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On the Move

random pics
Those were the days: Me with some of the members of the youth group. (Photo taken during my first year in Ukraine.)

It has been a while since I last updated this blog. I’ve been really busy. Thanks for your patience.

Here are some updates:

• I‘ve been spending quality time with my friends and ministry co-workers here in Donetsk. Bonding with them is very important since they are like family to me already.

I’ve been sorting things out in my flat in preparation for the big move to the US — things to keep and things to give away. In short, I’ve been doing some intensive spring cleaning! You will be amazed at how much I had accummulated all these years. Even though I normally do this spring cleaning annually, I still find myself very much surprised at how things pile up quickly year in and year out. Thankfully, I’m almost done sorting out my things. But somehow I know that this will be an ongoing process until my last week here in Ukraine. Some of my stuff were already given to individuals in need, while the others were donated to the church here for its humanitarian aid program.

I’ve also attended to some documents needed by the US Embassy in Kiev. At the moment, I’m still waiting and praying to hear about the status of the processing of my fiancee visa. My fiance Wade and I are hoping and praying to hear from the embassy this month. Please keep us in your prayers. We trust that everything will go well according to God’s will and plan for us. We will only know the date of our wedding once I get the fiancee visa.

Thank you again, dear readers and supporters, for all the much needed prayers. Know that it is much appreciated!

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We all don't know what's at the end of the flowing river or what’s under the calm waters.

I was just reflecting on my years and time here in Ukraine and the thought of leaving — that is, not using Ukraine as my base — makes me sad.

Ukraine (Donetsk) has been my homebase for almost seven years now. I had gotten used to living and working with the locals, whom I have grown to love.

The major change of plans involving my personal ministry in Donetsk will take place this year. I recently got engaged and this will cause change in terms of my work, my base, and my life in general.

After telling the core leaders the big news, I’ve been spending more time doing visitations with the church people. I had been gone for five months (I attended a community development course in the US), and so I’m trying to reconnect with the people.

The thought of me leaving Ukraine makes me sad. Sad that I will not be able to see and have fellowship with the church people and do more for the ministry once I’m based in another country. You see, there are still lots of things I wanted to do here in Ukraine. But I know and believe that there’s time for everything, as what is stated in the book of Ecclesiastes.

This is probably the time to change my role here in Ukraine with regard to ministry/work. I know God has other plans for me; to accomplish things with a partner, whatever they may be. I trust God completely with my life. And whatever it is that He has in store for me, I know in my heart that it will all be for the best.

Turning over some ministry tasks slowly but surely was actually done three years ago, knowing that I would not be in Ukraine forever. I believe that it is my part to train the pastor and his leaders and establish ministries, and later allow these trained leaders to take over when the right time has come. And I’m happy to say that for the last three years, the locals have been the ones who have been attending to ministry needs. I’m confident that they will be able to continue the task at hand, all with God’s grace.

Of course, I’m having mixed emotions now as I prepare to leave Ukraine and face the forthcoming changes in my life. However, I feel that that my involvement in the Ukraine ministry will not end here. It won’t be like how it was before, that is for sure, but I might still be involved in many ways. I can, for example, help bring a group of young volunteers to assist in the church’s summer kids camp. Or I can organize leadership/discipleship trainings and seminars whenever I’m in Ukraine.

I have always believed that healthy things grow, growing things change, change brings pain, and pain brings gain. Progress always brings about change. And to gain something, it will cost something. I also read that “the only thing that doesn’t change is change.” 🙂

I will keep you updated in the coming days on what’s happening, and I will definitely share with you the new adventures that I will have with God in the coming days.

Blessings!

Facts about Vodka

Read an interesting article on vodka written by Kyiv Post’s guide editor Alexandra Matoshko here.

Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Vodka (“horilka” in Ukrainian) stands high among the top stereotypes used to describe Ukrainians. What do Ukrainians like above all? Vodka and salo, of course. We have already done an article about the lard. However vodka proved to be a much more extensive topic.

Anyone new in the country can tell that vodka is indeed a highly popular national drink, simply by viewing the vodka section at any supermarket – it runs several meters, showcasing an amazing variety of vodka brands. There are no less than 40 of them produced in Ukraine, while an average supermarket holds as much as 20. Besides, most brands offer a number of different kinds each. Naturally, Ukrainian vodka is one of the common souvenirs any tourist tries to take home. And that’s where he faces the difficulty of choice. Unless there is a vodka connoisseur around to give coherent advice, inscriptions like: “honey with pepper,” “on milk,” “rye” and “on birchtree buds” on the labels can easily confuse not only a foreigner, but even a Ukrainian, who is not an experienced vodka drinker.

A classical definition of vodka is “a drink of water and ethanol, containing a small amount of impurities, sometimes with berry or fruit flavorings as well as spices.” The alcohol content may range from 40 to 56 percent. But there is much more to know about the beloved drink of the Slavs.

Article on Pedophiles

It seems that pedophiles find Ukraine an ideal place to roam. This is alarming. See complete story here.

Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Nobody knows the depth of the problem, but the nation is seen as a hotbed of child pornography, sexual abuse.

Pedophiles roam where they can sexually abuse children with impunity. Unfortunately, Ukraine – with its lax law enforcement, shaky economy and endemic corruption – may provide just the haven they seek.

SIFAT (Servant in Faith and Technology) is one great opportunity and experience that I had had in the US.

God gave me an opportunity to live among His children from five different continents! It was amazing to realize how we SIFAT participants come from different cultures and backgrounds, yet we share the common love and passion for Christ.

All of us got to taste a ‘bit of heaven’ while we lived in the campus and attended our classes everyday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Living and teaming up with other believers from other countries is amazingly exciting and humbling. We all learned from each other and accepted our differences, letting the love of Jesus be manifested in our lives everyday.

One of the things that I will never forget and will always remind me of this ‘taste of heaven’ is when we, as a class, sang “God is So Good” in 13 languages. It was awesome! It was like God was allowing us to experience heaven on earth. That wonderful worship experience made me realize anew that no matter what language we speak, we sing praises to one God!

I will always remember my class in SIFAT. My classmates became my instant family during the practicum and training. God just binded us together with His amazing love.

On this note, I would like to thank you all for partnering and supporting to have this SIFAT training/practicum. Your prayers and financial help allowed me to experience unique Christian moments while on training in the US, and yes, equipped me to do more as I continue to reach out and minister to others by sharing the love of Christ in practical ways.

Indeed, there are so many needs everywhere. Having said this, I know that we cannot do everything. We can only do as much, and let God multiply it and do it effectively. I believe that even the smallest things that we do for God will impact the lives of people around us — just like the ripple effect.

There is an interesting meaning or explanation for the word “ripple” (capillary wave) from Wikipedia. As I was thinking about this word and how significant it can be, I made some research and found this out:

A capillary wave is a wave travelling along the interface between two fluids, whose dynamics are dominated by the effects of surface tension. Capillary waves are common in nature and home, and are often referred to as ripple. The wavelength of capillary waves is typically less than a few centimeters.

A gravity–capillary wave on a fluid interface is influenced by both the effects of surface tension and gravity, as well as by the fluid inertia.

You can read a related pre-SIFAT story here.

(Note: To view my US Trip slideshow on Flickr, click here.)

I just read this interesting article published by Kyiv Post, a newspaper run by an American editor and a publication that publishes stories on the goings-on in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine.

The article is about the still unsolved case of a murdered journalist named Georgiy Gongadze, the crusading Kyiv journalist who founded the Ukrainska Pravda website and used the online news platform to criticize high-level corruption. He was slain in Ukraine in 2000.

The case is still been tried, and concerned people are still trying to get to the bottom of it all. It seems that it is being relegated to the bottom of the priority pile. But the widow of the slain journalist, Myroslava Gongadze, refuses to be swayed in getting the justice that her husband deserves. She is also a US-based journalist advocating human rights.

To read a related story, click here.

trip to US 110

As you may have already deducted upon reading my previous blog post, I brought a Ukrainian couple (Lena and Igor Ryazanov) to the USA with me to attend the practicum/training at SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology) in Alabama, USA. It had been an adventurous and faith-building experience since the beginning.

When I agreed to try out SIFAT, I thought of bringing local church leaders with me. I prayed and asked God who among the church leaders in Donetsk should I bring with me to SIFAT. As I prayed, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart to ask Lena.

When I asked Lena about it, she said she didn’t know. I advised her to pray about it and she had about a year to soak this matter in prayers. She then told me then that, she couldn’t go without her husband Igor. I told her to pray about it, too, and let me know the soonest time possible since I had to ask the SIFAT people if it would be okay to bring a Ukrainian couple with me for the SIFAT community development course.

Months had passed and I was praying for funds as well as guidance concerning Lena and Igor. I sent in my application and asked SIFAT if I could bring a couple from Ukraine to attend the course (note: from what I knew, SIFAT doesn’t usually admit couples; only one person per country). The coordinator told me to just send the couple’s application and SIFAT’s board of directors would then decide their special case. So I did what I was told to do, and let God do all the rest.

After several months, I received an email from SIFAT informing me that I was approved to attend the practicum/training. I got partial scholarship (I had to pay only one percent of the total course amount). I was elated to hear this good news, and started praying and raising funds for it. Truth be told, I really didn’t know how I could come up with the money to pay for the course and for the round-trip airfare; I just trusted God for His provisions. I knew that if He wanted me to be in this SIFAT training, He would provide.

I was then in Sweden when I received an e-mail from SIFAT stating that the couple’s application for scholarship was approved (partial scholarship, that is; like me, they also needed to pay one percent of the total amount, plus the airfare).

When I got back to Ukraine, I told Lena and Igor about this piece of news, and they got so excited. I briefed them on the expenses to be covered. They then told me that the had been saving for a year ever since I first asked Lena about SIFAT. That was when I learned that even though they were not sure yet about the fate of their SIFAT application back then, they started saving for the trip just the same. In short, by the time their SIFAT acceptance letter arrived, they had the funds to cover their plane tickets and SIFAT tuition fee. Praise the Lord!

US Visa

trip to US 169

Us getting the US visa is another proof of God’s favor. It is widely known that the US Embassy is very strict in giving visas to Ukrainians because of the fact that once they set foot in the US, they don’t usually go back to Ukraine and instead stay in the US illegally.

The couple and I prayed for the date of the visa interview. We then gathered all the documents needed for the visa application and paid for the interview and visa processing.

The US Embassy in Ukraine always has a very long queue. Even if the first appointment is set at 8 a.m., visa applicants line up two hours ahead of the scheduled time. As for us, we got there and we lined up for the time that we are supposed to be interviewed. My and the couple’s appointment for interview was set at different times. And so, I thought of asking the person in-charge of the queue if I could go with the Ukrainian couple since we were together and going to the same US destination. And the answer was “yes,” PTL! That was another favor from God.

We were sitting near the first window where the interview was being made. We noticed that all the visa applicants that went to that first window were denied a visa. We could hear everything due to the proximity of our seats to that window. The Ukrainian couple prayed for us not to end up having to be interviewed by the visa officer behind that now dreaded window; they logically thought that we would be denied a visa there as well, given the pattern we saw.

When it was our turn to be interviewed, we were called to approach the first window. But contrary to what the Ukrainian couple feared, the interview went well. The visa officer was really nice. He mainly directed his questions to me since I was the one who could speak English. Upon seeing that my Philippine passport was stamped by visas from many different countries, he told me that he had no issue granting me a US visa. But he was hesitant to give Lena and Igor their visas.

Since he knew that I was going to be with the Ukrainian couple, he then said that he would give the Ukrainian couple a single-entry visa, and instructed them to pay him a visit at the embassy once they are back from their US trip. Lena and Igor had to fill out some return papers and see him again after the trip. He then asked us to pay for the courrier service, as they would send us our passports with the US visas stamped on them after one week. It was really a PTL moment (as I mentioned as a praise report P.S. blog note here).

A Note of Thanks

Thank you once again to all of you who extended prayer and financial support to make this SIFAT training possible for us. Without your partnership, I/we couldn’t have made it on our own — really.

I translated for the Ukrainian couple the entire time we were there at the SIFAT training since both Lena and Igor don’t speak nor understand any English. It was a challenging assignment, but God’s grace allowed me to do the job at hand. I just thank God for all the favor (wisdom, knowledge, strength, contacts, etc.) He bestowed upon us from start to finish.

There were 80 applicants who applied for last year’s fall practicum at SIFAT, but only 16 made it to the course. It was truly a blessing to be part of that selected few.

God’s timing is always perfect, and His ways are always higher than ours.

Note: Here’s the link of the article about us posted on the SIFAT website.