Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Exciting Week!

This past Wednesday evening, Legacy Church of Christ put on an "Old Fashioned Pounding" for us and the other missionary couple here, Corey and Emily Mullins. Now, I must let you know that when David first heard they were giving us a "pounding," he thought we had done something wrong. I suppose that's what you think when you grow up most of your life in New Zealand. :) Well, after our "pounding" Wednesday night, we drove away with a trunk full of groceries! We were amazed at how much food we received, it was such a blessing. Our pantry is stocked now (especially with peanut butter, jelly, canned corn, beans, and spaghetti sauce!) and we also received several gift cards to buy perishables. I can't tell you how overwhelmed we have been with Legacy's generosity. Now, if we can only find a night to cook with the food-- members keep signing up to have us over!! We are really excited to be here and be a part of such a great congregation.
Today is our last day of preparation before the Global Missions Conference here in Fort Worth. We are fortunate to be here in the area for the conference this year. Over the last few days we've been working to put together a booth for our team and we hope it attracts others who are interested in spreading the gospel to that part of the world. David is also facilitating a Ukraine Mission Team interest group on Thursday night. During that time we plan to share more information about our team, but also promote the other cities that we visited for our survey trip. Because we were able to visit the locals in those areas, we want to voice their plea for more mission workers to come and aid them. We've spent a lot of time getting it all together, but we're close to the end. As most of you know, we already had a booth, team brochure, personal brochure, business card, website, etc. for Moscow, Russia. But, now that we are going to Kharkov, everything must change!! This new endeavor has been really good for us and we feel that we are not only learning a little more about Kharkov, but it is becoming "our own." Soon we'll be able to share our excitement with others.
If you are planning on going to the conference this week, we hope to run into you, but please stop by our booth or come to our interest group on Thursday! For more information about the Global Missions Conference you can visit: http://www.globalmissionsconference.org/
Finally, if you haven't subscribed to our blog, please enter your email address in the top right corner of this page. This will email you every time we post a new thing on our blog! Thanks for all your comments and visits, they greatly encourage us on our journey as we prepare for Kharkov!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We've Made A Decision!

Yeah!!!!! It is our pleasure to share with all of you the decision we have been working on for the last couple months.
After our extensive survey trip, much prayer, discussion within the team, and seeking counsel and approval from our sponsoring congregations, we have made the decision. We are moving to... (drumroll) Kharkov, Ukraine!
It was a hard decision to make because we saw a big need in all the cities we visited. But, we are all happy about the decision and the new location we are headed.

Here are some facts about Kharkov we thought we would share with you all:
  • Kharkov is also spelled Kharkiv (Russian: Харьков). (The English spelling -ov is the Russian pronunciation and -iv is the Ukrainian pronunciation.)
  • Kharkov is pronounced something like (but not exactly, of course): "HARkov."
  • There are about 1.6 million people in Kharkov with 4 churches of Christ that we know of with around 100 members combined.
  • It is the second largest city in Ukraine.
  • Kharkov is known for it's universities-- there are 250,000+ students in Kharkov.
  • The city is primarily Russian speaking.
  • Kharkov is near the Russian border.
  • The city was a former capital of Ukraine.
  • Kharkov has a metro system with 28 stops and is continuing to build more.
  • The climate is nice: average temperature in Jan: 44⁰ F and in June: 68⁰ F
As we find out more information, we'll try to let you know! Thank you all again for your prayers and support as we looked for another city after Moscow. We have truly been overwhelmed with the encouragement we have received. We are very excited about this new location and know we will grow to love it more and more. We are now officially the Kharkov Team!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We made it back!

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!