Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ukraine 2014: A Firsthand Look

Today, Randolf and I shared this with our local church (translated into Dutch, of course).  We recently returned from a 5-day trip to Kiev, Ukraine to visit friends.  Things are calm there - we were able to walk and travel safely throughout the city and nearby village.

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Let's take a journey into others' lives, lives far different from our own. For you, the reader, this is what you don't see on the news.

Makeshift memorial to the hundred or so EuroMaidan protesters killed in late February 2014
Imagine that you are Ukrainian. Things are uncertain, but you are still happy to be living in Ukraine. Imagine you have a family and want the best for their future.
Ukrainian friends who came to our Dutch wedding in September
Imagine that you work for an organization connected with the UN, but the budget is only guaranteed for six more months.
Lilliana playing with the dog's brush! :)
Imagine you don't know if or when you will be summoned back into the army after ten years as a civilian, and you have a two year old son. Imagine that you are willing and able to defend both your family and local hospitals.
Randolf's friend Valera, his wife Sasha, and their son Maksim - though I had never met them before, this was a fun evening!
Downtown - Burned out Trade Unions building - impressive to see.
Imagine your husband is Russian but you live in Ukraine. Imagine how his family and friends do not trust what you say until you tell them the current president is actually a Baptist leader as well.

Mina, mom to two boys I taught while at KCA
Imagine your teenagers' basketball season was cut short - and his team was undefeated - and it's his last year at this school.

Vanya enjoying his new Lego train set
Imagine that you are fifteen years old, living in a country where you are not a citizen. Imagine finding out that your classmate's family is spending the next school year in the US - but is beginning their trip early. Imagine finding out the departure date is this week instead of early June.

Nienke was one of my very first students, and also happens to be Dutch.  Read her article here (you'll probably need Google Translate) from her perspective.
Imagine that you are a teacher of seven year olds or of teenagers. Imagine waking up each morning not knowing if you will teach in person or via the Internet - and not knowing how many of your students' families are still in the country.


Another makeshift memorial.  They hope to build a type of memorial chapel in this area on Instituska Street (and also to rename the street in honor of the victims).  
Imagine that your typical salary is no more than $500/month (and that's a high estimate), but the currency is weakening and your household bills will get more expensive.

Svetlana and I used to teach English together in Obolon. These are her two sons Vanya and Zakhar - they've grown quite a bit!!
Imagine that you are a local pastor, shepherding a flock that includes both pro-Ukrainians and pro-Russians - walking a careful line of spiritual support. Imagine also that Christians of all kinds gather on Maidan each Sunday afternoon to pray for wisdom and strength and peace for their country. Imagine the spiritual openness during this time of crisis, as people will hopefully recognize that only God's way is trustworthy.

I loved being back in Kiev First Church and seeing my church family there!!
Another surprise was seeing Oleg and Natasha - he pastors another one of the churches in Kiev.
There is so much uncertainty in Ukraine right now, not even including the situation of Crimea. Every day life is no longer the way it used to be. There are now more worries about making ends meet and future stability.  No one knows what will happen from one day to the next - and this is causing large amounts of stress. People just want a break.

Cor and Joke (pronounced "core" and "yoke-a") are Dutch missionaries.  We brought them tasty Dutch delicacies and spent time with them one afternoon.
Randolf and I were able to visit our friends in Kiev and hear their stories. After almost two years away, we started our friendships where we had paused them for a time.  It felt like only twenty days had passed, instead of twenty months.

A fun evening spent with Zee and her new husband Sam/Sasha!! (thanks, Zee, for the photos)
We wanted to be an encouragement to them, even when we did not know what to say or how to help.  It is our hope that God used our visit to provide a "respite" or break from the stress.

Ukrainian friends, if you are reading this, know that after we shared this in church today, YOU WERE PRAYED FOR.

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Do you want to help? If so, here's how.


PRAY
-Pray for peace in the hearts of many.
-Pray that all would recognize their need for God, and rely on God for everything during this time.
-Pray for God to meet the needs (physical, emotional, spiritual) of Ukrainians

GIVE
Click here to donate toward food and basic necessities for people in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine. 


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Thoughts? Leave a comment!  Feel free to visit the links throughout this post to learn more.

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