First impression? Man is Ukraine beautiful! So much land, and greenery, and sunflowers!!! Acres and acres of sunflowers (explains why Ukrainians are always spitting seeds). I did not know what to expect coming here, but literally it’s not that bad!
First day back we spent in our home in Rudnya, and then we drove a good 5 hours to our first mission project here (at a children’s camp in Sumy, Ukraine. Which just so happens to be 5km away from the Russian border!… Which also just so happens to be the country Ukraine is currently at war with!) Ok, so I may or may not have heard gun shots fired once or twice (Vyvy & Ang can testify to that), but overall, pretty amazing experience, and we’re still alive!!!
Let me give you a visual of what that little village was like…
- Slept on the most contaminated floor ever of a 100 year old school (the only thing separating us from the floor was a 1 inch thick blanket that they considered a mattress)
- Farm animals EVERYWHERE (I’m talkin’ chickens crossing the street, cows next to your local grocery store, geese chasing you for no reason, goats following you to the bathroom, and random dogs at your door!)
- Holes in the ground for toilets, which believe it or not, I actually grew very fond of (don’t have to flush, don’t need to worry about toilet seat covers-although it smelled pretty ridiculous, and I always had the fear that I’d either drop my phone in the hole or just fall in there altogether!). And who ever it was that kept missing the hole, seriously dude, work on your aim!
- Cold showers outside (which we built ourselves, super ghetto)
- Water from the well (I couldn’t drink this, it literally made my stomach freak out, I haven’t had distilled water for over a week now and I think that my body is going to give out on me soon)
- Picking potatoes for Nina Fedorovna (she and Lena, the local store owner, became two of my favorite locals)
- Fruit straight from the tree (this was pretty epic, you want an apple? Oh hold on, there just so happens to be an apple tree right here, do you want a red apple, or a green apple?)
- Buying like 30 things for under $3 (I legitimently, didn’t spend over $5 this whole week here, and I bought tons of ice cream, tons of chocolate, and tons of water for over 20 people!)
- 80 year old Grannies riding motorcycles… with 3 grandkids on it with them!!!!! Never thought I’d see that!
- 4 year olds do the grocery shopping (they ride their bike to the grocery store with a list of supplies from mom, and exact change, and they give it to Lena). Meanwhile, our 4 year olds are still on training wheels!
The list goes on, but long story short, this is the exact lifestyle you would expect in a farm life like this!
I went to the local store right across the street from our Culture Building, and I didn’t have any cash on me, Lena (the store owner) entrusted me to just come back some other time and pay her for the stuff… She gave me a bag full of things for free! Seriously!? No one would ever do that in America! (Of course, I brought back the money later).
A five day camp for children ages 3-14! Huge age gap, and probably one of the reasons as to why this may have been the most unorganized camp I’ve ever seen in my life!
Our team combined with the Ukrainian missions team here in Sumy (the language barrier hit hard, but we pulled through and really connected with them). Apparently, being American automatically makes you famous. We were being praised just for being American… 😒
We literally prepped everything last minute, skits were practiced the morning of, the lesson was only distributed the previous night and so on…
The interesting thing was that even though everything was so badly organized, it somehow all still came together in the end. No doubt it’s because God guided us through it!
First Big Regret
Around day 3, I couldn’t do it! One of my high school friends had her wedding that day (Congrats again Stace 😘), and I was seeing photos of her wedding everywhere! (Fat thank you to Ollie for keeping me tuned in, even though it legitimately took me 3 days to load 1070 seconds of snapchat videos, I almost felt like I was there!)
Man, at that moment all I wanted to do was go home. I’ve never been more upset in my entire life! I regretted ever coming! I questioned everything! But… after a day of pouting and a nice long devotional time with God, I think God really restored all my strength and hope. I’ve never felt more sure of where I was! Having absolutely no one to turn to but God, really sets your priorities straight.
I feel like maybe this camp helped build me up spiritually more than it did for these kids. I learned so much more than I ever imagined I would learn (For ex: don’t take the beauty of filtered water and flushable toilets for granted). Hopefully the next one will be a bit better. Fingers crossed!
P.S. I was assigned the very important task of being their full time photographer for this camp 😁 (I’ve learned that it has its ups and down). This was my first time doing anything like that, and I can say that it kinda sucked not getting the chance to connect with the kids in the same way a group leader would, but I love taking photos so I’m not even mad! Lemme know what you think ☺️
(Push starting bikes since day 1)
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.””
Proverbs 3:27-28 NLT