Thursday, 24 September 2015

Adventures On The Road

 Clear roads and beautiful sunrise as we drove the last stretch to Ukraine

We made it!
1300 miles and 8 nations later we have arrived in Ternopil, Ukraine to a lovely welcome from the team here. We managed not to say "this was a stupid idea" even once during the mammoth drive, although some of my journal entries are colourful! They range from "stopped for bread, cheese and diesel in Belgium" to, 'Joni has a stomach upset, toilet stops in very unusual places including the woods', and 'most stressful hour of my life experienced today, lost, in traffic, in a thunderstorm with continuous screaming from the backseat'. For me, the hardest moments were when Zebedee was crying to be fed and we were stuck on motorways or in traffic and unable to pull over. The best moments were seeing unexpectedly beautiful places and meeting really amazing people as we stayed with other YWAM teams along the route.

We prayed for peace, safety and easy passage every day.
Things went amazingly smoothly (given that Josh's relaxed planning of the route extended only to a mental note to 'drive East', no map, sat-nav or phone charger for the car!) I nearly cried one day when the electric window broke on the passenger side leaving the window stuck open just enough to make the loudest whistling noise imaginable, right in my ear, which we had to endure for the rest of the journey. Only God could have known that this 'white noise' would lull the kids to sleep miraculously. We have already got the broken window replaced - for less than thirty pounds - in Ternopil but we might well miss it!
On our last driving day we prayed for a smooth border crossing into Ukraine and had a faithful group of supporters praying the same from England. We crossed in less than an hour, without any problems. Anyone who has crossed in or out of Ukraine by road will know this is unheard of! We later found out that the staff at that border crossing had recently been fired for high levels of corruption and almost everyone was avoiding using it, making it more miraculous that everything had gone so well. We did 11 hours of driving that day, with only two quick toilet stops. Zebedee slept the whole day and neither of the kids cried once. Thank you, God!

 lovely smiles in Germany

We couldn’t have been in Europe at a more poignant time
We traveled 1000 miles eastwards, across 7 countries before anyone asked us who we were or where we were from. We saw waves of migrants moving in the opposite direction and read about the mixed reactions to this in the news. We have so much to be thankful for with our ease of movement around the world and it's baffling that someone born just inside Ukraine - rather than a few km across in Poland, for example - have such a different deal. Psalm 16 was very much on our minds “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance”.  It was heart-warming to see the reaction to the migrants in Vienna, where lots of the city had turned up at the train station to give clothes, food and a warm welcome to the thousands upon thousands of people arriving. We were struck by seeing that many of these people were in decent clothes and likely had skilled jobs previously. Not so different to the average Brit!? Regardless of this, they were on the move with no more than a couple of bags, dependent on the hospitality of strangers.

Our training began last week.
We have been thrust into 11 hour days with homework, which with a baby and a 4 year old, has taken some getting used to. The training has been great so far, a bit like spiritual boot camp, getting us into shape before we start long-term ministry. Wonderfully, we found a decent Ukrainian pre-school for Joni to attend for a few hours a day. She has begun to settle and will hopefully learn Ukrainian fast. We had our first afternoon working outside of the classroom today, clearing up a Jewish cemetery which has been long neglected. Those that know about the history of Ukraine and its Jewish community will know why this is unusual work but very important. Over half the population of Ternopil was Jewish before the second world war, now there are next to none left. We turned up with shovels and rakes only to find a huge expanse of land with decades of overgrowth  and graffitied grave-stones which would need a weeks' worth of work with power tools to get cleared. We hope to go back to do more soon. We have outreach planned in a more rural part of the region next week and will be going for a couple of months to Albania and Montenegro afterwards.

 unpacking is more fun when there's a surprise Joni to be found

We will be communicating less than normal over the next 6 months, due to the time commitments of the school and the formative nature of this time . We hope people will understand that while we will be thinking of them and praying for them (probably even more than usual), we will be online less so that we can concentrate on making it through the training and growing spiritually during this time. We will try and post some pictures up now and again though and we hope you will be praying for us from where you are.

Please pray... That the children feel content and secure as we face more adventures and moving around, that we would all have good health and energy levels to complete the school, and that this season of training will equip us and guide us in God's ways. Also, pray with us that this Ternopil base would be renewed by running the school and that new staff and ministries will spring up in this coming year and beyond.

7 comments:

  1. Well done guys! Even I (being Ukrainian) didn't know that a journey to Ukraine by car is doable:))
    Praying for you both and the kids that your time there will be blessed and productive.

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  2. So good to see your pictures and gear your stories. Loved your quite if Ps 16. Indeed our boundaries have fallen generously. We will pray and are so pleased you are doing the course!

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  3. So good to see your pictures and gear your stories. Loved your quite if Ps 16. Indeed our boundaries have fallen generously. We will pray and are so pleased you are doing the course!

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  4. So good to see your pictures and gear your stories. Loved your quite if Ps 16. Indeed our boundaries have fallen generously. We will pray and are so pleased you are doing the course!

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  5. Well done guys! Even I (being Ukrainian) didn't know that a journey to Ukraine by car is doable:))
    Praying for you both and the kids that your time there will be blessed and productive.

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  6. Thanks for making us a part of your adventure. I love travel and would love to follow your route for a visit someday. I still remember how life-changing my DTS was for me. You are in our prayers.

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  7. Wow! What an adventure, driving overland all that way! So glad you made it safely. Will be praying for you as you do the training. God bless you, all four.

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