Articles written by: Joshua and Maurie Hanauer
As our plane took off from Cincinnati, we really had no idea what we were in for. Maurie and I had been to Kyiv, but only for a week. We had met the woman we would be working with, but only talked with her for an afternoon. The bottom line was, we had no place of our own to live, we did not speak four words of the language, we had never worked with a church full-time before, and we were a little nervous!
It seemed almost like a dream when we finally landed in Kyiv, Ukraine. Some members of the church were there to greet us and it was nice to see some familiar faces. However, as most of you already know, we made it just fine, but a quarter of our belongings did not. And so we stood in line with a few other angry travelers looking for our lost luggage. We soon realized that the kind folks at the airport had no idea what had become of our precious underwear, shoes, socks, shirts, pants, books, contact lenses or anything else in that fateful bag. But we persevered. We spent much of our first week in Kyiv calling the airport, checking to see if our bag had come in, and looking around the city trying to figure out where things were. We got to see much of the city, but we still do not have our bag.
The first weekend here we were whisked away in a bus to the nearby city of Zhytomer. There was a conference being held there, and Monica wanted us to attend. So we traveled two hours west and got a hotel room. This is was not your average western-style hotel and so we noticed some differences. First, we had to share our bathroom and shower with the stranger in the room next to ours. And even though we never saw these mystery people, we heard them quite clearly. We also found several liters of water in our bathroom. We now know this to be a common Ukrainian practice. The water is stored there so if and when the water shuts off, you can rinse the soap off yourself should you be in the middle of a shower. However, the shower was the not reason we had come to Zhytomer, we had come to hear some sessions on counseling. Maurie, Monica and I all took good notes so we could share the information we got with the church leaders back in Kyiv. Some of the sessions were better than others, but overall it was a good time and I learned quite a bit.
Back in Kyiv we still had not located our bag, and we still had not located an apartment. However, one of those problems was soon going to be solved. Here in Kyiv there are no suburbs like those in the States. All you will find here are miles and miles or rather, kilometers and kilometers of apartment buildings. They say it can be difficult to find a place that you like, but Maurie and I loved the first place we saw. We signed our lease agreement that same day. It is a fairly large two-bedroom, with a large front room and a newly remodeled bathroom. The kitchen is a little rough, but we are working on it as we speak. It is on the fourth floor, not too high if the lift is broken (and it often is), and it is not too far from our metro stop.
So, after almost four weeks of living in Kyiv Maurie and I are almost totally settled.
The Work Begins!
We quickly found out that Monica had plenty for us to do! We had many brainstorming and expectation meetings during our free evenings that first weekend in Zhytomer, and we made lists and lists of things that needed to begin during September. When it is all said and done, a week in the life of Joshua and Maurie looks like this:
On Sunday morning we arrive at church at 10 a.m. with other leaders to pray for the service and the members. At 11 a.m., everyone else begins to arrive. A kind friend, Anya, translates the Russian for us, and also, Joshua plays a part in the communion service. Soon he will be preaching on a monthly basis. After church there is a cell leader’s meeting at our apartment. We have lunch, and discuss this upcoming week’s cell; who is in charge of the discussion, worship, cooking, and cleaning up. We also pray for specific issues that are affecting our cell and its members. Right now Sunday nights are free, but we hope to start a couples Bible study at some point.
Monday morning arrives, and Joshua and I head to the Ukrainian Education Center. So far, we have been helping with the ever-growing library facility there. The UEC is obviously a very appreciated service to many students in the Kyiv area. We are told that it is the only student center of its kind in all of Ukraine. At noon, I am on my way to Russian for two hours with our tutor Zhanna. She is a character, and by the way, she knows no English. Our Russian has improved tremendously in just the 6 or 8 lessons we have had so far. This week I have to memorize the Lord’s Prayer in Russian! Meanwhile, Joshua has caught the metro to International Christian University, where he assists a professor there in an Organizational Behavior class. He hopes to teach his own Bible class next semester. Monday evenings we have SCM, or School of Christian Ministry, where Joshua and Cary are teaching on preaching/public speaking.
Tuesday is our much needed day off!!! This week we are going to make a trip to “Tsoom” a department store, to buy some items for our apartment.
Wednesday morning we are at the UEC again. At noon, Joshua heads to a fun filled afternoon with Zhanna, and I assist Monica in one of her Social Work classes at Kyiv Mehyla Academy. The time we spend in the universities are great opportunities for outreach. We invite students to the UEC library, and also many other activities that go on there. Wednesday evenings are our cell meetings. The cells are a small group of intimate Christians, who share a meal together, worship in song, have a discussion and pray. The majority of the church’s ministry takes place during cell meetings. Cells are no bigger than 15 people, and when they grow past that size (and they ought to!) they split. Our cell is where we have made the closest friends so far.
On Thursday morning, Joshua goes to Russian, and Monica and I usually run errands for the weekend events. At 12:30, I go to Russian, and Joshua is again at ICU assisting.
Fridays are marathon days! I wake up in the morning and go to Kyiv Mehyla with Monica, and Joshua heads to Russian again. At noon, I go on to Russian, and then I have a break between 3 and 5 before I go to the UEC for a Social Work study group that meets to help students understand the English Social Work book. After the study group we have our “Friday Night Movie Night,” something we have been inviting university students to throughout the week. That lasts until about 10, and we clean up the UEC and head home.
Saturday mornings are generally good for sleeping in a bit, and on Saturday afternoons we head back to the UEC for H.O.P.E. groups (Helping Others Practice English). This is one of the church’s main evangelistic outreaches. We advertise at the universities, and also many people who participated in Let’s Start Talking in the past are invited. About seventy people are broken up into groups according to their English skills: advanced, intermediate, and beginner. For the first part of the time, everyone stays together to have a Bible lesson, which Joshua or Cary will teach (through a translator). Afterwards, we break up into the groups and discuss the material. The second half of the time is devoted to teaching and practicing English. After it is all over, we have a big meal prepared for them. However, these H.O.P.E. groups have yet to begin! The kickoff is on the 28th. Last Saturday we had guest speaker John Mark Hicks (a professor of Joshua and I) do a seminar on Psalms. One hundred people from all over Ukraine were in attendance, and they loved it! The weekend before we had a leader’s retreat with Larry McKinzie teaching about the importance and power of prayer.
The weeks are pretty full, and a few Bible studies will eventually begin too. Every day is an adventure!
(Note: This had to be its own section because we have had enough bizarre things happen to us in this past month to last us the entire year!)
I suppose we should start from the beginning. Our luggage missing should have been a clue that this was not going to be a normal experience, but that was nothing compared to what was to come! We arrived in Kyiv with only the clothes we were wearing, and our luggage has yet to turn up. Assuming it has been stolen, I am trying to imagine some Ukrainian wearing my clothes!
When we moved in to our apartment, we found that it came not only fully furnished, but was also occupied by other tenants! The first few weeks I spent cleaning the kitchen like crazy to get rid of the roaches. I still keep a can of Raid on hand, and it is a battle I am winning! For those of you who know me well, bugs and I do not get along, so this has been an interesting experience.
Also, our poor landlady has had a lot to deal with in us. First of all, we don’t speak Russian, so communicating with her is always a hilarious charade. One late night recently, she called us, and without body language, it is near impossible for us to understand each other. So soon our doorbell was ringing and there was pounding at the door. At 11:30 at night, Joshua and I are in bed, and usually sleeping. This night we happened to be still awake, but were clad in only our pajamas. As we hurried to get some clothes on, we heard keys in the lock! By the time we reached the hallway, there was our landlady and two men charging in! Now, to me, this is completely unacceptable. I don’t care if you have keys, you don’t just let yourself into my apartment! I immediately called Monica so that she could talk to the landlady and find out was in the world was going on. It did not take long to realize that our pristine shower had leaked into the apartment below ours, and these men were angrily talking to the landlady, as she was busy motioning to us to keep the water in the bathtub and off the floor. This is just one incident; she visits us for one reason or another on a weekly basis.
We have also been locked out of our own apartment, even though we had keys, and chased by a drunken man who wanted our bag (which of course only held our dirty clothes from that weekend. What is the deal with people wanting our clothes so badly?).
Some recent adventures with mice have also kept us on our feet! Just last weekend I thought to myself, “Why, we have mice!” The next morning as I went to take out the garbage, my suspicions were confirmed, as the bag was all chewed up. As I called Joshua into the room to come look, I heard a rustling, and a little mouse head popped up out of the garbage! I immediately slammed the lid back on, and Joshua tossed him out with the trash! Unfortunately this was not the end of it. Just two nights ago, we were sitting in the front room with the television on. All of the sudden, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It ran under the couch, and of course I thought it was some huge bug, so I had Joshua go over and hunt for it, but nothing turned up. We went back to watching the soccer game, but soon I saw it again! It ran behind the big wardrobe, so Joshua again moved furniture around, but we found nothing. He thought I was insane. Soon, over the television, I HEARD something! I told him to turn off the T.V. and listen. We heard nothing at first, but then a very loud chewing sound! We immediately closed up the room, so it could not escape, and resolved to get mousetraps and poison the next day. There was nothing we could do at the moment. The next morning arrived, and Joshua had to go into the front room to get something. Before I knew it, he was calling me to come quick. The mouse had apparently climbed up the curtain and fallen asleep! It was hanging there in the middle of the curtain (we DO have video footage of this by the way), and Joshua swept up the material and surrounded it. We took the curtain down as it thrashed about, now fully awake. Making our way onto the balcony, we opened the window, and shook him out! Two mice down, without any traps! However, we won’t take it for granted that there aren’t more, so I will soon be buying some poison.
Well, that’s it for this month! Thank you for hanging in there for such a long one! Please feel free to e-mail us with any questions or comments you have concerning what we wrote. We are very happy here, and part of that is all the support we feel from you stateside.