Thursday, April 22, 2010


Time is winding down, and I am getting very anxious to be home! But, I must say, I have been enjoying these last few weeks more than I thought I would. Emily and I have been pretty busy with classes, English club, our new English worship service, and loooooong overdue Russian lessons!! Back in October, we met an English teacher from the Kherson art school. We have helped her edit papers and met with several of her English classes. About three weeks ago, she suggested that, to return the favor, we should study Russian with her. Emily and I emphatically agreed, and now we meet with Natalia (and her cat, Mura) three times a week. It would have been sooooo helpful to have found someone to study with when we first arrived, but better late than never! I feel like, just in the past three weeks, I have learned as much Russian as I learned the first 7 months! We also go to class with her about once a week and talk with her students about American culture and whatever else they are interested in. It’s been nice to have something besides classes to plan for and look forward to each week.
In the beginning of April, Ruslan asked Emily and I to start an English worship service on Sundays in place of Bible Study. I was a little unsure about how it would work, but in the end, the service has turned out to be very similar to Bible Study. For the most part, the same people attend, and their level is English is such that we still need a translator. We teach them a lot of English songs and memorize a new text each week. The people seem to enjoy it, which is what I had hoped for. Unfortunately, the only day we have available to do this service is Sunday, and the people we are trying to target (non-Adventists) are in their own churches pretty much all day. We are still advertising, however, and making connections with non church members through our classes and English club. We keep praying that God will use our programs to bring people to Him!
I’ve also continued meeting with Irina once a week. Things I have learned from this time:
1. Witnessing to someone who already has their own beliefs is a lot harder than witnessing to someone who knows nothing about God. 2.The things that Adventists believe really do make perfect sense! 3. Having to explain your beliefs to someone else forces you to understand/be sure of them yourself. 4. I am unbelievably thankful that my parents sent me to a school where I was able to learn more about and study the Bible. 5. God more than compensates for your shortcomings. When you don’t understand, or don’t have the words to say, He gives them to you! If you give yourself over to God and let Him use you, even the circumstances you aren’t really sure about can be a blessing.
As an SM, I constantly hear people say “God is using you!” and in the back of my mind, I know it’s true. After months of seemingly fruitless work, however, it’s easy to get a little discouraged. So, needless to say, watching God work in Irina’s life is more than a little exciting.
A couple weeks ago, Emily received an answer to prayer; word that she landed a job in the States. The job, however, requires her to be back a little earlier than she was expecting. So, in two weeks, I’ll be saying goodbye to her and finishing the last couple of weeks on my own. I’m very glad that I will be busy those last few days, because being here alone would leave a lot of opportunity for homesickness. I am a little jealous….but comforted by the fact that I won’t be far behind her. :)
I am still really enjoying my beginner conversation English class. Although the language barrier has been difficult, I am getting to know my students better and better. I’m becoming rather attached to them! I am particularly fond of an older woman, Valia, who is a member of our church. She makes me laugh daily, and reminds me a lot of my own grandmother, which I’m sure accounts for most of the affection towards her. I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy teaching older people as much as I did the younger students; but I think I like it just as much, if not more!

Friday, March 19, 2010


The second half of my time here in Ukraine has been flying by! Now that I have only a little more than two months left here, I’m starting to think of all the things I want to do but probably won’t have time for! It is apparent that I am running out of time for things like, a trip to the Crimea (and other assorted places), visiting the Nikolaev zoo, and semi-Russian fluency. As anxious as I am to get home, the reality of leaving here permanently is setting in. 9 months was(is) long enough for me too sorely miss my family and friends, but also to fall in love with my new ones. May 24 will be a bittersweet day, indeed.
In the middle of February, Emily and I finished our first set of classes. I enjoyed teaching English 2, but I was definitely ready for something new! We took a week to regroup, and then at the end of February, we started our new courses. Emily is teaching the advanced class and I’m teaching the beginners!! I was a little nervous about teaching a class full of people who know hardly any English at all. How do you teach a group of Russian speakers when you, yourself, don’t know Russian?! In the end, I decided to reorganize the class a bit. Instead of teaching a beginner grammar class, I am now teaching Conversational English, and loving every minute of it!! I find this class to be much more rewarding as far as the students’ progress is concerned. It is so exciting to hear them using the phrases and words we have learned in class. One thing I do miss about my English 2 class is the relationships I was able to form with my students. It is much more difficult to get to know people when the only things you know how to say to each other (thus far) are “Hello! How are you?”, “How was the weather today?”, and “What is your favorite color?” It has been a challenge for me, but one I am enjoying. My Russian is improving fairly rapidly (although I am nowhere NEAR fluency). I usually have one of Emily’s advanced students come in to translate for about 10 minutes each class in case my students have questions, but for the most part, I am doing it on my own….with the help of my Russian dictionary. Instead of teaching three formal classes a week, Emily and I are only doing two, and on Wednesdays, we have a free-for-all meeting of sorts. It is a chance for our students to come and practice with each other, ask us questions about anything and everything, and just to get to know each other better. I wasn’t really sure if people would come to a more informal class, but it has been really effective so far. It has also been an opportunity for Emily and I to discuss with them topics such as health and morals. Our students have been very receptive and interested, and we are grateful for a more discussion-type meeting to talk with them.
After the longest, coldest winter that Southern Ukraine has experienced in 15 years, it is FINALLY starting to warm up!! The snow has melted, the sun makes an occasional appearance, and some of our winter clothes are being stored away. Everything is starting to look/feel/smell like it did back in October, and being outside isn’t a miserable experience anymore! I never thought I would say this, but I am definitely looking forward to a long, hot, even humid summer in Tennessee :)
Several weeks ago, we celebrated Women’s Day here in Ukraine. Why this holiday has been restricted to mothers only in the United States, I’m not quite sure. But since I have now lived somewhere where it is observed, I will be celebrating Women’s Day for the rest of time! On March 8, all schools and most business close down in honor of the population’s finest. Flowers, balloons, and candy are bought; Cakes, bisquits and sweets are baked; and women are given well deserved rest and recognition for the day. Emily and I were surprised at English Club the night before with our own flowers, chocolate, and lotions. The next morning we were both greeted by Stas, Ira and Lena with a cheerful “Happy Woman Day!” accompanied by a glass mug with each of their names and faces painted on in pink fingernail polish. I can’t help but smile every time I use it :)
At the beginning of March, I took a weekend vacation over to Nikolaev. Thanks to the snow/ice damaged roads, the hour mashrutka ride was nearly twice as long, but other than that, the getaway was very relaxing and much needed. I stayed at the conference office and had many entertaining (only partially understood) conversations with the watchman (who insisted on stuffing me full of borscht and bread), made a trip down to McDonalds for the free wifi and French Fries, explored downtown a bit, and just had some enjoyable time to myself.
Our Bible Study and English Club are continuing as normal. More and more people are attending English Club, which has been a huge blessing. One of the biggest struggles we face with our programs is that we have a hard time getting church members to attend. Once we are gone, we want the people from the community that we have connected with to have contacts within the church, but it is hard to make those contacts when church members rarely participate in the programs. We are still praying that the connections will somehow be made so that after we leave, our new friends will still have an avenue in which to see Christ.
I have started meeting with the mother of one of my English 2 students. Her name is Irina, and she teaches English to elementary schoolers. She called me a few weeks ago, wanting to talk about some more advanced grammar concepts and to study the Bible in English. After meeting with her, I discovered that she has a very interesting religious history. In her teens, after being brought up a semi-practicing Catholic, she became an atheist. Soon after she started studying at a university, she starting attending services at a Jewish synagogue, and soon moved her two small children and husband to a new city in order to stay close to the synagogue. Her husband didn’t approve of her religious affiliation, and soon left her (pregnant with a third child) to raise the kids on her own. Long story short, Irina found herself, new boyfriend in tow, disregarding many of the Jewish customs and laws, and soon found herself attending a Baptist church near her home. So, another atheist husband and two children later, she still attends this Baptist church, and is searching for the truth about religion and Christ! I have had the opportunity already to discuss with her laws about the Sabbath, laws about unclean meats, and some of the difference between Judaism and Adventism. She is extremely hesitant to study the Old Testament because of her Jewish past, so talking with her was very interesting. I am more than excited to keep meeting with her, and am so thankful that God has given me this opportunity to witness for Him! We are going to meet every Friday to study the Bible together. Please pray that she will continue to be interested in learning more about God and that I can be an effective witness to her!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


It’s kind of hard to believe that another year is here, and that four months have already gone by since I first got to Ukraine. While in the moment, those four months seemed to drag on FOREVER, looking back it seems like I only blinked and then they were gone! It’s strange how time works that way…

So much has happened since I last posted! Emily and I started our English classes in November after being postponed yet again due to swine flu. I cannot even tell you how nice it was to finally have something to do!! I am teaching English 2 and Emily is teaching English 1. She definitely has a harder time with her classes for obvious reasons. It is extremely difficult to teach English with little knowledge of the native language of your students. I must say, I don’t envy her at all. We have nearly 40 students total, ranging in age from 12 to 77. I have 22 students in my class and I love love love teaching! Im not sure if it’s because I simply have something to do now, or if I would like anyway, but I am so grateful to be enjoying my time here a little more. Most of my students speak far beyond level two English, but they love getting the practice and its allowed me to be a little more creative with my lesson studies. We have discussions, write papers, play games, and on occasion, I even make them sing. Although it was more than frustrating to have to wait this long to start classes, I can see the way that God used that situation! Over half my students signed up for the class in the two weeks that we were postponed, one of whom we have been having bible studies with after class once a week. It’s been exciting to see where God has opened doors for us to witness for Him! We will start a new set of classes in the middle of February, and hopefully those will please me as much as these do!!

When I left for Ukraine in August, I had no plans to return home until May. Long story short, things worked out for me to come home for Christmas, and I’m so glad I did! It was great to see family and friends for a little while and of course to be back in the US! You just don’t realize what an amazing life and home you have until you are away from it. What blessed lives we live! Before we headed back to the States, however, Emily and I spent a few days in Prague. It was glorious!! Prague is the most beautiful city I have ever been to. It is so old and regal-looking. I would have loved to spend more time there, as I know we only experienced a small portion of its awesomeness. :) We went to the Prague castle, walked across the Charles Bridge, spend some time in the Dvorak and Smetana museums, visited the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square, did some shopping in the Christmas market, got slightly confused by the metro…., ate amazingly cheap food, located the biggest metronome in the world, got snow flurried on, climbed the clock tower to watch the sunset, and overall just had a truly fantastic time. For any of you planning a trip to Europe, Prague is a must see!!! The rest of my vacation was spent relaxing at home. All the traveling I could have been doing, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. :) It was the perfect two weeks.

Although leaving home was extremely hard, I was excited to see my Ukrainian family and friends again! It was fun to see everyone again and to start classes again! Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long to start work again. We are still holding our Bible study and English club once a week, and English Sabbath School is going strong as always. I am starting to become more and more glad that I chose to come here this year. Although it’s been pretty tough and frustrating, I can see the ways that God is using me here, and it’s so exciting! It’s also amazing to look back and see how much I have grown spiritually. If I could say nothing else positive about this experience, that would be enough!! Nothing will strengthen your spiritual walk like realizing that you have nothing else except your God. It’s quite humbling.
Of course, the winter that I spend here would be an uncharacteristically snowy one….I hate snow. This last week has been cold and icy (not an element conducive with the uncoordinated)! And when the snow melts, everything is a muddy mess. Snow seems so charming when it’s falling from the sky….but it so isn’t!!! It’s wet, and cold, and slippery. Did I mention it’s cold?! I absolutely cannot wait for it to go away!! The good news is, as spring approaches, the sun is going down later and later! All the darkness is very discouraging so I can’t wait to spend more time with the sunshine! Plus the onset spring promises more fresh food!! One can only eat cabbage and potatoes for so many meals before they become less than appealing. We have been seeing a lot of apples lately, however. So that is something to be grateful for!

In November, as I’m sure most of you know, we got some horrible news about our fellow SM Kirsten Wolcott. While serving on the island of Yap, she was found, murdered, in the woods after a morning run. I had only met Kirsten once, but her death shook me pretty badly. And of course, serving as an SM myself, it hit quite close to home. What a sad way to be reminded of how short and precious life is! But what a wonderful way to spend the last few months of her life; serving the Lord!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I will apologize now for the untimely manner of this blog post. I wish I could say that it is because of my busy, busy life, but the fact is, I am lazy. Since my last post, not a lot of changes have come about concerning our English efforts. This will be our last week holding the English club for Anna, as we will start our classes ON TUESDAY!!! Finally, finally, finally. That is all I can say!! I do, however, praise God for doing everything in His time; since the postponing of our class start date, we have found a cheaper venue to rent, and had opportunities to invite more non-believers to our classes. We start our English club on November 9, and we have also been presented with the opportunity to spend some time in a special visual arts school working with the kids and helping the classes practice their English.
The Adventist churches in Kherson are hosting an evangelistic series this month. Stefan Jakovitz, an evangelist originally from Croatia and now living in Australia, is finishing up the series this weekend. There have been about 250 attendants every night, but, not knowing all the church members, I haven’t been able to figure out how many visitors are attending. Emily and I meet with people after the meeting who want to practice English or have questions about the program. We’ve met some really great people that we might not have had the chance to otherwise. Last night, Emily and I had an interesting time trying to get to the program. Ruslan had told us before that bus 49 and bus 47 would get us a street away from the auditorium, and we had made it successfully to the meetings every night on our own. Apparently, however, we had only tried out bus 47. Last night, bus 49 was the first to arrive, so we hoped on and rode. And rode, and rode and rode. Eventually, the bus reached the end of its route, all the riders exited, and Emily and I sat confused. The bus driver asked us what we were doing (at least that’s what we think he asked…we can usually only guess at the exact meaning of conversations) and a variety of other questions. In our limited Russian, we conveyed to him the street we were trying to reach, one we knew was not included in the bus route. He laughed, turned out the light displaying the bus number, told us to get back on the bus, drove in the near complete opposite direction we had come from, and dropped us off at the auditorium door! Thank God for nice bus drivers who take pity on ignorant Americans!
Around all the planning, Emily and I have had a bit of time for play in the past 3 weeks. We had the opportunity to see the St. Petersburg Ballet company perform Swan Lake at the Arts Theater here in Kherson. I can’t say the experience quite lived up to my expectations. The dancers were talented, but, to Emily and I’s great disappointment, the music was canned! I also discovered that in Europe, when the audience approves of something, they start clapping, and after a few moments the clapping synchronizes! It’s so creepy!! I felt like I was in the middle of a cult that, at any moment, was going to start chanting and dancing around the room. Even though the ballet was not the experience I was expecting, it was nice to get dressed up and out of house for an evening.
Last week, Emily and I got the chance to go to Moldova with a couple from our church. Before the invitation, I’m not sure I really even knew about Moldova’s existence. So, for those of you who share my geographical ignorance, Moldova is a small, former Soviet Union country that sits on the southwestern side of Ukraine. The country is known for its grapes and wine. It is the poorest country in Eastern Europe. Vulcanesti, the town we stayed in, was a cute little village with HILLS (something we don’t in Kherson) and random livestock roaming the streets. We spent five rainy days with Maia, her husband Sasha, mother, father, brother, Babushka (Russian for “grandma”), a variety of chickens, and two awesome cats, Luti (meaning “fierce”. He kept my feet warm at night.) and Boris. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be fed more than I am here in Kherson…I was wrong. Between potlucks, wedding receptions and demands from Babushka (“cushat, cushat, cushat!!”), I consumed more food than I thought possible to eat in an entire month, none-the-less 5 days! I don’t think Moldova is a place I would choose to visit on my own. It’s not exactly touristy, but it was a very endearing place to spend time with friends. The trip to Moldova was definitely one in which my blonde tendencies were evident. We took the overnight train from Kherson to Odessa (By the way, overnight trains are awesome!!), and then a Marshrutka (The absolute WORST way to travel. Marshrutka’s are a kind of cross between a short bus and a 15 passenger van. Not smooth. Not roomy. Not cool.) to a small town near the Ukrainian border. There, we piled into a car, and headed to the Moldovan border (Where we were greeted by a sign translated into English… “ATTENTION! Vialations of rules shall involve revelant responsibility pursuant to the lows inforce!” Emily and I had fun with that one….) I experienced a slight bit of trouble with border patrol when I realized that, like an idiot, I forgot my immigration papers. Lucky for me, Eastern European border guards are easily bribed, and I crossed over into Moldova $12 poorer.
Emily and I took it upon ourselves, a couple weeks ago, to become a little less intrusive in Ruslan and Tatyana’s apartment. We rearranged the storage room adjacent to our former location, the living room, and moved in! We love having a door without windows and that the Cheban family can now actually live in their living room. The storage room is also smaller than the living room, so hopefully it will be a little warmer in the winter! Weather is now running about 9 degrees Celsius. It’s cloudy, and often raining. I miss the sun!! I am, however, comforted by the fact that all reports from home express similar conditions. If I can’t have good weather, neither can you!! :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


This week has gone by exceptionally slow for me. Although Emily and I have been a bit busier, we still don’t have a lot to do. Our plans to start English classes on October 12 have been deferred yet again, the English club won’t start for a couple more weeks still, and trying to get things communicated to Ruslan makes my head hurt. All frustrations aside, progress IS being made! We have located a potential meeting place for both the club and classes, and have set a permanent (we hope) date for their launch. To keep from feeling completely useless, I have to frequently remind myself that this—getting all the kinks worked out—is part of my mission here. Hopefully, if future SM’s decide to come to Kherson, there will be a program already set up for them to work with.
Emily and I have been continuing our Bible study, which has thankfully improved every week. We seem to have found a system that works, and the people are becoming more and more involved. The conference also purchased English-Russian parallel Bibles, which have helped immensely. We are praying that it will continue to get better and better. We also had a chance to hold an English club this week for Anna, a teacher here in Kherson, and her English classes. We had a great time getting to know them and playing “English games” (Pictionary, bingo, etc.). As with the other university, we are not able to discuss religious topics, but as soon as we have our own English club up and running (in which we can talk about whatever we want) we can invite the students to come to that as well.
Last week, I partook in one of the worst culinary experiences of my life thus far. Emily and I were patiently waiting for lunch; it was almost 3:00 pm and we were starving. Tatyana usually serves a huge lunch, but on this particular day, all that sat on the table was a glass full of white milk/sour cream looking stuff. Apparently “Ryajhanka” is a treat in this household, based on the way the kids were devouring it. I, however, had trouble controlling my gag reflex and wanted to cry at the thought of having to politely drink an entire cup of the buttermilk-like substance. I quickly discovered that when the kids were looking elsewhere, I could dump a couple spoonfuls into their cups, and was able to force down the rest on my own.
Last weekend, Emily and I took an unexpected trip to a Vosnesensk, a little town about 2 and a half hours away from Kherson. The church in Vosnesensk was holding an evangelistic series, and having a religious concert on Friday night. One of the scheduled performers couldn’t make it, and the pastor asked us to fill in. Any chance we get to travel around Ukraine, we take! The concert (also featuring a Ukrainian folk band! So cool!) went really well, and got over at about 8:30; plenty of time (we thought) to make it back to Kherson at a reasonable hour, get some sleep and teach the Sabbath school lesson the next morning. We were sadly mistaken however, and didn’t even end up leaving Vosnesensk until about 11:00. We were planning to stay at the conference office in Nikolaev for the night, but instead found ourselves on a bus to Kherson at about 1 am with a strange man’s head in Emily’s lap (for such occasions that catch us off guard we simply shrug and say “It’s Ukraine”). Needless to say, the next day we could hardly keep our eyes open. God still blessed, however, and we had another good lesson study on Sabbath. Im so thankful that my shortcomings have no effect whatsoever on His ability to reach people!
We have a new family member in the Cheban household. Homer, a skinny little mouse-like hamster, is quite possibly the ugliest rodent I have ever seen. Although I am rather fond of the name (which sounds SO much better in a Russian accent!), I would be happy to be rid of his furry, gray, squirming mouse body. He has already escaped his lidless cage once, and I am terrified of waking up in the middle of the night to his nasty little feet running across my face.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Emily, Ruslan and I took a trip last Thursday to Nikolaev to meet with the conference president and our fellow SMs, Barry and Eli, about what exactly our mission is here in Ukraine. It would have been extremely helpful to have this meeting when we first got here. Unfortunately, four weeks in was the earliest we could make it happen. The president, Andre, is a very friendly man who is as anxious to get things off the ground as we are. Everyone at the conference office is very willing to get us everything we need to start our programs. So, now, in order to start our English classes and club, we need to find a place to meet that fits within the church’s budget. Emily and I have been making plans all week for these programs, so as soon as a place is found we will be ready! We will be teaching two English classes, one beginner and one intermediate, both of which will meet three times a week until the middle of December. Then in January, we will start a new set of classes. The English club will meet once a week; so when all of these are up and running, along with the English Bible study and another English club we will be hosting, we will have something to do every evening! Yay!
Every week I learn something new about the water schedule. Lesson from this week: just because the water is supposed to be on from 11:30 to 2:00, doesn’t mean it actually will be. I learned this one the hard way when I had to dump freezing cold water on my head to wash out the shampoo after the water spontaneously quit at exactly 12:03. Not cool. Also not cool was my premature excitement about the disappearing watermelon on our balcony. Little did I know that when we ran out, Ruslan would promptly go by 12 more. Haha!
On Wednesday, Emily and I got to spend some time in the English department of a university here in Kherson. We had a discussion with one of the classes about American culture. The students were very curious and Emily and I had a good time discussing everything from pets to why Michael Jackson isn’t the first name that pops into our minds when we think about the American dream. It was interesting for us to hear their ideas about American culture. We are going back next week, and even though we aren’t allowed to openly talk about religion, I am praying that this will still be an opportunity to witness.
I have spent a lot of time this week bonding with my Ukrainian sisters. It turns out, “girl” is a universal language and Lena and Ira speak it very well! Emily and I love taking pictures with them and fixing their hair and playing games (that require little to no Russian, of course). It is going to be a lot harder to leave them than I initially thought! As I was sitting here, writing this blog, Emily and I heard a knock on the door, outside of which we could hear Ira frantically asking Tatyana “Shto?”, meaning “what?” and Tatyana repeating back an English phrase. The door swung open, and there were Lena and Ira, holding plates of grapes and little cookies. Ira said, “This for you” as cookies were falling off the plate to the floor. She quickly bent over to pick them up which caused nearly all the cookies to fall on the ground. Once the all the cookies were back on the plate, a now very stressed Ira plopped them on the table. Emily and I both ate one quickly to set her mind at ease, and now we are all in our room having a little party! :) They are so cute!
Last Sunday, Emily and I started our English Bible study. We are going to be spending a couple of months going through the story of Joseph. We were expecting that all the people who came to the Bible study would already know English. About half the people, however, didn’t know a single word of English, which made our plan to not use a translator impossible. There was a lot of confusion (and a very scary, argumentative woman sitting next to me) and Emily and I felt extremely discouraged and overwhelmed. I guess the first run of everything is a little rough, but we are praying that the second time around will run much smoother. Now that we know more what to expect, I think it will. On the upside, one man who attended had never even set foot inside of a church before, and he is planning on coming back next Sunday. It’s amazing to me that God can work through a bible study that I perceived to be a near disaster!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I would be unbelievably excited if I could report that Emily and I stayed busy last week, but, yet again, we did not. We do, however, seem to be making progress, as far as plans go, for the English Club, and English Bible study. From what we can understand, we will be starting one or the other this Sunday. We also went to the Maritime University here in Kherson, where the idea of our holding some discussions in their second year English class was well received. Details for that are still in the works as well, but at least another door has been opened! We are more than anxious to get things started! In the mean time, we have been learning the bus system (bus 6 will always take us home!), reading children’s books in Russian (much the the amusement of Stas, Era, and Lena), trying ice cream (much the same as it is in the States) and doing laundry!
On Tuesday, after another day spent in the apartment (with the exception of our seemingly daily trips to the supermarket…), Emily and I decided to call Dima to get the english sabbath school lesson. He lives right across the field from us, about a ten minute walk, and we were looking forward to getting outside. Much to our dismay, however, Dima told us he would come over with the lesson. So we sat. Again. And waited for something to do. When Dima finally got to our apartment, he set the lesson and the table, told us to get our shoes on, and hurried us out the door. We had no idea where we were going or what we were doing, but we were thankful for any opportunity at all to get out the house!! We eventually pulled up to the river that runs along the outskirts of our town where there was a sailboat waiting to take us for a ride! The Dnepr has many small canals that break off from the main river, and we spent a good three hours taking it all in. It was just the pick-me-up that Emily and I needed.
We had an encouraging experience last week with a man named Michael, his wife Marina, and their son Daniel. They attend one of the Adventist churches in Kherson, heard we were in town and were anxious to meet us. All three speak English very well, and Emily and I had a good time talking with them, getting to know them better and telling them about our plans. Three weeks with almost no progress in the way of our jobs here was enough time to make us extremely discouraged; but when Michael shared with us that they have been praying for someone from the US to come here, so that they could practice their English and study the Bible, we were more than encouraged. We look at it as God’s way of showing us that our being here is not an accident. They have also been extremely helpful in getting plans off the ground. They are helping us find a place to hold our meetings, and are helping to make sure that we have everything else we need to get started. We are extremely grateful for their friendship and assistance.
On Thursday, Emily and I decided to cook “American Food” for our Ukrainian family. If you ask anyone what they considered to be American Food, they will undoubtedly say fast food, and our family often asks us if we eat at McDonalds in America. So, Emily and I decided to show them otherwise. We did, however have a hard time deciphering for ourselves what “American food” actually is; and even after we made a list of things to make, our menu changed once we went to the market and realized that a lot of the ingredients weren’t available. We finally settled on pancakes for breakfast, burritos for lunch (which I guess are not actually an American dish, but were well received all the same), and apple pie in the evening (we never eat a full meal for supper; usually only tea with some bread or something). Ruslan, Tatyana and the kids loved it all. Ruslan said to us, “Maybe we should do this every Thursday!” to which we quickly agreed! He also told us that it was the first day in the 9 years that he and Tatyana have been married that she hasn’t had to cook. Emily and I felt good about being able to give her a break. She spends so much time cooking that she has almost no time to get anything else done.!
On Sabbath, Emily and I taught the English Sabbath School lesson, and it went better than we had hoped. It was the first time we were teaching the lesson by ourselves and we were a little nervous. We had about nine people in our group, two of whom are not part of the Adventist church. After we finished, both people expressed to us that they enjoyed the discussion and are wanting to return! We are praying, and looking forward to see if they come back this week.
Sabbath also provided Emily and I with a good laugh, and although it is at my expense, I will share it with you. Every Saturday evening, we attend another service at the one of the other churches in Kherson. This Sabbath, however, we attended a baptism Sabbath afternoon and were quite late to the service. Emily decided to go to the restroom, and I, realizing that the water would be off at the apartment when we returned, followed. In most places outside of homes, squat pots are used, and the church is no exception. This particular one had several stalls that were more like little rooms, and each one was completely sealed off from the main part of the restroom. I chose the first available stall, and promptly swung the door shut. Not until after it was closed did I realize that the door did not have a handle, but, seeing a lock underneath where the handle should have been, I assumed that when I unlocked the door, it would swing open. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. After several hard shoves against the unlocked door, I realized that a handle was, in fact, necessary for my exit. I heard Emily washing her hands on the other side of the door, so before she could escape I said, “Umm….Emily?” which prompted her near immediate laughter at my predicament. After a moment of panic, followed by the revelation that Emily would not allow anyone to make me stay in the stall all night, i started to laugh as well. It seems that I am the only person on earth who puts myself “blonde moment” situations on a regular basis! After trying to substitute all of the random articles in my purse for a handle, I realized that there wasn’t much I could from the inside, and I would just have to wait. I could hear Emily on the other side of the door telling random onlookers (who were also laughing) different phrases in Russian: “My Friend!” and “Help!” After about 10-15 minutes (maybe it was shorter, but it seemed like HOURS to me!) Emily was finally able to rig up a tool from bobby pins and a hair band that prompted the latch to open, and I was free! Oh, what would I do without her?