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Mission to Ukraine 7/2/2007 - The Road to Mukacheve

This is my video log from my trip to Ukraine in the summer of 2007. I shot five hours of video clips in three weeks. My goal was to make a short clip about a Christian teachers conference in Mukacheve from July 1-8, 2007. In the process of doing that, I realized that there are a lot of things about Ukraine and missions work that people who have never been there and done that will never appreciate. Hopefully, this will give people a glimpse into what life is like in Ukraine and what is happening with the “Hope to People” outreach to Christian teachers.

I wrote in a blog entry last summer about the Hope to People teacher’s conference in Mukacheve, a region in the westernmost part of Ukraine in the beautiful foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. The situation is that since the so-called Orange Revolution” the public schools in Ukraine are required to teach ethics classes from a Christian perspective. Many teachers are recruited to teach these classes without having a Christian background themselves. About 100 teachers are invited to come to a one week long camp each summer to connect with other teachers many of whom are evangelical Protestant and traditional Eastern Orthodox believers.

Here is my day-to-day account of what happened on the trip with accompanying video footage. I realize that a lot of this is for my own reflection. I’ve been on 12 short-term missions trips to Russia and Ukraine and have made short video accounts of our missions, which you can see here. But this is the first one done on a more personal and subjective level. I have put just the raw video clips here to illustrate parts of each day and each excursion.

Some of my family have seen these videos of our sight seeing excursions and have asked me, “Was this a missions trip or a vacation?” The format of the camp for teachers was protracted meetings in the morning and evening with teaching workshops and preaching. But the afternoon excursions were the fun part and the most interesting subject for video. In the second half of my three weeks, I wanted to visit some places in Ukraine that I had never seen before. I traveled to Lviv and a few villages outside of Kiev and Rivne. A big part of missionary work is networking with different ministries and developing relationships. I was able to find some good Reformed ministries throughout Ukraine who are helping distribute our books.

What I hope will come out of this is getting more Christian teachers from America to go to Ukraine and take part in these summer camps. If you find any of this interesting or want more information about the camps, you can leave a comment or message me.

My Flight Itinerary – July 1-2, 2007

I used to enjoy these flights a lot more than I do now. They are always hard, but this time the service on Delta wasn’t too good. I prefer European airlines on the flight overseas, but Delta was the cheapest flight this time. I used to get summer flights for around $700-$800 and sometimes as low as $550. Last year European flights were at an all time high. The least expensive flight to Ukraine I could get this time was over $1200.

Here’s the time I spent on jets and in airports:

Departed from Tampa at 12:30 pm, 7/1/07
Departed JFK/NYC: 5 pm, 7/1/07
Departed Amsterdam: 9 am, 7/2/07
Arrived in Kiev at 2:30 pm, 7/2/07

Subtract the seven-hour time change and that is 19 hours of flights and airports! I then waited in the airport for over two hours for my ride to arrive. I met a nice older American who works on airport construction in Ukraine. He showed me how to use my SIMM card cell phone to call my wife in the United States. It’s pretty amazing because in 1991, you were lucky to be able to get a phone call on a landline out of the Soviet Union. Now Ukraine’s cell phone service is everywhere even in remote areas. I later tried it in the mountains and it worked fine.

Just after I turned on my phone, my drivers, Roma and Oleg, called to say they’d be late. Right after that, Alexei Salapatov, the former editor of the Russian Forerunner, Predvestnik, called to give me the same information. I was really happy the cell phone worked and I didn’t mind having to wait two hours – I’ve actually had worse experiences than that – but I began to get a little impatient after 4 pm. Finally, my drivers arrived at Borispol airport and we drove into Kiev, which is about 45 minutes from the airport.

We met Alexei in Kiev to pick up about 120 copies of my book, Why Creeds and Confessions? which we had printed in the Russian language seven years ago. Part of the plan was to present these at the teacher’s conference and finish distributing the remaining copies. We were finally on the road to Rivne by 6 pm. We needed to stop for gas once and the restroom and, of course, shashleek (shish kabob) on the road. So we got to the Hope to People ministry center by 10:30 pm.

I was asked if I wanted to sleep in Rivne or go directly to Mukacheve, another seven-hour trip, and I decided that since I was already messed up by jet lag another seven hours wouldn’t matter. There would be plenty of time to sleep in the Carpathian Mountains.

Then it took about two hours of waiting and driving around Rivne. We had to take Roma to his house and then Oleg took me to the western district of Rivne where my next driver Vadim lives. Vadim was able to start driving at 12:30 a.m. with his wife Oksanna and son, Tolik, who is about high school age. I was unsure about asking this man to drive all night with no sleep, but he assured me that he was a professional driver and was used to it. We got less than two hours outside of Rivne and Vadim announced that we were 25 percent of the way there. Then I fell asleep for a few minutes. This was only the third time I had had a short sleep in over a day. I had slept for about an hour on the transatlantic flight and for a few minutes on the way to Rivne.

I woke up to see the nice two and four lane highways outside of Rivne had turned into these twisted, half-paved back roads. I was shocked by the stark contrast. We drove at a slow pace for about three more hours until we came to the south of Lviv.

The last three to four hours of the trip were amazing as we stopped several times in the Carpathian Mountains. I had only coffee and pistachios during the trip. The scenery in the mountains in the last two hours was spectacular.

Your comments are welcome!

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