Tag Archives: Ukraine

Hope and its varieties

Since my return from Ukraine I have noticed that I have regained a sense of hope that I had utterly lost.  Not that I was aware that I was missing that particular ‘sense’ of hope.  I wouldn’t have called myself hopeless either,  for that matter. 

Initially,  I was actually pretty confused.  Before going to Ukraine my dream of once-upon-a-time returning was intact.  I expected the confrontation with all the changes that a nearly 5 year absence had wrought,  plus the way I had left involuntarily,  fully expecting to be back after a short three-month stay in USA. 

What I did NOT expect,  however,  was feeling confused and having the question rise up in me: “Do I still want to go back?”  This question alone was pure heresy for my mind.  All those years I was geared towards my desire to once going back,  not just to Ukraine,  but also to the work that has my heart.

No wonder I got confused.

Thinking it over upon returning home,  I came to realize that there are still a lot of emotions related to those three years serving in Ukraine.  I loved it.  But I hated the loneliness.  Not the lack of friends,  I am blessed with many wonderful Ukrainian friends.  Not the lack of comfort,  I care very little about comfort.  (Hence I am still living without a light in my bathroom and kitchen half a year after moving into my apartment *giggle*.)

But the loneliness that comes from having to make ALL decisions by yourself,  having to solve ALL problems by yourself,  having no-one to share the burden of pioneering a new work (not ever been done in Ukraine) and inventing ALL the wheels by yourself.

It didn’t start out that way.  It just happened that way.

Add onto that the bipolar trait of hypomanically thinking that,  ‘yes of course I can deal with everything’  feeling.

Add onto that a family situation exploding into my face and it becomes a recipe where I slowly lost control over my life.  This was a type of crisis I had never experienced before.  And I do not care to ever experience it again.  It nearly cost me my life.

Once I had figured out that this was the background of my struggle,  I realised everything was going to be okay.  Cuz I will not repeat the past.  (I will not tire you with how I am gonna make sure of that.  Suffice it to say that I surely will!)

So,  back to the hopeful and brighter side.  I am still here and kicking, yeah!  AND,  I do see a future for myself living and working abroad.  This trip has given me the assurance that it is totally possible.  With a little help from my friends.  And then some.  But who cares?  I know I can make it work with the right people in place and with the prerogative that I will take GOOD care of myself.

Now,  that gives me hope,  peeps!

Tell me,  what gives you hope?


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Ukraine trip – part 3

Well,  I came here for a true winter experience as I used to have while living here – and it has finally hit!!!  We have snow and -10 degrees Celsius.  Time for the long underwear,  I assure you 🙂  I love this kind of weather.  I woke up to sunshine on snow and a beautiful sky.  In the evening you can feel in your nose that it is really getting colder.  If it gets to -20 you feel it in your eyes too.  That’s what I mean by a true winter experience!  (Unfortunately this weather only lasted for a couple of days,  after which we went back to weary,  rainy,  grey weather,  blah.)

Tomorrow we will celebrate Christmas.  In the early evening there will be a celebratory gathering of all those that serve in some way in the church and I am invited too!  I am so excited as a lot of my friends will be there.  It will also be my last full day here in Kharkov,  so that makes it extra special to spend it with them all. 

That is how I started what should have been part 3 of the ‘Ukraine Here I am’ series…..  but it got aborted by lack of time.  Oh well,  there are only so many hours in a day and night – I figured I better spend it with my friends in Ukraine while I could, since I can write plenty when back in the Netherlands :).

During this trip I have experienced a mass of emotions – from being overjoyed to being very sad and back.  I was thoroughly impressed with myself and the Bipolar thingy (I refuse to call myself disordered or sick,  but that is a subject for another post).  I wasn’t sure how my emotions would play out with the travel and seeing old friends and my ministry related stuff.  But it turned out very manageable for which I am very grateful.  I was very alert on how I was doing and taking rest when I needed it,  even though I rather would have spent time with friends.

It helped a lot that I had a one room apartment to use all by myself,  with a double blessing in the form of computer and internet.  Peeps,  that saved my day!  A great,  big,  humongous ‘Thank you!’ to Alla,  you have blessed me off my socks!!  With all the listening,  talking and traveling I did it was so good to have a home base where I was able to rest and be by myself.

 It’s impossible to convey what this trip has meant to me.  I have been reunited with a special person that we were able to help in our ministry.  While with us,  she got to know Jesus as her Savior and was baptised.  It was a glorious day! 

 Both her and her daughter continue to have a difficult life,  but she has not gone back to her old ways.  At the moment she is also pretty sick,  only 37% of her lungs are working,  if the doctors are to be trusted.  Please,  pray for God’s healing touch on her body and her soul. 

Her daughter wants to study and become a massagist,  assisting people in their physical rehabilitation.  However,  she was not accepted.  In addition, the present educational system requires a lot of money…  But she has a goal and has a plan how to fulfil her dream.  Please,  pray for her too,  that she will get to know Jesus and for God to make a way for her to reach her goal.  

One of my other ‘daughters’ who spent time with us and got to know the Lord, has landed in prison with a 5 year sentence.  We don’t know where she is.  The information we need,  is because of different reasons not available to us.  We will try with a photo and info we still remember to find her.  Remember her in your prayers,  will you?  We so much want to find her and connect with her again.  She is a lonely girl with no family connections.

A third girl has gone missing,  disappeared from the radar completely…. We are sad and very concerned,  but can’t do anything but pray.   

So now I am back,  after an interesting journey – including a very delayed plane and a damaged bag on the return flight – still reeling with all that I have heard,  felt and experienced.  It will take a while to digest it all. 

Unfortunately,  my camera gave up on me during the trip,  which is still a huge disappointment to me.  I need to figure out how to get the pics off my card onto my computer.  Till then,  no pics 😦 .

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Ukraine – Here I Am!!! Part two.

 Wow,  what an experience to be back!  While I took a walk in Kiev at the open air market,  I felt like home.  Now I realize it is not like home, it IS home!

Saturday I met up with Misha and Natasha.  We worked together helping Jewish people.  They are both still involved with the work.  Even though we haven’t seen one another for about 8 years,  I guess, it seems no time has passed and we simply continue where we left off.  We walk over to the Kreshatik and the Independence Square to see the big tree (yes, the one that had given me so much trouble the day of arrival).  We have lunch with typical Ukrainian food,  yummy,  and then it is time for me to catch my train to Kharkov.

Alla is waiting for me at the train station in Kharkov and has arranged transport.  It’s nearly midnight by now,  so that is such a blessing.  At her apartment we keep telling ourselves we have to go to bed,  but we continue talking.  Finally we force ourselves to shut our mouth and go to sleep.

I have been reunited with many friends and still many more to see.  It’s been a roller coaster of emotions.  My stuff is in the process of being sorted out.  Even though it is just ‘stuff’,  it still means a lot to me.  I am glad I can give away the useful things.  My tapes (yes, I am from that generation and not ashamed of it!) I thought would be destroyed by time and dust.  Nothing is further from the truth.  To my unspeakable joy I can still listen to my favorite music!  There are two special tapes,  one that my dad taped for me with his handwriting on it, and one taped for me by my mother with her handwriting on it. I hold those close to my heart.

Furthermore,  my soft toys are waiting for me.  Each one of them carrying a story from a special person or occasion.  Like the Winnie the Pooh that my team in Dnepropetrovsk gave me many years ago.  It could sing a Russian lullaby.  When I got overstressed,  I would take a walk in the office with my Pooh singing to me 🙂 .  I can’t wait to be reunited with them and recollect the stories!

Nelya has been my hair dresser in Ukraine and honestly,  she has been the best ever.  She just knows how to deal with my hair and how to make me look nice.  This time I have chosen the colors myself.  It is on the daring side…  I had little time to choose and have second thoughts about the endeavor.  According to Nelya and some other friends it turned out nice.  I still need to get used to it.  Luckily, there is still time to change my mind before I leave…

The strangest thing of all is,  that meeting with friends that I haven’t seen for nearly 5 years  is so absolutely normal!  Each and everyone has the same feeling.  We simply continue where we have left off,  as if there hasn’t been a gap and hardly any communication during that time.  Time has no meaning in this respect.  How awesome!

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Ukraine – Here I Am!!! Part one.

Have a blessed,  merry, joyful,  wonderful,  fantastic,  special Christ-celebration!!!

Since the holidays are celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar here in Ukraine,  we will celebrate our Christmas after the New Year,  on January 7th. 

After an eventful trip,  I arrived at Borispol airport.   Since nothing was said about filling out a declaration form,  I asked someone near the passport control area if you have to fill one out.  Answer:  ” When you have more than 10.000 $ to declare,  yeah.  Otherwise,  no.”  

Okay…  I am used to declaring all my silver rings,  my golden chain,  my guitar and my laptop and all my money,  no matter what currency.  Since at this moment I can only dream about having 10.000 $,  (let alone carry it with me 🙂 ) up I went to the passport control.  Handing over my passport with a smile to the stern looking guy (no,  that has not changed),  I was ready for the questions:  “Where are you going?  Which purpose do you have for this trip?”  ” How long are you staying?”  etc.  Nothing…  My dear passport got a stamp and was returned to me.  Nice!

Then up to the baggage claim,  prepared to go through customs….. which meant simply walking through the exit!  No one wanted to look in my bags,  check my money,  other valuable possessions or ask difficult questions.  No queues that meant waiting for an hour or so.  WOW,  some things have changed!

Directly after the exit,  one gets bombarded with offers for rides,  taxi’s,  hotels, apartments etc.  I automatically responded in Russian:  “No, thank you.  No, thank you”,  and found my way to the exchange.  Grivna’s,  the local currency,  are only available in Ukraine and not in the West. 

Outside I found the ‘marshrutka’  (commercial mini and bigger busses traveling a certain route) to the train station in Kiev.  The airport is about 35 km from the center of town.  I had to wait and was sitting there,  simply enjoying the change and the sameness of the airport.  So many memories,  accompanying Jewish people to the plane for Israel,  flying myself back and forth to the West.   Everything the same,  and yet so different…

Traffic in Kiev has become crazier then I remember.  I see only foreign-made cars,  with here and there a Volga and maybe one Zhiguli or Lada.  Strange.   Traffic jams everywhere.  The city was never built for this amount of cars.  The trip to the train station,  which should take half an hour,  takes an hour and ten minutes…  because president Yanukovich decided to ‘open’  the tree in the center of town,  at the Independence Square.  We are jammed!

I just got to terms with all my luggage at the train station and somebody comes flying at me: Katya!!!  We hug and scream,  hug some more and scream even louder.   We provided quite a spectacle and  I am sure we made somebody’s day :).  Katya decided it was best to go by taxi,  since it was now rush hour and to travel by subway with luggage is even crazier than the traffic on the ground.  Again,  this takes us at least twice as long, since we are jammed!  Thank you,  president Yanukovich – not!

Katya talks a mile a minute and I talk twice as fast.  What a joy,  we can hardly contain it.  So much to talk about,  especially since she got acquainted with and married to Nikolai  (Kolya for his friends,  and now I am one of them,  hehehe).  We eat and talk and I am told that everything is arranged.  I will stay in their one room apartment for the time I am in Kiev and in Kharkov I will stay in Alla’ s  (Katya’s mom and my once-upon-a-time team member) one room apartment.  Katya and Kolya will go to his mom,  and Allochka is going to visit them till half January.  I am overwhelmed with their goodness!  What a welcome!!

Photo of Borispol Airport is Public Domain

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Ukraine – here I come!!!

Yep,  sure as day,  December 16th  –  gasp!  less than a week away!  –   I am leaving for my ‘second home’ Ukraine.   I fly through Prague.  Sadly without a proper lay-over either way,  so no sight-seeing this time around. 

Several days ago I started making preparations for my arrival and stay in Kiev.  I am so looking forward to meet K. again.  She is such a sweet girl,  the daughter of A. who was part of my team from 2004-5 in our women shelter.  K. is married now,  has her own business which by the looks of it is doing well. 

Also,  I am gonna meet up with an old team member and friend N. from the first ministry I was involved in.  She is still part of it,  and has moved from Dnepropetrovsk to Kiev for the work.  It will be so much fun to catch up.  Can’t wait to see her!
(Photo:  St. Sophia’s Cathedral,  Kiev)

Then I will travel on to Kharkov,  where I have lived several years.  Where my Ukrainian church is and the church plant that I was involved in back in the days.  From that one church planted in the early nineties by an American family  –  precious,  precious people!!  –  has sprung at least three other churches,  including the first one of which I was a part.  I am truly excited to see how all these churches have grown!  Unfortunately there will not be enough Sundays in my trip to cover it all,  I am afraid…
(Photo:  Arched globe in front of train station,  Kharkov)

Then the excitement to meet up with all those good friends I have been missing for close to 5 years!  I can’t begin to tell you how thát feels and what it means…

When I left Ukraine in March 2006,  it was for a three-month visit to America to be part of a few conferences and be built up again after a difficult and challenging time,  including my family situation.  I had a return ticket to Kharkov,  fully intending to return ‘home’.  But that didn’t happen and I haven’t been able to go back since.  It was a very painful way of leaving what I considered my home,  to stay in a country I didn’t know and where I didn’t have friends. 

The amazing thing was that God had gone before me and truly had prepared the way fulfilling my initial  needs   –  even though I wasn’t even aware I had those needs!  Of course I was aware that life for me wasn’t going very well due to many stressors.  Once away from my ‘mission-field’,  providing distance physically and emotionally,  I actually fell totally apart.  The diagnosis:  severe burn-out. 

In my innocence I thought that a three month stay in the States while visiting some good conferences and some thorough (prayer) counseling would suffice to deal with what was going on.  Only,  I did not truly know what was going on with me.  Which isn’t so strange after all.  It is hard to know that you are very sick when you don’t expect it and when your life approach is:  suck it up and get on with it!

Except I couldn’t go on anymore.  But that is a whole different story.  For now,  I just want to explain how I wasn’t able to return ‘home’.  All my stuff is still there,  there is only so much you can take with you on a plane.  So this visit will also reunite me with my personal stuff and the ministry administration.  All the rest was given away and taken care of by friends,  bless them!

This visit  I will give the useful stuff away,  take some stuff with me and throw the rest out.  It will be nice to be reunited with personal stuff,  it will be painful to see the ministry stuff,  it will be joyful to give stuff away.  A whole host of different emotions….  I truly hope and pray I will be able to handle it with my bipolar brain.

It will be interesting to see what has changed in Ukraine in the past 5 years.  I know from friends that life has become increasingly difficult due to the economic crisis that hit Ukraine earlier than the West.  Also,  since there is less to lose,  the crisis hit harder than in the West.  There is a difference if you can’t go on holiday or if you can’t pay for your apartment.  Or properly feed your kids.  Or pay for proper treatment when a loved one falls ill.  Even while living in Ukraine I saw many people pass ‘my’ rubbish container doing their ‘shopping’ for the day.  I can’t imagine how it will be now…

But it will be such a blessing to see the growth of the ministries that I know,  see the blessings of a faithful God amidst the darkness and difficulties.  Spiritually a lot of amazing and wonderful things are happening that I am jealous of.  I want them happening here too. 

No doubt there will be a lot to share once I am back.  Hold your seat!  I’ll be back on the subject 🙂 

Map of Ukraine:  free usage,  no source other than google pictures.
Photo’s of Kiev and Kharkov courtesy of www.stuckincustoms.com
Photo credit Trey Ratcliff,  an amazing photographer. I  highly recommend his website where he shares stories of his time in Ukraine and more excellent pictures (from Ukraine and many other beautiful,  fantabulous places around the world)!

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A visit to remember

Apart from getting my computer back,  all fixed up (hurrah!!),  which is very exciting,  I also had a very exciting conversation today.  I love those,  don’t you? 

I spoke with B. who, together with his wife M.,  visited me in Ukraine back in 2005.  Living in Kharkov,  East Ukraine,  I was running a shelter for ladies that had come of the street, wanting to turn their lives around, turning away from prostitution.

My girls and team members immediately took to M.  In no time she had joined them in the kitchen making pelmeni’s (Ukrainian/Russian type of ravioli’s with meat in them).  B. and I were talking ‘business’.  Now heading up an international mission organisation for Europe, they had been missionaries before in Greece and the surrounding countries. 

Their visit was so timely,  one of those God-moments.  They had sought me out,  since they were visiting other projects their organisation was overseeing.  It was lovely spending time with them.

To catch up again after so many years is so wonderful!  We just continued where we left of.  It turns out that M. is now even more involved in anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution.  Also, their organisation is having a conference in August next year for which I am already invited :). 

It gets me all fired up to be on my way again…  However, that will still take quite some time.  But one can always dream!  And my dreams are BIG people.  I just can’t do it for less,  since I know such a BIG GOD.


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Hello world!

Welcome to my blog!  I am excited to start this new adventure, although it is a bit daunting that stuff I write will be for the whole world to see… 🙂

Also, I am just learning how the bloggy world functions which is sometimes a bit much for my technically challenged mind.  

Nevertheless,  here I am! 

I very much hope to link up with like minded people who are passionate about the same things as I am. That means quite a variety of subjects.  

My faith means everything to me as without God I would not be alive today. It’s a long story, I won’t drop it on you right now.  

I have lost part of my heart in Israel and Ukraine.  For eight years I was involved in the ‘aliyah’, the return of the Jewish people to Israel from Ukraine.  It’s been unforgettable and made me aware of our Jewish heritage as believers in Jesus.  Most likely I will be sharing with you about this.  For the next 3 years I was involved with youth in Ukraine,  reaching out and discipling youth and young women at risk.  And believe me, there are many risks out there.   

Anything related to counseling, self-help and psychology grabs my attention.  Human beings are endlessly interesting. We are intricately made with a soul, mind and spirit.  The fact that we are able to survive so many things and continue to live meaningful lives is amazing to me.  My quest is to understand how ‘life works’ and how we can make the best of it.  To reach our full potential, fulfil what God has prepared for us.  Discover His unique calling on each of our lives.  

Another passion of mine is getting my Bipolar Disorder ‘in order’.  A phrase coined by Tom Wootton,  a respected author on bipolar disorder.  On this blog you will definitely read a whole lot more about bipolar as I am committed to this journey so I can live life to the fullest and fulfil my dreams.  I am so excited about this!  Even though it has created a lot of havoc in my life, I believe that with the right tools and practice a lot more is possible for me.

Even though I feel some trepidition (sp?) I am gonna send out my post for the world to see – here you go!


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