Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A New Baby in the Family

PHILIP, LIZ, JOSH, AND SAMUEL SLOAN

On Monday, July 20th, the Lord added a new grandbaby to the Sloan family. Since there are eight Sloan children and all of the ladies (or the wives of the Sloan men) are in their child-bearing years, the number of grandbabies keeps growing at a very fast rate! The number of grandbabies is close to 30 now. Just to give you an idea of the growth rate, my 5-year-old is the 12th grandbaby...

Meet Mark Alan Ralph Sloan, 3rd son of Philip and Liz (my brother-in-law and his wife who are missionaries in Chiapas, Mexico). Since many of you know them, I thought I would add these pictures here on my blog so that you could rejoice with us in his birth. Little Mark was born by way of C-section and weighed 7.1 pounds. Isn't he just adorable?! I can't wait to meet him some day (although I'm sure he'll be MUCH bigger when that day comes!).


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Ukraine?

We are asked this question often, since David grew up on the mission field of Mexico. Both his parents and grandparents were missionaries to Mexico, and David speaks Spanish fluently. So, the natural thing, it seems, would be for us to stay in Mexico. I would be the only one to need to learn a language, we would be close to David's family, and we would be much closer to the USA border and Wal-Mart! However, that is not what God had planned for us.

David's calling to Ukraine actually goes back several decades to when our pastor, Dr. Jim Vineyard, signed up in high school to take a Russian course. Dr. Vineyard had a girlfriend (or maybe it was just someone he was interested in) who was going to be taking the class, and he thought this would be an excellent opportunity to see her more often. However, several days later this young lady quit the class, and Dr. Vineyard's father would not let him quit because "Vineyards are not quitters!" This gained knowledge of the Russian language later led him to undercover operations as a soldier in the American army. Many years later, Dr. Vineyard would return to Russia and other former Russian countries for a greater purpose: to spread the Gospel. After one of these such trips, David was sitting in Dr. Vineyard's congregation, listening to Dr. Vineyard share the great opportunities that lie in the former Soviet Union, stating that "so many have been saved, but there is no one to stay and disciple them." God used this to speak to David's heart, and at the age of 17, David surrendered specifically to be a missionary to the country of Ukraine.

When I was just 15 years old, some young people in my youth group (also a part of this church) took a missions trip to Ukraine. That next year, so much was said about Ukraine, that I determined I was going on the next trip. So, at the age of 16, I was one of five young ladies that traveled with my youth director and one of his assistants. I was a bus kid and thought I knew what poverty was. However, this trip opened my eyes and helped me to return to America a changed person. Not only did I feel compassion for the economical burdens of the Ukrainians, I also felt a deeper burden for their spiritual needs. I just knew in my heart that I would go back some day. David and I began dating when we were both 17 years old and, well, you know.... "the rest is history."

Just this week I was asked by a teenager through an e-mail "How did you know that Ukraine was the country God wanted you and your family to go to?" We are actually asked this by young people often, so I thought I would answer it here on my blog.

There are no two people alike. One of the unique privileges of Christianity is that we have ONE God who can speak to billions of people in very different ways. So, there is no "formula" answer for knowing how to know where God wants you to be a missionary. However, I do believe there are some basic principles that apply to everyone....

1. Lamentations 3:51 says "Mine eye affecteth my heart." God will use things you SEE to speak to your heart.... this could be through missionary presentations or letters, National Geographic magazines, etc...
2. EXPERIENCES such as my trip to Ukraine
3. Other PEOPLE'S BURDENS such as my Pastor's personal experience that he shared from the pulpit, or through my youth group's return from an earlier mission trip.

Of course, these points are not all-inclusive. However, if you feel like God is calling you to a specific place, pray about it for 30 days. This is what my youth director recommended to me, in order for me to have time to understand whether or not I was making an emotional decision or not. After 30 days, I still felt like God wanted me in Ukraine. I never made a public decision in front of the church, but I promised God that I would go wherever He wanted me ("but please let me go back to Ukraine!") Well, God gave me the desires of my heart, and here I am, joyfully serving Him and loving every minute of it!

When I was in grade school, I thought God wanted me to be a missionary to Africa. In Junior High and High School I felt specific burdens for Mexico, China, and the Jail Ministries... all at separate Missions Conferences or because of certain speakers or people. There is a drive in teenagers to know exactly what their future holds (and this is not a bad thing in and of itself), but many times it causes an uneasiness and a "need" to make a public profession to a specific field, if this teenager has already surrendered to missions. As an adult, I now understand that I was feeling burdens for specific places, because I, like all Christians, have been called to be a witness to the lost and I was feeling a burden for different peoples God has created. Knowing this, my advice to teenage girls who feel that God has called them to missions would be this: be willing to go anywhere. In the meantime, continue to seek counsel from your parents and your pastor as to the person to whom God has for you to marry. One day, when God reveals His will to you about whom to marry, the decision of where will most likely be settled. As long as you are fully surrendered to God's will right now, then you are in God's will right now!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Church in the Woods and Baptism

One Sunday a year, our church meets in a wooded area close to a lake for our services and a picnic. During this time, those that have been saved over the last year are baptized in the lake. This is a Sunday we all look forward to the whole year long! The fellowship is great, the food is awesome (we have "plov" each year - a rice with meat that is cooked over an open grill), and it is wonderful to welcome new members into the church.

DAVID PREACHING, WITH LENA INTERPRETING FOR THE DEAF

GROUP SHOT OF THOSE BAPTIZED

BRO. TONY HESS HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF BAPTIZING TWO OF HIS OWN CHILDREN, CALEB AND ANNA!

PASTOR SLAVA BAPTIZED THE MEMBERS FROM THE DEAF CHURCH. HE IS INSTRUCTING THEM HERE BEFORE HE BAPTIZES.

DAVID BAPTIZED THOSE FROM THE HEARING CHURCH
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized..." Acts 2:41a

Happy 5th Birthday, Nate!


My darling middle child celebrated his 5th birthday today. Since his birthday fell on a Sunday, we were not able to do a whole lot of special things for him; however, tomorrow we plan to take him to the zoo and grill hot dogs here at home for him. That is all he asked to do, so we are going to make it the greatest day ever for him. I wish you could know my Nate. He is a "walking good time." He carries "fun" with him everywhere he goes. What a great character he has! I cannot wait to see how the Lord uses this precious little man one day....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Progress on our house

Here are some updated pictures on our house that is being built. It is looking pretty, isn't it?!

FRONT VIEW

BACK VIEW

SIDE VIEW

MY PRETTY ROOF. I WANTED A CLAY-COLORED TERRA-COTTA SORT OF LOOK. ISN'T IT GORGEOUS?!
PROGRESS INSIDE - BRIANNA'S ROOM IS TO THE LEFT, MAIN BATHROOM ON THE RIGHT

THIS IS WHAT ALL OF OUR INTERIOR WALLS LOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW. THEY ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON THE ELECTRICAL WIRING.

MY SWEETIES FOUND THE SAND PILE OUT BACK. THEY ALREADY FEEL AT HOME HERE! (See where they kicked their shoes off?!)

God provided for Misha's heart sugery!

I mentioned recently that there is a young man by the name of Misha that needs prayer. His heart is extremely weak and he has been given only six months to live if does not have surgery (I believe it will be an open-heart sugery). Well, I wanted to let you know that GOD has provided the money! As soon as they can get him stabilized and he can get as much of the preliminary work done here (blood tests, etc.), he will be traveling by train to the capital city of Kiev, which is a 14-hour train ride, for his surgery. He still needs much prayer, but the first step of getting the money has been accomplished. In Ukraine, the doctors will not provide surgery unless you can pay the money upfront. His mother had taken off from work to beg friends and family to help them with this incredible cost. But, they were only able to come up with about 20% on their own. The family told us that they just thought they were going to have to watch their son die. God provided a miracle for them, and David and I had the privilege of watching the tears of joy that fell from their eyes when they received the other 80%. I will never forget that moving moment for as long as I live.

MISHA WITH HIS FATHER, OLEG (A DEACON IN OUR DEAF CHURCH)

Please continue praying for Misha. He has a long way to go yet. We are praying that God will do a work on his heart in two ways: physically and spiritually. His parents are two of the most precious people you will meet this side of Heaven. Bro. Oleg, Misha's father, is a deacon in our deaf church. Both he and his wife are completely deaf and serve joyfully, always available to help with anything and everything. Every church needs a couple like these dear people. Let's pray God will work a miracle for their sakes!

Chocolate Chip cookies from America!

My all-time favorite cookies are chocolate chip, and we cannot get brown sugar or chocolate chips here in Ukraine to make them. There are several things that we Americans consider to be "basics" that we do not have here. Usually I will bring some of these things with me, but packing for two years at a time makes it impossible to bring very much. Shipping is very expensive, so we choose not to go that route either. Anyway, please don't feel sorry for us... that is not what this blog post is all about. Besides, I remind myself often that it is better for our health and waistlines not to have some of these things!

Not long ago David's sister Sarah (Knabb), also a missionary's wife in Vera Cruz, Mexico was in America and decided to ship us a "goodie box." One of the things she sent us was a package of Chocolate Chip cookie mix! We can't get any type of mixes here either (pancake, biscuit, corn bread, cake, cookie, etc...), so I am used to making everything from scratch. So, this little package was a blessing to us in more ways than one!

We do have M&M's and chocolate candy bars here, so we can use those as a substitution for chocolate chips. However, my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookies are the "real deal" - made from brown sugar (not regular white) and chocolate chips. But, even better than that were these "packaged" ones that we were eating 20 minutes after we opened the package! Here are some pictures of my kids enjoying the cookies (and, yes, I DID share!):

DAVEY

NATE

BRIANNA
Thank you, Uncle Jason and Aunt Sarah!!! We still have some more goodies that we are looking forward to!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Ukrainian Wedding

Nelya is a young Ukrainian lady who works in our church (specifically in our orphanage ministry). Her brother, Misha, was married this past weekend and we drove the eight hours to Cherkassy to watch their wedding ceremony. I have personally known this family for 14 years now, since they were at the camp I attended on a missions trip when I was 16 years old.

Ukrainian celebrations are an all-day event... very much unlike our own wedding, where we were pulling away in our limosine less than three hours after the whole event started! This couple was married on a Sunday, immediately following the morning services. No one was dismissed after the regular church sermon. After the regular final prayer, the pastor simply went into the second part of the service... the wedding. We were still standing from that final prayer, and the wedding party started walking down the aisle. I had never seen a service run like this, and I really liked it. It gave every church member an opportunity to watch them be married, including those who would normally not come to a separate wedding ceremony. The pastor also used this opportunity to encourage the entire church to warmly welcome this new couple into the fold.

After the church ceremony was over, church was dismissed and those who were "invited guests" traveled over to a rented school cafeteria for a dinner and program. There was an entire program, filling a full typed page of events. We did not stay for the full program, but I do have some pictures of some of the things that went on. Everything you can imagine was included on that program... from songs, to children quoting poems about Christian love (our children were included on that), to individuals giving a public congratulation, to power-point presentations, and even to funny skits.

Congratulations to Misha and Carolina, and we pray that God's blessings will be rich in their lives. Here are some pictures of the day God made these two become one:

CHURCH CEREMONY

WEDDING CAKE - ALL HAND-MADE (except the topper) BY MISHA'S AUNT

PARENTS PERFORMING A UKRAINIAN CUSTOM

WATCHING A POWER-POINT PRESENTATION WHILE EATING

DAVID'S PUBLIC CONGRATULATION FROM OUR FAMILY AND FROM SIMFEROPOL BAPTIST CHURCH TO THE BRIDE AND GROOM

A VERY HILARIOUS SKIT PERFORMED BY TWO OF MISHA'S SISTERS, NELYA & LARISA (these girls are really in their early 20's!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Men's Fishing Trip

Okay, this one is for the men who read my blog...!

About 15 of our church men got together for a fishing trip. Three of the men stayed up all night long. A couple of the men took their boys, and the children were more interested in swimming most of the time. Both of my boys came home with sunburns and exciting stories. Here are some pictures from their "overnighter." (And, many thanks to the Mitchums for supplying me with these pictures!)

Bro. Sasha (who formerly served in the Soviet army and who is an avid fisherman) heading up the activity

Bro. Sasha's "tent"

Waiting for a catch

These men are clever with their tents! Notice their comfortable beds...

Ahhh... regular Coleman tents as well. Not too much suffering going on here!

On a side note, please pray for a young adult man (about my age) by the name of Misha who is experiencing severe heart problems. He is the son of a dear deaf couple in our church, Oleg and Alla. Misha was hospitalized today and told that he would not have lived more than 48 hours if he had not been seen by a doctor. The family is currently trying to gather money and get him to Kiev, the capital city, for bypass surgery. Without this sugery, they were told he only has six months to live. Pray that God will touch Misha's heart physically and spiritually through all of this!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pastor Lonnie Moore Sings...

It was our privilege to have Pastor Lonnie Moore from Nicholasville, Kentucky, visit us recently here in Ukraine and stay in our home. Our own pastor, Dr. Jim Vineyard, suggested that we have Pastor Moore (whom we had never met) come here to sing to our people. Dr. Vineyard and Pastor Moore were to be in Israel together, and since it is fairly inexpensive to fly from Israel to Ukraine, Dr. Vineyard suggested he make this trip before heading back to Kentucky. Pastor Moore accepted our invitation, and we planned a special service where Bro. Moore had the opportunity to sing more than 30 minutes during our Sunday church service.


PASTOR & MRS. MOORE

We took Bro. Moore several places while he was here (not letting him rest much, I'm afraid), and one of the places he was able to visit and sing in was a sweet 16-year-old handicapped girl's home. This special young lady, Alina, has been saved as a result of Simferopol Baptist Church's soulwinning outreach. Alina is an incredible overcomer, and I hope to tell her story here on my blog soon. However, for now, I wanted to share this special video with you of Pastor Moore's singing to our precious Alina.

Thank you, Pastor Moore, for coming. You were a tremendous blessing to us personally and to our people. Thank you, Dr. Vineyard, for suggesting this meeting. Now, get out your Kleenex, set aside some time, and let your heart be blessed by this video. Just follow this link... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq9Cht9B1EM (My hubby David is doing the videoing).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Davey quoting Scriptures!

We are homeschooling using A Beka's DVD program. I am very pleased with their program, especially for the passages of Scriptures that Davey is learning in the 1st grade. You may be wondering why we are still homeschooling in June.... well, while we were on furlough last fall I decided not to be "superwoman" and try to "do it all." So, we focused on furlough at that time and enjoyed taking the kids on many "field trips." We officially started this school year in January, and we are scheduled to finished in August, just in time to start the next school year in September. One of the advantages of homeschooling is flexibility!


video