Well, I've talked a lot about life here, the things we've seen and places we've visited. But we're not here on a tourist trip, we're here to work. So I want to spend some time talking about what we are actually doing in ministry. It's interesting in many missionaries' lives that they often end up doing things that they hadn't thought they would do and they don't do things that they had prepared to do. I think we can say that is the case with us in Ukraine. Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.
We had been planning to develop a lay education program in the church. When we visited Ukraine in 2007 that was presented as a great need. And we had the qualifications to do that. When we were asked to start this, we were eager to do it because it got us out of an institutionalized frame of mind and would get us into practical, everyday ministry in the church. Well . . . . . things didn't turn out quite as we expected.
First of all, we were extremely slow in getting to the field. Ernie Smith, our friend and previous Field Director, rightly felt that he couldn't wait forever for us. So he put Bill Tarr in place, here in Berdyansk, to begin the lay education program. Bill and Betsy moved to Berdyansk from western Ukraine after the Wesley Bible School closed because of lack of funds and students. Bill was very experienced in education and began to work on developing classes which would be taught at the Home of Hope ministry center. A name was given to this: the Berdyansk Training Center. Our vision had been that we would be out in the churches teaching these classes, but since we weren't here Bill did what he thought was best at that time. The classes were very slow to begin, the interest among the lay people was low, and the churches didn't seem to have much interest to move in this direction. Consequently, the BTI has not been successful. Frank began teaching one class in January with only two students. And for various reasons, that class discontinued in March, although Frank continued to tutor one young man, Sasha, in Church History once a week. (And I must add here, Frank has learned a lot from Sasha about the Ukrainian church and people.) The Tarrs left the field in early March because of Bill's health problems and Frank was put in charge of the BTI. At this time, Frank is trying to develop opportunities to meet with various pastors in Berdyansk, get to know them, and talk to them about developing BTI for the needs that the Ukrainian churches feel that they have. It has been extremely slow, and a little frustrating. But we don't want to rush into trying to develop something that will immediately die off when we leave the field in a year or two.
Frank's main job at this time is Field Treasure. Betsy Tarr capably filled that position for a number of years, but she is now gone and Frank is still on the learning curve about what is expected by WGM accounting and by the IRS, etc. Banking, expense reports, budgets, expenditures and receipts, etc.----all these things fill much of his time.
I (Chris) had planned to teach also, but that hasn't worked out. The BTI library is in the ministry center and needs work done on it, but we are waiting to see how things develop before I spend hours and hours working on the books, cataloguing and classifying them. Betsy Tarr turned over her responsibilities has ministry center hostess to me, but that job is fairly easy at this time. If work teams return to Ukraine next summer, I will be busy, busy, busy. I am also the official mentor for Oksana Brower. This is a WGM program that was developed to help new, young missionaries fit into the ministries of the field and the expectations of what a missionary should be. I'm sure I learn more from her (since she is Ukrainian) than she learns from me. My favorite day of the week is Tuesday, when I go to the orphanage in the morning and spend time with the little ones. I love it when they run to me and give me big hugs when we walk in. I helped with the VBS/Kid's Club in June, teaching some lessons and just being available to do whatever was needed. My current dream is to get a women's ministry started. Some ladies have shown interest in my knitting and crocheting, and even my quilting which I don't do hardly at all here. I'll let you know how this develops as time goes by.
In my next posting, I will write about our entertaining of friends and young people in our home. We started this is April, and have continued to develop it through the spring and summer. I'll put up pictures and tell you all about our Ukrainian friends. And I will also share about an unexpected new ministry that is developing---that of helping Americans who are in Berdyansk in the process of adopting Ukrainian children. More on that to follow.