Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Furlough, Friends and Birthdays

I am sure many of you were wondering if I was ever going to post again!  It has been a long time.  Even though furlough has been busy (we've been from MD to GA and are now visiting churches in the beautiful state of ME) and I have also been trying to finish school (and prepare for the upcoming school year), the main reason I have not posted is because I...ummm, well, I lost my password book.  I don't know why I didn't just update everything sooner - it only took me a few minutes.  Oh, well.  

It has been a difficult furlough.  All I have wanted is to be home...in Ukraine.  But it always is refreshing to meet up with our supporting churches.  We have the best!  It is overwhelming how generous they have been to us, how much they pray for us and really keep up with us.

We have enjoyed making new friends and meeting up with dear, old friends.

  
Sammy turned 4...


I went "over-the-hill" and turned 31 (how did that happen?!)

And baby Abigail *sniff* is now 1 year old!!!

This past year has sure been exciting!  But with this guy around, how couldn't it be? ;)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Family Photos 2014

This is Eric's favorite.  (The reason for Sammy's sad face is probably because he wants to throw sticks in the water.  Total boy. LOVE.)
We are so terrible about taking family photos, but we finally got around to taking them...the day before we made plans to leave Ukraine.  We had such a fun day, going to our favorite spots, like the river and the woods.


We always planned to have them taken on Sunday mornings, but that never works out with us running all over the place to pick people up.  We thought about scheduling an appointment with a professional, but this just felt more comfortable...more like just a fun, family outing.  That works out better with the kids. :)
Abigail wanted me the entire time.

We stuck the camera on top of the stroller and pushed shoot.  They came out cute, except faces were a little blurrier than I wanted, but oh, well.  I'll learn how to get it one of these days.  And if I keep it this easy and fun I think I can get Eric to agree to family photos more often. :)
I LOVE Daniel's pose in this picture. hehe!  SO cute!!
 The biggest surprise is that no one yelled at us for not having the kids in snowsuits. ;)  It wasn't freezing, but was still a little cooler out (in the 50s) and windy.
 
And I think this one is my favorite.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on the Lord

As soon as we both heard it, we looked at each other and Eric said to me, "You know what that sounds like?"  "Yeah, the Russians are bombing us..." I replied somewhat jokingly.  We both came up with different things it could be and tried to go through our days ignoring the rumbling, the noise and it lighting up the night skies at night...it was just because we were hyped up about the situation that we were thinking like this, they must just be digging for gas. (The Wednesday night I wrote about when the fields were burning, we found out later was not actually burning fields but the military base near us training.)   We were seeing Ukrainian tanks and military on a constant basis and we knew that the Russians were gathering on the border only 30 kilometers from us.  We couldn't share this with friends and family because they were concerned enough.  But as the week went on, things only started to look worse.  People in our village were almost constantly drunk and some were starting to threaten to get rid of us.  Almost every time we called our church people, they thought we were going to say we were leaving.  When we met with different people and said see you later, they would reply with, if you are here.  They were very sweet to us and a few of them checked up on us during the weeks to make sure we were okay.  There were several times we looked at tickets back to the States, but after praying about it, felt peace about staying.  Thursday night, Eric talked to a few people and prayed all night.  Friday morning when we woke up he told me to pack my bags we were flying out the next morning. 

What changed our minds?  I can't really tell you.  We went from having perfect peace about staying to feeling a sense of urgency about getting out.  Before that day, there were a few things that we did not want to leave without finishing, like Gala's Bible lessons and putting a John and Roman on every door this year (past year) in the village, and we completed all of that just the week before.  Maybe God was just waiting for that to be finished...whatever it was, Eric now felt peace about leaving.  When I went to order the tickets, I kept asking, "Are you sure?"  As we shared that decision with others, it seemed like many of the Ukrainians were actually relieved.  I must admit, I felt like they would feel like we were betraying them, leaving them in their time of need - that's how I felt.  But they were concerned that the Russians were going to start the war in our front yard and how would we get out fast with five little ones?  Some have told us that they don't know if our house or the church will be standing when we get back.  I know it is in the Lord's hands and trust Him to bring us back to our home and to the people He has called us to.  The entire time our prayer was that the Lord would direct us what to do in His perfect timing.  On Sunday, we had a lady come up to us crying saying that she has felt an urgency to pray for us lately and has been praying for us to have wisdom concerning what to do.  I know many of you were praying the same way and we greatly appreciate it.  Thank you!

When we first told the children, they could tell we were upset and started to cry.  Since then, we have tried to make it out like a fun vacation and they will get to see Grammy and Grampy!  They still made sure to tell Vasily to give our dog back when we come home. hehe. 
The kids were pretty excited at finding smileys at the place where we are staying. :)
Our home and the church is being watched by Vasily.  He is staying in our home and checks the church twice a day.  I must admit I was a little apprehensive about this since we have had so many deceive us in the past.  He does truly appear sincere, yet there is always a little bit of nervousness.  I had hoped that Lina and her family could stay, but her husband moved their family to Western Ukraine.  I am glad that they will be safe, or at least are closer to the border if they need to escape the country.

We would truly appreciate your prayers for our people at this time and for us as we anxiously await going home.  We are keeping in close contact with them and Lina and her husband are keeping us up to date with any news they hear that we may not read from here.  Pray also that we may get the rest we need as it has been a long year and we have been running since furlough  Our church people are truly a blessing.  In all the years past, whenever we had to leave the country even for a short period to renew our visas, there was always a dreadful feeling that we would be coming home to a mess in the church and have to start from scratch.  It has been so exciting and encouraging to see those we have seen saved grow in their faith!  Vasily said it was a test for them and that God wanted them to grow more.  What a blessing it is!  It also seems like God may have answered my prayers concerning a Russian mama.  A few years ago, our dear Valentina, our Russian mama, left the church.  I had prayed that maybe God would bring us another one.  Over this past year, God has only drawn Gala closer to our family.  This past week, God brought her to salvation!  She has been very concerned about our family and has said she considers us family  It is exciting to think that God may have answered my prayers when I had almost given up hope.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Village in Smoke

Driving through the villages tonight on our way bringing people back to the city, everyone's attention was brought to a large fire.  Everyone was a little startled and someone said they thought it was a house.  As we continued we noticed another one, then another one.  Because of all that is going on in the country, they were most likely thinking it was the Russians.  This sight was nothing new to Eric and I...it is burn season in the village and they were burning the fields.  If you sit up on the hillside and look over the village, it is covered in smoke during this time of year.

 As we were driving through the city, one of the ladies said that it seemed like there were more large vehicles on the roads than usual, saying that maybe the Russians had sent them there to scare us...but that we weren't scared.

The church still has a sweet atmosphere - possibly sweeter than before, yet over everyone's heads looms the thought that the Russians are coming...that they are already here.  There are so many rumors floating around and we have tried to keep their attention focused on Jesus and the peace that He brings.  We are in a part of Ukraine which has probably seen the least amount of the problems, yet there are always the "What if's" which for some people has been debilitating.  They can do nothing but watch the news...and some just get drunk.


Yet through all of this, God has answered one of the prayers dearest to my heart ~ for Gala to be saved.  I have been doing Bible lessons with her for some time now and she was so much on my mind that I even had dreams of her almost dying before getting saved.  She is the first person that I have done the lessons with.  Some days I felt so incapable of presenting them to her.  It was extremely difficult to keep her attention at times - especially with cute, little Abigail there.  Yet it was such a blessing to be able to be a part of sharing the Gospel with her!  As we approached the last lesson, I carefully prayed and studied.  When we sat down to do the lessons, it felt like there were more distractions than usual.  Once Eric took Abigail, that helped, but even with no cuties there to distract her, she easily got talking about different things besides what we were talking about.  Lina and I could both feel the spiritual battle for her soul. She already knew so much, yet could not point to a time in her life where she had made Christ her Savior. At one point, Lina turned to me and asked what else should we say as we were sitting there in silence. I said, Let's pray. Then afterwards I turned to Gala and asked her if she were to stand before God today, before the judgement seat of Christ, could she stand there 100% sure, knowing, without fear that He would let her into Heaven. She sat there quietly, with her hands by her face for quite some time. Then said no. This time as we talked to her about a moment in her life when she had repented of her sins and asked Jesus Christ as her Savior she said that there had not been. She said she wanted to. I cannot think of a good word in English to translate what she said after, it was something like now her life would be lighter, brighter, happier, enlightened...all those words plus more. The Russian word seems so much better. She immediately asked us where she should start reading her Bible!!! My heart is full with gratefulness and joy!   

So you see, yes, there may be rumors swirling all around us, but we cannot leave unless/until it is God's timing and will for us to leave.  If we had left when everyone was telling us we should, I would not have been able to be used to help lead Gala to the cross. 


All growing up this was a favorite verse of mine and I have found myself turning to it over and over again this past year...
 

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5
 

This is our prayer. For God to give us wisdom. That is probably the best way you can pray for us. It would be so easy for us just to leave until things calm down, but I truly and completely believe that I am more safe here in GOD'S WILL then anywhere in America. 

So, how can you pray? Pray first for the Ukrainians to be saved. Pray specifically for Lina's family (her husband, her dad, her brother).  God has already changed Lina's husband's political perspective...which is a miracle in itself.  Now we are praying for his spiritual perspective. Pray for those we have come in contact with over the years (Dr. Larissa, Pasha and his mom, Dr. Andrea). Secondly, pray for God to give us wisdom as to what He would have us to do in each circumstance. I love you all very much and am so grateful to have so many on their knees praying for us and Ukraine. Thank you!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wars Within and Without


It has been so long that I hardly know how to even get started blogging again!  This past year has contained so much that would to fill many blog posts, yet the ability to write seems to have completely left me.  So many blessings and so many struggles!  In our entire time here, I cannot remember a time when we have seen God work so much in the lives of the people here but I also cannot remember a time when we have been under such attack.  One of those blessings of course was our dear, baby girl ~Abigail Grace.  It truly was God's grace in giving her to us for she can bring a smile to your face no matter what you are going through.  We have had answers to prayers like co-workers and those who we've been praying for get saved.  Through all of this, there have also been struggles.  I was brought to my knees...to my face many times this past year.

It felt as if we were attacked on all sides.  On the physical side, my baby boy was brought to the emergency room before his second birthday twice.  The first time was not even 24 hours after Abigail was born.  Daniel grabbed a can out of the trash and cut his finger.  Eric brought him in and he had to have stitches.  That's no big deal - except I knew where he had brought him.  I had seen how rough the nurses were with Anna when she broke her collar bone and this time it was a different doctor who would not allow Eric to go in with him.  It made my heart faint!  To know my baby was in there with a bunch of strangers who were most likely not being very kind to him.  Eric paid them extra for the cosmetic stitches and for anesthetics.  The bandages accidentally came off one time and we noticed that they had not used cosmetic stitches but instead the cheaper stitches.  I felt sick.  Not so much at that thought, but at the possibility that they had just pocketed the couple dollars instead of giving him anesthetics to help with the pain...figuring he would cry anyways.  How I wished that Eric would have at least stayed to make sure they administered that!  I vowed NEVER to allow them to do anything else to my babies without me or Eric being there with them.  The second time was New Year's Day.  New Year's Eve Daniel had a big bruised looking bump on his leg and a high fever.  We were nervous about bringing him in especially since all of the doctor's we would trust were on holiday break, but we felt like it was serious.  When Eric got there they told him it was an infection and he needed to be brought in and have it opened and drained right away...but Eric could not go with him.  Eric said he would just fly him out to America or somewhere else then.  They said he had that right, but they did not think there was time for that.  He could tell they were getting irritated with him for not just doing what they said right away.  What a hard decision!  Just remembering makes me want to cry all over again!  After consulting with a few other people both Stateside and here in Ukraine, we agreed to do it.  How hard it is just to hand your baby over to someone else when they could not even assure you that you would ever see him again!  Originally they told Eric he could stay the night at the hospital, just not with Daniel; but when Daniel came out of surgery, they told him he had to leave.  They told him Daniel was being moved into the intensive care unit and to come in the morning with all of the other parents to find out how he was doing, they did not even take his phone number...again warning him that there was still a possibility he could die and it could be 3 days before we could see him.  I don't know if I've ever cried so hard.  All I wanted was to hold my baby - yet he was SO far from me and I did not know if I'd ever get to hold him again.  Laying there curled up, rocking - not knowing if I was going to wake up and find out my son did not make it through the night- I was brought to my breaking point.  Eric sensed it too and knew there was a good possibility that we may be heading back to the States.  It was more than a strong consideration for me, what exactly my thought process was I cannot remember.  I do know that the Lord is gracious and merciful to my frailties.  I surrendered myself and my son again to Him.  How grateful I am that God did not chose to take my baby!  And that He did not make me wait 3 days to see him!  When Eric talked to the doctor the next day they said Daniel was awake and screaming.  They were going to move him to a regular room and Eric could stay with him!  (Probably because Daniel was too much work to try to hold down in bed.  I guess he was kicking and screaming quite a bit, probably from all of the strangers and being in a strange place hooked up to IVs.)  To be honest, it is only by the mercy and grace of God that I am still here.  I am humbled that He would continue to use such a weak vessel as I.

Besides our physical trials, there have been the spiritual battles within the church.  One of the biggest of those was with Slavic and Olea, who have since left the church.

Then there are the wars without, which I am sure all of you know about.  At the moment, we have perfect peace about staying here and we are seeing God confirm that decision by blessing and answering some prayers that are closest and dearest to our hearts.  I will share those blessings and answered prayers in my next post (hopefully very soon), since this post has ended up being much longer that I intended...and MUCH more open and candid than I planned.  I think that is the biggest reason I have avoided blogging - I was afraid of sharing too much of my heart.  It's a little scary to do that, but I pray that God will use it.  I look forward to sharing with you next time how little all of this is in comparison to God's blessings.  Pray for Ukraine.  Pray for their salvation, and pray for us.

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;"
II Corinthians 4:8

Thursday, December 19, 2013

To Walk Worthy

 Abigail with Gala

Thank you all so much for your sweet, encouraging emails.  Each of them were such a blessing to me.  I have tried to reply to each of you.  If you have not received an email back, it is because I sent it, but my email said it did not send a couple.  I will retry again once I get a chance. 

Things around here have been busy as usual, with people coming in and out constantly.  This is something I've had to get use to as I greatly enjoy "my" privacy and "my" quiet time. 

For those of you who don't know, our dining room/living room is also our bedroom.  So even through the night, kids are coming through to go to the bathroom, and this past week, others were to.  But there is one time of the day when it is quiet (at least in the winter when it is dark) and that is early in the morning between 5- sometimes 7.  That is when Eric and I get up, light a candle on the table and read our Bibles.  Sitting next to each other in sweet quietness, sharing what God is showing us.  During the week that Slavic, Olea and Vasily were here, it was sometimes a little interrupted, but for the most part, we still had our quiet time...except for one morning...

Abigail has been pretty restless at nights, so one particular morning I propped up some pillows and stayed by her while starting my devotions.  In comes Vasily, pulls up a stool and sits at the table in MY SPOT!!!  "I'm not disturbing anything am I?" he asks Eric.  The first thought that comes into my head is, "Oh, no.  You're not disturbing anyone.  This is just the ONLY time Eric and I have together, but no.  You're not disturbing anyone."  Afterwards, I almost starting laughing about it.

So, God has been teaching me patience and love this past year.  It is quite funny.  I thought I had it down.  I've even been complimented multiple times on how patient I am.  So, even if I was failing in every other area, I was good in the patient area. hehe...Pride goeth before a fall.  Thankfully, God hasn't just been giving me testing, but has also been encouraging me and convicting through Scriptures almost daily about it.  I thought I would share one of my devotion journal entries from this past week. 

12/14    Ephesians 4

4:1  "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,"

~ To walk worthy of our calling...
        We are not worthy of the privilege to be missionaries, yet the Lord has allowed us to be here.  It is not the lowest calling someone could have on their lives, but it is a privilege.

4:2 "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love."

~ We aren't supposed to puff ourselves up and say, "Look what I am."  No. We are to serve realizing just how unworthy we are of this position.  It is not because we are super Christians that we have been called to the field.  God says He likes to use the weak things so that He can be seen and glorified rather than for us to be seen and glorified.

~ He also says we are to forbear one another in love.
         Sometimes on the mission field, we will just have to forbear in love because, for the most part, we are surrounded by baby Christians who will do things wrong.  It would be very easy and natural to get angry and say, "You don't want to do right?  Well, forget you!"
        No.  We must forbear in love, tenderly and gently guiding them into the right path.

4:3 "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

~ Endeavor is a good word here as sometimes it is an endeavor to keep people in the Spirit in peace with each other.  It is an endeavor just to keep ourselves in the Spirit and at peace with other Christians!  We all have the fleshly tendency to gossip and get irritated with each other.
       I believe some people are better at this than others...Eric is so good at it and I can learn a lot from him.  Thank you Lord for giving me a peacemaking husband and pastor for our little, sometimes contentious, church here.  YOU knew what we needed.

4:7 "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."

~He has given each of us a gift.  Some of us He has called to be missionaries, some teachers, etc.  Each of us that are saved have been called Christians and we ought to walk worthy of that calling - to be Christ-like.
         He says He has called us to be Christ-like and He will give us the grace to do it.

Why has He given us our different gifts or callings?

4:12 "For the perfecting of the saints, 
          for the work of the ministry,
         for the edifying of the body of Christ."

 I know it could probably be written out more beautifully, but I left it just as I wrote it.  Sometimes when we are going through some trials, especially with the people in our church, I have a tendency to say (like Moses), "Lord, why did you give us these people!"  But He reminds me over and over that I am not "above" my calling.  I am not worthy to be here.  I am weak and sinful.  I am not even above them, yet HE has called me and put me here.  Thank You, Lord, for choosing me and using me!  Thank you also for Your grace and strength as I am such a weak vessel!

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