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.

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