Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Roma

My new little friend. His name is Roma. He is about 6 or 7 I suppose. Bright...creative...curious...a little unsure of this strange woman talking to him in a language he doesn't comprehend. At first, hiding behind his Mama. Peeking out of the crack between her arm and the side of her body. A shy smile...eye contact for just a brief moment. He has a toy car...he wants to show it off to me...but he is not quite sure about even acknowledging I even exist. When we sit down, I pat the spot between his mother and me. I give him a smile and make "big eyes" over his "machina". He decides I must be okay...maybe. He wants to draw...all of the Babushka's help him find some things to draw with. I give him my place mat to do his second Picasso on...wow...a masterpiece in the making. The gap between us is closing...very slowly. By the time I draw my rendition of a bird on his paper he is leaning against me. He is not sure about my bird, but he puts it in a tree he draws for his bird. (unfortunately the table busser is not a lover of the fine arts, especially the 7 year old kind, and unceremonially trashes our beloved artwork!) We begin to share wild stories. I ask him if there is a hippopotimus in his soup...neyet (no) with a look of contempt. I ask him how he knows, he didn't even look to see if there was one there! You know,of cours, he had to look! The answer was still the same...neyet! The story went back and forth as he ate his soup, and fries, and chocolate ice cream, and latte. It moved from the hippo to the crocodile. I assured him there was a crocodile (craw co dill) in his latte. Of course not...it couldn't be. That is when I pulled out all the stops...I drew a picture of a crocodile on the sugar packet that he had just torn open and poured into his latte. He laughed out loud and told his mother there was definately a crocodile in his latte because it had been in the sugar packet. His Babushka asked me how many grandchildren I had. I told her 5. She said to me, I knew it, you sound just like a grandmother to me. What a compliment! Thank you, Nadezhda, the same to you! The space between us is non-existant...Roma is almost in my lap...but it is time to go. Tears, hugs, promises to see each other next year. Hope and prayers for the future of this country, of these people. Rita and I walk towards our destination as they wait at the tram stop. I turn and wave...but he is absorbed in watching the busses, vans and trolley busses go by. After all...he is a 7 year old boy who loves big transportation!

To Get Away...just for a moment...

Can you imagine...just for a moment...that you are sharing your living space 24/7 with at least 4 people, but up to 30 people. Wait...it isn't your space...it is space "loaned" to you. You have no bedroom, no true living room. A kitchen with minimal amenities...you know...pots and pans, spices, a pantry, a refridgerator bigger than the one you used in college, stove, oven...you know the important stuff you need to feed your family. Your bedroom is a corner of the small room used for worship services, or the couch in the fellowship room, or perhaps you share the children's classroom (6' x 10' approximately) with another person. Your bed is a very small cot with a thin mattress or a pallet on the floor. There is a bathroom available, but no shower. The baptistry is the closest thing to a shower space you have. You totally depend on the kindness of strangers, well, not exactly complete strangers. You depend on the brothers and sisters who worship in this building for the place you lay your head at night. You are not home...you do not know for sure if you have a home to return to...you have no idea how long it will be before you can even attempt to see if your home is still standing, or if standing has every thing been stolen or vandalized. BUT...there are no riots in the streets...no t.v. cameras capturing the heart of war, umhhh, I mean the heart of conflict...there are not random gun shots...no hordes of people who used to live in peace with each other screaming horrible things, no shells exploding...no houses burning...no people bleeding in the street tossed about like rag dolls...no stench of fear, no fear of death at any moment. You've left your home, your beloved garden, your job, your school, your soccer field, your local grocer, your inside the home plants, your security, your bank account, nearly everything you own, and everything you once counted on as "normal" in your life. You are now a refugee. You don't want to be...you abhore that label...you are a hard working person...you don't depend on people to give you things...you have always taken care of yourself...you don't want or need pity...you don't want to depend on charity...you are a human being...you would like to live with a little dignity...you want to go home...like it was before... Something totally out of your control has changed your life forever. You left your home in fear, and maybe even in a panic. Decide...now...what is important...throw it in a bag and get out. This day has been coming for awhile, but you are not prepared. You always thought it wouldn't really come...not to your home! Not to YOUR family! Not to YOUR country! It has. So...you smile bravely...you keep your hands busy...you try not too think to much or you will cry and maybe never stop! You try and "make the best of it", your reassure the children it "won't be too much longer", you tell anyone that asks "I'm ok". I see your eyes, red rimmed, exhausted, fear filled...it is NOT ok...it may NOT be over soon...your best may NOT be good enough. This is where your faith kicks in big time. I trust you Jesus takes on a new, deeper meaning. You will get thru this, but it won't be easy or quick. You are not alone, God is walking by your side, the world wide church is praying for peace in this wonderfull country and they are sending support. Hold fast, don't give up! I got the blessing of sharing lunch today with 6 delightful people. My interpreter, the preachers wife, and four refugees, including one small boy, Roma. For just a moment, we were just woman chatting over lunch. Friends who are getting ready to say good bye after a short visit. What will we eat? Have you ever had French Onion Soup? What about tacos in Ukraine? Laughter...decisions...sharing photographs of children and grandchildren...Mimi and Babushka stories...quiet...no preparing food or being responsible for the clean up. "I am so glad I got to finally meet you, I've know your daughter for awhile"..."It seems like you just got here and now you are leaving"..."I always put the leaves from a cherry tree in my pickles, it makes them crunchy"..."I'll try that, I love crunchy pickles" Just woman...just sharing...just laughing...no war...no fear...no refugees...just sisters and friends. I would have paid double the price for the meal in order to get that look of quiet comfort and encouragement I saw in their eyes. Just for a moment...it was just friends sharing a meal. Thank you God for the moment.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A mother's heart is the same in Ukraine or in Texas...

I am the very proud mother of two sons who have both served their country in the United States Army. William, my oldest, joined right out of high school and served in the regular Army for 4 or 5 years, I can't remember. Joseph is currently serving in the Arny National Guard. He has been in a since the twins were fairly little (they are 8 now). When I hear of a young boy being killed, or see the bodies on the t.v. I can't help but remember my own two sons. I am proud of their service...I want them to serve...it is just the thought of long term injury or death that takes my breath away! I can't bear the thought... The Army here in Ukraine is...well it is...umhhh...it is Ukrainian. It will always bring to my mind how grateful I am that they served the US Army. As many things as there are to complain about...not one holds watr against the situation here. I can't even describe it. Today, we went to a city check point and delivered supplies to the soldiers there. Bsics: water, coffee, tea, cookies... The whole city is gathering together basic necessities for them, much like we do in natural disaster relief situations. It is still rather mind boggling to me. Later, we delivered supplies, food, and clothing to the Veterans Hospital. I have such a heart for veterans, my Father and Father-in-Law both served, several uncles served, both sons and a couple of Jarhead nephews served. I don't believe the very worst Veteran's Hospital I've seen or been in even compares to what these soldiers are staying in. (Like a MASH unit with less amenities.) The walls in the halls had many hand written and colored pages from area school children. They were all full of words of love and encouragment for their soldiers. It touchd my heart. I am not here on a mission to "choose sides"...I am not here to represent the USA in this sitution...I am here as the mother of two soldiers who "gets" the drama and pain of being afraid for your children in "war" time... I am here to minister in whatever small way, to those injured and in pain with little or no resources, as I beleive everyone who truly believes that God was right when He said to love your neighbor as yourself. My first mission is to the orphans and widows...then encourage the local church...and reach out to those who are lost without Him. As part of thst mission to reach out to the lost, I am never sure where God will lead me, possibly the decrepid halls of a Ukrainian Veterans Hospital. I just have to be ready to go. till we talk again...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hookah me up to wifi please...

I have to tell you...I don't get the what the big deal is about Hookah's. I've just spent an hour with several of them. (while better than cigarette smoke)I don't get it. They still stink. I must admit part of my "un"-infatuation with them has to do with my wifi situation. I have so few places to get good wifi and one of them happens to be a fabulous little cafe, best mushroom soup in town, that caters to Hookah's. It is fabulous especially since a lot of the time, no one in here is smoking (I guess that is what you call it) them. But...when it rains it pours. Today I have been trying to talk to my husband for the first time since I left D.C. Umhhh..of course that isn't going to happen! I have called on skype to phone...I have emailed...I have facebooked...I have had friends call him... It looks like it is not meant to be. I actually had a 3 - 4 minute (tops) conversation with him today that was excruciating. Between "can you hear me" and "are you still there" all I got was "there is a lot of background noise", "it sure is noisy", "I can't hear you very good". I was doing the best I could do...it is "Hookah" time here, the place is full, I can't go any where that will be quieter...(btw one of the kids just shut the outside door so for sure it will be hotter and smokier)and I can't get wifi in my flat... It has been a mixed bag kind of day. I got to go the the Far Off Orphanage (1 1/2 hrs away) and be with some amazing boys. I got to interact with them and teach them about forgiveness and the story of Joseph and his brothers. Ask Sharon Andersen about this place if you happen to know her, if you don't know her you really should get to know her because she is an amazing lady! I got to sit with a hospital administrator/dr. and discuss the possibility of putting a play room on the floor of the hospital I visit every year. Tamara's hospital is what I call the place. Her kids, the orphans, deserve to get out of the cribs they live in 18 - 20 hours a day or more. They deserve a place to play and move and use their motor skills. She was not only open to the idea...she was excited about it. On the other side I encountered a person who doesn't have any idea how much perfume/cologne to use, especially in closed in places, and with the mega strength of this one. Within just a few minutes my head was hurting and I was very nauseated. In fact I wssn't sure that I would get away from this smell in time! And NOW, to be so close to talking to my love! And yet so far away... Till I get wifi again...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Flying is for the Birds!

I haven't flown that much in my life, and I have only been really scared a couple of times. Well, one of those times was flying into D.C. on Thursday. Maybe it's just me, but did that plane shake a lot more and make even weirder sounds than usual? Popping...growling...growning...loud engine noises...do I have life insurance...is my bathroom clean? The guy caddy corner from me more than once assured his wife "it's supposed to sound that way". But, I saw his EYES. That did not look like an "it's supposed to sound that way" look to me! It was more like a "does my brother know my passwords to my Fantasy Football team...and will he mess my team up?" kind of look for sure! When we were descending into the airport airspace, ready for a landing, suddenly we made a rather sharp right turn and straight up (well it seemed like it was straight up, there is probably a huge margin of error with my aeronautic abilities to tell direction when trying not to wear that plastic cup of orange juice) Then, of course, Chuckles the Pilot comes on the intercom and explains "I'm sure you noticed that we seem to be making a right turn...just a little air traffic control adjustments...seems like we are a little two close to another airliner's air space...no problem, we'll just make another circle and be landing in approximately 15 minutes. Thank you for your patience and thank you for flying ****** Airlines." As for me...I'm in no hurry...my plane left D.C. and hour ago! Speaking of a hurry...waiting 30 minutes outside the terminal for the luggage guys to take my carry-on out of the cargo hold was easy-peasy. It was when he tried to give me random pieces of luggage, (yes, he had the claim ticket in his hand) and then after I refused to take them, he asked me "are you sure this one isn't yours?". I finally told him, "If there is money in that one, I'll take it...otherwise I want the small grape colored one." I think that he finally got the hint! After waiting literally 30 minutes, I was clock watching, I got inside to find the line to reschedule your flight was right at an hour and a half...until two of the workers had to go on "30 minute breaks" at almost the same time. To say that the "natives were restless" was an understatement! We were all tired, stressed, wondering about where to stay for the night, frantically making calls to inform those waiting on us...when Tweedle Dee packs up his stuff just as I was approaching him with ticket in hand and says "I'll be right back..." Famous last words. Oh well, the next attendant was almost finished...just a few minutes and she could help me... Until SHE began to pack up her stuff and prepare for her "30 minute break". At least she was honest when she told a time frame! There were about 30 people in line still needing connecting flights and help with hotels, etc. Not very many happy campers left! They did have the good sense to call in the riot police...I mean two other attendants who would be here "in just a moment". You guessed it, apparantly no one at this airline can tell time! It all worked out...I got into my hotel about 10:30 after, wisely, choosing the certainty of airport food, over the uncertainty of hotel restaurants being open this late. Good decision! And to my delight, I had two FB replies to my adventure with offers of lodging/food/whatever I need if I am ever stuck in D.C. again. Thank you Andy Pierce and Michelle Neveu Pimentel, your parents are blessed by your kindness and generosity in times of trouble. I knew that Andy and Ann were fairly close, but the fact that they have a very small baby to care for influenced me not to bother them, I should have, your offer was extremely kind and made my day. When I saw the reply, I remembered that Ben and Michelle lived somewhere near D.C. but really had no idea they were close enough to extend such a kind offer. The fact that they have a very young child would probably have influenced my reply to you as well, Michelle. I won't let it stop me from giving you a call next time to see what's up (if you guys are not stationed in Timbucktoo by then). People are prone to say "call me any time you need anything" never expecting anyone to take them up on the offer. I believe these two young couples made a real offer, and meant every word. You may never know how much that meant to me to have your kindness during a pretty stressfull time! Another young lady, Sarah Moore McCutchen (I hope I did not butcher your last name, Sarah), helped me get pre-flight insurance. Sarah...that was one of the best uses of $107 I can think of in a long time! They will now take on the responsibility of my hotel and meals, courtesy of "air traffic controller/weather problems". You all make Jesus proud of how you are reaching out and showing His love thru your actions! I am proud to know you and call you friend as well! Till next time!

At last...

Already I am experiencing difficulties with keyboard interface with the Ipad. There are some glitches that need to be worked out.That will be for another day....just letting you know the blog might have some issues that I cannot fix and it may have things that are not what I would like to put up, but rather than scrap the whole post I will leave them in! That being said... The adventure began before I ever stepped foot in the airport in Dallas. Ukraine is experiencing conflict even as we speak. I was not sure that I would be allowed in the country even as I cleared security at DFW airport. This has been a faith walk for me from the start. You see (no pun intended)I am a walk by sight and not by faith kind of girl. I know that is totally backwards to what Jesus taught. The problem has been that I didn't think that I was that kind of girl. I trusted God...I believed that He was in control...I "knew" He had my back... Then why did I keep checking the status of my flight, impulsively, OCD'ish, trying to figure out what the next step was? Why did I not just leave it up God what the outcome would be. If I leave for Ukraine...praise God...if I am stuck in Dallas...praise God! Why was I trying to manipulate what I would do...when I would do it...how I would do it...you get my drift! As my shoulders scrunched up with anxiety...and my neck tightened up...I had to remind myself of certain things. This trip is in the hands of God. It is His will that I am trying to follow. I had to remind myself that I asked God for certain things...an open door if you will...to give me clarity on going or staying. Matt Langford prayed one time that God would open the doors that needed to be opened and close the doors that needed to be closed and that I would have discernment between the two. If I believe that...why am I incessantly checking and trying to see the future? Before you leave for the airport make sure you have a flight...then get in your car and go! I looked on line...called Austrian Air (which did not answer)...called United Airlines...tried to get ahold of the travel people...called the airport... Finally I said "STOP". Leave this to God, He will let you know what you need to know. After I cleared airport security I got a text from Rita. Oksana, who worked for Austrian Air in the past, found out through her contacts that the planes would fly into Dnepropetrosk for the first since Malaysian Air went down near Donetsk. Go figure...God really does have this! The trip wasn't trouble free, I got stuck in Dallas, missed my connecting flight to Vienna, had to spend the night near the airport...God took care of that as well. I don't always purchase insurance, but this trip I felt like it was more necessary than usual. The insurance will take care of my hotel and extra food expenses. I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. I believe that. I have so many supporters that have held me up in prayer, given me funds, given me donations of goods, and said words of encouragement to me. I know that so many of you were conflicted this year. I appreciate your discomfort with the situation. It is a trip that was much prayed about long before it became a reality. It was not spur of the moment, it was not taken out of a misguided need to come because I always have before! It is not pennance for my sins, trying to make up for my faults, or a way to make me "good enough" in His sight to be considered for a place in heaven. Jesus paid that price for me...His blood covers my transgressions...I don't need to do mission work to cover that tab. It is paid in full because of the love of God and nothing I have done to "earn" it. I know that some of you were/are afraid for me. I know that some are angry with me. I know that some of you totally don't get this whole thing...why Ukraine...why now? I beg you to not live in fear...give that fear to Jesus...walk with me in faith as I struggle each day. Please forgive me if I have offended or hurt you...it was unintentional. Our brothers and sisters here need to see us...hear us...feel us in their midst with our support and love for Jesus and them. I am not brave...I am not strong...I am not special...I'm just trying to be a Jesus girl...I'm just on a journey with Him. I am doing what I think He wants me to do. I am trying to walk by faith and not by sight. He said "Go into all the world"...I am telling Him "here am I send me". I thank each and every one of you for your love and support. Please don't stop praying for me and the people of this beautiful country. I will see you very soon, Lord willing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Austrian Air


I really have to give credit where credit is due. Austrian Air was fabulous this year. They went out of their way to give me the best service possible, and I do appreciate it. They were above the call of duty to get me home as comfortably as possible. It is never fun to have an injury or condition that immobilizes you. When that happens in a foreign country is even trickier. I'm not sure what happened to my knee yet, doc visit today, but I do know what excruciating pain is. It put me on a cane in a country that loves stairs! Can you say going from the hare to the tortoise? The prospect of making my way thru four different airports in three countries, dragging luggage, wearing a heavy backpack, walking with a limp and a cane...I can just say I was dreading it. Oksana, one of my friends and sisters in Ukraine made a few calls for me and I got the hook-up for getting thru the maze. I initially asked just for transport service in D.C. so that I would not miss my connecting flight to Texas. I hadn't really considered the 40 stairs up and the 20 stairs down and the ride on an overcrowded tram transport to the plane that I would have to manuever at DNK airport in Ukraine. Though it was a little disconcerting to depend on the staff to make sure I made my flight, it was actually a God send. They had a wheelchair for me at the airport and I had the least amount of trouble I have ever had getting thru security. The scary part was being wheeled out of the line of sight and left to wait. I kept hearing boarding warnings about my flight. Finally a gate person looked up and assured me that they hadn't forgotten me. I was transported by chair thru the "back" way strait out onto the tarmack and allowed to get on the plane first. Someone carried my backpack and luggage up for me and helped me get seated. The same routine at VIE airport in Vienna. They had a special bus they took me to the terminal in. Also an escort thru Passport Control, all the way thru the maze and wheeled to my hotel across the street. I was assured of an escort in the morning. The next morning, promptly at 7:30 my escort arrived and took me back across the street to the airport. I got thru Passport Control, and security like a breeze. (don't get too excited...still had the security pat down) I was escorted to my gate and assured they would be back to get me on the plane. I even got to sit in the "Business Class" area because of the chair. (that sounds more special than it is, I just didn't have to go thru the cattle call of Economy Class to get my papers checked, no special seats, just a different area) Just as promised, my escort came back and got thru the long wait and on to the plane ahead of the crowd. The plane wasn't crowded so I ended up having a seat between me and the other guy in my row. Niiiiicccccceeee! Of course the fantasy of great service ended at Dulles in D.C. What can I say...welcome home! Thank you Austrian Air...you were the bom...wait...you were the best!