Monday, July 31, 2006

An Inconsistent Truth

"An Inconvenient Truth", a film about global warming featuring Al Gore doing the "truth" telling, is heralded as being "illuminating", "insightful", and "impactful" (Check out Rotten Tomotoes to see the reviews for yourself. I couldn't of come up with words that inspiring!).

In the movie, Al Gore makes a point to show on a graph that Toyota and Honda are doing much better in the automarket than General Motors (GM) and Ford. His reasoning for these gains are that Toyota and Honda are the leading automakers in reducing harmful environmental emissions. He overlooks the fact that throughout the 80's and early 90's Toyota and Honda made revolutionary gains in quality and reliability, while GM and Ford had become complacent. (On a side note, notice I am speaking in past tense. Toyota has recalled over 1 million vehicles in the last 2 weeks, and 2.5 million since January.) He fails to mention the fact that Toyota and Honda can produce each car up to $5,000 cheaper because of labor costs that GM and Ford are locked into as a result of the unions (this cost difference allows for a cheaper competitive product and frees up more cash flow for product development). And Toyota's and Honda's gains couldn't have been as a result of their products being more in tune with consumers tastes and trends.

Question.

How can I trust the rest of the "informative and insightful" information found in the movie, when a topic that I am well informed on, being the auto industry, the truth is so blatantly skewed? Maybe a better title for the film would have been "An Inconsistent Truth" or "An Incoherent Truth". After hearing how much he twists the facts with the auto industry, I would be weary about trusting the rest of the film blindly. Just something to think about. Besides, I am weary about trusting any information from a man who claims to have invented the internet. ;)

Challenge it. Pursue the opposing view points. Come away from it with your own opinions.

The problem is, Americans are to lazy and unmotivated to do such a thing. Project something flashy on a big screen, give us a comfy chair with cup holders, plop a tub of greasy popcorn on our laps, give us some Skittles, and you can teach us anything. (No matter how skewed the facts are.)

Example: It takes a movie to make us realize that fast food makes us fat. Wow. How enlightening, or should I say "illuminating".

David Knepprath

Disclaimer: I am not choosing sides on the Global Warming debate. I have not looked into it enough to support the debate one way or the other. But it was not my intent to dispute Global Warming. My desire was to stress the importance of finding things out for yourself and arriving to your own conclusions, not some one else's.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pre-Metamorphosis

I got another movie for ya. This one isn't quite as funny as the Top Gear clip, but I am pretty fond of it. If you have read Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis then this movie might make the tiniest bit of sense. In the book Metamorphosis, the main character, Gregor Samsa, wrestles with the responsibility of supporting his family. He is a salesman who has become quite successful, but under the pressure of his parents and sister, who have grown accustomed to the luxuries his income has provided, he has no time for a life of his own. In my senior year AP-Lit movie brilliantly titled "Pre-Metamorphosis", we provide a heart-wrenching look into the last day of Gregor's normal routine life. So grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy! (okay...maybe its not quite popcorn material)



David Knepprath

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oasis in a Spiritual Desert

After those pictures, ya'll are probably pretty disappointed to see a bunch of boring words. But I am so excited about this, I had to write about it. I was blessed with yet another opportunity to share about my Ukraine trip. I was invited to Good Shepherd Community Church's Global Outreach meeting. But the highlight of this meeting was getting to hear an amazing story from a man named Joshua who is from Pakistan.

His father worked at a Christian mission's hospital in the United Arab Emirate during the younger years in his life. But when Joshua was 11, in 1971 his father made a dramatic career change. He felt the Lord was calling him to reach out to the people in the Middle East through shortwave radio programs. He went on to establish a radio ministry in the region that not only existed but dramatically grew until near the end of his life in 1999. The radio ministry dissolved for a year, but his son Joshua was able to get it running "virtually" from the States again by 2001. When the program first went on air in 1971, it was a 15 minute program, once a week. Today they have a 60 minute block everyday of the week. Lives have been changed and souls have been saved.

Hearing his stories and the struggles his family faced was so inspiring. The radio ministry that Joshua's father established is aimed directly at peoples spiritually health, and there are many letters showing its life changing affects from listeners in this area that is as much a desert physically as it is spiritually. But one of the most amazing stories he told is a crystal clear demonstration of the impact that missionaries serving through love and compassion can have, in this region specifically, but it also demonstrates the possibilities all over the world.

Through a mission org- anization called TEAM (They have a pretty slick website) a hospital, the same hospital Joshua's dad worked at, was established in the United Arab Emirate in the 1960's. The intent was to reach out to the people and serve them both physically and spiritually. This hospital, called Oasis, was established because of the dire need and extreme levels of poverty in the region. This is a before they struck oil. Over the last 40 years, the doctors and missionaries through TEAM have been able to serve these Islamic people out of love and witness to them with respect. Recently the Crown Prince of the region issued a press release in regard to Oasis, the hospital that he himself was born in. He thanked them for coming to help their people in the 60's, when they had nothing, and providing such important services to their people out of compassion. He said that the missionaries have spent the last 40 years trying to convert us from Islam to Christianity through love, unlike others, who use terrorism. In conclusion he said that now we are in a position to show our thanks by donating $48 million.

After Joshua said this, I was literally taken back, and it took me a few minutes for the impact of this statement to sink in. Here are people living as God commanded us. That we should "offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.... If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 4:9-11) This is exactly what the individuals at TEAM and the Oasis Hospital, who have such hearts for God and serving others through him, are doing in the Middle East. And look at the impact it has! It only seems fitting to end with the rest of 1 Peter 4:11. "...To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen"!

David Knepprath

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tour of Kiev

...A pictorial tour of Kiev to be exact. Enjoy!

















St. Sophia Cathedral (1685)






















St. Sohpia Belfry (1706)

















St. Michael's Monastery (Built in 1108 and expanded in 18th century)






















Independence Square

















Golden Gate (Ruins preserved from 1050 and reconstruced in 1982)

















Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs

















St. Andrew's Church (1767)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lady in The Water

Lady in The Water: Written, Produced, Directed, and Starring M. Night Shyamalan (left). The later role is an unexpected surprise for any Shyamalan fan, being that he has a tradition of playing a very short cameo role in all of his movies. Another trait of Shyamalan is to carry over actors from his previous movies. In this case, it is the very talented Bryce Dallas Howard. Paul Giamatti (right) was also cast perfectly for his role, he pulls off an excellent studder. Following the success of Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village, Shyamalan does not let down.

I know the critics have been giving it less then stellar reviews, but hear me out and I will explain why. I believe there is a bit of a feud going on between Shyamalan and the movie critics. First of all, the critics hated The Village, a movie which was in contrast embraced by many movie goers. As a payback of sorts, Shyamalan included a movie critic character in his latest masterpiece. The movie critic continually bears the brunt of comic relief, comic relief that is suprisingly dominate in contrast to his earlier films, and portrays him in far from a positive light. Shyamalan unabashedly rips apart the movie critic for his snobby, pretentious, know-it-all character, thereby swinging a few very entertaining jabs at movie critics the world over.

The "interrupter" deciphering the hidden codes on the cereal boxes.

Lady in The Water is creative, quirky, funny, clean, original, suspensful, weird, scary, and entertaining all rolled into one movie that is worth your time and money no matter how bitter the critics are.

After a nearly 2 year drought of good movies (excluding a few exceptions) there are two movies that I am looking forward to. Both of which ironically are starring Michael Caine. Children of Men and The Prestige. I must say, I am also very hopeful for the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They only have a teaser out so it is hard to judge, but I am crossing my fingers. Oh, and there is always The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian to look forward to.

David Knepprath

Top Gear

Here is a little bit of entertainment to give you a break from my boring writing. You don't have to like cars to enjoy this, but the clip is from a British automotive show called Top Gear. In the States you can catch the occasional Top Gear marathon of reruns on Discovery, but this is one show I am praying they bring across the pond. These blokes are hilarious! (You like that bit of British?) Just trust me and watch it all the way through, it is absolutely hilarious:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Spiritually Blessed

I did my Ukraine presentation at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church today, and it went really well. God really provided me with clarity of thought (despite me not getting a shot of caffeine.) and, I think, everyone enjoyed it. Even if they didn't enjoy it, I felt we really connected and everyone at least got something out of it. :)

My intent by doing the presentation, besides being a release valve for my excitement of the trip and wanting to let as many people as possible know how powerfully God was at work in Ukraine, was to let them know, as Americans, that they are so blessed. In essence this was the same message as the presentation I gave to the VBS kids when I got back, only on a more adult level. I got a full hour, as compared to the 15 minutes I got with the kids, and I used every minute. If you have been reading my blog at all, especially some of my posts from when I was in Ukraine, or you have heard me tell any stories from the trip, then you know that it is obvious, that we as Americans are extremely blessed. But what does that mean to us as Americans? Yes, we are blessed with comfortable houses, indoor plumbing, higher standard of living, potable water from the tap, public restrooms that you don't have to pay for, nice cars, and more entertainment then we know what to do with. So we all understand the ways we are blessed, then why does the message not hit harder? Why are we not more thankful and completely wowed by all these things we are given. I think it is because it doesn't matter. Those physically blessing literally do not matter. Humans are resilient, and if we lost all those things, we would adapt with time (I can tell you from my experience, it takes less then 2 1/2 weeks).

Those physical blessings aren't the blessings I am talking about when I said "we, as Americans, are blessed." As Americans we are spiritually blessed. We have access to unlimited resources and we are given more opportunities to grow in our faith then we could ever possibly undertake. We have dedicated church buildings, full time pastors (who aren't spread across entire cities), free access to scripture and tools to help us learn and grow in it, Christian radio stations and Christian entertainment for young and old, groups and organizations to pull us together, and possibly the greatest blessing, being given Christian friends to surround ourselves with to help us stay anchored in Christ. These are the ways that we all are truly blessed in America. But, it is so east to feel safe and comfortable knowing you have these things to be a buffer for us. We so easily become spoiled and complacent (Proverbs 1:32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.) by the exact things that we are blessed with to help us grow in our faith, the exact things that are such powerful tools to know Christ even more personally. We must not take these blessing for granted.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and was able to enjoy this amazing weather we are having!

In Christ Alone,
David Knepprath

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

(Downtown Kiev)

(St. Michael's Monastery in Kiev)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ukraine Presentation

I will be doing a presentation on Ukraine at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church this Sunday, if anyone is interested in swinging by. The service starts at 9:30 and I will probably be starting the presentation a little bit before 11:00.

(Panoramic shot of half of Kiev on the east side of the Dnipro River)

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions. If you are unable to make it, don't worry. I will continue to go over Ukraine on this blog, and in many cases it will even be in greater detail then what I will cover in the presentation.

In Him,
David Knepprath

Random Question: Why doesn't Blogger have the word "blog" in their spell check dictionary? That seems odd to me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Assumption of Mary

This post might not be too thrilling for some of you, okay, most of you, which is why I included some of my pretty pictures! :) I gotta at least try and keep everyone happy. But I think it has some very interesting insight into the Eastern Orthodox religion.

I visited a museum (As seen in the picture) in a small town called Kolomya. This remote little town in the foot hills of the Carpathians has two highlights of interest. The first was a museum, from which I will share a piece of it with you right now in this post, and the second being an Easter Egg Museum. Picture "Giant Easter Egg", ya, it was pretty sweet alright (Check back later for this one!).

Pastor Romanuik gave me a personal guided tour and I learned so much about Ukrainian history and culture. I regret to tell you I am not going to write up an analysis of Ukrainian history through the centuries. Although if that would interest you, I highly recommend the book "Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine" by Anna Reid. "Ukraine" literally translated means "on the edge" or "borderland", hence the title of the book. The snippet of Ukraine's history and culture that I am writing about is on the piece of art known as the "Assumption of Mary". Hence the title of my post. I know, I'm not as creative as Anna Reid.

Much like the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church puts an extreme emphasis on the Virgin Mary. Tradition holds, among many in both of the churches, that the Virgin Mary did not die a natural death and that "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed (transported) body and soul into heavenly glory." Upon this ascension to Heaven it is believed that the apostles, having been scattered throughout the world, were miraculously transported to be at her side. It is at this moment that the piece of art, sometimes used as an icon, takes place. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the exact piece of art that I saw in the museum, being that photographs were not allowed. After relentless hours of scouring the internet, I have come up with 3 fairly good examples, although none as vivid as the one I witnessed.


Now, here is where it gets interesting (hopefully for some of you). The vividness that is lacking is still portrayed to a certain extent in these three examples. If you pay close attention to the foreground of the picture, you will witness a somewhat violent scene in contrast to what is otherwise a quite somber event. It is almost always portrayed the same, and is best seen in the second example.

Yes, that is indeed a crazy little heavily armed midget with wings chopping off an old man's hands. Most renditions of the "Assumption of Mary" include this, a narrative about a Jewish priest who, "not believing in the Virgin's sanctity, had an evil intention to overturn Mary's bed." When he tried to desecrate the coffin, the archangel Michael cuts off his hands. Only after the priest acknowledged the Virgin's holiness, were his hands restored.

I cannot deny Mary's role in the salvation we were provided through the perfect life, innocent death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus. In many way, Mary does provide us with a positive role model for us fellow sinful and fallen humans. Ironically, one of her most inspiring traits, being her humbleness, hardly asks for praise in her role, much less worship. And yet many devout followers in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church claim her with great fervor, as portrayed by the violent scene in this piece of art, as the "queen of heaven", which is clearly demonstrated by the addition of a crown on her head. A very common site which is seen adorning artwork, icons, statues, and churches all across Ukraine.


I pray that I will be able to keep my focus on Jesus Christ. That no human will ever take that focus off living my life for glorifying Him alone.

In Christ Alone,
David Knepprath

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Three More Kids...

I know everyone was waiting anxiously for the next round of bio's on my kids. After these three, I will do one more post of a few kids who came once or twice and who I never really got a chance to know. Unfortunately, that means I won't have much to write on them.

Victoria

I tried not to choose favorites, and I tried very hard not to show it (I would like to think I was succesful), but she is a very sweet girl, and that’s not just because she was the tiniest bit infatuated with me. :) She is very intelligent and has been able to learn English quite well, and wasn't afraid to put it to use. I will always remember how when I asked questions, she would continue to keep her hand up after someone else answered the question. Then when I asked her if she wanted to add something she would always say something to the respect of "But also..." or "But even more so..." and she would dig even deeper into the meaning behind the question. She was also one of the more curious of the bunch, always asking questions about me and my culture and just trying to have a conversation in English.


Marta

Marta was Victoria's best friend, and she only came a few times towards the end of VBS. From the little that I got to know her, she was a very nice girl.






Rolstyck (aka. "Joystick")

I loved this kid! He was one of the few guys who knew enough English to carry on a half decent conversation. He never once caused a problem, he never missed a day, was always in a good mood, always willing to help, always interactive in class, and very motivated. He had a ring with some cyrillic script on it. After much trouble we finally established in English that it said something to the respect of "Jesus Forgives". I really wanted to find one like his, for a personal
souvenir, and all the kids tried to give me suggestions of where I could find it. To no avail I couldn't find anything anywhere in Ivano-Frankivsk. In a complete "God moment", on the last day when we were souvenir shopping on St. Andrew Street in Kiev, I was browsing through a jewelry stand looking for something to bring back for my sister. But there it was! After a bit of bargaining, I got it. I had it interpreted completely, and it is an ancient Russian prayer that says "Christ Saves and Protects Us". Oh, and the story behind his nickname. On the first day I had one heck of a time trying to pronounce names. I foolishly repeated back saying "Joystick?". We all got a kick out of that, then it just sort of stuck.

Hmmm...ya, I really miss these kids.

Goodnight,
David Knepprath

More Links Added

I just wanted to fill everyone in on my new links.

Dan Franklin's Blog : Dan is the most serious man you will every meet. Now if you know Dan, you will understand the irony in that being the most sarcastic statement in the world.

Myrrh's Blog : She's British and she writes. What more reason do you need to be her friend?

Rob's Blog : We're like best friends or something...it's pretty much a requirement to link to his blog. ;)

I have more bio's on my kids coming, so...be excited.

By the way, I was just tinkering around with all the little options and settings for Blogger, and I saw that I had comments set to "Only registered users". Ya, I definitely changed that. It's now set to "Anyone". Sorry!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Playing With Matches

Playing With Matches (Lebanon/Israel Conflict) in The Tinderbox We All Know as The Middle East.

I have been tempted to write on this issue for the last couple days, but I have refrained for two reasons. First was my lack of knowledge on the situation, and second because it is such a hotly debated topic. For these two reasons, and understanding the roots of the conflicts in the Middle East run far deeper then simply the current events which I am writing about, I would like to say up front that I myself do not have a completely clear understanding, and therefore I do not have a clear opinion on the issue. This post is for, if nothing more than, to help me clear up the situation in my own head. (Note: I would have put some pictures up too, but blogger is having a "scheduled outage". Its okay though, because it was "scheduled". :) Maybe I will edit this post tommorow and throw in some pictures.)

My prayers are with those involved in the crisis, for effectiveness of those helping to resolve the crisis, and for safety of those stuck in the midst of the crisis. I cannot possibly begin to see God's will in the situation, but I pray it can be done with as little pointless loss of life as possible. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." -Matthew 5:43-45

Who are the Key Parties Involved?
  • Hezbollah is a Lebanese umbrella organization of radical Islamic Shiite groups and organizations backed by Iran and Syria. It opposes the West, seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran, and is a bitter foe of Israel. Hezbollah, whose name means "party of god", is a terrorist group believed responsible for nearly 200 attacks since 1982 that have killed more than 800 people. Hezbollah has free reign control in Beirut and southern Lebanon and rules unchecked by the Lebanese government.
  • Lebanon has made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions since 1991 being the end of their devastating 15-year civil war. The government that has developed is very weak and fragile which is made apparent by their non-existent resistance to the hijacking of their country by the Hezbollah organization.
  • Israel has endured repeated and relentless abuse from Islamic nations and extremist organizations. Israel has been pressured to peacefully deal with all situations for fear of igniting a larger conflict in the Middle East. The latest concession on Israel's part was in 2005 with the razing and evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip.

What Sparked the Current Crisis?

  • On July 12, Hezbollah guerrilla fighters raided Israel's northern border killing 8 soldiers and capturing 2 more. (The straw that broke the camels back)
  • Israel retaliateded by attacking 40 targets which were choosen with the intent to stop Hezbollah from mobilizing troops.

What Major Events have Unfolded (Since July 12-July 18)?

  • Nearly 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel by the Hezbollah organization.
  • Israeli gunboat was hit by Iranian made missile (Confirming Irans support of Hezbollah)
  • Israel has destroyed 1/3 of Hezbollah's long range rockets which were acquired through Syria and Iran.
  • Israel has stated it will refrain from taking out Lebanon's power grid for fear of destabilizing the Lebanese goverment and crumbling what little control they hold over their country.
  • Death toll in Lebanon is 220, while over 440 others have been wounded. 25 Israelis have been killed with 100's injured.
  • Evacuation of Lebanon began to be coordinated on July 15. Breakdown of foreigners in Lebanon: Canada: 40,000, Philippines: 30,000, Australia: 25,000, US: 25,000, UK: 22,000 (inc. 10,000 with dual nationality), France: 20,000
  • Bush quoted at G8 Summit meeting, in an aside comment to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying "See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over,"
  • Hillary Clinton defends Israel's right to use force against what she describes as "extremist terrorist's".
  • United Nations calls for a peace keeping force similiar to the failed attempt in the 1980's.

What are Israel's Demands to End Military Operations?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the United Nations that Israel "will continue to hit Hezbollah targets until the captured soldiers are returned and the security of Israeli civilians is guaranteed (By removing Hezbollah forces from Israel's border).'' Israel has also said it wants Hezbollah to surrender its weapons and for Lebanon's army to reassert government control over the south, where Hezbollah fighters operate without restriction.


Related Reading:


David Knepprath

The Three Amigos

Igor

When Igor came on the 3rd day, I wasn’t sure if he would be coming back because he came by himself. I was pleasantly surprised to see him back the next day with Ihor and Stas, and the three of them continued to come everyday for the rest of VBS.

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Ihor

I was very blessed to have Ihor in my class. His family had received a green card for America and has recently been living in Cincinnati Ohio. As a result he knew English quite well, and once he started coming to VBS he became a pivotal part of the class by helping translate to Ukrainian.




Stas


Stas is short for Stanislav. He is quite the artist. This picture is him with one of his many creations (Notice the Soviet Union "hammer and sickle" symbol on the belt buckle. I found that amusing.), but he is also trying to get the cap off a marker. Thats not his normal face, the marker caps were pretty hard to get off. I loved having him in my class because he was so enthusiastic about learning, which was demonstrated by always wanting to answer every question. He also loved to sing, which was not uncommon among the boys. I don't doubt that he was an inspiration for the rest of the kids to sing.


Goodnight and God Bless.

David Knepprath


Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Language Barrier

It is so weird to teach kids in English, to be able to speak freely, and not have to worry about if they understand what you are saying or not. I was back to teaching Sunday School in the States today, and it was so liberating! To be able to interact with the kids, in real time, not having to process everything through a translator, or spend 5 minutes trying to communicate a simple sentance in English, is for a lack of better words, an anderanline rush. I love it! It also made me realize how massive of a barrier language is in sharing the Word of God. This was by far my biggest struggle in Ukraine. However, It has created a renewed interest in learning foreign languages.

Here are a few more bio's on my kids:

Olexiy

Ivan was Olexiy's best friend. I worried that after Ivan left that Olexiy would stop coming too, but he proved to be faithful. We had one child who had a mental handicap, and he was seated next to him. I was extremely impressed by Olexiy's level of maturity and how he handled the situation, even in the face of some pretty harsh peer pressure. His English wasn’t so hot, and he also struggled with memory work. But he was persistent, and always earned his Chupa Chup, as seen in the picture, that I handed out when they were able to successfully recite the passage from memory. (They loved their Chupa Chups!)


Maria

She is a gymnast and consequently has required diets. The first day she came, I was passing out snacks and encouraged her to take more but she refused. After discussing it in Ukrainian with her friends, one of them final came up with the word “diet” in English. After this I always teased her when she took cookies. “No diet?”







Ulianna

Maria’s friend. She didn't know much English, but much like Olexiy, I was impressed by her motivation to learn the memory work. She was a really nice girl and I would of liked to have gotten to know her better. I was really happy to see her show up at the VBS concert on Sunday because she didn’t start attending VBS until the last few days.









"Jesus blood never fails me."
-Delirious

David Knepprath

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ukraine was..."Awesome"

Sorry I haven't gotten the bios of all my kids up (first three are at the end of this post) quite as fast I would like to, but it has been pretty hectic catching up with friends and everything at home and just generally getting readjusted. I've learned that sometimes when people ask me how the trip went, they aren't quite prepared for the answer to the question they are asking. Most people want a much simpler answer compared to the one I am ready to tell. It is so hard to break it down to just a one word simple answer, but normally I have no choice.

I've broken it down into what I noticed as 3 phases I have gone through. On the first day I arrived home, my simple answer was "awesome". In retrospect, I see that this word is quite boring and generic, but honestly, it's because I was speechless. Even I couldn't dicate my thoughts into a descriptive word, so it needed to be generic.

After this, I moved on to "amazing". "Amazing" is still such a generic word though. But it is a bit deeper with the dictionary meaning of "amazing" being: "to fill with wonder". Yes, I definitely am filled with wonder at being a part of God's work in Ukraine.

Now moving in to phase 3, having had a bit of time to reflect, my thoughts are becoming more clear and organized. As of now, my one word simple answer is "exciting". Every moment in Ukraine was exciting. "Exciting", not to be confused with "fun". Yes, at times, Ukraine was very fun. But I would hardly call sitting in a suana like train compartment for 13 hours "fun". But was it exciting? OH YES! Not a step was taken, and not a minute passed without me soaking in some detail, or learning something knew about God's amazing :) creation. (Yes, I never cease to be filled with wonder at God's creation. But I just realized that now whenever I use the word "awesome", it will have no weight what-so-ever.) And to me, that is really exciting.

Given time, I'm sure as I continue to reflect, my description of my Ukraine mission trip will change, but for now, it was "exciting".

Here is a short bio on three of my kids. I encourage you to pray for them. The Holy Spirit was working in these kids hearts over the course of VBS, but now VBS is over. It will be a challenge for them to continue and inject what they learned into their lives. It will be hard for them not to just look at VBS as a week of their lives, and just continue on with their hearts unchanged. Please remember this over the next few days as I put up bios for the rest of the kids. I continue to pray the same prayer that I wrote on my postcards to the kids. Above all I pray each and everyone of them will continue to know Christ as their Savior, but also as their friend.

Natalya

This is the type of girl that makes teachers proud! She was so attentive. A bit shy and quiet at times, probably not as responsive as a teacher would like, but she is still a very dedicated and intelligent girl. She has been taking English lessons, and she takes it very seriously. I pray someday her hard work and dedication will pay off and she will be able to impact peoples lives in a positive way.







Ivan

This kid walks very close to where the line of being a trouble maker and being class clown meet. He can be a bit disruptive at times, and he might not be the most blessed with intelligence, but when he puts his mind to something he puts his whole heart in it too. Ivan was the one that had to leave half way through VBS because his family was going on vacation to the Crimea/Black Sea. It was tough to see him go. He really was excited for what I was teaching and he really wanted to keep coming to VBS, but had to choice.


Volodia

This kid has respect. I really admired him for that, especially at his age, even though he was the most outspoken of the group and was prone to creating a rucas. He was always trying to help, whether it was passing out supplies, books, or snacks or even cleaning up, he was always right there. He was also pretty sharp. He's the type of guy who leanrs to work the system, like figureing out where to go in the text to directly read the answer to my questions. Not necessarily good, becaue its harder to tell if he actually understood the story.

In Christ Alone,
David Knepprath

Thursday, July 13, 2006

VBS Presentation

I've only been back for less the two days and I have already been given the opportunity to do a presentation on Ukraine. My church happened to be doing their VBS this week, and so why not come and present to the kids about VBS in Ukraine? I only had 10 minutes to present, and church is 25 minutes in the opposite direction from work, but God was telling me it was totally worth it go.

As it turns out, I ended up talking to one of the girls attending our VBS who asked a question, and mentioned she was from Russia, and I found out her mom is from Ukraine. Kiev to be exact. When her mom arrived to pick her up we had an amazing conversation catching up on Ukraine. At one point, after telling her how beautiful her country is and how I wished I could of stayed longer, she started to get misty eyed. Me, of course, being all macho had no problem, ah who am I kidding...it was sad, really sad... and talking to her with her thick Ukrainian accent (and her very good sense of fashion, of course) made me realize even more so how much I missed Ukraine. I invited her to the full presentation I am going to be giving after church, not this Sunday, but the next, and I am really praying she will be able to make it!

I will have more details up later, but if you are in the area, and would be interested in going to my Ukraine presentation, keep Sunday morning on the 23rd open. Everyone is welcome, by all means.

Two think that random act of God was enough...I went to Starbucks tonight with Andy and Scott, just to catch up and talk about Ukraine. Then two girls sitting near us asked "Are you guys from Ukraine or something?". After I explained they told us they were Ukrainian and it gave me yet another awesome opportunity to witness on why I went and just plain talk about Ukraine some more.

Day Dreaming about Ukraine,
David Knepprath

P.S. I am meeting my coworker, who is from Ukraine (actually right near Ivano-Frankivsk, where I was) tomorrow for lunch. Exciting, no!?

Czech Link Added

I just wanted to make sure you saw the new link I added, a blog for a short term mission trip team in Czech. English camp starts on Saturday. As I knew people on the Slovenia team, Lindy and Chris (aka Fries), I have a good friend on the Czech team as well, Gavin. They will be posting specific prayer requests on their blog, but any prayer support would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

August Reader's Digest

I was flipping through the August edition of Readers Digest, specifically an article they did on New Orleans, when I saw a picture that made me do a double take.















I know I have seen that picture SOMEWHERE. I started going throw the collection of pictures I have from New Orleans, and sure enough our amazing photographer/journalist who came along had snapped a picture of the exact scene.




















Crazy, no?

I think I will be doing a couple posts on New Orleans in the near future. I know a lot of your were visiting my blog to keep up on what was going on in Ukraine, and I am so appreciative of your support. You will probably find that my life is pretty boring when I'm not in far away worlds doing exciting things, but I will still be posting on here occasionally. You can expect to hear more about Ukraine, off and on, as I continue to reflect and learn from my experience.

DK

I'm home...

...and am absolutely spent. I woke up on my train ride to Kiev (Monday morning) with a sore throat and things went downhill from there. But, I am so thankfull that God gave me health and strength for my time in Ivano-Frankivsk when I was teaching VBS!

I should be posting over the next couple days and I will start looking into way to get a lot of pictures online. I am downloading them onto my computer right now, all 715 of them.

Goodnight and God Bless, (Although I would love to still be Ivano-Frankivsk it does feel good to be able to sleep in my bed)

David Knepprath

P.S. Thanks a ton to my friends who met me at the airport!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Final Post From Ukraine...

The Ivano-Frankivsk congregation is small, around 12 attending on a regular Sunday, and has been meeting in a classroom of a business school (The church does have an actual building, sort of, maybe I will post that story when I get home). When these facts are made known, it makes the numbers for VBS even more miraculous. We had 58 children attend, starting with 30 the first day. Over the course of the 8 days, over half of the kids brought at least 1 friend. Once a child had come, it was extremely likely that they continued to return for the rest of the week. I had 16 individual kids come with 10-12 attending regularly by the 4th day. That number would be +1, but one of my boys, Ivan, had to go on vacation to the Black Sea with his family. I have no doubt that this also brought down our already hefty numbers, because we are on the very beginning on what is pretty much national vacation time for Ukrainians. I'm talking whole factories shutting down for 2 weeks.

To say my last day of VBS was bittersweet is an understatement. Everyday I had opened with a review of the previous lesson, with each lesson building on theological concepts, ultimately cumulating with the complete Christian faith. Today, every single one of my questions on the board was on key beliefs, and I can honestly say each and every one of my kids knew and understood them, what is in the heart is out of my control. Their answer for one question particularly amazed me. "What two things are necessary to receive salvation?" Every single hand in the class went up, so I motioned for everyone together. In nearly perfect unison they said: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned". Mark 16:16 was one of the verses I chosen for memory work. I gave out Chupa Chups, which are a really popular lollipop type candy over here, as a bit of an incentive when they were able to recite their memory work for the day. There answer blew me away, but was also humorous because they answered my next question too. "Without this, and if Jesus had not fulfilled the 3 things necessary in his life to provide forgiveness of sins (this had been a previous question, with the answer being "lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose victoriously"), what would be the result?" So after they told me "condemnation in hell", I said that they are "Too smart" and we all had a good laugh.

The end of class was not filled with quite as much laughter. After I handed out the final prizes, which were the focal point of a game we had been playing over the course of the last couple days to practice their English vocabulary, I handed out my postcards with personal notes to each of the kids. They all asked Pastor Romanuik to translate my messages for them, which is something I wasn't exactly counting on, and it got pretty emotional, but we don't need to talk anymore about that. :)

I just got back from the closing service with the children's concert and we had an amazing turn out. We used the larger room (meant for no more then 30) that we had for VBS and we crammed 84 people in. If this had been America, the fire marshal would be disappointed to say the least. All of the kids in my regular group, except two who are on vacation, showed up. I don't mean to sound selfish but I thank God for this because I was able to say one final good bye. To think I said that our previous goodbye was emotional. (I think I will try and do a post about each of my kids, with pictures of course, when I get back to Oregon.) I thought it was odd how attached some of the kids who were in the other classes, that I rarely interacted, got to me, and visa versa.

I will definitely miss all of my kids very much as well as the missionaries Bill and Faith Krug, who I have been staying with. On top of this I have grown pretty close to Pastor Romanuik and his kids; it will be very hard leaving them as well. But as I always say, humans are an extremely resilient kind. It may be hard now, but life will go on to wherever God leads me next, and I will definitely appreciate all the memories I have made in Ukraine. I will update you on my last day in Kiev, my journey home, and of course any reflection on the trip in general that I have when I get back to Oregon. If you want something to look forward to, :) I will be working on a way to get lots of pictures online.

Pray for a safe trip home if you don't mind. Maybe I will be talking to you soon, no? (Here's a practice SAT exam question for you: "no" is to Ukrainians as "eh" is to Canadians. The funny thing is, I am already starting to put a "no?" at the end of my thoughts, even when they are still in my head)

God is Great!
David Knepprath

P.S. Not that it really makes any difference, but I just realized that it is saying I am posting my blogs 10 hours EARLIER then when I actually am posting them. It was set for Pacific Time. I have done most of my writing, and jumping online to post them, either late at night or early in the morning.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Observations on Ukrainian Culture: Part 5

This will be my last formal "Observations on Ukrainian Culture" post. Sad you say? Trust me, I know. I would love to have at the very least, oh, a few more months. And as a quick disclaimer, which I probably should of put before I started all these posts, I wouldn't exactly go running to any Ukrainian friends you may have telling them everything you learned about Ukrainian Culture from me. This is hardly an experts view, merely my simple, humble observations in the short time I have been given.

So with no more delay, I present Part 5 in my "Observations on Ukrainian Culture":

Shopping: In the markets, all prices are fair game. I have gotten a little bit of experience bartering, but you can't put up to much of a fight when you don't know the language. Anywhere else the prices are set, set pretty darn low at that! A Rhivna is less then 1/3 of a dollar, but to give you an idea of pricing, I would say everything was pretty fairly priced even if the prices were listed in dollars. (Does that even make sense? For example, if something is 5 Rhivna, it is just over 1 dollar, but in America that item would probably cost about 5 dollars.) Clothing stores and shoe stores are as common as Starbucks, and as I stated in a previous post, it's all in very good fashion. The clothes you would find at a stand in the market I would buy any day over something from Target, or even American Eagle or Hollister. When going in to grocery stores you lock up your backpacks and handbags in lockers at the entrance to stores. Funny story: just the other day I forgot to lock up my backpack, and I realized this fact at the exact same moment that I realized the armed security officer (whom are in every store, and these aren't no rent-a-cop's either!) was stalking me around the store. Very awkward, but I tried to look harmless, more like, I looked like an idiot, so he never did anything about it.

Food: GOOD Breads, AMAZING cheeses, meats, juices, tea, and borshch. Pretty straight forward. Borshch is basically just a soup with a beet base. I can understand how it wouldn't be for everyone, being that Americans aren't too fond of beets, but I love it. There is no fast food in Ivano-Frankivks, but there were a few McDonalds in Kiev, of course.

Religion: Ukrainians are extremely "religious" but not "spiritual", if that makes sense. Teenagers will walk by an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, not miss a step, and bow their head while crossing themselves. This makes it so hard to reach people spiritual because, in a sense, they are lying to themselves, convinced they are living religiously but not living it in their lives. It has become such a routine for them. Their religion has become a set of traditions; repetitious prayers and actions at best, and at worst nothing more then owning icons (pictures and trinkets) and building grand cathedrals (and holy guacamole are their cathedrals grand!). It is the ultimate proverbial rut to get stuck in that we all speak of in America. Being when we just get in the routine of going to church every Sunday morning, but those couple hours at church are an entirely different life then the one we live the rest of the week.

Maybe there was some interesting insight tucked in there throughout all my observations, maybe not, but to wrap it all up, one of my most interesting observations was attending church in Ukraine. I could pick up maybe 1 out of every 500 words spoken, but just the thought of the love of Christ transcending all barriers and that there are people worshipping the same God in a completely different language, in a completely different culture, in a completely different part of the world was incredible. Please Pray a good portion of the children will attend the church service tomorrow; the kids will also be putting on a concert at the end. That is after all the point of VBS, using it as an evangelism tool. And I wouldn't mind seeing a few of them one last time either. :) But even if they aren't convicted to attend this church, pray that they will remember the spiritual truths and that they will continue to know Jesus as their Savior and as their friend.

I'll try and post my closing thoughts on VBS tomorrow; there is still too much running through my head to clearly compose any of it right now.

Brother in Christ,
David Knepprath

P.S. My aunt got in a pretty serious car accident on the 4th of July, if you are looking for prayer requests, it would be much appreciated. She has 2 fractured vertebrae and is looking at a 2-3 month recovery. Pray that God will provide her with comfort in this time of extreme discomfort and that He will provide her with satisfaction in the things she is able to do, being that she is severly limited from so much that she would like to, or would normally be doing.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Observations on Ukrainian Culture: Part 4

I have to finish preparing my lesson for the last day of VBS, sad day, and I am also going to write notes on Oregon postcards to hand out to all my kids. But for now, here is Part 4:

Music: They love Shakira. She has replaced Britney Spears who used to be the huge pop-culture icon over here. I have heard the song Blue by Eiffel 65 (Does anyone remember them besides me?) as a ringtone on cell phones a couple times. I heard some old school Backstreet Boys today on the radio. I'm pretty sure this much Queen hasn't been played on the radio since USA in the 80's. They LOVE Queen, all ages too. I was getting my room ready for class and Pastor Romanuik was humming "We Are the Champions". 80's music in general (I will never get tired of Aha's "Take on Me") is pretty popular as are the Beatles.

Free Time Recreation: Drive down to the river, park, wash your car, start a campfire, have a picnic, and drink (alcohol). If you don't have a car, then you either go with someone who does, or replace the first 3 steps with "walk to the river". Alcohol is much more prevalent in everyday society. I went to a café at a mall the other afternoon where about 95% of the customers (with the legal drinking age being 18) were either drinking beer or wine. I imagine just as high of a percentage of people 18-21 probably drink in America, and in greater quantities, purely because it is illegal; the whole "forbidden fruit" idea. If it was legal then it would probably not be as big of a deal. I'm sure the situation with the legal drinking age is much more complex and I don't have the knowledge or expertise to properly analyze the situation, so I won't pretend to. Personally, I think life can, and is, enjoyable enough without having to use alcohol as a crutch to make it enjoyable, so the legal drinking age makes no difference to me anyhow. Gambling is unfortunately another rampant recreational activity. Enough state official deputies got paid off in the last couple years to allow gambling kiosks to be put up in sidewalks. Essentially six sided slot machines for people to dump all there wages into. Knowing the poverty level and the overall economic condition of Ukraine, it is a bit depressing seeing groups of people huddled around these machines at any given time of the day. And I can guarantee you this lottery money isn't going to public education or state parks. The Bistritsya River is by far the biggest attraction in Ivano-Frankivsk, although there are a few bowling alleys, a movie theatre, several athletic facilities, any number of makeshift football (soccer) fields, and I hear there are one or two night clubs in town.

I will probably be posting my final "Observations on Ukrainian Culture" at some point tomorrow, which might be my final posting from Ukraine as well. We will have a VBS "Concert" after church Sunday. Pray that a good amount of the kids will come! From there I will be taking the train back to Kiev. I will have one more day in Kiev, and then its time to start the journey which will hopefully recover that half of a day of my life that mystically disappeared.

Through My Ever Faithful Savior and Friend,
David Knepprath

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Observations on Ukrainian Culture: Part 3

I played Frisbee with Yarislav (Pastor Romanuiks son), and some other random kids from the apartment complex, today. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here! Back on topic, we were coming inside to the 2nd floor where I am staying and Yarko (One of Yarislav's many nicknames), who speaks about as much English as I speak Ukrainian, ran over and pressed the button for the elevator. As a far warning, this story might not be as funny because you don't know Yarko, but 7 year old boys are pretty standard all around the world. Anyhow, he presses the button and looks at me all wide eyed and excited and I freeze in horror. Maybe seeing the state of the elevator is another necessity to the humor in this story but lets just say I had no desire what so ever of riding any elevators in Ukraine, much less this one, and even more less ride this elevator with Yarko. The instant he pressed the half lit button a mental image of me being stuck in a broken elevator with Yarko for 5+ hours popped into my head. A real life nightmare, no? I was shaken back to reality simultaneously from the ding of the elevator and Yarko tugging on my hand. I said a definite "NO", picked him up, and carried him up the flight of stairs. He got a kick out of this anyhow, so I don't think he was too disappointed.

Time for "Part 3" in my dreary-some observations on Ukrainian Culture:

Driving: First of all, Ukrainians as a whole do not drive. Walking and buses are the two prevalent forms of transportation. Biking to a certain extent, but surprisingly, to me at least, this is only among the older generations. I will refer back to my comment in an earlier post to sum of driving. Pastor Romaniuk 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". Having received the pleasure of riding in Pastor Romanuik's Lada (Lada is the affordable locally built brand, and while there are many attractive cars I wish they would sell in the States, such as Alfa Romeo's, Peugets, Opels, and Skodas, the Lada is definitely not one of them) on many occasions since arriving, I must say it is quite the experience to say the least. "Adrenaline rush" is the first phrase that comes to mind. And while it would seem Ukrainian drive, how should I say, "Recklessly", they also love their cars. It is not uncommon to see one keep a rag accessible in the car to wipe it down after arriving at a destination, or drive down to the river to give it a good bucket rinse, but more on that later.

Pets: Besides my encounter with the man eating super-canine German Shepherd, not to many people own pets. Dogs are the more common pet (but far from common) with cats in a far second. Dogs also dominate as the most common stray animals. As odd as it sounds, this has actually been one of the biggest culture shocks for me. They are often cute little timid mutt dogs, though you will see the occasional rottweiler. It's hard to say what breeds exactly are in the mutts, but I do know some of them are short and long like a wiener dog, but definitely not a wiener dog. And some dogs will have curly fur like a poodle, but definitely not a poodle. I witnessed a heartbreaking scene this morning when I was gazing out the window. Among the local pack about 7-8 dogs is one who has a lame rear leg who hops around with amazing agility. I'm talking jumping up and down from 3-4 foot walls. But this morning another dog in the pack had a pretty badly injured front leg, bad enough that you could see the open wound across the parking lot from a second story apartment. The dog with the injured rear leg was licking and soothing the injured dog, who in turn would return the favor with a nibble here and there. Also in the local pack is one of the rare rottweiler's, who has a young pup apprentice who never strays to far from his side, who seems to acts as their guardian/leader. He especially watches over the injured. He will lie nearby, never more then 10 meters away, and always facing the injured. If the injured hobble away, he will get up and find a new place in the shade nearby to lay down always with his eyes on the rest of the pack. I never knew I could write so much on dogs, but there you have it.

My time here is wrapping up extremely fast. I saw a pair of dapper young Mormon boys this afternoon, which was extremely frustrating because I know they are probably on there two year mission and it made me realize even more so how short my time here is. But my time here has been priceless in so many ways. By far the most amazing, and important, part has been seeing the Holy Spirit working in these kids lives. Bill, Faith, and I had a conversation yesterday about how fast the Holy Spirit works and it has been awesome to watch the Holy Spirit work so rapidly in my kids.

Brother in the Most Amazing Family Ever,
David Knepprath

P.S. There is something very rewarding and soothing about washing your clothes by hand. Don't get me wrong, I don't plan on washing them by hand back home, but if you have no other choice, it is surprisingly satisfying.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Observations on Ukrainian Culture: Part 2

I have gotten a little bit annoyed with some of the material we were provided for VBS. The application and setup of material for the main lessons are not fitting for the kids. I discovered this after the first day. But, after discussing with the pastor and missionaries, I am not using the provided ESL (English as a Second Language) material either. There are so many errors in the material and the activities are not compelling enough that it's not even worth trying to track down all the errors. I don't want to sound indignant without reason so here is an example of what I mean. In one activity, a list of Bible references is provided with a second list including various names of Jesus written in English (ex. "The Branch", "Father", "Shepherd"). The kids are instructed to look up the verses in a Ukrainian Bible and match it with the corresponding name that is in the passage. First of all, I don't completely understand how this is teaching kids very much English. Second off all, almost half of the Bible references didn't even include a name of Jesus in them (And its not differences in the translation of the Ukrainian Bible either, I checked through references in the English Bible with the pastor as well). Multiple passages contained "Jesus", but I think that was purely by luck. And one passage contained a name for Jesus that wasn't even on the list. GRRR! So as of yesterday I am completely preparing my own Bible lesson AND ESL lesson. I'm not complaining, I actually prefer it this way. I really like preparing my own lessons. It has also given me the opportunity to use a lot of my high school German teachers techniques. I'm still using the supplied crafts though! Crafts have gone wonderfully.

Alright, enough venting, here is Part 2 in my "Observations on Ukrainian Culture":

Clothing: Ukrainians truly are a beautiful people. I think I am starting to understand Europe's negative view on Americans, and thatĂ‚’s if you only look as superficial as clothing. J For lack of better words, we are such slobs in America. I feel so out of place in Ukraine, not because I am American, but because I am so poorly dressed, and not in the quality of my clothes, but in my sense of fashion. Ironically, back in the States, if anything I normally feel over dressed in comparison to my peers, especially guys. I know a few guys back home that pride themselves in their sense of fashion who would be put to shame in Ukraine. The funny thing is Ukraine could hardly be considered one of the more extravagant European countries when it comes to their standard of living, and yet they are so well dressed. But it is not just a sense of fashion. They definitely don't save dressing nice only for special occasions. For example, a girl will be wearing high heals and what I would consider a prom dress at 8:00 in the morning just to go to the market, nicer then most girls in America dress for church on Sunday morning. The fashion gap is even greater for guys. It is by no means uncommon to a man of any age, any day of the week, at any time of the day walking around in leather shoes or sandals, khakis or slacks of some sort, and a button up shirt. But all very fashionable, not in an American stodgy business style of clothing. Ukrainians may not be able to afford a half decent place of living, compared to Americans standards, but they sure don't let that hold them back from dressing like supermodels. Oh ya, one more thing. The whole "gangster"/sagging pants fad is pretty much non-existent here. I LOVE IT!

Rock, Paper, Scissors: I thought this one warranted a section of its own. I always figured the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" was pretty standard around the world. That just goes to show my ignorance. Instead of slapping a closed fist on your hand 3 times before choosing your weapon of choice, in Ukraine you do a full arm extension swing "karate chop" style at each other 3 times before choosing. Interesting eh? I thought so.

Two post in one day, you guys should be thankful! :) I plan on having one uptomorroww night as well.

In Christ Alone,

David Knepprath

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Observations on Ukrainian Culture: Part 1

Sorry I didn't get a post up last night. I went on a run in the evening (it was almost a near death experience) and watched the sunset, so I wasn't back in until around 10:00. I was pretty tired so I just prepared a bit more for my lesson today and went to bed.

So, about that near death experience. At one point in my run, I was running along the river and a lot of people were out their with their cars having picnics. Just when I was coming up behind one the biggest German Shepherd I have ever seen (seriously, its ears probably came up to my chest) started walking out from around the front. When it caught a glimpse of me running he started trotting towards me so I started to do a semi circle around the vicinity. He kept coming at me and I put my hand down, what little good that would do, when the owner steps out and shouts the dogs name. I keep running, a bit faster now, and I hear the dog coming after me. I look back to see it sprinting after me with its head down like it is about to go for my foot, or more likely a whole leg. I shout "NO!" and now the whole family is standing up shouting the dogs name and he finally stops and turns back around. But the run felt good, and the sunset was amazing, so it was worth it. :)

This is the first in a series of posts I will be doing.

Language: There are a few striking aspects of Ukrainian that are familiar. In retrospect I remember thinking how hard the language seemed with such a different alphabet, but now I am learning which letters make which sounds, and if I can sound it out it is surprisingly similar to English. My knowledge of German and experience with Spanish drastically helps as well. I already feel pretty comfortable roaming around the city by myself having managed an essential living vocabulary set of basic pleasantries (Pleasantries in Ukraine are a lot more widespread. it is not uncommon to say "dobrogo dnja"/"good day" 15-20 times in a 5 minutes walk). Give me a dual language dictionary/phrase book and I am good to go. Give me another month or two and I could probably start to fit in with society, somewhat. I had a humorous realization yesterday when hanging out with Pastor Romaniuks 4 year old daughter. She will talk your ear off and care less if you understand a word she is saying. Everyone once and awhile I would shake her hand and say "dobrey dain" to humor her. She would crack up (of course this girl is ALWAYS laughing) and get a kick out of that, then just keep rattling off in Ukrainian. But I digress from the point of the story. At one point I was standing in awe at her fluency in Ukrainian thinking how intelligent she sounded, and feeling so stupid about myself. After sharing this with a few Ukrainians, apparently they have the exact same feeling when they hear a young child speaking fluent English. It's like "I have been trying to learn English for years and this child is how old and can already speak fluent English!?"

More to come soon! I have to finish getting ready for VBS this morning. I hope everyone stayed safe during 4th of July and I was right, fireworks were lame. All I heard was a couple gunshots. :)

If anyone out there is still looking for prayer requests, pray that the rest of this week would be utilized to the fullest in my interaction with the kids! My time is so short, and that is frustrating, but the opportunity with the time I have been given is amazing!

Do Zavtra (Till Tomorrow).

In Christ Alone,
David Knepprath

Monday, July 03, 2006

Psalm 145

Dobrogo vechir (Good evening), I was preparing for my lesson when I started pondering Psalm 145, which I am going to use in my introduction devotion. I found one verse particularly interesting, verse 4. "One generation will commend your works to another, they will tell of your might acts." I found this so fascinating because early today I spent 3 hours discussing God's amazing work with the Krugs and how it has been demonstrated in our lives. While I admit they had a lot more to share with their experiences in Peru, Chile, China, and Ukraine, it was interesting all the same, and that exact event was foretold thousands of years ago by King David. God truly is faithful!

Class went really good today and I did have a few more in my group, which was awesome. During our break I had a really interesting cultural exchange of sorts with the kids. They swarmed around me in front of the white board and we took turns drawing things that contrast between America and Ukraine. This evening after dinner I went on a 3-4 hour exploration by myself, my most extensive yet. I went to the edge of town and got some beautiful pictures of Ivano-Frankivsk cathedral, among other things.

I hope everyone has a great 4th of July. I'm not sure why, but have this crazy feeling that 4th of July fireworks are pretty lame in Ukraine.

In Him,
David Knepprath

P.S. I have been working on a series of posts that I think you all will find interesting, so stay tuned! Gosh, I feel like a full fledged writer or something. I kinda like it. :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I Am Famous

...Apparently...because all the kids want my autograph. I know this isn't anything new for those of you who have gone on mission trips before, and I had heard about this happening, but I totally wasn't expecting it. The kids were getting ready to go home and I was helping one of the boys clean up after our craft when a girl walked up behind me, shoved a notepad and pen in my face, and said "autobiography please". Well first of all, I definitely didn't have time to write my autobiography, nor do I think much interesting stuff has happened in my life that would warrant an autobiography being written. So I politely said "a what?". But she was a persistent gal, and continued to say "autobiography" until I got it through my head that she meant "autograph". That's the last thing I was expecting so that's my excuse for being so dense. After her I was swarmed with kids for the next 10 minutes. I felt a bit awkward but you can't exactly refuse them, so I just wrote their name, "God Bless", and scratched out my John Hancock.

The first day I worked closely with 6 kids for a good portion of the time, with a few more on the second day. In many ways this is a perfect number, especially for the first day, so that I could give plenty of attention to each of the kids. I would love for this number to grow but if not, I pray God would work through me to leave an eternal impact on all the kids that I can. We have Sunday off, but they are expecting more by Monday so we will see. God still hasn't ceased to teach me patience. I had a bit of a scare this morning, being that it was 5 minutes past the start of VBS and my classroom was completely empty. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but this isrecurringing theme, God is so faithful. First one, and then the rest of the kids poured in to the room and we got things moving.

I have been able to communicate with my kids fairly well. When my translator isn't in the room, I can still manage to get my point across. In most cases at least one of the kids will understand the harder English words and they can help me explain it to the rest. I also got a chance to put my Frisbee to good use. One of the moms was late picking up a group of the kids so I played Frisbee with 7 of the kids for a good hour after VBS. This was also an awesome opportunity because 2 of the boys are in my group and up until this point I hadn't really been able to connect with them. Although I must admit, we got some very odd looks from people walking by.

Tomorrow after Church, Sunday school, and the free English lessons that the church provides I am hoping to head up to the Carpathians, weather permitting, with Bill & Faith and the Pastors family.

To put any doubts to rest that some of you might have concerning pictures, I have taken almost 300 pictures and still have plenty of space left for the next week. Hope you have a good rest of the day, I am heading to bed pretty soon to try and catch up on sleep. Dobroji Nochi. (Good Night...Looks a bit like Spanish eh?)

This is my second post in one day, so make sure you don't forget the post about the Dubeyk Center!

Brother in Christ,
David Knepprath
1 Peter 5:9 Resist the devil, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (I can vouch for Peter on that one)

P.S. I am still getting used to the water faucets being backwards. (Left is cold and right is hot) I have turned on the faucet and scorched my hands so many times, only to turn the handle even hotter thinking I am turning it cooler. By the time I get the hang of it I will probably be back in the States and everything will be backwards again