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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012

March was a most unusual month for us.  We were in the U.S. for most of the month and then left Laura in Minnesota with family when we returned to our new home in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine.

The month began with us in Sioux Falls with Denise's family.  Her Mother was slowly recovering from back surgery, so we stayed pretty close to home while we were there.  On Saturday, the 3rd, we headed to Waseca where we visited with friends and then enjoyed being in our home church on Sunday.  Phil preached in the morning service and we had Chinese buffet for dinner.  Then it was time to head to northern Minnesota to visit Phil's family.

After a couple of days there, Denise and Phil left the girls and headed to Springfield, Missouri for some business and meetings.  While we had a great time without the girls (and did miss them!), they enjoyed seeing family (especially some cousins) that they had not seen for over a year..

On the way to Missouri, we spent one night at the Midlands Teen Challenge center in Colfax, Iowa.  It is located in a grand old building that had been a luxury hotel in the early 1900s.  We look forward to returning there some day in the future!

What a nice building!
The next day we drove through Chillicothe, Missouri on the way to Springfield.  Did you know that it is the "home of sliced bread"?   We didn't.   We also saw a hair salon there named "Curl Up and Dye".  Interesting!

The weather in Missouri was unusually mild, but it was nice to see flowers and trees in bloom while we were there.

We had the privilege of helping out one of our friends by helping to take care of their baby as often as we could.  He is so precious!

We saw a truck with a sign "Possum - the other white meat!" one day.  No picture because the guy was sitting in the truck - and we thought he might also have a shotgun.

After our business was completed in Springfield, we headed back up to northern Minnesota to pick up Hope, leaving Laura behind for the next two months.  Saying goodbye was not easy!  We went to Sioux Falls to drop off the car that Denise's folks let us borrow.  The same friends from church came there to pick us up, brought us to their house for the night, then took us to the airport on Thursday the 22nd.  We are so blessed!

As we reflect back on our time in America, we had a great time and we were able to start preparing for life when we return from Ukraine the end of May.

The agent at the airline counter could only check our luggage through the first two stops (not the last one) and print boarding passes for the first leg.  When we arrived in Toronto, we had to wait several hours for the airline desk to open.  Fortunately, the agent there was able to switch our luggage to go to Kiev and we were all set.  After layover of more than 4 hours, we were glad to get in the air.  When we landed in Dusseldorf, we had another long layover.  Once we finally were able to get to our gate, we learned that it had changed.  That meant going back through security again.  Finally, we were on the plane and headed to Kiev.  We were glad that all our luggage arrived with us!

At the airport we were met by a colleague and spent Friday night with her.  Saturday evening we loaded on the train for Simferopol and our new apartment.  We were so glad that we had moved our things before we left Ukraine.  It was much easier to return to only have the task of unpacking ahead of us.

Our new apartment was great and had a fantastic view.  It was on the 9th floor of a newer building - and the furnishing were quite nice.

On Wednesday, Phil headed to Sevastopol for a conference that lasted until Friday.  With our things not completely unpacked, it was a big challenge to try to pack for three days.  That meant Denise was left with the responsibility to get settled and unpacked, and Phil was glad when he returned home that it looked much better!

April looks to be an interesting month, as we are busy doing different things with different people.  We also need to go to Kiev for Hope to take her standardized tests (something Minnesota requires when you home school).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 2012

February began with us preparing for our two week trip to Simferopol, then we packed and moved our things from Krivoy Rog to Simferopol, and the month ended with us starting a three week trip to America.  Needless to say, it was a busy month!

Thursday evening, the 2nd, we got a taxi to get to the train station.  We were very surprised that our driver spoke English - and got his number so we could call him when we returned in a couple of weeks.  (We wish we had met him a long time ago!)  We got settled in the train and arrived in Simferopol early the next morning.  There we stayed with friends for the two weeks and spent time checking out what life could be like for us there.  We enjoyed some good fellowship with several friends - and played Hoopla for the first time.  It turned out to be quite an entertaining game.  The girls were able to spend time doing school most days, just as if we were home.  One day, Hope was really sick with a cold and was having a hard time breathing.  We prayed for her - and by morning, she was feeling and breathing better.  We were so thankful because we were not sure what we should do for her.  The medical system here is quite poor.

I (Phil) was able to attend a conference for five days.  Because of the wind and blowing snow, several of the roads were closed most of the week, so we would not have been able to get home sooner anyway.  It was one of the coldest weeks of the winter.  We were cold all day because the city we were in had a problem with the central heat system.  The air temperature was cold, but the wind chill was well below zero.  I stayed in a rehab center with several other guys and we slept with our clothes on and as many blankets as we could round up.  It felt so good to get warm again when we got back home!

We returned to Krivoy Rog on Thursday, the 16th, and were met by "our" English speaking taxi driver.  It was so nice not to have to argue with the taxi drivers to get a ride home.  When we got to our apartment area, there was water and ice on the road to our apartment.  We discovered later that there was a water main problem at the top of the hill and the water was running down the hill and freezing.  What a mess.  Because of the ice on the hill, our driver was not able to make it to our door.  He tried backing down to get a straight run at it, but ended up getting stuck in the slushy ice at the bottom of the hill.  We stepped out of the car and into ankle deep ice water.  That was cold!!  We unloaded our luggage and had the girls head to the apartment.  Denise and Phil needed the help of an older gentleman who was out walking his dog to push the taxi out of the ice and on to the road that turned away from the icy hill.  We were so glad to get back inside where it was warmer.

Because we would be going to the states on business in March, we only had a week to pack all of our things.  Our extended family was over every day while we were trying to pack.  It was hard to balance between spending time with them and working on packing, but somehow we managed to get it all done.  We bought 22 boxes at the local "Home Depot"-like store in preparation for the move.

Sunday started a week of goodbyes.  We said goodbye to our friends at church on Sunday morning.  Our family sang "What God's Gonna Do" one last time there because they always enjoyed it.  Tuesday evening we were treated to supper by Pastor Gregori and joined by several others.  Friday afternoon we went to the orphanage to for the last time.  Some of the kids still did not understand that we were moving.  We hope to get back there one time this spring.

After our orphanage visit, we met our extended family at McDonald's for a special treat, which they really enjoyed.  Most Ukrainians really like eating there and it becomes a very special occasion.  Once supper was finished, we headed home to finish the last of our packing in preparation for the big move on Saturday.

Most of our stuff (minus the wardrobe in the back)

The rest of our stuff

In the morning, we were up early for the final preparations and cleaning.  Eddik, who we were hiring to drive to Simferopol, came by 10:30 AM.  We had everything out of the apartment and were on the road by 11:30 AM.  We had plenty of help - Slavik, Maxim, Tanya, Igor (one of the neighborhood teens that I played ping pong with), Olya (our Russian tutor), and her small daughter Olyichka - were all there to help us out.  It was hard to say goodbye to our dear friends and extended family.  This is one of those days that following God's plan for us was difficult.

Inside the van with our stuff

Our drivers friend with the stuff loaded in the back of the van

We arrived in Simferopol about 6 hours later and left our things in a friend's basement.  We spent the night with another friend.  Sunday night, we boarded the train to Kiev.  The wagon steward yelled at us for all the luggage we had in our coupe (it took up a lot of our space, so we were not enjoying it either), thinking we should have paid more for extra luggage.  (Is the train going to use more fuel because of one extra suitcase?  We don't think so.)  We arrived in Kiev about 11 AM and headed to a friend's house.

After some lunch, we met a seminary student to take Laura's graduation pictures.  We walked around Kiev and he took some great pictures of Laura - as well as a few of the rest of us.  He did such a great job.  We are planning to have him take the picture for our prayer card sometime in April.

Fun collage of Laura
Great combination photo
Hope's beautiful blue eyes
Our family

We were up and on our way to the airport by 4 AM Tuesday\morning, so grateful for the two friends who brought us and our luggage to the airport.  We flew from Kiev to Munich, Germany, then to Newark, NJ.  There we had to retrieve our luggage and go through customs.  Sitting near a restaurant, an older man sat down near us and started talking.  We learned that he had recently committed his life to Christ and was looking for a good church, so we gave him some suggestions of where to look.  He said that we had the nicest family and that we had a glow about us.  It was an interesting conversation.

Waiting in one of the airports

We finally were on our way to Minneapolis, where we were met by friends from our church.  The weather was strange for February 28th - it was raining.  Hard.  It normally snows in Minnesota in February.  We spent the night at their house and then we headed to Sioux Falls and Denise's parents in the morning.  Most of the trip, the roads were great, which was a real miracle.  They had snacks, puzzle books, and movies to keep us entertained on the trip.  They were such a blessing to us!

We finished the day (and the month of February) spending time with Denise's family, as we would for the next several days.  We have plans to head to northern Minnesota and Philip's family, then to Missouri for the business part of our trip before flying back to Ukraine on March 22nd.  Once back in Ukraine, we will head to Simferopol and get settled in an apartment for two months.

Busy, busy, busy!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 2012

January began with us watching the fireworks from our 8th floor window.  We had a great view of the city and watched fireworks in various directions for about thirty minutes.  There were even people throwing firecrackers out their apartment windows nearby.  Yura seemed to enjoy watching with us.  Even after we were all in bed and trying to sleep, we heard fireworks going off after 2 AM.  Sunday's New Year's service was moved to 3 PM (from 11 AM) because of the celebrations from the evening before.

On January 5th, Denise and Phil celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first date by going to McDonald's.  We decided to go there because it is smoke-free and because we hoped to go to TGI Friday's the next week in Kiev.

Eastern Christmas was on Saturday January 7th.  We went to Pastor Cola's church as guests for their special service.  Denise opened the service (with Phil trying to translate).  Phil preached a Christmas message (in Russian) and sang a song (in English).  There were other songs and activities and, next thing we knew, we were having a question and answer session.  That was a bit challenging, so it was good to have the help of a Ukrainian who knew English and could help translate.  Afterwards we enjoyed fellowship with tea and cookies.  We had a great time!

Pastor Cola and his wife (part of the worship team)
Phil preaching to the small congregation
That evening we had our extended family over for chili and cornbread (which they love).  It was our first time buying frozen hamburger from a street vendor, but we were pleased with how it turned out.

Slavik and Phil playing checkers while Laura and Yura play Mario Kart
Sometimes our family is large
From the left:  Tanya (Slavik's girlfriend), Slavik,
Maxim, Yulia (Maxim's girlfriend),
Laura, Hope, and Yura
Not everyone cooperates!
Our registration documents were submitted on the 3rd, so we decided that it would be best for us to head to Kiev so that we were there when our registration was ready.  Phil already shared about our travel to Kiev and finishing up our registration process in his blog post, Belarus - Travel.

On Wednesday evening, Denise and Phil each enjoyed a delicious steak dinner together at TGI Friday's.  We went to a great market across the street from the restaurant and bought some delicious fruit and vegetables.  They are more expensive there, but very excellent!  The vendors are a little more "in your face" there.  One lady wanted us to buy caviar (which neither of us likes).  She proceeded to tell us that we needed to sample her caviar and gave us both a sample.  When she started to open another kind for us to sample, Phil thanked her but we definitely do not like caviar.  She thought we were crazy.  Not like caviar!  Humph.

With our registration completed (nothing short of a miracle!), Phil left for Belarus (look in his blog for the posts about that trip), while Denise and the girls stayed another night.  They went to another friend's place on Friday afternoon and enjoyed waffles and the fixings before boarding the train for the ride home.  They made it back home without any problems and settled into life there again.  Part of our extended family was over regularly, but Maxim was there every day to help Mama out.  He did dishes, swept, and helped her go shopping (by carrying everything).  He was a huge blessing!

Maxim likes to have fun - here is wearing Laura's cow hat
When Phil got home, Yura told him that it was boring without him because no one understood what he was trying to say.  That was not totally true, but he does speak fast.

We were without electricity for a couple of hours two different evenings.  Our first thoughts were, not again!  But everything seemed to get back to normal after that.

After not having much cold winter weather or snow, the weather turned extremely cold and we had several days of strong winds and more than -20 F wind chills.  The balcony off the living room is not insulated well, so we tried our best to block the cold air by hanging a shower rod with sheets, blankets, and other things stacked in front.

Our attempt to block the cold air
Eventually we took down the stand by the TV to improve it
We publicly shared with everyone (at home and here) about our upcoming move to Simferopol during January.  It was most difficult to tell our three boys about our move.  It was a big surprise to them and they will really miss Papa, Mama, and their sisters.  And we will miss them as well.  That is the hardest thing about moving - saying goodbye to dear friends and loved ones!

Our friend, Alina, left for two months in Canada the end of January
We will miss her!
Phil completed three more classes towards ordination this month.  Only a few left!  As usual, Denise and Phil continued studying Russian.

January closed with us preparing to go to Simferopol for a couple of weeks as part of our new adventure and to move there in about a month.  There are some busy days ahead!