Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I know I am late, but here in Ukraine Christmas is not celebrated until January 7, so I am still in the middle of the holiday season. Things have been so busy but amazing and wonderful. I am so thankful to be in Ukraine for this time.
The Christmas season officially started December 19 with Saint Nicholas’ Day. We had the pleasure of being at the orphanage when he came to visit the children there. It was great fun. The youth English class had a small Christmas party during our last class on December 21. We are planning to resume on January 16, and I hope all the children will return.
On December 22 our conversation group had an American Christmas Party. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life, sang Christmas carols, read ’Twas the Night Before Christmas (this is something my dad always recites for Christmas, so it was such great fun to be able to share it with my Ukrainian friends), ate Christmas goodies, and most important of all, we talked about the birth of Jesus.
Saturday was a wonderful, amazing, crazy, busy day. Sasha and I combined our two English Kid’s Clubs for one party at Sasha’s church. We sang (I altered some Christmas songs to make them a little simpler, and they were a big hit), decorated Christmas bulbs, heard the story of Jesus’ birth, and enjoyed some more Christmas snacks. Then, we rushed home to Ernie and Anna’s for a huge Christmas dinner for 21 people.
On Christmas day we slept in until about 8:30 a.m. and then had a nice breakfast that the guys (Ernie and Don, a volunteer who came to visit over Christmas) prepared for us girls (Anna, Sarah, and I). Next, we had a time of praise and worship. Then, we opened gifts, but the gifts were not just from each other but from Ukrainian friends who had come to lunch on Saturday. It was a truly wonderful time. After opening presents, we just had a relaxing day. I received a phone call from home; it was such a wonderful gift to be able to talk to my dad, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Then, around 4 p.m., I was off to ladies’ ministry.
It was funny when we set up our time to meet. I had explained to Tanya and Lewda that December 25 is Christmas in America so we shouldn’t meet. They assured me that it was okay that we meet. So, I said okay. I am so glad we did; it was the largest group we have had so far with 10 ladies. We had such a great time. Several people spoke, so we actually had a discussion in which the ladies shared their own experiences and talked about the story of Ruth. It was such an incredible blessing to me.
After that I was off to my English lesson with Katya and Alosha. They are a young couple in Sasha’s church who I am meeting with for private English lessons. Sasha is translating for us. We had such a good meeting. I am so excited about the growing relationship I am developing with Katya and Alosha. Christmas was such a wonderful day; I am so thankful for the love I am surrounded with here in Ukraine. Thank you so much for your prayers. I have such joy here, and I know that it is from God.
I know you are thinking this has been a full season, but wait, it is not done. Most people in Ukraine give gifts on New Year’s Day, so we had a huge task of preparing gifts for the children at the orphanage. Thankfully, people from the States sent many gifts through Meest Shipping. On Friday, December 29, we went to First Stage Orphanage and shared gifts with the children there. It was such fun. Then on Saturday, Sasha and I hosted two New Year’s parties for the Kid’s Clubs. I altered another song as a New Year’s song. Maybe I was a little overconfident from my success with the Christmas songs, but it was a real bomb. They requested that we just sing the Christmas songs instead. Oh well.
Then, for New Year’s Eve, the youth had an overnight party at Pastor Sergey and Oksana’s house. It was a typical all-night youth event, but with even more food. I feasted on lots of Ukrainian food that was all wonderful. Then, on January 1, 2007, we went to the birthday lunch of Sergey’s mom for another feast of Ukrainian food. Again, it was all so good. Sergey decided that I must not have an American stomach. I too am amazed. Not only am I trying foreign dishes, but I am actually eating fish and the most detestable vegetable of all, peas. I am giving the Lord all the credit.
So, what am I doing now? Well, we just finished our annual WGM field meeting. Missionaries Bill and Betsy Tarr and Bill and Oksana Brower met with Sarah, Ernie, Anna, and I to go over lots of WGM Ukraine information. It was so informative and really fun. Although Bill Brower and I were unfairly labeled as disruptive troublemakers, overall the meetings went really well. Oksana and I and some of the ladies in the church are working on gifts that will be given to children in the church on Ukrainian Christmas on January 7, and we have been invited over to Tanya and Mike’s apartment for a little party that day.
So, thanks again for all the prayers. I hope you also had a wonderful whirlwind of a Christmas Season and that Jesus was the focus of everything.