This is the first issue of my rather informal newslettter.† Iíve been in Kyiv for a month already, and thereís so much to write about. My time so far has been divided among the tasks of settling in to my apartment, being part of the team from Letís Start Talking, and beginning to work with the Ukrainian Education Center.† I already have an even busier summer planned!† God has blessed me so much with new friends and new experiences; please join me in offering prayers of thanksgiving.
First, let me give a little information abou where I fit into the scheme of the city of Kyiv.† My apartment is on the fourth floor of a building near one of the main streets.† It is a ten minute walk to the metro and a five minute walk to the tram.† It takes about fifteen minutes to get to the new UEC, thirty minutes to get to the Nivky church building, and about thirty minutes to get to Wisconsin International University, where Iíll be teaching during the fall semester.† The apartment has two rooms and a kitchen, and it has recently undergone several improvements.† Before I even arrived in Ukraine, a team of hardworking, dedicated, and loving people were putting up wallpaper, installing new faucets, painting, and cleaning.† All of these people know my phone number better than I do, because they spent so much time here.††† I would like to especially thank Dr. Paul Prill and Marcus Cathey from the Acklen Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, who spent most of their visit to Kyiv at the beginning of May up to their necks in cleaning supplies.† I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped.†† Iíve slowly been accumulating other objects useful for housekeeping, such as a washing machine and vacuum cleaner, and I am beginning to feel at home.† (See pictures of the apartment work crew at† http://www.uecenter.org/gallery/katie/index.htm)†
The bulk of my time so far has been spent working with the team from Letís Start Talking.† LSTís method, basically, is to give people who already speak a little English the opportunity to practice it with native speakers, using a simple translation of the gospel of Luke as a textbook.† Hopefully, people will think about the stories they are reading and will begin to ask questions about faith.† There were initially five members of the team, but one of them, Andy Fischer, was only able to stay for three weeks and returned to the States on June 4.† The two females on the team, Tafanie Gregory and Carrie Corlew, have been my roommates; John Miller is also on the team.† All of these folks are students at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, so we share a common love for the South and have gotten along well.† This team will be in Kyiv until June 24, and then a second team of people from Knoxville will run the LST program for another three weeks.† I will work with the second team two days a week.
The current team begins every day with a devotional, and then we work with readers from 10 in the morning until 8 in the evening, with reading sessions scheduled to begin every hour and last for 45 minutes.†† Right now we have just over 50 people reading with us and spend about 100 hours a week discussing the Bible.† There is an amazing variety of people among our readers; they have various levels of skill in English and come from all sorts of cultural and historical viewpoints.† LST really gives us the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with our readers, and we are all learning a great deal from them, as we pray they are from us.† (View photos of the team at http://www.uecenter.org/gallery/AndysPictures/index.html. )
Two of my readers have been particularly challenging, and I plan to continue reading with them and seven others with the second LST team.† One woman is a system administrator at a Ukrainian telecom firm.† She has a daughter who just graduated from International Christian University and is a member of Nivky church, but she herself is not really interested in Christianity.† She hasnít had much opportunity to practice English, but her vocabulary is impressive, so we have been able to talk about more important things than language, though it was always hard to tell what she thought about Christianity.† Last night we read the stories of the wise and foolish builders and the sinful woman who anointed Jesus and washed his feet with her tears.† I was finally able to learn what she thinks about faithóthat it is for people who are not strong enough to care for themselves and need support from something outside.† During this conversation, I had the opportunity to tell her what my faith means to me in a way I never had before.† Although she didnít agree with me, she now has something more to think about when she considers faith.† Please pray for her understanding and for our future conversations.†
Another of my readers is an 18-year-old student.† She is bright and kind and curious, and we got along well from the very beginning.†† She is interested in all things Americanóparticularly music and moviesóso we have the chance to talk a lot about our different cultures.† She has read the stories in the Bible and has an instinctual understanding for the symbolic meanings in Lukeís gospel, but she wants to wait until she is older to become deeply religious.† My biggest challenge with her is to help her understand that Jesus should be a part of her life now.† Please pray that God will bless our friendship and that she will see the need for Christ in her life.
I have learned a great deal about Ukrainian culture from all of my readers.† Truthfully, I am fascinated by history, because Ukraine is both a very new country and a very ancient one.† Ukraine has only been independent from the Soviet Union since 1991, but its roots go back deep into medieval times, when Kyiv was the center of an empire that included Russia.† Every reader I ask about history has a slightly different perspective on Ukraineís ancient and recent past.† It is so interesting to hear so many stories and to learn what is important to each person by listening to the things they tell about their country.
I am also fascinated by the number of bi- and tri-lingual people I have met.† Most native Ukrainians I have met speak Russian, as they were required during Soviet times, but they also speak Ukrainian, though with varying degrees of familiarity.† And, of course, they speak at least a little English.† I can not imagine what it would be like to have a storehouse for two or three languages in my mind!† I hope to learn soon what it is like to have at least two, as I will begin Russian lessons next week.†††
LST has kept me busy so far, but I have also had some time to begin work with the Ukrainian Education Center.†† The Center is planning to move at the end of the summer to a new location, and that new space is currently under renovation.† The new facility will have a library and computer center, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and even housing for visiting speakers or professors.† I am now a member of the UEC aesthetic committee and have been helping to make decisions about everything from wallpaper to paint to door handles.† This facility will be an invaluable resource for students, as well as an outreach tool for ministry.† (See pictures of the renovation process at http://www.uecenter.org/galleries.htm.)
As busy as these past few weeks have been, it looks like my activities the rest of the summer may even quicken the pace.† On June 25 I will begin Russian lessons with a private tutor.† She is the same tutor who taught Chris Lovingood, my host missionary.† Chris assures me that she is a very difficult teacher, which I think will insure that I am well taught.† FriendsCamp, an LST outreach similar to a weekend retreat, will begin June 29 at a campground near Kyiv.† I hope that several of my readers will come and will have the opportunity to get to know the members of Nivky church.† The second team from LST will leave July 13 and the formal reading sessions will stop, but I plan to continue talking with those readers who are most interested in Christianity and to make sure they have connections in the church, so they can discuss difficult issues in their first language.
After the LST project is over, I will begin working directly with the UEC. The weekend of July 27 there will be a Womenís Conference hosted by Nivky church and led by one of the planters of the congregation, Darla Johnson.†† I hope that by then I will be able to communicate a little better in Russian and can grow closer to the women here.† The second week of August will be the fourth annual youth/student conference in Cherkassy, a city south of Kyiv.†† At the conference I will be teaching a class or leading a small group on a topic related to the weekís theme.†† The students who have been to Cherkassy the past few years have assured me it is a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
I hope to travel outside the city during the last couple of weeks in August, and then I will prepare to teach university classes, which begin September 1.
Iíll have more details about each of these upcoming events as they draw nearer.† For now, Iím just grateful for the experiences Iíve had and ask that you continue to remember me in your prayers.† Please reply to this letter with questions, comments, or any other forms of greeting.
May God bless you!