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, September 19, 2015

September 2015 - Our New Home in Krivoy Rog

After we made the final decision to move to Krivoy Rog in mid-August, things moved forward rather quickly. Phil finished up the project he was working on before the end of August so we could leave Kiev with complete closure. While we enjoyed living in Kiev, our hearts were always to live somewhere outside of the capital city, wherever God would lead.  As we have watched this process unfold, it has been amazing to watch God open a door that we thought was closed. Our primary purpose is to help the Churches of Praise plant more churches, though we are also interested in church health and encouraging them in what God has called them to do.

We came to Krivoy Rog to look for a place to live on Wednesday, September 2. Our original place to stay fell through, so we were thankful that one of our friends could put us up for a couple of days at the last minute. It is much harder to find places to live here than in Kiev, especially larger ones with nicer renovations. Many of the houses are far from where we wanted to live. (Remember, the city is 80 miles long and 20 miles wide.) We had one option, but the kitchen was small and Phil really wanted another choice.

Wednesday night found Phil with a bout of diarrhea and he was up most of the night. So Thursday he slept all morning and then we did not go anywhere, as he was preaching in a service that evening. In the afternoon, Phil found a very nice house, at a good price, not too far from where we wanted, but when he called the realtor, it was already taken. We decided that was not God's plan for us, though we were disappointed.

Phil was feeling better and preached at Pastor Galina's church that evening. After church, we talked to one of our friends, who knew of someone who might be able to help us out. She checked with her friend, and the next day we went to look at the house. When we walked in, we just knew it would be the right place for us. The kitchen (which is spacious and nice) and living room are open, which is rare here. And, best of all, it is in THE neighborhood that we wanted to live in. God came through in a big way, as He always does, but just in the nick of time (which He often does). He looks after and cares for His children!

Because the weather was in the mid-90's, we decided to head back to Kiev, where we would make plans to move on Saturday the 12th. We packed all week, scheduled a large van for our move, and said our goodbyes. We were up in plenty of time for our help to show up about 9 AM. We were blessed by the help of three people - Phil's gym buddy and a couple who came to Kiev for 6-8 weeks to adopt a child. The van showed up before 10 AM and was all loaded by 10:30, which was ahead of schedule. The van took off and we planned to catch up later.

We had to meet with our landlady who was running late and it seemed that our meeting took forever. Rather than getting our deposit back, more than half of it covered cleaning of curtains ($200), professionally cleaning the apartment (almost $200), and our last month's utilities. We appreciated that it was clean when we moved in, but that seems extreme, even for Kiev.

Finally, we were able to leave and swung by McDonald's on the way out of town, but we were basically 90 minutes behind the van. We actually caught up to them before 3 PM, and followed them the rest of the way. The worst of the roads were behind us at that point, so that was good. We arrived at our home about 5:30 PM, and four Ukrainian guys came to help us unload - three from churches we have been to and one friend from down the street.

Everything was unloaded quickly (and our Ukrainian friends thought we had a lot of stuff, though it is way less than we had in America). Our apartment was 100 cubic meters and felt like it was overrun with boxes before we moved, but the house is larger and did not feel that way after we unloaded. Two of the guys stayed and helped us put together a few things, which allowed us to take care of unpacking other things. We were so blessed by the help of our friends on both ends!

Saturday night and Sunday we were so tired and made little progress on our unpacking, but by Wednesday we had most things unpacked and started feeling settled.  We love our comfortable home and are so grateful. It is less than a 5 minute WALK to a medium-sized grocery store and outdoor vegetable stand and less than a 10 minute DRIVE to a large supermarket.

One problem that Denise has had with our house is that there are screens on only a few windows (and most have holes), so the mosquitoes have found their way inside. They do not bother Phil (except the noise), but Denise's mosquito bites itch for weeks. So soon we hope to get some screens ordered and installed. so everyone will be happy. Phil's Dad always says, "If Mama isn't happy, no one is happy!"

On Saturday the 19th we had our first company over for supper (and we forgot to take a picture) - Ukrainian friends Phil and Julia. They have been married two years on the 21st and are about the same age that we were when we got married. Phil and Phil have become pretty good friends, chat regularly, and it will be fun spending time with them!

Please pray that our home is a blessing to all who enter!

We have been welcomed with open arms and will have many opportunities to minister, both corporately and individually. God has blessed us abundantly!!

We finally got some pictures taken, so enjoy the tour!

When you walk in the front door (actually at the side of the house), there is a small entry, then to your right is a large living room, with the stairs to reach the second floor.  There is no basement.

And to the left is the kitchen, which we love. The only thing we miss is the dishwasher in Kiev!

The main floor bathroom is to the right of the kitchen

This is a view of the living room from the bathroom door, where you can see a bit of the entry.

At the top of the stairs, this is what you see - a hall and a room between the bedrooms, and the door to the bathroom.

Here is the second floor bathroom.  Guess who was taking pictures?

Our bedroom is to the left of the bathroom. There is a built in closet with shelves on the wall shared with the bathroom.

Outside of our room, this is the view back to the stairs, with the door to Hope's room, which is adjacent to the stairs.

Here is Hope's room, with a great built-in desk area

In the room between the bedrooms, there is a great office area for Phil as well as a sun room/balcony type room.

On the other side of this room, we are going to put a futon for guests (hope to find one soon).

Sunday, May 31, 2015

April and May 2015

April began quietly and very normal with Phil working on his project, Denise studying Russian and keeping the home functioning, and Hope getting closer to the end of her 8th grade studies.

We attend an International Church in Kiev and there we celebrated Easter twice - once with the west on Sunday April 5th and again based on the Orthodox calendar on April 12th. Easter is something we can celebrate every day! Here it is always interesting seeing the many items for sale all over the place that announce, "Jesus is Risen"!  Yes, He is risen indeed!

Instead of coloring eggs, this year Hope and and Mom made cupcakes with different pastel colors in them and Hope decorated them.

Hope and her Easter cupcakes (Dad already "tested" one!)
Hope made cream cheese mints - yummy!!
Here's an example of the beautiful skyline after sunset
And another sunset
On Saturday the 18th, Hope had a birthday party with several friends from youth group, even though her birthday is not until May, because we are planning to be gone to Krivoy Rog the week of her birthday. Four teenage girls came before supper, ate Denise's homemade pizza, talked and laughed (a lot!), watched a movie, slept a little, and then enjoyed homemade doughnuts (Krispy Kreme knock-offs, which were delicious!) for breakfast.

Hope and friends at her birthday party
With our upcoming trip to Krivoy Rog the first week of May, we were getting excited and making some preparations for that. I (Phil) planned to preach four times during that week, so I wrote and translated a sermon, then had someone correct it. While I still made a lot of mistakes, the errors were less major than last fall. The progress is exciting - and worth celebrating!

Hope finished 8th grade at the end of April, just a day or two before we left for Krivoy Rog.  All she has left is to take a standardized test this summer sometime.

Saturday morning, May 2nd, we loaded our car and took off for Krivoy Rog.

Our first planned stop was Smila, where we met with a friend of ours, Pastor Dennis, and visited with him while we ate pizza and then took a look at the progress on their church building. It is always fun to hear a pastor talk share the vision that God has given them for their area. (Our visit was short, but we are going to go back there to minister on Sunday July 5th.)

After we left Smila, the roads were horrible and sometimes worse. There were sections that were fine, but suddenly you would be on a section that had more holes than good road, and with no warning. It makes you stay "engaged" as the driver, that's for sure. We literally drove from shoulder to shoulder, depending on whether there was oncoming traffic and what the other lane looked like.  (And always remembering what one lady told Pastor Brad on one of my first missions trips.  "Roads are bad.  Not much traffic.  Drive fast and use both lanes."
The area on the outskirts of Krivoy Rog (iron mining) looks much like the area around the iron range in northern Minnesota
We finally got to Krivoy Rog about supper time. We went grocery shopping and had some fast food (Mister Burger, which looked a lot like Burger King).

Sunday morning came and even though it was raining, we were ready for our first ministry opportunity of the week. We met and followed our friends to Pastor Marina's church, which is on the north part of the city. (Krivoy Rog is the longest city in Europe and is about 80 miles long and 20 miles wide, built along a river and mines.) We had a good time there and enjoyed seeing some friends we already knew and made some new friends.  We visited for a while after the service and headed back to the apartment where we stayed for the week.

After we got back, Phil called our boys, Slavik and Maxim. We had planned to have them over on Monday evening for supper, but because they were both scheduled to work this week, we had to change our plans. That meant they would be coming over Sunday evening instead and that Mama (Denise) would need to make pizza for supper, because that is what they miss the most. Phil went to get them, found their apartment from memory (though it would have been easier on foot), and we enjoyed homemade pizza with the two of them, Maxim's girlfriend, and her little girl. Maxim was very mellow during the evening, but was basically content to sit close to Phil with his head leaning on Phil's shoulder much of the time, while Slavik talked to Denise quite a bit and helped her in the kitchen. Then they ate homemade cookies that Denise baked before we left. When Phil brought them back home that evening, both Maxim and Slavik said "Mama is a master chef!"  To them, she sure is!! We did not realize just how much they missed us and how much it means to these two young men to have someone who cares about them, even when we cannot always understand what they are telling us.

Slavik, Phil, and Maxim
Slavik and Phil
Phil and Maxim
The crew - Slavik, Phil, Maxim, Viktoria (Maxim's girlfriend), and Kira (Viktoria's daughter)
Monday was a quiet day and we enjoyed some down time as well as time spent visiting with our good friend and former tutor, Olya, along with her daughter, Olyechka. Olyechka played piano for us and she is doing a great job. The bargain was that if she played for us, then Phil would play for them.

On Tuesday the 5th, we enjoyed some down time and prepared for Hope's birthday party. Her birthday is on Wednesday the 6th, but because we will be visiting a church that evening, we decided to have her party a day early. Hope wanted a Mexican theme, since it was Cinco de Mayo, so Denise made tacos for supper. We had three friends over for supper, all three single missionaries from North America. Olya and Olyechka came after 7:30 for the gorgeous cupcakes that one of our guests made. Hope went to bed about 9 pm because she was tired (which is not at all unusual for her) and our guests left about 11 pm.  It was really fun catching up with them!

Our friends who came to celebrate Hope's birthday
Hope with her gorgeous (and delicious) present of cupcakes
On Wednesday, Phil worked some while Denise and Hope relaxed. For lunch, we went to McDonald's (at Hope's request) and ate outside.  There were several small birds (sparrows, we think) hanging around that were very friendly and wanted food.

Lunch with some little beggars
That evening, we went to Pastor Colya's church, which is towards the south part of Krivoy Rog, There were only a few that came out that night, but we had a good time and they seemed to be encouraged and challenged by our visit. Pastor Colya has a fabulous testimony of God delivering him from a life of crime. Phil began his sermon in Russian, but then switched to English (with a translator) to give them a break. Hope spent Wednesday night with Pastor Gregori's daughter, Anya, and had a fun time with her.

Phil and Pastor Colya
Thursday was much like Wednesday, except we went to the main church that evening, which had been home for us for almost two years. We had not been there for a regular service since the Sunday before we left Krivoy in February, 2012. We enjoyed seeing some friends that we had not seen for a long time and loved being back "home" again. Again, Phil began preaching in Russian, but finished with a translator.

Hope was part of the worship choir
Denise talking before the two of us sang
A moment during Phil's sermon
Friday was spent visiting friends.  In the morning we were with Olya again, and then in the afternoon we helped her deliver food to a refugee family.  While they were not homeless, their apartment would have been hard for most of us to live in.  A Mom and 3 kids living in a one room apartment - the living room was a bedroom, too.  Her oldest daughter lived with Grandma, because she had physical needs that made it difficult to care for her there.  Even for Hope, it was a real eye-opener.  We spent the evening with the three friends that came to Hope's party.  Hope again spent the night with Anya, along with a couple of other girls her age.

Slavik came and spent Friday night with us after he got off work, so that he could get as much time with us as possible. Saturday morning, we picked up Hope, along with our two Canadian missionary friends, and headed to our favorite orphanage on the south side of Krivoy Rog. We got to see a few kids that we knew and met a couple of others, but they were really tired because they had been up at about 4 AM for some special celebration they were involved in for Victory Day. The ones that we talked to weren't too excited about anything that day, which was a bummer for us.  Phil still keeps in touch with several of our friends from there, who have since graduated, which he really enjoys.

One of the young men at Number 9, who used to be much smaller
Our time in Krivoy Rog had been good and we are thankful for the things that we were able to do and the people that we were able to see. We went back to our apartment, finished cleaning up, went to say goodbye to Maxim, and dropped Slavik off, then headed for Kirovograd.

Fortunately, that was only about 2 hours away, so we got there right about suppertime. It was so good to see Pastor Alexei again, who is one of Phil's dearest friends, along with his right hand man at church, Sasha.  (And we forgot to take any pictures with Pastor Alexei and his family!)

An interesting sculpture in Kirovograd
We enjoyed supper together and then went to Pastor Alexei's for ice cream and tea. It was so good to see his wife, Marina, again and to meet his little girl for the first time. Denise became friends with her before the weekend was over.

We then headed to our home for the night - an apartment they rented for us. It was a real nice place, we had a king size bed and Hope had a pull out couch in the living room.  Total cost was 350 UAH - or about $17.50 - for the night. We slept well and in the morning, after breakfast, we headed over to Pastor's place again. There we prayed for the service and the day ahead, and then headed over to the church, which is on the other side of the city. The last time I saw their building, they had just started working on it. They have made it a very nice sanctuary, and they have plans to convert another building on the property to a Children's Ministry area.  If anyone would like to give towards this project, just let us know.

One view of the room our friends in Kirovograd want to remodel for Children's Ministry
And  another view
The only translators that we had for the day were Sasha and his wife, who know some English, so between them and Phil, we did fine in our communications. Three of the students from the Missions School class in Krivoy Rog that Phil spent time teaching last fall are part of this church, so it was fun to see them again.

The sanctuary was full and the service was great. Phil preached completely in Russian (and they understood him because he asked several times). After the service, one man came up and shook his hand, and wanted a picture with him. Later on, Phil found out that he was actually a Muslim man, who came to church with his Christian friend.

Singing before the sermon
After the service, Phil drove the ladies and some others across town, then came back to the church for a leaders meeting.  The plan was that Marina and Denise would prepare dinner during the meeting.

We met in the room behind the sanctuary where those who are training for ministry live. (Here, it is a wise idea to have someone living on the church property for security reasons.) The room was full and they had some interesting questions for me (Phil). I was very thankful for the help of Sasha's wife during this time.  One question led to another, and then the guy who wanted his picture with me after service spoke up. Soon, I learned that he is a Muslim and his wife is a Christian. That led to some interesting conversation, but God was a help and gave us the right words to say. When the meeting was over, this man invited me to go fishing with him. He wanted me to come back in two weeks. Unfortunately, that did not work for me, but I am hoping to be able to go there this summer.

Another highlight of the day was seeing our friends Eddik and his family. Eddik has had a tough time struggling with drug and alcohol addition, but seems to be doing pretty good now. His wife, Lutfie, is a Crimean Tatar and they used to live in Crimea. While I (Phil) didn't get a picture of all four of them, I did get the rest of the family after the leaders meeting. Their son Adam asked if he could sit in my car. Oh, what delight he had in his eyes sitting in the driver's seat. I think I made a friend for life.

Adam enjoying the car
Adam and his little sister
Eddik's wife and two kids
We finally had Sunday afternoon dinner at 5 PM.  Needless to say, Hope was starving.  We had hoped to leave by 5 PM, so that was not going to happen.  After a delicious meal, we had some tea before we left, but got on our way by 5:45 PM.  Phil had thought he put some Adventures in Odyssey on his iPod before we left home, only to find that they did not copy. While we were in Krivoy Rog, he made sure that they were on his iPod and the trip home went by pretty fast.  We took one bathroom break and got home a little after 10 PM.  That was a fun and fast weekend!

Phil got back to work on his project, while Denise took a little longer to get back to her Russian lessons. You understand how exhausting time away can be.

Early Thursday morning, one of my (Phil's) friends came to visit. I met Vokha when we were in Krivoy Rog last fall.  He was part of the missions school where I did some teaching (along with others).  As I have grown to know him, he has shared about how hard it was to be an orphan. Both parents died before he was 2 (though after he came to visit he learned that his Dad was actually in prison and died from TB recently), so life has been hard. This is the first year that someone celebrated his birthday and gave him a gift. He is 23 years old and gave his life to Christ three years ago, but still struggles with feeling that he has any value.  He has become another one of our sons.  I spent time with him, reminding him frequently that he is special - not just to God, but to me also.

Vokha and I - he had fun with the camera on my phone
Thursday afternoon we went to a water park east of Kiev. Hope brought a friend, so there were 5 of us, and we enjoyed an afternoon there.  Naturally, Vokha (who is not very large in stature but is strong as an ox) enjoyed some tussling in the water, though this old guy got really worn out.

Sometimes you find things that are not what you think they might be. This is a small stand that looks like Arby's, but it is not.

The menu is an interesting mix of Russian and English
Or this food stand near the train station with the character from a Disney movie
If you look closely, you will see 5 guys cleaning the outside of the windows at the upper part of the building
The financial situation has been only slightly better the last two months, though we continue to watch it closely for any signs of change.

Our car is still not repaired, though we continue to work for that to happen. We are not worried about it and know that it will eventually be fixed. Until then, we are just grateful for our Speed the Light vehicle and that it is still drive-able.

Now Hope is enjoying her summer break, while we have been back to business as usual for a while. Phil is working to plan a fishing trip to Kirovograd. We have plans to go to Smila (Ukraine) for a service there in early July, to Budapest (Hungary) for our annual retreat in mid-July, and then to Poltava (Ukraine) for services there in early August.

Thanks for following our adventures and for keeping us in your prayers! We had some great opportunities for ministry in the last few months.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

January, February, and March 2015

Normally, this is a "monthly" update, but because the last three months were very busy (with Phil trying to spend as much time studying Russian and then getting started on his project, along with other things going on), we decided to just combine all three months together. We hope you don't mind!

January was a pretty normal month, with just one minor "incident". We settled into our new place (which we LOVE) and really feel at home here. Everyone who visits comments about our tremendous view. One of Phil's tutors has to take a few moments to look before every lesson.

We have settled into a somewhat normal routine. Phil studies Russian most of the time and tries to use what he learns in conversation (written and verbal). Denise not only does a wonderful job of keeping our "home" in order (cooking, cleaning, Hope's school, etc.), but is also studying Russian and making good progress! Hope is doing a great job with her school this year. We regularly attend an international church on Sundays and Hope goes to their youth group every Friday evening, which now is just one metro stop away. In addition to all the "normal" things, we do keep in touch with many of our Ukrainian friends and really enjoy the time with our tutors.  We have also had guests several times, which has been a lot of fun!

We do not miss living in the village or driving on those roads. Between the potholes and sections of ice, it can be dangerous! Fortunately, the daily power outages that we were experiencing in December while living there stopped (we have friends that still live in the village). It has been wonderful to live so close to the metro (subway).

New Year's Day was a holiday for us. We watched movies and I (Phil) decided to put together the desk we bought for Denise last week. What was I thinking? How bad can it be? I found out! On half a sheet of paper, there was a very small diagram and a few directions (in Russian). They were so brief, that even if they had been in English it would not have helped. About 3 and 1/2 hours later, I finally finished the project. It is not the first thing like this I have put together (I have completed many similar projects), but it was definitely one of the most challenging. At least my screwdriver held out for this job. I broke my last one when I was doing a different project the week before. And I'm so glad it was a small desk!
This was the small desk that Phil put together for Denise
Denise worked on this puzzle persistently for three days.  Phil only helped a little bit.
These are Ukrainian painted eggs or pisanki.
On the 6th, we celebrated the anniversary of our first date, 28 years earlier to the day in 1987. We had no idea that God would lead us to live in Kiev on that first evening together when we went out to Golden Corral (the old style ones). We ate at the "Tennessee Steak House" here in Kiev. They play a country radio station from Nashville, TN, and the steaks are really good. It's worth the long metro ride!

Orthodox Christmas was on the 7th, and around those days we had several young people stop by the apartment to sing carols for us.  The reward was usually some candy, though a couple of young girls got some money, too.  The teenage boys who stopped sang out of key, but it was sweet.  The young girls sang a couple of songs, and each recited a verse.  What an interesting tradition!

It seemed that day-after-day in January, the weather was foggy. Our view from the 20th floor was pretty dreary most days, so we were glad the few days the fog lifted or the sun was out. Some days, we couldn't even see the ground below us. We really did not get much snow, just enough to cover the ground and, fortunately, it was not a really cold winter either.

The foggy view from our apartment
Our apartment was actually too warm, even with the heat only at 25%.  So our landlady kindly installed controls on our radiators (glad that was an option, because on most older apartments it is not even possible) so that we could turn down the heat (except in Hope's room, which is colder than the rest because it's on a corner).

Wednesday, the 14th was actually a really nice day.  It was sunny and in the mid-40s and with no precipitation. We were out shopping at a mall because we wanted to go to the grocery store in the one end of the mall (to get popcorn especially).

We were surprised to find a Lego store in the mall.
This is one of the displays in front of the store, with the store in the background.
On our way home we had a traffic "incident" (thankfully, this was the only one this year so far), with just one block left to get home. We were rear-ended by someone with no excuse other than he was not paying attention. We were merging into traffic on the busy road near our building, but we had to wait for a car. As we pulled forward slowly, we were hit. Fortunately, nothing "broke" - the bumper is still in one piece.  It just got bumped out of place. The back door has a small bump and the bumper a couple of nicks, but again, it could have been so much worse. We can still drive the car. And everyone is OK.

This time we didn't wait for the police.  Denise and Hope walked home while I waited for my friend to get there so he could help me out. We settled on the spot after some discussions, waiting, and more conversations. They didn't want the police involved (I think the other driver would have lost his license because he had been involved in too many accidents). But we had a body shop guy come and look at it to tell us whether that would be sufficient before we agreed. The insurance here is somewhat lacking, which is why we carry extra collision insurance in the US. We'll end up using that for one or both of these accidents, I am sure.  (We still have not fixed our front passenger door from our September accident.  Hopefully one of these months.)

Another good reason for us not to involve the police is that gives us the freedom to get it fixed without having to wait for the courts and do not have to get their insurance involved.

On Monday the 26th, we hosted a get-together of our A/G colleagues at our place.  It was informal and we had a great time of fellowship together.  We've been doing that monthly for a while and it has been helpful for us.

There was an increase in fighting in the east during the month, with more explosions in other parts of the country.  Things have been quiet and peaceful in Kiev, yet there have regularly been bomb threats/scares here. One Friday evening was the first time we were affected. Hope was at youth group and was going to head home on the metro with a friend. I went to meet her in our metro station, only to learn that there was a bomb scare at the other station and everyone was running out of that station, meaning she was unable to take the metro home. She did get home, thanks to her friend's parents, but it makes things much more "real" to us.

January and February kind of blurred together, as the weeks (and weather), were very similar.

I (Phil) had a tooth that was bothering me, so I finally broke down and found a dentist, this time one who spoke English. He's a young guy and I really like him. The clinic was very modern and clean, so I felt at ease. He decided that I needed a root canal and a new crown for the troublesome tooth, so after four visits (one for a cleaning) and about $225, I was all set.  He also found a couple of cavities and another crown that needed to be replaced (because part of it had chipped off), so in March I went three more times for about $390 and now I'm set for a while, I hope!

Small flower shops are prevalent here, so Phil bought Denise roses for Valentine's Day. You always buy an odd number here, or the ladies selling them think that something is wrong.  It is interesting to note that the roses here are not more expensive near such a holiday as they are in America.

The Valentine's Day roses were beautiful and fragrant
On Monday the 16th, I (Phil) took Denise out to eat at the Tennessee Steak House again. We enjoyed our evening together. While we were eating, Denise asked what special was coming up in March. (Even I remembered that it was her birthday!).  My response was that we are not coming back here in March, though we will go somewhere to celebrate your birthday!

Laura celebrated her 21st birthday in America without us. While this was not the first time we were not with her on her birthday, the other times we got to see her within a week or two of her birthday. This time talking with her via Skype was the best we could do.  We are proud of the young lady that she has become and look forward to seeing God use her as she continues to follow His leading.  She continues to love college and being an RA.  Once in a while we miss her like crazy - and this was one of those times!

We unveiled our new logo during the month.  Thanks to the help of Susan Korf, who designed it for us.  We created both a logo and a favicon.  We think they turned out GREAT!

Our new LOGO
The matching favicon
The last weekend in February, Hope enjoyed a youth retreat just for the teens at the international church.  They left on a bus Friday afternoon to head to Rivne (about 350 kilometers or 220 miles to the NW of Kiev) they returned Sunday evening.  She really enjoyed that time away, and so did her parents!

March was busier than the previous two months had been. The weather was really nice early in the month, leading us to think we would have a gorgeous spring, but by the end of the month we cooled down into the 30s and 40s, with cold rain often.

Denise and Hope's schedules and lives remained as normal, while I (Phil) started work on my project to determine who is not being reached by the churches in Ukraine. At the onset, I realize that it will be a challenging process, but the end result will allow AGWM to be more strategic in placing workers in Ukraine. Much of the work is my kind of work - gathering and analyzing data, using technology, and I'm really enjoying it!  You will all have to wait until mid-summer to hear the results, which should help us determine where we will go this fall.

We had a big surprise on Wednesday the 4th. About 9 PM, we heard from our "boy", Slavik, that he wanted to come to visit for a few days. That was OK with us.  However, we knew that we would be pretty busy.  He planned to arrive in Kiev on the train Saturday morning. Well, he called about 11 PM and said he couldn't wait, so he was getting on the train at 1 AM to arrive about 7 AM today. He called about 6 AM just because he was excited.  Phil met him at our metro station a little after 7:30 AM. He was beside himself with excitement. It is pretty entertaining to watch him. He was like a little kid in a candy store!  Even though we did not get to do any "fun" outings, we enjoyed having him here.  He's had a rough couple of years.

On Saturday the 7th, I (Phil), along with Slavik, went shopping for a piano with some friends. We checked out several stores and several brands of electric pianos, but it always came back to the model that my friends recommended in the beginning. After convincing Denise that it was the best option, we went ahead and bought it.  Our friends delivered it the following Saturday. It had been almost 5 years since I had a piano of my own to play, so it has been so nice. While I do not play it every day, it is very relaxing when I do play. Just what I need!!

Phil's new piano - a Yamaha P-105
On Wednesday evening the 11th, Slavik took the train back to Krivoy Rog. He was so sad about leaving that we thought he was acting like he was going to a funeral.  It seemed that he really wanted us to ask him to stay longer, but that just would not work this time.

On Thursday the 12th, we celebrated Denise's birthday by going to a restaurant to have shashlik (shish-kabobs), one of our favorite foods over here. This restaurant has a main dining room (small) and more than 10 private dining rooms in huts.  The three of us had our own space and it was very enjoyable!  And the food was delicious!  We celebrated on Thursday because Hope has youth group on Friday evenings.  On Friday (which was really her birthday), Denise made brownies and we watched a movie while Hope was gone in the evening.

The birthday girl and Hope in our dining hut
The decor was rustic and interesting
More decor and a look out the little window
The walkway around the little huts
They even had covered picnic tables
One of the desserts we ordered - apple strudel.  Unfortunately, none of us liked it because of one spice they used.
The financial situation here has been challenging.  The grivna (Ukrainian currency) stayed at about 16 to the dollar during January (it was 12 when we came arrived last summer), but February was crazy. The grivna went from 16 to the dollar, to 24 to the dollar, fell to more than 30 to the dollar, and recovered to about 28 to the dollar at the end of the month. In March, it settled in at about 23 to the dollar. Needless to say, the sudden drop created quite a panic here. It was interesting to notice the things that disappeared from store shelves and could not be found - flour, sugar, soap, and shampoo. Fortunately, that panic did not last long, and those things were readily available within a week. Analysts predict that it will fall again, so for now we wait and see.

In April, we will celebrate two Easters - western and eastern - on the 5th and 12th.  Denise and Hope will continue their studies while Phil continues working on his project.  In addition, we'll be preparing for a trip to Krivoy Rog the first week of May.

We appreciate you reading about our adventures and we apologize for getting so far behind!