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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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014

July was a busy month with three different farewell parties - one with our friends near Waseca, MN, another with Phil's family in Grand Rapids, MN, and one with Denise's family in Iowa City, IA. Denise made sure that we did not leave without celebrating Phil's 50th birthday at our farewell parties.

Phil's birthday cake at the Grand Rapids farewell

Our farewell cake in Grand Rapids (it looks like the flag of Ukraine)

After the parties were over and the packing was finally finished (we shipped 10 totes to ourselves), we were ready to be on our way. Our phone service month ended the 28th and, rather than paying a full month for just one day, we opted to have them turned off on the 28th. Even after being told they would be turned off at the end of the day the 28th, they were turned off at the beginning of the day. That was a frustrating way to start our week, but it got better!

On Tuesday, July 29th, we were up by 7 AM to leave one of the places we called home during itineration. We loaded our van with 3 suitcases to check and 3 footlockers to check, all 6 of them within a half pound of the 50 pound limit, 3 carry-on suitcases and 3 backpacks, also very full, and headed to our Pastor's house in Waseca. Our oldest daughter, Laura, was in town helping our home church with Vacation Bible School, so she was able to join us. Pastor's youngest son, Derek, also came along at Hope's request. It is just over an hour to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport from Waseca and Pastor Brad drove our van up and back (where it will be stored in a barn at the farm of one of the families at church).

We are saying our last goodbyes to Laura at the airport

God gave us grace as we said goodbye to Laura. She is a beautiful young lady and we are very proud of the woman of God that she is becoming. She loves North Central University (in Minneapolis), including dorm life. She will be an RA (Resident Advisor) for the coming school year. The experience of leaving her behind helps us better understand how our parents feel when we leave.

We had plenty of time at the airport, which meant that when they had to search one of our carry-on suitcases, we were not concerned about the time. We also had time to find Chik-fil-A for lunch (while Hope ate McDonald's). Our flight to Chicago took off on time, before 1:30 pm, and was a flight of less than an hour. This plane was medium sized with only had 4 seats per row. The overhead bins were nearly full when we boarded, but Hope (at a window seat, which she loves) and Phil had the privilege of sitting right behind business class, so there was actually enough room under the seats for our carry-on suitcases, with plenty of legroom, and the backpacks fit in the overhead bins. It was somewhat turbulent, which has often been our experience on flights between Minneapolis and Chicago, and the landing was abrupt.

We had planned a less than two hour layover in Chicago, but that was before our flight to Frankfurt, Germany was delayed an hour. We found a good place to wait and waited. We ate a snack (some dessert) from McDonald's. No free wi-fi and no phones. Finally the boarding time came for the long, 8 hour flight. This time we were all together in the three seats on the right side and started out with Hope by the window, Denise in the middle, and Phil by the aisle. Partway through the long flight, Denise and Hope switched places. Denise used a different type of Dramamine (for airsickness), and this one made her very sleepy, so she slept much of the time. Hope slept towards the end of the flight, while Phil did not sleep at all, which is quite normal, otherwise the flight was uneventful and got us into Frankfurt about 8 AM local time (1 AM Central Time), Wednesday, July 30th.

We walked through the Frankfurt airport for what seemed like a long time, went through security and again they had to check one of our hard drives. When we got to the gate, there seemed to be a lot of people in a small area with little air conditioning. When our time to leave (9:50 AM) came and went, we started wondering what was going on, but no announcement came. Did we mention how stuffy it was in the waiting area? Finally, we started getting processed more than a half hour after our flight was supposed to leave and we did not actually take off until after 11 AM. There was some confusion about the weight of the plane and what they were going to do about it, but that was finally resolved. Hope slept most of this flight and Denise slept some, while Phil only dozed a couple of minutes. We were in the air a little more than two hours and we crossed another time zone - making us 8 time zones away from home (Central Time), where it was now 7 AM as compared to 3 PM local time.

We were now more than an hour late. We breezed through passport control, picked up all six of our checked bags (rejoicing that they made it), and went out to meet Sergei from the seminary, who Phil had arranged to pick us up and take us to the house we would be renting for the next five months. The long ride through Kiev was a reminder of how crazy traffic is over here as well as how poor the roads are. Phil and Denise dozed part of the time. When we arrived at the house, we unloaded the van and one of our friends came to bring us a few groceries. We visited a bit with him (because he was trying to keep us awake). After he left, we ate some sandwiches and unpacked some of our checked bags. We had mixed things up, so if one of them was lost or delayed, all of us would be missing something rather than one person missing several things.

Denise was in bed about 8 PM, with Phil and Hope turning in by 9 PM. Of course, we were awake early the next morning (by 5:30 AM), finished unpacking the checked bags and started working on the carry-on luggage. We had to take a nap about 11 AM, but that helped us finish the day to a more normal bedtime. Jet lag - how we loathe you. Fortunately, we actually were able to sleep at the right times (except we woke up really early), but when we were awake, our minds were in a fog for the first week.

We are staying in our Area Directors house so we can care for their dog (a very good, large, yellow lab who loves being with people) until they return in January, which is in a village connected to the west side of Kiev. While we are planning to buy a car, thanks to the Assemblies of God youth in Minnesota who raise money for missionary transportation through a program called Speed the Light, for now we are at a disadvantage. We have friends who live a few blocks away, so we get hitch a ride to the store with them a couple of times each week. We find that we miss living in an apartment complex with a vegetable lady and small stores nearby.

On Saturday the 2nd we had our Ukrainian friends, Vova and Julia, over for the afternoon. They both speak great English and we knew each of them before they were married. I was really fun catching up with them.  Julia agreed to be our Russian tutor when we are ready to start.

Nothing eventful happened the next week, though we finally got over the brain fog from jet lag. That was a very good feeling! We started the letter of invitation, which is the beginning of the registration process we need follow so we can stay in Ukraine longer than 90 days.

On Saturday the 9th we had a Ukrainian friend, Daniel, over. I met him at the seminary a few years ago. He speaks Romanian and Ukrainian first, then Russian, and finally English. That meant it was a language practice visit for Phil, but it was still an enjoyable visit.

We were able to enjoy some plums from a tree in our yard

Denise decided that we needed to celebrate Phil's 50th birthday on August 12th, so she invited some American friends to come for dinner that Tuesday evening. As things would happen, Monday afternoon about 4:30 pm, we noticed that we had no water. We thought maybe our landlady, who was out working in the yard, had done something, so we did not think twice about it. When I went outside after supper, she asked if we had water. When I told her we did not, she asked if we had lights. When I told her we did, then she got concerned. The plumber she called was too tired to come see what was going on tonight, so he promised to come between 9 and 10 the next day, but it was likely the water pump that stopped working.

Good morning and happy birthday to Phil - but no miracles took place over night. Still without water. In talking to other missionary friends, they agree that not having water is worse than not having anything else. The plumber and his son showed up about 9:15 AM. I was impressed. And so began a long day. I mowed grass in the morning - and used the bagger to collect the clippings so I could pile them around the trees, at the request of the landlady. After that, I watched what was going on. They pulled the pump out and had some discussion about what to replace it with. Then the plumber and his son left and we waited. Sometime after 2 they were back and worked on getting the pump connected. The plumber was very deliberate and careful (measure twice cut once), even extra careful. Then a discussion ensued about the pressure tank, which also had had problems. After more great discussion, the son left to get a new bladder for the tank.

Meanwhile, Denise is in the kitchen making supper and a birthday cake - all from scratch. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Chicken and rice hot dish (with the cream soups also from scratch). Coleslaw. And Phil kept looking at the clock thinking we should have postponed - as there is no way we will have water by 6 for supper. Phil still needed to take a shower and we had a lot of dirty dishes. Our friends who live close offered to host the party for us, so they came to get us about 6 PM (and Phil took a quick shower before everyone came). Before we left, Phil told the landlady it was his birthday.  She apologized for what had happened, but what can you do?  As for our other friends, they ended up with too much water in their apartment (from a water pipe breakage above them) - and only 2 of the 6 were able to come. I decided that having too much water in the wrong place was worse than having no water at all. So there were 9 of us for dinner and we had a very good time. Our water was working when we got home about 9 PM, after about 27 hours without water. Thank you, Lord!

Phil's birthday bread - which was delicious (the friend who baked it is behind him)

Phil's birthday cake - all chocolate (is there any other kind?)

On Thursday evening the 14th, Denise attended a wedding shower for a friend and colleague, Judi B, who married a Ukrainian man, Vlad. The civil ceremony had taken place on Tuesday the 12th (and they were part of the friends who had too much water in the wrong place and at a very bad time). On Friday the 15th, we attended their church wedding ceremony at the seminary. It started late and it was really hot in the room we were in, but her brother-in-law shared a great message from the book of Ruth, and, when the ceremony was finished, we took an hour break (so they could rearrange and prepare for the meal). During this time, people gave their presents and congratulations to the newly married couple and they took pictures with each group. It was all very interesting. Then we had the meal, first some light things and then they brought out the meat and potatoes. When the meal was over, the MC started his part of the ceremony. People in attendance shared different things with the couple, advice, a song, a story, etc. In between, the MC had some audience participation activities. When we took another break about 8 PM, we headed for home.

And you thought you had choices in America?  Ketchup for chili, lasagna, and with garlic
(and there are plenty more to choose from!)

We started our Russian lessons on Wednesday the 20th (and plan to have them every week). Phil first, then Denise. We have a lot of work to do, but we are eager to be able to communicate with people here! That day was also our 26th wedding anniversary. Julia (our tutor) was really surprised that we scheduled lessons on that day. We always try to go out to eat to celebrate and this year we waited until Thursday evening. We like to go to TGI Friday's to have a steak when we are in Kiev, so that is what we did. It was nice to walk downtown Kiev again, including Maidan, where much of the fighting took place in February. They are still repairing the areas that were ruined or marred then. We were surprised how saddened we felt when we got to the square.

We are standing in the square (Maidan) with one of the buildings that burned behind us

Looking up towards the Globus mall and the statue there - men working to repair what was broken in February

Here you can see that they really did pull up the bricks to use for weapons - and are working to replace them

Sunday, the 24th was Independence Day in Ukraine. People celebrated the 23rd year of independence, realizing how close they are to no longer being free. While riding public transportation to church, we saw many people dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothes or with Ukrainian flags. It is nice to see Ukrainians respond with patriotism!

On Tuesday the 26th, we ventured to the hardware store on our own. Unfortunately, the one closest to us is not very easy to get to via public transportation, so we had to walk quite a bit. Phil was going to get some light bulbs he could not find at Ashan (like super Walmart). Denise wanted to look for a few other things. We found what we needed, but it was an interesting experience. One older man helped us find something. When I told him thank you in Russian, he told me I needed to speak Ukrainian because I was in Ukraine. I'm sure we will hear that more than just once. With the renewed patriotism comes renewed passion for all things Ukrainian - including language.

On Wednesday evening the 27th, our friends from Belarus came for a visit - Pavel and Irina Kelosha, along with their two boys Alexander (Alex), age 3, and Philip (Phil), 18 months. Pavel and Phil met in 2006 when he was here on his second short-term missions trip to Ukraine. We quickly became friends and have kept in contact all this time. They were glad to have us back on this side of the ocean and, since it is much easier for them to come here than it is for us to go there, they came for a visit. Their two sons are very different and were so much fun! It was so good to get to spend time with all of them. They stayed until Saturday morning, but came back in the early afternoon to get something they forgot (they had been doing some shopping nearby). They returned about 5 minutes later because the clutch on their car went out. Fortunately, there is a mechanic shop just one block from our house, so Irina and the boys stayed at our place while the car was fixed.  In less than an hour, they were on their way. We miss them already!

Our dear friends from Belarus

Phil with his little buddy, Phil (pronounced like "feel" here)

Pavel and Phil
Sunday the 31st during church, Phil got a text message from one of our Ukrainian friends from Krivoy Rog (which is where we lived for almost two years the last time we were in Ukraine). After church, Phil called him back. It turns out he and his wife are living in Kiev now and he was helping a friend work on recording a song, in English, for a new post office campaign. The song was catchy, though we did not know what it had to do with the post office. Anyway, he needed help in making sure the English words were pronounced "like a native." All three verses had just a few words that needed tweaking and all three of us were able to help him improve the song. We got a ride home with our friends and we hope to see them again, now that we know they are living here.

We have found a car, have received approval for it, and are working to get everything in place so we can purchase it soon. Watch for pictures and more information to come.

In September, Hope starts school on the 1st (we will not be celebrating Labor Day here), we will have more Russian lessons, and we will continue the registration process, including a trip to Moldova to get our short-term visas later in the month. Please pray that all goes smoothly.

Thanks for following our adventure!

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