Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A glimpse inside

One is the testing of the popsicle stick structures. The campers were divided into groups and each group was given 20 popsicle sticks, a piece of paper, a pair of scissors, a pencil, and white glue. With these materials they had to make a structure at least one popsicle stick length in height and it had to have a level top where weight could be placed. One group had about 40 lbs on their structure and it did not break.

The other picture is our swimming hole at the river. The irony of the weather was that although it was hot and sunny all day, it would cloud over a lot of the time when we were swimming. We all appreciated it when the sun came out and we had the opportunity to warm up a little.

A voice from the past

Well, this update is long overdue. I am not sure that anyone is reading this anymore. In fact as team members, we have come back to North America and headed towards our perspective homes.
Anyway, we wanted to complete this blog of our adventures this summer for the benefit of our faithful readers. I will try to fill you in on some of those details and then hopefully add some pictures later.
Last time we wrote we had finished our first week in Gyanta, Romania. We had another week of camps there. This week was a little different. There were 16 girls and 6 guys. This meant that there were two female leaders watching 3 rooms and the 3 guys were supervising the 6 boys in one room. The gender inequality also meant that our sports plans for the week had to be adjusted. Thankfully the campers liked to go swimming and we were able to do that a few times.
Lesson time was very similar to the previous week. Jordan and Charlene switched groups, but Matt and Karlynn stayed with the village children. Jordan and Charlene had larger groups this week because there were more campers. In contrast, Matt and Karlynn had about half the number of children attending than the previous week. It was good to see the skits and songs that the groups presented each evening based on what they had learned that morning. It was also nice to tie in the story of creation with a craft to help teach the village children English.
This week was a very good one. It was different from the previous one because of the difference in the campers. It was good to have some experience going in. One thing that we learned is how much God is capable of, and how little we are humanly capable of doing.
From Gyanta, we headed into Hungary. The border did not provide any problems, that is one of the positive aspects of traveling within the European Union. After crossing into Hungary we met up with George DeVuyst from Mukachevo, Ukraine and he drove us the rest of the way to Hejce. This was the last camp location and there were two new weeks of experiences ahead.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

We decided to swim

This week we were thrust into yet another new situation where we were forced to sink or swim. Monday evening we arrived at Gyanta, Romania where we are spending the next 2 weeks running 2 week-long English Bible camps. Monday evening we also found out what we were doing tuesday morning to start off the camps. Fortunately we have recieved lots of support from the local pastor, Jozsef, and his wife Orsi. We are also working with a seminary student who speaks both Hungarian and English. Even though we felt unprepared for the week, we have been able to rely on God and he has carried us through.

We work with 3 different English groups: Those who speak English well, those who speak some English, and those who speak Hungarian. This week Jordan has been working with the first group, Charlene with the second and Matt and Karlynn with the last group. The last group is predominantly village children. Altogether we have 16 teenage campers and about 20 village children who just come to the programs during the day.

Gyanta is a very nice village with a local river where we often go to swim in the afternoons. We are staying in a camp with 4 bedrooms: 2 for boys and 2 for girls. The dorms have running water but drinking water needs to be carried uphill from the well 15 minutes from the dorms. This has been delegated as an exclusively male duty.

Thanks again for keeping us in your prayers. We love reading your comments and feel blessed to have so much support.

Charlene and Karlynn

Sunday, July 1, 2007

SMP goes to "the lake"

Above, you will see a lovely shot of SMP doing what they do best, posing for pictures.
During last week's excursion to a wonderfully scenic mountain lake in central Ukraine. From left to right: Matthew, Jordan, Karlynn, Charlene.

Romania bound... and we were just getting the hang of Russian

Greetings from smp Eastern Europe. We bring you tidings of great exhaustion as we prepare to leave our relatively familiar surroundings for a new country and language.
This past week was spent in a town roughly 45 minutes from Mukachevo, Svylava. During our time in Svylava we took part in a Ukranian reformed youth festival which included (but was not limited to) lectures/teachings on the body of Christ, cross cultural communication, pillow fights, camp fires, testimonies, group devotions and discussions and the song Father Abraham.
So as you can see, we have been keeping ourselves occupied. I must mention that we are all feeling the cold shower of reality as we move into the next month of our ministry here in Eastern Europe. We were "cut off" from outside communication this week, and it seems that this will be the case from here on out. We estimate that we will have email access once a week or so. So please pardon our lack of "updatedness" from time to time.
Although things are become gradually more unfamiliar I cannot say that we are unhappy. I think that we would all say that our time in Ukraine has been a wonderful one, and I know that we are all very sad to be leaving in the morning. If it were possible it would have been nice to stay here for a while longer, Jordan's Russian has become exponentially better and the rest of us can at least recongnize words now. From here on out we will be learning Hungarian, which will be spoken in both Romania and Hungary (ask us why when we come home, its an interesting history lesson).
Tonight has been a sad evening, as we said goodbye to our Mukachevo friends. The young people from the Mukachevo church came with us to Svylava this past week, meaning that we have been developing relationships with them for almost 3 weeks now. Standing in circular fashion on the side of the road we all regretfully said our goodbyes to one another. For us this is the second time that we have had to do this; and we understand that we will have to do it 5 more times in the coming weeks. Its a difficult thing for us all, those who are staying behind and for those who are leaving; building relationships of genuine care that must then be severed so soon after they have begun to take root.
Please pray for those who we leave behind, and for those that we have yet to meet.
I think that I can safely say that this coming week will be our hardest yet, we take on a much more significant leadership role in Romania. Mainly the entire thing, living with and being responsible for these young people from morning until night.
We humbly ask prayer for this as well; that we could keep the "bond of peace" that Paul talks about in Ephesians. For wisdom to lead these young people, for sleep (a rare comodity these days) and for the agility of mind to learn a new language and culture.

Thank you all for your continued prayer and support, being far from home we are comforted to know that we are not alone but belong to the greater body which prays for us.



Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Our Adopted Family

So as promised with the extra time we have before leaving for Svoylava later this afternoon here is a bit more about our host Valeri.

A little background is necessary. One of most common cars here in Ukraine is the Lada. Many Ladas have a front windshield and rear window of identical size and shape. About 10 years ago Valeri was involved in a collision with a drunk man on a bicycle. The week prior, Valeri's Lada had its front windshield replaced. However, the repair shop ripped him off and put a rear window without safety glass in the front. When Valeri collided with the cyclist the window shattered showering Valeri with shards of glass. His eyes were damaged so badly that he was left almost completely blind.

In recounting this story to us we were absolutely amazed at the abscence of bitterness or remorse. In his own words he had lost his sight, but in return he received something far more valuable. He found God.

In this past week with Valeri, we are continually astounded. It is often easy to forget that he cannot see. He has not missed a beat. He cooks, cleans, takes care of a massive garden filled with fruit trees, and navigates his house and yard with great ease. All of this is done with a smile and sense of humor that is very disarming.

Valeri is a kind and gentle man, who has a passion for life and it has been a true blessing to spend time with him. Both Matt and I have gained a great respect for Valeri and his wife Agnes. I think that I can speak for us both when I say that this has been one of the richest learning experiences we have had thus far.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A day off

Hello from Charlene and Karlynn, the delinquent bloggers

Today is Sunday and we have a long anticipated day off. This, combined with the fact that we actually have internet access resulted in this post. The Mukachevo internet is sporadic at best, so we apologize for our seeming lack of communication.

This past week we have been staying at Marina's place. She is an English teacher, but is also an excellent cyrillic alphabet and guitar teacher. We have loved getting to know her better. She lives with her parents, who don't speak English. The food is amazing, but we cannot eat the amount required of us. Fortunately, Marina has dealt with Americans and Canadians before and understands our cultural differences. The food we eat is homemade, including noodles for soup, apple juice and our favourite salad: cucumber and tomato. We have surprised her with our ability to drown many flavours of Jaffa juices due to the high temperature and lack of drinking water. In addition, we have singlehandedly eaten her seemingly endless supply of cherries.

We spent our days running English Club for teens. Every morning we planned the days program of games, bible study, singing and english conversation activities. Then we had lunch and executed the days program of games, bible study, singing and english conversation activities. It never went exactly as planned but we learned lots and hope that we made a difference in the participants' lives. English club ended with sightseeing or sports which was a good opportunity to build relationships with the people. After English Club we had dinner at our host families and ended the day with team devotions and debriefing.

We went to church this morning at 11 and listened to an enrapturing Russian sermon. Singing Russian songs was somewhat difficult. Many of the sounds are not easily pronounced by the average English speaker. Not to mention the fact that the cyrillic alphabet hinders our small progress. However, even though we could not understand the language, we felt part of the local church community. They made sure to make us feel welcome and thanked us as a church for coming and serving in Mukachevo. A number of English club participants came to church as well and we had a hard time saying goodbye to them. After many hugs and a few tears we parted ways. We were surprised at how close we felt to these people after knowing them for one short week.

This Tuesday we leave for the Reformed Youth Festival in Svoylava, a 40 min drive from Mukachevo. We hope to update you on this next weekend.

We love and miss you guys and hope you are enjoying your summer.
Love Karlynn and Charlene (otherwise known as Charlynn and Karlene for those who have trouble pronouncing English names)

Prayer requests:
-That the people we met in English Club will continue to learn about God through the support of local Christians
-That our team will grow in unity and love for each other and strengthen each other in the faith
-Strength for our team as it's hard to leave everyone after one short week