Our faces glow from the Spirit, not the lack of bathing

Our faces glow from the Spirit, not the lack of bathing

With faces aglow, our U’10 team of:

Pastor Jeremey Houlton
Chae and Julia An
Sunny and Rachel Ahn
Raimund Strauck
And Catherine Cha

Stepped back on to U.S. soil.

Dear NHF Family,

In 8 hours, we leave for the airport. 
In 11 hours, our plane will be taxi-ing the runway for liftoff. 
In 14 hours, we’ll be landing in New York.


Even in this one day, our day in Kiev, it felt like K’chug, children’s camp, NHC Camp, was so far away.  That thought is both so sad — we loooooong to be back in K’chug with our NHC friends — and so awesome — we looooooong for Korean food on the way home from the airport! 

Oh yeah, we long to see you all too. =)

We left the church this morning, and as expected, Pr Sasha came to see us off.  It’s just too wonderful that he left Camp early in the morning just to come see us off, even after our melodramatic departure last night (suitable for a Korean drama).  We prayed together before boarding the bus . . . sniffle.

I think every summer team so far will remember the joy that is the hot bus ride to Kiev?  On the one hand, the non-use of artificial air-conditioning is sorta nice . . . but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s for eco-friendly reasons.  It’s just . . . not turned on!  GAG.  So we dragged ourselves into Kiev, had a great Ukrainian buffet lunch, then boarded the Hot Bus again for a tour of the upper city.  Somehow, each subsequent tour never lived up to the grandeur and drama of the 1st winter trip’s tour (remember our tour guide who kept asking us to get off to “make pictures?”) . . . but we survived, and after dropping our bags off at the Kiev Christian Academy (the great quarters at the First Baptist Church fell through; the dorm rooms here are nevertheless lovely, roomy, clean!), we had a short team-meeting before hitting the streets again to explore Kiev on our own time & pace (and without a Hot Bus).

Our meeting was sweet.  The nine of us sitting around the table: JH, Chae, Raimund, me, Sunny, Rachel, Julia, Luda & Sasha.  A whole new team, but somehow entirely familiar and wonderful.  Every year, I and we say the same thing: we can’t imagine ever having trained the team without Luda & Sasha, and we can’t imagine coming home to NY without them either.  The plane will feel desolate without them with us; New York and all y’all don’t know what you’re missing in these dear ones!  I’m telling you, all of you have to take a U-trip, if only to experience life with our Luda and our Sasha!  (On a happy note: Sasha might be coming to the States for an extended visit this fall; let’s pray that God will provide the means & opportunity for him to make a long stop in suburban NY!)  We shared & debriefed, and got to hear some valuable input from Luda & Sasha about their perspective on these past nine days.  We prayed together.  It was pleasing in God’s sight.

Kiev is awesome.  The architecture, the people, the culture, the streets . . . of course, we hit Kreshatik St (remember: combo of 5th Ave & Broadway), ate some pizza for dinner (hey, we can only take so much cabbage and dumplings and fried food), then walked through Independence Square before strolling in the cool night air through upper Kiev, near the President’s House.  Fancy!

And now, it’s way past midnight, and we’re cleaning up and heading to bed . . . admittedly, with a good deal of dread about waking up in the morning to leave.  We’re tired.  It was a hot day.  We walked a lot.

But it was good.  Today was good.  It was a time for our team to just be with each other, speaking all the English we wanted.  JH shared with us this afternoon that one of the things U10 did for him was make him really like we were his friends, the ones who really have his back, and that NY was home.  This trip, more than a month in Elmsford, made him feel more longing for NY as home.  I really appreciated his sharing this with us, and not only because it was complimentary to us.  Of course, there is always something that only U-teams can share with each other and come to know about each other, and each team’s intimacy and special relationship is different from every other.  Forever, these 9 people will be “U10,” and there’s a unique thing that’s been grown between us, in Christ.  Just as JH would see us at Camp and feel instant familiarity and affection, if only because we were English-speakers, so will we all each see each other from now on with that instant special-something . . . it’s a sweet feeling to have this wonderful commonality with these brothers & sisters.

But I also appreciated this sharing because it helped me to see how God used us during this trip, and how we flowed as a team, in our own special way.  I’m so thankful to Him for knitting this team together, and giving us the experiences we had.  I hope our stories will be just as special to you, and that God will grow in you special and specific things, just as he did in us, individually and as a corporate body.

Thinking back over this trip, we’re further thankful for the ways that we got to see NHC in its 4th year of life.  The church has grown in number and maturity.  Shifts have taken place, changes are coming, visions are becoming clearer, etc. etc. etc.  It’s like watching a baby sister grow up — amazing, miraculous, not always easy, but always a grace from God . . .  Can’t wait to tell you all about it . . .

On a personal note . . . once again, I don’t want to come back.  Sunny mentioned me moving here to teach — wouldn’t that be something!  And then, all the U-alums would have a person & reason to visit at any time . . . it’s too fun to imagine . . . but this is the sort of weird thing that God does.  He grows in us a love for things we wouldn’t love naturally.  He makes connections that would be hard-pressed to make without Him.  His blood creates family, and His tongue speaks a language all its own, that can be understood by everyone who knows Him.  We have something really beautiful going on between us and NHC . . . please keep in prayer for our sisterhood, and for this beloved church body . . .

And now, to sleep.  Please pray for our dreams, our waking, our travel.  We really really can’t wait to see you all, and share with you about our 10 days here.  Our bodies are exhausted, but our hearts are full.  We pray that God will prep your hearts to be filled, too.Sweet dreams.

With love, from Ukraine,
c., on behalf of U10

Hi everyone,

It’s night here in K’chug . . . we just got back to the church from Camp.  Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Ok, the good news first.  We’re back to western toilets & hot showers!!!!  I know, I know, it’s such a spoiled American thing to say, but it just had to come out!  =)  But wouldn’t you know it: today, on the last day at Camp, Julia, Sunny & I were walking back from one of the squatty-potties, and we heard ourselves commenting, “Huh, that wasn’t so bad!”  And then we laughed at the wretched irony of getting used to such a scuzzy thing on the last day we’d be there . . .

And here’s the bad news: leaving Camp, leaving our friends, was really, really hard.  It was a hot mess, for sure.  Even for the first-timers, there is a vicarious affection that has been built up over the last three years, so for all 7 of us, it was just so difficult to say goodbye. 

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Hi everyone,

Can u believe we’re only here for another day @ Camp, then 1 more day in Kiev, then home? Sad…

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Hi all,

Day 2 @ Camp is ending … Twas a rainy day today, but it provided much-needed rest 4 all. Even Pr Sasha got to take a nap.

Here’s the run-down:

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Hi all,

We’re @ Camp now = no wifi = no computer = back to “typing” on the Crackberry. Oy vey. Excuse the abbrev’s & spelling errors…

We’re back @ the same site as last year; it felt to Sunny & I like our 3rd home away from home, but this time twas better bc we were here from the start. Getting on & off the bus w/everyone, settling in w/ all, finding our linens, etc. makes us really feel like part of the family.

Bad news first: the girls had their 1st smell of the squatty potties. Half-seriously: pls pray for them. =)

Good news:

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Dear NHF Family,

What day is today?  Am I awake?  Are we really halfway through our trip?  You’re telling me we haven’t been here for 2 months already?

Yes, it’s been that kind of day — the Hump Day, the middle of our trip, the hinge between one series of activities and the next.  

First the funny: U10 performed its skit twice today, at 2 different church services, and each time was a tragi-comedy unto itself.  At 10a, we worshiped at a “daughter” church of NHC.  Because this church is much smaller than NHC (only about 30 people), its worship space is also much smaller . . . which means its stage is, well, near-miniscule.  Width-wise, it was probably about the same as the performance width at home.  But depth-wise . . . I could lay depth-wise, and my feet would hang over the edge.  =O
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Dear NHF family,

Thank God for “Day Two’s” . . .

Chae led us this morning in a devotional from Psalm 43, and encouraged us to put our hope in God, to remind ourselves, speak to ourselves the reminder to trust in He who shines light, and in whom our hope comes to strong fruition.

And with that, we headed back to the “You Are Special” VBS for the final day’s celebrations.  I think we say this every year, but every year, it continues to be true: there is something really special about the little ones here.  There is an affection that is unguarded, a physical closeness that isn’t tainted (for the kids or their parents) by an American suspicion of strangers, and a curiosity that is not hidden (yet) by concepts of shame or false-politeness.  The hugs come quick — we knew the VBS kids for all of 6 hours yesterday, and this morning, they were bombarding us with hugs, hellos, run-on sentences in Russian that none of us had any hope of understanding.  One girl, Katya, even told us that she had prepared some gifts for our team members, but left them at home.  !!!!!  I know, please, take a moment to melt!

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Dear NHF,

It’s evening on our first night here in Kremenchug; the adventure has begun!

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U09: The Hardest Part

June 14, 2009

There is always that pause, right before you click “SUBMIT” to authorize a major credit-card online purchase, when your heart races and your lungs tighten.  You feel a little bit like you can’t breathe, and your fingers tremble slightly over the computer keyboard.  You wonder if you entered all the information accurately, if you got the dates right, if you spelled everything correctly, if you really found the best deal possible.  And after endless minutes of hemming and hawing, the moment comes where you just have to bite the bullet, and buy those darn plane tickets that will zip you and four of your brothers and sisters over to a place of great blessing and joy.  So, with a vague sheen of nervous perspiration starting to sprout up, you do it — you click “SUBMIT” — and wait for the world to implode.  It doesn’t, and so you finally allow yourself the small luxury of self-ridicule.

Shoot, if buying those plane tickets to Ukraine was the hardest part, U09 is going to be a breeze!

It’s official, friends!  Your U09 teamSunny, James A., Cathy, Jeehyun and Robert — is locked in, and they are well into training and receiving blessings so that they can be blessings in Kremenchug, UA.  Please continue praying for these five U09-ers.

And not unimportantly, please also keep in prayer for:

  • Pastor Sasha & New Hope Church: their preparations for Summer Retreat and our joint ministry & evangelization
  • yourselves: U09 trains & travels on the wings of your faith & your support, and the team will be carrying to Ukraine your affection and your blessings for your brothers & sisters abroad.