Our travel was fairly routine except for the part of it that crossed the north Atlantic. It was rocky! We had lots of turbulence and a bumpy ride off and on for several hours. But we arrived in rainy Munich and got our flight to Donetsk which arrived at our destination right on time. The airport at Donetsk is the smallest international airport we have been in. One other flight was on the ground, loading passengers for takeoff. We came down the plane's steps and were taken to the terminal in a bus. The flight had not been full so there weren't many passengers who had to go through immigration, which was about the easiest we have experienced. However, when we went to get our luggage (five fairly large suitcases), it was on a cart just outside the terminal, there were no luggage carts for passengers to use, and so we had to move it ourselves one or two at a time into the terminal. That was a first for us. The other WGM missionaries in Ukraine were waiting for us and there was a happy time of greeting and shaking hands. The other missionaries are Bill and Betsy Tarr, and Bill and Oksana Brower. Bill B. met Oksana here and after some time they were married and she is now also a missionary with World Gospel Mission. After a drive of 2 1/2 to 3 hours we arrived in Berdyansk and the Home of Hope ministry center. We both slept very good that night, at least a good ten hours.
It gets dark early! It starts to get dark before 4pm and is completely dark by 4:30. That's because we are so far north, much further north than we have ever lived before, particularly in India.
The land is flat! After spending a wonderful summer in the mountains, we are now in an area of Ukraine that is part of the steppe of western Asia and eastern Europe.
Our apartment is quite nice. It is small, but just right for two older missionaries like us. A living room, bedroom, nice kitchen, bathroom and storage room, which is large enough to accomodate a desk and become Frank's office. The rooms are all in a line with a fairly wide hallway going alongside them. The appliances in the kitchen are really good, and the cook (me) is very happy with it. We have radiator heating in all the rooms, with a second large heating-cooling unit in the living room. We are comfortable.
Shopping is interesting. We went to the supermarket on Saturday and were thankful to have Bill Brower and Betsy Tarr along to guide us through the different foods and labels. Frank can read some of the labels, so he could recognize a lot of foods, but I'm really slow with that. (Language study! Language study!) Lots and lots of fish (Berdyansk is on the Sea of Azov), cabbage, good cheeses, pork products (very fatty pork), chicken, not much beef, delicious-looking breads and cookies. On Monday Bill Brower took us to the open farmer's market, part of which was indoors, but unheated. Lots of good vegetables and fruit, nuts, sweets, odds and ends. The meat market was also in the building----again, a lot of fish and pork, and chicken although there was some beef also. In the cold weather, it's okay to go to the meat market in the afternoon, but come summertime the morning will be the time to go since there is no heating or cooling in the building. Outside the building lots of stalls were set up for individual vendors, mostly women, to sell their produce. I felt sorry for the women because it was a cold day with a brisk wind, and their faces and hands were red and chapped with the cold. I had on my heavy coat with the hood pulled up over my head, so I wasn't too bad. They had good coats and hoods too, but their hands were bare so they could do their work. And in a brisk wind after a while even a good coat is not enough. My plan is that before I go grocery shopping next time, I will make my list in English and then write it in Russian so I can begin to read the labels for myself and develop my very small vocabulary.
The last time we saw sunshine was Thursday morning in Oklahoma City on our way to the airport. The sky has been cloudy and sometimes drizzly since we arrived. The temperatures have been in the lower 30s. But I comfort myself with the thought that today in Oklahoma, Kansas, and states north and east, the temperatures are much lower and there are heavy snowfalls, sometimes blizzards. Our turn will definitely come, but not right now.
On Sunday morning we attended our first worship service as missionaries in Ukraine. The service is held in the Home of Hope ministry center, which is also where our apartment is located. So we didn't have to go outside, we were quite close to the place where the services are held while the sanctuary is being completed.
The service was three hours long, which is about par for most mission fields, although we were spoiled in India with shorter services at the seminary. The service here started with one or two songs, after which Rev. Sergei spoke for fifteen or twenty minutes welcoming everyone and making pertinent comments. The singing resumed and lasted for at least 45 minutes. But the music was wonderful! I loved the melodies, and the Russian words were shown on the screen, so with our little bit of language study we could follow somewhat, although we didn't try to sing except on the refrains. The music was upbeat, catchy, and easy to follow. After the music finished, the floor was opened for testimonies, and a number of people got up to testify. I won't say they got up to say a few words, because it seemed that many of them were telling their life stories! Actually, except for one person they were usually relating one particular incident where the Lord taught them something new, or worked out a problem for them. We were fortunate that we had some translation done for us through earphones, since Oksana Brower is Ukrainian and she did the translation.
After the testimonies, the pastor's message focused on Passover in the Old Testament and how that led to the ritual of communion, and its importance in the family life of the believer. He is a lively preacher with use of humor and illustrations. At the end of his message communion was served and so we were able to participate for the first time in a meaningful act of worship with fellow believers in Ukraine. It was a special moment for us.
WHAT'S COMING UP IN THE NEXT WEEK
Well, we are pretty much settled into our apartment, so the coming week will be spent getting more information about the work here and how we will fit into it. We want to get Frank's office set up so we will feel more "professional" or at least make it look like we're busy! We will definitely be getting back into our Russian language study several hours a day so we can understand more and make some primitive attempts at communication.
If the opportunity arises and the weather permits, I plan to start taking some pictures soon and will try to get some posted here and on Facebook. Stay tuned for the next installment.