Women’s Retreat at Our Church

Katya recently put together a women’s retreat for the ladies of our church. One of her teachers at seminary, Kim Burkett, came and talked about “Biblical womanhood”. It was a huge blessing for all of the women there. The crowd was small, and they all wore masks, because of covid, but the atmosphere was lively and they all had a good time. I (David) helped with the children’s ministry, and I had an opportunity to see Katya leading different parts of the retreat, including some teambuilding activities. I’m so proud of her! She would like to put on another one in a month or two, depending on how the situation with covid goes here in Ukraine.

2020, a hard but good year…

2020 was a hard year, not just because of COVID or the election. Many other things happened this year that were “out of the ordinary.” The biggest of those was when our pastor stepped down in early august. However, it’s also actually been a good year. Our church team has been almost forced to grow in so many ways. We’ve become closer to each other than we have ever been – really. I’ve never felt so confident that our team would accomplish the stuff that it sets out to do. We really enjoy each other’s company, both when working and when just hanging out.

We still don’t have a pastor…

We still don’t have a solid plan for 2021…

We still don’t know the basic direction that we want to
take the church…

But we do know two things for

1. We’re going to stick together until God says otherwise.

2. God is working.

Because of all of that, I’m actually very thankful for 2020, even though it was a really hard year to get through. I have more hope today for what God is doing in our church than I did at the end of 2019.

Thank You, Jesus, for getting us through 2020. I’m sure that You’ll get us through 2021 as well.

Pictures from Summer Camp 2020

I couldn’t be prouder of this team. They overcame AMAZING odds and, with God’s help, put on a camp that will still be talked about years into the future. Each one of them deserves a medal in my book – they’re all heroes. As many of you know from the last newsletter, our pastor stepped down at the beginning of August, and there were huge doubts that we would be able to put on a camp at all… especially from me. Katya and I got sick, we were all emotionally drained, and many things had to be put together at the very last minute. However, I’m now sorry that I doubted them and God. We have a wonderful team here at our church, and God is using them in incredible ways.

Ruslan, our pastor who stepped down, was always the camp director. Whenever he wasn’t at camp for some reason, he usually put me in charge to keep things running. However, this time, both Katya and I were sick, so we had to sit out the first few days of camp. Katya got better before I did, so she was able to go; however, I was delayed a few more days as I wasn’t feeling well until camp was almost over. That meant that Slavik was our camp director – and he did amazingly! The kids love and respect him. He stepped up in ways that we didn’t even expect and is now one of the key leaders in our church.

Most of our conversations about the Gospel and spiritual things happened around the campfire in the evening. The kids at camp this year were especially open to talking about Christ and their daily walk with God.

We had many different quests and games that all of the campers took part in. In this picture, Nicholas (“Mykola” in Ukrainian) is tasked to paint a picture using anything but his hands.

God blessed us two years ago with a much-needed renewal of equipment for camp. We have new tents, including a large one for evening meetings and rainy-day activities.

Olya, Slavik, and Katya were the main leaders of the camp, as David was home sick for most of the time they were there.

One of the many fond memories from this camp was a long hike to “The Rocks of Dovbush”, an old hiding place for Ukrainian patriots in many different wars. The entire trip was about 14 miles and took the entire day; however, there were amazing views and the campers are still talking about it!

Our dog, Candy, is one of the campers’ favorite parts of life in the mountains with us. She takes part in almost all of our activities, including games, dancing, waking the campers up in the morning, and protecting the camp territory.

The Carpathian Mountains, where we have our summer camps, are one of the most beautiful parts of Ukraine.

Google Maps told us to go down this “highway” to a lake while on part of our trip back from the summer camp. The road is actually much worse than it looks, and it’s a miracle that we didn’t get stuck in Slavik’s little car, a Deo Lanos. This is the point that we decided to turn around.

The training wheels are off…

If you’re on our newsletter list, you probably know that our pastor stepped down at the beginning of August. (If you would like to read a newsletter update about that, please click here.) The team has been doing amazingly, though. I’m so proud of them! I’ll have another update about that soon.

I was thinking a few days ago as I was talking with Slavik, another one of the leaders at the church here, about how this situation is demanding maturity from all of us. It’s really an example of how hard things force us to grow and even can be good in the end. I used an example of a kid without training wheels, or about the first time that you drive a car on the highway by yourself after getting your license – there’s no one there to tell you where to turn, when to stop, or what other cars to look out for; you’re on your own.

That’s a bit how we feel as a team in a way. Pastor Ruslan was always the center of every decision, the go-to in almost every ministry. When he left our team, we all flew into high-rev fifth gear ministry-wise, because we all knew that, if the church was to survive, we all need to make sacrifices. There have been several situations where we missed that almost GPS-like guidance from him, where we didn’t really know what to do or how to make our own way, but God has been faithful – He’s led us through them, and He’ll continue to lead us into the future.

Please pray for us and our team. One thing you can pray for in particular is the next sermon series that I’m working on. It’s hard not having someone over me to bounce ideas off of, to say that I’m going the right direction or not. Also, even though I’m over the preaching team, I’m not the pastor. In a way, I need to convince the rest of the team that the direction I’m going to take our pulpit is the right one, without the full authority or credibility to do so. We should be having a meeting about the new direction tomorrow, so please pray.

As with any new situation, there’s a lot of unknown territory here, a lot of “what if’s” and “what now’s”, but God is faithful. He’ll lead.

Why are cars so expensive here?

One thing that was really hard for me to understand while living here in Ukraine was why cars here are so expensive and why so many missionaries choose to have their cars imported all the way from America or other countries in Europe. This is the rule – every single missionary I know that has a car has had it brought over from America. Katya and I were the exception to this rule when we bought our Fiat Doblo in Ukraine, which you can see here at camp:

Unfortunately, that car turned out to be a lemon. EVERYTHING on it broke, from door handles, to battery clips, to the hood release, to the transmission, to the computer and the natural gas system (gasoline is terribly expensive here!), and finally to the engine failing.

I bought the car because several of my friends assured me that it was the very best thing I could get in our price point. At the time, we had about two and a half thousand dollars. We bought the Doblo for $3800, borrowing the rest of the money from the owner. Once the car was breaking down and no longer safe to drive, we sold it miraculously for $2800, after putting in about another $800-1000 or so in repairs.

What kind of car do we need?

We believe that the best thing for our family would be a small- to mid-sized SUV (ie. a Ford Escape or Nissan Rogue Sport), because of the ministry we do, the size of our family (Katya’s mom and sister included), and the condition of the roads in Ukraine. We also obviously want something reliable.

We live over an hour away from church by bus and want to minister in other cities. Aside from making ministry easier, having immediate transportation in a country that’s experiencing a war (you never know when you might need to flee to the border), and just helping family, we just want to be able to get out of the city once in a while. We’ve recently seen the need to “get away” more often for our own spiritual and emotional health.

Here’s a comparison of what you can get in Ukraine vs. America for the same price:

USA (Ebay):

Ukraine (AutoRia):

As y’all can probably see, the same car in Ukraine can cost up to about 30%-50% more, depending on the year and model. Also, because of the condition of the roads here and the general “car culture”, cars in America are usually in better condition, even when they are priced less.

The Loophole

Some of our friends here have found a way to “hack the system” with the car market. They buy salvaged cars at auction in America, ship them to Ukraine, register and repair them here (which is generally much cheaper than in America), and then sell them. This is one of the ways that we could get a car.

We have the $1200 from the stimulus money that everyone got earlier this year. That would be just about enough to have a car shipped from America to Ukraine. The rest that needs to be paid for is the cost of the car itself, any repairs that it will need, and registration. Oops… I forgot to talk about that.

Registering a car in Ukraine

Another thing about Ukraine that needs to be taken into account when talking about the cost of a car here is registration. That can be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending upon the year of the car, its emissions certification, and the size of its engine. The system is supposedly there to protect the environment, but it’s actually just turned into one more way that corrupt people in power extort the little guy. To get around these regulations, it’s best that the car you’re importing have the following:

  • The size of the engine should be 3 litres or less
  • The car should be newer than 2015
  • The price of the car also affects the price of registration, but I’m not in the market to try to register an expensive car
  • Lastly, electric cars get a discount

All of that to say, please pray about this. If you would like to help, please click here to contact us.

P.S. There are friends of ours that have recommended that we get a local, Chinese car, like a Geely. I’m still looking into that. However, even with that cheaper option ($4000-6000 vs. $8000-10000 for a Ford Escape), we cannot afford one that would be in any kind of good condition.