So yesterday we reached an exciting milestone. As of Saturday, March 25th, we have reached the halfway point through DTS! We have finished week TEN and have TEN weeks left before our graduation! Ahhh! It's so weird to think about the fact that our time in Ukraine is rapidly dwindling. In some ways, it doesn't seem like I've been here very long at all. On the other hand, I can't imagine my life without knowing these amazing people.
Last week was fun. Derrick, one of the staff on base, taught on leadership. Over three days he talked about how to avoid temptations and pitfalls, handle conflict, and become a person of integrity. To finish it all off, we had an amazing dinner with Derrick and his wife Vika and watched We Were Soldiers and had an in-depth conversation about leadership. The movie was well done and had good examples of leadership, although I can't say I enjoy war movies that much. Still, it was a good week. I must say, I have really enjoyed Lecture Phase more than I ever thought I would. I've learned and changed so much you might not recognize me when I get home. ;)
This week we went to the Zmerinka and Nemeriv orphanages for the last time. At Zmerinka I helped the kids with crafts indoors while soccer was played outdoors. The kids were happy to finally be outside with us after weeks of cold weather! There weren't as many kids indoors which meant I got to spend more one-on-one time. Two the girls that I had seen previously latched on to me and we had a lot of fun. It was really hard to leave them. At Nemeriv nobody wanted to be inside since it was even nicer weather, so we ditched the crafts and games and just got to hang out with them. I was also able to talk with the director of the orphanage with Gert (one of the other students if you don't remember) as a translator. He really liked me and what I wanted to do and even invited me back next week. When he heard we were leaving, he said I could come back after college. :)
On Friday, Marjolein took me to visit the baby hospital. It was my first experience with any sort of hospital or medical building in Ukraine, and it was definitely not what I expected. Most of the floors were dark, heavy on cement, definitely left over from the Soviet Era. The floor where we visit just got renovated and has been freshly painted a cheery bright yellow, which made a huge difference. There were five kids that we visited, all of them orphans, three with special needs. I held a baby with hydrocephalus, named Sophia. She was sooo sweet but never got super comfortable. Her head was very heavy and I could only hold her for about 15 minutes or so.
One of the other girls with special needs was five and too big for me to pick up, but I rubbed her head and sang to her. Her name was Nadia, which means hope. And I also got to hold baby Anya, who was also an orphan but didn't have special needs. We weren't sure how she was sick or why she was there. She was very active and just wanted to play and see the world. I really enjoyed my time there, even though it was hard. Those poor kids have no one to come and love on them as they wait for medical care, which usually lasts a long time. Orphans are the lowest priority at the hospital because they don't have families. Nobody cares for them as much as the "regular" kids.
In other exciting news, Outreach starts next week! As often can happen in missions, the plans have changed a little bit. Daniel, Tetyana, Camilla, Josh, Mitch, Tamara, Sasha, and I are going to pack into the van and drive to Opole, Poland on Saturday. Tetyana's sister and her husband have planted a church there and we are going to serve them for three weeks. We'll be very busy there, ministering to Gypsy kids, the local schools, the church youth group, and helping a family on their farm. After that, we embark on our 17-hour drive to Paris to minister with the Russian-speaking church there. We'll arrive on April 25th, the day before my 19th birthday, and will stay for three weeks. Then, we'll head to Lublin, Poland for the remainder of outreach, returning to Vinnitsa in late May for a week of debriefing.
Exciting times are coming up! I will definitely be writing more about what we're doing, although depending on our heavy schedule and wifi service, the blog may not get the updates precisely on time. We'll see how it goes. Thanks for sticking with me everyone!