We have safely arrived in Odessa, Ukraine. Kay and I are beginning to feel like seasoned travelers. Pack our bags, unpack our bags, pack again, present tickets, go through passport control, go through security checks, present tickets and passports, give up luggage, pick up luggage, stand in line, present passports, check bags, take off almost everything and put it in a box to run through security checks again, then put all back on…Yes, we’re beginning to feel like seasoned travelers. And we are most grateful for the opportunity to serve our Lord together on the other side of the world.
Last night we shared a last meal with our friends in Deva, Romania. Timotei and Corina invited the rest of the church staff over and we shared a Romanian bbq together as he cooked beef and pork patties, sausages, and chicken on the grill outsides. As with most fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, especially over food, there was many stories and lots of laughter together. Yes, I even learned a few things from my new friends.
Sunday night Dani, the associate pastor, had been my translator. He was translating the introduction of a song that the youth were going to sing. Instead of saying, “this next offering is again a scripture song”, he translated it as, “this next offering is a song against scripture!” I asked if he changed it. Timotei simply replied, “some things are better left alone.” While I was talking about worship and remembering the price that Christ paid on the cross, I recalled sitting in the afternoon and hearing the sound of sheep outside my window. I made reference to this in my sermon. It was during dinner that I learned that the neighbor who had the animals close by is a member of the church and was there in the service. Corina caught her eye and they both shared a big grin, especially knowing that what I was hearing were goats! Ah, the blessedness of doing missions in a foriegn land!
Follwing dinner, we finished up our clothes washing and packed our bags for the journey that would begin early this morning. I managed to get two hours of sleep, Kay only one. We believe that Timotei got a little more. We were all up by 2:00AM and out the door by 2:30AM to make the two hour journey to Timisoara to catch the plane. The trip was on dark, winding roads and it rained on us most of the way. When we arrived at 4:30AM, there was already a sizeable line in the ticket counter. I realized that our airline was open and Kay and I quickly got our boarding passes and got our bags checked through to Odessa. The attendant suggested that we go ahead and move into the security line, as there would be a lot of people going through very soon. We smoothly went through customs, passport control, and the security check. We were getting all our belongings together again, we looked back and saw that there were many people standing in a very long line. We had managed to get just ahead of them.
Our flight from Timisoara left at 5:55AM, arriving in Vienna, Austria, at 5:45AM, 10 mintues before we left! Kay and I managed to find a bench in the airport and were able to rest and take a short naps before our group joined us from America. We were joined by about 50 others from our team as we boarded the plane from Vienna to Odessa. Everything went very smoothly. When we arrived in Odessa, we gathered our luggage, went through customs and passport control, and loaded our busses. It was about an hour to the port where our ship was waiting.
As we began to board the ship, we began looking around and seeing several faces that we recognized from 18 months ago. It was a sweet reunion. There will be some time to visit with them some more in the coming days, but it was like a homecoming. Tomorrow we begin our ministry with our first concert at the First Baptist Church of Odessa. Ukraine, that is!
Kay and I are grateful for safety in travel and the ease of all the connections today. So many things can go wrong, but things went very smoothly. We had asked many to pray for our connections and early morning trip. I can tell you God answered your prayers on our behalf. Though we were sleepy, we were always awake and alert when we needed to be. Timotei made it home safely as well, traveling the return trip in rain all the way. Even as we are begin the second part of our journey, we sense God at work in so many ways. We are grateful for many who are praying for this mission endeavor. It is only by your prayers and the power of God that is at work through us that we are able to serve. Please continue to lift us up. We will write more tomorrow when we have a little time.