Today has been both difficult, sad, and joyful. There are times when I feel lonely, even surrounded by people. I miss my family and I look so forward to hugs and kisses, laughing and talking and everything that we do together. The language barrier also makes it a challenge to sit with my Ukrainian drama teammates and wait for my portion of the skit to come up. Don't get me wrong, everyone is very welcoming and gracious and kind and generous - a thousand words to describe their hospitality, but even with that, there are pockets of alone time that cause me to miss my home and feel lonely.
I was very excited to be able to get a little shopping done today between lunch and the evening session. A great little outdoor market was available with plenty of local selection. It made me very happy to be thinking about my wife and kids and pondering what they might like to receive from this place. That was a high spot.
In addition, this week I have wondered at times if I have been valuable to the leadership team (the primary purpose we are here - to encourage and equip them) and if they found that I was useful to them or at the very least fit into their plan - rather than being a drag. The Lord blessed me today with a bit of encouragement from my translator - she was very complimentary on a couple of things that I think God has equipped me over the years to do well. This was a jump-start to my emotional cup and it was such a blessing to hear that God has been using my service to bless them here.
This evening we had a great worship time together, walking through through a remembrance of the cross and all that Christ has done for us. We watched a powerful movie clip that reminds of us this reality. The truth of who communion is for (children of God that have been born again and dedicated their whole life to His Lordship) and how it is to be taken after serious reflection was explained. Then a great time of worship through song was had, while people approached the communion stations on the side as the Spirit led them during this time. It was offered to all, no one was excluded (save the caveat noted above), but it also wasn't just a blanket inclusion that people felt compelled to do because everyone else did. This was a marvelous way to conduct communion. There was confession and reconciliation through tears happening between different people that must have had one thing or another on their hearts. The opportunity to go and find your brother to reconcile BEFORE bringing your offering or taking part in the holy supper was available. Really a powerful evening tonight as we watched child after child confess Christ and sing praises to him. One song in particular caused me to feel the depth of abandonment and hope some of these children were feeling. As we sang a song (in Russian) about the fact that God has no orphans, he loves all his children and will be with us always, tears streamed down the 6 orphans' faces near me, one clutching my waist with both arms tightly as she sang through quivering lips. I could not help but cry with her and with all of them - to assure them that we are family in Christ, He is their heavenly father, and I was sent by Him to be a stand in earthly father for just a little while, and that I loved them with all the depth of a real father to them.
My translator translated a letter to accompany the gift I have brought for the staff. I have had to copy it 7 times...so my hand is exhausted. One girl is leaving in the morning, very early, so I got it done and to her tonight (Nastia - the highly energetic girl who is marvelous with the children). I brought 6 Secret Church audio and study guide sessions (fully translated into Russian) for each of the staff. Turns out that she is headed to university in Lithuania in September and will only be available in the summer times for one or maybe 2 camps. This great teaching series will be moving outside the borders of Ukraine within a month and I hope will bear unseen fruit for many. I know it will in and through her - so I have confidence in God's Word to be multiplying through this special servant. She was very polite saying “I know that in America it seems proper to open this right now in front of you, right?” I replied that it is the normal way - but we are not in America and she is free to open it on her own time later. She asked if it would be OK to open on the train ride home - of course I said. I had found out Wednesday that in this culture when a gift is given, it is placed aside and unopened while in your presence. The recipient then goes later to get it and reflect on the motive and giver of the gift rather than the item itself - a marvelous cultural approach to gifts.
Finally a recap of the day in a team meeting was held, brief because of early morning travel schedules for one of the team leaving tomorrow, and now off to bed. Another full day down. It's so hard to believe that a week has passed and tomorrow is the last day. Lots of pictures tomorrow and goodbyes through tears most likely. Two of the orphans in particular are almost always by my side during worship times and in the evenings. Out of the blue, one lays her head of my shoulder and says “I love you”... to which I can only reply that I love her too! Joy and sadness kneaded together deeply and inseparable! I do not look forward to this part of my departure, it will be bitter sweet.
Goodnight dear family. I love you very much and look so forward to the sweet part of seeing you again soon. You are my life and my love, cant wait to see you all very soon now!
Sorry no pics today...many more next time....