Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I want to continue talking about what we are actually doing here in Berdyansk.  I have written about the difficulties in getting a lay education program started and the Berdyansk Training Institute up and running effectively.  But we wanted to get to know people and become involved in their lives in a positive way, and this was also slow to develop.  Our first four months here (December thru March) were mostly spent in settling in, adjusting to weather and cultural issues, learning what was actually going on in the WGM work here, and finally moving into the bigger apartment and Frank's learning the treasurer's work.

I was determined that we needed to take the initiative in meeting people and developing relationships.  Keep in mind that we still have the language issue that is a barrier, but some folks do know English and like to talk to us with the little they know.  And Frank is growing in his ability to understand and slowly communicate, much better than me.  And since Ukrainians tend to be reserved until they get to know you, it was up to us to take the first steps.

So in April we started in a small way to invite people to our home for a meal. Our first guests were some young people who work here at the center, Igor and Vika, a young couple, and Inna, a young woman who works as a translator and part-time accountant.  Igor works in maintenance although he likes to be involved with the youth and other ministries, and Vika was working at that time in the youth ministries. 
Inna and Vika
Vika and Igor
I love Igor's smile!  It's like a little boy, and he has the ability to laugh at himself and with others.  He is a Bible school graduate, but hasn't found the right place for ministry.  Bill Brower and ourselves want to encourage him to keep working here, but also to make attempts to get him involved actively in ministries that he enjoys.  He is a wonderful woodworker and does beautiful plaques and signs.  A very talented young man who also likes to sing and play the guitar.  Vika worked with the youth center and the orphanage ministry for a while, but she has moved on to other jobs.  She was really helpful to me when I first started going to the orphanage, sometimes translating, sometimes making suggestions.  Inna has become a good friend.  She and I go to get our nails done together.  The manicurist, Larissa, works from her home and she and her husband and two boys attend Bethel Church.  Inna is the translator for our missionary friend, Don Norton.  He has ESL classes in the Ministry Center and is helpful in many ways.          

We have also had Pastor Sergei and Pastor Arkadi in our home for a meal, as well as discussions about how to develop a lay training program.  When they came for a meal a few weeks ago they brought along Sergei's mother, Lena.  She is very friendly and was really interested in my needlework and quilting.  She encouraged me to try and get the ladies together sometime to work on teaching them some of my skills.  I am working on this, trying to find the right time and the right way to go about it.  Perhaps I'll write more about this in September.

Pastor Sergei and his mother

Pastors Sergei and Arkadi  (I wonder where Arkadi's sweatshirt came from?)

But our major focus has been in continuing a small group which was started by our missionary friend, Don Norton.  He had been meeting it two or three times a month for food and fellowship.  We wanted to start something, but we didn't want to be in competition with him.  Well, the young adults were ready to have as many meetings (and free food!) as we could provide.  But we worked with Don and now we have a fluid schedule that alternates meetings at his place and ours.  So we have a small group once a month, usually on Saturday evening.  So far it's been basically for food and fun, with games.  But we want to expand it into something more meaninful and serious, keeping the games but wanting to have at least a half-hour of discussion, prayer and/or devotions. 
Mexican train dominoes
Another young couple who are in our group is Sasha and Oksana.  Sasha is the young man who was being mentored in Church history by Frank.  His wife Oksana is lovely to be with.  She has a wonderful sense of humor, and I love to hear her talking about "my Sasha."  They are both Bible school grads, but are working full-time jobs to make ends meet.  He is currently working in a factory which makes farm equipment, and she works as a hairdresser, doing senior citizens' haircuts at the centers where they meet or live.  She has also been cutting my hair and Frank's.  (It's nice to have the person come directly to your home to cut your hair.) 
Oksana and Sasha
Sasha is now in the process of beginning a church in his neighborhood.  It started as a church he attended and helped to pastor, but through various issues he is now spearheading a drive to reach more of the young families who live close to him.  And he is taking over the role of pastor.  He is a thoughtful fellow who loves the Lord and wants to be involved in ministry.  He and Igor are not so interested in the games.  Usually they sit and talk while the ladies play!  One thing Oksana told me was that young couples crave good Christian fellowship and want to have activities on the weekend to fill that need.  We want to help them find that fellowship.

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