Special Volunteer

When I first arrived in Ukraine, I volunteered at a center for children and made friends with a special boy named Anton.  He was bright, inquisitive and full of fun.  He was one of my first Russian teachers.  Time passed, and I moved on to other ministry projects and always wondered what happened to him.  I found him on facebook this week and he has been very busy with his life.  Very busy indeed.  I am so proud of him!

 

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Let’s Talk About Truth

Truth. It’s a rare commodity these days. People want it, yet they don’t want it. Politicians hide yet, but want to show a shadow of it. People crave attention and ignore the truth of themselves. Truth makes our hearts beat faster. Truth can also scare the heck out of us.

If you check any kind of media these days, (I would say read a newspaper, but those days are long gone.) You will get a hundred different versions of the truth on any one subject. The “truth is relative” philosophy hasn’t worked well for traditional journalism. The resulting chaos is making most people think the world is spinning on fire out of control into the outer atmosphere never to reenter our galaxy.

A couple of months ago one of my friends posted this on Facebook, “The world’s not getting worse, things are just being revealed.” I found that saying profound. Instead of thinking that everything is getting crazier or worse, think a minute about the fact that the truth about things are being revealed.

This will naturally create a lot of different emotional reactions in various different kinds of people.

I went through a period of life where I felt there was a lot of fake thinking and lies around me. I begged God to reveal the truth to me. I knew it could possibly be uncomfortable or I would have to see and deal with things in my life or in the lives of those around me that I didn’t want to deal with. But I knew that unless I understood the truth about what was going on around me, the quality of my life would not improve. Truth can bring about changes. People tend to move away from ideas and things that can make them have to change. Change can be for the better, but that can be uncomfortable too. Someone once said, “The truth hurts.” It can hurt but it also can reveal things that are so amazing and if you let God in on that, he can turn your thinking and your whole life around.

Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32.

Think about that for a moment……..revelation can bring about truth and the truth can make you free.

PONY Ukraine in Kremenets!

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PONY Ukraine took a team from Lviv to Kremenets to play in a weekend tournament/camp  and I was able to go and meet some of the new kids in Lviv who are have started playing in Ukraine’s PONY league.

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We had a lively group of kids.  We stayed in an internat(orphanage)/boarding school.  Many of the internats in Ukraine are being phased out so they have extra room in them.  We were warmly welcomed by the staff with tasty Ukrainian food and comfy beds.

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A lot of training went on as well as baseball games.

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It was pretty cold, but that doesn’t stop baseball players in Ukraine!

For more information on PONY Ukraine, click HERE!

 

The Super Awesome Segue Way In Psalms 73

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I have a friend who told me once that if I ever came across a question that there was no seemingly possible answer for it, that I should just rub my fingers together.  The answer would be “money.”  For the most part, I find that this works.  But every now and then I run across people or a situation that really stumps me.

Wicked people are unlike anything you will ever see on the face of the earth.  They prosper like no one else around them. They always seem to be so smooth and never get in trouble.  They are proud of how great their lives are going.  They tend to oppress people and use people to gain power and abundance.

It’s quite frustrating when people with a conscience or those of us who are struggling with a close relationship with God watch these people in action.  Their success is unjust.   I always relate to the frustrations spewed out in Psalm 73.  (I’m not going to post the whole Psalm, you need to look it up in your bible to read, or if you don’t have one check out http://www.biblegateway.com.)

But every time I read Psalm 73, I love, love, LOVE this part,  “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me…..until I went into the sanctuary of the God; THEN I understood their end.”  vs 16,17.

So many times in life we are confronted with situations that we cannot understand and every single time, we can come to God.  We can come into His sanctuary….meaning spend time with Him in prayer or read and learn about Him in his word and find wisdom and understanding about anything or everything that is bothering us and does not make sense about the world around us.  He has blessed me every time I come with him with questions I cannot find answers to.

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” vs 25,26

The World Needs Leaders

This WORLD needs leaders.  We need people who will take a stand for integrity, justice and treating people with respect.  It is easy to go out and interact with people everyday and do just what needs to be done or to go after goals that only affect yourself.

This morning I was reading about Esther and when Mordecai relayed to her that Haman was going to kill their people.  She didn’t waste too much time ruminating what to do.  She showed wisdom in fasting and praying and then went directly to the king who could have killed her.  No one was allowed to come into his presence without being killed unless he lowered a golden scepter.  She approached the king and fortunately, he allowed her to live.  She didn’t hesitate to risk her life to save her people.

When Nehemiah heard that the survivors of the Jewish people living in Jerusalem were in distress and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and falling apart, he did not waste much time but began to pray and fast.  He mourned for his people.  His personality became so downcast that his boss, the king asked him what was wrong and he told him.  He then asked the king if he could go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.  He took action for his people.  He was one of the men who organized the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem.  He left his cup bearing job in a palace and became a leader.

When David ran supplies to his brothers at the war front and he found out a giant Philistine was threatening the army, he didn’t hesitate to find out more details and offered to take on the giant himself.  When the armor provided to him didn’t fit him right, he shrugged it off and picked up some stones and his sling shot and took down the giant quickly.  He wasn’t even in the army.  He didn’t wait to be promoted.  He took the opportunity in front of him to do the right thing and destroy the enemy.

To walk and interact with others with integrity is a choice.  It’s a good choice.  Sometimes this requires us to grow or to learn how to think differently from the pack mentality, but if we ask God, He will help us to do this and show us how to do it in any situation we find ourselves in.  This is how the world changes for real.  One person at a time.

 

What Ukraine Used To Be Like

I got an email from someone stateside who wanted me to write a blog post on what Ukraine is like.  From his questions, I could tell he had the standard, post soviet ideas running through his head.  Dark, orthodox church bells, heavy food, oppressed people, women running around with just black purses on their arms…..standard enough thinking for someone who hasn’t been here.

Last night a friend took a look at a photo of me sitting in a cafe next to the river and couldn’t believe it was Ukraine.  “That doesn’t look the way I thought it looks.”  The brand new river front area in Kyiv, looks like nothing from the soviet era.

The thing about Ukraine that most people don’t recognize or understand is the country has been through TWO revolutions in the past twelve years.  That’s not one, but TWO revolutions since it became an independent country severing it’s ties from the Soviet Union in 1991.  Because politics are pretty complicated in this part of the world, it took a long time for the reality of separating from the Soviet Union, now Russia to happen.  It’s still happening.  Heck, Russia, annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine, they were so upset with the separation.

Another friend commented this week how much Ukraine has changed in just the last two years.  That it was more….she hesitated to explain…….European now.  Listening to a popular singer here who regularly plays a circuit of concerts in the former soviet union and Russia, I noticed that her act seemed so….so…..retro Ukrainian soviet.  Pre Maidan music culture.  And suddenly, I started to process how much Ukraine and the culture has changed in two years and how it continues to change at lightening speed.  Kiev is Kyiv, and the Ukrainian language is heard everywhere in Kyiv.

So, I’m not going to try and explain what it’s like here because trying to explain it is too complicated. All I’ll say is that if you haven’t been here in a while or haven’t been here at all, all I can say is it has changed.  Just forget about state bread houses and the standard white “baton” bread loaf….now your bread is baked fresh in a restaurant or market and there are many different kinds and styles.  I’m in the middle of the change, so I’m just trying to hang on and process with the rest.

All I know is that young people are smart, sophisticated, and interesting…..I am so excited and blessed to be here at this point in Ukraine’s history.

(I had 19 people from Sweden check out my blog this month!  Welcome to my blog!   My great grandfather immigrated to America from Sweden!)

Hey! Short Termers! Read This Post!

Lots of people think when you go off to be a missionary and work with children or, excuse me, I’m going to cringe because I hate this term……”love on” people……that rainbows and unicorns are going to start popping up beside candy flavored mushrooms and the smell of roses will waft in your wake.

Ministry, REAL ministry, the bible believing loving and walking people through good and hard times ministry, the pointing them to Jesus, and hold on because this is really hard, HOLDING PEOPLE TO ACCOUNTABILITY AND A STANDARD OF INTEGRITY ministry is a lot different.  Ministry is always difficult.  It’s always messy because you are dealing with people, life, sin and good or bad intentions.

I think social media has a tendency to either reinforce the fantasy of unicorns or can tear up good intentions and leave them dripping in cynicism. How can one photo really explain a relationship?  Can a blog post or status update ever truly give someone who’s not there an adequate idea of the poster’s reality?  It can’t.  But some people start believing because they want or need to believe that those candy flavored mushrooms are there in the background just waiting to be picked and eaten.

The instagram account, “Barbie Savior” is a satirical account of Barbie’s short term, multiple trips to Africa to save the children.  And I admit when I stumbled across it, I laughed til I cried….and then laughed some more and then cried some more…..It. is. hysterical. period.

I laughed because we have all been there and those of us who have been there know that some people stay there.  The first missions trip is about emotion, passion, the desire to make a difference in the world.  I still feel it.  But the difference for those of us who made the decision to move overseas, is that we grew past the innocence, learned the language, and thankfully, if not painfully, came to terms with not just the things that touched us positively on our first few mission trips, but also learned about the ugly side of the culture.  It’s otherwise known as, reality.   It’s the stuff you only learn by living long term and getting involved in the daily grind of life in another culture.  I can explain it as the difference between a long term relationship where you see every side of a person, their strengths, weaknesses, the good and bad, as opposed to spending time together on short dates where you work hard to impress each other and cover up your faults.  The former is real love. A more real, gritty and intimate kind of love. But one that lasts for a longer period of time.

The intimacy of living together, with your own culture that’s inside you and the culture you are walking around in, is the key to building relationships and ministry that makes an impact on the world.  There is a difference between visiting an orphanage and passing out gifts, and waving goodbye to the kids afterwards and taking an orphan under your wing and helping them transition to real life.  The first is easy, there is little commitment.  It makes you feel super good. The second requires commitment, vision, and guts.  It requires growth and change.

I guess what I’m trying to say is we won’t end up like Barbie Savior if we keep growing.  If God calls you to short term mission trips, check your heart because chances are he’s calling or preparing you for a longer commitment.  Don’t be afraid of the commitment or the intimacy of doing ministry long term.  Don’t settle for passing out material gifts when you can give deeper and more precious spiritual gifts to people.  In this summer season of short term mission trips, don’t settle for just the easy ministry.  Ask God what is really going on and what is he really trying to show you.  Why are you doing short term trips and not serving him full time?  Why are you not committing to long term ministry.  How could you and your ministry grow if you decide to MOVE to where your ministry is instead of just visiting it?  How can you get more intimate with the culture you love?  Where is your comfort zone now?  Are you really helping the nationals with your quick visits? What do they need long term that you can’t give visiting for a short term?

Just make sure you don’t become a Barbie Savior.  Or I’m gonna laugh at you!

Here’s a great blog post on Barbie Savior:  “The Danger Of Being A Barbie Savior”