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Home is a wonderful place

IMG_8798It was only –7 last night, but that was cold enough for us to feel great appreciation for the warmth in our home as we walked in the door this morning.  Seven of us built a snow fort on Saturday and then slept in it last night.  With seven bodies in that snow house breathing out 35 degree carbon dioxide, we had to open the door in order to slow the dripping of the ceiling.  It never stopped , but did help a bit… although I must add that we never really decided if it was worth the frozen faces.  All in all, it was another nice experience that reminded us that we can bear up under hardship.  Angel and Elle said that apart from frozen toes and fingers, they had a fairly comfortable night in their snowsuits and sleeping bags.  Good on ‘em. 

New Years saw us dress up again.  Our family chose to do a Robin Hood theme.  Pris was a classic as Friar Tuck, Angel was IMG_8594pretty maid Marian and Elle was Little John.  We had a lot of fun with those who came around.  I was surprised at how many people ended up staying until the morning to play games and watch movies.  I was also surprised at the number of bodies we squeezed into my little office to watch movies.  At times there were over 20 people in there!

IMG_8795A couple of days ago, we had four young men come for the week-end.  We had a blast.  (Amongst other things, we went out to the rehab center and joined the guys in the sauna.)  Over the weekend, my 45-year old body mostly kept up with theirs. 

The lads helped me bring our wood-pile into the house.  Despite my polite request to stop, some alcoholic neighbors have been taking our fire-wood and I decided rather than trying to go through the police to put a stop to it, this step would be simpler.  It also puts the wood closer to our stove.  Ha!  I’m actually feeling a guilty pleasure at the thought of them coming to get another load early in the morning… only to discover that their source has disappeared.  I think this shows that my heart is not as merciful as it used to be. 

The church is becoming stronger, I believe.  During the last year, the average age of our church has changed from about 25 to 35.  We still have a group of young students coming, but yesterday, I counted five grandmothers amongst our number!  It’s a good thing that I’m thankful for.  I love grandmothers.  And a few of “ours” are classics!

We’ve started the youth group up again after a couple of weeks break.  It has been good seeing some of the boys come to Bible studies and Sunday gatherings.  IMG_8602We pray for God’s mercy in their lives as we continue to present His truth to them.

This week, a young couple from America will be joining us.  Stone and Morgan will live with us for a while and ultimately hope to open a half-way-house for orphans who are over 15 years old and leaving orphanages to study in one of the tech schools in town.  The stats on Ukrainian orphans are shocking.  Stats show that over 90% of orphans in Ukraine end up in prison or involved in prostitution.  That’s a statistic that makes me think, “Nope.  That’s too outlandish to be true.”  But the more I hear from workers in that field the more believable that figure becomes. 

IMG_8774The rehab center has 9 guys living there now.  Mitya is a champ.  He’s doing a great job of teaching and encouraging and making sure everything is running smoothly out there.  Last month, a businessman in Kiev gave us an old sauna stove, then another man gave us enough wood to outfit the sauna room.  It’s basic, but beautiful in our eyes.  The men continue to delight me as they grow in faith and knowledge of God and His Word.  Last week, we promoted our first person into what we call the “Third Level”.  He will carry a telephone, work outside the center and have more freedom.  Igor is a top bloke who has allowed God to do some special things in his life over the last several months.  He’s pictured in the photo lying down in red shorts.  Please pray for him if you are willing. 

Angel has been struggling with symptoms related to medication she has taken to control the allergies she has.  The skin on her face has been acting up for over two weeks now causing her a lot of discomfort and pain… not to mention self-consciousness.  Please pray that her system would settle down.  We’re on a strange sort of diet in hopes that it will help with the healing process.  The verse from Philippians has already come to mind a couple of times where Paul says that, “their god is their belly,” and I’ve realized that I’m going to miss meat and sugars.  I definitely want to be numbered amongst those who are God-focused though, and I’ll perhaps even enjoy the challenge of joining the girls as we eat our way through meals whose only redeeming feature is the wellness they produce in our bodies. 

IMG_8546A NOTE FROM PRIS:  God is such a good Father to give us clear instructions on how to live in order to have joy and peace and purpose!  We are deeply thankful that He opened the eyes of our hearts to understand His love and forgiveness!  We are thankful for the peace in this home.  Today as I was fixing ‘unusual food’ for us (motivated by Angel’s suffering), I paused and realized that what was making me smile was the sound of Daniel, Angel and Elle’s laughter as they played a game together.  Outside of the kitchen window there is a new, beautiful bird feeder drawing the sparrows and other birds—my winter ‘flowers’.  So much to be thankful for. 

Life is full of adventures—this last week we celebrated the gift of 22 years of marriage with two nights away.  A highlight was sitting outside in a ‘chan’ (a large tub of water heated over a fire) looking across a frozen pond at trees laden with snow.  It was well below freezing, but warm and special and so beautiful.  While we were away, our furnace went out causing the house to cool considerably and some water pipes to freeze, (thankfully the pipes didn’t crack).  One tap in the ministry center had been left on and when the pipes did thaw, all the water drained from the reservoir into our freshly emptied sewage tank!  Chuckle! 

Just so you know, we do count it a privilege that you pray for us and for the people God has us serving.   Although there is so often joy and laughter, there are tears sometimes, too.  Lack of heat or water are a tremendously superficial form of suffering.  Having Jesse and Marie an ocean away for so long and having Angel going through this patch of “unwellness” is a slightly deeper kind of suffering.  Suffering that comes from people turning away from Christ or living with one arm draped around sin—that is a different kind of suffering.  We are thankful that God has given us the opportunity to serve Him here.  We pray that His kingdom will grow and be strengthened because He uses those who let Him use them—us and you.

May God bless you during this new year.  It could be a ripper of a year in more ways than one.  May I encourage you to remind yourself regularly of Who our Great and Wonderful God is and to trust Him in and through all things.  There’s few gifts that I value more than confidence in God.