Sunday, April 21, 2013

Service Projects & Life Skills

Aren't these faces adorable?  Every time I'm in the gypsy communities in Western Ukraine I meet these darling faces-- kids that we have a team regularly serving through the work of Orphan's Promise.

Mukachevo is one of the locations in Ukraine where OP is doing the greatest amount of practical ministry.  Primarily we are working with the Gypsy (Roma) people to bring education, programs and assistance to their communities.  We have an amazing team on the ground regularly working with the children teaching them Life Skills, Reading, writing and Ukrainian language skills they lack and providing lunches 3 times a week for hungry kids.

I was blessed to bring a team from my Kiev church's youth group. I serve as a youth leader for our gathering of young people called 'The City' (primarily ex-pat kids) and was honored to be a part of a group of about 30 youth spending their spring break serving in a variety of facets in west Ukraine. My group consisted of about 8 young people and we served in one of the gypsy communities were OP is working.  The kids did crafts, a lesson and games and then we went to another location and spoke with youth studying English in Mukachevo.

Having visited this community several times it was a privilege to get to see it through the eyes of these youth as they were faced with the poverty and the need and asking themselves the same hard questions I have often asked-- 'What can I do to help?'  

Our team with the English club
All our youth at the Uzhgorod Castle. We were all divided into various ministry projects throughout the week.

Tonight I'm headed back to Mukachevo again. (Oh the joys of being on a train for 14 hours!)  I'll be traveling with two co-workers to bring our Life Skills Training and Curriculum to the staff we have working in Mukachevo so that they will be able to have more resources as they work with their youth.

Our training in Kiev last week
We held a training just a week ago in Kiev for another group of volunteers and I'm continually amazed by the need for this material.  We've been doing training for nearly 7 years now and have trained close to 1,000 people to work with teens.  Each time we put the training and resources into the hands of people working with at risk orphans and youth we are overwhelmed with the response.  Gratitude. 
 Always gratitude for being given new information and new strategies for working with youth.  It is very humbling to be a part of this work and to know that even 7 years later it is still so needed.

Please pray for our team as we'll be training about 30 staff and local people in Mukachevo to use this curriculum!  And pray I can get some sleep on the train and arrive ready to teach!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Adventures in Israel

So it seems like I have yet again gone on a hiatus from writing! And it isn't for lack of things to is for knowing where to begin!

For those of you that are Facebook friends you know I had the amazing opportunity to venture to the Holy Land in March! Talk about the trip of a life time!  I have dreamed of going to Israel for quite some time-- I just always thought it would be something I'd have to plan well in advance-- not the spur of the moment, 'hey, let's go in 3 weeks' kinda trip that we ended up taking!

One of the pains of living in a foreign country is having to work on the documents to be able to live here legally.  However that pain brings with it an amazing perk! Travel!! In order to renew your visa to live in Ukraine, you have to leave Ukraine in order to do it and go to a Ukrainian consulate abroad.  I had planned for this to happen while I was in London...but long story short- it didn't work out, so thus the trip to Israel at the last minute with auntie and cousin in tow!

So while we waited the week for the visa to be processed we had a Holy Land adventure! We were able to go to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Galilee, Tiberias, Bethlehem and Judean Samaria!  We were on our own for the first 4 days (adventures in rental car!) and part of a passover convocation with a ministry friend for the last 4 days.

I wrote in my journal quite a bit while in Jerusalem, and thought I might share some of those thoughts here...but I'll spare you the words and instead let the pictures speak for themselves.

On the Mt. of Olives over looking the old-city

wailing wall

the Sea of Galilee

on the Mt. of Beatitudes

The Dead Sea

Church in Bethlehem

my beautiful cousin Honnah

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Golden Gates

In front of the empty tomb

Our Passover meal

my prayer at the western wall.

a spectacular sunset in Samaria!

my lovely traveling companions