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

Saturday, 12 February 2005

We held class early today so that some could get away to whatever they needed to do. It was another good class; I have a long list of ways to say, “Ukrainians are just like anywhere else,” and in this case there is similarity in the theological issues discussed. They already have a great frame of reference coming in, and so it is great to add something to a good foundation. There are also typical class dynamics, who is quiet and who leads. The discussion is lively at all times.

In the afternoon we go to the detention center which is north of downtown, along the Dnipro River. It is the worst kind of nightmare along the lines of the orphanage in Jane Eyre. Run in uncaring fashion by the police department, there would be investigative reporters all over a place like this in the US. Blech. Holes in the floor for toilets, the most austere surroundings imaginable. It is the place where street kids go to get dried out from drugs, on their feet, and back home or to an orphanage. Just transitional and out of the weather for a week or three. The kids there are aged 10-18, at least on this day, boys and girls. They seem like normal enough kids, and they listen intently to the lessons. Alla goes first, one of my students. Then I followed with my testimony “I was a teenaged monster just like you…” Alene went, and then Jim Dumas. They got the gospel in a variety of ways. It was dingy, and must be a difficult experience, so it makes the gospel ministry all the more imperative. Kyiv is degenerate just like every other big city in the world..

When we returned to the office, I got to call home and listen to the voices of my wife and children. First the first time since getting off the plane, I feel a tinge of homesickness. The conversation is very brief but enough to get me tanked up for the rest of the week.

The church youth group was having their Valentine’s Day party at the office. They played fun party games mostly like any you might see in a church youth group anywhere. But here’s something a bit different. They put a pile of snow on a plate, and they had a race to see which team could melt it all just by using their hands. Not for the faint of heart or cold of hands. Afterward, everyone in the group went over to the gymnasium on the top floor of the local Jewish school (the same building where they have church) to play soccer. The game was played on a small basketball court, three on three, with rotating teams. Although I left after a time, they typically play for hours. None of the girls play; they sit on the sidelines and chat the whole time, entirely satisfied with what they’re doing. They seem very traditional in that way.

Back at the apartment Jim Dumas regaled me with his pictures from his Egypt visit to Oksana and Leanna when they did missionary work down there.

This church is humming with teaching and ministry, and especially outreach to some hardcore areas. They are not afraid to go anywhere or get their hands dirty in any way in order to give the gospel or promote the Christian way of life. I am not quite sure what is so appealing about being here – perhaps a combination of newness, seeing the vitality of ministry, and enjoying the people – but it is very appealing in a deep way. The faith of Ukrainians seems to be a simple faith. They have been inundated with Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and every kind of works-oriented Protestantism, not to mention their own native orthodox religion. Yet the believers I meet here have a strong identification with the faith described in the Bible, and they contend strongly for it. I have not seen the other side, the cults and the non-Christian protestants. Perhaps I would be much less fond of Ukrainians then!

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