Sunday, June 25, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 5

Thursday morning, Lyuda from L'Arche, who had organised all these meetings for us came to get us at the home. She's the one talking in the middle part of the video I shared in my Part 2. It was nice to finally meet her, after talking to her months before our trip and hearing about her from everyone else once we got to L'viv. She took us across town to a new training center for independent living that has been recently opened by yet another organisation in L'viv. I didn't take a single photo there because I was so busy translating, but I just found this video clip about the center. Here's a screen shot from that video, showing the next Lyuda who met us there:

This second Lyuda showed us around and then served us tea with a presentation about the center. It's built to be fully accessible to people with severe physical disabilities. They will come and live there for short periods of time, with assistants. Their assistants will also visit them at home, and help them to learn to live more independently. The center also supports and trains family members. Alys took photos of their door handles and handrails and other physical details to help with ideas for the homes she is building. Their experience in teaching people who have been used to overprotection and being told that they can't do anything is invaluable for us, too.

Our time there ended all too soon and we had to figure out a rather complicated arrangement to get our luggage and have a few minutes as tourists. We ended up calling a taxi that took Nila all the way back to the house, but dropped Alys and me off in the center of town on the way. Then we ran around to get the souvenirs we wanted and dinner for the train, while Nila got our things and was brought back across town by the L'Arche driver. He and Nila found us, and we went on to the train station from there.

This beautiful shirt was what I got in L'viv to give to Raia for her birthday:

Our trip home wasn't as idyllic as the way there; the train was hot and there were some other problems, too. But the Ukrainian countryside was beautiful, as always, and it was very good to get home the next morning. Not to mention that one of the things we bought during our run through the center of L'viv was boxes of Thai noodles with shrimp!

And that is the end of our truly wonderful trip to L'viv. We will be processing and applying what we learned for quite a while. I am so thankful for all the new friends we made and all that we got to see and hear about.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 4

Wednesday afternoon, after songs and prayers, the Smiles group got back into the bus and headed off to their homes. We said goodbye to them, and then the house got very quiet.

Nadia and Bogdan came back from their workshop, "Nazareth," the one that we didn't get to visit. As I said before, L'Arche in L'viv is different from most international L'Arche communities, because it's not residential. In L'viv they use the house for whatever the community needs, but also (mainly?) for week-long stays, where the friends can get some focused time with the assistants and practice independence. While we were there, it was Bogdan and Nadia's turn for that, and we loved the time we had with them.

The family that works with the Smiles had invited some friends of theirs over for dinner to see the house and learn about L'Arche. Their friends are Protestants and work with Youth for Christ, so they also thought we'd all enjoy getting to know each other some, too. (Yes, we definitely did.) They were planning a L'Arche presentation for the youth a few days later. So while people rested and Tanya went off to get their older two children from preschool, Oleg and I took care of their two little ones and worked on dinner for the guests and everyone.

When the guests arrived and everyone gathered around the table, we had a wonderful, loud, happy dinner together. It was definitely like one big family. Bogdan especially kept us laughing with his incredible sense of humour. Later, they presented us a lovely book of photos and interviews. In the part of the book about Bogdan, the interviewer writes that they went to the opera theatre together. When they told Bogdan that he would have to be quiet and not talk, he replied, "If I don't talk, I'll die."

After dinner Bogdan and Nadia showed everyone all over the house. We had been staying there, but hadn't had the official tour yet, so it was for us, too. Everyone played with the kids. Then we went into the living room to watch a few small video clips about L'Arche, see "Bogdan's film"--he's a movie star!--and sing and pray together again. (If you go to Circle Community or Grace Bible Church, I'm planning to show you Bogdan's film in a few weeks.)

When it was time for everyone to go, the littlest one was tired and not happy about getting dressed. Bogdan was thrilled that she calmed down for him when he held her:

There's only a little bit more, but I think I need to stop now. So, to be continued...

*These are Nila's photos.

Friday, June 23, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 3

Wednesday morning Vasyl came from Ivano-Frankivsk to meet with us. His organisation "Ukrainian Philanthropic Network" works with an orphanage very similar to the one here in Tsyurupinsk. They are also in the planning stages of building a home something like what Alys is doing. Vasyl is a lawyer, and he is studying all the ins and outs of everything to do with work like this. We talked for three hours straight. Most of that was us listening to what he has learned so far and scrambling to remember and take notes.

We talked about adoption. They work with Maya's Hope to try and get kids adopted. We talked about how to help in orphanages--it's best not to give things and money (amen!)--and how they've built accountability for when donations are given. Banking: we definitely decided that Alys' director/manager Maxim needs to talk to Vasyl about processing finances. Vasyl told us a lot about funding and his plans to present his building project for government funding. He knows all about the legislation related to this, what's already in place, what needs to change, and more. If he can't get government funding, his Plan B is to find a certain number of donors who can give a certain amount each month. I don't remember the numbers, but I know that it sounded very reasonable. He had great ideas about publicity and getting neighbours and local community on his side. Even now, he's started with public meetings and approaching local officials.

Nila got the only photo from this time: Vasyl and Alys
While we talked with Vasyl in the kitchen, the other group of Smiles came and started their day in other parts of the house. On this day, the leader was a different man, and he had his family with him. His wife is also a L'Arche assistant, but she's officially on maternity leave. She and their two youngest children were there anyway, though. The older two joined us later in the day. (All four are younger than our Bogdan; I enjoyed them greatly!) As soon as we said goodbye to Vasyl, we started getting to know our new friends. Apparently I didn't take any photos, but Nila did:

After we talked with them some, it was time for us to go meet the people of another workshop. All our running around the day before had been particularly hard for Nila. For this day, L'Arche drove us. She couldn't climb up into their bus, but that wasn't a problem at all:

They took us to the church where "Ascension" workshop is. Here we got to see more of daily life in a L'Arche workshop. This one has a tradition that every guest makes an angel to leave behind. So, for a while we drew and cut and coloured to make ours. They told us about themselves and showed us their work.

Learning how to "hook" a necklace*

This next picture isn't related to L'Arche. It was just interesting to me: a mural in progress at the church. All the little pieces of tile were set out in containers on the table, and the picture was already sketched out.

We ate lunch at Ascension and then went back to the house for the end of the Smiles' day there. Oh, something I saw when arrived was worth noting. As I have said before, the assistants and friends work together. Some in this group are truly not able to do physical work. However, they are still included in everything. Oksana was washing the floor, and Ira and Galya were parked in their wheelchairs right there with her. They finished their work and activities, and we joined them for songs and prayer once again.

To be continued...

*These are Nila's photos.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 2

(If you want to see what our kids are doing this week, Raia, Asya, and Bogdan are loving art camp. I'm taking photos there, at least some every day, and posting all of those here. Now back to my L'viv report....)

I really like this video for showing who we met and what we saw of L'Arche:

I left off writing where we had to leave the Smiles and the house. From there we went to the workshop that is shown most in the first half of the video above, the "Bees" workshop. Also, the church where "Dreamers" workshop meets was having a camp, so the Dreamers were working with the Bees that day, and we got to meet all of them. They were just finishing up their work for the day. We saw them making necklaces and cards, but I know they do other crafts at other times and seasons.

They put away all their craft supplies and then lit a candle and pulled us in for their closing prayer time. Since we were running a little late, there wasn't much time, but we sang a song together and prayed, and then they had to leave. It was just as beautiful as the morning time with the Smiles, but much shorter. One of the assistants put us on a bus to get to our next destination. This is when we got lost. (L'viv is huge!) Eventually--with lots of friendly help--we found ourselves and got to Ukraine Catholic University (an amazing place, by the way), just a little bit later than we should have.

At the University Christine from Emmaus met us and took us into a classroom that she had reserved. Emmaus and L'Arche are not the same organisation, but they are very close and work together. Christine and her colleague Olga showed us videos and a presentation that explained the history of Emmaus and L'Arche and several other related organisations (Faith and Light, and...?), and they told us about their philosophy and methods. Their organisation supports people with disabilities and their families in many ways, including: retreats, books, work placement, educating the public, and more. Christine is French, but she explained everything to us in English.

After that, Christine took us down to the amazing Emmaus Home. It's a dorm there at the university where students and people with disabilities live together. The setting itself is beautiful, a big, bright, modern apartment. The model is like L'Arche. During the days, the students are busy with their studies and the friends are at their workshops. In the mornings and evenings and other free times they live life together. They also host events like coffee times and French cooking classes for other students. When we got there some were preparing dinner and others were working on projects. They served us tea, showed us their home, and told us a little about themselves.

Christine and Volodya (Nila's photo)

With Pavlo, the philosopher and reader
After such a full day, we were exhausted. We got a taxi back to the L'Arche house, took part in evening prayers, and collapsed into bed. That was our Tuesday in L'viv.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Birthday interlude

Raia turned 12 while I was in L'viv. I have now missed a birthday for each of my children: last year I was in London for Jaan's birthday; I was helping Stephanie in Kyiv when Bogdan turned 4; for one of Asya's birthdays Bogdan and I were in Poland. Hopefully I won't have to miss any more now. Although, they actually like it, because this way they celebrate once with Papa when I'm gone, and then a second time when I get back. This time Will took them to see Wonder Woman and eat at Raia's favourite restaurant on her actual birthday. Then on Friday, when I got back, we had a special birthday dinner with Raia's friend Karina.

I'll get back to writing about L'viv and L'Arche after this.

Monday, June 19, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 1

A week ago today we started out on a wonderful trip. Alys, Nila, and I went to L'viv to visit L'Arche and related ministries there. (Nila is one of the board members for Promise, Alys' organisation that is building the homes. If you read much here, you already know Alys.) To quote Nila directly, our trip "was a wonderful time in the special country of love and joy."

I am supposed to write a report about the trip, so I'm going to start here and see what comes of that. True, some details might be vague or too much info. There was just so much to see, so many people to meet, so much to process! Plus, I was functioning in my less preferred language. No, that's not the right way to put it; I love Ukrainian, too. So, not less preferred, just less learned, less familiar. We'll see what I can pull together, though.

So, we left on Monday, spent about 20 hours on a train and arrived in L'viv Tuesday morning. It was an easy trip; air conditioned trains will never cease to amaze me.

L'Arche in L'viv is a little different from many L'Arche communities, because it's mostly not residential. However, they do have a house, and that's where we stayed. I'm going to be using their vocabulary of "assistants" and "friends" as I write. (Want to read more about that?) In Lviv there are assistants who live full-time or part-time in the house, and then friends come to stay with them, usually for a week at a time, but it can be longer if there is a specific need for housing.

The L'viv L'Arche community is based in and around their workshops. Right now the "Smile" workshop is under construction, so the Smiles are meeting in the house every day. Most of the workshops are scattered throughout the city, and the friends get to and from them by themselves every day. Smile is different, because they have the most profound disabilities. There are two Smile groups, and they alternate days. A bus picks them up in the mornings and takes them home in the evenings. We started our time there with Smile.

Each day begins with a time of sharing, singing, and praying together. We went around the circle telling how we were feeling that day and what we like to do. It was sweet to see how them express themselves so beautifully even if they don't have words and how the assistants help them communicate, too. The assistants told us that when they're in their usual building they have pictures and other helps, but here they just had to go on gestures, sounds, actions, and how well they know their friends. For example, one dearly loves the Bible, so they asked him what he loves and then handed him a Bible, so that he could show us.

Then we sang and prayed. In the morning the friends choose the songs, in the evening it's the assistants' turn.

When prayers ended Mikhailo, the one with the guitar above, led us in exercises. He had a wonderful, creative approach to it and pretty much had all of us dancing. After some physical movement, everyone was ready for tea, so we went into the kitchen for tea time. Then, it was time for work. In this workshop they don't do as much of the concrete, marketable work that the others do. Plus, being away from their usual space means that they can't do all their usual activities, but after tea time, they all got busy with something. One assistant and one friend went to the store to buy supplies for lunch. Others helped with stacking wood outside, or with jobs in the kitchen.


All too soon we had to leave for another visit, while they continued with their happy, peaceful work....

*These are Nila's photos.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lice and love

I debated whether or not to mention this, but when I was chatting with one of the wonderful volunteers who came for English camp, she wrote something that really spoke to me, so I want to share that:
A lady who served in India spoke about this and said she would rather love on people and get lice than hold back and avoid it...every time I've ever gotten lice it was a known risk where I chose love over avoiding lice, I will never regret choices of that nature 🙂
Yes, we ended up with four heads of lice after camp. I was specifically praying that we wouldn't, but apparently God had other plans. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of not holding back; we don't regret loving!

And it really hasn't been bad at all. I will say that I really noticed how very American common treatment options can be: brushes in the dishwasher (they pretty much don't exist here), pillows and stuffed animals into the dryer (likewise), hot water cycle for sheets and clothes (our washing machine doesn't do hot water, but at least we have one!). The medicines are readily available, though; that's nice. Missionaries in Africa recommended pouring boiling water onto laundry in buckets, and there's also the standard method of ironing everything. Anyway, we had a whole day free yesterday to work on it, and to me it even seemed like a little holiday.

What is heartbreaking is thinking of all the kids with lice in the orphanage. We asked about buying supplies for them, because the stuff really is expensive. There's no point to it, though, because the adults don't have the time or inclination to do anything about it. How do you treat that many kids anyway? They need mothers! Please pray.


Now to change the subject, so that you can stop scratching your heads.... We were late to church this morning, because there was a parrot in our cherry tree! It was absolutely beautiful, the same colour as the fruit and leaves around it, with some blue added in, too. We tried to talk it into coming down, but it wasn't interested and eventually flew away.