Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Summer prayer letter

(I wrote this last week and just haven't had time to get it sent out.)

September 14, 2009

Dear friends,
It’s been way too long since we’ve written an official prayer letter! I hope you’ve been able to keep up with us somewhat on our blog and through personal communication.

We’ve had a wonderful, busy, HOT summer here in Ukraine. Jaan, Raia, and Asya are growing fast; they’re 6, 4, and almost 2 years old. It seems like they, and the rest of our life, keep us running full speed. I’ll just summarize three big highlights of the past few months:

Camps - This summer a group of Russian-Americans came and did a VBS program for neighborhood kids near the church. Our family attended and helped out some, but we didn’t really have to put any work into that. We just got to spend time with the kids who came. Soon after that it was time for the church camp. Now that was a lot of work and fun, too! Will taught the music lessons, did morning devotions and was generally very, very involved as part of the camp staff. It was wonderfully encouraging to see the youth pull together as a team to run this camp and a real answer to our prayers. Several weeks later Will also got to go on a camping trip with a few of the oldest group from camp, and he enjoyed doing devotions and ‘campfire talks’ with them.

Guests - This whole summer we have had guests coming and going. God has clearly shown his love for us through these friends. They have blessed us so much, and we’ve really enjoyed being able to host them here. Some were renewing visas for their ministries in Russia and chose to make the trip to see us instead of the closest stop over the border, and one went completely out of his way following a missions trip just to visit with us. It is truly a blessing to be loved so much!

Dacha - You may know that back in December we bought a dacha (a little garden house). That has been the biggest treat of our summer! For our own family, we love the chance to be outdoors, to have a yard all of our own and just to enjoy the quiet. For reaching out to others, we’ve been able to host the youth from church for various events, we’ve gotten to know our dacha neighbors even better than anyone from our apartment building, and we’ve been able to comfortably house all the guests I mentioned in our apartment while we stay at our dacha. Most weeks we’ve been at our dacha for the weekdays, just going back on the weekends to wash up for church and do laundry.

Prayer requests:
Praise God with us for the wonderful summer that we’ve had!
Pray for continued contact with the children who were touched by the camps.
Will’s parents will be visiting soon. (Hurrah!) Please pray for a good and healthy visit.
Will continues to lead the church youth here. Please pray for the two upcoming weddings and then for everyone to get back into the routine of regular Bible studies and fellowship times.
Pray with us about the possibility of organizing a new Bible study group and/or ‘young marrieds' group at church.
The end of summer means getting back into the usual school year routine for many. Please pray for the Bible studies starting up, as well as friends who want us to help them with English, and Jaan starting into the world of homeschooling.

Thank you so much for your love, prayers and support of us! Please write to us; let us know how you’re doing and how we can pray for you, too.
Because of Christ,
Phyllis Hunsucker (for Will, Jaan, Raia and Asya, too)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Our baby is TWO

Happy birthday, Asya!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This is what has kept us busy lately. Well, preparations for it, then the actual wedding, and then recovering from it. It's been a while since we have been involved in a wedding! I had almost forgotten what they're like.

Kostya and Lyuda got married on Saturday. For anyone who doesn't know, Russian weddings are a big, all-day event. Usually the whole church is very involved. This wedding was no exception. They started out at 8:00 in the morning at ZAGS, which is what a friend of mine recently called "the wedding factory." Then, in a Christian wedding the next step is a church service:

From there they drove all the way to Energodar for photos! (Our family took naps while they were gone.)

When they came back to the church, their parents greeted them with traditional bread and salt:

And then the feast began:

This is probably where Russian weddings differ most from American; the feasting, skits, songs, congratulations, presentation of gifts and such goes on and on and on. . . .

Kostya and Lyuda posing with some of the children during a break:

Kostya ransoming his bride from her "kidnappers":

Her brother/kidnapper has the perfect mafia look, doesn't he?

This was one of the funniest parts of the entertainment. A lady from church was supposedly telling Lyuda about the best way to take care of her husband's shirts. (Something like that fits perfectly into the usual events of a wedding feast.) She called Will up to demonstrate. (Yes, this was planned in advance. Will had changed out of his good shirt. Some people were very upset, because they didn't know that!) She proceeded to cut all the "unnecessary" parts off of his shirt, and then showed that all you really need is a nice clean, starched collar and shirtfront!

But then she continued, "Really, lots of people do it this way!" Then she pointed to a guy that nobody knew and said, "Young man, please stand up and take off your coat."

And then there was another one, too!  It was hilarious!

(Thank you for your prayers and comments. Jaan fell out of a tree yesterday and bit most of the way through his tongue. He is doing somewhat better today, and he actually slept quite well last night. Please continue to pray, especially that he would heal without any infection.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ugly-beautiful thanks

holy experience

I was going to write about how inspiring Ann V.'s post last week was. (Do go read it for inspiration! That's what I want for my life, my home, my family.) But we had a rather messy evening, and now I need to find the beauty in the ugliness. This is more along the lines of the ugly-beautiful that Ann has also written so much about.

Tonight, I am thankful for:
533. The kind lady who brought Jaan up when he was hurt
534. A sweet Papa, gently taking care of Jaan so that I didn't have to see the blood
535. A sense of humor that lasted through the whole crazy evening
536. Worried sisters, petting Jaan's head
537. Big boy who really wanted Mama hugs tonight, when he hurt
538. I am thankful that his injury, while very painful, really isn't serious.
539. I am thankful that the local homeless man comes to us when he needs a kitchen to use (even if it means fish scales and fish smell everywhere).
540. I am thankful for our sweet little girls, chattering away with "Uncle A." while he cleaned his fish
541. I am also thankful that another friend is still around, and that he also came to us with his problems tonight.
542. I am thankful for the way God is working in that friend's life, even though things look very ugly there right now.
543. I am thankful that God gives Will wisdom to know how to help (and what not to do).
544. And now I am thankful for quiet and a bed that I can fall into.

Thank you, Lord!

Monday, September 14, 2009


We're headed out for what will probably be one last dacha week this year. I made a map, showing our dacha. It you really zoom in on the satellite view, you can actually see it.

Thankful for water!

(I wrote this last week, and then forget to click "Publish."  Oops!)

holy experience

I didn't get to tell you about my wonderful new sink that Will set up just before our guests came.  I'm so thankful for it!  (The water comes from the shower tank.) That's the thank you I was just thinking about:

545. A dacha sink!
546. And that got me thinking about other water-related thanks. I'm so thankful that we've reached the end of the dry, desert summer!
547. Rain
548. The green that's going to be springing up, now that the rains have started
549. Hot showers at our apartment
550. Cold showers on hot days at our dacha
551. Swimming days (drawing to a close now, but a favorite part of summer here)
552. Baths
553. Our fish and our frog

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paying tribute?

First something that just makes me laugh:

The bills here are all printed on tiny little strips of paper and delivered as little rolls in our mailbox holes or even the keyholes on our doors.  Every time I see it, I laugh.  Last time I happened to have our camera along just after they were delivered.  This is typical of the Russian art of frugalness: they must get at least 10-20 bills out of every regular sized sheet of paper.  At least!

And then something else that made me laugh:
Yesterday Jaan and I started reading Russian history.  (Don't worry, we do American history, too.)  The introductory section was about what Russia was like way back when it was a bunch of separate tribes.  Other tribes or people groups came in from outside and "collected tribute" from the Slavic tribes.  That was a new concept for Jaan, so I explained it.  His comment: "That's just like now."  Huh?  "In those days they said 'Pay us, or we'll kill you and burn your villages.'  Now they just say 'Pay us, or we'll turn off your electricity.'"

Friday, September 11, 2009

From our window

I love when they come by! An old couple, selling milk. . . .

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

First day of school!

I didn't have a chance to write about this on September 1, so I'll do it now.  September 1 was Jaan's first day of school!  That's a big holiday--Day of Knowledge--in this part of the world, so we did our own family celebration of starting homeschooling.  Will asked if I was going to make Jaan wear a big white bow on his head. No, I skipped that part (no black suit either), but we had a great day anyway.  While Raia and Asya napped, Jaan and I walked back from the dacha in the rain.  It was fun to have our first day of fall-ish weather at such an appropriate time!  And then we made a pumpkin pie together.  I called it a cooking lesson, but it was also an important object lesson that I hope we'll look back on throughout the year.  We walked into the kitchen, I said, "Make a pie!" and then supposedly sat down to watch him do it.  He stood there for a minute then said that he didn't know how.  Ah, yes.   I asked if he would listen carefully to me telling him how to do it.  He agreed, and I must say that he did a beautiful job!  As he worked, we talked about how this lesson applied to all of the schooling ahead of us.  Then he washed the dishes, decorated the table, and we had a very special tea.

(I took the graphic at the top from a Wikipedia article.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Village Zhatva

We just got back from another Zhatva celebration, this time in the village of Burchak. The churches try to spread their celebrations out over the whole month of September, so that everyone can visit around. I thoroughly enjoyed the time there! I'll give you some photos and a few funnies:

Jaan really liked this monument across from the church and asked me to take his picture with it.

Last week at the local Zhatva, during the meal, Raia asked me, "If I eat all my food, may I have some. . ." no, not cake, not sweets. "May I have some flowers?" This week she got them!

(Note the open gate behind us.)

Asya just fell in love with this dedushka. Will said maybe it was because he was so bent over when he walked that he was down on her level. He was walking by the church, and she grabbed his hand and led him in. Then afterwards, she just went over and sat with him.

As we started out this morning, I overheard this conversation. Raia said, "Are we going to a different country today?" Jaan answered, "No, just a different city. When you go to another country you have to get on a plane or a train." That's right, Little International Traveller!

Partway through the long service, Asya and I went for a little walk to help with her squirminess. When she saw a flock of geese, she said, "Noose! Yes, I'll take one!"

And probably the only aspect of Russian culture that we laugh at and and just have not adapted to is the extreme fear of сквозняки (drafts). Well, the service this morning was outdoors, on a beautiful end-of-summer day. True, not terribly hot, but not even cool enough to say autumn yet. Outdoors, remember. People were having fits because we were sitting by the open gate, which let in a draft. Outdoors, surrounded by fresh air, but surely we were going to catch a fatal cold, because air was moving through the gate?!