Saturday, August 24, 2019

General update

Happy Ukrainian Independence Day!

Jaan and Raia had a great time at the beach, but their stomachs were pretty upset for a few days afterwards. I don't know if that was something they brought back from the sea or if they took it there with them. The little kids in this house were also kind of sick while the older ones were gone. Jaan was able just to lie around at home when he came back, but Raia was off at that amazing South Point Youth Festival. Every time she would call me to tell me that she wasn't feeling good, I would try to talk her into coming home, but she didn't want to. So, she had a wonderful time, but came home looking like she had lost weight and hadn't slept for a week. She did sleep most of that day on our couch with tons of noise going on all around her, and that was enough for her to recover fully.

The festival organizers are posting lots of photos, but I only found Raia in a few of them, and I'm posting those here:




Today Jaan is helping with a wedding at church, Raia is getting ready to go out to holiday festivities with people from the youth festival, and Asya and Bogdan are playing all day with friends; there are at least four visiting children running around, beyond the 4+3 who live in our house.

As for me, I hope you've read Jeanne's ninth update. We need lots of prayer, especially over the next few days. 

We went this morning to do blood tests, to get that out of the way in advance. They needed a whole lot of blood, and I passed out, so I've been feeling pretty yucky since then. (I think the clinic in Kyiv combines some tests that they did separately here.) At least they were very nice, though, and I'll be okay, of course. We got really good coffee at a coffee shop afterwards, too.

Tomorrow Will and I will head to Kyiv, and Monday morning we'll have to hurry from the train to the clinic to get there in time for my scan. That's why we decided to do the blood work in advance: one less thing to fit in on Monday. I would like to get everything done in one day at the clinic. Ideally, we'll have the scan, wait for results, have the consultation with this oncologist that I haven't even met yet (my own doctor is a chemotherapist, and she's out of town), hear good news from him (I hope!), eat a nice lunch at the restaurant there, get Keytruda #5 (if the news was good), and be done. It is possible that some of that will have to be put off until Tuesday, though. Please pray for us every step of the way.

(From last time in Kyiv)
Oh, I've also been trying really hard to get everything ready for school, so that I can just be tired next week, if I need to. Will got Bogdan tentatively registered for bandura at music school (hurrah!), and we have everything set for art school. I just have a little more left to do at home, and then I think we'll be as ready as we can be.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A fun week

We had several busy days this week. Tuesday was Bairam. Then I rested on Wednesday. And Thursday was the yearly picnic. This is a highlight of the whole year for many of the kids we work with at the orphanage. This year was different, because the whole meal was in the restaurant where we have had dessert the past few years. Our kids went early to meet the bus from the orphanage and help with everything, while Will and I just went for lunch and the end of the festivities. Because of that, I only have a few photos. When Will and I arrived everyone had already played games, done crafts, listened to a story, and walked around the park. Raia and Asya led them in some songs, and then we went into the restaurant.







On Friday our kids joined our English group for a work day at Stephen's House. They worked hard and had a great time. The house is almost done; the grand opening will be September 6!


While they were on their way home from that the youth pastor called Jaan, said they were at the sea for a few days, and would he like to join them? So, Jaan walked in the door asking if he could go to the beach. I suggested he rest some and wait until the morning, but he checked the bus schedule and found that there was still one last bus that evening. He took off to buy himself a bathing suit, get a bus ticket, and go. I have heard rumours that he slept through where he was supposed to get off, and the whole youth group walked to the next bus stop to meet him late, late last night.

After Jaan left, one of Raia's friends called her, also from the sea. She said that another friend was getting baptised, so Raia had to get to the beach, too! It was too late last night, but Will took her down to get on a bus early this morning. He said that he's used to being flexible, but this was all almost too much. They'll come back tomorrow, and she'll go straight to a 3-day youth festival that she's really excited about. (That's why she had stayed home from the sea trip in the first place, I think. She apparently knew about it, but didn't even mention it to us, until she heard that Liza's baptism would be there.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Kurban Bairam

Yesterday we joined our friends at their Kurban Bairam celebration. (For those who don't know, we share a house with a Crimean Tatar family.) It's called something else in the rest of the world, I think, but that's what it is here: the holiday to remember Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. It lasts for several days. First our neighbours had lots of guests, then their father spent a day out making sacrifices, then yesterday there was a big celebration at the park. Asya wore her very best dress, as is proper for that day.

When we got there, we saw two boys we know from church. They do martial arts and were asked to help with that part of the event, but they weren't too sure about it all. I think they were relieved to see that we were there, too.

There were trampolines for the children to jump on, bikes to ride, games to play, cotton candy....


I was trying to get a photo of all three. B had to tell 
me something urgent, L couldn't stop jumping, 
and N flopped over in the background. But they're all there.




The one in the darker dress is our girls' friend.
At some point, Bogdan knocked out a loose tooth, and Will took him off to get cleaned up and find him some ice cream, since his mouth was bleeding a lot. We had been sitting on the edge watching everything. A drunk man walking by flopped on the bench where I was and almost fell on me. Our neighbour and her friends saw, and didn't like that, so they pulled me back into the women's side and started feeding me.  I stayed with them for the rest of the time and thoroughly enjoyed it all.

Then, this was the funny part: about the time we were leaving they announced the winner of the wrestling. It was one of the boys from our church. They called him up to the front and told him to wait while they get the ram. They brought a ram out from somewhere, put it on his shoulder, and had him walk around with it, alive and kicking! The ram was his prize. He was as surprised as we were. Then he started asking, "Now what? Do I call a taxi?" He and Jaan had come across town on their bikes. We left at about that point, but I was imagining him and Jaan trying to carry it between them, or one of them riding two bikes, or something. Jaan says that the organizers of the event ended up keeping it for him, and telling him that he could come get the meat from it later.




Just a sweet photo from this morning to finish up with:

She loves her "AsYA."

Monday, August 05, 2019

Quote

A friend sent me the book None Like Him, and I wanted to share this long quote from it:
     I was twenty-seven when I learned that my days were numbered. My insight came in the form of an unexpected phone call. Holding my six-month-old son, two months pregnant with my daughter, I listened uncomprehendingly as the doctor explained I had malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. They cut a section of skin, deep and wide, from the wall of my swelling abdomen.
     Once you hear a cancer diagnosis, you can't unhear it. Even with successful treatment, it changes the way you number your days. I had been given an opportunity not many twenty-seven-year-olds could claim: the opportunity to count each of my days as precious. Any illusions I might have had that this life would last forever were effectively removed. I learned a perspective that many don't grasp until the aging process begins its faithful instruction in universal human frailty. I didn't have to wait for crow's feet or hip replacement. My eternal Father taught me young to pursue the sacred calling to "live this day well."
     The experience marked me. Perhaps you can relate. Unlike my sister-in-law and the thousands of others of my generation who ink their credos into their flesh, I won't get a tattoo—not because I disapprove of them, but because I'm already sufficiently marked. I have a satin-slick scar which, if you were to see it, traces no apparent pattern. But to my eyes, more legible than any tattoo, it forms the words, "Tomorrow, if the Lord wills."
     We live differently when we regard the future as a place we will go "if the Lord wills." God does not owe me the seventy or eighty years of which Moses speaks in Psalm 90. Every year he gives is a gift, gracious and undeserved. Thanks be to God, not just for the years he has preserved me but for the years he has ordained for me, perfect in number and known only to him....
     Here is a remarkable truth: God is able to bring eternal results from our time-bound efforts. This is what Jesus intimates when he tells us to store up treasure in heaven rather than on earth. When we invest our time in what has eternal significance, we store up treasure in heaven. This side of heaven, the only investments with eternal significance are people. "Living this day well" means prioritizing relationships over material gain. We cannot take our stuff with us when we die, but, Lord willing, we may feed the hungry and clothe the needy in such a way that an eternal result is rendered. We may speak words that, by the favor of the Lord, transform into the very words of life. This is the calling of the missionary, the magnate, and the mother of small children: spend your time to impact people for eternity.
     Long after the beloved generations that debate tattoos around my table have gone to dust, long after your generation fades like grass, the God of all generations will endure. Thanks be to the God for whom "a thousand years are but as yesterday," the God who is from everlasting to everlasting. Thanks be to God for the limit of time, by which we are bound and he is not. Eternal God, establish the work of our hands.

From None Like Him, by Jen Wilkin. I don't know the page number, because I'm reading on Kindle.  

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Photos from yesterday

Our kids had a wonderful time yesterday! The plan had been to go to a park on the other side of town, walk around the island there, visit the petting zoo, and go swimming. But after walking and visiting the animals, our friends saw the boat that goes across to their grandparents' dacha, so they changed their minds, and took everyone over there to swim and eat and spend more time together.








When they got home, Bogdan instantly started drawing all the animals, while everyone was trying to tell us every detail of the whole adventure.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Upcoming Keytruda #4, travel notes, and today

We switched my next Kyiv appointment to a Tuesday instead of a Monday. Also, I'm going to make this trip by myself and in the fastest way possible: two overnight trains in a row. Please pray for me, because that can be exhausting. Last time--with day trains and two overnights in Kyiv--seemed really long. I'm trying to figure out the best way to do this and how to work with the train tickets that are available. 

I've already made arrangements for the trip after this, too (August 26). On that one, Will is going with me, and we'll spend one night at a hostel in Kyiv. (I think one overnight is probably the best way. But before or after treatment? Like I said, I'm trying to figure out the best way.) I bought these tickets online! Normal people do that all the time, but the system didn't like our cards for many years, so I was really excited when I tried this time, and it worked.

Anyway, this time I'll leave home Monday evening, and get to Kyiv Tuesday morning to go straight out to the clinic. I'll spend the day there, then go back to the train station and get on a train to be home Wednesday morning. Then I'll SLEEP. That's what I told friends from church: sure, I'd love to have them visit this week, but not next, because I'll be asleep. (Keytruda can cause fatigue, and the other medicine they add for me causes extreme sleepiness, plus regular travel tiredness....)

And today: I'm going back to the orphanage for the first time since before I went into the hospital! I am so excited.When I called the director to plan this, she started crying when she first heard my voice. Maybe we're all excited. There's a guest here, and I'll be accompanying him and some other friends on a visit.

I still want to write more about camps and share more photos. That was such a big deal and so wonderful for everyone involved. I might have to interview our children, or something, though, because I wasn't there.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Second camp and third Keytruda

The second Agape day camp started yesterday in the children's shelter in a village right outside Kherson. We know from before that working with these kids is really hard emotionally. Many of them are right in the middle of really heartbreaking situations, and their emotional wounds are often very obvious. Please pray for health and strength for the team and for another great camp with these kids.

Also, I have to be really vague, but now there's something going on with a friend of Jaan's, a struggling family, this shelter, and our church. Please pray for everyone involved, especially for wisdom and compassion for the church leaders.

Again, there are photos available on Facebook. Here are a few to start with.


And then there was our Kyiv trip:



Raia and I got back late Tuesday night, and she jumped right into the beginning of camp Wednesday morning. I stayed in bed. Our trip did go really well. We went first class on the way there (above) and "sitting" (last class?) on the way back, daytime both ways, which was beautiful, but also made the trip seem really long. It also meant that we enjoyed two nights at a very international, fun hostel. Raia took photos of lots of the signs there. Here are just two:



Our time at the clinic went really well, too. My blood work was fine all around. I told Raia that after anaemia one time and liver trouble the next, I was almost expecting something else to pop up. But, no, it was all good. My doctor confirmed something that I was thinking: the tumours we can feel seem a little smaller to her too. We won't get a conclusive answer until they do scans, but it does seem like the Keytruda may be working. I did get the super sleepy anti-allergy medicine again, so I have had both general fatigue and intense sleepiness to deal with, but they're already going away, and I certainly can't complain!

Next time should be August 5, but I was just looking at the tickets Will had gotten for me, and they're for the 6th. I don't know if it will be better to change the tickets or my appointment. Either way, that should be another routine treatment. They clarified something I hadn't been sure of: does diagnostics "after the fourth time" mean on the fourth or fifth trip? It means the fifth. So, next time won't be anything different, and the time after that--August 26--will be the moment of truth.

Raia's one request was to find a bookstore, so after the clinic I slept for an hour, and then we went out. We had checked online to be sure that it would have a place for me to sit, so I just had to walk there, sit while she looked, and then walk back. Still, that felt like a lot to do on clinic day. But we were both very happy.