Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Monday, 14 February 2005

It is Valentine’s Day in Ukraine, and the pressure is on young Ukrainian men. It is a big deal, here. In class we talk about agape love, and there are some questions about marriage, so I spend time on the subject. It seems that there is constant conflict in Ukrainian relationships: the men like football, the women shopping. Hmm. The class is smaller thanks to a flu epidemic. I am glad that so far Alene and I have remained well. It would be quite a trial to be really ill this far from home.

After class it is more tourism with Nina and Oksana and Alene. Today we visit beautiful churches. Gold-domed, icon-filled, with frescoes galore, and no truth or real worship. There are wall paintings of heaven and hell, scenes from gospels and the Old Testament, really just about the whole Bible is on their walls, so that they can meditate on them (when these paintings were made, most of the common folk were illiterate, so it makes sense). This is an operational church, so individuals genuflect and cross themselves as they enter, then stand before paintings or statuary and pray or meditate, hoping to gain favor from what is for them an idol (at least in the great majority of cases). We walk around the city, seeing various parks and at one point an overlook of the river. On the way back toward the metro we walk past three young women who are making an ice sculpture of a bride, so we laud their work and take pictures. They are grateful for the approbation. We continue on past the football stadium and the Ukrainian Parliament, then back to the left bank via the rush hour metro.

The eye hospital is closed because of the flu. Our second engagement for the day is to have tea with Vitaliy and Alla, a couple from church. Alla works in the school office; she is 25 and he 20, and they are a delightful couple. Vitaliy is exceedingly proud of his wife (and he should be), he shows us the pictures from their courtship and wedding day. Their hospitality is wonderful; they put out a truly awesome spread of food, and shower us with kindness, and it is all very touching. True wealth is in the heart, and this young couple demonstrates that very well. They don’t make much money, they don’t have much. We are squeezed into the space of their apartment in a way that would be uncomfortable with folks from America, but no one notices here; it is the fellowship that matters. Vitaliy’s father is a pastor, and they are both from Smila, a small town 120 miles south of Kyiv. Their romance was charming, and their devoted love for one another obvious.

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