[U’10] July 10, 2010 – Yaaawwwnnnn…

July 11, 2010

Dear NHF Family . . .

Yaaaaaawwwwwwn.  We’re sleepy today!  But I think it’s a great sleepiness, actually . . .

This morning, we got to “sleep in” a little bit (FYI: there is a current friendly competition on to see which room — the mens’ or the womens’ — gets to morning devotionals on time.  McDonald’s in Kiev, or ice-cream back in NY, is on the line.  As of yesterday morning, we were tied 1-1, but this morning, the women took a slight lead when 3/4 of our men uncharacteristically overslept!) before heading over the the local orphanage, the same one past U-teams have visited.  With us were Natasha (16yo Marina’s mother, serves in the children’s ministry at NHC), Nastya and another woman named Marina.  Nastya and Marina are in their 20s and unmarried, but both have adopted daughters (2 for Nastya with another one in the dreams, and 1 for Marina).  It was so interesting to hear about their heart for Ukrainian orphans, and to learn a little bit about domestic adoption processes here in Ukraine, and to see the adoptive love of God the Father displayed in human form.  (And admittedly, there is no small curiosity regarding: “How do single, 20-something women adopt children at such a young age and without a husband-father to join them in parenting?”)

The orphanage was really stinkin’ hot.  I have to say, I think this has been our warmest summer in K’chug so far, although intermittent rainstorms really cool things down in the afternoon.  After sharing some songs in English & Russian (“our God is so big, so strong & so mighty” is quickly becoming an anthem), U10 performed our skit again, and then we split up: a few of us hanging out with the younger kids to do crafts, and the rest of us heading upstairs to the classroom to talk with the older kids.  Interestingly, among the younger children, there was only one little girl; the rest were little boys — very different from past trips.  I hear they were slightly hard to keep at attention, but the crafts seemed to have gone over very well, and of course, who doesn’t like candy, right?  I was with the older kids, with Sasha, Jeremey and Chae.  Two of them, Nastya & Ilyona, remembered me from last year and asked about James; they also thought it was cool that James’ dad and sister were here this summer.  Conversation was difficult; the kids were distracted (and they tended toward the younger end of the 10yo+ scale, as opposed to last year, when many of the older kids were in the mid-teens), but as we were preparing to leave, and the crowd dissipated a bit, we were able to chat in the hallway with the 2 older girls (Nastya & Ilyona).  These 2 girls, as well as a few boys, expressed that their greatest dream is to be adopted by a loving family, to get loving parents.  Realistically, at their age (15 and 16), that probably won’t happen, and soon, they’ll be of age, emancipated, and no longer even eligible to stay at this orphanage.  It’s piercing to hear such innocent, “childish” dreams spoken from the lips of a 16yo girl who is mature enough to converse with a bunch of adults and look after her younger co-orphans.  At the same time, it was bizarrely uplifting to hear the right answers coming from their mouths in response to questions about who Christ is, what the Cross means, etc.

We shared with the older crowd about Freeset (using vague language with reference to the background of the women who work at Freeset), and from this, we were able to say some parting words to Nastya & Ilyona — about freedom, the different meanings and appearances of freedom, the nature of freedom in Christ.  We can only hope & pray that they will indeed be adopted into loving families, that they will know freedom in Christ, and that they will join us in the ranks of His adopted and beloved ones.

Lunch occurred at ProStore (bigger & better than AmStore, if you can believe it!), and many of us got borscht — YUMMO — and ice cream — YUMMO — and strong Americano coffee — SUPER-YUMMO.  We waited out a rainstorm before heading back home for rest and refreshment before our dinner with NHC leaders.

Dinner was great — these meals always are.  And I shared with our team during evening debriefing: each year, there is a progression, and incremental increase in comfort, ease, affection and laughter between the NHF team and the NHC leaders.  Tonight, there was a lot of laughter, and Sunny & I noted that people who had been reticent even as recently as last summer, were absolute comedians tonight!  It was so hysterical, I was burning off my dinner as I was eating it!  And it felt so good, to laugh, and to be able to convey jokes & sarcasm & humour through just a look or an arch of an eyebrow, or better yet, to even be able to UNDERSTAND jokes before they were interpreted for us!

NHC shared with us that this is their Jubilee year, a year to back off a little bit from their many ministries, and focus on relationships within the church (and with those outside the church with whom people already have acquaintanceships).  Many of the leaders shared personal stories about recent spiritual journeys or revelations.  Pr Andrei (associate pastor as of this past winter) shared about a series of dreams he had which he felt were God’s ways of showing him that He is leading him strongly in his ministry to youth; he was pleased to officially make our acquaintance, and said he was happy to join Pr Sasha in growing the sisterhood between our 2 churches.  Sveta (wife of Zhenya, an elder in the church) shared about a personal Jubilee time she was experiencing at the end of her 7th year with Christ (and the start of Zhenya’s 7th year with Him), and how when she rests in the Lord right now, that is when He provides more opportunities for her & her husband to evangelize, meet new people, etc.  It was so lovely to hear these testimonies and hopes & dreams, in Christ, and to realize that we were being entrusted with them, to join with them in prayer and to commit to supporting them as our dear friends in their spiritual walks, just as we would support & encourage each other.

In turn, U10 introduced Jeremey, who shared about his path to pastoring, and his path to our community.  Chae expressed prayer requests for our internal transition time, and thankfully shared the history of how we came to NHC in the first place.  I had the chance to share a thought that occurred to me as people talked: that it seems like NHC and NHF are mirroring each other in opposites.  That is, in a year when NHC is resting, NHF has been quite busy — fruitful men’s & women’s retreats, the trip to India in March, our pastor search & acquisition, this trip to K’chug, our summer retreat coming up in August, and who knows what else God has in the pipeline for us in the fall & early winter.  And at some point, this will shift, and NHC will become busy once more while NHF might enter a season of rest and internal rejuvenation by the Holy Spirit.  I thought that this really reflected the global church and how God’s Kingdom advances through churches like ours — churches that can take turns resting & working so that organic spiritual life can thrive in an atmosphere of mutual support, commiseration, labour, etc.

We gifted the leaders gathered with Freeset bags, and they all seemed really moved by the history, story & work of Freeset.  It was certainly strengthening and so moving for me to share these bags with our friends here, NOT as a plug for the business, but solely as a way to share ministry, to bring India to K’chug, and to connect God’s servants together across the miles.

Tonight, our team spent some more substantial time sharing together, debriefing, and praying, both for each other and the things we shared with each other tonight, and for our coming Sabbath with NHC.  Please would you also join us in these prayers:

–  good & strong health for Raimund & Sunny, who were a little weary today
–  for God to block Rachel’s gag reflex in response to funky smells (ask any former U-team member: the potties at Camp are NOT favorable to impulsive gag reflexes!)
–  my left leg, which is feeling increasing pain & numbness in the knee and on the sole of my foot, where that tendon is

–  continued favour upon NHC, their members, their ministries
–  grace over and for NHC in their relationships with others
–  Jeremey & Sasha, as they prepare to preach & interpret 2 sermons tomorrow
–  our team, as we present the skit twice tomorrow the coming week at Camp

–  praises for a glorious teenagers’ Youth Camp this past week, when 1/3 of the 34 nonbelievers who came devoted their lives to Christ
–  good rest for all of us, and protection of all and every kind

Thank you for continuing with us on our trip.  Your love gives us strength.

In & for Him,
c., on behalf of U10

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