Day 15: Homeward bound

IMG_1566.JPG

Goodbyes are always the hardness, especially on Ukraine's Independence Day. Our last morning in Ukraine was a difficult one as we had just finished our VBS camp the day before. We had wished to spend more time with the kids after, doing more visitations, but our schedule meant we had to come home this weekend.

IMG_1568.JPG
IMG_1569.JPG
IMG_1572.JPG

Hanne had left the centre at 2 am in the morning for her flight from Budapest to Norway, and we found out she had just crossed the border at 8 am. That meant she had waited at the border for 5-6 hours, and we may also be expecting a long wait time at the border as well. At 10 am, we left the HOM, and we decided to try another border crossing via Slovakia, but we were also met by a long line toward the border. It took us around 4-5 hrs before we got through and another 3-4 hrs of driving before we stopped for dinner at a Hungarian buffet by the highway. When we arrived at our hotel in Budapest, it was around 8 pm. We were all very thankful for Valera's driving!

IMG_1586.JPG
Many people waiting in line at the border…

Many people waiting in line at the border…

The next morning we drove through the city and got a quick peek at the famous river and the castle as we headed to the airport. We were praying our flight itinerary would be 'confirmed' this time. It was. However, our flight from Budapest to Toronto was delayed, and we realized we will have 15-30 minutes gap in making it to our next flight to Calgary. Surely enough, as we landed in Toronto, we notice we had been put on a later flight. We were a little disappointed as we were all pretty tired and groggy. As it turns out, this new flight to Calgary was another blessing in disguise. Our original Calgary flight was also delayed, and that flight landed 45 minutes after us. We got home earlier! It is funny how God bookended our trip by re-arranging our travel again; continually teaching us to trust in His unexpected planning. It is a constant reminder for us that it is Him to walk before us and lead us forward, not the other way around. It is not our plans, but His, and that is how missions should be done no matter where we go. See you next year!

Day 14: Last night at HOM

After an exciting week at Mercy Camp, everyone gathered at the House of Mercy for a final celebration. New and old faces gathered as people lined up to share encouragements, reminisce the events of the past two weeks, as well as memories from previous years. Tears, laughter, smiles, and stories were shared as we ate pizza on the terrace. How amazing is it to see the children who attended camp from a decade ago now step up and lead their own camp!? The fire in their hearts are truly encouraging to us and a testament of God’s love.

A dance to celebrate the VBS week!

A dance to celebrate the VBS week!

IMG_1542.JPG
IMG_1544.JPG
IMG_1543.JPG
IMG_1545.JPG

We capped off the night with our usual game of volleyball, although we knew this time, we wouldn’t be able to ask for a rematch when we lost. After a game, we were surprised with a teen we haven’t seen in a couple years, ERIK! We were able to catch up and listen to what God has been doing in his life over the past few years! The rest of the evening consisted of goodbyes and hugs. It’s never easy to leave Ukraine, but we know this isn’t goodbye, but a see you again. Our love of Christ is what keeps us close even though we’re continents away.

IMG_1552.JPG

Daniel, Hanne, and myself ending up sitting outside on the terrace late into the evening with a couple of the teens at HoM. Bohdan serenaded us until midnight as we gazed off into the starry night not knowing any of the constellations in the sky.

Building stronger relationships is a primary reason why I go to Ukraine. It’s been over 13 years since SCCEFC first came to Uzhgorod and every year we have our summer family reunion. We get to see our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our nieces and nephews, and that neighbor who just shows up because they heard that our family is amazing and want’s to be part of it. Our family in Christ is amazing, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter your language or age, your hobbies or skills, we can all find joy knowing that the one thing we all have in common in greater than all the differences we have. Слава Богу

Day 14: Children VBS camp — Day 5

IMG_1499.JPG
IMG_1504.JPG
IMG_1507.JPG

Today we woke up on the last day of the VBS camp. We prepared the camp to make sure that the children will receive the best day of VBS. When all of the children came, we shared the lesson about helping and caring for others. There was even an extra 15 minutes of reflection time so that they can talk and share about their experiences. Then for most of the VBS day the kids went in groups to their stations consisting of crafts, missions, games, and singing. I was helping a leader run the craft station and I saw how happy the children are as they were decorating their slap-on bracelets with stickers and sharpies.

IMG_1511.JPG
IMG_1508.JPG
IMG_1510.JPG

Nearing the end of the VBS camp there was a taste around the world theme. It looked great as there were well decorated boxes filled with different types of food from all the continents. The kids also had a great time as well going from place to place trying everything. I enjoyed being with the kids and the joy they have after being at the camp. I got to see how God’s message has gotten to them as they sing the songs that were from the VBS camp to each other. Seeing this made me very glad that the children got an opportunity to go to this camp and have a fun experience.

IMG_1512.JPG
IMG_1513.JPG
IMG_1518.JPG
IMG_1522.JPG
IMG_1523.JPG
IMG_1524.JPG

Day 13: Children VBS camp — Day 4

IMG_1477.JPG
IMG_1469.JPG
IMG_1481.JPG

Day 4 at the camp was a special day as we focused in on the Gospel story as well as the leaders' testimonies and stories in their small group. We added a second reflection time for the groups and prayed the stories of these leaders will declare what God has done in their lives. These leaders are invaluable to the camp, not because of what they do for the kids, but who they are to them: People who care about them, who wants to play with them, who see them as made in the image of God. This camp is a place where they can be present in these children's lives. We continue to pray for these children in hopes that a seed is planted.

IMG_1478.JPG

Today the weather is cooler at 28-30c with a light breeze, it was the relief we needed this week. Much of our prayer request for this trip was for cool weather and today was a prayer answer! The outdoor games station benefited the most, and everyone had a great time with the games!

WhatsApp Image 2019-08-22 at 2.27.13 PM.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2019-08-22 at 2.27.15 PM.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2019-08-22 at 2.27.15 PM(1).jpeg
IMG_1486.JPG
IMG_1487.JPG
IMG_1488.JPG

As it is our last night at the campsite, we had a campfire worship night. It was a beautiful way to end of the night.

IMG_1492.JPG
IMG_1494.JPG

Sweet Stories: Berries

WhatsApp Image 2019-08-21 at 6.30.17 PM(1).jpeg

Growing up, how did you get pocket money? Here at the House of Mercy, the youngest of the youngest children (4-5 years old) REALLY wanted some pocket money. Mama Anya had an amazing idea! Let’s get them to pick some blackberries in the back yard! If the children are able to fill a full cup, the HoM will ‘purchase’ the juicy berries for 5 hryvnia (1 CAD = 20 UAH. 5 UAH can get you a large handful of candy or a bottle of pop). Everyday during the summer, the children are diligent in finding more berries, and the staff at the HoM have been eating berries after, before, and during every meal! Some of the teens even learned how to make jam with the fruits! The children get to learn about the value of money and the staff get tasty treats every day.

WhatsApp Image 2019-08-11 at 8.22.09 PM.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2019-08-11 at 8.22.09 PM(1).jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2019-08-16 at 8.24.27 PM.jpeg