Thursday, April 21, 2016

Seven quick takes in Spring

:: 1 ::

I had almost forgotten how beautiful spring is! This year winter ended very early, but then there was just kind of nothing. It was a long coldish season that wasn't winter and wasn't spring, and I just got used to it. And then spring came! On Monday I rode out to Kakhovka to take Oksana back to the place where she lives. The ride was so incredibly beautiful! The colors, especially the greens, were almost overwhelming. I found this photo on a local news site, and I love it, but in real life it's even more lovely than this:

:: 2 ::

Speaking of Oksana: she's back in Ukraine, doing well. We enjoyed spending a little bit of time with her, including an early birthday celebration for her. This time she wanted to go back to the old folks' home for the summer, so like I said, we just took her back there. Please be praying with us for her as she spends the summer there, before going back for one last trip to America in the fall to finish up her treatment.

:: 3 ::

Jaan's bike was stolen. He really loved it, and used it almost every day to get back and forth to music school and more. It was his birthday present last year. (That's the photo below.) While he was at the music school last Thursday for a piano lesson, his bike was locked up outside as usual. Someone took it from there. The New Police came and spent most of the afternoon with Jaan and Will, but they haven't found it.

:: 4 ::

There's a happy continuation of that story, though. On Saturday we got together with our wonderful American/Canadian friends, one last time before they all scatter for the summer. When we were talking about the bike, one of the men offered Jaan a long-term loan of his. They'll be gone quite a while for furlough and the birth of a new baby, so Jaan will get lots of use out of it.

:: 5 ::

Jaan's been busy with something new, too. After the Christmas play at church, he said that he wanted to be in the next one. I would never have guessed that he would be interested in acting. But, he's really enjoying practices for the upcoming Easter performance. We are looking forward to seeing the result soon.

:: 6 ::

The peach tree is done blooming, and it's not doing well this year, but I loved its flowers.

:: 7 ::

I have a lot going on these days, too. My last session of Agape school is coming up soon: May 9-13. I'll graduate from that, and fly out to Texas for AmblesideOnline's retreat, where I'll be helping and speaking. (This is not going to be a yearly habit. Last year was like a practice run. This year is a bigger deal, and then we're not planning any conferences for a while.) I am so excited about all that I have coming up, and I'm quite overwhelmed, too. I need to prepare a Bible lesson to teach as my "final exam" for Agape, plus two sessions for AO and other conference responsibilities. Prayers appreciated.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Agape school, session 4 of 5

I just got back from another session of Agape school. Again, I have to say that I am so glad I can study there this year. This time first three days were with one teacher, and then we had two days with another. The first part was about psychology and child development. Honestly, I didn't like that part. The information wasn't anything new to me, and the style and viewpoint were... not for me. But then the second teacher came. I already knew that I like his message, because I've heard him before and read most of his book; in my mind at least, he's the Karyn Purvis of Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed his workshops and lectures and came away encouraged.

We also had a little more free time than usual, and even less sleep, too. The first evening I went out with fellow students, then left them and went to visit an American mom and daughter who are here to adopt. Wednesday evening (I think?) we walked through the center again and saw the main landmarks. And Friday I even got out while it was still light to walk around with a big group, before getting on a train that night to head home.

While I was gone, spring came to Kherson! Will posted a few lovely photos for me while I was away, and so I'll share those with you now. It's very wonderful to be home now.

Friday, March 25, 2016


I have talked about the homes for kids who age out of the Tsyurupinsk orphanage before. It's our friend's big project, and I've been able to help her some along the way, so far. It's something I'm really excited about, too. Last weekend we actually got to the point of breaking ground for the boys' home. Alys posted some of the photos that I took and what I told her about the ceremony. I was sad that she couldn't be here for the big day, but so excited to see this actually moving forward! Soon she'll be back in Ukraine, and then the first of the work teams will be coming. Already work is underway: the official groundbreaking was on Saturday, and work started for real on Monday!

I like the beauty of the top photo, with the sky and the moon, but the second has a few of our children in it. I didn't get many with them included, because I was so focused on documenting everything for Alys. There is this, though:

It was really a beautiful day. Cold air, bright sun, snow flurries (!), and lots of great fellowship and encouragement. One aspect that was kind of fun--and definitely a little bit strange--was that I've been the one from our family involved in this project. We arrived, and instead of people asking Will if he had a sermon ready, as would have been the standard for any other village visit we've ever been on, they asked if I was speaking. I got to introduce my family to all the people I know from board meetings and other work. Please pray for this building project, for Alys and Sasha as they head it up, and for the young people who will eventually live there. There's still a long road ahead.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Concert, contest, and more concerts

There are a few busy concert seasons for us each year, but right now it seems like more than usual. (And I'm imagining what next year will be like, with Asya in music school then, too... probably in yet another department. We'll have three children, in three different departments, with concerts for each?!) With Jaan and Raia playing together lately, that means they both perform at piano and folk instrument concerts. I guess that could still be the same number of concerts as it was before, but two children to get ready for each now, instead of one.

Just this month, we've had:
  • March 7, piano concert (1, for photos/video below)
  • March 13, national contest (2)
  • March 17, main folk instrument concert (3)
  • March 21, small folk/etc concert (4)
  • March 23, choir concert (5)
Today Jaan, Raia, and Asya went to the oldest balalaika student's graduation recital, just to listen; no performing for them this time. I stayed home for Bogdan's nap, so that's why I have time to compile all this.

I didn't know if we'd have anything from the contest, but one of the moms got this video and sent it on to me:

I did take this photo after they came home that day:

Also, there are these two news clips about the contest, although Jaan and Raia don't show up in them. More than 500 children competed! And I'm scanning through long videos of the two-day competition to see if they might be in one of those.... There. I found them: at 14:14ish in this video. (The boy who played after them also studies with the same teacher as Raia. He's the one they went to hear today.)

Other photos and videos from our camera:


(5) video here

More from Raia's teacher and the music school:

Spring break starts Monday, so we're done with concerts, I think. At least until the end of the year rush.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book review: Urban Halo

I recently finished reading a book about orphan care: Urban Halo (free here for now; that's how I got it). It was very good, refreshing, with some new-ish ideas for me. Of course, I read it through a Ukraine-Russia filter, and it actually fits into that pretty well. Sometimes I have trouble reading what is written from a global perspective about orphan care and adoption, because it just doesn't apply here much at all. This book does, though, at least mostly. There are some differences. Ukraine's orphans aren't mostly from AIDS; we don't have quite the same community structure, although strong community is a foundation of society here.

Overall, though, the message was community care for orphans, which could be adapted for here. The information the author collected and presented about the problems of an orphanage system is all very valid. These themes are very current for Ukraine, too. There's new legislation that will close orphanages... eventually. Even before that came into effect, the goal was to work them out of business. Children belong in families, of course, and when they don't have their own immediate families, extended family or other community is best for them. I enjoyed reading how they're doing that in Cambodia, and I could imagine ways that similar models could work here.

Also, there's the theme in this book of missions as living life with people. "Incarnational" seems like a big name for a small thing, but maybe that touches the edge of it. That's very important for us personally, too. We haven't ever moved into a slum, like the missionaries in Cambodia were doing, but Ukraine doesn't exactly have slums like that. We do live just regular life and try to get as involved as we can in our neighbourhood and local community. To quote from the book, "the old-school missions dichotomy of 'home' and 'field' will be meaningless because the field is right where they live." Yes. And this book has a lot to say about that lifestyle.

Back to the subject of orphan care, for another quote:
"Children already living in orphanages and children's homes must not be ignored or forgotten. Neither do these institutions need to be abandoned. But a radical re-orientation will be required to transform them in community-focussed centres for orphan and family support. This deinstitutionalisation process cannot happen overnight, but should proceed in stages...."
(That's where Ukraine and Agape and we personally are are now.)

I do recommend getting and reading this book, at least right now, while the price is just right.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bogdan's birthday

On Saturday Bogdan turned five. It's hard to believe that he's so grown up already. We had a really fun day celebrating him. I had gone to the orphanage the afternoon and evening before, so that I could stay home with him all day on Saturday.

We started off with the presents that Raia and Asya had bought for Bogdan with their own money. It was so sweet! They had carefully chosen things that he would love, and he was so excited. After he opened their presents, they went off to art school.

Then, Bogdan was supposed to have his weekly preschool class, also at the art school. Jaan had made a bunch of cupcakes for him to take, and he was looking forward to sharing with his friends. But, as we were walking out the door, we got a call saying that the classroom wasn't available, so he wouldn't be having class that day. We went anyway and celebrated with a younger class, and Raia, Asya, and some of the teachers.

He loves Maria Kazimirovna!
Then he and I went back home for lunch and nap. Afterwards, we gave him another present: a scooter! Now everyone has wheels. So, they went outside to enjoy them and wait for our dinner guest to arrive. I  already posted a video of some of that fun.

Then Denis came! Denis helped in Bogdan's Sunday school class when we first moved to Kherson, and Bogdan has loved him ever since. Now he also works with Will in the Agape office, and he's in the same class of the Agape school that I'm in. So, we see him around a lot, but we hadn't had him over for a visit yet. Bogdan was absolutely thrilled that he could come. Will cooked hamburgers and hot dogs for us, and then later we had s'mores for dessert.

By this time, everyone else was cold and tired and ready to be inside. But, Bogdan and I stayed outside and had tea together, while he worked very intently on roasting his marshmallows and making his s'mores.

(Those blue eyes...!)
So, he's really five years old now. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Happy March 8

Will bought flowers for both of our girls and for their teachers and for me.