Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From the minute we stepped out of the airport, every sense awakened the extremely real fact that I am in the beautiful country of Ukraine. The air temperature was the first clue that I definitely wasn't in Florida anymore. Cool breezes waft distantly familiar smells past my nose and make my fully fulfilled eyes begin to water. I remember from when I was in Ukraine three years ago: the sound of Russian murmering in the background, the smell of smoke and pointy shoes, and the joy that enters my heart and begins to fill it to the brim.

But that first glance of the country outside the airport is but a mere shadow of the brilliance that surrounded us as we stepped into camp after the two-hour drive from Kyiv. Camp glows a bright green as it is towered over by mignificant trees. Everything is green and growing and beautiful. Flowers bloom. The air smells sweet and cool like a sip of fruit tea in the summer time.

As we settled into camp we were delighted to find beautiful buildings that we are staying in inside of which lie RUNNING WATER and PORCELIN TOILETS. I could hardly believe my eyes - especially after my last two mission's trips in which "roughing it" would be putting it delicately. Our first meal was not only edible but actually quite enjoyable as all the rest have been since.

But if you can believe it, none of what I have described so far has come anywhere near to touching the best parts of being here. How do you even describe the joy that bubbles over and overflows when meeting your long lost brothers and sisters in the Lord and the experience of the fact that you don't even speak the same language does not put a dent in the beautiful friendships that are beginning to emerge as we bridge the divides of language and culture with smiles, hugs, service, and the love of Christ. We are very fortunate to have not only our own personal translator but also a team of college-aged students who were born in Ukraine and moved to California when they were young - completely bilingual people who understand English and Ukrainian language and culture and are some of the most beautiful, helpful, and kind people I have ever met in my life. A passion for Christ pours out of their spirits and reaches out to everyone that they are around.

The 180 children we have been ministering to are a mix of orphans and children from poor families from the neighboring villages. They range in age from 4 to about 16. As I look into some of their eyes I can almost feel God's heart break as He longs for them to be a part of his family and know the hope and purpose that only He can bring to their lives. I can also feel His joy for the innocence of the children that He loves as they run and play and wrap their tiny, dirty hands around my neck - or in Katya's case around my waist to tickle me and watch me squeal and then begin to beam. For this 12-year-old girl, age, race, language, and culture bear no weight. All that matters is laughter and love. She plays this game with almost our whole team and never seems to tire at all. It is looking like all the clothing and gifts are about perfect in size for what we need, and all of the supplies we brought seem to be a very big blessing for the camp.

Our days are filled helping with skits, songs, crafts, and sports and mainly just hanging out with the kids. Please continue to pray for our team as we continue to adjust to culture shock and jet lag. Pauline did have some travel sickness yesterday but not as bad as usual, and praise the Lord as she is feeling much, much better today. The rest of us have been tired, but no other sickness for us to report, thankfully.

A few important shout-outs: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BREANNE!!! All of our team members say hello and we love and miss you to all of our supportive families and supporters back home. We could not be here today if not for your love, support, and most importantly prayer. Please keep it coming! And to all of you who will be seeing my darling angel Rebecca, kiss her for me, tell her I love her, and I miss her and pray for her every day. Thanks for reading!

Sharing in the joy of Christ,
-Jessica for the Ukraine Team


  1. Jessica, your post is so vivid! I'm glad to hear that you all got there safely and are having a great time! I'll be praying!

    Hannah R.

  2. Thanks Jess--Beka was trying to get to sleep when we left tonight. She is growing so fast! GmaBetty