Categories
Inspiration

My Thanksgiving List

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in November 2015.

My husband, four young sons, and I live in Ukraine. Just over five months ago, we decided to move from the small city that our kids had always called home to Kyiv, the capital of the country with a population of roughly 4 million. When we made the announcement, our kids didn’t seem to mind, but several days later, my eldest son confided in me that he wished we didn’t have to move, because he was sad about leaving his friends.

I had my own reservations about living in Kyiv. I was familiar with the city, having lived there for four years before our children were born, and my memories were overwhelmingly negative. But I didn’t voice any of this to the children. On the contrary, my husband and I did everything we could to play up the move for the kids. We talked about all the new friends they would make in the church we were going to pastor. We told them about the fun things we could do in Kyiv that weren’t possible in our little city. We described the mighty Dnipro River running through the middle of Kyiv and the bridges spanning it. We reminded them of how much they loved to ride the Kyiv subway.

As we continued to highlight the positive aspects of life in Kyiv, my husband and I found ourselves actually becoming excited! Neither of us had ever wanted to live in Kyiv again, but now that God was clearly calling us back, and we were embracing His will, our outlook on life in the capital was changing.

It’s now been almost four months since we moved, and we are continually discovering additional benefits to life here. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought it appropriate to share a list of things I am thankful for about Kyiv. I hope it will be a window for you into another place and culture and perhaps inspire your own Thanksgiving reflections.

Categories
Inspiration

Finding a New Rhythm

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in October 2015.

I just returned home from my morning walk. Though born purely out of necessity, it is now one of my favorite parts of the day, a peaceful interlude for a mother of four living in a bustling metropolis.

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Inspiration

Getting Established, All Over Again

Kyiv skyline

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in September 2015.

Last month I shared the sad circumstances surrounding our family’s relocation from the quiet town of Ternopil in Western Ukraine to Kyiv, the bustling capital of the country. I told how a dear friend and the pastor of a church in Kyiv had confessed to adultery, and the church leadership had asked us to come pastor the church. I wrote about the challenges and uncertainties we were facing as we transitioned from the pastorate of one church to another and prepared our four kids for the move. At the time, we hadn’t found a place to live, and we didn’t even know if our family budget could accommodate Kyiv’s higher rental prices or if we would be able to get our kids enrolled in a school nearby. Since then, God has graciously led us to the answers to these and other questions.

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Inspiration

Relocating

My husband and me studying on the 6-hour bus ride to Kyiv, one of a number of trips to Kyiv that we have made in the last month.

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in July 2015.

A month ago, our lives turned upside down. In the ensuing chaos, my husband and I missed the anniversary of the day we met and let Father’s Day come and go without celebration. I am even routinely forgetting the day of the week and losing track of which city and sometimes which country I’m in. What caused this insanity?

Categories
Inspiration

The Luckiest Kids in the World

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in May 2015.

We live in Ukraine. My husband and I are missionaries, and we have four sons (ages 8, 6, 4, and 2) who are growing up here. Three of them were even born here. In some respects, their childhood is unfolding similarly to how it would if we were living in the United States. In other respects, it is very different. I think these differences are enriching, rather than impoverishing, and I want them to recognize that too.

Recently my kids and their American cousins who also live here in Ukraine were playing make-believe. But while some kids play Doctor, and other kids play Cops and Robbers, these kids were playing something quite different.

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Inspiration

Faith and the Ukrainian Medical System

This post first appeared on Assist News Service under the title “Medicine and Faith” in April 2015.

My first exposure to the Ukrainian medical system came early on. I moved to Ukraine to begin life with my husband, who had already been living here for ten years with his parents and siblings. At our wedding ceremony in Kyiv, one of the groomsmen, my husband’s 11-year-old brother Aaron, fainted. I will never forget the sickening sound of his head striking the tiled floor. He ended up spending about a month in the hospital.

During that time, my mother-in-law practically lived at the hospital with her youngest son, but I didn’t know why. Later I would learn that most nursing care in Ukraine only provides medical services. Nurses give injections, administer I.V.s, take blood pressure, etc. If a patient isn’t able to fend for himself, he needs a caretaker around the clock. My brother-in-law needed someone to feed him, help him use a bedpan, give him sponge baths, change his sheets, and even turn off his I.V.s when the fluid ran low.

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Inspiration

Peace and Safety

This post originally appeared on Assist News Service in March 2015.

After an absence of more than two months, we’re settling back into life in Ukraine. Once every three years or so, we take a two-month family furlough to the United States. With many traditional furloughs lasting a year, two months sounds incredibly short to some people, but to us it feels like a long time to be away from the work God has for us in Ukraine, which is church planting. However, we’ve found that it’s the shortest possible amount of time in which we can accomplish all we need to do when we visit the States, and we’re so grateful to our ministry team here in Ukraine and the wonderful people of the church who are able to keep things running smoothly while the pastor and his family are away.

When we returned from furlough this time, people were especially glad to welcome us back. Given the uncertainty, violence, and economic instability that have become the new norm for Ukraine, I think some wondered if we would come back at all. While there has been no fighting anywhere near where we live, it’s a heavy fact of life that Ukraine is essentially engaged in a war fought entirely within her own borders. There are constant reminders.

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Encouragement

Why We Chose to Send Our Kids to Public School

This post originally appeared on the Assist News website in February 2015.

We are on our way back to Ukraine after a two-month furlough in the United States. Before having kids, we usually only spent a month at a time in the U.S., but we would travel there every other year, and sometimes more frequently when important family events required it. Since having kids, however, we have settled into a schedule of visiting for two months once every three years.

Scheduling our furloughs three years apart allows us to focus on our ministry in Ukraine without too many interruptions. At the same time, these furloughs are frequent enough to give us regular opportunities to gain valuable perspective on the work we’re doing and hone our vision in all areas, from church planting, to discipleship, to marriage, to parenting. The latter especially interests me, since most of what I do from day to day revolves around our four young children, and honestly, sometimes it all feels overwhelming.

We’re in an unusual position as we navigate the joys and pitfalls of raising third-culture kids, children who grow up in a culture outside their parents’ home culture. We know a few other American families with kids in Ukraine, but most of our friends are Ukrainian. While many of the issues we face with our kids are the same, there are differences based on the fact that the language of our home is mostly English, and the culture of our family is predominantly American. So from time to time, it can be helpful to talk to other American moms and and learn things like the best educational children’s shows or whether the newest Bible story book is worth purchasing or not. This furlough provided plenty of opportunities for exchanges like this.

One topic that came up frequently was homeschooling.

Categories
Encouragement

10 Ways to Help a Missionary on Furlough

Jameswcarryon

This post originally appeared on Assist News in January 2015.

My family and I are not actually in Ukraine at the moment. We are home on furlough for two months. Writing that sentence makes me feel conflicted, because after having lived abroad for so many years, the term “home” has become perplexing. We no longer feel fully at home anywhere, but we have family and dear friends all over the world. As a result, we are privileged to have the feel of homecoming when we travel to many different locations. This is especially true of the American Midwest, where we spent the first month of our furlough.

Categories
Inspiration

One Perk of Living Here

(This post first appeared on Assist News Service in December 2014.)

Here in Western Ukraine, fall is gradually morphing into winter. We actually had our first snowfall back in October, and though it melted off with the return of somewhat warmer weather, it let us know that winter was not far away. The trees are bare, and the world has taken on that dormant look that comes after the autumn harvest is over and the plants prepare for the cold, dark months ahead.

In our family, the passing of the seasons is marked most vividly by the changing availability of seasonal produce. After a long winter relying on root vegetables, cabbage, shrivled apples, and imported citrus fruits, it feels like a holiday when the first strawberries appear in late May. We celebrate by consuming two or more quarts of the delicious berries per day until they disappear from the farmers’ markets about a month later.