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

Wednesday, 9 February 2005

I woke up at four this morning, so I’m gaining ground on the jet lag. Dobre Utra! Good morning! I read for a while, then prayed at 6 AM to share the same time as family says good night prayers in America. Off to school at eight for 2nd year Greek class. Jim Dumas walks me to school like a good dad, so that I can find my way home the next time. The classes again go very well, and after class I get to share lunch with Alene, Nina, and Oksana. I sample Ukrainian delicacies like Borcht and cabbage rolls, and something from Soviet Georgia, a chicken in spiced gravy that is completely unusual and delicious. Plus of course Coca Cola to wash it all down. The total for four people, about 10 dollars American. Great bargain!

People here have a different comfort zone for physical contact. It’s bumper cars out there. Maybe it’s the cold and all the heavy clothing, but I have folks running into me all the time. Lots of dogs. No rules about dogs and leashes, many roam the street and many others on leashes being walked by a variety of people. Big dogs are in fashion in Kiev, and I see Dobermans and the like outnumber their Daschund and other small dog kin by a significant percentage. There are a lot of old people here, especially women. The men die on average ten years before the women do, so lots of old widows. They are round in face and body, and usually grim in expression. The thousand yard stare is in vogue. Lots of people walking everywhere, with little shops and coffee and candy stands. Free enterprise has really blossomed in the last fifteen years. There is not a lot of prosperity yet, but I think it is the future for them. Big item in the local sales paper: windows. A whole page full of ads in an eight page flyer. Looking at the big, depressing, ugly old Soviet-era apartments, you see new windows with bright wood and plastic frames, tacked onto the ugly edifice in haphazard fashion. Maybe 30% of the windows are replaced.

Tonight I teach a Bible class on Anger, but at the last moment I remember that there will be some in attendance who have been invited from the English as a 2nd language class just before, so the gospel is an imperative. I start out with the anger of God toward sinners and move toward the love of God in Christ, and I make the good news clear from several different angles. They love citing memory verses together, and I get to hear John 3:16 and 1 John 1:9 in Russian. I think of the Christmas my children recited John 3:16 in Greek from memory and it hits me in about the same way. Great response: they laugh at my jokes and cry at the touching parts, so I know Margaret my translator is on the ball. At the end I invite the audience to sing (it seems like about 75 or so there) so that I can hear a hymn in Russian. They are thrown off because they usually don’t sing on Wednesday nights, but then whatever they sing is beautiful, a tune I have never heard, in a language I don’t understand, and tears are streaming down my face – they are praising God and I think of “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” in a whole new light. I would have been blubbering out loud if there had been a second verse. I have barely seen Jim and Phyllis, because there is so much else to do and so much time I want to invest in the students and church members.

What are the Ukrainian people like? They are stolid, responsible, industrious, and serious. They trudge to work and back like the automatons of the American inner cities, caught up in the devil’s world just exactly like everywhere else. Many of the older folk remember the Soviet days very well; you see it in their demeanor, and their bearing; there is a certain dignity and pride in the way they look, but also some hard to define sadness. They’ve seen it all, and even after fifteen years of freedom they haven’t adapted. The new generation imitates young people everywhere in joy and fervor and belief in the future. They have civic pride and I think for many pride in their nation. There are beautiful women in full length furs and balaclavas, the new upper class or upper class wannabes. Young men in various professions trying out the affections of the Ukrainian GQ or the latest public servant chic. There are soldiers once in a while but I have no idea whether they are police or fire or Army, but I have a feeling they aren’t dogcatchers. None of those around here. As I walked home this afternoon, three drunk men stumble laughing down the street toward me, sobering for a moment as they pass then resuming as though I was a symbol of disdain they wanted to avoid. I had no idea I could invoke that in anyone else but my children.

My late night snack is sunflower seeds and Zhubchuk, a Ukrainian lemon soft drink. Not too bad! The label is promoting Knights of the Kingdom from Lego, the toys for the whole universe apparently..

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