The rest of our stay in the Ukraine was very exhausting! The rest of our time in Odessa was rushed, but long enough to get what we needed. Like Kharkov, we were able to drive around the city and see a few neighborhoods as well as the city center. We went to a language school and inquired about their classes they offer, and it was very impressive. Odessa is a very beautiful city, full of life and abundant ministry opportunities. It is a tourist city with a vibrant night life along the beach front.
On a side note: While in Odessa we met an interesting fellow from America, who was over their hunting... for a wife. When we met him, he thought Olivia was a local Ukrainian and asked if she had any friends that would like to get married. It was an eye opener to see a lack of surprise in the face of Nana (a local Christian that was showing us around). Apparently there have been a few girls in the church that have left over the past years because they have married Americans and moved to the states with them. Odessa has two marriage organizations, which is very different.
From Odessa, we went to Simferopol where we met two members of the church there. The full-time worker and his daughter picked us up and took wonderful care of us while we were with them. His daughter did the majority of the translating for us while we were there-- a good and needed break for Dougle. (Dougle did a tremendous job on the trip translating for us. We wouldn't have been able to do even a fourth of what we did without his help!) The minister was able to visit with us about their city and the work he saw that needed to be done there. A large part of their work their is working with the local orphanages. It was very exciting to hear how well this ministry was going. The following day, the daughter cooked us a 4-course Ukrainian meal-- it was so nice! They also took us to the Crimea American College where were were able to visit with the director about the city and we also drove around Simferopol. The city itself was located in a river valley, which enabled us to drive to various locations and see the whole city at one time. There is also a large Tatar population in Simferopol, which was interesting for us all.
Sevastopol was our next and final stop. We took a taxi from Simeropol to Sevastopol which took just over an hour. It was a nice drive, and as we approached Sevastopol, we saw the beautiful Black Sea. Before we let our taxi go back, we had him take us around the city, which was... interesting. A large number of their roads there were dirt roads! Olivia got a little sick as we drove around (she gets car sick pretty easily and the bumpy roads didn't help). We had him drop us off in the city center which was vastly different than the rest of the city. It was very nice and well taken care of. You see, this city has been destroyed about 3 times in war and was almost completely rebuilt about 40 years ago. The city was filled with a lot of military, both Russian and Ukrainian, and we saw the different countries flags grouped together throughout the city. (If you get a chance look up online some of what is going on in Sevastopol between Ukraine and Russia, it is interesting to see a tension between the two countries over this strategic port city). Although we had just under two days in this city, we weren't able to accomplish as much as we would have liked there. The two church workers were out of town, and we weren't even able to meet with the language school we found. This was sad for us, but we were also so exhausted, we were able to take a nap before we all started heading back home. It ended up being a blessing! The lack of local help in Sevastopol made us appreciate further the blessing we had in the other cities with Christians who were able to help us in our survey.
After we got back to Simferopol, we all went our different ways. Phil and the two of us went to Kiev to fly out. We were able to spend most of the day looking around that city and just enjoying the sights. It was a nice treat after our trip, we really enjoyed our day there. The next morning at five-thirty, we left for the airport. After all the trouble we had getting to Ukraine, we were a bit worried as to whether we would have similar trouble on the way back. Fortunately, we had no real problems which caused any missed flights or delays. It was a long day (23 hours of traveling... and for almost all of it we were awake), but we made it in late Sunday evening!
Well , now is a good time to end this post, but we will be writing brief note about each city and a slideshow of pictures, so look forward to that. Thanks to all of you for your prayers as we went on this adventure! God truly blessed our trip and we all feel like it was a success-- we are now more encouraged about moving to Ukraine and are getting closer to deciding on a city!