Friday, December 11, 2009

A New Brother in Christ and Upcoming Opportunities

Our New Brother Andrei
This last Sunday marked a very special day here in Kharkov for us, but especially for a good friend of ours, Andrei. Andrei was baptized into Christ this last Sunday here in Kharkov! (Here is a picture of him with the guys on the team and of his baptism into Christ - yes, in the McDougle's tub!) Andrei was introduced to our team about a year ago by our friend Valery. Valery had worked with him in the summer camps here and was trying to share with him a little more about the Good News. Over this last year, our team has been in contact with Andrei, and recently Dougle began meeting with him to discuss the Bible. Andrei has been reading the Word on his own, studying and then discussing various things with all the men on our team. After reading through Acts this last week, he approached Dougle about baptizing him and this Sunday we welcomed a new brother into the body. It was so encouraging to be a part of his new beginning and we pray that you will give thanks to God with us and also keep him in your prayers as he begins his walk of faith.

Upcoming Seminar
As many of you know, my parents, Kirt and Nancy Martin, will be coming this weekend to spend the holidays with us. We are very excited about them coming, and decided to take extra advantage of having my dad around with his expertise. He will be doing a seminar for us on Creation and Evolution, one he has done many times around Lubbock. A good friend of ours from Mariupol, Alyona, has been hard at work translating all the slides for his presentation and will come here to be his translator. Kharkov is a university town and there are around 150,000 students studying at universities and other higher academic schools here. We hope to reach out to those students through this seminar, so we have been advertising it in a local paper here as well as online, and over this next week we will be posting up fliers and handing out information about it. Here is a copy of one of the flyers we will be posting as well as the small fliers of information we'll be handing out. The seminar will be this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and following the last lecture on Sunday, we will invite those who are there to stay and be a part of our worship service. Please be praying for those we invite to come and for their hearts to be open to hearing about how great our Creator is!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Many Reasons to Give Thanks!

It's been a full year of us being in Kharkov, so this was our second time to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Ukraine. Of course, this year we are a little more experienced, so things went a little more smoothly this time around. For example:
Our Turkey - Last year, we didn't have a turkey because the only size we could find was HUGE (it wouldn't have gotten close to fitting in our oven!). Instead, we had a chicken. This year, we were familiar with the meat market and had our choice of freshly plucked turkeys from various farmers. We were prepared... or so we thought. Before Lucy and I went to the market on Saturday, I carefully measured my oven and checked our oven bags to make sure I would get a turkey that was the right size. We got our turkey home and... it didn't fit in our freezer. Lucy and I both have the largest freezers on the team, but the freezer has three drawers and the turkey just wouldn't fit in any of them. Oops. So, we cooked that turkey early in the week and froze the meat for later. Then Lucy and I went back to the market on Wednesday and picked out our turkey for Thanksgiving day. :)
Cranberries - Last year we couldn't find cranberries. This year, we knew the word for cranberries and had seen them all around the market, they're in season. So, we were set and had wonderful fresh cranberry sauce!
Spices - Last year, it took us so long to find all the spices we needed for stuffing. I think we found them all in the end, but it was a task for sure. This year, we went to the guy we always buy spices from at the market and he had all of them except for sage. Thankfully, he took us to another lady who supplied us with a big bag of sage (it was really a bag of dried sage plants, so we had to take the hard stalks out and use our blender to grind it all up, but it worked)!
French Friend Onion Rings - Last year, Denyce was sweet enough to make her own friend onion rings for the green bean casserole. They were good, but for me, nothing beats the real French's. This year, our sponsoring church sent some to us earlier in the year, so we put them away for Thanksgiving and they were so yummy! Thanks Legacy!
David and I prepared the turkey, dressing, gravy, pumpkin role, and peanut butter pie for the big day. The McDougles and Hindmans made more pies, cranberries, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and rolls for the big feast. And our friends Eric and Lilia (he is American and she is Ukrainian) brought cooked pumpkin (which tasted a lot like sweet potatoes!) and a beet salad. The food was great and the company was even better.

After lunch we played Mexican Train dominoes and the Wii. David's friend, Nikita, also dropped by with a friend of his, Alina, to see how Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. She played dominoes with us and he played the Wii with whoever wasn't playing dominoes. When they showed up, our conversation changed to more Russian since she didn't understand English. It was a little more of a challenge, but we all did pretty good conversing and even explaining the rules of Mexican Train!

On Saturday we invited a bunch of our friends to come for pie. We planned to have a Bible study after, but our plans got changed, so we just had good conversation with them all. Hopefully we'll be able to have another opportunity soon to invite them back to study the Bible. We had 6 friends show up for that, plus a couple of their kids. It was great! We are so thankful for all our friends we've met over this whole year and grown to love and appreciate!

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well. We all, thanks to our Lord, have so much to be thankful for!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Driving in Ukraine

As I was driving around Kharkov today, I realized that some of the differences in driving might be interesting for you to hear about. So, this post is dedicated to sharing a few of the differences in driving.

First and foremost, I want to state that I love our car and the fact that we can drive everywhere in the city. It is a huge blessing I didn't properly appreciate until this last year when we didn't own a car and were restricted to walking and using public transportation. We are blessed to have wheels!
  • Which side? As in America, we drive on the right side of the road.
  • Police. The police stand on the side of the road here to pull cars over. They stand, in uniform, with a stick and if they point the stick at you, you've just been pulled over. For me, every time I see a police officer, I try not to make eye contact or appear to notice them, but at the same time I have to look enough to be prepared to pull over. If you don't pull over when they point their stick at you, they get in their car and chase you down. We have been told to do our best to avoid the police here because they are corrupt, so we're especially careful when we're driving. But, I will say, the experiences our team has had with the police has been good so far.
  • Horns and honks. Ukrainians love their horns. Many times before the light is officially green, they are honking for you to go. They honk to let you know they aren't stopping, whether you're a pedestrian or another car trying to pull out. Half the time they honk just because they can. Their horns are also very unique. Half of them are "normal" car horns, but other times they are police sirens or fire engine blares (and they're not police or firefighters).
  • Lights. Our lights here are red, yellow, and green, just like everywhere else. However, to indicate for you to go, the light goes from red to red and yellow and then to green. Then to indicate stopping, it flashes green, then goes to yellow, and then red, but sometimes it just goes from flashing green to red. When sitting at the light and the light goes from yellow to green, cars start going on yellow. (Most of the time if you wait for the green light, you'll get honked at.) But, in doing this, you have to be careful because when it's yellow for you, it's yellow for the other traffic as well, so you have to be careful for those who are speeding through the yellow lights. It sounds confusing, but it's really not.
  • Trolleys. We have many streets here with trolley buses, so you have to be extra careful with those. The stop at various points on the street, so you have to be careful when going around them to watch out for pedestrians. Their tracks, which run parallel and in them middle of the street, are tricky to drive on as well.
  • Car Status. Cars have social classes here. The nicer your car, the more you can get away with. So, SUVs and newer/fancier cars are often bullies. They cut off other cars and go around long lines of traffic, sometimes running lights or driving into oncoming traffic to do so. And it's all just accepted.
  • Taxis. I'm convinced that taxis aren't required to follow rules, and they break just about every one of them if they can!
  • Lanes. Some roads have lanes, and some don't. But the lane markings don't always mean anything. If there is one line down the center of the road, sometimes there's three lanes or cars driving right in the middle. It seems the lane markings are taken as merely "suggestions" of where they could drive, not where they need to drive.
  • Road repairs. The road repair vehicles are usually tractors and there is really no warning to their working in the road other than a small orange reflector behind their vehicle. If they completely take up your side of the road, there is no one to direct traffic, you just go into oncoming traffic and you both just deal with it. There's no way to properly explain how they repair roads here... it's all a mess. Last night I almost ran into a big hole in the road on the way home because all that was marking it was three brown sticks sticking out of it. (And remember, it gets dark here at 4:00pm, so a lot of our driving this time of year is in the dark.)
Despite all the differences, it's worth it. Do we feel safe driving here? For the most part, yes. We just have to be very cautious and constantly be aware of our surroundings.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Craft It Forward

A while ago, a friend of mine from Legacy posted a blog called Craft It Forward. If you've ever heard of saying "pay it forward," the idea is based off of that. Anyway, she offered to make something for the first three commenters on her blog post, but those commenters had to agree to "craft it forward."

Well, I signed up for the challenge, and received my gift about a month ago: this really lovely necklace! Thank you so much, Deanna! Needless to say, it has become one of my favorites and I wear it all the time. :)

In fulfilling my part of the deal, I'm posting the same thing here and hoping for three people to comment and accept the challenge. Since most of our readers are supporters, friends, and partners in our work here in Ukraine, the crafts I make will be something related to Ukraine. (A fun challenge for me and hopefully something different for you!)

The first three commenters to this post will receive something from me, and yes, I'll mail it all the way from Ukraine to you. All you have to do is agree to craft it forward to three other people. And, yes, if you don't feel particularly "crafty," then you can bake something or adapt it to what suites your gifts/talents!

Thanks again, Deanna, for the challenge!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More About Ukraine

It's been awhile since I've done a "cultural" post, so I thought I would post a few things today for those of you interested in a little bit of our lives here in Ukraine. Hope you enjoy the randomness!

We live in a place that thrives on traditions and in their opinion, everyone should think and act according to those traditions. Some are what we would deem superstitions, but from what I can tell, for the most part they accept it all as a part of their culture and the traditional way of doing things here.
Whistling - Today David got in trouble for whistling in our apartment. Our language teacher went on to explain that if you whistle in your apartment, it means your money will go out (meaning we'll go broke) just like the sound goes out of your mouth. This makes me laugh because I remember my Poppop saying, "A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to no good end."
Breaking dishes - it's apparently good luck when you do this here! (I think it's just when you do it accidentally, but I'm not completely positive about that.)
Buying Flowers - You have to buy an odd number of flowers to give as gifts or for yourself. Even numbers of flowers are only bought for funerals. They will not let you buy an even amount unless you assure them it's for a funeral.
Sitting - We girls continually get in trouble for sitting on the wrong places. So far we know the floor, cold places, concrete, etc. are the wrong places to sit. If you sit in these places, you will apparently lose your fertility.
Shoes - David got smacked in the ballet the other night for having his foot up resting on his knee. It's considered very rude to have the bottom of your shoe facing someone.

Daylight in Kharkov
We enjoy the longer days in the summer, and grieve over the shorter days in the winter. But in Kharkov there's a pretty big difference between the two, much more than we were used to in Texas. In Kharkov, we have daylight from around 4:30am to 8:30pm in the summer, but only from about 6:30am to 4:00pm in the winter.

When we went back to the states a month ago, I was once again shocked at the size of the washers in the US. I knew they were bigger, but I had forgotten how much bigger they are! Our washers over here (for the most part, you can buy them a little bigger) fit about 1/4-1/3 of the load we would put in our washer in the states. That's a big difference! That means my flannel sheets get washed separately and if I have two pair of jeans in the load, only a couple t-shirts and a few socks can go in with it. We also don't have dryers (they are available, but hard to obtain and you have to get special ones since most apartments aren't hooked up for the ventilation). We have drying racks and it takes about a 1-2 days to dry the clothes (depending on the season). Thankfully, it's winter and the radiators are on, so our clothes are drying in just about a day now!

Market Changes

Grocery stores aren't our primary shopping place here, in a lot of things (but not all by any means), we go to the outdoor market. On my last trip to the market, I realized how much the market has changed since the beginning of the summer. We started off the summer with berries, lettuce, cabbage, many herbs, mushrooms, peaches, etc. As the summer progressed, we lost the berry selection and gained a huge variety of tomatoes, peaches, apricots, melons, potatoes, and onions. Now, tomatoes are getting more scarce (you can always tell when things are going out of season because the price is 2-3x's what it was in season), mushrooms and melons are about gone, surprisingly raspberries are back for a second round, apples and pears are everywhere, and pumpkins have finally arrived. We're very excited about the pumpkins because that means we can finally make pumpkin pies, chocolate chip pumpkin cupcakes, and pumpkin soup-- all in time for the holidays. Granted, the pumpkins will be going out of season by Thanksgiving, so we're cooking and freezing it now for holiday use. If you want to know more about how to cook a pumpkin or want the recipe for the chocolate chip pumpkin cupcakes, check out my sister's blog here. As our winter approaches, we will be depending more on the grocery stores to stock our vegetable and fruit drawers.

Vanilla Update
If you read my post about making my own vanilla (here), I thought I would let you know that my first batch is done and turned out great! I highly recommend making your own, even if you can buy it in the store. It's simple to make, better tasting, and I'm pretty sure it's much cheaper than buying it in the store.

Well, there's a few of the things I had on my mind tonight. By the way... it's snowing outside my window just now. I'm hoping to wake up to a white view tomorrow?! Who knows.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Visit from NZ and New Beginnings!

Our Visit with David's Mom
We were very blessed to have Mary, David's Mom, visit us from New Zealand these last two weeks! We had a wonderful time with her while she was here, catching up and being able to personally show her a little bit of our lives here in Ukraine. While she was here, we were able to worship with her, introduce her to some of our friends, take her to our market, our grocery store, some of our favorite restaurants, etc.

We also did two new things with her: we went to our first Russian Ballet, Swan Lake, and she and David visited the memorial for the Kharkovians who lost their lives in WW2. For Ukrainians, it's normal to grow up going to ballets and operas. Our language teacher was very surprised to know that we hadn't been to an opera and this was Mary and David's first ballet. So this was a great cultural experience for us all, not to mention great entertainment!! The picture to the right is at the ballet and the one below is one David took at the memorial.

Mary also took time to do a mini-workshop on children's Bible class teaching for us ladies while she was here. She and another lady, Melinda Miller, worked hard for years to arrange a great children's curriculum in NZ. Their curriculum goes through all the major stories in the Bible, and is filled with teacher information, activity ideas, and many other resources for each story. They've taken it and helped train teachers all over the South Pacific and she was kind enough to bring us a part of the goods! Baggage restrictions made it impossible for her to bring it all with her, but she brought enough resources to last us quite a while! Thank you, Mary, for all your help!

New Beginnings
This last Sunday, our team had our very first all Russian service together. All the men on the team took turns leading the service and did a great job! We all have so much to learn, especially in our Christian vocabulary. We've all been reading the Bible more in Russian, struggling with the difficult words, but learning a great deal as well. A couple of us on the team have also started reading the Bible with friends here in the city. It has been a great encouragement to all of us! Keep us in your prayers as especially David and I struggle with the language barrier. We are thankful for how much we've learned this last year, but it will continue to be a slow progress for some time yet. Pray we don't get discouraged, but continue to trust that God's greatness is coming through, especially in our weakness.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Year in Ukraine

Wow, time does fly, doesn't it? As I write this, it's hard to put my mind around the fact that we've really been here for a year today. The biggest reminder to me is the fact that we are seeing the same scenes (for the first time) in Kharkov... the beautiful colors of autumn. Up until this point, we experienced everything for the first time, with open eyes eager to know more of what our new home was like. Now, we have a year's worth (still not a lot!) of experience to go on and, in a way, that makes us feel a little more settled here.

As exciting as it is just recognizing the anniversary of the day we came to Kharkov, it's even more exciting for us to think of what is ahead. As many of you know, when we came here we came with the commitment to spend our first year in language learning and cultural adjustment. The hardest part of this commitment was the fact that we were going to try to not engage in any outreach or studies, knowing that if we did that, we would be tempted to get interpreters right away and possibly become bogged down with ministry rather than being able to learn the language. That decision was based on the advice from several missionaries who had come to this part of the world, most of them not making that choice and regretting it later. We also knew, after talking to many Russians and Ukrainians, that not learning the language would hinder our work and their acceptance of us greatly.

So for this last year, we've been doing exactly what we committed to: learning the language and doing our best to adjust to the Ukrainian culture. Language has been a struggle for sure, but we are so thankful we were able to give so much of our time this year to our learning. After a year, we are still just at the beginning and have so much more to learn! Many of you may remember that we had been told that Russian was the language of heaven... because it takes an eternity to learn. In many ways, we see truths to that! :) Still, we are excited about our progress so far and we can get around so much better than we could a year ago.

This next year will be different. Our team has been dreaming since we first formed as a team, but even more as we've been here this last year, of what we might do to reach the lost in our city. We have plans and ideas and we're excited about them. We just ask that you will be in prayer for us as we begin to really reach out and share more of God's love with those around us. We know we are imperfect people, but we know we serve a perfect God and we pray that He is able to work through us, in us, and maybe sometimes in spite of us to reach people here. We know we'll make many mistakes, but we also know that He will grow us and transform us through each and every one.

Continue to keep us in your prayers as we're here. When we came, our dream was to be disciples, make disciples, and send disciples. We pray that God is able to accomplish all of those things and more so that His Name is glorified and praised here in Kharkov, Ukraine.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In the midst of this...

It has been a long time since our last blog! We've had so much going on in our lives over here, it's been difficult to find time to write a new post. But, I felt it was time to write a little update about how we're doing here.

As many of you know, my grandmother, Betty Curfman, passed away a couple weeks ago. The family was told she would only live for another 2-4 months, so Lucy and I made plans to go see her one last time. The timing seemed to be good as well because we would be able to renew our visas at that time. Two days after we booked our flight, Grandma passed away. We were very sad we weren't able to see her one last time, but were glad we'd still be able to spend time with my mom and my Poppop. Lucy, Canaan, Max, and I all flew to Ohio and were able to see all our family in Ohio, plus spend time with both my parents as my Dad was able to make it for the funeral.

Around the time we left for Ohio, we decided to let everyone know that we were just over 9 weeks pregnant. After being in Ohio a week, I started experiencing signs of a miscarriage, so with a lot of urging from my sister, we went to the ER late Wednesday night. After two sonograms and some examinations, the doctor confirmed that indeed we had lost our baby. I was 11 weeks along in the pregnancy, but the ultrasounds showed that the baby was only 6 weeks developed. At that time David and Dougle were in Budapest, Hungry renewing their visas, so unfortunately, we had to go through it all without one another.

We immediately recognized the blessing of being in the states when all of this happened, I had such wonderful care there. I still don't know what we would have done if we had miscarried over here in Ukraine. Even though David and I were apart, we were able to see each other on Skype every day. Prayers started going up on our behalf from all over. It has now been just over a week since that night, but we have received over 100 emails or notes from friends, family, and strangers telling us that they are thinking of us and praying for us. We know we owe so much to many of your prayers! We are still grieving our loss. David has been a huge support to me and I am so thankful for that. These last couple days have been good for us both, just spending a lot of time together again. I am healing slowly, physically and emotionally. Right now I'm simply clinging to the fact that I will praise Him and trust Him no matter what. I know His timing is perfect and His plan for us is always good. I have difficult moments still, but I know with time I will have complete peace.

Thanks to many of you who have been praying with us and encouraging us during this time. We are blessed to be a part of the family of God. We know that even when situations don't turn out as we imagine, God is still in control and He is blessing us and molding us. Keep us in your prayers as we continue to heal and trust Him to give us His peace "which surpasses all understanding" that will "guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Even in this midst of this... we will trust Him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kharkov's Independence Day

Sunday, the 23rd of August, marked Kharkov's Independence Day. This year marked the 66th anniversary of the day when they marched the Nazi fascists out of the city. Kharkov was the largest populated city in the Soviet Union that was taken captive by the Germans during WW2. About 70% of the city was destroyed during that time and tens of thousands Kharkovians were killed. To the left is a monument of this event in Kharkov's history, located on the street "23rd of August" here in the city. Below is a great link our teammate Mike found that takes you to a website that shows pictures of Kharkov while it was under German control:

Even though our team was on a retreat this last weekend, we scheduled a free day on Sunday to come into the city and enjoy the festivities. Tim and Rebecca Brinley as well as Tim's parents, Herb and Virginia Brinley, were with us for our retreat, so they were able to enjoy the festivities with us. The main square in the center of the city was filled with people and got even more crowded as the evening progressed. (The sign to the left says, "We love you, Kharkov!" and the picture on the right above is of people looking at various pictures of Kharkov while it was under the German rule.) There were many tents set up selling things, the popular item being plants of all sorts and sizes. In the weeks leading up to Sunday, the city was buzzing with construction projects working to make Kharkov look it's best on it's Independence Day. The hard work all paid off and it did look really beautiful. To the left is a picture of David and I in front of the Kharkov coat of arms in the park, just one of many large flower designs in the main park.

While we were in the park, we decided to take some time to play baseball with the younger boys. Thanks to Rebecca, who brought her Nerf ball bat and ball, we had a great time. The boys did pretty good and we had a great time. While we were playing, two other Ukrainian boys came over to watch and we invited them to join. They had a great time and when it was time to wrap up, they asked when we'd be playing next. Now we know to go play baseball in the park and we'll meet the local children! Here are some pictures of the boys from our game together (if you want, you can click on them to see a larger image):

Batter Up, Malachi!

And Canaan!

Silas wasn't so excited.
On the right is a photo of David and Tim playing with the boys we met in the park:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Our Holiday in Italy

About two weeks ago, we packed our bags and left behind Russian studies for a 12 day holiday in Italy. Earlier this year, some friends of ours from New Zealand asked us if we wanted to join them as they traveled around Italy. After looking at our schedules and flights there, we said yes within just a few days and we're so glad we did! We met Dan and Tarryn Pratt in Bologna, Italy and had a great twelve days together. David grew up in New Zealand with Dan, then I had gotten to know them both when I went there to work with the church. The Pratts are currently working at an international school in Saudi Arabia, so Italy was a great get-away from the norm for them as well. It was so good to see our friends again and tour Italy together! We went to 7 different cities in about 12 days, so we saw a LOT.

Our first stop was the beautiful city of Florence. We hopped on a tour bus that took us around to the main sites in the city (which was very convenient). We saw streets, Cathedrals, fountains, the Old Bridge, lookouts, etc. For the evenings, we were staying at a campground just outside the city. The place also had a pool, so we went for a swim later as well which was great! (Pictures are of us at Michelangelo's point, looking over Florence and of the Old Bridge in Florence.)

Our next stop was Lucca, a small, yet unique city. We were there on a Sunday, so most of the shops were closed down for the day, but it was still great to just walk around. There a huge walls around the city, built to fortify the city, which were very impressive to see and walk around. Another interesting fact we learned was that Lucca was ruled by Napolean's sister for a period of time. In the afternoon, we went out to the coast for a swim in the coastal town of Viareggio. It was so crowded, but the swim was certainly nice. (Pictures are of Olivia in the city of Lucca and David standing on a part of the wall surrounding the city.)

From the coast we headed back into the little town of Pisa to check out... the famous leaning tower. We are pleased to announce it is truly does lean and is still leaning even after we left it. Honestly, it was more impressive than I had imagined it to be. It was originally build to accent the church it is built next to (which is very nice), but now it seems the church accents the leaning tower. We stayed at a campground again in Pisa, so after seeing the leaning tower we just headed back to camp and played games together. It was great to have a day together to simply rest and not be too busy sightseeing! (Picture is of us at the leaning tower.)


We made the long drive down the western coast of Italy to our next stop, Pompeii. On our way down, we stopped at a little island on the way, Monte Argentario. We had lunch on the island, went for a swim in the Medditerranean, drove around the island a bit more, then headed back inland and headed to Pompeii. The second day we were in Pompeii, we headed even further down the coast to Sorrento. There we had dinner on the coast while the sun was setting. It was all very pretty! Pompeii was amazing as well. We woke up early and drove to Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted covering the ancient city of Pompeii. We hiked up to the top and enjoyed the view of the crater, then came back down and got ready to the see the ruins of Pompeii. The ruins themselves were really interesting, one of my highlights on the trip. You can actually walk down the streets, surrounded by the houses and shops that were 2000 years old. Paint on the walls, pottery, and fountains are still visible. The city was very large as well, we didn't get to see it all in one afternoon, but it was incredible! (Pictures are of the western coast, a view of streets in Pompeii, and us with Dan and Tarryn at the top of Mt. Vesuvius.)

From Pompeii, we drove up to Rome. The first day we spent visiting theVatican, seeing St. Peter's Basilica and visiting the Vatican Museum which housed the famous Sistine Chapel. The Basilica was very impressive, it's amazing how much work has gone into this famous building. The Vatican Museum had plenty of very interesting things as well including artwork, tapestries, Egyptian relics, famous statues, etc. We weren't able to take pictures inside the Sistine Chapel, which was sad, but it was just as good as we had thought it would be. It was neat being up close to the works of famous artists like Michelangelo and Raphael. After the Vatican we went to the Colloseum. Inside the Colloseum was very impressive, it is hard to imagine all the history that happened there. We were able go back and see the Colloseum at night later which was really neat to see it lit up. The next day we visited other famous fountains and historic sites, including the Pantheon. All the work and engineering it took to create the perfectly half circle ceiling in the Pantheon was impressive for sure! We could have spent another day in Rome easily, but our time was running out, so we headed to our final stop. (Pictures are of us at the the Vatican in front of St. Peter's and us inside the Pantheon.)

From Rome, we took a train to the famous city with streets of water. Our train ride went fast, especially because we played cards for about 4 hours of it! Venice was just beautiful and a perfect end for our adventures in Italy. It was a very clean city and so fun to casually walk around the streets, ride on the boats, and enjoying a little last minute shopping. Venice is famous for their colored glass items and masks. Everything was tempting! There wasn't too much site-seeing there we had to do, so we just took our time and enjoyed Venice. Even in the evenings, we ate like Italians and stayed late, enjoying our time together at the restaurants. (Pictures are Dan and David on a gondola in Venice and David and I on a bridge in Venice.)

Overall, our trip had very few things we could have made better. We had a great time with friends and saw a beautiful and historic country! Hope you enjoy the pictures. Thanks again for your prayers as we were traveling. The holiday was wonderful and we came back with lots of stories and photos, and are refreshed and renewed once again. If you're picture-happy, here is a slideshow of more pictures from our trip:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Freezing the Goods

It's summer in Ukraine which means lots of fresh fruits and veggies!! It's such a relief because there were many disappointing things about the fruits and veggies in the wintertime. It's nice to have your pick of the freshly grown produce now, sometimes grown just outside of Kharkov!

Since moving here, we've noticed there are many things we think and do differently from Ukrainians. For example, we buy fruit (sometimes frozen) all year round. They wouldn't dream of doing that. In fact, when it comes to almost anything, if it's not made in Kharkov, they turn their nose up at it. I bought lids for the jars I'll be using to can tomatoes and the lady who was selling them said, "These are good... these are bad." When we asked what the difference was between them she simply said (pointing to the good ones) "These were made in Kharkov" and (pointing to the "bad" ones), "These were made in Poltava" (another city in Ukraine). And the list of differences between our cultures just goes on and on.

One thing they do here that I've tried doing this year is freezing produce to have in the winter. You see, they may not buy produce from Poland or anywhere else outside of Kharkov, but they've also thought to plan ahead and can or freeze in the summer. So, in following their example, I have been berry shopping and have myself a little stash of berries for the winter months ahead. Berries are also really cheap right now, which is so wonderful! I flash froze each of them individually, then stuck them in my freezer bags (compliments of Legacy's care packages, thank you!) to store in the freezer.

The season for cherries and raspberries are just about over here, so I'm glad we were able to get them when we did. I'm very proud of my little stash of raspberries, blueberries and cherries!

On a side note: David and I are leaving today to go on holiday in Italy! We are very excited to get away for a little bit and have fun seeing the sights of Italy. We'll be traveling around 7 different cities with our friends from New Zealand, Dan and Tarryn Pratt, in just 12 days. So, keep us in your prayers as we travel and as soon as we get back I'll post some pictures from our adventures!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Life just got a little bit easier!

After just over 8 months of walking around the city, we are happy to announce we finally have a car! It is a light blue Hyundai Accent, 2008. It's a new car, which is great because it means we have warranty that goes with it, if anything should go wrong. Our friend, Vetali, is a mechanic and helped us find it. Cars are pretty expensive around here, even for used cars. But we were able to find a deal at the Hyundai dealership that we couldn't pass up. After finding the car, he and his wife Galina worked hard to help us get all the paperwork sorted. We are so blessed to have friends like them here!!!

Needless to say, we are now spoiled and are LOVING the convenience. The first night we had our car, we drove to the grocery store. It was so different I felt like I no longer lived in Kharkov. It was just so easy and fast! Imagine this: driving to the grocery store, getting your groceries, packing them in your trunk (or boot), and then driving them home. I'm smiling as I write this because it's so wonderful! No more blisters or sore arms... and energy to spare!

Of course, we won't be driving everywhere like we did in the states. Our teammates apartments are still close enough to walk to and sometimes traffic is bad enough, it's just easier to walk or take the metro instead. The main blessing of having the car will be for when we will have to carry a lot home. It will also be nice in the winter to not have to fight the cold as much.

Several of you have asked about the driving here. It is pretty crazy, yes. For the most part, if it looks like they can get away with it, they'll do it (i.e. driving on the wrong side of the road, running lights, etc.). So, we're learning the rules and then learning how to drive with other cars who don't abide by those rules. Now is the best time of year for us to be learning as the roads are all in pretty good condition. In the winter everything is icy, then when spring comes there are pot holes everywhere. The pot holes are dangerous by themselves, but then there are the cars swerving to avoid the pot holes. Hopefully, come winter, we'll be a little more prepared to deal with "the worst."

I've also posted some pictures of our car. As you can see, we've already had it loaded to the max with our teammates. Even though it's small, Denyce, Malachi, and Silas all fit in the back seat pretty well!

So, for us, life just got a little bit easier and we are very happy about that!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blessings in Mariupol

A week ago we traveled with our team down to the city of Mariupol, Ukraine. Our teammates, Brandon and Katie Price, have worked with the church in Mariupol before (he as an AIM student in 2002-2004, then both of them as a couple in 2007-2008), so this was an opportunity for them to introduce us to the church there. It was a great experience.

While we were there, we were invited to 2 youth devotionals where we met and hung out with the youth. Our friend, Sasha (who came up to visit us in Kharkov a couple weeks ago), was there and it was encouraging to see him leading songs among his peers. The congregation is one of the largest in Ukraine with about 80 regular members and many of those are youth. The men on the team were also able to sit down with the preachers in Mariupol to get their advice and thoughts on church planting here in Ukraine. Tim Burrow, former missionary in Mariupol, was also there with us, so it was really good to spend some time with him as well as one of the elders from his sponsoring church, Hal Pendergraft.

On Saturday the ladies on the team joined the ladies from church and learned how to make an Ukrainian dessert. It was wonderful to be with them all and I'm anxious to try the recipe on my own at home. This is a picture of me (below, sitting at the table) trying to take notes while the lady in charge rattled off the recipe in Russian. I even tried cheating by looking at the ladies next to me, but even then I only wrote down "6 eggs - cold, milk, flour, boil"-- basically any word I recognized. I tried, right? When they started cooking, I started writing in English and actually walked away with a recipe. Thank goodness they showed us how to do it! It was a lot of fun. Later on that weekend, the minister's wife, Ira, took us to their women's ministry room upstairs and explained a little more of what they do every week. I really hope we can get something like that going here in Kharkov as well.

We were also able to go down to the sea a couple of times which was really fun for the kids. (Here are a couple pictures, one with Silas on the beach an the other of the two Antys and the kids.)

We had a wonderful time in Mariupol and were doubly blessed by the Christians there. On our way home, we stopped in Donetsk to do some paperwork. On Saturday, Katie and Brandon left us to go back to the states. We had a wonderful month with them here. The next time we'll see them will most likely be next year when they move here. Needless to say, we're glad they joined the team and we're looking forward to having them back here on a permanent basis!