here, that they catch a vision for how BIG God is, and how He desires to move upon hearts, and to do this through them. God desires a strong, united body to work through.
Boy, my fingers are tired and I haven’t even told you about the Non-Profit Org we are starting here in Ukraine. It will be an extension of Missions Network, which we just completed registering last year in the States. It will be a conduit of resources through humanitarian, economic development and church networking in Ukraine, and Lord willing other countries in the region. I have had this desire for many years, to start this network, each time He reveals the next step at the appropriate time, I don’t have a master plan, but He does, so we’ll take these next steps, and begin registering… it might take a year, the paper trail, legal issues, and departments we have to go through are pretty long, but God has provided Svetlana, whom, for whatever reason, actually enjoys the legal paperwork process!
One of the first projects I believe we’ll be working towards is the purchase (or long term lease) of a facility downtown. Here below is a picture of our downtown. I’ve shared in the past the desire to get ‘something’ happening downtown in terms of outreach and/or potential business. I’m getting a little crazy here folks, but I believe God wants us to pray more fervently for a building. this particular one is the largest building in town, it’s sitting empty, and has been for 10yrs. The owner is a guy from Kiev, who owns several buildings in town, and we were told ‘may’ be willing to sell. It is a huge building, two story, and needing a ton of work. The vision? A family center, smack dab downtown in the center. I’m just going to lay this out before you, to begin praying for us, and this venture:
Purpose of the Family Center: to promote a wholesome place of entertainment and ministry center to care for the spiritual needs of the community. This will not be a church building, but a place of direct outreach and service. I would like to see an internet cafe, and non-alcoholic bar (possibly some food), an indoor skating/hockey rink (large enough upstairs), stage/concert area, a couple offices, bathrooms, pool tables/ping pong.
The biggest thing in Ukraine right now is bowling, don’t ask me why, it’s new here and they love it, maybe down the road as an option. Daniel, Jon and other leaders here have similar desires, how it will all shake out we’re not quite sure, but pray for us would you. This building is very big, and without ANY other forms of competition in the area (besides traditional bars) for the 2000 students in town, and virtually no place to get food (I do hear plans of more food coming though) or sit and have coffee with the wife, this would be an amazing lighthouse, staffed by local Christians for the purpose of building relationships and advancing God’s Kingdom.
Ok, there you have it, in a nutshell. There is no way we can afford the building, I’m sure it will be in the 300-500k range to purchase, and require another 100k to fix up properly. I’m drawn to believe God for it, He certainly would get the glory for it this way, we can’t do it on our own!. The good news of Christ would be established in a visible, and long term, relevant manner. None of us here desire a tradional ‘church building’, we want a place to reach folks where they are, and build relationships. The building however could be used for multipurpose events and by the believers in the community as a by-product. Although it may be terribly difficult, I desire to submit a business plan that is economically viable, even though we may need regular ‘help’ to keep this type of ministry afloat, I believe there is enough economic opportunity through the various services the center could provide to sustain itself. The big item for prayer is for the owner, that when we approach him, God moves his heart and this becomes a reality, either by a drastsically reduced price, or providing the funds from the network of friends and churches. It’s not the only building possibility, but in my small mind it’s the best and would accomplish so many things… Here we go, believing God and a little bit crazy.
Our college students that were working on our house are offiically finished… the job isn’t finished but we needed to let them go. It was cool to have Yuri (pictured in middle holding Clark) want a picture of our family before leaving, they are good kids and Yuri just joined the army. I told him we’d have him back in a few weeks for some ping-pong and it wasn’t a last good bye. It’s neat to think they were able to watch a big crazy American family for 3-4 months up close, I can’t imagine what they were thinking, but I pray God will work in their lives, the army is a place of intensified immorality.
Love to friends and family-