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!




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. 🙂


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. 🙂

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.



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)


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!


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. 🙂


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.

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:
Regular blog:
Твой друг в Христос,
Your friend in Christ,

DIY: Language Keyboards

A couple of years ago I started studying the Russian language.  I already really enjoyed looking into languages as a hobby, but after I met two people from Russia I began to spend more focused time in that language.  This lead me to want to communicate with my friends in Russia and make new ones.  But in order to type Russian on the computer, I needed to learn the Russian keyboard.  At that time, I did not know where to find keyboard stickers.  So I decided to make my own ‘practice’ keyboard to help myself memorize the different letter positions.  I thought I’d share my craft with you all so that if you’re ever interested in learning how to type in a different language (assuming your computer has different input choices) and want to spend a couple of hours making a fun craft, you can do so without coming up with all of the details yourself. 🙂

Don’t worry about doing the measurements to the exact millimeter.  Just get them as close as you can without stressing over it.  Sometimes you may need to trim some of the keys so that when you press them they don’t run into another one, but they should work after a little bit of tweaking.

Step 1.  Gather your supplies.  

  • 1 piece of cardboard (4.5 inches x 11.5 inches (or larger))
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 ruler (preferably with centimeters and inches)
  • 1 pencil/pen
  • 2-3 pieces of thick card stock paper
  • 1 piece of regular paper (optional)
  • 1 roll of clear packing tape (optional)
  • 1 roll of scotch tape (clear)
  • 1 computer that has the language you’re learning on it

(If you don’t wish to use your keyboard in a ring binder, ignore steps 2-4 and start with step 4.5.)

Step 2.  Fold the piece of regular paper in half.

Step 3.  Leaving an inch gap or so, tape it over the piece of cardboard.

Step 4.  Punch three holes into the paper (spaced to match with your binder).
keyboard outline

Step 4.5  Scroll to the bottom of this post to find all of the measurements for the keys, key springs and the keyboard.

Step 5.  Using the ruler and the pencil/pen, measure out the space for the entire keyboard and fill in each row.
[see picture under step 4]

Step 6.  Using your ruler and the pen/pencil, measure out the keys onto a piece of card stock paper.

Step 7.  Using the ruler and the pen/pencil, measure out the key springs onto a second piece of card stock paper.

Step 8.  Cut out the keys and the key springs with the scissors.
[see picture in step 6 and 7]

Step 9.  Fold each key spring.
[see picture in step 7]

Step 10.  Open your computer and make a list of every English key.  Then, change the language input to your second language and match them to the English keys.

[For example:  Type (in English)  A =   (on your list).  Then switch to your second language.  Go to your list after the = sign, and hit the *ENGLISH* A, while in the second language.  That way you know which key matches which letter on your new keyboard.]

Example list 1 (horizontal):
A = «    B = أ    C =  ئ
a =  ش  b = ز    c = ذ
1 =  ١  2 =  ٢ 3 = ٣
! = !  @ = @  # = #

Example list 2 (vertical) (I personally prefer this one):
A = Ф
B = И
C = С

a = ф
b = и
c = с

1 = 1
2 = 2
3 = 3

! = !
@ = ”
# = №

Step 11.  Make sure that you got every single letter — UPPER CASE *and* lower case.  On some keyboards, take Russian for example, most of the regular alphabet keys will remain the same in the upper and lower case setting.  In others, Arabic for example, multiple keys change their letter when you use the ‘shift’ key.  So make sure you get all of the keys with and without the shift key.

The only keys you should *NOT* get are: tab, shift, caps lock, control, command, alt, option, delete, and enter (and the up, down, left, and right keys if you have them).  These keys have no letters attached to them in any language (at least, none that I’ve tried so far, and I have tried: English, German, Russian, Maltese, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Greek, Thai, KarenUkrainian, and Chinese).

Step 11.5  Find some good audio stories or some favorite songs to turn on while you do steps 12-14.

Step 12.  Starting with the upper left corner key, pick up one of the squares you cut out and write the English keystroke on one side.  Flip it over and carefully write the matching letter in your second language.  Tape a small piece of scotch clear tape over the top of the letter so that it won’t smudge or get damaged when touched repeatedly.
first row

Step 13.  Tape one end of the key spring onto the back of the key, using the clear scotch tape,  and then tape (clear scotch tape) the spring onto the keyboard on the marked out space for that specific key.

Step 14.  Repeat step 12 and 13, trimming keys as needed (with the scissors) when they overlap slightly, until you have placed every single key on the board.

Step 15.  Find a large book (dictionaries do well, *especially* a dictionary in the language the keyboard is in) and carefully set it on top of the keyboard, making sure all of the keys are bent the correct way.

Step 16.  Leave the book on the keyboard for a couple of days and then put the book back on the shelf and place the keyboard inside your binder.

Step 17.  Use the keyboard whenever possible with all of the words you’ve memorized in the new language.  Keep a spelling/vocabulary list with the keyboard to help you out at first.

Step 18.  Practice, practice, practice!!  The more you practice using your keyboard, the quicker you will become, and the better your brain will remember where each of the new letters are placed.

I used to take my Russian keyboard with me on long car trips (and even short ones!) and practice the handful of phrases I knew over and over again.  I was agonizingly slow at first, but after a bit of practice my fingers gradually learned where each new key was placed.  Practice keyboards can also be used at doctors offices while you wait in the office, or anywhere else where you have a couple of spare minutes.  

Eventually you will find yourself mixing up your new language with your old one, at least, if you pick Russian.  It can be challenging with some languages (Russian) because so many of the letters look similar to ours (English).  I am unable to type any English words in Russian (transliteration) or vice versa (Russian words in English letters (transliteration)).  I can translate, and type English in English, or Russian in Russian.  But I cannot cross over or my brain becomes very, very confused.  

Although I have not yet memorized my Arabic keyboard, I’m hoping it will not confuse my brain as much as the Russian one did.  After all, none of the letters look anything like ours.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please comment!  I’d love to hear what you do with it. 🙂  Of course, as my mom says, only one in a million would even spend time on a project like this (and enjoy it!).  😉  If you happen to be one of those people, please do leave a comment!  I love to hear from ‘kindred spirits’. 🙂

Remember that the whole point of making this keyboard is to help you memorize the keys.  Once you’ve done that, you will no longer need the keyboard.  I’d suggest you then pass it on to someone who will use it and learn from it.  I can now type around 50 to 60 wpm (words per minute) in Russian.  Speaking of which… I should find someone to give my Russian keyboard to.  Пока!


~ Measurements ~

Keyboard: 10 cm by 28.5 cm

Keys:  2cm by 2 cm

Key Springs:  1  & 1/3 cm by 3 cm

First row of keys (l to r):   2 cm by 13  +  2.5 cm x 1

Second row (l to r):  2.5 cm x 1  + 2 cm x 13

Third row (l to r):  3.5 cm x 1  +  2 cm x 11  +  3 cm x 1

Fourth row (l to r):  4.2 cm x 1  +  2 cm x 10  + 4.3 cm x 1

Fifth row (l to r):  8.5 cm x 1  + 11.5 cm  x 1  + 8.5 cm  x 1 

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.


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

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