Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Connecting Our Worlds

When our sponsoring church, Legacy, decided to support our family, they made many commitments to us. Not only did they want to ensure we would be taken care of financially, but they also wanted to make sure they were providing us with the emotional support and encouragement we would need from the congregation. They set up liaisons for us from the mission's ministry team who we would communicate directly with while we were in Kharkov on a regular basis. They helped us gather together a liaison team from the whole congregation who would communicate and encourage, as well as communicate what was going on here with the rest of the congregation. They helped us gather together prayer partners from the congregation, people who committed to regularly praying over us and the work God would be doing here in Ukraine. And finally, they
committed to send someone from the congregation to visit us every other year. Yes, we are well taken care of and we are loved. Not a week goes by that we don't feel that love from our family at Legacy.

This month was the designated month for our visitors to come from Legacy. You can write blogs, send monthly newsletters, emails, keep in contact via Facebook and Skype, but nothing compares to having someone personally fly across the Atlantic to see what's going on. David and I met Allan and Carrie-Ann Stanglin at the Kharkov airport late Tuesday night and immediately our worlds collided.

I can't express to you how much their visit meant to David and I, as well as our team and the other friends and Christians they interacted with here. They were able to be with us for eight full days. Needless to say, we crammed as much into those eight days together as we possibly could! They wanted to meet as many people as they could, we wanted to show them around the highlights of Kharkov, and finally they were able to see how our life is here in Ukraine.

We were overjoyed to introduce the Stanglins to our friends - they finally connected faces with names of friends who have been on our prayer lists and in our newsletters for the last year and a half. Not only that, but our Ukrainian friends were able to meet some of our Christian family from America. They met our friends at coffee shops, played in the park with them, met guests we had in our home, played with the kids on the team, and worshiped together with us. It was great.

We saw as much as we could while they were here, especially hitting the highlights of Kharkov. Kharkov isn't that famous, but it does have a lot of history. Andrei took us one day to visit a couple Orthodox cathedrals here in town; it was actually the first time David and I went inside one here in Kharkov. Andrei also took Allan and David to the main square and to the Jewish synagogue here, which happens to be the second largest in Europe. Carrie-Ann and I went to a Russian ballet one night at the Kharkov Opera house and saw Tchaikovsky's famous Swan Lake. Allan and David went to a Russian banya (like a sauna) one night with several other guy friends. If we could stuff it into the schedule, we did... and have pictures to show for it! :)

One of the funnest parts of their visit was showing them how we live here in Ukraine. They were able to see where we go grocery shopping, they went to the outdoor market with us, they ate Ukrainian food, rode the metro and walked around the city; they saw our neighborhood and they rode in our car down the bumpy streets of Kharkov. Basically, they experienced what we experience on a regular basis. In addition to seeing how we live, they also saw the things we do: they sat in on part of our language lesson, met the friends we study with, and participated in Bible studies and worship with us. Allan even spoke at the English service as well as at our Russian service on Sunday. He spoke from the Word and from his heart and we were all extra encouraged.

Not only were we able to connect them with Ukraine and our life here, but they reconnected us with Legacy. The night they arrived, they unloaded their suitcases with a ton of stuff from back home... food, books, cards, etc. They updated us on what was going on at Legacy and how our friends were doing. They delivered hugs and a 25 minute video of our Legacy family saying hello to us.
Even though we were still thousands of miles away, they were our bridge back home and we don't feel as far away now. David and I also got really close to the two
of them while they were here. We talked and talked and talked together. We shared our ups and downs with them, we cried and teared up together, we laughed together until we cried, we played Phase 10 until late in the night. I'm getting emotional writing and remembering all we did together. Most people don't get the chance we had of spending eight days with the preacher and his wife and I wish they did. We can't wait to see them again in November!

Obviously, one blog post doesn't seem efficient to convey to all of you what went on while the Stanglins were with us. But, hopefully this gives you a glimpse. Allan did a great job blogging while they
were here and after they got back. You can check out what he wrote on his blog: www.allanstanglin.com

It just took two people, but our worlds connected and we're still encouraged and living on a "high" from their visit. For all of you who sent hugs, cards, hellos, food, etc. with the Stanglins - thank you so much. We didn't realize how much we needed this visit, but we're thankful for those who made it happen and for all God did to bless us through it!!