The Ukraine team finally made it into the country on Sunday July 1, after three days of travel. We hit an unexpected bump in the road when we missed our flight from London to Ukraine. But the LHR airport was very accommodating and provided us with a hotel, meals, and transportation to and from the airport. This ended up being a huge blessing in disguise, because it allowed us as a team to take a day and sleep so that our jet lag wasn’t as bad when we arrived in Ukraine.
When we arrived into Kiev, Ukraine on Sunday, we had the opportunity to take the metro into the city. It is absolutely beautiful here, and as expected, some things are a bit of a culture shock. We ended the evening with most of our team bungee jumping off of a bridge that overlooked the city. (I will be the only one out of all of us to tell you that it was absolutely terrifying.)
As a team, we met up with the Ukrainian Hope for Orphans team on Monday afternoon and headed together to Andrushivka, where the camp is located. We spent the remainder of the day setting up and preparing for 8 days of camp with over 100 kids. We are currently on day 5 of camp, and all I can say is God is doing big things in the lives of these kids and us as a team.
Speaking for myself, this trip has been one wild ride. I ended up running a fever when we arrived in Kiev and have been fighting a cold ever since. This really forced me to allow others to care for me and hindered the energy that was necessary for me to have to prepare for camp. But I am feeling better every day and appreciate everyone who has been praying for my health.
One thing that was evident to me pretty early on was the difference serving here over serving in Kids Ministry back at The Well. The language barrier has made it very hard to connect with the kids. I noticed in the first couple days that it really shook my confidence in my ability to be used while here. I have felt like a burden to the Ukrainian team because we are completely reliant on their ability to translate for us to understand what’s going on. Because things aren’t always translated, I have become much more observant of my surroundings, trying to gather anything I can to understand what’s going on. Quite honestly, it is a little frustrating, and God has really humbled that part of me that wants to take the lead. I am discovering that I am here to play a different role than I thought.
God has revealed two things to me thus far. The first is what Paul really meant in Philippians 4:11 when he writes, “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.” Although not all of these kids are orphans, even the “privileged kids” have a lot less than we do. And they’re some of the happiest kids I’ve ever met. The conditions here are considered “nice” to Ukrainians, but Americans would consider this complete poverty. These kids don’t need fancy clothes, five-star meals, or electronics to be happy. Most of them find so much joy in us just being with them, even if we can’t speak. As the American team, we’ve really embraced the concept of love being an action. Kids will randomly come up and hug me or offer me candy, and I’ll show them the puppy filter on Snapchat. We are slowly finding ways to communicate without language.
The second thing God has shown me so clearly is that His love transcends everything - socioeconomic status, language, nationality, gender, age. There’s no gap between us that the cross can’t bridge. In the evening during concert, you have boys and girls, ages 5-40, Americans and Ukrainians, all singing together to the same God. In that moment, though we have many differences between us all, we are all united in Christ, and so those barriers we thought separated us get shattered.
We are looking forward to our remaining days overseas and can’t wait to share individually the ways God has shown up for us during this time!