Reflections on Winter Tour (MBI Chorale – 2014)

Back in January, the choir that I’m in (The Moody Chorale) went on Winter Tour for three days.  I journaled a bit about each day and I’d love to share that with you along with a couple of pictures from the trip. 🙂  In the next couple of weeks I’d also love to share another post of pictures from my time here in Chicago.
The only information I will leave out are the names of people we stayed with (host homes) and a couple of stories I think should remain in the chorale due to people not wanting to be embarrassed, haha.  Nothing bad.  Oh and a couple of observations about people that wouldn’t mean anything to you all.  Everything else will be practically copied exactly (except for when the meaning wasn’t clear (in which case I edited it)).

Day 1) Friday, January 17, 2014
Driving out:  The city looks so beautiful on this cold partly cloudy day!  The geometric shapes are fun to look at.  I saw a 10-story building with trees and plants on the 8th floor (the 9th and 10th floors were indented behind the green area).

The bus isn’t actually as loud as I though it might be.  I think that is due to the fact that the bus is carpeted.  I have a pair of seats to myself which is nice for the moment.  The women’s choir gave us a bag of snickers (candy)  for our trip.

I see a domed green building off in the distance.  There are so many church spires.  There is an air of excitement which causes even me (or is it I??)  to be excited. 🙂

I will record random questions I wonder about as often as I can because someday it will be fun to read them.  🙂

Question 1:  Do trucks ever get stuck on hills? (this was accompanied by a drawing of a truck stuck at the top of a hill with the bed of the truck holding the wheels off the ground on either end.  Yes, I know, funny question, but since I’m writing up exactly what I wrote you get to see some of the silly things I come up with).

I had a very rough day yesterday and this morning.  I kept seeing more of what is truly in my heart.  What is in me is awful.

Interruption: I see a huge area full of semi-trucks stacked five to six trucks high.  There are multicolored ones (greens, reds, creams, etc.).  This whole area is trucks and factories.  At least there are some trees.  There’s a lot of graffiti on everything.  I also saw a field of huge train-like gas tanks.

(back to your regularly scheduled program)  I have a deep root of bitterness, complaining, selfish, self-righteous, legalistic… it is ugly.  Covered in sin and rebellion from God.

It started snowing.

Seeing signs reflected off the bus windows makes me think for a second that they are in Russian.

I’m listening to music on my iPod on shuffle.

Question 2: (reflected upon after seeing a couple different advertisement signs by the highway/interstate) Why is the word grownup/adult immediately connected to sex, toys, and other related things?  

(Written after our first concert the evening of the 17th):
I met a family of 11 children–6 boys and 5 girls.  They like singing — they sang us a song they wrote about coffee.  Their youngest is 2 and their oldest is 20.  We (Mariya and I) are staying with the P. family and their two sons (N. 10, and A. 7).  They have a cute brown and white dog.  They have built a ton of lego creations!

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The concert went well – especially the beginning songs and the last ones (esp. “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” arranged by John Rutter).  Wow!  Singing like that makes all the effort and time worth it!  Today I feel like I want to be in chorale all 4 years at college!

Daniel’s back was really bothering him today.  Sean did a beautiful Bach cello piece arranged for his guitar for the offertory.  SuJin’s testimony on grace was phenomenal!

The church had wonderful acoustics!  The women’s bathroom was light green. 🙂  The table decorations were mason jars with green tissue paper and fake yellow flowers (lilies perhaps??).  The church is filled with large families who almost all homeschool and many of whom have adopted.  They served us a delicious dinner of: meat (3 kinds – ham, chicken, and beef), corn, vegetable casserole, buns and butter, cookies, and 7-layer salad. 🙂

The girls’ changing room was in the nursery.  My pinch-on earrings hurt a lot especially the right one.  I sang in the front row inbetween two sopranos (Georgette and Alex).

While driving home (the host home), I looked into the darkness and saw many factory (chemical refineries, etc.) lights twinkling a happy golden color while from out of thin pipes water vapor floated into the dark sky forming beautiful white clouds.  There were also a couple tall thing towers on top of which a bright flame burned away all the impure and bad gas.  It was a beautiful view. 🙂

Day 2) Saturday, January 18, 2014
I had a bad dream about a snake.  I had to escape my house before the snake was let out of its cage on purpose to chase me.  I looked up while escaping and woke up (around 6:15 am).  I fell back asleep trying to ignore the room sounds.  Mariya woke me up later.  We ate a delicious breakfast of meatballs/sausage, french toast with eggs and almonds, tea and water.  A. played “Away in the Manger” for us on the keyboard.  He was adopted from Russia.  I took pictures. 🙂

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On the bus ride (later), Christian had to do a dance because he forgot his hanger in the dressing room.  He danced to Janger (one of our choir songs in Indonesian).  We also shared host home stories.  Our bus driver’s name is Jeff.  He is an excellent and safe driver.  It snowed many inches today.

We walked around a mall.  I rode on a white horse.  Sean road on a cat and named her Gertrude. :p  The mall was painted!  The ceiling was green, then the ceiling lights were blue, and the walls were yellow.  There were real plants and trees. 🙂

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We sang in an elementary school.  It had ok sound acoustics though the piano was a bit out of tune.  I enjoyed singing on the stairs and in the hallways because they were so echoey.  The song “Daemon Irrepit Caledus” was stuck in my head a lot.

OH!  In the morning we did small groups.  My small group is: Taylor, Mariya, Ian, and myself.

I was really tired for tonight’s concert so I don’t think I sang as well.

We (Alex, Madison, Mariya and I) stayed with S.  She has a very old huge house.  She also has a cat named Sharlie.  🙂  I petted Sharlie a lot.  She loves the side of her face and her neck getting a good rub.  She left lots of hair on my black choir dress.  Bedtime now at midnight!  I will be waking up around 6:50am or so to leave at 7:20am.

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Day 3) Sunday, January 19, 2014
I am writing you with the pen S. gave me.  She also gave me: a make-up bag, 6 heart chocolates, a mechanical pencil, a card and a knickknack. 🙂

I love, love, LOVE singing the “Thank you” song! (It’s a song we sing after every meal we are served to thank the cooks).  I love seeing the people’s reactions. 🙂

Breakfast was scrambled eggs, cheese, bagels, grapes, pink “fluff”, and more. 🙂

Ryan was very sick last night and today.  Mariya also felt sick but only in the morning.  Our call time tomorrow is 8am.  I saw swings outside the church so I hope we get there early so that I can swing for 5 minutes!  (I did get to swing)

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The pastor picked up on our concert’s theme of man’s sin verses life lived under God in His grace, joy, love and peace.

They fed us so much good food today that I think I might have gained weight. :p  🙂  One lady at lunch married and Iranian and was Muslim for a long time.  Now she and her husband are both saved!!  They are praying for their four daughters who are not saved.

Ben and Brennan left their folders at the last church so… they had to do some things on the bus.  Brennan had to sing “What Does the Fox Say?” with fake green teeth on.  It was hilarious!  But the teeth wouldn’t stay on because they were too small.

The Methodist church we sang at tonight was very well designed – architecturally.  We got an hour and  half of free time!  It was wonderful!  I lay in the dim sanctuary on a red covered pew bench listening to very quiet music.  I don’t know if I fell asleep or not.  On Saturday I forgot to say that I met an older lady named Bonnie (Bonnie is my favorite girls’ name).

Tonight Mariya and I are staying with a family with two boys at home and a black dog named Diamond (15 years old!).  The youngest son is 11 and he has the extra “love” chromosome.  He is so loving!  I had to argue with him to get him to only kiss me on the cheek.  He gives the best hugs!

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I got to help take down the chairs and round tables in the gym after dinner.  It was fun!

I really don’t like TVs very much.  What a waste of time and energy.  I also think I waste too much time on my iPod games — so I deleted all of them.  :p

I sang Frozen songs with Rosie the other day in the bus.  Eric also randomly starts singing Christmas songs.  Colby says he gets flack about his hair being a “stumbling block” to others.  That’s ridiculous and a misuse of scripture as well.  Taylor really likes to read Stephen King books (It, and 11/22/63).  Daniel can talk but he’s also quite fine quiet and alone.  He’s observant.  Eric and Jacob study and do homework.  Ian talks and jokes around.  Sean rests and is quiet or asks 20 Questions or plays his guitar.  Kathryn sat alone.  She is very quiet.  Josie looks beautiful when she unbraids her hair. 🙂  Ryan is still able to crack jokes even when he’s sick.

Ok, goodnight!!  We head “home” tomorrow!  I’m so glad. 🙂

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That’s all I wrote down. 🙂  I hope you enjoyed it and didn’t get thrown too many times by my jumps in subject. :p  I was too tired to keep it all organized and since I didn’t want to forget any little details I would just write down everything as it popped into my brain.

My Life After Ukraine

What parts of my life have changed since my nine day drip to Ukraine back in September?  It has been about three months since I left for Ukraine.

I miss seeing all the people who I met and served with/to.  Especially Игор and Албина and their three year old daughter, Тина.  I spent an entire day with their family (without a translator) and absolutely loved it (aside from the toilet without toilet paper).

I miss the orphans in Неміров–especially several of the girls.

I also miss Маша’s cooking and Валера’s constant teasing, energy and lightheartedness.  They were very hospitable to me and I have sort of adopted them as my second or third parents (depending on who else you call my adopted parents, haha, I certainly have no lack of them). 😀

Please pray with me that Maria and Valyera would come to know Jesus as their savior and best friend.

Now that I have told you about a handful of people I miss I’ll tell you how they—and their country—have changed my life.

In Ukraine, you do not sleep with sheets.  Instead, you use a comforter type blanket (plus other blankets if it is colder).  When I returned to the US, I rid my bed of it’s sheet and only left the comforter (+ another thin throw blanket) on the bed.  I have slept that way since, and I’m quite used to it. 🙂

A dishwasher—who’d have thought it a luxury?  I certainly didn’t.  But, in Ukraine, dishwashers are rare and you hand wash all your dishes.  I can not say that I have totally stopped complaining about hand washing dishes that don’t fit inside our dishwasher (because that would be lying), BUT the trip has certainly changed my general attitude towards the chore.

Another appliance they go without is a dryer (and in many cases, a washer as well).  Their apartments actually have a special room/hallway where you can hang your wet clothes.  Can you imagine how much longer laundry would take??  Can you picture how many drying racks my family would need???!  (At least 4!)

Whenever a prayer is offered up in church (in Ukraine), everyone stands.  I don’t know about your church, but mine does not (currently) do this.  So, I found it a bit odd, but I quickly became used to it.  Then, last week, our church changed one part of the service to have us stand for a specific Bible reading portion.  It did not strike me as odd, because now that I have seen other churches do different things I’m more open to minor changes.  After all, the Bible does not tell us exactly how each service should be run, and I need to be willing to adapt to non-vital changes in the order/type of service.  The focus should be on God and His Word.  As long as that is the focal point, the other things are not important. (note: I don’t usually like changes—especially not at church).

Tomatoes—I have never liked this fruit (and yes, I’m one of those people who will argue against science and say it’s a vegetable) and the only time I will willingly consume them is in soups (especially borsch—an amazing Russian beet soup).  It seemed as though this strongly disliked food was served in *every* single meal.  My resolve soon gave out and I had my first tomatoes on a slide of their brown bread on top of slices of thinly sliced meat, slices of cheese and the ever present mayonnaise/miracle whip type spread.  The story that goes with this sandwich is rather funny, so I’ll share it with you.

I was at the pastor’s home in the back room playing with his five year old daughter and three year old granddaughter.  The pastor’s mother-in-law brought in the open sandwich as a sort of snack since they were sill preparing supper.  She then left.  I did not know how to say the word ‘like’ in Russian (I only knew ‘love’).  I ‘generously’ offered the tomato slices to both girls.  They refused.  I tried to explain that I did not like tomatoes.  After only a minute I stopped trying and took a bite.  It was delicious!  Halfway through, the kind blue-eyed kindred spirited grandma looked in and attempted to take back the tomatoes.  Apparently, the five year old had understood my dislike of tomatoes.  To my horror, she had relayed this information to my hosts.  I was embarrassed and I quickly shook my head and tried to explain through my gestures and limited Russian vocabulary that the sandwich was fine and I liked it.  At dinner, a bowl full of tomatoes was sitting right next to my plate.  I laughed then. 🙂  I had totally confused my hosts.  First, though Emma, they believed I hated tomatoes, and then they thought I loved them.  All I meant to infer was that I dislike tomatoes in general—but enjoy them in, on, and with certain other foods.

There are a couple of other things I have changed, but I’ll just leave you with these examples.  I hope these have given you a small taste of life in Ukraine.  I will be adding my oral and pictorial report on my trip to youtube in the upcoming week.  I’ll add the links to this post and also in a post of their own.

Пока!

{P.S. From now on I will be posting something new every week on either Tuesday or Wednesday.}

Marvelous Memories! (part 1 of ??)

The next few posts will be a bit unusual.  I want to share some of my favorite memories from my time at TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and VOICE (Visualizing Opportunities In Character and English).  I was planning on writing one humongeous blog post covering every detail, but instead I decided to shorten it for you to make it easier (and more fun) to read. 🙂  Don’t expect much order to the parts, these are just in the order they come to mind.

With no further adue… Here are my TESOL and VOICE 2012 memories!

Memory 1: DRAMA!!

The day after we arrived we auditioned for the musical, “Queen of the Dark Chamber.”  To summarize the story (based on the true story of Christiana Tsai), Christiana grew up in China several years before communism.  Because of a sacrifice she made for her father, she was allowed to go to the missionary school (in China) to study English.  Mary, her teacher, lead her to the Lord.  They both ministered and witnessed to the people of China.  Later, when illness set in, they both headed to America.  In America, Christiana wrote out her autobiography titled, “Queen of the Dark Chamber.”  Of course there is more to the story than that, but I’ll leave the rest for you to find out when you read the book.

Each day, before practice, we split into eight or nine groups for role-call.  My group included: Danny, Aslan, Job, Grace, Helen, and Iris.  Every role-call was different and you never knew what to expect.  For the first day (when we weren’t yet split into our groups) we had to scream our name while running from an imaginary bear.  (a video of that role-call:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSiZDje3Tuc&feature (starting at 3:02))  Another day (now split in our groups) we lined up.  Then, pretending to be madly in love, we said the name of the person next to us and said our favorite fruit. 😀  It was hilarious.

For Act I,  I was an angel.  My fellow angels were: Winnie, Lily, Esther, Donna, Mary, Kelsey, Iris, and Flo.  We sang and choreographed our song.  I really enjoyed working with the 2nd sopranos in our fist song and the 1st sopranos in our second song.  There were several stressful occasions during practice because of high nerves, a short time span to learn everything, and selfishness/wanting my own way (on my part), but after several apologies we were able to do our best for God’s glory.

In Act II, Neighbor 2 was my part.  Caleb, Danny, and Natalie were my fellow nosy neighbors.  I had a lot of fun with this role.  My solo line (in one of the songs) was: “What do you wear in China?  Were your feet bound?  Was your hair in a queue?”  And then Neighbor 3 asks, “And what do you eat in China?  Things like monkey brains and doggie stew?”  Haha!  😀  That line always made me laugh (after cringing at the revolting misconceptions).  What I thought was the best part of being a neighbor was being able to witness to the Taiwanese soldiers in one scene and pray for China in another.  Some of my favorite lyrics are these *: “Yes, we will pray for China!  For the millions who need the Lord.  We’ll remember the church in China, that can’t freely worship God anymore.  And if your people in exile need us, far from home because of strife and war, we’ll obey however God may lead us.  To show them the love of the Lord!”

All of the students did an amazing job, and I really enjoyed working with everyone. 🙂  Four of the songs have been posted on youtube.  I put them in chronological order:

~Chinese New Year

~Prisoner of the Palace

~Enlightenment

~Prayer for China

* any punctuation errors are mine, since I wrote the lyrics from memory.

Today was…

(This post is about yesterday (Sunday, June 24th, 2012).  I started to ramble a bit… just so you know. 🙂  I wrote this yesterday in my journal and decided to share it with you as a continue to finish several other blog posts.  I plan to have at least 2 more blog posts this week on Wednesday and Friday.)

Today was a good day.
Today was a sad day.
Today was a day of new beginnings.
Today was a day of changes.
Today was the day God planned for me.

Thank you Lord for setting apart a Sabbath day of rest.  A day when we can take a break from many of our weekly tasks and worship you–alone and as part of the body of Christ (the Church).

I need and I look forward to each Sunday.  Today was especially wonderful because last week my family worshipped at a different church and the previous Sunday because of our huge extended family’s Father’s Day reunion (which I greatly enjoyed).  I laughed when we arrived at church in our large van and one of the dads’ jaws dropped at seeing me park the car.  I don’t know if I’ll ever tire of seeing the surprise on friends’ faces when I drive up. :p

When I walked in to the building, one of my sister’s friends (I was going to say “little” sister, but she is growing up and little no longer fits) came over, gave me a hug, and told me she had missed me.  It was really sweet. 🙂

Since our pastor was out of town this week a visiting pastor preached.  Currently we are in a sermon series in the book of acts.  The visiting pastor preached from Philippians 4:4-7.

Радуйтесь в Господе всегда; и снова скажу, радуйтесь.  Кротость ваша да будет известна всем людям; Господь близко.  Ни о чём не заботьтесь, но во всём, в молитве и прошении, с благодареием открывайте просьбы ваши пред Богом.  И мир Божий, превосходящий всякий ум, соблюдет сердца ваши и мысли ваши во Христе Иисусе.  ~Филиппийцам 4:4-7

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Anxiety is very prevalent.  Did you know that the US has an official “Anxiety Awareness” day and month?? (April 22nd, and April)  Neither did I.  Society has no way of helping us cope with it.  Sure–we can escape for a short while through drugs, alcohol, games, sex, online sites, etc. but in the long run none of those things will help.  But when we trust in a God who gave us His son to save us from something far worse than death (hell) we know He will take care of us — even in the little and sometimes mundane parts of life.

For me, most of my anxiety lies in the future.  Where will I go to college?  Will I go to college at all?  If I do go, how will I pay for it?  What job/career should I study?  What if I’m being called into the mission field?  Just to name a few. :p  Coupled with another lecture  I attended on Wednesday evening about money, the sermon convicted me and helped me realize that money was/is becoming an idol in my life.  I was putting my faith and hope on money instead of on God who gives me everything I have.

After church a lady friend (a mother of 3 children) came up to me and asked me a ‘big family’ question.  “Growing up in a large family, what are your thoughts on the size of your [possible] future family?”  It’s a good question and I love being asked ‘big family’ and ‘homeschool’ questions. (If you have a question for me, ask me here.)  As for my answer: “I’ll be happy to love and raise however many children the Lord blesses me with (0 – ?).  If I am unable to have children of my own I would love to adopt children.  Now of course, this all depends on whether or not I get married.  I do not know if a godly husband is in the Lord’s plans for my future.

I enjoyed talking with a young couple (members of our church) who serve on a college campus as part of Campus Crusade for Christ.

 Immediately after eating a delicious meal with them (and with my family at home), I left for Russian church.  Today we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in Russian and it was beautiful. 🙂  I love singing old hymns in Russian and English.  An elderly lady who was sitting next to me on the pew asked me in Russian, “Do you speak Russian?”  I was able to understand and reply!  It was really neat.

The sermon was from 1 Corinthians and it taught about loving others instead of judging them.  I think that too often we as Christians stay in our own little bubble.  We have our Christian community and anyone outside falls under our judgement.  Nowhere in Scripture does it command us to judge others.  God is the judge.  We are to love the sinner but hate the sin.  We like to go around pointing fingers and comparing our ‘righteousness’ to their sinfulness.

We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself. (Matthew 22:36-40James 1:27Matthew 25:311 Corinthians 13.) Don’t take me wrong here.  I don’t mean to stay we should allow practicing prostitutes, drunks, or homosexuals to join the church.  Not at all.  We should befriend, love, care for, and witness to them.  Church membership is for professing believers of Christ who are not actively living a lifestyle directly against God’s word.

How can we be the salt and light of the world if we are unwilling to invest in friendships with non-believers?

Лубов, one of the church members, came and spoke with me after the service.  She taught me: “спасибо за пение,” which means “thank you for singing.”  I am so excited to be finally getting to know more of the members at church.  🙂  I asked Руслан, “Где Ина?” (“Where is Ина?”)  He responded with a six (6) or eight (8) word sentence.  The only word I caught was sister. 😀  So, Ина is staying with her sister today. 🙂

Following dinner, we had our weekly family meeting.  My mom gave us all some very hard news.  One of the families who were our good friends had left our church.  The family has been in our church longer than we have been (over 8 years).  They have several children who are close friends to all of us.  (This is not the same family as the one mentioned here.)  It is so painful losing close friends from church.  Of course they will remain our good friends–but we will no longer see them each Sunday.  I know that God will use this split for His good… but it is so hard to see.

Please pray for my church.  There is a lot of conflict to be worked through.  I am praying that it will be resolved peacefully and that it will give all the glory to God.  And maybe that the handful of families who have left will return.  Even if they do not return–God is faithful.  They will serve Him in a new church body, and others will join our church.  It is just hard to have close friends leave.  Satan would love to see us all split apart.  It’s my prayer that everyone can solve their differences and that those who do not return join another good church and continue to serve the Lord Jesus.

I’d like to end this post with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs.

Here I am a sinner, broken and in need of you
Take my life and wash my fears away
For you are the great I am, rest assured I feel Your hands
Holding me until the darkness clears

Father to the fatherless, redeemer of my soul
My life is yours forever, my heart will always know

Your mercy saved me, mercy made me whole
Your mercy found me, called me as your own 

(Mercy by Parachute Band)

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