Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tour My Home - part 6: {master bathroom & closet}

I have kept you in suspense, haven't I?  It has been awhile since I have given another tour inside of our home, but just look at it this way:  You are my guest, and I am doing everything I can to keep you around longer!  We don't get too many guests out here in our village!

The next room up is the master bathroom and closet...  one of my favorite spaces in all of our home.  I love the colors; I love the comfort; and I love that everything in this space is pretty much done!  Most of all, though, I LOVE that I always have water now!  This is the first time I have been able to confidently say that in all of the years we have lived here in Ukraine.  Building your own home with your own well has its advantages, for sure!

{Below}  Thought you'd like to see the Russian writing on our bathroom products.  Kind of neat to see American products with Russian on them, isn't it?

{Below}  That walk-in closet is a dream come true!  We had the shelves and rods put in this past March, and let me tell you... I have been in heaven ever since then.  Before that, all of our clothes have been stored off and on in Rubbermaid boxes.  And, after nearly a decade of doing that, it was getting old.  To be honest, it was getting pretty easy to just wear what was folded at the top of the stack because digging through the box and messing everything up just wasn't worth the hassle.  So, yes, I'm sure you can see why I am in heaven now!

[And, by the way, we store everything in here... books, school supplies, extra linens & blankets, DVDs, scrapbooking and sewing supplies, etc...]
{Below} Everything is accessible, out in the open, clean and neat.... What more could a gal ask for? 

One funny thing about this closet:  Our main builder could not understand what this "small room" could possibly be for.  He said, "I don't get it.  It is too small to be bedroom, and it can't be a bathroom since that is going to be next to it.  What could this space be for?"  I think I've mentioned before that Ukrainians use wardrobes/armoires instead of built-in closets.  I'm sure if he could see how it turned out, he would be pleased!

{Below} My faithful washing machine that keeps purring like a kitty.  You can read all about how I do laundry in this post.  Not too much has changed since I wrote that post.  [No, we still don't have a dryer, though last week I saw one here in our city for the first time ever for sale.  And it only cost $2,000!  No thank you.  Hanging clothes on a rack never looked so good.]
{Below} I brought this laundry organizer back with me from America and it fit in this space like a glove!

{Below}  Here is a close-up of the tile.  See the pretty flowers that are a part of the design?
Thanks again for stopping by to see my pretty space!  One of my friends calls this area my "office."  I can see where she gets that... since this is where I usually start and end my day!

Next part of the tour: the boys' room!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving {2011}

Not our best family picture ever, but.... that's us (and everyone is looking!)... today... wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for faithfully reading this blog, praying for these six little missionaries, and... thank you for making me one happy gal to have YOU as friends!

And how 'bout a sweet smile from my baby-turning-big-boy that is nearly 10 months old?  Is it just me, or does that 4-tooth grin make your heart go pitter-patter too?! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sending Gifts

Missionaries, I need your help writing this post.  Comments are not only welcome, but strongly encouraged!

With the holidays fast approaching, I want to encourage my readers to think about adding a missionary family to their list of "people to shop for" this year.  [And, if you add my family's name to that list, friend, I'll never speak to you again....I promise.... This post is not for my family!]

On my recent post Surving the New Adventure, we discussed the missionary families who have been on the field less than five years.  Later, I got to thinking about how easy it would be to encourage them during the holidays.  So, while you are out shopping over the next couple of weeks {think Black Friday soon}, why not pick up a little something for a missionary and send it?  In fact, you can even wait for those mega clearance sales that start up just after Christmas when stores are eager to sell out their leftover holiday goodies at deep discounts.  Trust me, missionaries don't mind receiving something from the states.... at any time of the year. {wink} 

I hesitate writing this post for fear of sounding like I need a gift {I already have five amazing gifts by the names of hubby, Davey, Nate, Brianna, and Micah... and each are non-returnable.  I also have more blessings than I could ever list for you in a lifetime!}.  However, I am taking the risk at the chance one of you just might take me up on the offer and decide to send a little love package in the mail to a missionary.  And, who knows?  That may be just the encouragement they need to show them they are not forgotten!

So, what kinds of things are appropriate for sending a missionary?  What kinds of things do they miss?  How expensive is it to ship?  What about customs costs once they go to the post office to pick up their package?  With the help of my missionary friends, we are going to help you out with these questions.  [Here's your cue to chime in with your thoughts, missionary friends.  Please feel free to correct this list, add to this list, comment, etc.]

Ideas of what to send a missionary family:

1.  Think "English"

     Most missionaries serve on a field where English is not spoken.  This means that things that are in English are a special commodity, such as books, DVDs, CDs, home decor, puzzle books, games, magazines, etc... and are always a welcome gift.

2.  Think "personalized"

     We have very few items that are personalized with names available in our country, and the items that we occasional find personalized are distinctly Russian names here where we serve.  If you know the names of the missionary children, a unique gift from America would be something with their name on it.... pencils, cups, clothing, blankets, stickers, ornaments, etc... 

3.  Think "lightweight"

     It is definitely expensive to send things to another country.  If you have ever done it, I can just see you nodding your head in agreement right now.  It can be very easy to spend more in shipping than you spent in buying your gift if you are not careful.  I won't even start to try listing lightweight things here, but if you can stick with lightweight AND flat, it would be easy to tuck your little gift in a regular envelope to send.  This could be very inexpensive!   (Think about a package of hot chocolate, a seasoning packet, a package of stickers or baseball cards.)

     Here is a link to calculate shipping costs through USPS.  But, don't forget to talk with your missionary about other shipping options.  Sometimes the missionary is experienced and has found other methods for shipping at less expensive rates than the good 'ole post office offers.

4.  Think "American"

     Many of the stores and products you see on a regular basis are things missionaries miss the most.  Why?  Because those things are specifically American products and only sold in America.  This may take a little bit of research on your part, but a few ideas might be: Bath & Body Works, Cracker Barrel gift shop, etc... 

5.  Think "special treats"
     I think that most of the time, missionary families miss the tastes of America more than anything.   Whatever used to be a favorite snack when a missionary lived in America becomes a craved for, tangible piece of "back home." I loved Reese's peanut butter cups when I lived in America the first 23 years of my life.  But now, because we do not have them here in Ukraine, when I eat one I suck on it and let the flavors just ooze slowly down my throat.  Honest.  They are that good!  For my hubby, it is Starbucks coffee beans that he finds pleasure in grinding, then smelling (over and over again), and then slowly drinking.  And, for as many missionaries as there exist, there are that many longed-for-"back-home-only" flavors.  Don't believe me?  Go check out this post at Mrs. JohninGhana where 63 comments were left for a recent giveaway for missionary mamas only.  In that post the missionary mamas were asked to leave a comment telling of the best thing they could ever receive in a box from America.

6.  Think "Christian"

     Basically, anything that you can get at a Christian bookstore is something that most missionaries can not get on their field.  Things like Patch the Pirate CDs, Adventures in Odyssey CDs, or any other type of listening pleasure for the children would be fun.  Have a favorite Christian DVD?  Your favorite missionary family might like a copy too (sometimes, just hearing the English is a pleasure all in itself)!  And, of course, great Christian books are always welcome in missionary homes!

7.  Think "holiday"

    Things that you see all around the grocery store aisles during the holidays are usually not the same things missionaries are seeing in their grocery stores / markets at that time.  Think about Valentine candies, Easter bunny chocolates, candy corn at Thanksgiving etc... Most of these traditions are American-only traditions!

I really hope I have inspired you to send a care package soon.  If you do, let me know!  I'd love to hear about it!  And, if you're a missionary, please share...

What would you enjoy receiving in a box from America?

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Work Schedule of a Missionary

Hubby recently wrote an excellent article for North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, California, to be posted on their North Valley News site.  He did an outstanding job, and I wanted to share it with you as well.  And, by the way, I cannot say enough great things about our friends out in California who are some of our dearest friends on this earth.  {Hi friends, if you're reading!} 

So, without further ado, I introduce you to my favorite guest blogger of all time...
One of the challenges of living on the mission field is keeping one’s perspectives in order, never losing sight of what the priorities should be. A possible pitfall for the missionary is that, in contrast to a staff member back in the States, he is his own on-site boss. Though there should be a system of accountability, often this is not the case.

Understanding this dynamic, the missionary would be wise to follow a few principles to ensure that he is being effective on the mission field...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Surviving the New Adventure

You have waited many years for this moment.  You surrendered to the mission field, graduated from Bible college, spent many months on deputation, and now you are headed to the field!  Life could not be more exciting, more adventurous!  The moment you have anticipated, dreamt about, and talked about is finally here. 

When you get to the field, it is exactly as you dreamed.  Everything is so different, yet so intriguing.  The people live differently, shopping takes a whole adventurous day, the local language sounds just like you stepped into a foreign film setting.  It is a lot to take in, but you are basking in the thrill of it all.  "Yes, this was exactly what I had in mind.  This is exactly what I have been looking forward to all of my life," you reflect.

The people do quirky things, and you think it is charming.  Things happen that you just know the people at home will not believe, so you write home about it with great pleasure, knowing your friends and family will be just as amused as you are.  You journal each day (whether on paper or on your blog) about the incredulous things you are seeing and experiencing.  This is the life! 

And then, a few months down the road, those funny things slowly start to lose their humor.  They start becoming ordinary, and the excitement that got you through those first few months starts to subside.  You have thrown yourself whole-heartedly into learning the language, and you are coming to the realization that learning a language is a much slower process than you anticipated.  After all, you have been here nearly a year and still cannot say an intelligible full sentence correctly.  People still ask you where you are from everywhere you turn, especially whenever you speak.  Winter comes and it is bitterly cold (or even the opposite extreme and in the 90's!).... not at all like back home.  Christmas Day arrives and you might find yourself completely alone or, at best, with another missionary family; and well, quite frankly, you are slightly disappointed because you were not able to celebrate like you know your family was celebrating at home. 

Living on the mission field becomes harder and harder, and suddenly you look back and realize that it is no longer an adventure.  Those customs that were "cute" to you at first are, really, just rather annoying.  After all, don't these people know that there are better ways of doing things? 

And slowly, little by little, the adventure has worn completely off.  Life trudges on and does not always take the directions you had anticipated.  People are not asking "What must I do to be saved?" like you always dreamed they would.  In fact, if they were to ask, you would not even be able to tell them.  "Does everyone realize how hard it is to learn a foreign language?" you wonder as you think about how embarrasing it is that you have not been able to lead one person to Christ's sweet salvation yet.

The letters from home stop coming as often, and everyone expects that you have settled into a happy, little routine.  And you have... except that you feel kind of stuck.  "This is where I am supposed to be, but I did not realize it would be so lonely.  Every time I open my mouth to speak, people hang onto my words trying to understand me like a mother watches her toddler trying to speak."  You feel foolish and want to crawl into a shell and hide.  And it does not help that you do not understand anything that is being preached at church either.  You, the "great missionary" who left all behind to serve Christ, even start feeling un-churched.  Of course, you sit faithfully in every service (while training under a veteran missionary) but still only catch words here and there - certainly not enough to feel conviction or encouragement.  You miss your home church; you miss traveling to the greatest churches of America and being in the greatest Missions Conferences ever to be conducted.  Forget all of that... you just miss hearing English everywhere you turn!

Slowly, discouragement sets in.  "I will never fit in here.  I will never speak this language correctly.  I will never adapt to the way they do things, etc..."  And then you find that you are in a place you never thought you would be.  After all, was it not you who, when you talked about foreign missions to children's Sunday school classes, watched as those small eyes widened in wonder at the adventure of taking the Gospel to a foreign mission field?  Was it not you who gave touching testimonies to ladies' groups about your burning desire to reach these people?
But, oh, dear young missionary wife!  You are crossing a bridge between two mountains.  The first mountain is the one you left back home, and the second mountain is the one you will reach once you start making friends and learning to adapt in your new home.  But, right now you are caught between those two mountains, on a shaky, rattling swinging bridge.  It seems so much safer to turn around and run back to the first, comfortable mountain that you left not so long ago.  But, if you will just endure and keep taking one small, shaky step at a time, one day you will find that you have reached the other side.  And, it is a beautiful mountaintop, filled with the greatest pleasures and beauty one could ever imagine!   From one who has made it to that second mountain, I encourage you to hang on!

I often wonder, if young missionary wives understood this transition process... from adventure to loneliness and change and, finally, to adaption, would there be more missionaries who made it through those first, transitioning years?  Most missionaries who give up on their calling, do so during the first four or five years. 

I also wonder if praying friends back home truly realize the lonely tears that are shed during that transition period.  If they did, I am sure they would be more faithful to write little notes and send little care packages to those young missionary families.  If you are one of those praying friends, let me encourage you to find a missionary family who has been on the field anywhere from one to five years and focus on that family.  And when the devil comes and tries to rattle that already-unsteady bridge, the missionary family will hold on tighter and take another step forward.... another step toward their future of staying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Yay... another giveaway!  And, who doesn't love a great one?!

My sweet, sweet missionary-to-Estonia friend Rachel over at Rachel's Reflections is giving away a book written by her missionary-to-Cambodia brother Stephen.  And, they are giving away this book:

Here are some direct quotes from Stephen's book:

"Sheep never outgrow their need for daily leadership from the shepherd"

"The most important work, and the first work, is a work that is done on the inside."

"Our flesh will betray us into enemy hands if we give it even the slightest opportunity."

"As you seek Him in prayer and in His Word, you will find Him again and again."

"Christians who live in stubbornness and rebellion are disrespecting their King and wasting a precious relationship that they have with God."
And my favorite things about this book (that I have yet to read!)?  It comes from a fantastic missionary family and it is written by the cousin of one of my bestest friends ever.  That's right... one of Stephen's cousins, Malinda, was a bridesmaid in my wedding!  
So, hop on over to Rachel's blog and sign up for her giveaway.  (Just click here on the highlighted words for a direct link to the giveaway.)  Happy entering!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

For Such a Time as This

Even though I know very little about politics {I can tell you anything you want to know about changing a diaper though!}, it literally gives me goosebumps to think about where we live and the opportunities we have to influence the Russian-speaking people for the need of the Russian Jews in Israel.  Just read on to see what I mean...

Recently, my kiddos and I were home alone for 8 days while hubby was traveling throughout Ukraine holding Israel and Prophecy Conferences.  His two good friends, one a Ukrainian Jewish pastor, flew in from Israel and the other, a preacher from the States, flew in for these meetings.  In these conferences these three men from three different countries taught the prophecies concerning Israel and what part the church plays in their fulfillment. It is our prayer that the Lord would open the eyes of Christians in Ukraine to the need of Jews and our responsibility to them.

Of the six million Jews in Israel, 25% of them are from the former Soviet Union, most of whom are from Ukraine.  Did you know that? These are first-generation immigrants. Therefore, they still have their Russian/Ukrainian culture, and speak the Russian language. So, the statement “for such a time as this” is very real to us for this generation, because, in time, they will more than likely lose the Russian language in favor of Hebrew.  [And God has allowed us to learn Russian in the last 10 years.]  There are many cities in Israel where more than half of the population is Russian.

Please pray with us for the great need of the Jewish Nation, and in particular the Russian Jewish community. Over 1,000 attended the recent conferences here in Ukraine, with over twenty churches represented during that week of traveling. Some Ukrainian pastors traveled for over two days to attend these conferences.  There is a great interest among Ukrainian Christians to learn more about their responsibility to be friends of Israel.  These recent conferences have sparked that desire in some.  This land that is stained with the blood of Jews for many generations past can become a beacon of hope to this generation of Russian Jews.

It is our humble prayer and desire that the Lord would use us in any way He sees fit to fulfill these great end-time prophecies. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the day would come when the greatest exodus to Israel would not be remembered as the exodus from Egypt, but that it would be said: “The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north….” [Jeremiah 16:15] The land to the north of Israel is the former Soviet Union... our home! 

Do you have goosebumps too?!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Turmoil in Thailand

Remember my recent Scripture Prints giveaway?  Amy, the photographer and designer of the beautiful Scripture prints, has a brother in Thailand who is in need of our prayers.  I know I have some very amazing followers on this blog, and I knew I could turn to you to ask for help.   My hubby and I also have family in Thailand who are feeling the devastation of the Bangkok flooding as well, so our hearts are heavy for all who are suffering right now.  And, in case you have felt weary in praying for missionaries, here is an excellent article on the importance of holding the ropes back home.  (just click on the highlighted words to see the article.)

From Amy...
My brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Amber Bosje, along with their seven children are missionaries to Thailand and are in need of your prayers right now.

Following is the latest update from Mark...

Dear Pastors, Friends, and Family,

The past two weeks have been devastating for my family and for our ministry here in Thailand. For many days we were told by the Thai government that our area was not in danger. Then we were warned that we should prepare for minor flooding. Then we were suddenly told to evacuate. In a matter of a few hours we moved everything that we could to the second floor of our home, packed a few clothes, and fled.

We have been living in motels since we left. Twice my brother-in-law and I have driven back to our homes. It is absolutely heartbreaking. We have lost much of our furniture and all of our major appliances. There is now over six feet of water inside our home. This water is so filthy that we could not see our own feet while we were standing in it. We often saw human waste and toxic chemicals floating on top of the water. Everything made of wood will need to be replaced. Anything that can absorb smell will have to be burned. It will take many weeks and many thousands of dollars just to get things livable again.

Our church has also been flooded. Everything electric has been removed. The inside walls are drywall, so they will all need to be replaced. The platform will have to be rebuilt. Wiring will need to be redone. We will need to scrub and sanitize and paint for days.

Many of our people have lost everything. A dozen people are now sleeping upstairs in our church building. Food and bottled water is scarce and expensive when it can be found. When the flood waters recede many of these people will go back to nothing. In some cases only a cement slab where their home used to be. Some will not even have a slab. I cannot possibly overstate the devastation. The city of Bangkok is a massive disaster zone. It has become a fight to survive.

After Tim and I left our homes we put some food in bags, borrowed a boat, and began taking the bags to some of our church people. When they leaned out of their upstairs windows and saw us coming, they laughed, they cried, they hollered our names, and they thanked us with all of their hearts. One lady climbed into the boat with us and began calling to her neighbors, “Do you see? These missionaries are helping our people!”; She said it over and over.

I am sending out a request for help. This is truly an opportunity to save lives, and to do it through a group of missionaries who will go back to the same people in a few weeks and preach the Gospel to them. I also encourage you to visit our team page on Facebook. Just type FBC Thailand into the search box. This will allow you a glimpse of what we are seeing every day.

Through your prayers and financial support over the years, you have shown that you believe in us. Would you invest again in the work of the Lord in this very needy time and place? Donations may be sent to FBMI, 507 State St. Hammond, IN 46320. For the Thailand Relief Fund, please write #9015 in the memo line. If you would like to specifically help the Bosje family, please write #6401.

I presently have access to email and would love to hear from you.

Brother Mark Bosje

Along with Amber's report...

Dear Friends and Family,

As most of you may know, the flooding in Thailand has caused much devastation. All of our team homes have been greatly affected. We are all safe and staying at a resort about 3 hours south of Bangkok, but we need and appreciate your prayers! We have food and water but there is a severe shortage affecting most of the country right now. Please pray for the country of Thailand.

Attached is a photo of our home - taken yesterday morning. On the right of the picture where you can only see the roof is Matthew and Nathan's bedroom. They have lost everything in their room. Our 8-foot gate is completely submerged and everything that was in the carport has floated away, of course - bikes, weed eater, toys, etc. The water inside our home is about a foot from the ceiling on the first floor, so everything downstairs is lost - washer, dryer, refrigerator, furniture, stove, oven, etc. When we evacuated we had about 3 hours to throw as much as possible into boxes and put it all upstairs. Please pray that the water does not reach the 2nd level of our house so that we do not lose everything we "own." (term used lightly :)

Through all of this we can say that God is good all the time and our lives our His to do as He desires. The children are well and in good spirits, though it was quite sobering for them to see the picture of our home. My song for today is, "My life, Lord, is Yours to control...I give you my heart and my soul...I'll seek Your will, never mine...RICH TREASURES to find...give wisdom to choices I make...along every path that I take...so when I complete life's race...'Well done,' You will say."

Thank you for your prayers.

We love you,

Amber (for all of us :)

P.S. If you would like to see more photos we are on facebook - MarkandAmber Bosje

Thank you for your prayers,