We are working to try to catch up on the months in 2015 that we missed, but hope you enjoy reading about what has been happening in 2016.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011

December started with the last few days with the team from our home church.  Even though we had been in Krivoy Rog all week, it still did not feel like we had really been home much.

The first two days of the month (Thursday and Friday) a Pastor's conference was held at the main church here.  It was good to reconnect with Ukrainian friends that we had not seen for quite some time.  Meanwhile, the orphanage part of the team enjoyed the time with kids.  Hope especially enjoyed spending time with them (partially because she could postpone school that way).  One place they were at, Hope played the role of interpreter to help Tracy understand what one child was trying to tell her.  She also was trying to teach Mandy some Russian.  We were proud of her!  On Saturday, we all enjoyed going to visit our kids at #9 orphanage.  It was so good to see our friends there after being gone for more than a month.  And they were glad to see us, too!

Playing a game at #9
After dinner was finished on Sunday afternoon, we loaded up the van and all headed to Kiev with the team.  On Monday, we spent the day in Kiev taking the team around to some sites and shopping.  Phil's friend Pavel, his wife Irina, and their son Alexander came from Belarus to spend a day or so with us and the team.  We enjoyed dinner at TGI Friday's that night.

The team left early Tuesday morning.  We enjoyed spending time with Pavel and his family over breakfast and lunch.  I (Phil) left right after lunch to head to the Belarus embassy to apply for my visa.  When I reached the embassy, the guard at the front of the building led me across the street and into the basement of a building.  There was a man who spoke English and helped me fill out the visa application correctly.  I had filled them out and printed from the computer, but they needed some changes.  He hurried me (because I think he wanted to go somewhere), so my writing was messier than normal (and normal is messy enough as it is).  Back across the street, the doorman let me in the embassy and I waited my turn.  Once I had my turn, the man at the desk looked over my form.  He also spoke English and told me that he could not understand part of my writing.  I had to fix those sections that he could not understand.  He asked what profession I was in because my writing was so poor.  I had to confess that it had nothing to do with what I did for a living.  I then paid for my visa at the embassy and was told to return the next Tuesday.

We stayed with friends in Kiev for the week because our AGWM Christmas party was scheduled for the following Sunday.  The church our friends attend had four performances of a dessert theater the end of the week.  Denise helped with some things on Wednesday, but the whole family helped Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (two performances).  We set up tables for all four performances and cleaned up after three of them.  We did get to sit and enjoy one of the performances (it was great!).  We were glad to help, but we worked hard those days.

We enjoyed being in church with our friends on Sunday morning and had a great time at the Christmas party later that day.  We lost electricity at our host's home while we were there.  Why does this seem to happen everywhere we go?

We enjoyed a quiet day on Monday, then Phil picked up his visa for Belarus on Tuesday.  That evening we headed back to Krivoy Rog on the train.  It was so good to be home again.  We had Bible study with our young friends that evening.  We were all glad to be together again!

Because we missed Slavik's birthday (before Thanksgiving), we celebrated on Wednesday evening.  We were glad to be with our extended family again.  Yura's birthday was on Christmas Eve, so we ended up celebrating his birthday and Christmas at the same time.

Our Christmas tree (here they are New Year's trees)
It rained and rained here, and then it rained some more. We were glad it was not all snow or there would have been a lot of snow.  We did miss having snow for Christmas, though.  Denise and the girls went out shopping a few days before Christmas and took a bunch of pictures to celebrate "A Very Muddy Christmas."  Here are a few of them.

Our Christmas Eve gathering was fun.  We had turkey and all the trimmings, plenty of cookies, and a large apple pie!  We tried to make it as American as possible.

We were joined by our extended family - Slavik, Tanya, Maxim, and Yura - as well as a Canadian friend, James. 

After dinner, Phil read the Christmas story from Luke 2 in both English and Russian.

Then the "kids" opened their presents and we just enjoyed being together.  Even though Maxim told us just being with us was present enough, we still got all four of them some gifts, too.

Hope is excited about one of her gifts
Slavik commented how nice it was to have family.  Laura thought it was one of the best Christmas celebrations ever.  We have truly been blessed with great relationships here!

Intense Mario Kart competition between Laura and Slavik
Hope and Tanya playing something on the computer
Maxim with his mischievous smile
Yura with a big smile
Christmas Day was a normal Sunday here with church in the morning and then family time in the afternoon.  We were looking forward to a couple of quiet days at home.  Monday we decided to have a movie day, so we watched several movies.  About 4 PM, we got a call the we needed to come to Kiev so we could sign some documents related to our registration process.  Phil went to the train station to buy tickets, we packed, and later that evening we were on our way to Kiev.

For several reasons, we decided that we could not help our friends over Christmas. Instead we wanted to stay close to home over the holidays.

After arriving in Kiev early the next morning, Phil bought tickets for the return trip that night (there did not seem to be any the day before).  We spent the day with the VanMeter family and, as always, enjoyed the fellowship.  Denise and Phil signed the documents in the afternoon.  After supper and a movie, we got back on the train to head home to Krivoy Rog.

We could not get four places together in the same coupe (room in a train wagon with four beds - two upper and two lower), but we did have two upper berths in two coupes next to each other.  The couple in Denise's coupe spoke English and offered to help accommodate us.  They had the two ladies in Phil's coupe join them so that our family could be together. We were not going to ask, but so glad they offered. What a blessing that was!

On Friday, good friends Vova and Juliya were married in Dnepropetrovsk.  Phil was sick, so he and Laura stayed home.  Denise and Hope waited at the bus station to ride with friends there for the wedding.  After the wedding, they planned to ride the bus home, but a Canadian friend with room in his van brought them back.  It is always fun to see how God provides!

Wedding picture
Alex (Juliya's brother), Juliya, Vova,, and Yana (Alex's wife)
We enjoyed time with our extended family on New Year's Eve.  They were all here for homemade pizza (one of their favorites!).  Slavik and Tanya had to leave about 7 and Maxim left about 10.  Yura planned to spend the night, so he was with us to see the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year.  We watched The Omega Code and The Omega Code 2, finishing up just before midnight.

In January, Phil has plans for a trip to Belarus if our registration is done in time.  Other than that, we expect it to be a fairly normal month of living, learning, and sharing - at least as far as we know.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 2011

We start out November in Chisinau, Moldova wondering how long we will need to wait for our new letter of invitation.  Rather than spend time worrying about that, we decided to be flexible, make ourselves at home (in the home of Wesley and Donna Buck), and enjoy some time with friends.

On Wednesday the 2nd, we spent the day with our friends, the Stitt's.  We enjoyed some delicious Moldovan food for lunch, walked around the city on a gorgeous fall day, and visited a Natural History Museum together.  The building was built many years ago specifically for this museum.

Our family at the entrance of the Natural History Museum

We went to their place to watch a movie together.  When we left there, we loaded on to a very crowded marshrutka to get back to the Buck's place.  After we got off, Denise realized that her purse was unzipped. When we got inside the house, we discovered (as we had feared) that her wallet had been stolen - not her iPod nano or camera.  Looking back, she can pinpoint who did it and when he did it.  The man got about $50 worth of money, her driver's license, a credit card (stopped within 30 minutes of the loss), a store card, medical insurance cards, and some photos. Not a big deal, but just a hassle.  That is the first time we have had something stolen overseas - and many others have experienced much worse. God has everything under control. For that, we are very thankful!

One day we went shopping at the mall - Malldova - where we had some KFC for lunch.  That was a nice taste from home.  There is no KFC in Ukraine.

We have been in Moldova more than a week and we still have no news.

The girls loved that the Buck's were house sitting a cat

Hope had a few days off from school, but now she is back at it again.  Laura has been doing school the whole time we have been here.  Denise made herself at home in the kitchen and blessed all of us (especially Buck's) with fresh-baked goodies and meals.  Phil studied as well.  We bought groceries.  We lived life much as we would have in Ukraine.

Tuesday evening we enjoyed more Moldovan food and the companionship of friends - including two couples who were in Moldova to get their Ukrainian visas.  They expected to receive theirs the next day.  Troy and HeidiJo Darrin returned to Moldova from the states - and Hope bonded with HeidiJo almost immediately.  It was so fun to see!  Wednesday evening we ate at Andy's Pizza (popular local chain) with Buck's and Darrin's.  Laura really likes their french fries.  We got a quick tour of Darrin's new home and went to Malldova to get some gelato (cheap and delicious!) in the food court.  It was a great night of fellowship!

On Thursday, the electricity was off for about 7 1/2 hours - from 8 AM until 3:30 PM.  That is something that we have experienced several times in Ukraine (as you know), so we let Buck's know and then just waited.  Phil ran some errands.  Denise and the girls played games (it started getting dark by the time the power came back on).  Friday is the last day of Laura's quarter, so she really needed the Internet to work on her school.  As it worked out, they extended the quarter by a couple of days because of some other issues the school had (what a relief that was!).

When Phil was out, he checked the price of a fitness club he had seen near a market area.  He had not been to the gym for almost two weeks, but this one was out of our price range.  It had a pool and the weight room really was not that great, but it was over $115/month - and just one visit would cost more than $15.  It makes us even more thankful for the gym that he goes to in Krivoy Rog - at a cost of $1.25 per visit.

Sunday afternoon found us shopping with Buck's at their Number 1 store (almost like a Super Target).  It was much nicer than our Ashan store (which we are grateful for, but is more like a Super K-Mart).  We bought two pillows for us to sleep on.  They were sold vacuum sealed and flat.  Once we got them home and opened the packaging, they pillows fluffed up like normal.  And they were pretty comfortable, too.

We have been in Moldova more than  two weeks and we still have no definite news.  We have been told a few times that our letter would be ready in a day or two, but nothing yet.  We know it will happen when it is supposed to happen.

On Wednesday the 16th, we received that our new documents are ready.  We expected to receive them the next day, but learned late in the afternoon on the 17th that they were ready, but had not been released yet.  They were finally released early in the evening and would soon be on their way to Chisinau (via train).  Friday afternoon Phil headed to the train station to pick up.  It turned into a bit of an adventure because he missed the stop and had to take a taxi to the train station instead, but he made it and received our documents.

On Saturday, we tried to go to tour a monastery with Patrick Stitt.  When we could not find a bus to take us there, we decided to shop instead.  That was a lot of fun, even if we did not buy much.  When we were out shopping, we thought maybe we were at a fair in America rather than on a street corner in Chisinau.  There were some South American Indians selling pan flute music.

Pan Flute music players playing music to sell their things

We enjoyed attending the International Church with Buck's as well as being part of the play practice/fellowship that took place in their home. We are always thankful for our many friends away from home.

Monday morning, Phil (I) went to the Ukrainian embassy right away and went through the necessary process to apply for our visas.  First, I waited outside the embassy.  When a group of people was finally brought inside (including me), I had to wait my turn at the first desk for the initial check for what you were there for.  Once it was my turn, I was escorted to the front of the line - nice!  After the man at the window did some paperwork and checked my application, he sent me to make some copies and go to the bank to pay for the visas.  I finished those tasks, returned to the embassy, went straight to the window, where the man told the people he was talking to that they had to wait for me, and we finished our work there.  He told me to return with my family at 3 PM.  Wondering why, we all made it to the embassy by 3 PM.  After we were let in, we sat and waited for a while.  After about 20 minutes, a lady gave us our passports - with VISAS in them.  We were thankful it only took one day because we were expecting three days.  That meant we would be able to make it to Kiev in time for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday morning, Phil made two trips to the train station (because he forgot our passports the first time), which took most of the morning, but he got tickets to head to Kiev on a train that evening.  We finished packing up and then met some other friends at Andy's Pizza for a farewell supper.  It was fun to visit one last time.  Troy and HeidiJo brought us to the train station.  We boarded our train and started on our 17+ hour journey about 8:30 PM.  We had no issues at the border crossing and arrived in Kiev just after 1:30 PM Wednesday.  After 24 days, we were finally back in Ukraine.

Loving sisters?

Thanksgiving Day was a special day.  We spent the day with many friends in Kiev and enjoyed turkey, ham, and all the fixings for dinner.  We are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for.  Even with the long, unplanned visit in Moldova, God provided for and met all of our needs.

Friday we spent most of the day with the VanMeter family.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  The house we were staying at had the hot water go out.  Someone came over about midnight to try to get it going, but was only able to get it going temporarily.  Denise, Phil, and Laura all took showers.  By morning, there was no hot water (or heat).

Saturday was the day we had been waiting for - and hoped we would be back in Ukraine in time.  A team was coming to Ukraine from our church - and the day we got to go back home.  We got a ride to the airport and waited for the team to arrive.  After they landed, finished going through customs, and retrieved their luggage, we met up with our driver and headed to Krivoy Rog.  We knew most of the team already, so it was fun to spend time catching up with them on our 6+ hour drive home.  We stopped to eat pizza at Chilentano's in Smila, a city about half way between Kiev and Krivoy Rog.  When we reached Krivoy Rog, we helped the others get settled in their places and arrived home about 10 PM.  That was just a few hours shy of four weeks from when we left for Moldova.  Oh, it was good to be home.

With our friends here, we would not have time to just relax and adjust to being at home.  Sunday we enjoyed hearing Pastor Brad preach at church here.  Monday Denise and Hope went with the orphanage crew and Phil took care of some things at home.

We were grateful for these gifts from family and friends that the team brought to us!

Because there was no trip to the village on Monday evening, we decided it would be good to have our extended family over.  (That was the hardest thing about being gone for so long.  We really missed them.)  Tracy, Mandi, and Sue were at our apartment with us and they ended up experiencing what must have looked like a Russian sit-com.  When Phil called, Maxim and Yura were here within 20 minutes; with Slavik and Tanya arriving very shortly after that. Denise made supper and cookies. It was so good to see them - and we got multiple hugs, especially from the boys. They really missed us and Denise's home cooking. Our three American guests enjoyed the entertainment as we interacted with them and laughed regularly at (or with?) us.  We were glad that we got to see all of them, because it turned out to be the only time that worked for the rest of the week.

Denise with friends from America and Ukraine visiting an orphanage

Visiting the TB (non-contagious) hospital with American and Ukrainian friends

At one orphanage, the room was cold so Phil put his gloves on his feet.
The kids thought it was funny, but two of them "shook" hands with him anyway!
Laura made a cute friend at the orphanage near our apartment

Denise got to hold a baby at the Mom's Dorm -
and told Phil that he should have been with them that day!

Sharing a scripture before some unplanned singing at one village service

We finished off the month of November helping our friends from America.  Laura spent much of the time working on school, while Hope was able to do some school and spend more time visiting orphanages.

Philip received word early in the month that he is now officially a Licensed Minister in the Assemblies of God. We am truly amazed at what God has done and is doing in our lives.

In December, we have plans to wrap up our time with the team and head back to Kiev with them.  Then we will stay in Kiev for our AGWM Christmas party.  We missed Slavik's birthday because of our extended stay in Moldova, so we will celebrate his birthday as well as Yura's.  We have plans to do some ministry with some friends over Christmas.  November was like nothing we expected, so we will see what happens!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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Monday, October 31, 2011

October 2011

October began in a rather unusual way with Denise and Hope at home in Krivoy Rog and Phil and Laura in Kiev.  We (Phil and Laura) got up early and left the seminary by 7 AM.  Even though Phil had checked out the test location the day before, it still took us about 50 minutes to get there (walking and metro).  Phil sat and read in a chair in the entry of the building while Laura took the test (until about 12:30 PM).  We met up with Norm Edwards (our Area Director) and went over to their house for the afternoon.  Laura was able to relax with Norm's daughters, but Phil was there to take his ministerial exam (which he passed).  We enjoyed supper at a restaurant that cooks the meat and vegetables that you put into a bowl (kind of like a Mongolian grill).  It was delicious.

Sunday night, we (Phil and Laura) were back on the train heading home to Krivoy Rog.  We actually got some sleep on the train and were back home before 6:30 AM.  We were surprised that the marshrutka fares went up again - from 2.50 grivna (31 cents US) to 3.00 grivna (37.5 cents US), even though gas prices have leveled off and even dropped a little.  That makes us even more thankful for our new apartment because we ride less. 

It was good to be spend time together as a family again on Monday.  We had a quiet day together and, that evening, we enjoyed a surprise visit with Vova Matveyev and Juliya Lytvynenko.  They shared about their recent engagement and wedding plans and we got to see his new car - a blue 1980 (yes, that is correct!) Lada wagon.

On Tuesday evening the 11th, I (Phil) headed to Kiev on the train again to meet someone from the US who brought some needed medicines over for Denise and I (which I did get).  The trip was uneventful, though the coupe got very hot, and I was at the seminary about 6:30 AM on Wednesday.  I was blessed to attend the Teen Challenge Coffee House Wednesday evening and enjoyed visiting with other friends in Kiev.  A highlight of the trip was the picnic outing with the students and staff from the seminary.  It is always fun getting to know some of the students there.  Even though it was a chilly afternoon, we had a great time.  I rode back home on Thursday night's train and was glad to be back home by 7 AM Friday.

We enjoy and are thankful for our weekly visits to #9 orphanage/boarding school (twice a week if we can - with Adam and Curtis Nikkel and their team here).  We enjoyed the special program that orphanage #9 put on to celebrate the Cossacks.  Some of the students demonstrated games that they would play, which were very entertaining.

Students, Educators, and Guests that participated in the Cossack celebration

One of our friends at the orphanage

After the program, the kids were busy with another event and were going to be busy when we had planned to come the next day.  Instead, we decided to go on Sunday afternoon instead to show the movie "Soul Surfer" (in Russian).  The movie was good and had a great message, something those kids need to hear.  We also enjoyed the time spent with our friends there, especially Phil.  Before the movie started, he sat on the floor (which became really hard by the time the movie ended) and had two 12 year old boys (Pasha and Daniel) sitting next to him (one on each side).   During the movie, they each needed one of his arms around them.   If he moved an arm, they made sure to return it so it was wrapped around them again.   Denise would have taken a picture, but she was behind them..

Our extended family continues to grow.  It now includes Slavik, Tanya (Salvik's girlfriend), Maxim (Slavik's brother), and Yura (Slavik's friend).  All four young adults are orphans and need to know the love of a family.  The three young men are becoming like sons to us (Denise and Phil) and they all consider us like "Mama and Papa."  Maxim's new girlfriend, Yulia, was over to visit several times shortly after they started dating.  It has been so fun to watch this develop.  One day, Phil was able to take all three of them to the gym with him.  That was a real treat and they all enjoyed it.  One day, after going to the gym with Phil, Slavik and Maxim got to enjoy some of Denise's homemade chicken and rice soup with fresh baking powder biscuits.   They both loved it all, but especially raved about the biscuits.

Our "boys" - Yura, Maxim, Phil, and Slavik
I (Phil) am still working to have the Bible study meet more regularly.  We always have interesting discussions.  So far it has just been our extended family, though we have had others express interest who have not been there yet.  Tanya shows little to no interest in church or the things of God, but she has participated along with the others.  The others have professed faith in Christ and need to grow in their faith and hear God's word.  The Russian Bible is very hard for them to understand (a lot like asking English speakers to read and understand the King James Version).  Denise does a great job cooking dinner and baking cookies for them, which they always appreciate.
Normal life for us now seems to include having our extended family over at least 3 times a week and Denise baking a lot of cookies for them to eat.   As well as the other things we have been doing, attending church services, visiting the orphanage, Phil working out at the gym, Hope and Laura working on school work, Denise and Phil studying Russian, managing paperwork, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry.

Earlier this year, Ukraine decided to stop changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time.  However, on the 17th of this month, the government decided to cancel that cancellation, just under two weeks before the time change.  It's always interesting to live outside of the USA!

Phil and Denise had their interview with Minnesota District executive committee in regards to upgrading Phil's ministerial license to "Licensed" from "Certificate of Ministry".

One day, Phil and Hope went to Ashan (like a Super Kmart) to get a few things.  It was very busy because it was their second anniversary of being open here, so they had a few product samples out (very rare here).   We noticed that one "new" product was saltine crackers, which we have missed. We asked where they were and hurried to get a box.  Even though they were almost $3.50, it is worth it!  They have been in Moldova for over a year, but not in Ukraine.  They were very good and we hope they are here to stay!

Our new saltine crackers

Unlike our old apartment that relied on the city hot water for heat, we can control the heat in our new apartment. As the weather cooled down during the month, we turned it on because we could. After the beautiful fall we have had, it's hard to face the reality of the colder weather that is coming.

After checking on travel options for getting to Moldova and waiting for our letter of invitation (required for us to get new visas and replace our current ones that expire 11/1), it was completed and sent on the overnight train Friday the 28th.  Phil was up at 5:15 AM Saturday to get the documents off the train.  Because there were no tickets available for travelling by train, he went straight to the bus station to buy tickets to leave for Odessa, Ukraine that night at 12:40 AM.  Our taxi driver had a little trouble getting to our apartment building because the roads around us do not go all the way through, but we got to the bus station with plenty of time to spare.  While we waited, a dirty cat came at laid down on Denise's feet for a while.  What a funny sight!

We loaded on the bus, which turned out to be quite warm, and took off.  It was the night for our time change here, so we had a 45 minute stop instead of a 15 minute stop after about 3 hours on the road.  Hope rested well, Denise and Laura slept quite a bit, and Phil slept little.  We arrived about 6:45 AM (after the time change) in Odessa, where we bought bus tickets to get to Chisinau, Moldova.

The border crossing was uneventful, but our feet became cold with the bus door open while we waited at each side of the border.  At the bus station in Chisinau, Phil's wallet was found on the floor of the bus after he had left.  We are thankful for God's hand of protection and blessing there.  We arrived safely to the home of Wesley and Donna Buck about 1:45 PM.  It was good to be with them again, though the four of us were kind of tired.

The plan for Monday morning was for Phil to go to the embassy to apply for our visas.  After he got up and got ready, he learned that there was a problem with our letter of invitation and we would need to wait for a replacement.

What will November bring?   We had planned to stay in Moldova for a week, but it might be longer than that.  Once we have our visas, we need to start working on the new process to get registered.  To begin with, our "normal" life will take place in Moldova, minus our extended family.  When we return to Krivoy Rog, our regularly scheduled "normal" life will return.  We have plans to go to Kiev for Thanksgiving to celebrate with friends there.  A team from our church arrives in Kiev the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so we look forward to working with them after they arrive.  It looks to be an "out of the ordinary" type of month so far.

We always enjoy sharing our adventure with you!

Friday, September 30, 2011

September 2011

September 1st is the traditional first day of school here.  We were out the door right away for the 50+ minute marshrutka ride (with one transfer) to get to the #9 orphanage for the ceremony to start the school year at 9:00 AM.  (In this culture they have special ceremonies on the first day of school - called the First Bell - and the last day of school - called the Last Bell.  This post on a Russian language learning blog explains the First Bell celebration.)  We were so glad to see so many of our young friends again - and they seemed equally thrilled to see us.  We had missed them over the last several weeks.
First Bell ceremony
Several students read or recite something (front row)
Our special friends Bogdan (left), Cola (second from left), and Sasha (right)
Notice the large bows in the hair of the young girls
Educators and Guests also say some words (back row)

After that first morning, the month was fairly quiet, with Hope at work on her fifth grade school lessons, Laura getting started on her senior year of high school (is it possible?), and all of us enjoying some very beautiful fall weather.  We are loving our new apartment and the location.

We also got into a more "normal" routine of visiting the #9 orphanage twice a week (when possible) with our friends Adam and Curtis Nikkel and their team.

A common sight with one group - gang wrestling with Phil

Denise's sweet young friend, Genya

Interesting tree at the orphange - with long bean-type seed pods

Our extended family continues to grow.  You may recall that in July it was only Slavik, then his girlfriend, Tanya, started joining us more often.  Slavik's brother, Maxim, recently got out of prison (after three years) and is now regularly part of our family activities as well.  He gave his life to Christ shortly after getting out of prison, so it is fun to see him grow in his young faith.  We were a bit concerned about having an ex-con over for supper (never had that experience before), but he is a good young man who does not want to return to prison.  He ran with the wrong crowd and got himself in trouble when he was younger.  He speaks no English, so communication can be a challenge, but he is very patient with our Russian.  He thinks Denise's cooking is top-notch (of course!).

I (Phil) was able to start a Bible study for some of my young adult friends, though I have had to remain flexible.  I was sick one week and my friends were busy another week.  One time after we had finished a study with two of them, two more young men came over.  We visited in Russian and drank tea and ate cookies.  It is difficult to do everything all in Russian, but I am managing and I keep reminding them to speak slower.

Partial family picture

I (Phil) completed the last course I needed for the Licensed ministry level.  In order to complete the application process for this upgrade in license level (from Certificate of Ministry), I still needs to take an exam and Denise and I need to interview with the district executive committee.

Phil started out September being sick and finished out the last two weeks being sick again and his ears were both plugged this time.  Laura needed to take her SAT test in Kiev on Saturday, October 1st, so we (Phil and Laura) headed to the train station on the later afternoon of Thursday the 29th for the overnight trip to Kiev (Denise and Hope stayed home).  Just before we got on the train, Phil's left ear popped and opened up some.  He had just told Laura a few minutes before that he feels like one of these times it is going to do just that.

We (Phil and Laura) made it to Kiev and to the seminary where we stayed by 6:30 AM.  Because we had little sleep on the train (which is quite normal), we slept for a little while before getting up for breakfast, only to learn that it was an hour later than normal.  Phil got up to take a shower and locked himself out of our room, with Laura sleeping inside.  She finally heard him knocking after trying on and off for 15 minutes.

At home, we (Denise and Hope) enjoyed going to the orphanage, then to McDonald's for supper, and watching a movie together on Friday.

Normal life for us now seems to include having our extended family over at least 3 evenings a week and Denise baking a lot of cookies for them to eat.  The other things we have been doing include attending church services, visiting the orphanage, Phil working out at the gym (when he is healthy), Hope and Laura working on school work, Denise and Phil studying Russian, managing paperwork, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry.

Hope learning to share in the kitchen duty
What will October bring?  It will include more "normal" life, plus Laura taking her SAT in Kiev, Phil taking his ministerial exam, and more Bible studies in Russian.  Our current visas expire November 1st, so we need to get a new letter of invitation so we can leave for Moldova to get new visas sometime before the end of the month.  A new process was put into effect in September, so it will be interesting to see how this process, which now requires registration after we get the visa, works out.

As always, we enjoy sharing our adventure with you!