I am writing this at 5:00am. Jet lag must still be messing with my internal clock, or maybe it has something to do with Ukraine only getting about 5-6 hours without daylight and light is already pouring in my room. Probably a combination of both.
Our trip to Ivano-Frankivsk from Kiev was by far the most stressful leg of the journey as of yet. Everyone who had a final destination farther from Kiev was taking an early bus from the Dubeyk Center to the train station. The bus arrived a little late, in turn setting our entire timetable for the evening back. After loading the bus and scarffing down dinner we all got on the bus, except for 2 girls, of course (Bad generalization, I know, but for a mental picture, these are the type of girls who would have been shaving their legs everyday at the New Orleans camp when we were doing Katrina Relief work.), who we ended up waiting another 15 minutes for. Then things got interesting. We "lucked" out and got the same driver who picked us up from Kiev International Airport. To think I thought he was a crazy driver then, now we were running over 30 minutes late! I feared for many a pedestrian's life that evening. Pastor Romaniuk (The pastor of my church in Ivano) summed it up nicely when I questioned him about the stressfulness of driving in Ukraine while riding in his car, after having feared for my life more then 10 times in 10 minute, he responded saying "I have driven in many other countries, and in those countries driving is a 'pleasure', if you want to really drive, come to Ukraine, this is driving".
If the bus ride made things interesting, this next part made things painful. After unloading the bus in a massive pile on the sidewalk we realized each of us had at least 3 pieces of luggage (with the third being anywhere from a 50-90lb military duffel bag with VBS supplies). However, the train station itself was quite the inspiration. If train stations in America looked anything like this I think more Americans would travel by train. After trudging through the train station and up the equivalent of 4 flights of stairs (The escalator was broken) I easily made up for not working out in the last week. We walked up to platform 2 just as our train arrived and started to shuffle all our baggage to our compartment. After wrestling with all of our bags for 20 minutes in a compartment that was half the size it needed to be, it felt like a sauna. This was nice too, as having missed working out at the gym for the last week I also have been missing the sauna. This "niceness" of the sauna like compartment was short lived as it settled in that it was going to be a 13 hour train ride. I find is mildly amusing, and a tad bit frustrating, that I traveled half way around the world in the same time that I traveled less then 300 miles. Anyhow, any smidge of "niceness" that still remained was stomped out when the full blooded Ukrainian woman, who didn't speak a word of English, in our compartment insisted that the window be shut.
But the train ride was an amazing experience. I learned a very important phrase, "Bud'laska, dajte meni chaj", or "Will you give me a tea please". I enjoyed the opportunity to gaze out at the endless countryside rushing by, pondering the simple lives of a rural Ukrainian with each passing village, and being in awe at the occasional ancient, but astonishing eastern orthodox cathedrals on the hilltops. But the most important thought I had, was not on the history or culture of Ukraine, but a realization about myself. As I laid down in the hot stuffy compartment, each bump of the train, as it twisted and contorted on the tracks, made me clearly aware of the sticky, sweaty, smelly, itchy, and sore state of my body. Believe it or not, I loved it! It reminded me so clearly that the reason I am here is not for a vacation or for personal enjoyment. On the contrary I am here to be used by Christ and to do His work in whatever form He sees fit, no matter what pain and suffering I must endure. For that, it is worth it.
VBS will officially be starting at 10:00 this morning. Most of you will still be asleep at that point soooo…Good Morning!
In Christ Alone,
P.S. Tomorrow I will tell you how the first day went, and maybe a bit more about the Dubeyk Center.