Beautiful Snapshots

I was asked to share a story from my time at a camp in Ukraine, but I struggle with story writing.  So instead, let me share some of the beautiful things I witnessed.

I saw a young and sweet boy, whose mother left him, share his darts with a girl and teach her how to throw them just right.

I saw a group of girls help clean the dishes after a meal with smiles and laughter.

I saw forty-two children live together, laugh, play, and make new friends.

I heard the laughter of many amused kids as I did my best to talk and play with them in my broken Russian and Ukrainian.

I saw the many sweet notes that they sent each other every day through the camp mail box.

I heard the sorrow and grief of a young boy as he shared his thoughts about the war between Russia and Ukraine through a poem he wrote.

I saw a boy catch and release a lost bird that had flown into the building during lesson time.

I heard the overwhelming sound of the children thanking the kitchen women after each meal.

I heard a joyful noise as all of us raised our voices to God in praise through song.

I held a girl asleep in my lap as we traveled home over bumpy roads in a hot bus full of kids.

I opened my hands for an acorn that a child gave me as he left the bus.

Camp has so many more memories that I will never be able to put into words.  I love the children and the staff and I will always remember this week!

~ College ‘n’ Chicago ~

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  • Bullet points of my last month in College in Chicago.  Enjoy!  🙂  (in no particular order) (p.p.s. The tone of this particular post shifts considerably all over the board… just bear with me and realize that I am really happy to be here and besides the long-ish section, I’m doing ok, and working through stuff with people.  I share my honest feelings at the time of the particular happenings without going into more details (the ‘boring’ stuff) about what happened afterwards.
  • My roommate is awesome.  She and I get along but we almost never see each other because of our completely opposite schedules.  We’re the ‘opposites attract’ situation.  Random fact: she falls asleep within 5 minutes of lying down!!  She’s amazing like that.  🙂
  • Chorale is AMAZING!!!  I absolutely love it!!  I can’t overemphasize how wonderful chorale is.  🙂  There are 31 of us, and although we are small, we have a very beautiful sound.  I’m most excited about some of the beautiful chords in a couple of the songs, as well as this one song we’re singing in Indonesian (it’s quite challenging!).  We memorize all of our music, though I’ve only memorized one piece so far (practiced over 14 pieces).  The chorale retreat really helped me get to know everyone – but I can’t share the initiation stuff or chorale traditions.  You’ll just have to join chorale to find out what happened. 😉  🙂  Every time I go to practice, I feel like I’m a music major and I fit in.  It’s a new experience to be among so many people my own age who love music like I do.  I’m not sure this will adequately describe what I do, but, when I sing a song I tend to add my own melody/harmony to it instead of singing the regular harmony.  At least, on more modern songs.  I don’t always do that to old hymns, etc.  But pretty much everything else gets something added.  The other people here do it too!!  🙂
  • I’ve got a babysitting job once a week for 3 hours with children whose parents are attending MBI.  Tonight there were around 7 or 8 children.  All of them were under the age of 3 or 4 (at the oldest) and most of them were on the younger side.  I spent most of the time holding a little boy named Benjamin and just holding him as he made himself cry for no reason.  After spending over 15 minutes trying to distract him, I simply gave up and just sat with him.  Oh, and I ate dinner and fed him his bread stick in little bits which did keep him quiet for a while.  I love working with children, though I was really tired around 2 hours into it.  I don’t even know how much I’ll get paid (or when, because of paperwork).  🙂
  • Hearing the radio during babysitting playing contemporary (pop perhaps?? no clue what genre) songs that I haven’t heard for over a month now.
  • Naps.  I can’t say I’ve really ever been able to nap in my life before (well, besides when I was a child).  But now??  Taking a nap is a common thing in college.  It’s a wonderful thing!  There’s nothing better than a short (or long!) nap to give you energy for the rest of the day. And no, coffee is not better than a nap.  The only thing not cool is when it ends in a nightmare that haunts you for the rest of the day… now -that-, I could live without.  =P
  • Everyone has their own specific favorite thing to eat in the SDR (student dining room).  For me it’s cheese. 😀  For one girl, it’s hot chocolate.  Another loves cereal.  One only eats salads.  One loves peanut butter with every meal.  It’s quite interesting and amusing. 🙂  We all tease each other good natured-ly.
  • *looks at tiny spider crawling up dresser*  Me: “I hate spiders.” (as I kill it with the nearest thing I can find)  Roommate: “For someone who hates spiders, you certainly don’t sound scared.”  Me: “It’s complicated.  I hate them, but I don’t scream or freak out… I would normally capture it and take it outside, but living in a dorm makes that a bit more complicated.  I’ll kill spiders I find in my room here.”
  • “You’re checking those out for pleasure reading???” *surprised voice of the librarian*  Me: “Yeah.  I love languages.” 🙂  I think I was checking out a book on Arabic script, a book on the Ukrainian language, 2 books on Latin (for singing in chorale, not because I’m studying that language), and 2 Linguistic books.  You know what I love about college??  I’m here.  I’m a college student.  I’m confident in that.  I can be myself.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit in.  It’s totally new.  Not that I don’t always try to not fit in… I do like to fit in, I’ll admit that.  But it’s so nice to not have to worry about fitting in all the time.  I’m in, already.  No one else can take that away.  🙂
  • College girl/partner in a weekly project: “Judgmental much??” (sarcastic/joking tone) after I had commented, “That man just walked across the street a minute ago.”  I mean, come on, he walked across the street while on his phone, stood on the other side and then walked back.  Who doesn’t notice things like that??!  😉  My response (admittedly a little miffed): “No.  I just notice details.  Besides, he speaks Arabic.”  (yeah, I know, that -totally- makes it non-judgmental if it relates to a language)  xD
  • Roommate: “You aren’t a city girl, are you?” -walking around for 45 minutes completely lost in downtown Chicago-.  Me: “Well, not exactly.  I’m from a suburb.  How can you tell I’m not from a city?  And you aren’t exactly a city girl either.”  I was genuinely curious to know what sets me apart from ‘everyone’ else (besides the actual fact that I’m not from there).  R: “You walk differently – smaller strides.  You ask constant questions about where we are and you look nervous.  You chatter. You notice everything.”  Me: *thinking: didn’t they tell us to be aware of our surroundings in every safety class I’ve ever taken?*  “Really?  How do people walk?”  *she demonstrates*  Me: “Oh, well, I have short legs, so of course I don’t walk like that.  It would be awkward.  Do people really not notice things like I do?”  (notice the constant chattering, haha)  She just shook her head.
  • So the noticing thing has come up a lot now.  I guess I’m observant.  And I’m happy to be that. 🙂  What fun would life be if we never saw anything?
  • Multiple people at different times: “Did you get my text/voicemail?”  Me: “No.  I don’t use my cell phone ever.  Remember?  I told you that.  I also don’t text.  Do you have my e-mail?”…  I think I’ve explained this to everyone on the campus (it feels like that sometimes).  I think I’m one of 5 people out of 1000+ who don’t text/use their phones ever (if they even have one).  Besides the bars never are high enough for me to call anyways so it is almost pointless (where as everyone’s more expensive phones get great reception here).  I’m a tiny tiny bit frustrated when people ask me if I got their texts/messages when I distinctly remember telling them specifically that I *almost* never use my phone.  I wasn’t kidding.  I don’t.  I don’t even remember to turn it on, so I’m sure next time I -do-, it will pop up with about 10 new messages and texts.
  • For part of a class assignment, I have to read the entire Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).  Although I will admit to it being quite a long read, and not always the most engaging reading in the world, God’s been teaching me things through it (well, of course, what else should I have expected?  Even though not all of the O.T.  (Old Testament) laws apply to us anymore, there’s still much to be gleaned about God and his character and other things related).  Maybe I’ll put up some of my specific notes/thoughts sometime in a future post.  Sticky notes are THE best!!  🙂
  • It’s almost 2:30 in the morning and I’m awake.  WHY??  No clue, but I’m awake and it might have to do with the nap nightmare I had this afternoon.  It involved life sized ant/bug/THINGS/creepyTHINGS, and eating them, and them being bad and taking over, and me floating in the air (the only non-creepy/ok part), and other things.  It was just generally disturbing.  :\  I can usually put things out of my mind, but this one just pops up whenever I least wish to remember it.  At least it wasn’t worse.  I have had at least 2 much worse dreams before.
  • CPO!!  🙂  It’s so cool!  You can send people on campus notes/gifts/letters or send mail to anywhere else as well.  When you’re in college it’s really really fun to get mail!  Scratch that.  It’s ALWAYS fun to get mail and packages. 🙂  My parents surprised me and sent me (through a friend, and not through CPO, now that I think about it…) a box with all sorts of things.  I only expected a new (replacement) backpack (because my ‘new’ one broke within a week or two of using it), a personal item and a computer foot (my computer has 4 and they have fallen off a couple of times).  Inside, however, was a bag of gummy bears (totally unexpected!), a bag of trail mix, a bag of dried fruit (my favorite!), and a box of cheese crackers (and probably other stuff as well, but this was a couple of weeks ago).  ^__^
  • I’ve never had the opportunity to live with this many people my age or even spend most of my time with people my age.  So the first week (/2 weeks) was a social high.  It was crazy and I’m convinced that I was running on pure energy from people.  Then I sorta crashed and had/am having a “sensory overload”.  I had that at home, but at home… there were 9 other people, not over one thousand (ok, more like 100+ that I actually know personally, but still!  It’s a lot to take in all the time (virtually all the time)).  I think this point could get rather lengthy so I’m going to split it up into a couple of points.
  • First off, let me say this.  I absolutely love the dorm floor I’m on.  😀 The girls here are amazing!  There are around 30 of us (18 freshmen) on our wing of the floor and I know the huge majority of them and get along with all of them.  We all have bonded really well in the past 4 and a half weeks.  You know what’s even more exciting???  Unless you specifically request to be moved, you stay on the same floor all of your college time!!!  ^__^  That means I’ll be with most of these girls until we graduate!  How cool is that??
  • We’ve got a good mixture of girls.  We are studious but we also have fun.  So, I think it balances nicely.  There’s always someone asking about how you did in a quiz (since we’re mostly in the same classes this first year) and discussing what they’re reading/studying.  It’s not a competition, but we talk about it all the time.  We certainly aren’t lacking for social events though, either.  I haven’t even gone to most of them (don’t worry, I’ve hung out with people, just, not at coffee places).  Each floor is assigned a ‘bro’ floor.  We have an awesome bro floor (and yes, I started almost every sentence with the word “We”) and I’ve gotten to do 2 events with them.  We also eat all of our meals with them.  We don’t have to, but it’s fun having a specific place you are invited to sit in.
  • The girls on our floor are about 2/3 late nighters.  The other 1/3 go to bed early or aren’t ever on campus so I have no idea what their schedule is.  So, there are always people around.  ALL the time.  In class.  In between class.  In the hallways.  On campus.  On the bus.  On the streets.  In your room.  In the bathroom.  You’re literally with people almost all of your waking hours unless you purposefully sequester yourself off by 1) listening to music on headphones/earbuds, 2) physically disappearing into the library (which also has people in it, but they’re supposed to be quiet-er), or 3) locking your room door whenever your roommate isn’t around and just being alone.  The only think time (reflective thinking) for me is when it’s quiet and no one is trying to communicate with me.  When I’m by myself.  If you go to bed at 12 or 1 every night and you’re up at 6:30, around people all day, doing homework in your room as your roommate studies, or girls come in and out, etc., and girls make noise in the halls, and then you go to bed it is a cycle that never ends.
  • I’m an extrovert, and I love people.  But this is too much of a good thing.  So, if you’re a college friend and you’re reading this don’t think I’m mad at you or don’t want to be friends if I’m listening to my iPod once and a while between classes or I just don’t seem in a talkative mood.  I just need to spend some time thinking and I can’t do that if I’m constantly interacting with others.  The noise here can be overwhelming to me.  In certain classes (2, to be exact) the class consists of at least 70 students.  When we have a break??!  The noise just overwhelms me.
  • I want to hang out with you guys (friend).  I haven’t hung out much in the past, so I love doing that!  I love you guys, actually, college is amazing and I’ve met and am making some wonderful friends.  🙂  I do want to hang with you guys!  Just not all the time every day of every week of every semester of every year… you get the point. :p
  • I’ve never had this problem with friends before, but then again, I’ve never been in this sort of situation.  At home I could just disappear to my room and turn up my headphones all day because I was homeschooled.  I have classes every day all morning here, so I will be around people (guaranteed) at least half a day (which is good, and I like classes) for 5 days a week.  Plus chorale for 4 hours every week, and my PCM once a week for over 4 hours when you add up the travel time + actual service time.  (PCM – practical Christian mission)  Plus all 3 of my meals every day since I’m currently on the 20 meal plan.  Plus the campus groups I’m in, or looking to join.  Plus everything else – i.e. life.
  • I think I’m being over redundant because it’s so ridiculously early in the morning.  Remind me not to get myself started on a touchy subject again at this hour of the morning.  I think you’ve got the point.  I went from having a lot of time at home to myself (almost all of my time) to think and do things alone to being in an atmosphere where you’re expected to spend almost all of your time with people all the time.  And it’s rude if you don’t.  Well, I’m an adult now, and that doesn’t give me an excuse to be rude.  However, I can express myself and politely ask for space once and a while and respect (and be respected by) others.  We’re all on an equal level here (ish, ok, there are upper class men/women and I respect you guys, I just mean in general we’re all here as students).  Most of the people I saw at home were my elders/adults in my life.  I like to please people even when I’m frustrated, annoyed.  Though I’ve been told I don’t hide my feelings well, so maybe they’ve always known they just ignored my facial expressions.  Who knows.  xD  But, next time I need space I’m just going to admit that to whomever happens to be trying to talk with me at the moment in a kind way but completely dead honest.
  • My RA says I’m … oh, I can’t think of the word she used,… but if you combine outspoken and honest together, you get the idea.  I’m blunt.  I say what’s on my mind, without always thinking how it will be taken.  I think in black and white sometimes, or just spew out whatever I observe (see points far above this one).  I notice things and I haven’t learned the art of patience.  I just learned how to ask questions.
  • This blog post pretty much shows my point.  I’m overstimulated so little things (such as friends wanting to talk, which is a perfectly natural thing) bother me when they shouldn’t.  The other thing that bothered me this week was when 2 different people signed me off (or tried to) on an attendance sheet when I was right there next to them.  They meant nothing by it, and in fact were trying to help, which is awesome.  But all 3 times (no, my math is right, just one person did it twice because I didn’t comment the first time) I was very upset.  The first time it happened I was more surprised than anything.  The second time I was just shocked the person did it again and I said so and said (not so politely) that I would be quite capable of crossing my own name off the list at the next class.  The third person didn’t even have a chance to cross off my name because I sorta jumped all over her as soon as I heard her ask where my name was on the list.  I still need to apologize to her for that, actually, because she was a bit startled at my upset response.  I’ve already worked out the disagreement with the other girl, thankfully. 🙂  That’s another adult thing… apologizing, asking for forgiveness, and working through stuff.
  • It’s hard work!  College isn’t easy.  There’s always homework – reading, quizzes, book reports, essays and projects.  Dealing with this many people all the time is really hard for me.  There’s always conflict to work through in some way, shape or form.  They require a lot of us here at Moody and they keep us busy.  I love it, but I won’t sugar coat it.  🙂  I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for anything else.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is God.  Wow.  He’s teaching me sooo many things here!  I won’t go into them because that’ll be another long topic and this one is already over 2600 words long!!  :O  But in the first four weeks alone, I’ve seen His faithfulness, His love, His holiness, and His forgiveness.  Wow is all I can say.  God is at work here and I’m so glad He invited me to be a part of life here at MBI.  🙂  Now, it’s 3 am and I need to sleep!  (don’t worry, I don’t have to wake up until 9 tomorrow because 2 of my normally scheduled classes were cancelled), 6 hours of sleep here I come!!Oh, if you want to pray for me:
  1. Sleep.  I can’t seem to sleep well (if you hadn’t noticed).  My brain just does not settle for one reason or another.
  2. That I would clearly hear and understand the Holy Spirit’s guiding on my life.
  3. Continued growth in time management skills (I can always improve here, can’t you?).
  4. That I would be able to find a balance between building intentional relationships (another thing I’ve never really done in RL) and having some time alone when I can process my thoughts (besides bedtime).
  5. That my roommate and I would continue to get along well and be able to be honest about the things we disagree on.  🙂  So far, so good!
  6. For the general health here.  Sanitation isn’t quite where I’d put it (not in any part to blame on the college, the cleaning people are great!  It’s due to the people living here), so when one person gets sick it spreads very quickly.  I thought a family of 10 was bad.  A family of 1000 is much worse.  :p

Thank you!

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One of the girls on my floor decided to write this verse on my wall ‘white-board sticker’. 😀

Ukraine Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,
        I wanted to let you know about an upcoming opportunity God has given me.  On Monday, June 24, I will travel to Ukraine.  I’ll return on July 22 (4 weeks later).  Last September, I traveled to Ukraine for 9 days with a missionary friend of mine.  This year, I will again be staying with her parents in the town of Tulchin.  My friend cannot travel with me, so I will be going over alone.  During the four weeks I will be working with the mission organization Building Hope.  They serve orphans and special needs families.  For two weeks this summer, they will offer a children’s VBS.  Last year they had so many kids that they decided to expand to two weeks this year for the first time.  They started doing VBS two years ago.  On Sunday afternoons I will get to visit a nearby orphanage which holds over 200 kids.
        Last year I was only in Ukraine for one Sunday.  At the end of the afternoon a couple of the girls asked if I would be coming back next week.  With a heavy heart I told them I would not be back next week.  I am so excited to see the kids again (at least three more times).  I don’t know specifically what jobs I will have during the weeks.  I will help with the VBS in whatever areas I can.  Building Hope also visits families with special need children to encourage them and help out wherever they can.  So, I will be visiting different families and villages.The family I’m staying with and the staff of Building Hope have asked me to teach them English.  When I’m not working on other things, I will be figuring out what to teach and how to teach it.  I look forward to the challenge of putting last summer’s 1 month of TESOL training to good use!  I also plan on helping around the home(s) that I stay at (I.e. Hand wash dishes, help fold laundry/hang it to dry, etc.).
        You’re probably asking yourself why I’m writing to you.  No, I’m not writing to ask for money.  I’m asking for your prayers.  More specifically, for:
~ For God to be glorified by everything I say and do.
~ Safe travels & that I don’t get sick like I did last fall.
~ That all my luggage/carry-on bags make it through without complications.
~ Easy customs/airport checkpoints.
~ Safety in Ukraine.
~ Ability to understand and learn lots of new words in Ukrainian and Russian.  For my brain to quickly adjust to the complete switch in languages.
~ Wisdom to know what/when to help (with).
~ Love for the people of Ukraine.
~ The Salvation of the family I’ll be staying with (my friend’s parents).
~ The Building Hope team to have the right words to teach the children at the VBS, and the families they minister to, and the orphans.
~ Good health.
~ Me, as I work on my first ‘real’ English lessons (both informal and formal).  That I would know exactly what to teach.  I know some basics on how, but figuring out the what is much more challenging.
        Thank you for reading my letter and praying for me.  Oh, I almost forgot!  I will be posting updates during my trip on a special travel blog (along with my regular blog).  You can keep up with me there.  Please comment with any/all questions/thoughts/comments you have!  I’d love to answer them.
Travel blog:    Sent2Serve.wordpress.com
Regular blog:   LanguagEnthusiast17.wordpress.com
Твой друг в Христос,
Элизабет
Your friend in Christ,
Elizabeth

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.}

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