Ukraine: Prayer Points

We’ve spent the past three weeks in Ukraine – it’s been fascinating to meet people and be a part of local church life here in Ukraine. I wanted to share a few points today as to how we can be praying for this nation.

In our ministry debriefing at the beginning of the month, we learned a lot about the historical background – how Ukraine was the “Bible Belt” of the Soviet sphere and that Slavic Christianity was actually born in Kyiv, Ukraine, 1,000 years ago. In 1927, Stalin started a campaign against evangelicals (there were 5% evangelicals at that time,) killing millions of them in concentration camps. When Ukraine came under the USSR in 1939, church buildings were closed down and the highly regulated Orthodox Church was the only religion allowed. In 1944, Stalin realized that he couldn’t overcome Hitler without the help of the United States and the UK. These countries aligned with Stalin but mandated religious freedom. Ukraine was fought over by Western powerhouses, and then attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Today, the effects of the Soviet oppression are widespread – Ukraine is still struggling to regain economic and political independence. One of the most striking things that we noticed was names – The Soviets only allowed children to be called certain names in effort to make everyone look and act similarly. For us, it seemed nearly everyone we met was named Anya, Sasha, or Tania. At one point we had to start numbering the Tania’s that we met because there were so many Smile

There are a number of ways that we can be praying for the nation of Ukraine:

1. Pray for a depth of understanding of the gospel

In Ukraine, the majority of believers are Orthodox (61%), with 10% Catholic and 3% Protestant (Source: Operation World).  The Orthodox Church has much to offer, with its rich historical tradition and emphasis on the mystery of the resurrection. But from my conversations with people, it seems that there is a lack of emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; many are not sure if what Christ did on the cross is sufficient for salvation. Pray that religious devotion would not be birthed from obligation or duty, but rather life-changing encounters with Christ’s love.

2. Pray for educational opportunities – especially for church leadership and English language instruction

Since Ukraine became an independent nation twenty years ago, thousands of new congregations have formed with little formal leadership training. Because of this, leadership training is the primary church need in Ukraine (Operation World).  Pray for opportunities for pastors and clergy to receive discipleship and leadership education to grow in God’s call for their lives. This will provide needed stability for the many budding churches. 

Another educational need is English language instruction. The Soviet Union did whatever possible so that no one learned English – people were taught written English but not how to verbalize it. Today, there is a felt need for learning English from native speakers. We saw this in the number of students (100+) who attended our 5-day English camp during our stay in Rivne. Pray for the financial and human resources for effective English language instruction programs

3. Pray for economic growth and political purity

As Ukraine transitions to a market economy, the gap between rich and poor is growing wider – many have been driven to poverty, while the wealth of the elite is increasing. The average annual salary for a Ukranian is $3,910, which is only 8% of the average salary in the United States (Source: Operation World). Pray for economic growth, wisdom for political leadership, and God’s continued provision for people in Ukraine.

4. Pray for a unity among structures and relationships among Christian bodies

Ukraine religious life is marred by strife among and inside all major Christian denominations.  In our ministry debriefing, we found out that during the Soviet regime, the evangelical church was presented as segregated, anti-educational and anti-intellectual. In addition, many evangelicals have made assumptions about the Orthodox Church which may or may not be true. The reality is that these preconceived notions blunt our effectiveness in our work for Christ. Pray for peace, reconciliation, and understanding to come forth among the various denominations of the church.

5. Pray for freedom in worship

Because of Soviet oppression, many Christians don’t feel they are free to worship God as they would like. In the worship services I attended, it seemed that people felt like they had to look and act a certain way. This same “cookie cutter” mentality was present in the way people dressed on the street. Pray for spiritual freedom and a knowing that God examines us from our hearts, not the way we dress or look or worship Him.

Below is a video from Tanya, a missionary with Salvation Church (Baptist) in Rivne Ukraine. She was our main contact for our ministry work in our time there. I think you’ll enjoy her perspective as to how we can be praying for Ukraine:

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August Newsletter: God is working in Ukraine!

In this month’s newsletter:
Stories, photos, and videos from Ukraine
Freedom in our squad at the World Race debrief
September: Serving in Tiraspol, Transnistria

God is working in Ukraine!

I just finished month two of the World Race, where we served in Rivne, Ukraine. We had such an amazing month! Our first week there, we had the privilege of working with Golgotha Church for a children’s camp. Our team really enjoyed the camp’s pirate theme, as we got to dress up as soldiers in the ongoing drama. It was amazing to see how God worked in each child’s life with this unique way of presenting the gospel – read more about it here.

The next two weeks were spent preparing and teaching a week-long English camp. We found out that God had really prepared the way for this, as the church had been praying for months for a team to come from America to help teach English. It’s so humbling to go on a mission trip expecting for God to answer your prayers, then find out that you’re an answered prayer for the people you are serving! Over 100 students ended up attending our classes, which was way more than anticipated. I helped to teach the Upper Intermediate students with Charlie – I so enjoyed our daily conversations about life in Ukraine. But what made me most excited was seeing the work that God did in the student’s hearts as they grew to know His love in a deeper way.  Their testimonies are posted in a video here

For me, what stands out about the Ukranian culture is their hospitality. From the moment our team arrived, we were immediately welcomed us into their homes as family. On our first week there, we were invited to eat authentic Ukranian borsch and holutsbi (cabbage rolls) at Tanya’s house. It was such a blessing! You can travel to Ukraine in your own kitchen by cooking this recipe here.

Other posts on my blog:
-Our squad just finished a time of debrief at a rustic camp in Moldova. I was so inspired by the way that God was setting people free here that I wrote a spoken word poem – watch it here
-I interviewed a local Ukranian missionary about how we can pray for the nation of Ukraine – watch it here
-Be sure to watch our Ukranian highlights video here

Next Month: Moldova

For the month of September, we will be serving in Tiraspol, which is the largest city in a country called Transnistria. You may be thinking, “Transnistria? I’ve never heard of it!”  Transnistria is a region within Moldova that has effectively seceded from Moldova with Russian backing – it is a separate country but isn’t officially recognized internationally as one. We’re serving in a city called Tiraspol, which we are told is run by the mafia. Although we’re not really sure yet what that means, we’re excited for our ministry this month which consists of teaching English and organizing youth clubs with a charasmatic church.

Prayer Requests

Here are some prayer requests for our team for this month:

  • Our team is characterized by its diversity – pray that we may be able to come together in unity in order to capitalize on the incredible combination of giftings within and honor one another in every situation
  • Pray that God would continue to show us how we can challenge one another spiritually, and that we would continually make Him our priority
  • Katy has been appointed the team leader for this season of the World Race. She has already done an awesome job in this role – Pray for a smooth transition and wisdom as she continues to grow as a leader
  • Personally, God has been revealing to me a number of ways that I can grow in. Specifically, He is teaching me about humility… Pray that I would continue to be sensitive to His leading and learn how to humble myself in all situations

Philippians 2:5 says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”

In His love and joy,

Kelly

Letter to a Ukranian

It’s been so great to have you in English class this past week. I’ve learned so much about the Ukranian culture in our discussions in class as we talk about the hopes and dreams for our lives. It was striking to me that almost all the students in our class were born in Ukraine and have lived in Ukraine their whole life: “Ukraine is a country of patriots,” I was told.

When our team shared about our journey to eleven countries in eleven months, I saw a longing in your face… you mentioned having the deep desire to see the world. Yet, for you it seemed like this was just a fantasy, a far-away dream that had little potential to be accomplished. You told me that due to personal economic situations, as well as the red tape within the Ukranian visa system, traveling to multiple countries was almost impossible. That broke my heart… I asked myself, “Why me, and not you?” Why would God give me the privilege of traveling to eleven countries in eleven months, and not you?

The last day of class, when we passed out class photographs, you lined up to have me sign your photos and asked me to pose in pictures with you. This actually made me feel like a celebrity…someone told me “I have always wanted to speak to Americans, but have never been able to.” I get the sense that just because I’m from America, that we’re living in an ideal world. But God looks at all of us in the same way – we’re all His favorites. I’m actually not that different than you. Like you, I daydream about my future marriage: who will I marry, will I have kids? I struggle with temptation: how do I stay pure, why did I just say that? And I long after Jesus, wanting nothing more than His love to be poured out in all the earth, just as you do…

There is so much that I learned from you this month. I so appreciated seeing the way you love – how you poured out your heart on others and expected nothing in return. As Americans, this can be hard for us to do – we tend to put up walls between us and others. Someone told me that the Ukranian culture is based on relationships – I really respect that about you. From the moment we met you, you opened your heart to us. Within just a few hours, I felt like I had known you for years; we were family. I couldn’t believe it when nine of you showed up at midnight to hang with us and see our team off – I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anyone live as selflessly as you. When we had to say goodbye, you held me so tight, with tears streaming down your face. Don’t think that because I wasn’t crying that I wasn’t hurting inside, because I was. I just didn’t know how to express the pain that I felt. I didn’t know it was possible for me to get that attached to another person in just a few weeks.

If there is one thing I could say to you, I’d encourage you to dream big, girl! Never let your dreams be dictated by what people say or the situations around you. I believe in your dream to see the world – Did you know that God gave you that desire? Continue dreaming with Him – He is your loving papa who wants nothing more than to give you the desires of your heart. He might not answer your prayers in the way you expect, but know that God answers every prayer in His way and His time.

Although I’m leaving Ukraine now, know that we’re just an email or Facebook message away from one another. I hope we can keep in touch – please let me know how you are doing and how I can be praying for everything that is happening in your life. Know that you always have a second home in America – I’d be so blessed to take you around my neighborhood and welcome you into my country, just as you did for me.

I love you –

Your sister in Christ,

Kelly

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Here is a photo of the Intermediate-Advanced afternoon class that Charlie and I taught. Below, the theme of the day is God’s provision – the students are conversing together to construct structures to protect their eggs: P1010429

Below is our evening class. I was so blessed when the last day the students showed up with gifts for Charlie and I – chocolate, pins, and even a handmade poster-sized painting! I’ve worked in many camps before but have never received so many gifts, which further displays the welcoming hearts of the Ukranian people:P1010481

Ay, Matey

This past week, we have had the pleasure and honor of coming alongside Golgotha Church to serve in their five-day children’s summer bible camp. One of the coolest things about this year’s camp was the ongoing drama which literally put kids within the gospel story.

The first day, each child had to perform a series of “tests” in order to become a pirate, such as walking across an unstable plank, climbing a rope ladder, and eating dinner on a rocking hammock (below).  P1010182

One of the first things we found out was that our team was an answered prayer, as Golgotha Church didn’t have enough people to staff the camp. Our role was to be soldiers for “Black Beard.” Here we are standing, guarding our pot of food which the pirates “stole” from us on the second day. P1010211

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Black Beard was the captain of the ship, who ruled over the land and angrily told kids what to do. Here is a picture of me getting Black Beard ready for the day:

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The first few days, the kids learned about how the bible was a treasure – they went on hunts throughout the area to find their team’s treasure chest. Here is my team with the treasure chest that we found:P1010265

On the third day, the pirates were introduced to Archibold, who is the Jesus figure in the drama. After we talked about sin and the evil things that pirates do, all of us soldiers came in and demanded that someone die for the sins that were committed by pirates in the neighboring town. Inside the treasure chests, the children found “freedom papers.”

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They were given the opportunity to sign these freedom papers, in which they left Black Beard’s team to join Archibold‘s. The final day, Black Beard came into camp, saying that anyone who didn’t have a freedom paper had to die. At that moment, Archibold offers to die instead of the children. The soldiers (Team Doulos) then beat Archibold up and took him away, where the children hear shots in the distance.

As I’m writing this, I realize that this drama might sound a little intense for a children’s bible camp. Well, it was. There were a number of children that cried during the skits, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. These feelings of fear are very real – the reality is that we all have to make a decision about where we are going in life, and the consequences of this choice is eternal. As the drama unfolded, I was so impressed to see how the children really got “into” the story and started making surprising connections between Satan’s control over us to sin and how Black Beard ruled over camp, then how Jesus Christ died to take our place in order to set us free.

Even more than the camp curriculum, though, what really impressed me was the people we served alongside for the camp. About 1/3 of the entire Golgotha Church devoted literally their whole week – from 8:00am to 7:00pm or later – to serve these children, let alone the months of supplies-gathering and materials-making beforehand. Despite the long, hot days, I never heard even a single complaint. I watched the staff literally lay their lives down for the children in the camp, and in watching this it was a tangible demonstration of the way that Jesus laid everything down for us. I am starting to understand the power of a team – there are no limits to what God can do with a group of people who trust one another and work together to share God’s love with the world.

I was so impressed by the quality of games, activities, and bible lessons at this camp that I’m hoping to organize this summer camp someday in the States. Until then, I’ll just continue to say, “Ay Ay, Matey!”

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Eat Like A Ukrainian

When we stepped off the plane in Ukraine, it really started to feel like we were in a different country. Ireland was so similar to my home in Boston economically and socially that last month it was easy for me to forget that I wasn’t in the States. Ukraine is a whole nother world, though, and I think this is mainly due to the language. I’ve been in countries where I don’t speak the language, but it’s a whole different ballgame when the entire written alphabet is foreign. For example, on our second day here, we went to a restaurant, looked at the menu, and not only did we have absolutely no idea what was on the menu, but we also couldn’t sound out the words to order. It’s humbling when you need an interpreter to do things as simple as ordering food, because without one you can only stammer and point stupidly, hoping that you don’t end up with something like raw alligator eggs.

Snapshot 1 (8-12-2012 10-16 AM)

A snapshot from our menu. What would you order?

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The ladies of Team Doulos, joined our three lovely Ukrainian friends (in the middle)

When you travel country to country, you begin to see how cultures compare to one another. From our stay thusfar in Ukraine, the one word I would use to describe Ukranians is “welcoming.” After our plane arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, we sat on a six-hour bus ride to Rivne, where we were welcomed by three of the most welcoming, kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. They spent hours with us over the next few days, showing us around the city, teaching us the Ukrainian language essentials (“Hello,” “Goodbye,” and of course “Where is the toilet?”) It seems like every word in Ukrainian has about a dozen syllables, and they patiently worked with us so that saying “thank you” sounded more like “dee-yaku-yoo” rather than “dracula.” They helped us with our cross-cultural assignment to talk with a local Ukrainian and learn about the way they think and act. If that wasn’t enough, they volunteered to help us maneuver the confusing Ukrainian bazaar (market) so our team could pick up some groceries.

I love tasting local cuisine, and one of the most well-known Ukrainian dishes is borsch. Borsch is essentially a meat and vegetable stew, and usually comes in either red or green. Our first Sunday after church, Tanya and her husband invited our team and others over to their home for local Ukranian cuisine. It was SUPER tasty, so I wanted to pass along the recipe for the delicious Ukranian Borsch and holubtsi that we so readily consumed. Yes, even you can eat like a Ukranian!

Ukrainian Borsch

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This recipe makes one big pot of borsch, which will serve about eight people.

  • 1 pound of meat (chicken, beef, or pork)
  • 8-10 potatoes
  • 3 middle-sized beets
  • 1 large carrot (or two smaller carrots)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  1. Cut the meat into small pieces, place in a large stock pot. Fill pot halfway with water, add salt, and boil for twenty minutes.
  2. Peel, slice, and cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add to the stock pot.
  3. Chop the beets, carrots, and onion into small pieces. In a separate frying pan, toss them with some water for about ten minutes until soft. Then add them to the pot with the bay leaf.
  4. Boil everything for about twenty to thirty minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and add a bit of vinegar.  Great topped with a dollop of sour cream.

Ukranian Holubtsi (Cabbage Rolls)P1010153

This recipe makes approximately sixteen holubtsi, which will serve about eight people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mid-sized cabbage
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pound of meat (usually beef or pork)
  • 2 big carrots
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp butter or oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a frying pan, chop the onion and cook with the meat until browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine with rice to form the stuffing.
  2. Place cabbage in a big stock pot, then fill with water until covered. Heat water on medium, until leaves peel easily off of the cabbage (take care not to heat cabbage too long)
  3. Fill individual cabbage leaves with the stuffing. Fold and pinch the ends of the rolls to close them securely.
  4. In a large stock pot, add butter or oil. Cover the bottom with any extra plain cabbage leaves (to prevent burning). Place a layer of holybsti on the bottom, then cover with grated carrots, pepper, and ketsup. Repeat, layering holybsti and vegetables until complete. Add 1 cup water, cover, and steam for two hours.

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I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did!

July Newsletter: I’m in Ireland!

This past month has been incredible. I’ve had to pinch myself more than once to remind myself that yes, I’m really in Ireland. One of my squadmates, KJ Blair, made an awesome documentary about the beginning of our journey – you can watch it here:

World Race – H Squad Launch from KJ Blair on Vimeo.

I’ve been working with three World Race teams (21 people) in Greystones, Ireland.  Our ministry work this month has consisted mainly of distributing pamphlets with scripture in various towns, villages, and housing estates throughout the country. It’s amazing for me to realize that our teams passed out more than 30,000 of these the past three weeks, and already a number of people have responded.  Although this is incredible within itself, more significant in my mind is the lives that I saw that were touched by our conversations. For example, we came across dozens of teenagers who were seeking truth in a tiny Irish town one evening – read more about that here; as well as one afternoon in a housing flat where five women gave their lives to following Jesus here!   I’ve also enjoyed getting to meet local Traveler people – read more about this community as well as a recipe for Authentic Irish Stew here.

Not only that, but we had the privilege of seeing much of the landscape of Ireland – sleeping on beaches, swimming in seas and climbing mountains. My favorite was the majestic Cliffs of Moher, which is like the Grand Canyon that I grew up with but also with an ocean crashing below.

This month I’ve been learning to abandon everything – putting my old life aside to embrace the new life that is before me. Life on the Race is simple – there are no bills to pay and your only job is to love the one in front of you. I’m learning to live in the moment and how to follow other leaders even when all my questions aren’t answered. I’m learning the value of community and how incredible it can be to live within a group of people who are committed to growing together with God and with one another.I brought my camera around with me this past month so you can get a sense of the Irish people, culture, and how God has been working in and through us. Watch this video here:

Next Month: Rivne, Ukraine 
Next month, we will be working with a missionary from Maryland who serves in Rivne, Ukraine. We’ll be helping with a children’s bible camp as well as teaching English at a day camp. Check my blog for regular updates!

Back in Boston
Earlier this month, UniteBoston received confirmation from the IRS of becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit! It’s amazing to remember that just a year and a half ago, we sent the first UniteBoston email. We are excited about the next stage in this journey of our organization and God’s desire to bring unity in a city such as Boston.

Also, Pastor Kent interviewed me about the World Race journey before I left Boston – watch this here:

Prayer Requests
-Pray for continued freedom and vulnerability among our team so that we can continue to strengthen one another in our walks with the Lord
-Pray that I might continue to find time and space to spend time with God every day and hear His voice clearly
-Pray that Team Doulos might continue to be vessels of Christ’s love to the world around us

Psalm 67:3-4 says: “May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.” 

In His love and joy,

Kelly