Sorry I’ve been away for a bit. Things have been a little crazy in these parts, and I think that there will be time to breathe very soon.
There will be a more detailed update about the goings on next week, but the quick version is, I went to Georgia for two weeks in June with a bunch of friends (totally awesome and gorgeous), and now we are just finishing up hosting an UMVIM team that helped us out with English Camp and two rounds of VBS. Like I said, it’s been a bit busy.
English Camp was actually pretty great. It went so so much better than I thought it would. Having never been to or hosted an English camp before, I kind of felt like a fish out of water. You never know what all is going to work or not, if everyone’s going to hate it, what if the food is bad, ect. With my booming voice I, full of uncertainty, led us from one activity to another, through water fights, english lessons, dinner, and punishments for Ukrainian speaking. The schedule was pretty jam packed, and in the midst of it all, three of us staff members had to preach as well. You can find the second sermon of my life (written at 2 AM, so I’ve edited it a bit here) posted at the end of this blog post. I seriously do not know why they keep wanting me to do this preaching business.
Either way, on the last night of camp, we had a big bonfire. The American team brought us graham crackers and marshmallows, and we got to have smores. WOO HOO!
During this time of fellowship, it dawned on me… I’m in the middle of a sacred moment.
Normally, when in the midst of life we don’t see the sacred moments. We maybe don’t experience their sacredness in the moment, but when we look back we’re like, ‘man that was great, I wish I could back to that place at that time.’ While I was sitting around the fire, next to people I love and have journeyed with for the past almost 11 months and people that I hadn’t known longer than three days, I felt how amazingly blessed I was. I noticed that my time here is more than half gone, and that I will soon be removed from this place. That I will never again be at English Camp with this rag tag bunch of awesome people. I sat there quietly taking it in. Breathing in the blessed moment, trying to memorize the smells and the looks on the faces of people I was with. Trying to hold on to that feeling at that moment before I finally gave into fatigue and went to bed. I wanted to hold onto it so badly.
That’s how I really feel about most of my time here in Ukraine. I want to hold onto it so badly. I want to take the time to see the sacred moments as they happen as well as when I reflect on them. There was something so lovely and perfect about that moment. About a bunch of us that don’t all speak the same language, who don’t have the same experiences, family situation, or heritage, coming together playing songs and enjoying the shared pleasure of a bonfire.
Some things certainly do unite us in spite of the differences. I mean who doesn’t love a campfire and a good guitar player?
If you can name 5 then you’ll get a cookie.
As we approach the fall semester of school, and are planning the opening of preschool and what Pilgrims is going to look like for the year ahead, I see many future sacred moments. Many more times of peace and joy, and many more opportunities to share life with these folks. To counsel and encourage, and to be counseled and encouraged. I just hope I have the present-mindedness to live in them and not miss them as they pass by.
As we talk about the journey this week, I’ve thought about all of the amazing, and sometimes, unbelievable journey stories in the bible. Yura mentioned two great ones yesterday, Moses and Jesus’ story, and yet there are so many others. what is your favorite journey in the bible? All of these stories begin with a spark — the thing that lights the fire of their journey.
I really love music. If you lived with me, you would know that I play music non-stop at my house. Even worse, I usually joke about the “radio station” in my head that has a 24 hour supply of random music. There’s a band I’ve recently become fond of called “The City Harmonic.” I would like you all to indulge me as we listen to one of my favorites, off of their new album, called Spark.
A spark is a small thing, but can lead to huge fires, severe burns, boiling water, and fresh baked muffins. We all have moments when the spark has been lit. Sometimes, in church ling, we call it ‘The Calling.’ When I applied to be a missionary, I had to tell about my “call story,” that moment, or moments, that I felt God calling me to a life of ministry. My ‘spark moment’. The truth is, for me, I had less of a one moment spark, but a whole lot of experiences and moments that somehow added up to me being in front of you today. You’ve probably experienced these times too. These times for me were given through opportunities with my student center, on mission trips and at camps.
the thing is, about these moments, is that it’s just the spark. A fire doesn’t always take after the spar. God tries to start fires within us to start us on a journey, and when we don’t listen, as my often happen God will spark you again. Maybe through a friend, a song, a camp… God will continue to try to start the fire, but the tricky part is, you have to maintain the fire.
How do we do that? Well how do you keep a campfire going? You can the flames and/or you feed it wood.
In the case of spiritual fire, you feed it with bible reading, worship, prayer, and by engaging in the body of God. You can the flames with a christian lifestyle habits.
Right at the beginning of Jesus’ sermon on the mount he preached Matthew 5:3-11. Here Jesus is telling us about our journey as Christians. ‘There will be times of mourning, but God will comfort you. You will probably encounter people who disagree with you, and persecute you, but you will be rewarded.’ On the journey you should be meek, hunger for justice, be merciful, peacemakers, and pure of heart. All of these qualities you need for your journey.
James has something to tell us about our journey as well. On this journey, it’s simply not good enough to say, I believe in God. I love God. When you’re dating, how does your boyfriend/girlfriend show that they love you? Would it be enough for them to just say it, and then ignore you the rest of the time?
When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that boys picked on me because they liked me. They would chase me, tease me, pull my hair, throw dirt at me, and apparently this was supposed to attract me. Do you guys have the same here?
Let me tell you, I don’t buy it. No boy who likes me is going to get anywhere by just being mean. There’s got to be some nice stuff too. The same is true with our relationship with God. The words are not enough. You have to live out your faith. You’ve got to love ferociously, and be merciful, generous, humble, meek, and so much more. The bible means it when it says to give your coat to a cold stranger, to praise God will your body, mind, and heart, to be truthful, to take care of all of God’s creations. In these ways, we show our love and commitment to God.
So back to this journey. Now, we’ve had our spark. We know we’re going somewhere. We know what we need for this journey. We’re prepared. Now, let’s talk about what to expect.
I just came back from a vacation in Georgia. IT was such a pretty country, and the food was amazing. I can’t wait to visit again someday. while we were there, we went hiking to the top of this one mountain, to this, “Three Lakes” place. To get there you take a super dangerous taxi ride up the mountain for an hour.
Did I mention it had been raining?
Oh, and that it was a dirt road.
Oh yeah, and it was only wide enough for the car and if we slipped off we would fall to our grizzly ends?
Needless to say, it was terrifying. The road was terrible, all zig-zags all the way. We certainly got stuck more than once. By the time the car parked, I’ve never been happier to be on solid ground than at that moment. From there we took a 45 minute hike to the lakes. Now this hike was 16 kinds of steep. So steep, in fact, at times you couldn’t walk on the trail because when you stepped in the mud you’d slide back down. The is trail was made up of a bunch of mini hills. You’d climb to the top, thinking you’ve arrived, only to find another hill to climb. On the way we saw amazingly gorgeous views of the mountains, and the town below. So so pretty. As we kept climbing, I kept getting more and more tired till I eventually told my friend to go ahead, I’m just going to stop here. well, of course, as soon as I did that, we realized that we were almost there, and being the woman I am, I had to finish with it being so close.
When we arrived, we found a camp of singing Ukrainians and I got to stand inside a cloud. It was pretty cool, but I must admit, lakes they were not. More like small ponds…
for me, my journey has been so much like this. I have been traveling among others in the body of Christ navigating the ups and downs. Sometimes you get stuck, lost tired, left behind… Sometimes the people you’re sharing your journey with change. But the journey is magnificent. Even when you leave the path it is still there waiting for you. Sometimes you don’t think you’ll ever make it to the top. You wonder, ‘why did I let God talk me into this?” On that hike, I often said to my Ukrainian friends, “This is a conspiracy. You all got together and said, ‘let’s watch the fat American climb this mountain.'” It was totally worth it thought. And so is your journey with God. This is the journey of a lifetime, of your lifetie. You will go on many journeys, big and small, in the greater journey of your life. Only you can choose what to bring with you and how you’re going to live during it. Tomorrow night, our last a camp, Volodya will talk some more about our journeys, but as we go throughout our day thinking about our journeys, I want to leave you with some of the lyrics from Spark.
“When we breathe in hope
Breathe in grace
Breathe in God
Then we’ll breathe out peace
Breathe out justice
Breathe out love.”