How we look to others... Does it matter?

We have all been taught that our very lives are to be living testimonies and witnesses to Christ. Do we ever really think about just living our lives day in and day out demonstrating the Gospel? Are we the light He calls us to be?

a goat at the playground
Since April when the weather got warmer our family has spent a lot of time outside. Every day we have at least two family outings. In the morning we go to a nearby playground where our kids share the play area with local kids (both human and goat!) and in the evening we take a long walk. What a spectacle our family is in our little neighborhood on the south side of Kyiv! Here we are, a troop of eight to twelve people with two strollers walking the crumbling sidewalks around our home. Most Ukrainians cannot imagine a family with ten children let alone actually seeing a family our size. And our Ukrainian neighbors are stunned by the fact that we left America to come here, a place many of them would like to leave.

Our family is noticed for it’s size, but we behave differently, too. We hold hands, talk and laugh and our children are joyful. We acknowledge others with traditional Russian greetings but we include smiles and warmth. When the small ones have seen someone several times (especially elderly men and women) they’re likely to run up and give them a hug. During our walks some of us are praying silently for the neighborhood and for the families and children who inhabit these ugly Soviet era apartment complexes, and who live in these run down homes. For the widowers and pensioners who live on next to nothing, who don’t have enough to eat or anyone who cares. Praying against the evil that encompasses these buildings, homes and people.

What do you think has begun to happen? Now we go out and before we can speak our broken Russian greeting, others are greeting us. Clerks wave to us from the small kiosks, fruit and vegetable sellers smile and nod their greeting. People smile as they approach us. Ukrainian children come up and say ‘Hello!’ in English. A few men walk up and shake my hand. And the elderly open their arms when they see our children approaching. We are meeting people all the time. Little signs of warmth are replacing the ingrained Soviet coldness. No, not everyone, but enough to notice things are different. We continue to be a spectacle and the buildings are still ugly and most of the homes in disrepair, but God is at work here. We are letting our light shine and God is being glorified.

I am attaching a letter we received from a Ukrainian missionary serving in Turkey. It demonstrates the power of our living testimony and the importance of not just what we say and do, but what we demonstrate in our daily lives.

Kingdom of God is not here or there but among you
 
It is interesting that we experience Kingdom through people who carry it inside. It is almost impossible to see it without seeing people.
 
God has been working in my life through many different people who helped me to understand Him. Usually that was not through teaching or preaching but through living examples. Now again my family has been blessed by having wonderful role model moving in our house just downstairs. The word about thenm came long time before they came, and made me puzzle about what are they like, these "unusual size" Western family that came for the mission to my country. Here is my insight.

Colker's family is one of the greatest vassels that carry that Kingdom. The Kigdom in them is so bright and strong that one can hardly look at them without being convicted. Actually many would prefer to cover them up so that they could stay comfortable with choices they have made. The size of this family blows many minds, but the spirit of the family leaves people speachless. Why?

 Because they are living proof of god's greatness, wisdom, order and love. All Atheist, Communist, Muslim and Humanist ideologies are fading when put next to them, because none would compete. Only through Jesus, God in flesh, this family could be the way it is where it is. 
I am missionary to a Muslim world, grown in the Communist culture, have not seen anything that would destroy the lie of the enemy faster then this family. All this junk concepts about "perverted" West, greedy and selfish Americans, population cryses, right for abortion, lack of world resources, power of government education institution and many others fall apart when people see that perfectly healthy and happy family, with smart and creative kids, who love one another, respect their parents and actually serving other needy children.

We took a Turkish business guy to them , he loved argue about how good islam is, after being wiht them for 1,5 hour he was not even sure about what he believes, 4 years he has been surrounded by Christians while doing business in Ukraine, as a result he has became even more committed to islam. These 10 kids has done to him something that the pastor of the biggest church in Europe could not do. They convinced him that he does not know real God.

We took a movie about them to Turkey and it continues to blow out people minds, 45 minutes with them wipes out the whole clusters of devils lie. It is amazing! Living Gospel, Kigdom in flesh. Such a light for the nations.

Lena, missionary serving in Turkey

A broken girl and a working watch

Since our last update, we have participated in a variety of summer ministry activities.  The most difficult, yet most rewarding, was the gypsy orphan camp Greg, Steven, Erica (visiting from the U.S.) and I helped staff in Uzhgorod. The challenges at this camp quickly multiplied as our planned camp for 30 children turned into a camp for more than 100 kids.  We met daily at an abandoned military base outside the city of Mukachevo where the kids were being housed for the summer.  
 

    


The dormitory had no indoor plumbing and very little light. The buildings were in even worse condition than the orphanages we are used to seeing, hence the word “abandoned”. The kids showered once a week and changed their clothes even less frequently. These particular orphans from Uzhgorod have been visited regularly by YWAM Kyiv for a number of years.  This year, Greg has made the long train trip to the Uzhgorod orphanage twice, but these camp conditions were quite different than the ones from his past trips. 
 
All of the children are gypsies (called Roma in Eastern Europe) and most are considered special-needs and have severe developmental delays. The hardest part of the camp was not the language barrier (we had excellent translators), but the orphans' overwhelming need for physical touch.  Every minute we were at camp we were hugging, holding or carrying at least one needy child. Their short attention spans and diminished mental capacity forced us to be very creative in planning activities and sharing the Gospel.
 
Like summer day camps in the U.S. (thank you Boy Scouts for all the training and ideas!), we divided the kids into several groups and rotated the groups through a series of activity stations.  At the music and drama station, we taught Bible stories through the arts. The kids sang and learned about rhythm through worship music and shared their favorite songs with us. We filmed the kids performing skits of the stories of the prodigal son, Noah’s ark, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the good Samaritan.  The kids were thrilled and mesmerized to see themselves and their friends on video.  Most had never seen a photo of themselves before, so watching the skit videos was something they will not soon forget. 
 
At the explorer station, the kids were taught personal hygiene, received care for minor wounds and had a blast practicing camping skills.

     

 
They loved the tents and would have spent the day in them if we didn’t move them along to the next station! 
 
The sports station featured soccer, tag, jumping games, volleyball and other activities that required the least amount of teaching and explanation.
 

     

 
Without adequate access to drinking water, the heat was a concern. We were constantly monitoring the children and each other for dehydration. We quickly learned that we and the orphans had very different definitions of “acceptable” drinking water.
 
Craft such as painting, working with clay, braiding necklaces and bracelets were some of the most fun activities because of the one-on-one time they provided with the children.
 

          

 
As I went around visiting the different stations, it was impossible to not get drawn into someone’s project. It provided some of my best memories.
 
Olympic events were held each day with different team-building activities. The kids loved the competition and learned the value of cooperation in accomplishing a goal. Most of these children become loners during their orphanage experiences. I saw cases where new friendships were developed between children who had lived together for years and had never interacted with one another.
 
The daily puppet show were a huge success. Steven is enjoying working in the puppet ministry and he helped keep the kids entertained every afternoon with a character lesson or Gospel message.
 

           

 
I am always amazed at the focus and attention the kids demonstrate when the puppets come out. Each time I see the puppeteers perform, I gain more respect for this wonderful ministry.

We shared the message of salvation in many imaginative ways,

            

but the best presentation was  through our example of acceptance and demonstration of  love.
 

         

 
It was an emotionally draining time for our team, but we all felt that God was glorified and His love was shown to this special group of children who rarely experience love or compassion in any form.
 


 
In orphanage work, we are frequently reminded not to have favorites, but I was captured by one little girl who never left my side. We were never able to communicate with words, even through translators, but we seemed to do just fine with hugs and warm smiles. As camp went on, there were times when her never ending playing with my Timex (while on my wrist) drove me crazy.That little girl, alone and all but forgotten, not only broke my watchband, but my heart. Now I am often reminded of her when I check the time.
 


Muchachevo Summer Camp 2006
 

Family Pictures


 
Parents reading will appreciate these pictures of Liz and Sarah who recently discovered a new use for their markers! Fortunately, the markers were sent to us from the U.S. and were washable.
 

      

 
Here, Hannah is posing with her ever growing bottle-cap collection. Ali is claiming one of our care-package items and Grace is waiting for Paul to get out of the box so she can get in.
 

            

 
As I type this, Greg and I are preparing for our first visit to the States in almost a year. We will be visiting supporters and churches who have been or are considering partnering with us in our ministry in Ukraine. We have a very full schedule traveling from Florida to New England, from the Coastal Carolinas to Memphis, Tennessee.  I am looking forward to seeing many of you again and to meeting some of you for the first time. We ask that you please pray for our visit and safe travel. We especially ask that you keep Pam and our nine younger children in your prayers while we are away from Ukraine.
 
Your prayers, encouragement and support are a blessing to us and those whom we serve.  Thank you!