Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Adventures In Kiev

Our team has been in Ukraine now for three full days ... full of learning about each other, learning about God, learning about the Ukranian culture and history and how it influences our work with the orphans in Vorzel. Over the next few days and weeks our team will be sharing our stories on this blog, however, here are a few snapshots to get things started ... 

Our team arriving at the airport in Kiev. Although we were tired, we were thankful for safe and easy flights, and happy to be greeted by our hosts from Almaz Church (and apparently Sasha was also happy to see us!).

A view of Kiev.
Eating at one of many food courts in Kiev. Kayla, Jessica D., David M., and Alyssa.

When we visited the Forced Famine Museum, we learned that theVorzel Orphanage was started to support starving orphans during that time. 

Attending a Bible Study Conference at Almaz Church.
The team - sight-seeing in Kiev.

Kristal, Will, Robbie, Kenny, Alyssa, Jeanette, and one of our traslators, Slavic.

How to Learn Ukrainian: A Fast (Food) Tutorial

Our team has been working very hard to learn the language (Russian and Ukranian) in order to effectively communicate with our hosts, translators, and the children. Of course, they are difficult languages with unfamiliar letters.  As we work on learning the letters and sounding out words, one strategy that helps is identifying familiar words and terms. What better training ground than good old McDonalds! Check out these  signs and try to read them yourself!

Beef Roll

Happy Meal

Latte and Americano

Now that you've mastered McDonalds, try to read the Ukranian words below at this Italian-style restaurant. Leave your guesses below. Answers tomorrow!

Let's Go To Work!

Today was our first day at the orphanage.

The guys received their jobs last night and quickly got to work this morning after a brief team meeting and breakfast (we had scrambled eggs!!).

The gals split into teams last night and then arrived at the different buildings to eager kids ready to play. For those of us that were here last year, it is always interesting to see what kids are still here and here about the kids that were adopted over the last year. One girl Yasa has been here all 3 years that we have had a team in Vorzel. I think Yasa might have remembered us from last year. Within a few minutes of seeing her she came up to me and gave me a big hug!

The kids all seemed excited to play … whether it was blowing bubbles or punching a balloon, swinging on the swing set or sliding down the slide. They also really love having their pictures taken (and then looking at them … thank you digital cameras!!).

In the afternoon, most of the girls went back to the same orphanage (the guys kept working on their constructions project). I had the opportunity to go into building one where most of the severely disabled kids live. Interestingly, I intentionally did not go into the building last year because it was so hard seeing the kids the first year. But Sasha really wanted me to spend time with a certain boy (also named Sasha) who just had surgery on his hips and his legs are casted with a bar in between. Sasha led me into the room with kid Sasha. He was just sitting in his bed in the room all by himself. Sasha introduced me and then for the next 2 ½ hours I sat on the bed with Sasha reading, coloring, rolling a ball, playing playdough and tossing a balloon. He was SO happy and all I could think was “if I didn’t spend the afternoon with him … would he have just set in the room here all by himself?” I’m excited for our time tomorrow.

By the end of the day, the guys were tired (and a bit dirty!). Several of the projects were suppose to take 2 days and they finished this afternoon!
Tonight we are doing some team building activities however I think the American and Ukrainian teams are getting along pretty well already!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011 in Ukraine

"And I'm wondering: why isn't this a part of my life as a christian? I mean, it's THE BIBLE!"

...and it made me think.

I'm not quite sure how people usually eat meals in Ukraine, but I like the way a few of us have started taking them together. This morning, five of us ordered some "thin pancakes," each with a different topping or sauce. Though we didn't have a real lazy susan, it doesn't matter when you're with friends like these; we can pass them around the table by hand, thank you very much. Like Oles (pr. O-liss) put it, in his thick Indo-Ukrainian accent, "It's like the early church, where everyone holds everything in common, and no one covets the possessions." It's what God keeps reminding me here, most of half a world away. Even watching this game of UNO right in front of me reminds me of how united we are by universal languages like card games and love and Christ.

Oles (right) is a pretty insightful guy. Last night, a split-dead-even half-and-half Ukrainian-American group of us stayed up pretty late playing a game of his, "questions." Basically, everyone puts some questions in a hat, and then we go around drawing them out and answering.

"What's your favorite color?"
"Why are you here in Ukraine?"
"What would be the hardest thing to have God take from you?"
"Is it okay to access secular entertainment when there's so much work to be done for the kingdom?"

So pretty easy, casual questions. Maybe a little discussion, too. Oksanna (another awesome Ukrainian), translated everything (to Russian for the Ukrainians, to English for us Americans). That's no small order when people are addressing complex spiritual and theological ideas, in your second language. Mad props!

I'm not sure if you have heard Nicolay Skopich speak (at NLCF or at Almaz), but it's definitely something. This morning, he spoke about the importance of the word of God, and how it's much more central to our relationship with God than some of us, even devoted followers of Christ, often treat it. I mean, it's the Bible! I know I need to see life more through the lens of scripture. As it is written:

“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.

Sometimes verses like that sound really ethereal and nicely poetical, but it's uplifting to remember that those are the days we call down when we read these words of God, and obey them. That's going to be a good day, right Oles?

So, we wound our way through Kiev: the main street, a marketplace, a street for buying...uh...stuff. We ate, we came back, we checked out the orphanage. It's government run, and it doesn't seem very well supported, at least, by the state. Going through the rooms and looking at the playing areas for these children, it's pretty easy to pick out the ones Almaz has worked on thus far. Not to give a false sense of the condition of the complex (which, in some places, should be no place for children), but something no fewer than two married men remarked: "That bathroom is nicer than mine!"

That being said, while several areas have been built and fixed to a very high standard, there is still much work to be done. We'll be finishing one playground, starting another, completing a "sensory room" building, where disabled children can engage their hands and minds, and putting in a toilet. At least. Do you know what our God can do? DO YOU?

Standing around a concrete playpen (shown) in the early night, as faces become less distinct, I'm glad to be part of a church community, and part of a great Lord, that willingly engages those around the world. There are no barriers when God wants to move among His people. Not language, for He has already reversed the Babel. Not culture, for He has shown us the right way to live. Not evil, for He has overcome it all.

"Wherever he shows His face, the veil is taken away from the eyes, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Blog!


I cannot believe that we will all be leaving in less than two weeks! I'm definitely getting pretty excited. Getting to this point started earlier this year. For some time I had felt God calling me to go on some missions trip. I did not know exactly where, but I knew I should go somewhere. Pretty soon, the opportunity came to go to Mississippi on a missions trip with our church, nlcf. I decided to go, and with the help and support of many, I had a great time and definitely felt the push to do more missions work. After the door closed to try and go to Honduras, the door opened to Ukraine and I walked towards it. I decided to go. Throughout the processes that came next, everything felt right. When the pastors from Almaz, our sister church in Ukraine, came to visit us at Virginia Tech, the stories and information they shared all felt right. Something inside, God, was insuring me that going on this trip was the right decision. That good feeling was encouragement for raising the needed support for the trip. I admit, raising support had its challenges, but as everyone kept telling me, if this was something God wanted for me, He would make it happen. Eventually the support came in, which was a weight off my shoulders.

Being home for a few days, I am beginning to think of what I need to pack from here and what all I need to get together. It feels crazy that all the prayer and work for this trip is about to come to fruition. I pray that I will have an open heart, ready for God to work in me and speak into me while I am over there. Since I feel this trip plays such an important part in my walk with God, I am looking for His next step.

In Christ,

David M.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ukraine Facts

What do you know about Ukraine? Brush up on the history, culture, and economy at

Fun Trivia: What are the colors of the Ukrainian flag and what do the colors represent?