Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hearing church

(Last in a series of posts about Sundays in Simferopol)

Hearing church actually begins with choir practice at 1:00:
Adult choir
Then, at 2:00 we have Sunday School, which is divided into five groups:
Children's Sunday School class Teen Sunday School class
"New Life" class - mostly singles
Lydia class - for ladies
"Joint Heirs" class - for couples
(This is the class David teaches and the place you'll find me at 2:00pm every Sunday!)

Our main service is then held at 3:00, and is the center of activity for the church. During this time we enjoy special ensembles, choir specials, offertories, church announcements, and most of all... the preaching!
I love my church!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deaf church

(Continuation of a series of posts about Sundays here in Simferopol)...

Sometimes in life, we just "stumble" upon a blessing... something that already exists, but something that we get to join in and enjoy the benefit of. That is the best description I can give of our relationship with our deaf church here. When we moved to the city of Simferopol three years ago, we "stumbled" upon a growing, thriving ministry to the deaf.
Deaf church 2009

Our deaf church does have a beginning to its story, though. It all started in 1994 when Bob and Judy Van Sant answered the call of God on their lives to come to Ukraine to work with the deaf. "Pastor Bob," as we now call him here, had made a short missions trip to Simferopol, a city with a high population of deaf, and God called him to return permanently. Three of his five children were grown, so he, his wife Judy, and two youngest children arrived on Ukrainian soil, fully supported in May, 1996. They held their first services their very first Sunday in Ukraine, with a crowd of 12 deaf people in their apartment! To read more about those very interesting first days of ministry, you can visit their website here.

Bob and Judy Van Sant

Every missionary's goal is to lead people to Christ, and then train men and women to begin doing the same. After Slava and Tanya Kratko's salvation, Slava began growing spiritually by leaps and bounds. He would come to church each Sunday with a list of questions he had drawn up after studying his Bible all week. As Slava learned the Bible, Pastor Bob began defering to him when other deaf had questions. In time, the deaf were looking to Slava as their leader, and Pastor Bob was slowly backing into the shadows.

I heard Pastor Bob, through tears of joy, tell about the day the church voted to take Slava as their pastor. Pastor Bob had asked each of the church people to write on a slip of paper the name of their choice candidate. He then gave the slips of paper to Slava and asked him to go to the back to count them. Slava came back speechless, saying that his name was on every paper! Slava had not expected to ever become a pastor, but the Lord used that situation and other circumstances to call Slava to preach. He has been pastoring the deaf since 2005. (Pastor Bob has since concentrated his efforts on the hearing church, which we pray will one day have its own Ukrainian pastor as well. So, we like to point out to others that our hearing church was started as the ministry of a deaf church... usually it is done the other way around.)

Slava with his wife Tanya and daughter Natasha

Slava's ordination June 12, 2005

Pastor Slava is a man of vision, with a constant desire to see souls saved. He asked if he could begin a deaf church in the city of Sevastopol, an hour's drive away. That deaf church is now pastored by another couple from our deaf church, Andrei and Natasha.

Andrei and Natasha, deaf pastor and his wife in the city of Sevastopol

Pastor Slava has also started churches in the city of Feodocia (about two hours from us) and Yevpatoria (an hour from us).

Church group in Yevpatoria

It would be the experience of a lifetime to see a deaf church such as this one. All services are run typically like you would expect from a hearing church. Congregational "singing" is a normal part of the services. Special music is also to be expected each Sunday. And, maybe the funniest part of all is that you, as the hearing person, can sit and enjoy these services through an interpreter. Lena, our interpreter who is completely hearing but grew up in a deaf home, sits on the first row and "speaks" the signs for those who may not understand the signing.

Deaf congregation, with Lena interpreting for the hearing

Deaf ladies' choir
Special music from a family (deaf parents, hearing daughter)

Mixed choir... their leader will sit in the front and discreetly show them the signs so that they can all stay together.Invitation timeBaptism in a local lakePastor Slava baptizingDeaf men with questions for Pastor Luis Ramos, who visited us from Mexico

Pastor Slava, just after leading this boy (as well as 31 others this day!) to the Lord

David and I were invited to Simferopol to help in the hearing church, mainly to start a Bible college. When we first moved here, we attended the deaf services which are held Sunday mornings, beginning at 9:00am. Since then, the American missionaries have purposefully backed away from their services, in order to allow Slava the liberty of pastoring his own people. (And this is the way it should be!) Our Wednesday evening services are combined - deaf and hearing - and about 75% of church functions are combined as well.

So, do we know sign language? Not really. We have picked up a few signs here and there, but we have not applied ourselves to learn it yet. We are very focused on the hearing church and have not set aside time for formal training. However, tonight during church I beamed with happiness as I looked over and saw my Davey (age 7), who was sitting in his usual spot on the front row, following the interpreter and signing during our congregational singing! God knows just exactly what the future holds for our family. Maybe one of our children will rise up and take an active part in the deaf ministry. I would be thrilled about that! We will just wait... and see...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pray for David... and for us

An opportunity arose for my David to return to Israel for a ten-day trip. He will be assisting our pastor emeritus, Dr. Vineyard, in some meetings in Jerusalem. Then, he will be the guide for a group of nearly 50 Mexican pastors, their wives, and church members as they tour the Kenesset (Israeli Paliament) building and meet with Israeli leaders. This trip is being paid for by dear friends who extended this offer to me as well. However, I decided to stay home with my children this time. I told David, "I only get 18 years with our children, and that time will be gone before we know it!" Since I just enjoyed a trip to Israel, I did not want to turn around and leave them again.

So.... please pray for David's safety, and for the four of us who are remaining behind. I do not like being separated from my hubby - my love, my security, my hero - but I want God to use us whereever He sees fit, and I pray that David can be a special blessing to others during the next ten days.

And, pray for the children and I to make some very special memories together as well!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sundays... through my children's eyes

Sundays are exceptionally special days for our family. We are missionaries, so Sundays are our biggest day of the week... the culmination of a week's work. Everything that we do throughout the week is geared towards making Sundays, the Lord's Day, the best it can be.

I am going to begin a series of posts about Sundays here in Simferopol. I thought I would begin by showing you what Sundays are like through my children's eyes, because Sunday mornings always start out with the announcement, "Today is Sunday!" and cheers from the children. I think you will be able to see why through the pictures in this post.

Sunday mornings begin with deaf church, but I will be doing a separate post about these services. We presently do not attend these services (but more about this later). So, we enjoy a quiet morning at home which is actually our only quiet morning of the week. The other mornings are spent on homeschooling and visitation.

Sometimes we eat lunch at a local pizzeria, which is a very special treat for our kids. When we do not eat lunch here, we eat at home, usually because we are going to be picking someone up to take with us to church. Here are some pictures of our "pizza days:"

Our church day starts at 1:00 with adult choir practice. During this time, the children of the choir members play together under the supervision of an adult. At 2:00, all of the Sunday School classes begin.

Children's Sunday School class, taught by Katya:

At 2:30, the children go to children's choir practice. This is taught by Nelya and our church pianist, Marina.

(One of my all-time favorite pictures of my sweet Brianna, sitting in children's choir practice)
At 3:00, the main services begin and the children start out in the auditorium with the adults. Once a month, the children's choir performs for these services.

Just before the preaching begins, the children are dismissed to go to their own class. This class is taught by two different teachers, Katya and Lena. Several different young ladies assist during this time.

The teachers are great at preparing props, including this poster-board song, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath given unto us..."

Church is usually finished by 5:00. After fellowship and a 25-minute drive home, we usually find the children in the backseat around 6:00, looking like this:

Ahhh.... it's been another wonderful Sunday!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Banquet

This past Saturday, the couples in our church enjoyed a Valentine's Banquet held in a favorite restaurant in our city. It is financially difficult for our people to treat themselves to something such as a restaurant dinner; therefore, we charge them a minimal fee for their tickets; then, the missionaries split the remaining bill. This is something we enjoy treating our people to from time to time, and the memories created are always worth the cost and effort!

In this post, I will introduce you to the husbands and wives of our church and tell you a little about each one of them. I know that most of you will never have the opportunity to meet these dear people, but they are some of the most precious people one could ever meet and I am humbled that we have the privilege of serving here with them.

This past summer, David was able to start a new Sunday School class in the hearing church, the "Joint Heirs" class, for married couples. God has blessed this class, and we have seen some of the men who were coming occasionally become a more regular part of our church. As in most cultures, it is harder for the men to be faithful to church than it is for the ladies. However, this class has encouraged the men to join their wives in Sunday School, and we are grateful for the spiritual growth we have seen.

Enjoy these pictures!

Restaurant where the Valentine's Banquet was held

John and Cathy O'Brien, missionaries to Kharkov, Ukraine, which is several hours north of us. Bro. O'Brien was our guest speaker this year.Quartet that sang "God is Love"Playing a paper game. The goal was to make a hole large enough in a single sheet of paper for a person to go through. The hole had to be completely whole and no tape was allowed. (You can find instructions here.) The first couple who succeededThe O'Briens did not finish first, but their hole was certainly a winner for being the largest! In fact, they demonstrated for us how easily TWO people could go through their one sheet of paper!


Slava and Tanya - Pastor and his wife of the deaf church. These people have one of the most amazing testimonies you will ever hear, and I would like to share it with you here one day. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it!
Oleg and Alla - some of the finest servants you will ever meet. They are an example and conviction to me!
Ivan and Galya - They recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, and are some of the happiest, kindest people I have ever met.
Pavel and Lena - They are long-time members of our church and have an 8-year old hearing daughter, Vera, who is a very dear friend to my children.
Pastor Andrei and Natasha - They have left our church to go out and start their own deaf church in a city one hour away. What an encouragement to see their Biblical example of reproducing themselves!

Pastor Bob and Mrs. Judy Van Sant, who came to Ukraine 14 years ago as missionaries to the deaf, but later started a hearing church as well. (*A big thanks to them for many of the pictures in this post!)Tony and Dawn Hess, missionary colleagues who eventually plan to launch out and start their own church. Bro. Tony is our choir director and teacher of the "New Life" class.Victor and Marina - Marina is an interpreter in our church who interprets many of the things we distribute... Sunday School lessons, booklets, etc...Misha and Tamara - They have a ministry to the Muslim population here.Dima and Marina - He is our song leader, and she is our church pianist.Valentine and Nadia - This couple was recently married. He was a widower and she had never been married. So, they are our church honeymooners!Sasha and Irina - They are the aunt and uncle of a dear teenager, Alina, who has a rare disease that has softened her spine. I would also like to share their amazing story on here one day.Tolik and Ducia - They both work for the railroads here and are our neighbors in the village. SHE is the village mayor where we live!Sergei and Natasha - Sergei was recently saved and they are some of the most faithful people to our church!
Me and my Valentine!