Monday, August 4, 2008

Borderland: A Journey Throught the History of Ukraine

What are we reading these days? I thought I would start mentioning some of the books that we are working through as we prepare to go to Ukraine. We have a ton of books that we have to read for qualification as facilitators for Living Free seminars. And from time to time I'll tell you about them because they touch on some very important issues that the world is facing today.

But I want to share with you today a book on the history of Ukraine. Frank and I both love history, so it was natural that we would want to find out as much as we could about the past and and how it affects the present in Ukraine. Our friends in North Carolina, Mark and Christa Graham, gave us a book entitled Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine, by Anna Reid. The author is not actually a historian, but a journalist who has spent some time in the country and her writing is interesting, definitely not just dry names and dates. She starts from the earliest recorded history and proceeds to the recent past. What did I learn from the book?
  • One of the interesting things for me was the beginnings of Kievan Rus. Moscow wasn't even founded when Kiev became an important city which received visitors from western Europe and the Mediterranean region.
  • Christianity is old in Ukraine; the churches are beautiful; and Orthodoxy has suffered just as the people have suffered.
  • I love the stories of the Cossacks. But much of it is romanticized and not true to historical fact.
  • Throughout its post-Kievan Rus history Ukraine was never a nation until the Soviet Union fell. It was always regarded as a borderland buffer, fought over by Poland, Russia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Consequently, the people of Ukraine are a ethnic mixture which includes Tatar blood as well as European. And the people of Ukraine struggle with the concept of nationhood.
  • The Jews in Ukraine were decimated just as the Jews in Germany were. And their numbers were almost equal to those killed in Europe in World War II.
  • The Ukrainian people suffered horribly from Stalinism during the period between the world wars, and they suffered horribly from both the Nazis and Stalinists during World War II. It's a wonder there were any Ukrainians left to survive and develop after the war.
  • Ukraine is a land divided. The western part is the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism. The eastern half is much more sympathetic to Russia and its influence. The people of these two regions speak differently, think differently, have different cultures, and struggle to accept the other.
  • My heart was broken by the suffering of this land. The people have little trust in their government, little faith in God, and great need to hear the gospel.

Missionary Day at Camp Sychar

Tuesday, July 29th, was Missionary Day at Camp Sychar in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. I'm not sure how many missionaries were actually there, but there were at least seven "official" missionaries from World Gospel Mission and some more who just came in for the day because the camp has supported them for a long time. It was a great day!

Frank and I started our day by being a part of the youth meeting. (By the way, Camp Sychar is a great family camp with more than 100 teens present.) We were the only missionaries who spoke in the youth meetings, so we felt a certain responsibility to do a good job. The music rocked, the counselors were groovy, and the whole atmosphere was young! Needless to say, Frank and I, oldsters that we are, trembled a bit at the thought that we were supposed to get and keep the attention of these kids. But the Lord helped! He gave us the right things to say, in the right way, and kids listened. Frank gave them a challenge: How big is your world? I gave my testimony about how the Lord had called me to serve Him when I was a teenager. Later in the day we had a number of teens who came up to us and said that they really enjoyed hearing us. So we weren't toooooo far off the mark with our presentation. We pray that God called someone or two to serve Him as missionaries someday, somewhere.
The afternoon was fun! The camp had a Missions Festival on the campground with booths set up for kids to play games and win tickets for prizes. I think each game, no matter what, cost 25 cents. All that money went to missions.

Kids got their faces painted.

Counselors got whipped cream in the face!

Some missionaries sold balloons.

And we redeemed tickets for prizes.

We appreciate Camp Sychar and the support it has provided for us through the years. Not only was Missionary Day great, but the preaching services were edifying and the music was wonderful. Thank you Camp Sychar for a wonderful week.