Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ukraine 2003

(Our team and YWAM staff with Street Kids Ministry)

In the summer of 2000, I returned home with thought of returning to Ukraine, but no plans. It was quite a change from my return the year before, knowing I wasn't done. This time I returned home with just a glimmer of returning.

I went back to Simpson College and met my husband. We were young, impulsive, and passionately in love. Less than a year later, we were married. We got caught up in life, finishing degrees, acquiring first jobs, and being married. Still the memory of Ukraine lingered for both us.

Finally, in the summer of 2002, we began planning a return trip. As my husband was finishing his degree in Cross-Cultural Studies, we knew we'd be leading a short term mission somewhere. And Ukraine was, of course, our first choice. So we approached some friends and asked them to join us in working with YWAM for a month. Thus the planning began.

Summer of 2003 rolled around quickly and we were off. Landing in Kiev, we laughed that we had no idea who was meeting us at the airport. We were simply going on faith that the Lord would provide. And He did. All through the process.

We spent the first two weeks working at a street kids camp outside of Kiev. It was very familiar to what Dave (my husband) and I had done before. We spent our days swimming, crafting, in lessons, and playing with the kids. The difference this time was we were working with teenagers. This was a complete change for me. The dynamics were very different. Thankfully, my language skills returned quickly, making it much easier to communicate. And in turn, helping my team with some translation as well. We were quite comfortable there.

The second half of our trip found us staying in the city. Kiev is a very large city. Much bigger than I'm used to. We stayed in an apartment on the lsland, making our "world" just a little bit smaller and more manageable. Located near our apartment was a couple of great outdoor markets, a grocery store, some small restaurants, and a beloved McDonald's (no, I hate McDonald's, but in a foreign country... heaven).

During these two weeks, we stayed busy volunteering at a children's hospital, helping at a local church plant, working at a small orphanage, and continuing to work with the street kids as well. My personal favorite was working at the children's hospital. We were very limited in what we could do. We were told to feed babies and change diapers. Period. But looking at those little ones, left alone in their beds, we had to touch them. We had to hold them. We had to snuggle them. We had to whisper that they were loved.

Behind the nurses backs, we'd pick up babies, stand them up, and allow them to move their legs. Encourage them to take steps. Applaud their every effort. The long ride there and changing of metro, buses, and taxis made the entire thing worth it. My greatest joy while there.

This was our team of four, Steve, Tamy, Dave, and I standing in front of the Friendship Arch. This is a large landmark in Kiev, symbolizing the connection between Russia and Ukraine. We spent most weekends in the city, sightseeing and team building. I loved being in such a historical city.

Sonya was my baby at the orphanage. Tamy and I would go play with the little ones first and she was always there to great us. The biggest hugs came from her, the biggest smiles she gave us. She absolutely captured Dave and I's hearts. When I think of adopting, this is the face that I turn back to. I pray that someone has given her hope.

This is St. Andrew's at the top of our tourist shopping spot. The whole street is known for its local artisans. Wood work, Matrishkas, textiles,... it was a shopping mecca. Pictured here is Natasha (the head of the street kids ministry), Tamy, and myself. This trip was a great experience in our relationship with Steve and Tamy. We've been forever bonded by our memories there.

Finally, we had a two day layover in Vienna on the way home. After the stress of working so hard for a month, it was a wonderful time of being with friends and my husband exploring a beautiful city. And it was a bit of culture shock. As much as I love Ukraine, it's an underdeveloped country. And walking into Austria, everything was prestine. Clean, perfect, shocking. It was a beautiful place to seal our trip. And we finished off our last night with a filling meal at Figamueller's, a must see if you're ever in Vienna.

Again, I returned, my heart there, but not sure when I'll return. It's been nearly seven years. Dave and I still talk about taking the kids to visit when they're older. It's become such a part of us; we can't imagine not sharing it with them. We've been very lucky to do the traveling that we've done. Not only have we seen a very unique part of the world, but we've also been touched by some wonderful people.

For photos and stories from 1999, click here.
For photos and stories from 2000, click here.

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