Thank you to those of you who prayed for our church's first mission trip to Ukraine last weekend. God really blessed out time there, and everything went very well.
Here's a quick rundown of how the weekend went:
On Friday afternoon we packed everything in to the cars. In total there were 8 of us - 7 from our church here in Eger, plus an American girl who is living in Debrecen, Haley, joined up with us. We took a donation of shoes and clothing, as this is what we were told would be a blessing to the people there. We got many good pairs of used shoes, and we collected money and bought new shoes to hand out as well. We were a bit worried if this would cause a problem at the border, but other than a long wait, we had no problems at all.
We stayed in a house that is owned by a Dutch mission in Beregovo (Beregszász), which was perfect for us, and right in the center of town. The Calvary Chapel meets in the kitchen of this mission house, and they have two side buildings which are perfect for housing teams. These buildings are in a courtyard which also has a bakery in the back - so each night, when they were baking the bread for the next day, we were able to eat the fresh bread while it was still hot. We also got some fresh milk (as in from a cow, not a store) to go with it. It was great!
On Saturday, we went to a boarding school (internátus) for disadvantaged kids in Vylak (Tiszaújlak). The kids in this school all spoke Ukrainian, so we had a translator who translated for us from Hungarian into Ukrainian. Joel did music, and Jani and Ági gave testimonies, both of which were very powerful - Jani talked about his childhood and finding the love of the Lord which transformed him, and Ági talked about growing up with a heart disease, and being told that noone would ever love her, and how she found love in the Lord, and how he shown her so much grace in her life.
The time at the boarding school was great, and we could see that the kids really enjoyed it. Joel was able to play some Christian children's songs which they knew the words to in Ukrainian, and so they were able to sing along. I also taught a short Bible study, as did Józsi. The only disappointing thing is that we didn't get to spend more time with the kids, because afterward they had to go to lunch and we had an appointment to do an outreach at a gypsy settlement in another town. It would have been great to play with them and spend time with them. Hopefully we can do that next time.
In the afternoon we did a concert outreach in a Hungarian-speaking gypsy settlement in Mezővári. The outreach went on for 3.5 hrs, but we kept a steady crowd. Many people gave testimonies of what God had done in their lives and shared the Gospel message. I taught a full Bible study and shared my testimony of how God healed Felicia, and there was a lot of worship music. The worship leader of the Beregszász Calvary Chapel knew some gypsy-style worship songs - which the gypsies absolutely loved, and got super into - even dancing in the streets! At the end we invited people to come forward for prayer, and we prayed for many of them, many of whom had serious problems.
It was great to see the openness of the people there to the Gospel message. It is really a good thing that is going on there, that every Saturday they have church service. When Jesus announced his ministry, he said: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18)
The Bible has a lot to say about ministering to the poor, and was great to partner with this ministry that is reaching out to this outcast group of people, who literally live at the city trash dump.
Sunday we were in the Calvary Chapel in Beregszász, which meets in a very small room, but that gave it it's own special feeling. 3 people from our group shared their testimony, and then I shared my own and then taught the Bible study. They are a great group of people, and we all really enjoyed being in fellowship with them in the church.
After church we passed out some of the clothing and shoes that we brought to donate, and those who received them were very thankful.
All in all, it was a great time - God really blessed everything. Those who went, and many who couldn't go this time have been asking me already when we are going back! We hope to take 4-5 trips to Ukraine per year, and we are really seeking the Lord's directions as to where and how he would have us minister there. For the time being we really like working together with Józsi and the Calvary Chapel in Beregszász. They have a good thing going on there, and they can use the help.
Before heading back home to Eger, we drove 25km from Beregszász to Mukachevo (Munkács) to visit the city and their famous castle. Mukachevo is a beautiful town, and it was a nice way to wind down the weekend before going home.
One interesting thing comment about Ukraine for the end: Most cities have multiple names - a Ukrainian one, a Russian one, and in some regions a Polish one or Hungarian one. For example: the town we were in is called Bereheve in Ukrainian, Beregovo in Russian and Beregszász in Hungarian. That is all fine and well, but on our way back to Hungary we wanted to cross the border at a different place than we had entered through. So we were trying to follow the map and the road signs - but the confusing thing was that the road signs use the Russian names, whist the map uses the Ukrainian names, and when we stopped to ask people on the street for directions, they used the Hungarian names! The town we wanted to go to on the map was called Kosino, the road sign at the crossroads said Koson-15km, and the people on the street told us we should go to Mezőkaszony. Turns out it was all the same place, and we got there just fine, but it was a bit confusing... Oh well, at least it made it interesting :)