Hello from Poland!
It has been a very busy past two weeks. Our last week in Ukraine was spent cleaning up Berezina, the orphans' transition home, from a fire that took place last November. We also cleaned the DTS house and said goodbye to the rest of the staff staying behind. Then we loaded into the van, all 8 of us and our bags, and left Vinnitsa! It was a 7-hour drive to the border of Poland, and another 3-hours to get through all the checkpoints. For those of you, like me, who have never driven across a border like that before, it was shorter than expected. From there, it was another 3-hours drive to Lublin. We stayed overnight at the church we will be coming back to later on, and enjoyed a wonderful hospitality meal of Ukrainian meat and Polish cake. It was a pretty epic first meal.
We found out shortly after we arrived that we were being asked to sing and share something at the church service in the morning. Um...ok, sure. Why not? Luckily, the service started at 10:30, so we had about 2 hours to prepare. Things were a little tense during practice because we were all a little nervous but the service went great! We sang Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons) in English with choruses in Russian, performed a drama, Sasha shared her testimony, and Daniel preached. Everything went very smoothly and we all enjoyed lunch and fellowship afterward. There are quite a few international students who speak English, and I enjoyed talking with them.
After lunch, we got back in the van and drove to Opole Lubelskie, about an hour and a half away. There, we made it just in time to join Tetyana's sister Natalka and her husband Vasyl at their church service. We blessed them with the same program we used in Lublin, minus the drama. Their church is pretty small, only about 5 regular members, so we're doing a huge thing just by coming and encouraging them.
Mondays are our day off (so most likely my new day for posting the blog), and on Tuesday we jumped right into ministry again. We helped an older lady who is not a believer on her farm. The work was not difficult, just raking the field and laying down an irrigation system of plastic hoses, but it would have been very time-consuming on her own. Her husband and sons are no longer there, so with no one to help it would have taken her all day, but we did it in a few hours. It was a neat time to be able to bless her and help Natalka establish a stronger relationship. She also owns a few small apple orchards and made us some wonderful apple crepes and sent us home with several kilos worth of apples from last autumn.
Wednesday night we visited a foster home and played with the kids. We had face painting, dancing, and soccer. One of the boys who was about 8 had special needs and I got to paint him into Batman. He was really sweet and it was so much fun! Because it was one of the girls' birthday, they also had a bonfire going and we roasted sausages. Friday morning we were invited back to help them with landscaping projects, and Saturday night the 4 boys came to our barbecue.
Friday afternoon we did a prayer walk around the city. Opole Lubelskie is a small town but there's still so many opportunities for ministry. As far as I can tell, the majority of the town and surrounding area is Catholic, with a small protestant church and a few Jehovah Witnesses. In Opole Lubelskie itself, there's also a Roma community that Natalka and Vasyl are trying to serve (more on that later). On our walk, we did a loop around the main downtown area. We started at the church building and walked by the main catholic church, the corner where they do evangelism, the city hall, and the marketplace where they also occasionally do evangelism. It was really neat to pray for the city and the people we passed.
So as you can see, we had a very busy first week here in Poland; too much to put in one blog post! I'll try to update later on this week, now that we've settled down here and learned how the routine works. Until then, thanks for your support and prayers!