Thursday, April 28, 2011

Micah at 3 months

Ten little fingers,
Ten tiny toes,
The sweetest of smiles
And a cute little nose.All these add up
To a very special thing...
A baby ---
The greatest of gifts
That life can bring.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Missionary Monday - Welcome to my Village

With this post, I am starting a series about life out in our village. Since most of you will never get to come and visit me {even though I am extending a warm invitation, my friends}, then I am going to give you a picture tour.

When you leave the city of Simferopol, you have another 5-7 minutes to drive to find our village, and you will see this sign, indicating that you are no longer within the city limits of Simferopol. The last available store is this one shown below. I've only been to it once and decided not to go back since they mostly only sell alcohol, dried fish, and bread.Once you leave the main road, there are three or four other villages nestled among the trees, and beautiful fields where wheat grows for miles. God gave us a little piece of heaven on earth out here. Though life is very simple and mere survival becomes of utmost importance at times, there is no denying God's beauty all around us. We love our peaceful drives home.Pictured below is the first little tree-lined dirt road you come to in our village. This is one of four roads we take into our house, which is about 1/4 mile down from the asphalt road. Depending on the time of year and the severity of the mud or snow on these little dirt roads, it is always a question of which one we will drive down next. One of two bus stops in our village:In my next post, I will show you pictures of the homes in my village. Eventually, I will be inviting you for an inside tour of our home out here as well. So, stay tuned!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Missionary Monday - Banana Bread

I baked several loaves of banana bread last week.... and...
By the way, have I mentioned my new oven? The Lord blessed me with a new oven a couple of weeks ago! I have been without my very own stove/oven for 5 years. Yes, I did have my very own here, but... it is quite a long story.... Maybe I'll share the story on here one day. So, I have either used ones that were provided in rental apartments or done without. That is, until a few weeks ago. I am still getting used to my oven (it only shows the degrees in celcius and has several settings I am unaccustomed to), but I can tell it is going to be a beautiful friendship. So, back to the banana bread... Like I was saying, I baked several loaves of banana bread last week, and it reminded me of several years ago and scores of "mini loaves" that I made on a regular basis for awhile. We were helping to start a new church, so I would bake loaves and take them with us on visitation to give to people we were able to strike up a conversation with.
So, did we build a church on banana bread alone? Of course not, but I would like to think I helped a little. {smile}
The funny thing is, I was always asked for the recipe. Then later, those who tried out the recipe would come to me discouraged that their loaf had not turned out as good as what I had made. After awhile I figured out that "one cup" for them meant they would just grab a tea cup and fill it up with the ingredients. "One teaspoon" for them also meant just grab a teaspoon from the utensil drawer, fill it, and dump it in. Then, most people did not even own a loaf pan, so they would just bake it in whatever they had. After so many alterations, the recipe was doomed to fail! After that experience, I learned to start giving measuring cups and measuring spoons as gifts along with the recipe.
So, about that banana bread.... Sometimes we missionary wives with small children (like me right now with my two-month old and three other homeschooling children) cannot do alot that would be classified as "missionary work." But, if we get creative, there is actually so much that we can do for the Lord right from our own homes!
Is there anyone you need to bake banana bread for to invite to church? Easter Sunday is coming and someone just might need a little friendly, hospitable "persuasion" from you to visit your services!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bearing Gifts

Daddy's home from Israel, and we're all so relieved to have him back with us! Life is always more pleasant when hubby is around. He came home bearing gifts, and I thought I would share with you the souvenirs he brought us:
For Davey, a cap: For Nate, a "talking" camel:For Brianna, a beautiful embroidered skirt:For 2-month old Micah, lots of lovin' and kissin': And for me, drumroll please.... The chewiest, gooiest, most delicious dates you have ever sunk your teeth into. Seriously, people, they taste like candy for adults! David knows I love these, and he has started going out of his way to find me the very best Israel has to offer. We can get these here in Ukraine, but let me tell you.... they don't stand up to the ones grown right in the soil of the Promised Land! If you come to my house and I still have some of these dates left, I promise to share. (By the way, the big bonus here is that my kids don't like them! And, if you think you don't like them either, I bet you'll change your mind after tasting these.) So, come on over, friends, for the "welcome home" party going on at my house!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Have You Ever....?

Have you ever trudged through the snow with snow boots? How about walked through the mud with plastic bags on your feet? As of yesterday, I have done both.
While the rest of the world thinks of "April Showers" this month, we are thinking more along the lines of "Muddy Season." The snow has melted, the rain is drizzling, and our poor, dirt roads do not stand a chance. When we need to simply survive, we look no further than our Ukrainian friends, for they are the experts on survival skills. While I wish I could take credit for the plastic bags on our feet idea, I cannot, because my very creative Ukrainian friends, Igor and Lena (who lived in our house while we were on furlough), taught me this little trick: We sold our car before we left for furlough last October and have not bought another one yet, though we hope to soon. However, I remember the troubles we had last year getting up and down our dirt roads.... flinging lots of mud with our tires, losing traction, slipping and sliding every which way... so, in a way, I am glad we have not bought a car yet. This is the best month of the year to be without one, hands down. Since hubby is in Israel and I needed to be at the church two days in a row, the VanSants invited the kids and I to stay the night at their house so that I did not have to venture out with my little ones twice in a row (one of those times being for Sunday services). So, I packed backpacks for the kids with as little as possible....
and then we ventured out into the mud for a little hike out to the asphalt road. There, we were met by a taxi which we had already called and ordered. After the taxi driver got over the initial shock of: 1) the muddy, plastic bags on our feet 2) the fact that Americans were living way out in this village 3) the astonishing amount of children I have... yes, four is a lot here... he thanked me for thinking ahead so that his car would be kept clean. Ha! Then, we headed to the VanSant's house for some much-needed fellowship. I want to let you in on a little secret - if you want to have the greatest fun in the world with your kids, get some grocery bags and tie them to their feet with rubber bands. You don't even have to have muddy roads to walk down, though that is certainly a bonus. Just let them slide around the house and there you have it... hours of entertainment that hardly costs a thing!

So, don't go feeling sorry for these little missionary kids. They are truly living, laughing, and loving every moment of missionary life!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Enjoying the Bahamas... while hubby is in Israel

Did you know we live in the Bahamas? I know, I know... I'm confusing you. Within Ukraine there is a little village called the Bahamas. At least, that it what the sign says at our village bus stop - "Bahamas" - something one of the villagers jokingly painted and hammered up. In actuality, though, our village has no name unless you count "3rd village" as a name. Our streets out here are nameless as well. And, our house has no number!
We have been using public transportation since returning to Ukraine. And, boy, do we stir up the comments and stares... especially since, other than us, no one who uses our village bus is less than 60 years of age! The reason? Most of the younger generation do not live out in the villages where there are no schools or jobs. Daily transportation to and from the city would just be too difficult since most Ukrainians rely on public transportation and these buses only run four to five times a day. So, to where were we riding in those pictures? To church... our favorite place... to enjoy Wednesday evening services, baptism, and the Lord's Supper!
Pictured below are Pastor Bob (left) and the four who were baptized:
And this (below), my dear friends, is our indoor baptistry!
Yes, on the mission field we "make do" with what is available. But, praise the Lord for those who have been saved and boldly come before the church to follow the Lord in baptism, no matter what the baptistry looks like. What a sweet testimony!

On another note, hubby has been calling daily from Israel. Yesterday he spoke and sang to a school of over 1,000 students about the importance of the Bible, near Mount Gilboa where Gideon was greatly used of the Lord in Judges 7. At the same time he was there in the north of the country, a tragedy took place in the south of the country: an anti-tank missile was fired from the Gaza Strip and struck a school bus, critically wounding a 16-year-old boy.

Our hearts are saddened anytime we hear news like this. Please be in prayer for Israel and for my David. I spoke with him through Skype and told him we would be happy if he just remains in the north for the rest of his trip. {smile} He's a smart man (actually brilliant) and would not go into a dangerous place on purpose.

So, until he returns late Monday evening, we'll just be enjoying our "Bahamas"... in our coats!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

God. Loves. Me.

Look what appeared in stores in my little part of the world while we were on furlough! And, I did not even have to go to a "big" grocery store to buy them.
Just four packs of four. Sixteen cookies. Imported from Spain.
Not even double-stuffed.... When you've waited nearly nine years... who cares?
Got milk?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Missionary Monday - What's in the Box?

When we returned from America two weeks ago, these boxes (above) were waiting for us. And, I promised to share with you what was in them. When we first came to Ukraine nearly nine years ago, I'll never forget David telling me that we could live on little and still be very happy. He said, "If Ukrainians can live without it, so can we!" Wisely stated. Of course, he was telling me that we could not just box up Wal-Mart (or Target) and ship it to ourselves, and that I was going to have to get used to not having availability to some things anymore. Not that we lived with a lot then, anyway... I mean we were newlyweds and had just finished deputation. (We were on the field just two years after we were married.)
So, all that said... we can live without so much.... and we have. But, since we were just back in the states and had the opportunity to stock up on some supplies, I enjoyed the pleasure of it all. So, just ask yourself, if you could box up some things that you knew would not be available to you for two years and ration it out, what would you take? Well, as far as food goes, here are some things I decided on (I'll share non-food items in a later post):

Now, some things you saw in the pictures that we can get here: baking powder and cocoa (I just wanted the handy, labeled cans for refilling with the little packets we buy here), popcorn (expensive here) and peanut butter (expensive and "dry").

Some other things I have brought in the past or people have brought me: syrup, powdered sugar (we have it here, but the quality is not as good), lots of various seasonings and spices, cake mixes, brownie/muffin/cornbread mixes (no mixes here, including pancake mix or Bisquick), hot chocolate packets, hot apple cider packets, Kool-aid, marshmallows, Reese's, Butterfinger, Oreo cookies, pudding, jello, Starbucks coffee {gotta love it!}, etc...

There are other things we cannot get but just do not bring, either because it is too heavy, will go bad, or just is not practical because it gets used up too quickly. Some good examples of this would be the cans of Campbell's soups, Velveeta cheese, or cherry pie filling. (The pumpkin pie filling you see in the picture was not mine but my mother-in-law's who bought it to take to Mexico and it accidently got shipped in my things! Oh, well... guess I'll just have to "suffer.") We also have to give serious consideration to the weight of items since it is costly to ship things and we pay by the pound.

In an earlier post, I mentioned Reese's and Starbucks coffee being high on our priority list, but in actuality, the only Reese's I brought was to give as a gift to another missionary wife. And, the things we do bring for ourselves are rationed out over time and savored... every morsel is enjoyed to the fullest.

It is amazing to learn what you can really live without. And by the way, there are some things here that are not in America that we have learned to love and miss when we are not here!

And, did you know... living without all of the "instant" foods has made me learn how to cook from scratch? And that's not a bad thing! I've also learned the meaning of the word "substitute." Also, I'm sure my family is much healthier here than they would be if we lived in America. So, hard as it may be to spend so much time in the kitchen at times, the end result (a healthy family) is certainly worth it. It was also funny to me to return to America this last time and think that so many things there tasted "fake." Yep, we are eating real food here... it may be simple and modest, but it is not processed. So, any volunteers for the mission field?