No matter where one lives, the world looks better when itís decorated in the greens and golds of springtime.† I was blessed this weekend with an opportunity to spend time enjoying the new season, which has finally come to Kyiv.† I met Lena and Anya, two girls who have become my close friends, at a plaza near the Dnipro River as the sun was almost ready to set.† We walked along the river in the fading but golden light, eating ice cream, with a series of amateur fisherman on our left and the high, wooded bluff on which Kyiv is built on our right.† Walking with friends is a favorite Ukrainian past time, so we strolled for several miles, headed to a park surrounding a monument to the legendary founders of the city: the brothers Kiy, Schek, and Khoriv, and their sister Lybid.† Along the way we watched the sun set behind the golden domes and spires of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the most revered spot of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, which stretches along the top of the bluff and overlooks the river, and on the huge titanium statue of a sword- and shield-bearing woman who is Ukraineís guardian.† It was one of those moments when sights, sounds, smells, and even the feel of the air combine to remind us that there is true goodness and beauty in the world.† I was glad I could share it with such good friends.
Finals for the winter semester at ICU are ending this week, and with the end of the semester come a lot of changes.† For one thing, the Chat Room group had its concluding meeting last Friday with a lively discussion on issues raised by the New Testament final they had taken earlier in the day. This time they had made breakfast: tea and ďsyrnikiĒ, a breadish substance that is tall and thick and eaten with sour cream.† Although 5 of the 9 students there are already members of a Nivki or Livoberezha Church cell group, I also emphasized the importance of, not just having faith in Christ, but living out this faith in a community. Please pray with me that all of these students will continue to grow in faith and that they will be called into the community of believers. I truly enjoyed the time I spent talking with these students, and will look for ways to do similar things in the U.S. when I return next month.†
Also, Chris held the last of his student night outreaches of the semester last night, and the composition of the cell group I help to lead will certainly change for a while as students go home for a break until the summer semester.†† Because of various cancellations and extenuating circumstances, the attendance at student nights dropped somewhat this semester from last fall, but the outreach still provided good teaching opportunities and ways to serve the students who came.† In cell, the members continue to grow in knowledge and as a small representation of the body of Christ.† Three weeks ago, our meeting was devoted to worship and to learning more about each other through childhood photos and school and vacation pictures.† One of the biggest challenges facing the cell now are for the three other leaders (my roommate Ira, Lena, and Anya) to re-organize themselves a bit after I leave, and to make a determined effort to reach out and bring in others who need to learn about Christ.† Please pray for the leadership and for the growth of the entire cell, as well as for all of those who were reached through student nights.
Of course, the end of the ICU semester also means the end of my maiden voyage as a university teacher.† Even after all of the trials of this semester, I can say I am certain that teaching college is something that I would like to spend the rest of my life doing.† I figure if I can make it through all of the challenges of this semesteróall of the students speaking English as a second or even third language, and the worst students hardly understanding English at all; creating a syllabus for a class that has a very vague course description; grading large numbers of papers when thereís so much else to do; teaching grammar, which I hate; not having any actual training as a teacheróand still come out liking the job and wanting to do it again, it must be an indication that I would enjoy teaching as a career.†† I already have a long list of things to improve for next time.
The LST Bible class that has been meeting weekly at the UEC will finish this week with a discussion on the Holy Spirit and Christian community.† The last several lessons have presented big challenges for me personally, but have, it seems, also brought big benefits for the class members.† Two weeks ago, for example, we were discussing Jesusís betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.† I was having a very difficult time trying to decide which aspects of the story to elucidate and emphasize, when with the help of Francis Shaeffer, Leanne Payne, the Apostle Paul, and the Letís Start Talking approach to evangelism, I realized something important: that the story itself is the main point and the Word is the teacher.†† So, after giving some background information the Jewsí relationship to Rome and the medical effects of crucifixion, I just asked different members of the class to read the entire story aloud.† After we read the story together, we had those who wanted to tell something about the story that struck or puzzled them.† One girl asked why Jesus had had to die such a painful death, and another asked what the people at the cross had given Jesus to drink.† Many were interested in Pilateís motivations, since one of the most popular writers in Ukraine, Bulgakov, includes a version of Jesusís trial before Pilate in his The Master and Margarita.† Though doubtless all of the class members had heard before that Jesus had lived and died in this way, Iím not sure how many of them had ever actually read the story themselves from the Bible.† As Sergey and Lena, two of the three Ukrainian Christians who help with the class, pointed out, reading the story together aloud was a way to get the class members to participate in its events somehow and to have the name of Jesus on their lips, which many of them might be ashamed to do because of a Soviet upbringing.† Please pray with me that every member of this class will continue to grow in faith through the LST project this summer and/or through their own exploration, and that, more specifically, they will accept invitations to church and continue friendships with the Christians they have met through these follow-up programs.
Please also pray for the health of Zhanna, my Russian tutor.† I havenít had a lesson with her for the last two weeks because, as her daughter says, she is in the hospital and wonít be able to hold lessons for the rest of this month.† Iím not sure exactly what her sickness is because itís been hard to get in touch with her daughter, but I feel like it was at least partially brought on by the stress of having her daughter and son-in-law move in with her, mostly against her wishes, and treat her unkindly.† She did come to church with me almost a month ago and told several people there that she would come back, but she hasnít been able to come.† A bad part about this for me is that I havenít told her yet that Iím leaving Ukraine, and I donít want to upset her with the news while sheís sick.† Please pray for this situation, especially for Zhannaís health and her relationships with her daughter and son-in-law.
The biggest plan for the upcoming month is to host a group from Acklen Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, where I attended when I was a student at Lipscomb.† Paul Prill, the minister and a Lipscomb professor, is coming with his wife Val, Lipscombís Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and two soon-to-be Lipscomb graduates, Mandy Davis and Robert Ingram.† Though Paul and Val will be involved in different classes and seminars, this group really constitutes the third annual relationship-building visit from Acklen to Nivki Church.† I was part of the first delegation 2 years ago.† Iím really looking forward to seeing them all here and to showing them around what has become ďmy city,Ē and Iíll leave Ukraine with them on the 20th of May.
Please pray that God will continue the work he has started in so many hearts here in Kyiv, as well as for all of the events of the upcoming month, specifically for my move back to the U.S.† And join me in thanking Him for all the wonderful things He has done here!