One of the best parts of ministry in Ukraine is working with Ukrainians. I am so thankful to be a partner in ministry with Sasha, one of the pastors here in Berdyansk. Sarah and I work with him in ministry at the youth center and the orphanage and he also translates for us. Sasha is great fun and he has a wonderful sense of humor, so I am dedicating this journal to fun Sasha stories.
The other day was a beautiful day, and when we arrived at the orphanage the children were playing outside. A couple of the boys where playing with a football. No, I don’t mean a soccer ball; I mean a real football like we play with in America. I was so excited that I went to play with them. I simply laid my purse down beside some of the playground equipment and started to play; it was great fun!
Usually, I am very mindful of my purse. Not only do I have a mission cell phone and my camera, I also have van keys, my identification, and other legal documents, so I try to keep an eye on it. That afternoon I was particularly distracted and I did not notice when little Anna picked up my purse and started carrying it around. Sasha noticed and took it away from her for me. He put it back down on the ground and a few minutes later Anna was back to trying to carry it again. Sasha took my purse away from Anna and I guess he just decided he would hold it. When I glanced over he was playing soccer with three little boys, running around the orphanage yard and the whole time carrying my purse. I had to laugh out loud. I wish I had had my camera so that I could have taken a picture; it was such a priceless moment.
During another fun adventure, Sasha and I went on a covert trash operation. While Ernie and Anna were gone Sarah and I kept missing the trash truck. Here we don’t really have a trash day like at home. A man drives by and you have to take your trash out to him. Sarah and I just kept missing the truck so the trash container outside just kept getting more and more full. I really wanted to get rid of the trash but I didn’t know what to do so I asked Sasha for help. He explained that I just needed to take our trash over to the dumpster outside one of the nearby apartment buildings. When I asked if I would get in trouble for dumping our trash there he explained that is was normal and that Ernie pays for trash pick up just like the people in the apartments, so it was fine. I really did not want to do it by myself because I was sure someone would come and try to talk to me in Russian and I would not understand. So, Sasha said he would help me. Of course it was raining and cold outside when we loaded the trash container (it was really, really full) in the van to drive it to the dumpster. As we are standing in the rain, unloading the trash, Sasha says to me, “This is a good day to do this. No one is outside to see us.” So much for normal. No one bothered us, but I was even more glad that I hadn’t gone by myself.
Sasha speaks English very well. He also speaks Russian and Ukrainian. I assume he also speaks those languages very well. However, there is a very good reason that Sasha is not my Russian tutor. Sasha likes to switch between languages without any warning. It is so confusing when you think you know how to say something and then someone uses a completely different word. Whenever he tries to teach Sarah and me a new word or phrase, we always have to ask if it is Russian or Ukrainian. When I ask him questions about Russian, he claims he doesn’t know any of the rules, but whenever he tries to teach me a new word, he tells me different forms and conjugations and then tells me I don’t need to know all that. When I was first starting to learn I asked him why there is no song for the Russian alphabet and he said one is not needed.
The other day, on the way to the orphanage, we were talking about plans and discussing who would be “boss.” Sasha decided he was the boss and then proceeded to start barking orders in Russian. Unfortunately, I could understand some of them. While we were at the orphanage Sasha was playing with a couple of boys and I was playing on the floor with a little girl and a little boy. One of the workers at the orphanage came over and spoke harshly to us. When she was gone I asked if we were in trouble. Sasha explained that she said we were all being too loud for inside play. I asked Sasha why he didn’t just explain that he was the “boss,” but he decided that when we get into trouble I get to be the boss. What a blessing.
Sasha is a lot of fun, but even more than that he has compassion and great love for people. The children at the orphanage and youth center adore him. He is great at connecting with kids. The other day he sat down and read the story of Daniel to some boys. Afterwards, he talked to them about it and answered their questions then, naturally, he challenged them to a game of soccer and they shifted to play. He has a real heart and ministry for older people as well. The grandmother of one of little boys who attends Kid’s Club absolutely loves Sasha.
But, most of all his love for others is evident in the small things he does without thinking about it. Sasha walks Sarah and me to the bus stop or anywhere we go after dark, even when it is out of his way. If we are walking along and he sees a person sitting or laying on the side of the road, he always stops to see if they are okay or if he can help while most other people just keep walking. He is always willing to step into whatever roll to help people and to be in ministry. He is willing to talk to anyone and makes time for everyone.
Not only is Sasha a huge asset to current ministries, he is a real testimony to the effectiveness of previous ministries in Ukraine. Sasha only became a Christian about six years ago in the church he pastors now. He was trained to be a pastor at Kiev Wesley Biblical College and is now working on his Master’s Degree. Sasha is able to minister to people and in ways I cannot. I am so blessed to be able to minister with him and other Ukrainians. God is working in Ukraine!
Thank you so much for loving me and supporting me and praying for me, all are such incredible blessings. Please pray also for the Ukrainians I work with, especially our pastors Sergey, Arkoti, Peter, and Sasha.