...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.