Saturday, July 28, 2012

Update on baby Joshua

For those of you who have been praying for our preemie nephew, Joshua, thank you!  Here is an update for you from my mother-in-law (Joshua's grandmother):
We are deeply moved by your outpouring of love and words of prayers spoken from all sides of the world.  Every single one of you who wrote words of encouragement is beyond appreciated.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

And please keep praying...  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Prayers for Joshua needed

I ask you to be in prayer for little Joshua, the son of missionaries to Mexico, Steve and Ruth Miller.  Ruth is my hubby's sister.

Joshua was born 7 weeks prematurely and is having difficulty breathing, a common problem with babies this age.  He was 4 pounds, 8 ounces at birth.

The difference is, Steve and Ruth lost a baby boy 5 years ago in this exact situation.  Their little Jonathan lived two weeks before he went to Heaven.  As you can fully imagine, they are understandably scared for this baby's life.  Please pray for Joshua and for peace for his parents.  

You can read an entire letter written yesterday by Steve about the situation by clicking here.

Please leave them a comment on this post, letting them know of your prayers and concern.  I am sure your words of comfort will be a much-needed encouragement at this time.

Monday, July 23, 2012


In my last post, I mentioned that the average gross salary for a Ukrainian in one month is $319.  That wasn't a typing error.

So, how do they do it?  How do they survive on $319 a month with prices like these?
I have to tell you that Ukrainians are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met.  I grew up in a home where we did not have enough to waste, but in my last 10 years of living in Ukraine I have come to realize that I grew up with a lot of extras.  Things that, at the time, I did not realize were extras.  You see, it all depends on who you are comparing yourself to.

So, I thought that for this post it would be fun to list some ways in which Ukrainians are resourceful with their money.  One of their favorite words here is "economize" and I will list for you just how they do that in real life.  If you know anything about Ukrainian culture, I would love for you to add to this list in the comments section.

And, I must add... I have gleaned a lot of wisdom from these people in how to stretch a dollar and how not to waste.  And my husband {and his wallet} are all the better for it!

Before I get started I will mention a couple of things.  First of all, there are well-to-do people in Ukraine.  There are many who live just as well, if not better, than Americans.  Secondly, this list is not a "one-size-fits-all."  Obviously, these are my observances and do not necessarily apply to everyone here.  Thirdly, I have no intention to embarrass these people that I love.  To the contrary, I hope that you will see just how smart you have to be to survive on such a small income.
1.  No lights are turned on (in homes, public buildings, etc.) during the day and well into the evening, when most of us would have turned them on long ago.
2.  Second-hand (thrift) stores are popular here for buying clothing.  
3.  Ukrainians do not own closetfuls of clothing.  They wear gowns/house clothing when they walk in the doors to their homes in order to save on the wear of their good clothes.
4.  They eat a lot of soups, starchy fillers, and bread.  Whatever fruits and vegetables are in season are what they add to these meals.  
5.  Packaged, prepared foods are not common in their diet.  Other than soups and fresh produce (and their homemade canned goods when fresh is out of season), they eat a lot of "mushy" foods, such as buckwheat, oatmeal, semolina, etc... 
6.  Most of them have their own gardens, including those who live in high-rise apartments in the city.  They usually have a small "dacha" (house/shack with a plot of land for a garden) outside of the city for this purpose.
7.  Canning... they can their fruits and vegetables and what cannot be canned {such as potatoes} is stored in basements.  They even make their own {delicious!} jams and fruit juices for drinking.
8.  They drink hot tea with their meals, and it is common to see them making more than one cup out of one tea bag.
9.  Most do not own a vehicle and they do a lot of walking.  If their destination is just a mile or two away, many times they will walk to save the $0.25 it costs to ride a bus.
10.  They use brown toilet paper made from recycled paper.  And, it is really not as bad as you might think!

11.  As I mentioned in my last post, a couple of families sometimes live in one apartment and share rent costs.  Many times relatives live together, such as parents, their grown children, and their grandchildren.  This also helps cut costs on babysitters.
12.  They do not throw things away that can be re-used - things such as plastic bags, containers/jars, etc...  
13.  If they eat out, it would only be for a special occasion such as a birthday or party.  Eating out "just because I don't have anything thawed or because I don't feel like cooking" just doesn't cut it here.
14.  They eat very little meat, and the meat they do eat is only "partial meat" like bologna, salami, crab sticks, etc.
15.  They hang their clothes to dry and do not {usually} wash their clothing after only one wear 
16.  They own very little machinery in their homes.  Things such as air conditioners, clothes dryers, microwaves, etc. are not common in most households.  They have quite a high tolerance to the heat and the cold since they have to bear through these weather extremes.  
17.  In their small apartments, many times their couches serve as their pull-out beds at night.
18.  They do not own a lot of "stuff" and you will never see a garage sale here!

Makes you grateful, doesn't it?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Price list comparison

After this post last month about the prices in Israel, I was asked to do a similar post about the prices in Ukraine.  So, here it is, as requested!

(By the way, both of these posts took me awhile to put together since neither Ukraine nor Israel sell their eggs by the dozen {You get 10 in a package}.  Gas is bought by the liter, not the gallon.  And groceries come in kilos and grams, not pounds and ounces.  However, since most of my readers are Americans, I converted everything to help you make better sense of what you are seeing.  You're welcome. {smile})  
Just as I mentioned in the previous price list post, I could talk for a long time about what we pay for things here.  But, I won't bore you with details.  Just suffice it to say, some things here like bread are ridiculously cheap {in comparison to other countries} and some things are off-the-charts expensive {like vehicles}.

And, here is a side-by-side comparison, for your convenience:
Did you notice that it is about 50% more expensive to live in Israel?

However, there are several differences that I feel like I MUST mention here.  The biggest difference of all is that Ukrainians receive much, much smaller wages than the Jews... as in much, much less than 50%.  Therefore, the standards of living are just not even comparable.

Ukrainians also live very modestly, many rarely {if ever} eat out, and most live with only the very basic necessities.

The price in apartments here range drastically as well.  It is easy to find apartments for less than $200 a month, but they are usually in desperate need of remodeling.  Many times, several families or young people will share these apartments to cut down on costs of living.  The apartment I mentioned for Ukraine in this price list is a fair comparison to the apartment we were privileged to live in while we were in Israel.

The average gross salary in Ukraine is $319 a month.  In Israel it is $2,572.  Major difference.  

The longer we live and travel, the more we realize just how much a few border crossings can take you into completely different worlds!  I love Ukraine, and I dream for these dear people to one day live in more comfortable conditions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baptism at the lake

I wanted to share these pictures of a wonderful victory in our church... the salvation {this year} and then baptism of these four precious souls.  Now, this is actually not our only baptism for the year 2012.  This is just our annual trip out to the lake for our "Church in the Woods" activity.  Since rain was inevitable this day, we called off the special church services {and had regular services at the church instead} and cookout that we look forward to here each year.  However, those who were brave and willing to risk being showered on showed up to watch the morning's events out at the lake.  The ground was, oh so very soft and muddy from rain earlier in the week, but not a drop of rain in sight during the baptism.  As soon as we finished and walked away, the drops started coming!  Thank you, Lord, for waiting on us!
{Below} Three cheers for anyone who can find all 6 from our family in this picture.  I kinda think we blend right in... because these people are our family!
{Below} Lena had the right idea!

 While we waited for the adults to dress, I took pictures of the kiddos playing by the water.  My biggest challenge was keeping them out of it.  My little village kids would have gladly jumped in, church clothes and all, if I had only whispered the word!
{Below} Brianna with her new friend Vika.  {And by the way, those pretty white shoes did not stay white for very long!}

I love seeing our church grow through salvations and baptisms.  Though we don't see big results like today each and every day of the year, we do see a steady growth which is a reminder that we are reaching our goals of winning the lost and teaching others to do likewise!

(David had the privilege of leading the man in the very first picture in the top right hand corner to the Lord.  He also was able to lead a very special grandmother to Christ the very morning of this baptism, but I will save that wonderful story for another post.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Teacher's Swap Shop

Hey, all you teachers out there!  I know that we live in an age of technology where information is at our fingertips and shelves are lined with books full of great teaching ideas.  And if that isn't enough, we can Google, Pin, Tweet, Facebook, and who knows what else to glean clever ideas from others.
However, I have a resource to share today that is time sensitive.  Sacred Literature Ministries is closing after years of providing wonderful ideas to teachers on a donation basis.  For a limited time they are offering all of their materials to be downloaded in PDF format free of charge.  I just finished downloading all of their materials and thought I would share this source {oldies, but goodies} with you too.  Some of these ideas and stories look like fun for our personal family Bible time.  I thought you might think so as well, and hope that those of you who teach will enjoy these fresh ideas too.
Hop on over to Sacred Literature Ministries to get started downloading...  And don't forget to click on the tab on the left-hand side of the page to get to some extras as well.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Deaf Camp 2012

Another fantastic summer deaf camp was recently held here, which included 45 people this year!  Unlike most years, this one was unique in that it was mostly adults, not children.  The Lord knew who needed to come, though, and three deaf men were saved.  Successful week?  Absolutely!
Jim Bracelin from Silent Word Ministries came from America to assist with deaf camp once again.  He brought his right-hand helper (his lovely wife Terry) and two single young men with him.  Together with Pastor Bob & Mrs. Judy, Pastor Slava, hubby, and many other {Ukrainian} helpers, the group was well-staffed.

Enjoy these pictures that give a {not-so-brief} glimpse into a week given to the Lord... 

Not too many years ago, these precious souls would have been considered worthless here because of their hearing impairment.  But, truly, we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)  We are no better than these souls.  Praise the Lord He offers everyone eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ and brings us out of the miry clay (Psalm 40:2).  What a beautiful picture of God's love and grace!

Thanks for taking the time to look and praise the Lord with us for the marvelous things He has done!

* Another huge thank you to the VanSants for these pictures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Making plans

It's fuzzy.  I know.  Sorry 'bout that!

This stunning sunflower patch that stretches for miles is something we get to see every time we leave our house since we drive past it to get into the city.  We have even seen wedding parties out here getting their pictures done.  After all, the majestic sunflower is Ukraine's national flower.  The scene is breathtaking with the rich blue sky and fluffy clouds overhead, but you'll just have to come visit us to see it in all of its glory for yourself.

Mom is going to.

Since the title of this post is "Making plans," I thought I would share with you a little itinerary of what the rest of the year looks like for us.  Many of you have written to ask about our visa status in Ukraine, so I thought it would be appropriate to let everyone know what we are planning.  Of course, all of our plans lie in God's hands and He fills in the dates with a pen.  We just use a pencil equipped with a large eraser. {wink}

We returned to Ukraine on a tourist visa.  Three months is all that we are allowed to be here as tourists.  Feels rather odd to be a tourist in my own home, I must admit.

After our 90 days allowance to be here, we are heading back to the states for a 5-month furlough.  It seems like we were there not long ago, but our 1 1/2 year old Micah is proof that time has elapsed since his birth in Texas.   When he was just weeks old, we whisked him away to Ukraine where we have been ever since, excluding our 3-month "detour" to Israel.

We are already working on the big document process of trying to return to Ukraine more permanently early next year.  Please pray that God would have His will in this situation, would you?  Our hearts and home are here and we have already had to leave once, soon to be twice.  The nesting instinct in me doesn't really love the shuffling, but we are always willing to do what our Father asks of us.  He knows so much better than we do anyway!  He proves that over and over again to us regularly.

In the 7 {or so} weeks that we have left here, we have three major events going on... First, the VBS that David is running in another city this week; secondly, Teen Camp; and third, Mom's visit to Ukraine!

Teen Camp is our personal biggest week of the year here and this summer we are especially excited about having Pastor Cecil Ballard from Marion, Iowa, come to stay in our home and preach to the teens.  He is a great preacher with a hilarious personality, and we are sure that they are going to love him!

Then, David's mother will be making her third trip to Ukraine and staying with us during our last 2 1/2 weeks {or so} here.  We are working out the details to try to fly back together, even if it is just part of the way.  She has been invited to speak for a ladies' conference here, and we are feeling rather accommodating at wanting to host her. {wink}

Our schedule for the fall is quickly filling up, and we look forward to seeing what adventures lay ahead for our family.  The kids and I have been working {mostly} six days a week on school, even through the summer months.  We started the new school year at the end of April and are on Day 59 of the new school year already.  {If you use the A Beka school program, you know what I mean.}  Our goal is to reach Day 85 - the halfway point - before we leave since we will be leaving all of our school books behind.  Who wants to travel with a van load of school books anyway, especially when your van is already going to be full of kids and luggage?  After a year and half of working through school straight, we are certainly going to need the upcoming break!

Thank you to everyone who has written with concern about our future.  You have a way of making us feel loved and hugged when we need it most.

Monday, July 9, 2012

VBS {finale}

I know, I know... My last post about VBS was supposedly my "wrap-up" post, but truly a good VBS report would not be complete without the awards ceremony!

We had our awards ceremony on the Sunday following VBS, specifically to encourage the children to bring their parents to church to see them receive their awards.  This is where VBS becomes the most profitable... when you can get the kids and their parents to visit a church service!  Sometimes all it takes is an opportunity such as this to get families to come and see what you are all about.
My hubby preached the services this day, and he used the 5 verses and 5 daily lessons from the week as his message.  The children sat behind him as he spoke and they "performed" for the church, reciting memorized verses and singing new songs learned throughout the week.  

Then, awards were given!  Each child received a certificate of participation and a candy bar.  Rewards were also given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places for points received throughout the week for attendance, visitors brought, and verses memorized.  

{Below} Yes, it was a long, tiring week for those who attended each day!
For me, the best part of all was seeing these two ladies {pictured below} in church for the very first time.  They live on the same street that our church is located, just a few doors down from us.  They came to watch their children receive awards, and the daughter of one of them received 2nd place for the week!

When the services were over, every single person in church received a free ice cream!  What a great way to end a special "kid's" service!
Another aspect I thought was helpful about having the awards ceremony on a Sunday, was the vision it gave to our church people for the children's program.  The less active members were able to see what goes on at our church throughout the week, and everyone was given a greater burden for reaching our neighborhood and the children at the orphanage for Christ.

{Below}  These are what the streets looked like right outside our church windows, but no one seemed to mind being cooled off by the rain and the ice cream!
My hubby left on an 8-hour trip yesterday to run a VBS in another city with 3 of our Ukrainian teachers.  They will be gone a total of 8 days.  The church they are helping is a "baby" church, started just a couple of years ago by a Ukrainian missionary that our church here supports.  Please be praying for this very important outreach this week!

* A special thank you to Mrs. Judy VanSant for taking most of the pictures shown in this post