Sunday, August 24, 2008

We have stage-coached our way back to Molochansk. On past returns we would have our last sleep in Victoria and the next sleep in our apartment in Molochansk. This year we stayed over in Vienna and also had a sleep-over in Zaporozhye. We did a hand-over in Vienna, meeting with George and Marion Hamm, a hard-working, adventuresome couple from 100 Mile House who were the North American Directors in Molochansk from May to August. They suffered from the same post-Molochansk issues we regularly face—how to walk on level sidewalks and order food in a restaurant where people generally understand you.

We then took our next stage by flying into Dnepropetrovsk where we were welcomed by the generous and optimistic John and Evelyn Wiens. The Wiens’ have little concept of time—after basically retiring from successful ministry in Canada they decide to restart their lives and work as Christian missionaries in Zaporozhye. Little did they realize how the sin of the Tower of Babel would affect their lives as they take on the challenge of learning a very difficult language—Russian. The Wiens’ do not do things in halves, they want to know Russian well enough to be able to establish deep, genuine friendships with their neighbours and their community. Before going to his language lesson, John did mutter about “teaching an old dog new tricks.” It is not easy getting into the Wiens’ beautifully renovated, well-furnished apartment—not only do you have to huff your way up 5 floors (these are high-ceiling apartments), but the Wiens’ seem to have found friends on every floor and visit their neighbours all the way up. Ben resolved that this was the last year we were going to take music books from Victoria as he lugged a heavy suitcase up the 5 floors. These are old Soviet style apartments, built during the time of Jacob’s ladder--no elevators here!

Eventually we met Vitally proudly showing off our new Mennonite Centre car, a Lanos. This is a global car—parts made in Korea, assembled in Poland, and sold in Ukraine. Hope we don’t have to find out who takes care of any warranty issues! It’s interesting to note how the building of this car didn’t include any North American plants, a sad reality.

The road back from Zaporozhye was peppered with police. Every few kilometers there seemed to be another radar trap. And it’s about time. We have been told that in the oblast (province) of Zaporozhye there is an average of 17 car and pedestrian fatalities per day (we can’t confirm this).

Finally we arrived in Molochansk to hot weather and a warm reception. Lots of hugs and kisses.

It didn’t take long to face the realities of living here. Staff brought to our attention the case of a young mother of two small children who is in the final stages of cancer. The family needs money just to help pay back debts from past surgeries and medicines. In addition, a student from the local Russian school asked for funds to help pay tuition costs so he could attend the Berdyansk Pedagogical Institute. His father, a teacher at the Prischieb orphanage, died 2 years ago apparently from a heart attack while trying to fall a tree. He left 3 children and a young wife, and almost nothing to live off. With your generous help we were able to give partial funding to both requests.

We met our new interim Ukrainian Director, Dema Bratschenko. He seemed far too organized and confident a young man, given the fact that he has only been working here for 4 days. The amazing story of how we first met him will be part of our next blog.

Ben and Linda


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