Final Ukraine Post

I’ve been back from the mission trip to Ukraine and thought through some highlights and observations from the trip. I’ll work through them in turn and as briefly as possible.

1. Vibrant Spirituality- at least in the churches I visited, I found the spirituality of the Ukrainian people to be vibrant and passionate. They sing some of the same songs that we do, but I didn’t get the impression that they were as critical about “singing too many new songs, long songs, old songs, etc..” Whenever worship started, there was a buzz around the congregation, and eagerness to see Jesus worshipped.

2. Hopeful- the Ukrainian people have experienced hardships in their past, but there remains hope that God will do amazing things in their country. I received a coffee mug and plate with the Ukrainian flag on it from one of the churches I preached at. The colors and look of the flag traditionally symbolize the fertile soils in their fields and the bright sky above them. The Christians, however, see the flag as God’s opened heavens above them and the ripe harvest around them. They are a people with profound hope.

3. Women- Women have a lively an active role within their congregations. One gets the sense that the Christian movement would fall apart IF NOT for the women in their midst. Differences of opinion on women’s active role in ministry aside, it must be celebrated how women’s value is lifted and honored in this country’s church culture.

4. Family- After every church service, our team had the opportunity to pray with many people. In Ukraine, it is normal to pray for every person in the congregation when the pastor invites people forward for prayer. The requests were diverse, but many of them were prayers for the salvation of their family members. In many cases, only 1 person in the family was Christian, but they were believing that God would rescue the rest by His mercy and grace.

5. Mobile- every church we participated in rented their space. Some in former shopping malls, others were formally drug houses. Many circumstances place these churches in rented facilities, but it does not deter them from pressing on. One church that we visited had holes in the floor and chalk-like paint on the walls. I was struck by the sheer simplicity of these spaces. The spaces reminded me of the incarnation, God becoming flesh in the body of a Nazarene. We in the West could learn much from the Ukrainian simplicity.

6. Communal- The Ukrainian culture has an impulse for community. Instead of complaining about not having it and blaming the church for failing at creating it, Ukrainians go make it on their own. There were many nights where the Pastor whom we stayed with had friends over to drink tea and play Skip Bo. One night, I was playing Skip Bo with four Ukrainians and listening to the same worship song in Russian (on repeat) for nearly 2 hours. Even though we communicated mainly through actions and broken English and Russian (all along listening to the same worship song), I could not help but think, “This is a window into the Kingdom of God.”

Ukraine is a wonderful place, filled with wonderful people. There could be many things celebrated about such a place, but space is limited here. Every time I look at my clock I imagine a place and people 8 hours ahead of me whom God loves and where God is mightily present.

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Ukraine Update 3

We are spending the last couple of days in Kyiv before returning home. The team is upbeat, but sad to leave. I think that we are all experiencing the shadow of short term missions.

We discovered that we were a Ukraine missions team 8 months ago. We met periodically to get to know each other, to pray, and to prepare to come to a country that none of us had been to before, except for Patrick, of course.

Two weeks in this wonderful country is a mere breath against the 8 months of preparation. “Where did the time go,” we ask ourselves continually.

Probably the most challenging thing is to leave behind the local contacts that we have met along the way here. Pastor Sergey called our coordinator Natasha today and said that he cried the moment he returned home to an empty house. Our translators far exceeded their duties and have become dear friends to us. Each family we meet expresses their hope that we will return to see them sometime soon.

How is it possible to have so much respect/care/concern for people that we have been around for a short amount of time?

Perhaps we are experiencing the greatness of the Christian family; with hearts, hands, and minds open towards one another, towards God, and towards others a dynamic fusion takes place deep within us.

Perhaps for a moment, we are beginning to see why God’s heart grieves when his people fight and quarrel among one another; we were not made for that. We were made for each other.

Ukraine Update 2

We were in a remote place and I could not get to a place to check Facebook and blog. Much to say about our trip and about Ukraine, but I’ll share a bit now.

The word that I have decided to describe Ukraine is “resilient”. There are a lot of hardships in Ukraine, but the people are always eager to continue to believe and walk courageously.

I’ve met several people from Ukraine that are amazing. One is Pastor Sergey, whom we were able to stay with in the rural Ukraine part of our trip. He has a ton going on and has fistfuls of hope for that part of the world. He told some amazing stories of God’s power working in and through the churches that he has helped start there.

Pastor Andrei, who leads the church in the town we held camp in, has a full heart. He and his family do not have much, but their home is full of joy. He has two beautiful daughters, he speaks so tenderly about his wife, and had a grateful heart as we did ministry in his town.

After every church service, I was able to pray with people in the congregation. The majority of their requests were for their families to know Jesus. There was winsome belief in what God could do through faithful prayer. The spirituality of these people is inspiring.

Ukraine Thoughts 1

We are here in Ukraine. It is 4:36am here. I have been up since 2:30am. I’m sharing a room with Patrick and we’ve been sharing thoughts about God for sometime now… don’t think that I can get back to sleep. So, I’m going to blog a bit.

We haven’t had much interaction with Ukraine, yet. We arrived in Kiev and boarded a bus together with our contact and then have been at a house of an American pastor who leads a large church in Kiev.

We have met several Ukrainian people. They are very sweet and kind. The food that we have had so far has been amazing. We get to eat at McDonald’s which is supposed to be better in Ukraine than in the US. As a McDonald’s enthusiast, I cannot wait.

My team is amazing; good people who are eager to see what God will do in the next 10-12 days.

I’ll keep you updated.

Ging, I am taking more pictures that I ever thought that I would. I’m trying to take as many as possible, Love.