Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh and then there was that day we walked through Yanukovich's home...

Well I can truly say without a doubt that I NEVER would have anticipated having a post with this title.  Let's face it, a lot of things happened in the last week that I never would have anticipated....EVER.  Hence the whole 'learning to hold my plans' loosely lesson that is currently a reality.

The air in Kiev this week seems to hold tension mixed with hope.  The streets on Maidan remain full of people in mourning and flower and candle memorials are stewn about the streets as far as the eye can see. It is clear that no one is packing their bags to go home yet.  There is also unrest in the southern part of the country (Crimea) as the pro-Russian part of the region stands strong against the pro-Ukraine Crimean Tar-tars.  It is an interesting time to say the least.

So now back to the title of this post....walking through Yanukovich's home....

Within hours of Viktor Yanukovich fleeing Kiev last Saturday, his home became an instant tourist attraction.  After being seized by journalists and members of the EuroMaidan protest group, the grounds of his home quickly became a hot destination in Kiev. Thousands of people toured the property on Saturday alone! It became an overnight sensation and the talk of everyone in town.

There are many reasons I love my job and the many interesting opportunities it presents! Orphan's Promise (who I work for) is a ministry of CBN, and this past week my dear friend and colleague George Thomas from CBN News has been here to cover the crisis and news developing in Ukraine.  My team in Kiev has been helping George with his logistics and he's been kind enough to let me tag along on some of his coverage of the week's events (I'm a groupie at heart).  His press privileges have gotten our little team into a few cool places we might not have otherwise had access the INSIDE of the Yanakovich estate.

What an experience!  After-all, its not every day you get to stroll through a vacated President's up his medicine cabinet (you bet I did), play a song on his grand piano (that was my cousin),  drink coffee out of one of his cups (that was our tour guide), or sit behind his official desk (that was me too).

Taking calls for the President while he is MIA
People have been describing the home as 'opulent, excessive and ostentatious,' and while I will not be the one to disagree, I cannot say that the actual interior house was all too impressive.  Grand, yes, expensive, yes- but in terms of a being the president of a nation, I'm sure there are presidents who boast grander homes. (And yes- I do realize Yanukovich has more than this one!).

What baffled my mind most of all was the fact that we were freely walking through a home that only days before had been occupied by the man himself. 
I couldn't help but wonder -how quickly did he make his exit strategy?
What is he thinking now, knowing that thousands are traipsing through his grounds....seeing where he slept?
I guess he currently has more important things on his mind...

What was the most disconcerting or perhaps amusing was the fact that his estate is being guarded by a bunch of young, practically self-appointed kids who had been down on Maidan.  One of our 'tour guides' was an 18-year-old- barking orders of what to do and what not to touch (he was sweet though!).   It was quite the motley crew running the show.  At least they are limiting who they let in the doors.   I have to say it is a good thing we were a group of 'upstanding individuals' as the ability to steal small items from the estate would have been quite easy! (Don't worry...we didn't...that's just how my mind works!)

So here is a little more of the inside of the Victor Yanokich's home at Mezhigiria.  I'm still pinching myself...

George and team filming a stand-up in the living room
billiards anyone?
and a little concert
our 'guide'
you'd think he could afford to update the bedside phone?
a heavy dose of medicine at hand...
looks like he took all his clothes with him as he ran...
some family finds..
he even has his own church....seriously...
and an elevator...
Our guide's coffee break mid-tour

School may be cancelled, but I'd say I took my cousin Gabrielle on a good field trip!
Thanks George!! Life is never boring when you are around!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Blood of the Martyrs

On Thursday evening I wrote my previous entry with a very heavy heart and a tremendous amount of uncertainty for what would happen next in Kiev. 

However, if you've been following the news you will know that an incredible 48 hours transpired since that Thursday evening when I sat staring blankly at my computer screen.

In what felt like a script straight out of a riveting Hollywood movie, Saturday February 22nd brought more headlines centered around Ukraine, that if the entire world hadn't been paying attention by Saturday, it was time to wake up. All eyes seemed to be on Ukraine.

The President went missing.
Yuliya Tymeshenko was freed from prison after 30 months of her 7 year term.
The parliament voted to oust the President.
The Police flee the city.
President's opulent estate is turned into a tourist attaction on the same day he flees.
Thousands flock to Maidan to mourn and pray.
Yuliya Tymeshenko wheel chair bound and only hours out of prison speaks to the crowd.
What was previously more or less a war zone is now filled with thousands of hopeful citizens.

Talk about a day to go down in history!!

Today certainly felt like a new day. A day perhaps not of certainty- but a day filled with HOPE.

I've never been more proud of Ukraine then I was today.  Walking down Hrushveskovo street, I saw families holding hands on a road that weeks ago was guarded by the Berkut (special forces).

A road where people lost lives and barricades had been built high.  Today it was free.

I saw a toddler wrapped in a Ukrainian flag sitting high a top her father's shoulders in safety.  Unaware of all that had transpired, and yet someday the history will be told to her.

Lives were lost for that little girl's future.

I saw tears of people in mourning, lighting candles in memory of those who gave their lives, fighting for ideals of freedom and a nation rid of corrupt leaders.

I saw faces of relief.  You could almost hear people breathing deeply.

There was courtesy in the air-- a love and respect of fellow man and people considering others before themselves.

It blows my mind that today, only three days after blood was spilled on these streets, the nation came out by the thousands to survey the ruin and to remember. 

Prayers were spoken from the main stage.  There was repentance!  There was praising of God and thanking God for all he had done!

As I walked the streets today and saw rubble stacked high and candles lit in remembrance, there was one song that kept running through my head.

When I had been down in this area a few weeks ago I was reminded of the song from Les Miserable, "Do You Hear the People Sing"-- especially because of all the revolutionary style barricades built meters high.  During those days I kept humming, 'do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men...."

But today, in-light of this past week's spilled blood, a different line of the song was brought to my's at the very end of the song and goes like this:

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

The blood of the martyrs.  
The blood of the martyrs indeed.

That is what I felt today.  That the 100+ lives lost were not lost in vain.  That it is the blood of those martyrs that will water the meadows of Ukraine.  Oh Lord, let it be so. 

I know Ukraine has a long road ahead of her, and only part of the victory against corruption has been won.  But today my prayer is that the pages of history that were written this week will be the foundation for a new chapter for this nation. 


With hope for the future of Ukraine and with gratitude for all that God has done,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Certainty in the midst of an uncertain time

Tuesday night (from internet)
just a few weeks ago
2 days ago (photo from internet)

Really at a loss of words on this whole situation in Kiev.  To think I was down on freedom square just a week or so ago taking pictures in what was then a peaceful protest.

Tuesday everything changed.  With a sudden out-break of violence and over 20 deaths on Tuesday alone it was clear that we were facing conflict at a new level.  I remained in disbelief--it felt surreal. I had really thought the worst of it was over in January.

On Tuesday public transportation (namely the subway) was shut down completely and today we've entered into day 3 of what feels like a city shut-down, as this city fully depends on underground transit to get to and from work.

Today began the panic of the possibility of the government instituting a state of emergency-- which would mean a full shut down of cell phones, internet, city life, etc.  There was a run on grocery stores and gas stations today that I witnessed as well. Everyone wanting to make sure they have a week's supply of food.

Most news sources are pegging this as an east/west conflict or saying that this is a civil war.  In reality this is about the Ukrainian people reacting to their corrupt government and demanding for a change and to be heard.  In my opinion this is not a civil war.  This is the government killing it's own citizens who were peacefully protesting. It's not the common people vs. the common people-- that would be a civil war. 

I've been spending way too much time online and watching the TV news reports.  I am overwhelmed by the numbers I'm seeing and site saying that perhaps 100 people were killed today alone.  I can't wrap my mind around that.  100 lives. 100 people that belong to someone. Literally only 2 miles from where I am now.  It is surreal to wrap my mind around.

I admit I've been spending more time reading fear inducing articles then on my knees praying-- as I keep asking others to do.  I think I just feel helpless...and so I just sit stuck in front of my computer screen.  The situation also causes you to feel like you are trapped in limbo.  There are so many plans that have been put on hold, so many uncertainties for what will happen next.  Do we keep planning and working as normal? Do events planned for next week take place? Do I go forward with travel plans? What about next month? Do we pause and wait?  It is a very challenging place to be in.

If anything this crisis reminds me that we need to hold ALL our plans loosely.

Most of our lives (especially in the western world) we live as if tomorrow is a guarantee and we make plans as such, probably because we've lived lives that for the most part have proved certain.  Yet now more then ever I am reminded of the scripture in James 4 that says "You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.""

Only one thing remains certain today. Jesus is Lord and He alone remains our hope in the midst of the panic and confusion that the world is screaming over the airwaves.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  My plans are not certain.  The future of this nation is not certain. Nothing really is. But Jesus is certain. He remains Lord and in that alone I can find my peace.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)

Time to turn the computer off, and be on my knees for this nation, trusting in a God who alone can bring resolution where people have failed....

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pictures from EuroMaidan

2 months without an entry.... oh dear!  Is it really February?

I  returned to Ukraine a few weeks ago after 7 weeks in the US, so I guess I'm still coming out of my travel fog and settling back into life.

Yes, things have been interesting in Kiev with the current political situation and protesting in the city center, an event now known as 'Euromaidan' (Maidan being the main square in the city and Euro emphasizing the direction the protestors wish to lean).   Today there are parliamentary hearings that could be quite telling, so in the mean time we just continue to pray and wait to see what will happen next.

I've gotten a chance to go down to Maidan a couple times and see the crowds that are standing up against the government.  Braving sub zero temperatures and frigid wind chills, I honestly don't know how they do it day after day.  I've was freezing after just a few hours walking around.

I moved to Kiev in October 2004, during the famous Orange Revolution, so it is very interesting to be here during this pivotal and historical time yet again-- somewhat remnant of those cold days of protesting back in '04.

Here are some sights from this last weekend.  If only you could smell the smoke that goes along with the images...



Please continue to pray for Ukraine and for peace and freedom in this nation.