Eastern Europe B

RUSSIA B
Nick, Kylee, Christie, Katie, Paul, Spencer, Monique, Samantha, Marlea and Taryn

Task: Following the work done by the Eastern Europe A team this team will also work alongside SunErgos International this  in an orphan home for children who are considered social orphans within Eastern Europe. The team will run a day camp for the orphanage and share Bible stories with them in the hopes of reaching them with the Gospel.

Dates: June 17 – July 1

Delay in Departure

Hello, family, friends and supporters!

Due to a terminal mixup (and ultimately God’s plan) the team was not able to make their first flight out of San Francisco on Saturday morning and has been delayed departing for Eastern Europe until 3:50 PM Sunday, June 18, scheduled to arrive to their destination on Monday, June 19. While they were disappointed to be delayed a day having a good night’s sleep in a San Francisco hotel and free breakfast in the morning has helped ease their disappointment. 🙂 They all send their love, say they are doing well and were thankful to be able to take naps this afternoon and are REALLY looking forward finally arriving in country!

Please take a moment to pray for the team as they adjust to their new schedule and pray against any further delays in their arrival!

We will post another update as soon as the team arrives!

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Team Arrival

The team has arrived! After a very LONG several days of travel the team has finally landed and connected with their field partner in the city. They are on their way to their housing location for a good night’s rest before beginning cultural orientation in the morning. Please pray for good rest tonight, focused minds tomorrow and for Nick and Marlea whose bags did not make the connecting flight and will arrive tomorrow. They are thankful for teammates who are letting them borrow items and team funds to purchase a few things to tie them over until their bags arrive. Everyone is in good spirits, is SO thankful to be there and sends their love!

Check back in a few days for the team’s next update and subscribe to our text service, instructions listed below, to get real-time alerts whenever this team posts an update!

Thank you for your prayers and your support!

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Update #1: Wednesday, June 21

Prevyet! (Hello!)

We are in country and battling jet lag! Lucky for us, our host has a strict “no napping” rule that is supposedly going to quicken our adjustment!

Our first full day started with training through SunErgos. We learned quite a lot about the culture and language! Since then, our team has walked around counting to ten in the local language and is overjoyed at any chance we get to use one of the handful of words we actually know in the language. Our team’s most often used word is “spasibo” (thank you). Our host and her family have given our team an appreciation for the difference in cultures. We are also learning to accept the very small personal space that most here people live with. 🙂 In the evening we got the opportunity to go to the ballet and see Swan Lake. To get to the ballet we got our change to ride on the underground metro for the first time! You can imagine what kind of experience this was given the small personal space here as mentioned earlier. Regardless of the crowds the ballet was beautiful, and despite jet lag (most of) our team managed to stay awake for the whole show! After the ballet that night, we all had a bonding moment with Kylee as we learned of her deep fear of birds. And we mean DEEP fear. As we exited the ballet there was a man holding two birds on his arm, he quickly approached us telling us to “touch my birds” (in a thick accent). As Kylee ran in terror, our host asked the man to stop. While not a laughing matter at the time, it is now very funny. Maybe not to Kylee.

After a good night’s rest, we got to spend our first day with the kids at the center! Although slightly nervous with anticipation, our team LOVED spending time getting to know the kids. Throughout the craziness of it being our first day with them, I think we would all say that we are just so thankful to get the opportunity to know these kids. We are so excited to spend the rest of our time being the hands and feet of Jesus in this center. The language challenge was something we are still learning to navigate; however, we are all the more thankful for our translators. Even on the first day we saw kids opening up and excited to spend time getting to know us! We spent a lot of the day bonding with the kids through games that evoke laughter and a communication that does not need spoken word. We have gotten the opportunity to learn some of their stories and it has drawn our hearts to them all the more with a desire to love and serve them. As we continue to prepare for our lessons and activities we hope to instill hope, joy, and life.

After an afternoon of planning and preparing (and in an effort to stay awake until dinner because no naps!) we walked around in our neighborhood in search of caffeine. We found a promising looking place called Coffee Bar; however, it was far from what was expected. Complete with white tablecloths and a wait staff that knew no English, we attempted to order using only pictures. Given that limit, we decided on milkshakes. After the waiter repeatedly referred to our orders as “cocktails” we were unsure of what we had requested. Have no fear, when he brought them out they were definitely just milkshakes! After walking through a park in the rain and a brief stop at the grocery store we had Ossetian pies/pizzas and a wonderful team debrief tonight.

Other points of interest:

-The food here has been a hit!

-We can find our way home from the super market without Tanya’s help (like true locals)

-It is currently 10:30 pm, however thanks to white nights it is as bright as mid-afternoon here!

Thank you all for your love and support! More to come soon!

Dasvidanya! (Goodbye!)

Marlea, Katie, Monique and the team

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Update #2: Monday, June 26

Hello everyone!

Thanks for reading our latest update! Over the past 3 days we have spent a lot of time in the children center getting to know the kids better and building deeper relationships. The language barrier no longer seems as intimidating, which is so nice. We have learned to communicate with the kids and teens through actions, translators, and the little language phrases we have learned so far. We enjoy taking the kids outside and letting them play on the playground and run around. One night we had a game night with the teens and some of the older kids and had lots of fun playing Pterodactyl (a game that consists of us screeching at each other like dinosaurs), chair soccer, charades, and watching five teenage boys attempt (and fail) to take down Nick in wrestling.

After two days at the center, most of the teens, and a few kids, sadly left for a life skills camp. While we are excited for this opportunity for them, we were so sad to see them go. The teen group only has four teens right now, while the kids group still has ten kids. Even though the numbers are smaller it does make for more quality time with the children and teens here.

On day four at the center we started off the day by combining the kids and teens group. We played with a giant parachute and did an obstacle course together. It is fun to see the older kids interacting with the younger ones. The younger kids are very affectionate, taking every opportunity to hug and kiss us. The love the kids give us melts our hearts. The teens have been talking about really hard things they have had to overcome in their life. Although it has been really hard to hear it has also given us the opportunity to get to know them better. We hope they will continue to open up even more over these next few days. We can’t believe this trip is already halfway over! We don’t ever want to leave these kids.

When not at the center we have enjoyed sightseeing and exploring the city! We are getting closer to mastering using the metro. We went to a famous cathedral here in the city (see the picture below) and admired the incredible architecture all over town. Saturday our translator, Ted, took us to a fortress and attempted to be our tour guide. We got the opportunity to go on a boat ride through the rivers that run through this incredible city. On Sunday, our day off from the camp, we spent half the day at the famous museum here and then visited a local church service.

We love it here and want to make the most of every second we have left! Love you all and thank you for your support!

-Christi and the team

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Update #3: Wednesday, June 28

What’s up America! Glad to know that you all are still here to check up on us!

As was stated in the last update we spent Sunday at the famous museum here, which was originally the Winter Palace, and let me tell you…we had a blast! Shocking, I know; it’s not everyday that you hear someone saying that they were excited about going to a museum, but this one really hit home for a lot of our team members. Just to give ya’ll a little history lesson, the Winter Palace was the last residence of the last Czar, or king. That Czar was Nicholas Romanov, and what’s special about that is that he had a daughter that is somewhat famous according to most Americans. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m talking about Anastasia, the lost princess, often mistaken to be a Disney princess. Anyway, we were all super pumped to be in the palace that she lived in, the palace that was in the movie, whether accurate or not. We spent the entire time singing “Once Upon A December,” a song from the movie. Aside from the excitement that came from the inner child within us all; the museum was actually really cool! We got to look at the different palace rooms and the many different exhibits. One particular that stood out was the Egyptian exhibit where we got to see a real-life mummy. That was definitely top notch! We also learned that the Egyptians would put the mummies into sarcophagi, and then into other sarcophagi, just like famous nesting dolls you see all over the place here! (I pointed it out, but no one believed me…). After the Egyptian exhibit we looked at Greek and Roman Antiquity (which I was living for, but others were not too enthused about), and then some modern art, featuring paintings by de Vinci, Michelangelo, and other famous artists. All and all it was an awesome experience, which was topped with fine authentic national dining. We ate some dumpling-type things that tasted just like pot stickers.

We ended the day by going to a protestant church with one of the translators from the center. He told us that the specific service we were at was almost like a youth group type deal because it was meant for a younger audience. The venue itself was super hip, in that it was kind of like a little coffee shop hangout with foosball tables and a little balcony. Basically what you would expect to see in a youth room. The worship was in their language, but they did play some songs we knew, like “Oceans,” so we were able to sing along in English, which made for an awesome worship experience. There’s nothing like two cultures coming together in worship. The message talked about the Holy Spirit and how God fills us up, but we can’t just get filled once and expect that to be enough, that filled feeling has an expiration date. The pastor said that we needed to continuously be seeking God to be filled, and that we need to be pouring ourselves out into others also. The message really resonated with our work here because we’re here trying to love on these kids and show them their worth and value in God, that they are wonderfully and beautifully made, but in order to do that we need to be seeking God first, otherwise we won’t have anything to give them. We can only give so much to the kids, it’s through God that they truly get what they need. And that’s what we did Sunday!

On Monday we went back to the center in the morning where the teen group focused on the subjects of grief, loss, and depression, as these are common struggles for the kids and teens at the center. This was a really important topic to me personally as I shared with our teens my life story, and while they weren’t very vocal afterwards, they seemed to be very attentive and focused as I spoke. The somber feeling didn’t last for long though as the little kids soon joined the teen group in the gym for a few hours of fun. We all spread out so that all the kids could do whatever they wanted. There were kids in the ball pit, some playing with giant foam blocks, some doing crafts and others playing games. While there were many instances of chaos in the room, the overall feeling was fun!

When we left the Children Center our host informed us that we would be pairing up and going out into the city on special assignments to better immerse ourselves in the culture. What was funny about my pairing specifically was that I am easily the loudest and most extroverted person on the team, and I was paired with the quietest person on the team. That wasn’t even the funny part though, because my partner told the whole group that they could tell I was nervously trying to make small talk and she just let me squirm!!! It was HILARIOUS! The assignment we had to do was take the metro, or subway, to a specific local church and find out some key facts about said church. Then we were to get back on the metro and go to a market to get some fruit and finally return home. When my partner and I got to the church we talked to a person that seemed to work there, but didn’t know English, and then preceded to ask everybody in sight if they knew how to speak English until he finally found someone. After that the assignment was a cakewalk for us, but other teams weren’t as lucky! Once everyone got back to the hostel we debriefed the mission and got some much needed rest.

Yesterday was by far the most energetic day, as it was Samantha’s birthday! She’s finally 20 years old! To celebrate we took all the kids from the center to this place call Joky Joya or something like that. Basically it’s like Chuck-E-Cheese on crack! It was a blast and the kids had so much fun. It was awesome getting to see them all cut loose and not get in trouble for being loud and rambunctious kids!  

On the bus ride back, the teen group got some hard news as one of our two teens, and the only male teen, was being transferred to a permanent orphanage and we wouldn’t be able to say goodbye. That info shook the team pretty hard as we were hoping to be able to seem him. It has only been about a week, but the connections that we’ve made with these kids are real. We care about them, and even though we were going to be leaving in a few days, just loosing that time that we thought we had was hard. This was, however, a good learning experience for us because it made us realize that we aren’t promised another day. God has given us today and we need to use it to the best of our ability because there might not be a tomorrow. We’re only here with these kids for a few days and we need to make the most of every opportunity! Now exhausted from the play place and heartbroken from the news, the team rested for a few hours before getting some cake and ice cream to celebrate Sam’s birthday. Then a few hours later we went and got Eastern European Mexican food to celebrate her birthday again! Yes…They have Mexican food…No…it wasn’t as good, but what did you expect!? Nevertheless it was satisfying and made for a great end to an exhausting day! 

Until next time,

Paul and all of team

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Hello!

Our team is currently packing up and getting ready to leave. It hardly seems real that in just a few hours we’ll all be heading back on the long flight home. The last two days have been tough and full of tears, but also full of laughter and joy.

To sum up the last couple days: On Wednesday the team had a lot of fun with the kids with a lesson on friendship, complete with making friendship bracelets and giving them to each other. The kids made up some bracelets, too! Kylee and Marlea took the teen girls and had a fun girls day, painting nails and doing hair, which was lots of fun! Because there were no teen boys at the center Spencer, Nick, and Paul joined the younger kids with the rest of us. The younger kids loved it! They probably enjoyed having some guys, since all the team members with the younger kids are female. The guys took the kids outside and played soccer with the kids and even had an Easter egg hunt for them with Jolly Ranchers inside. The kids had a blast, and totally loved the surprise hunt.

After hanging out with the kids at the center, the team took advantage of the beautiful day and went to visit Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. After climbing the two hundred and sixty-two steps to the top everyone was blown away at the amazing view of the city, even though it was pretty windy, actually! We all took a ton of pictures and selfies up there. Unfortunately, the inside of the cathedral was closed for the day, so we were unable to take a look inside and decided to visit it again on Friday.

Thursday was our last day with the kids. We gave the kids parting gifts, and they also had made us a really sweet picture with their names signed on it. I (Samantha) had been making them all a self-portrait for them to keep, and had only barely finished it in the nick of time that morning. I felt so happy to give it to them in person, and seeing the kids’ faces light up when they saw their picture made all the late nights worth it. Katie also had brought them really sweet cards that her group of kids from Sunday school back from home had made for the kids. The kids each got one, and then were able to make some for Katie’s kids back in New Mexico! It was really sweet, and the kids enjoyed decorating them with stickers. After that, we took the kids outside to play. Taryn had brought pudding packets, Oreos, and gummy worms to make dirt pudding for the kids, which they totally loved! I think they liked the worms the best of all.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye. The team visited all the kids’ rooms and slowly hugged each one. It was really hard to let them go after getting to know and love them. However, we were only given these two weeks, and we made the most of it. Although we did not want to say goodbye, we know that those kids are loved and cared for by God. For the rest of the day, the team debriefed the entire trip. At first, all I wanted to do was sleep and maybe cry, but I am so glad we all got to talk through what we experienced, along with cry, and laugh together. The debrief really helped us release our tensions and bottled up emotions and become vulnerable with each other, not only bringing us closer to each other, but also preparing us to leave on a joyful note.

Later that night, the team went and saw the bridge go up at 1:15 am with our translator, Ted. It was so pretty! A lot of us said it was the best thing we had seen so far. Once it was over, Ted took us all in his car (a total of three trips) back to the hostel to finally get some sleep. The next morning, we debriefed a little more with Kylee, and did an affirmation circle. For those who don’t know, an affirmation circle is where we all take turns going around the circle giving affirmation to one person, until every person has gone. It was really good for the team to build each other up and finish the trip as united with each other.

After that, Tanya took us all to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral again, and we were able to go inside. As we were walking to dinner, we had a huge surprise. We saw some of our teens and kids waiting for the bus! It was so exciting that we got to say goodbye again! We loved the extra goodbye, and so did they. After they took the bus, we went and got dinner, and then some of us headed back to the hostel while others went and got a few last minute souvenirs. And now, here we all are, packing, sleeping, and preparing for our flight home.

It’s been real and it’s been fun! Thank you all for your support, reading along with our updates and praying for us during our time here. We are so sad to leave, but excited to share more stories with you in person!

See you all again soon!

Samantha and Team Russia B

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Team Return

Team Eastern Europe B made it home safely! Thank you to everyone who prayed along with their ministry efforts and supported them through reading their blog updates!

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