Friday, November 27, 2009

How we spent Thanksgiving on the mission field

I got letters from some of you saying that the last few posts that I have written were sent out all jumbled. I had clicked the option of a "newer, improved" Blogger, but apparently, it is best for me to just stick with the old, tried-and-true. Hopefully, this post will be readable in your inboxes this time.
For Thanksgiving, we were invited to Missionary Pastor Bob Van Sant's home. As you know, we work in the church the Van Sant's started 13 years ago. The Hess family who remained in Ukraine (half are in America for a funeral) were invited as well. There were 10 of us in all.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in a country other than America is always quite the fun challenge. (Last year we spent Thanksgiving in Mexico!) For one, you can not just walk into your local grocery store and find all of the Thanksgiving food items conveniently grouped together near the front doors. In fact, many of the foods we think of as traditional Thanksgiving foods can not even be found here, such as stuffing, cornbread, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, corn syrup (for pecan pie), etc... Praise the Lord that the Van Sants were able to find some of these things on a recent trip to visit their son in Germany. And as for the turkey, well... those little guys are made to order here (or should I have said killed when you order here?!) All of the decorations you see in these pictures were carried in the Van Sant's suitcases and saved especially for this day.

A big, special, public thanks to the Van Sants and all of their hard work to make Thanksgiving special for our family this year! We had such a great time!

This week I reached 100 active subscribers! This number may be small to you, but to me it is HUGE because if each subscriber is praying for us, then I know that God is hearing our names at least 100 times a day! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Humanitarian Aid distributed!

Last spring I wrote about our church receiving humanitarian aid from America. To get all of the details about that, you can go to that blog post here. SIX TONS of humanitarian aid came in a couple of months ago, and just a few weeks ago we were able to begin distributing it. So much paperwork is involved with clearing customs that the humanitarian aid had to just sit in a storage unit and wait to be delivered.

Last week we had the privilege of giving about 400 boxes of clothing to our church. The rest was given to several handicapped organizations throughout Crimea, hospitals, and to the needy. Several boxes of things were even given to a family from a nearby village whose house burned completely down. The father was at work, the mother had gone to the market, I believe, and the two children, ages 5 and 2, were left home alone when an electrical fire started. The children got scared and ran out of the house, and I praise God that the mother did not lock the doors when she left and that the children were smart enough to run outside and not hide in a closet or under a bed. Here is a picture of that family on the day our church was able to load them up with clothing, shoes, and winter coats:

We opened our church doors for three days and allowed our church members to come sort through the clothing and take what they wanted. Each person had to bring their passport and were allowed to take 10 kilograms (22 pounds) worth of items, all free of charge. The limit was put to keep people from taking things to sell (and, yes, unfortunately, that does happen!). About half of those who came were visitors, mostly family and close friends of our church members. We encouraged our members to bring guests, but asked that they keep their visitors to a minimum, to keep the church from becoming chaotic. Several of the church leaders took turns "working" the tables, recording passport numbers (which is required by law), and weighing bags. I worked one of the days, on a nine-hour shift, and David worked a different day. Many people worked hard and gave of their time (all on a volunteer basis), and everyone left grateful. It was a very satisfying work, and I am honored to have been a part of the project. I am especially grateful for those in America who donated these items to help the people in our region. Even though most of the things were not new (though I did find a few things with price tags!), I was pleased to see that almost everything we received was only gently used and almost everything was still in great condition.

The most gratifying part to me, though, was setting aside children's and teen's clothing the day I worked, to be delivered to our orphanage. Here are some pictures of the happy recipients:

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I am so thankful for each of you who read my blog and pray for this ministry. You are such a valuable part of what we do here!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Goals for this Blog

1. First and foremost, to honor my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
2. To show you what areas you can specifically pray for us in.
3. To show you what it is like for me and my family to live in Ukraine.
4. To get each and every one of you to consider taking a missions trip (might I recommend Simferopol, Ukraine?!)
5. To let you see my sweet children grow up here on the mission field through pictures, since you can not see them in person.
6. To make you aware of Simferopol Baptist Church, her ministries, her goals, and her needs.
7. To relay to you my specific burden for Ukraine's orphans, so that you will pray for them and for us as we determine the best ways to reach out to them.
8. To show you that we are just normal people doing a work for an extraordinary Savior!
9. To show you the challenges we face, but the blessings we enjoy as well.
10. To be a positive example to you of the joys of serving God full-time!
11. To encourage you to be a missionary as well, wherever you are.

If you know anyone that would benefit from this blog or that would want to join in prayer for us, please feel free to invite them to join me on here!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pray for one another

This past Saturday my brother-in-law Andrew's father passed away. I never met Andrew's father, but from all of the testimonies I have heard about him, he was an amazing Christian man.... a Mexican indian who was reached decades earlier with the Gospel by a missionary family. This man was in 80's and had more than 500 people attend his funeral on Sunday! Please pray for Andrew, Anna (my husband's sister) and Andrew's mother who is now a widow.


I'd also like to ask you to pray for Dawn Hess. The Hess family are missionaries here who work together with us in Simferopol Baptist Church. They are a family who is sincerely dedicated to the cause of Christ, and we are privileged to work along-side them in the ministry. I had planned to introduce them here on my blog in the near future, but I am doing it earlier than I planned because they need your prayers right now. Dawn's father passed away on Sunday, and yesterday she flew back to America with her two oldest sons, Marc and Joshua, to attend the two different funerals that will be taking place over the next week. Dawn has been requesting prayer in church for her father's salvation for many, many months now, but as far as we know, he never accepted Christ as his Savior. I know this time is especially difficult for them, with their family now separated on two different continents as well as the emotional turmoil of her father's uncertain eternal destination.

Please take a moment to stop what you are doing and lift these families' names to our Heavenly Father, the only One who can truly comfort us in our times of sorrow. I appreciate your prayers for us, but now I ask that your prayers extend beyond our needs, to the needs of our extended family and friends.

I get oodles of comments sent to my personal e-mail address, but I'd like to ask that you comment right here on my blog this time. Both of these families faithfully read my blog, so I would love it if they could see your encouraging words right on here.

Thank you, my dear friends and prayer partners!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our home - kitchen

Well, here it is: my favorite part of my home and the center of activity for our family. This is where I will be preparing warm, nutritious meals for my loved ones and entertaining countless guests.

I chose my kitchen cabinets about a month ago, and they were delivered and installed just more than a week ago. If you look closely, you will see unfinished areas, including the ever-famous concrete walls all around (like we still have in every room!). But, I am just thrilled to be able to be a normal housewife once again! No more Ramen noodles, sandwiches, cafes, etc... Time for some good, old-fashioned cooking! Eventually I will have bar stools here... ideal for extra seating when we have guests and also a perfect place for my little homeschoolers to sit and get help while I wash dishes!

We do not even have gas in our village, but David bought us a small gas tank and will keep it filled just for this purpose. We chose this gas stove with the hopes that one day gas will eventually make it out to our village!My mother-in-law sent me money as a housewarming gift, and this sink and faucet were what I bought with that money. Since she and I have made countless memories talking at the kitchen sink while washing dishes, I thought it would only be appropriate to buy this with the money she gave me. Also, since I am a sentimental-type person, I bought this double sink for myself (the large side) and my little girl (the small side). Brianna is only 2-years old, but I know that we will have lots of talks together at this kitchen sink, as well.

Thanks, Mom, for encouraging another generation of sink-washing memories for me with my own daughter!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Andrew's salvation


On Sunday, 12-year old Andrew was saved! He has grown up in a Christian home, but after Pastor Bob's Sunday School lesson to the teens, Andrew asked if he could be saved. Praise the Lord, we have people saved in our church on a fairly consistent basis, but I chose to feature Andrew's salvation here on my blog because his family is very special to our church. They are one of the only families that we have in our church that is faithfully represented by every entity of the family... father, mother, and children. Also, Andrew's parents are very involved with serving.... his father Dima is our song leader and his mother Marina is our church pianist (and she is a very good pianist!) Marina has even given some piano lessons to our son Davey, but those lessons stopped once we moved out into the village. I would like to figure out a way to coincide our busy schedules once again, though, so that he can continue his lessons. But that is another subject...

Andrew has an eye problem that could one day leave him blind.... in one or both eyes. He has had numerous surgeries and procedures done on his eyes. Just as Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer was able to sing, "And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story saved by grace...," we know that Andrew now has this hope of seeing His Saviour face to face.... and clearly.... one day in Heaven! Praise God for Andrew's salvation!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mom's New Blog!

I am thrilled to announce that my sweet, darling mother-in-law has started a blog! Now, I know you come to my blog to see pictures, but if you want to read what a real author has to say, click here!

Now, I am going to share with you something Mom (yes, she is my Mom now too!) has taught me through her words, yes, but mostly through her example. And here it is, exactly how she put it: write, write, write! When David and I were dating, every week he would savor the words from his mother, on a hand-written letter, always written on the same type of paper and always written on both sides to the very last line of the page. (And I always got a certain satisfaction out of checking his weekly letters to make sure she made it to the last line again! I guess I always loved that consistent preciseness.) At this time David was in college and his letters were very special to him because they were sent each week from the mission field of Mexico, where his parents served. And, oh, how he missed home! Mom has faithfully done this for each of her eight children, letting them know that, even though they were far away, she still made special time for each of them. Now that the internet has become such a popular household item, she now sends a weekly "Mom on Monday" e-mail to each of her children. Because of her busy schedule, she does not always get to write on Monday, but her letters come faithfully every week. And part of our entertainment of the week is to see the title that dons her e-mails: "Mom on Monday on Thursday," for example. The translation of that is: "Here is my 'Mom on Monday' letter that I did not get to send until Thursday." Oh, we have such fun anticipating which day we will receive our "Mom on Monday"!

Another thing Mom is faithful to in her writing is birthday cards. I have saved every birthday card she has ever sent to us. But her birthday cards have a span much farther than her own family. Many of you can attest to this. Another fun tradition I was able to get in on when I joined the Sloan clan was the "birthday card" morning ritual. When you have a list like Mom's, there is bound to be at least two or three birthday cards passed around the breakfast table for everyone to sign before she seals the envelope. I have signed hundreds of cards (birthday, anniversary, you name it) that really were from her. But since I am part of the family, I have somehow received a portion of the credit too.

Mom is also a true-blue author. To get a copy of her book Tom and Me, click here. This book is a down-to-earth and very honest look at her life with her medical doctor/missionary husband and their adventures on the mission field together. If you have not read this book yet, buy it for yourself for Christmas!

So, anyway, why should I write, write, write? I have thought about that many times through the last ten years or so, and I think I have come to understand. Mom's eight children have stacks of letters from their Mother that they will forever treasure. In our family, we will not be passing family heirlooms such as Victorian teacups or turn-of-the century sewing machines to our children. We will be passing letters. And what about those birthday cards? Well, my list sure is not as long as Mom's (and I purposefully try to keep it short since I have small children at home), but I have picked up on her birthday card-sending tradition. And, even though mine are not nearly as personal (usually mine are just a quick e-mail), I have learned from Mom to take a minute and remember others on their special days.

Which now brings me to the subject of blogging... I feel that missionary wives have a unique experience and something they can share with those who may never have the opportunity to leave American soil in their lifetimes. And though many of you attend churches where prayer letters hang prominently in your auditoriums or hallways, I understand that those prayer letters are the husband's "black and white version" of the mission field. When we ladies write, we get to share the "color version"! God is doing amazing things on our respective fields, but we want you to see the everyday experiences as well... the living without a bathroom for a month (I have not told you that part yet, have I?!), the centipedes under our mattresses, and the way we spend our holidays, just to name a few.

So, missionary wives... I want to challenge you too: write, write, write! Join us in this blogging world. But I want to caution each of you, just as my hubby cautioned me: Don't be negative! Be real, but do not be negative. Take your burdens to the Lord, but keep your letters back home uplifting. Our God takes care of us in miraculous ways and the world needs to see that. Some of my most difficult days have been here on the mission field, but I am not going to tell you about those days. The Lord already knows.

Be sure to subscribe to Mom's blog when you are there and enjoy reading from a missionary who has been serving on her beloved field for 49 years now. Talk about faithfulness!

Mom, you keep on writing, writing, writing and we will be reading, reading, reading!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meet Simba... and someone else....

Simba is our very first family dog. We got her the day after we moved into our home, in order to fulfill the long-time promise to our kids: "When we get our own house, we'll get you a dog." She is a German pincher and about six months old. We found her at an outdoor market, where sellers and donors line up next to the street. The particular owner of this dog was giving her away (and all of the rest of the dogs out that day were for sale). The kids fell in love with her, so we thought, "Well, what have we got to lose?" So far, she has been a really great dog, the kids are happy... so Dad and Mom are happy! We dowloaded a list of popular dog names from the Internet and "Simba" is the name our boys chose. She's a cute little thing, isn't she?!

Someone else we got for free is someone we did NOT choose to bring home. We found this centipede crawling on the underside of our mattress about a month ago.... Good thing we were still in that ever-changing mode of moving our beds from room to room every couple of nights so the builders could lay more concrete, etc... Otherwise, we may have found it in bed with us! And you, my dear sweet blogger friends, would have heard my screams, regardless of how far apart we live from each other!
Something did bite David on his leg a couple of weeks ago and left a hard, swollen, painful spot that made it hard for him to even sit for a couple of days. His skin was even very hot to touch in the area around the bite. Hmmm... makes me wonder if this little guy's brother did indeed crawl into bed with us during the night. But, some things are better left unknown......

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Today, November 3rd, we woke up to our first snow! The men have been working for a week now on getting our heated floors hooked up and running for the first time. Today it was decided that the boiler we bought was faulty. Sadly, here it is not as simple as running it back to Lowe's or Home Depot and getting an exchange or refund. David tried to take the boiler back, but to no avail. So we are going to buy another one (because we can't wait to get it fixed... we are COLD!), and then just work on finding someone who can, Lord-willing, repair this one. The good thing is that we are going to need another boiler anyway, whenever we get to the next phase of heating our home: the bedrooms. So, if we can get this boiler fixed, we will be able to use it anyway.

So, how have we been staying warm? By following a very simple Biblical principle found in Ecclesiastes 4:11 "If two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?" Now, imagine how much warmer it is when you have FIVE, not just two! [And isn't it just fitting that our memory verse in family devotions this week is the verse found just before that, "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."] Families need each other!

We have all been sleeping in one room and we have small space heaters that have been keeping us sufficiently warm. God is so good and never lets us go without anything! Slowly but surely life is getting easier here. I can't wait to show you some of the improvements we have made recently. I think you will be pleased! But that will have to wait for another post...

The Winning Picture

At our Couple's Retreat, our team won the photo contest. However, the best picture, hands down, was taken by another team, and I wanted to share that picture with you. Isn't this great?!This picture was entered for the "Unusual Perspective" category... The "strong guy" in the front is Missionary to Odessa, Ukraine, Mark Priem. He is "holding" his wife Lydia and one of the men from his church. Way to go, guys, on truly original creativity! (And, hey, whoever said it wasn't fun being a missionary?! We find ways to keep ourselves entertained!)