The Rest of Our Ukraine Experience

Well, my last post had “(part 1)” at the end of its title, but there won’t exactly be a part 2, instead I’ve written a rather long post tying up our Ukraine experience, which I wanted to capture before time began to wash away its freshness in my memory.

After that great and reassuring experience of worship on our last Thursday leading Pilgrims, the student worship service, the last few days of our trip were great, but went by very quickly. Friday, we had another great day at the work site, and in the evening we went out to watch Ukraine play in it’s 2nd Euro Cup game against France. We stood in Fan Zone with thousands of others in anticipation, hoping Ukraine would pull off another upset and advance to the next round. The match went ok in the first half, but as the second half wore on, Ukraine’s defense fell apart and France ended up winning 2-0. As disappointed as we were, we went to drown our sorrows in overpriced dessert. We had a fun time at a restaurant which translated means “Japan House”, pronounced Ya-pona Hata in Ukrainian. I had green tea iced cream, which was an experience, though not exactly a tasty one. Reassured in the hope that Ukraine would do better against England in the their final game, we went home and got some rest.

Saturday, it was a beautiful day and we had a great chance to go to a nearby lake and relax with our team and a number of our Ukrainian friends. We crowded into a stuffy Marshutka, yellow buses that are the primary form of public transportation for the city and surrounding areas, and took a 30 min. drive to a lake. The weather was perfect, with bright sunshine, a light breeze, and highs in the 70s.

We had a Shashleeke, or a Ukrainian BBQ out there and played in the water, which was just a bit warmer than Barton Springs back in Austin. We just had a fun time of fellowship, playing Ultimate Frisbee (the Texas team son of course), slack lining (google it), swimming, eating fresh food, and enjoying one another’s company. It was great to see the countryside and enjoy Ukraine’s natural beauty after being in the city for so long. After going at such a quick and rather un-Ukrainian pace most of the trip we got a good chance to slow down, which we were thankful for. In the late afternoon, we got back to the city center and walked Rynok Square, the city hall and main square, seeing all the festivities and fans geared up for the Demark vs. Germany match the next day.

Sunday was a big day in a few ways. First, it was important for me because I preached at Church. Second, it was our team’s last chance to worship with our Ukrainian friends, which was bittersweet. And third, it was the day of the last Euro match in Lviv, which was a huge deal for the city itself, this also meant that it was our last Euro Game party to host at the student center. First, I got the chance to preach at church. (If you want to read what I preached, you can find it at Google Docs here.) I had preached for the church and at Pilgrims before, but still I was a bit nervous initially, and delivery of a sermon is very hard to gauge through a translator and given that you can only speak one sentence at a time it is more difficult to establish a rhythm. I spoke on the story of the Demon possessed man who is healing by Jesus in Mark 5. I contended that like this man, we as believers have all been afflicted, hurt, and captive to our sin, all of us as believers have been redeemed and healed by Jesus, and then we are all sent forth to spread the good news. My point was that we are all called to be missionaries and that we need to live out that call both in our home context and in the nations. I thought it went ok, but I don’t really know how it went because I am pretty tough on myself when judging things like that.

After church, we had a great picnic with church folks in a park down the street from the student center. We had sandwiches, sat on the green lawn on a beautiful day, had great conversation, and even played ladder golf and corn hole to boot. The picnic was another great time of fellowship with our friends from church and we savored every minute of it. Later in the afternoon, we wandered around the city some more and got ready for our last Euro Game party.

That evening we hosted our last Euro Cup party, complete with Mac & Cheese & meat, a foreign concept to all our Ukrainian friends. To go along with these delicacies we bought a fruit stand out of all their fresh homegrown strawberries (at close to a $1 a pound, which was awesome), and made banana splits with chocolate sauce as well. All of this sounds simple enough, until you see our kitchen. It was a work of performance art to see the commotion of the kitchen buzzing with activity, most of time using 3 or 4 burners at once to get all the dinner cooked. Julie was our star choreographer of the whole operation, making sure that the Cheese and meat didn’t burn, while keeping the noodles boiling and later the chocolate sauce from burning as well. This last party was perfect example of our team firing on all cylinders and working very well together to get our task accomplished. The party went off without a hitch and everyone had a great time as we watched the last Euro game in Lviv. We conversed with our Ukrainian friends, made new friends, and got everyone fed.

We also had our last in country debrief, followed by a surprise whipped cream attack on Todd and me by Jeanette & Dom. All told it was great evening, except for doing the mountain of dishes 🙂

Monday, we had our last day of work at the site and our last full day in Lviv. We worked quite a bit on the ceiling that last day, ripping down the lower part of the ceiling to expose the large support beams beneath them, which they want to clean up and show off with a kind of unfinished ceiling look when it is all done.

As we wound down our work, I couldn’t help but reflect on the work we did. In our time in the space we:

– Scraped paint off of 7 walls and a ceiling so they could be repainted

– Removed the half inch thick plaster from 12 major walls

– Knocked down 2 major brick walls while staying clear of rupturing a gas line and a number of electric lines

– Removed the floor and sand beneath the floor in 4 rooms

– Removed the ceiling in a major room

– Hauled thousands of pounds of sand & cement via stairs and a lift up to the 4th floor

– Shoveled all of the debris from these projects into lots of bags

– Sent hundreds of pound of leftover bricks down the lift and by hand

– And hauled down thousands more pounds of assorted debris down four flights of stairs

All told I believe we accomplished quite a bit. However, the best part of our last day was our time spent in prayer. After all the dust settled and the hammers and shovels went silent, before we went home to clean up and pack, we took some time as a team to pray over each of the rooms we worked in.

We prayed for the office, for the foyer/computer/hangout room (where we did most of our work), for their sanctuary area, and for the parts of space that weren’t purchased yet. We prayed for God to move in His power and use these spaces to His glory, for people to find Him and come to love Him there, for the empowerment of David and Shannon and the leaders of the church and student center, and for the generations of believers who would walk into that place, be trained, and go forth to make disciples in Lviv and around the world. It was a fitting end to the work, and a reminder that God has been before us and is after us in the work He is doing in Lviv. We stood in awe and wonder at the chance God gave us to come alongside Him and bring the change He desired into reality in the physical changes to the space, and be a part of the history of the church in Lviv that is continually being woven together. That night, we had a celebration dinner together at the girls apartment, followed by dessert out at a little cafe and then we returned to our apartment to pack for the long trip home.

The next day, we packed everything up, went to a goodbye lunch in the center with David, Shannon, and some friends at this questionable American-style fast food chicken place called “Yummies”, and then loaded up for the airport. Despite a few major headaches with our tickets, we left Lviv on time and headed back to the US via Warsaw, Poland. We had a real adventure once we landed in Chicago O’Hare however. We only were scheduled to have a 2 hour layover, but the flight arrived 20 min. late and we then had to wait in the longest customs line I have ever seen. That coupled with a few bag check mistakes put us in dire straights time wise to make our connection to DFW. Once we got through security, I encouraged our team to run as fast as they could to the gate. I felt like I was the airport scene from “Home Alone”, except for the getting on the wrong flight part. I ran to the gate as well, but despite our valiant efforts, we missed the flight. But we didn’t despair for too long, because there was another an hour later that still had room for us. We landed in DFW a little after midnight (a total of 18 hours of traveling thus far), found our gate and thought we would have to make do with sleeping in chairs that night,until the Lord provided. We settled in and were about to try to sleep, when a nice man who worked for the airport happened by.

He asked if we were sleeping here for the night and when we said yes, he asked if we would like some cots, and said that they indeed had cots for us if we wanted. We gladly acquiesced to this proposal, and when he returned a bit later with the cots, he said “Hold on, I’ll be back with the pillows and blankets in a minute”. The team slept, but I stayed up that night to keep an eye on our things (you never know what kind of people there are lurking in the airport over night after all). In the midst of my sleep deprivation, I couldn’t help but come back to worshiping God. I spent a while that night thanking Him for the good work He had done in and through us on the trip. He is such a good father and provider and I did my best to give Him thanks and praise that night in the lonely but tranquil DFW airport. A few hours later, one of our team folks couldn’t get back to bed and switched places with me and kept watch while I tried to sleep for a bit, which helped a little, but I really didn’t get much rest. Our flight took off at 8:15am, so everyone got up at 6am for a final team debrief. We had a great time sharing the good and difficult parts of the trip and how it has or will continue to change us. Each person shared how God moved in them through the experience and we lifted up prayers of thanks for all of these things. Finally, we boarded the plane and got back to Austin safe and sound.

I’m so thankful for the team we had, for the leaders at Molod Do Isusa & the Church, for David & Shannon and all their hard work they did to make this a great experience for us, for Nick & Katie and their opening their homes to us for two weeks, for the wonderful city of Lviv, that welcomed us so well, and to the sovereign God who made it all happen for our joy and His glory. Thanks also to you who supported us on the trip through prayer and finances, I am very grateful for your help.

The spiritual impact of this trip for the team, myself, and the ministry in Lviv is ongoing and I can’t wait to share it with you as it continues to unfold. Thanks for being a part of it.

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