This past weekend, between the 4th and 7th of June, we were in Ukraine and, in the following paragraphs, I want to share with you what a huge blessing this entire trip was.
First, the background.
The purpose of the trip was to have Aimee’s medical brace adjusted. I haven’t mentioned it on this blog yet – although I did write about it on our Facebook page – but Aimee was diagnosed with scoliosis, sometime in February of this year. This means her spine is not straight, but has an abnormal curvature to it, making it look like an S. Long story short, she needed to have medical exercises and a brace, the former being done in the capital of Romania, Bucharest and the latter only in Ukraine. We had the brace done in March of this year and we needed to go for an adjustment now in June, before our trip back to Africa.
Crossing the border.
Although Ukraine is in Europe, it’s not yet part of the European Union, so crossing the border is somewhat challenging. One could have all the papers in order but border police would still complicate matters. It’s a blessing to be a child of God because you have brothers and sisters all over the planet, so a sister in Christ from Siret – a little town on the Romanian side the border – came with us and helped us get through without any unnecessary complications. She’s a Ukrainian married to a Romanian, living on one side but having family and friends on both sides. The border police know her as she’s crossing on a regular basis. Without going into more details, we would’ve been turned back from the border if it wasn’t for this lady who knew how to talk to them and sort out the misunderstanding.
Arriving in Ukraine.
Soon after we all crossed into Ukraine, the pastor from a church close to Chernivtsi took us to eat at a most amazing place. The amazing part is that this was the very first time we ever met! Long story short, he was preaching in Romania and found our Prayer Letter printed and pinned on a bulletin board in one of our supporting churches here. He read it, he asked about us and he called me. He wanted to let me know they will start supporting us right away and that they’re looking forward to welcoming us in Ukraine! Only God made this happen!
Welcome to Ukraine.
The church let us use their guest house, a comfortable place in a beautiful location – a compound where they also had a church and a playground. There we were showered with love and care and the pastor, together with all the people of the church, made us feel part of the family. Being with them was like a breath of fresh air, truly an experience we will never forget.
Saturday we went to the clinic and the physical therapist there was extremely excited with Aimee’s progress. It’s been a while since her last x-ray but I can tell you her back is looking a lot better. We started with 35° of curvature, at one point she was down to 28° and I’m sure we’re now getting close to 20°. This is very good progress in a relatively short amount of time, all due to God’s grace, your prayers and the very efficient medical exercises and brace. We went to the clinic for a second time on Sunday, after the morning church service, just to make sure everything is ok, as they’ve adjusted it the day before, making it tighter around her torso.
There is so much to say about this small church in Novoselitsa that I don’t even know where to start. Although they seat about 30 or so people, their love and passion for Christ stand out among so many other churches, and I’m saying this with regret. I honestly believe the global efforts to reach people for Christ would be more successful if other churches would be like them. From the moment they sing to the time of preaching, everything looks and feels very genuine. 30 people sang louder that churches double their size and everyone did so with passion and joy.
The pastor preaches the Word of God simply but not simplistic. The words are straightforward and straight from the Book. No greek or hebrew definitions that no one understands, needs or cares for, just the words of God as they’re laid down in the Bible. Also, not just dead theory that people forget the moment they go home, but messages filled with applications in your day to day life.
A healthy church is a mission-oriented church and Bethel Baptist Church in Novoselitsa is very mission-focused. Remember their numbers? Yeah, they support 13 missionaries and we’re the 14th family! When you look at the way these people give, your mind takes you to 2 Cor. 8, where Paul commends the Macedonian churches and their sacrificial giving.
For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.2 Cor. 8:3-5
I believe the key to their giving lays in the last part of the verse: they gave themselves first to the Lord. That “first” is very important. After that comes, and then by the will of God to us.
I don’t want to go into any more details – as I don’t want to rob them of their praise and rewards from God – but we were showered with love and support and, our time with them was definitely the highlight of our stay in Ukraine.
I didn’t write about our first trip to Ukraine, at least not here on this blog, but that was a huge blessing as well. A Romanian family, who have been missionaries there for 21 years now, helped Aimee and I on many occasions. The Deac family provided the much needed support when our tags were stolen or when we needed help. They even helped our friends so we wanted to make sure we go by and visit them once again and, sadly, for the last time here in Ukraine. God called them to return to Romania and they will be serving Him in other place. The fellowship with them is always very sweet.
Not only is this new church a supporting church now, but they’re also our brothers, sisters and, from now on, friends. Our children made friends there and Ethan even didn’t want to leave. Even more, Jessica cried yesterday, saying she was missing Ukraine. We most definitely left a piece of our hearts there and we’re looking forward to when God allows us to visit them again!
This past weekend was extremely good for the family and the ministry. Aimee’s back is doing well and we’re on the right track. Also, we can go to Africa, as her brace will continue to actively do “exercises with every breath”. For ministry, we’ve gained a supporting church, new ministry partners and some dear friends.
May God be glorified for this past weekend!