In Bolgrad I was reunited with Maya, Natalie, Pastor Pantelei, Pastor Nicolai, and a few others. It is wonderful to return to a location and see people you already know and can even talk to even though there is a language barrier. We spent 2 days in this location as they progressed through Modules 3 and 4. And at the same time they loved on us, fed us, told us all about the history of their home and worshiped with us. There are several in this group that we feel God might be leading to take this training into new areas. Our goal is for those in the area to begin training others – because they know and love the people and children in their own community.
Next we traveled to Izmail, which is a fairly big city in this southwest region of Ukraine. We were supposed to train in this area last year, but the surprise spring snow storm caused a lot of damage in this area. But God is in control and we came to train in this location for the first time. We began with Module 1 – from the beginning. What a wonderful group of people. We had a group of young people – even a young couple who had just become a youth pastor (Ivan and Natalie). We also had a group of women who have been teaching children since the Soviet Union days. These concepts are hard for them, but they work hard and take lots of notes attempting to understand the best way to teach kids how to love Jesus!
We met Irene: She is a teacher in Christian Education. She is also the Children’s director at this church in Izmail. She expressed to us that at first she was concerned with what this training was about. She was concerned the material would be all techniques. But she wanted to tell us that she was pleasantly surprised at the Spiritual Focus and importance of the teacher’s relationship with Christ. She loved that we were concerned and taught toward the importance of nurturing our own soul. She specifically told us that she wanted to tell us this to encourage us to keep sharing this training everywhere we can.
We worshiped with our friends in Bolgrad on Sunday – taking communion and listening to the voices in a beautiful choir in the church of Pastor Pantelei – and traveling to the village of Vasilevko to Pastor Nicolai’s church where they worshiped using an accordion and singing haunting Russian hymns.
On Monday, we traveled to the village of Pravni which is outside of Izmail and separated by a National Nature preserve. Pastor Ivan lives in Izmail and works at a job that makes very little money. He gave up a high paying job working on the Port of Izmail, obeying God to begin a church in a village that all other churches had forgotten. Pastor Ivan attended our training last year and brought us to see all God was doing in this village.
He asked us to bring training to this village. God is good with the way He brings us to the place He wants us to be! Training here was an answer to prayer – not ours, but the people in this village. They are slowly putting together a building to bring children in daily; giving them a meal, teaching them and building relationships.
Oziornoe (outside of Reni). We spent time in this church last year, so again, it was great to see friends from before! The children’s ministry in this church is young!! The teachers are mostly young adults, so we were training a younger generation to reach the kids in their community. And what a heart for kids they have! It took them just a little bit to warm up to us and let us show them what they can do. But, our translator (who is a youth pastor), told us that the young adults are taught to not ask questions from those in authority. When we encouraged them to ask anything, they opened up with many questions. We cannot wait to see what they will do!
We also fell in love with the landscape of this beautiful country. Yes, when we first arrived it was cold, snowing, and icy. And we probably did not see the sun very much. But, the snow made the landscape beautiful and by the 2nd week the snow was melting and you could see spring emerging. And the history and culture of this area is fascinating.