Friday, November 8, 2013

I've moved!

It's been almost a year and a half since I was last in Ukraine.  So many things have happened during that time -- here's a brief summary of my major life changes:

~left Kyiv, my home of 3 years and stopped teaching at KCA
~got engaged to my wonderful man!!!
~moved back to America, to Kansas City specifically, and adjusted to life there for a brief time
~completed about half of my master's degree (Intercultural Studies at Nazarene Theological Seminary)
~moved back to Maryland about a month before my wedding and spent a lot of time visiting my grandmother in the hospital
~learned a lot about my parents' background, for good or for bad, and realized how it was affecting me
~welcomed many family and friends to my small town for our wedding week
~moved to the Netherlands
~welcomed many family and friends to our medium-sized city for our wedding week
~GOT MARRIED!!! AGAIN!!! To the same guy.  :)

Needless to say, this blog will only be periodically updated with things related to Ukraine.

If you are interested in reading my NEW blog, click on over to and maybe even subscribe to updates via a feed reader or email!  

See you there!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Я буду славить Господа Христа!

((A)) Каждый день на устах моих
Это славное имя - Иисус
Я не знаю имен других,
Лишь Его я превозношу!

((B)) Мое сердце поет о Нем,
О Спасителе дивном моем.
Только он мне дает покой,
Его Имя всегда со мной!

Прип. ((C)) Я буду славить Господа Христа!
Я буду помнить все Его дела!
Я буду петь Ему: Аллилуйя! Аллилуйя!

((D)) И когда солнце свет дарит,
Согревая всю землю теплом,
В моем сердце опять звучит
Иисусу Царю псалом!

Да славит тебя душа моя

Today I woke up with part of this song stuck in my head.  Keep in mind, I left Ukraine exactly 8 months ago today and have not heard this song since the last time we sang it in church at Studencheskaya.

Да славит Тебя душа моя (4р).

Да не умолкает
Господи Боже мой
Буду славить Тебя вечно
Господи Боже мой

Да славит Тебя Церковь Твоя (4р).

(video from YouTube)

(lyrics originally found here )

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Final Ukraine Ministry Update - August 2012

Dear friends and family -- my supporters,

This is the last ministry update you'll receive from me -- what an amazing 3 years it has been!  I've been in America now for almost 2 weeks, and I'm in the midst of transition (more on that later), so I can't even begin to talk about a summary of these three years.

What I CAN do, however, is tell you about the past month or so:

Ukraine Farewells:
My last weeks in Ukraine consisted of sorting my things and saying goodbyes to friends.

Pastor Vova, Sylvia, and Philip came over for dinner one night
Zee and I outside our favorite Chinese restaurant
On my last Sunday there, after the pastor and Zee prayed for me, one of the babushki (grandmothers) gave me a dark chocolate bar.  For every person celebrating a birthday, this lady is prepared with chocolate!  I felt honored that she had one for me, especially since I've only once celebrated my birthday in Ukraine.  She even talked to me and invited me to join her and a few other people for tea in the side room.  I will miss my church family in Kiev, celebrating Communion together on the first Sunday of every month.  Even though I only understood a little bit of the sermon, but many of the songs, I will miss worshiping there in Russian!  Studencheskaya (the name of the street it's on) became my church home these past 3 years.

A 2 1/2 week "layover"
As I returned to America, I stopped in the Netherlands to visit Randolf, my boyfriend.

While I was there, he proposed to me--and I said yes!!!  We enjoyed our two and a half weeks together very much, celebrating our engagement together.  We're pretty happy together.  :)

We will be getting married next summer -- in both America and Holland.  Following our American wedding, I will be moving to Holland to live with him.  While there, I will finish up my NTS degree from a distance and then probably teach in an international school.  We will most likely visit Ukraine together again at some point, since we both have good friends there.

Youth Camp -- Netherlands District
Randolf and I had the opportunity to serve together, in HIS country this time!  We were part of the kitchen staff at the district youth camp, along with 6 others.  I had thought that we'd be in the kitchen all day every day, working nonstop, but this was not the case -- hooray!  Every day we would go into town to the grocery store and load his car with food.  One day we had 170 hamburgers, another day we had 50kg (110 pounds) of potatoes....

Each time, we had 2 grocery carts full of stuff.
 We also coordinated cleanup within the kitchen -- of silverware, plates, cups, and any cooking pots that were used.  Each meal, a different family group would come to help.  We simply gave them jobs to do and made sure things went smoothly.  As you can see, this group on this particular night had a blast while listening to music!

We also led a workshop about how they could be involved in missions right where they were.  Randolf shared his portion in Dutch, and I shared mine in English.  We asked them to imagine if their church started a coffeeshop/coffeebar, how that would be a ministry to the community, and how they could help.

It was difficult for me to know how much everyone understood my words, even though they all spoke some English, but a few of them were participating in the discussion.  Our prayer is that it has planted some seeds, especially with the winter camp coming, where they will be going into the neighborhood to talk to people.

Here is a link to a video they filmed while at camp (I am NOT in it):

Out in the west Texas town of El Paso....
Upon my return to America, I traveled to El Paso for Youth in Mission re-entry camp.  I participated in this in 2007 and 2008, and it was good to be with others who were re-entering America (even if they were only gone for 2 months).  Plus, I hadn't seen some of my friends from El Paso in at least 3 years -- the Grenier family and I spent some time catching up, I could be there for the Fothergill family send-off as they move to Africa, and I saw a few other friends too!

I enjoyed hearing the students' stories of ministry in London, India, and Madagascar.  Many of the students asked me about my Mission Corps experience -- how I got started, what my role was, etc.  Then a few told me about their interests, of how they wanted to be involved in ministry after college:  in teaching in Africa or in areas related to "family and consumer sciences," for example.  These students still have 2 or so years until they are finished with school, but this is the time for God to shape and guide them.

Upcoming Dates
August 9-13:  Visit to Boston for my roommate Amy's wedding (we lived together for 2 years in Kyiv).
~For those of you from South Weymouth COTN, I will be there on Sunday morning the 12th at 11am!

August 17: Begin travel to Kansas City

August 20: Foundations of Mission module course begins -- my first on-campus NTS course!

Prayer Requests: 
*Youth in Mission students -- that their summer of servanthood would continue into a lifetime of servanthood!
*Transitioning back into American life -- realizing that I've changed and see America as somewhat of an outsider now
*Traveling safety to New England and back, and then to Missour

*I have a place to live!  I will be living in a duplex in Raytown, MO!
*I've applied for a few substitute teaching jobs as well as a position at a Sylvan Learning Center.  Continue praying that there will be something for me.

As I finish writing this letter, I know I am closing a chapter in my life.  Thank you all for your role in my life -- of supporting financially, sending encouraging emails, and inviting me to share at your churches.  I've really enjoyed knowing you these few years!

In Christ,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July update 2012

Dear supporters,

This is my next-to-last email update to you, written during my last week of life in Ukraine.  I depart Kiev on July 9, and what an amazing 3 years it has been!

What's Next?
In the immediate future, I will be spending two weeks in Holland with my boyfriend.  One of those weeks will be at the Netherlands District NYI (youth) camp, where we will primarily be working behind the scenes in the kitchen, preparing and serving meals for the students.  There is also the opportunity for us to lead a missions workshop together!

Once I return to the US, I will spend a weekend in El Paso, TX for Youth in Mission re-entry camp.  Here, I will have the opportunity to debrief teams and hear their stories about their summers across the world, just as was done for me in 2007 and 2008.  I also look forward to being back in a place I still consider as one of my "homes"!

After some time back in Maryland and Massachusetts (going to my roommate Amy's wedding!), I will be moving to Kansas City, Missouri to attend Nazarene Theological Seminary.  I am studying for a Master's in Intercultural Studies, and have already started work on a fall module course.

On top of all this, I will be re-adjusting to a culture where I SHOULD fit, but I realize I am not American-American any more.  US coins, water fountains (that provide tap water), convenient and already-prepared foods, hearing English everywhere, and even the presidential campaigns are unfamiliar to me.

What's Past?
A couple weeks ago, I visited Chernivtsi in western Ukraine.  This city was the first place besides Kyiv that I visited in 2008, working with Vera, and once I came back, I went for a weekend in January 2010 and also in September 2010 to help with the Kids' Club for kids with special needs.  While I was there this time, I was able to enjoy some time visiting people and just have a relaxing weekend.  A team from Khmelnitskyi, Ukraine, was there to make plaster molds in order to create braces for the kids' arms and legs -- so Vera and I stopped by each day to see how things were going!

Roma and his mom
New friends Vitalik and Roman
Old friends from 2008 Nastia and Sveta
What's at Present?
I have still been playing tour guide for Ree and Joey Sumi, and at this point, I think my job is done.  Ree has successfully ordered water delivery via phone, and they come and go to their language lessons, the grocery store, and metro.  I've also showed them the major landmarks of the city, given them some history lessons, and taken them to the train station for a weekend trip.  They are getting settled, I think, and are about to leave for 3 weeks of summer camp.   Continue to keep them and the rest of the missionaries here in your prayers as they adjust.

Here is an abridged quote from missionary Bob Skinner from the Sumis' blog, sharing about the "core necessities to minister cross-culturally:  Simply, if you cannot learn how they think, study their history, eat their food, or speak their language, how can you love them?"  My hope is that Christ's love has been shown through me as I've lived here for three years.

Prayer Requests:
*My friend Svetlana, from the Obolon church, is looking for a job as an economist
*An apartment and job for me in Kansas City
*Ree and Joey Sumi's continued adjustment to life in Ukraine
*Focus and diligence in completing my assignments for my NTS coursework, despite not having a routine anymore
*Peace and comfort as I am leaving what I've known as home and family for 3 years

*Three amazing years of life here in Ukraine
*Relaxing days where I can finish everything I need to
*Traveling safety during the weeks of the EURO 2012 cup (Spain won)
*More opportunities to have quality time with friends

God has been teaching me during this time of transition that my identity is not based on my job, my ministry, my position, or anything else.  It's not about me.  What matters is what CHRIST has done on the cross and how mighty God is!  God never changes from day to day, and that is what I'm holding to.

May you continue to remember that your life is about Christ, not about you!

In Christ,


Thursday, June 14, 2012

June Update #2: Summer Plans

Hello supporters,

I hope you are all enjoying your summer months, wherever you may be!  Here is the promised second update for the month of June, as it did not all fit into one email.

KCA Class of 2012
Graduation was held this year on May 24.  Of these 12 students, I had taught all but 1 of them at some point.

KCA Teachers/Staff and the class of 2012!
These students are traveling in multiple directions this next year -- some going to Christian universities, others attending state schools.  For 2 graduates who have lived in Ukraine nearly their entire lives, their families have already moved out of Ukraine.  These students (plus a handful of others, including their siblings) may have American passports, but "home" to them is Ukraine.  If you ask a missionary kid "Where are you from?" you will be met with a blank stare or a 15 minute explanation of their life story.

My Precalculus class and I
Pray for these students -- the graduates and the others who have moved away from Ukraine.  Pray for a smooth transition into life in America (or Korea) as they navigate a culture that will seem foreign.  Pray for them to rely on God's strength and love as a solid foundation and "home" for them.  Pray for close Christian friends to support them during this time!

Summer Tasks:
This summer, I am wrapping up 3 years of life in Ukraine.  My primary goal is to compile all my English lesson plans and materials into a cohesive PDF document to leave here.  (Currently, they are in a pile on my bedroom floor.)

At my desk before taking down my photos
I spent one full day at KCA, sorting through my curriculum folders, digitizing some materials, and recycling 3"/8cm of paper!  Now my materials are organized and ready for the next teacher!

At home, I organized and cleaned my shkafs (shkaf = closet/shelves/storage) in preparation for the next residents.  This place never was so tidy -- and it might only last a week, but for now, it's nice!

Saying Goodbyes:
"Good goodbyes lead to good hellos" (from a re-entry workshop I attended).
Ukraine has been my home for the past 3 years.  The people here are family to me.  Kiev First Church of the Nazarene is my home church.  Since my college days, it is the only one I've attended for at least 4 weeks in a row.  When people ask what I do, I answer, "Teach math/Bible at KCA."

My last time to see Bob and Josh Skinner, and the first dinner I served Ree and Joey Sumi
Now, things are changing.  I have said many goodbyes and cried many tears already.  Most of my goodbyes have been to people from school, and I've been able to have some quality time with a few of them once school finished.  I said goodbye to my roommate-of-2-years Amy on the 29th, but knowing I will see her and a few others at her wedding makes the goodbyes a little easier.

Our entire Nazarene mission team has changed over the course of my three years here, and it has been hard to watch my friends leave.  However, the new team is assembled and they have had their meetings recently.

Ree and Joey Sumi, pictured above, have arrived and will be living in my apartment.  For now, we are flatmates and I am helping them get settled.  As I show them around the neighborhood and how to navigate public transport or pay bills at the bank, I realize just how far I've come in 3 years.

Ree and I outside the memorial/museum for "The Great Patriotic War Against the Fascists" (WW2)
It was four years ago that I arrived in Ukraine for a summer trip, and I didn't realize then that I would come back for 3 years of teaching.  Now, I am no longer the "newbie," because I can pass along my knowledge of Ukrainian culture and history (thanks to the Skinners and Wrights!)!

Upcoming Dates/Plans:
~Now until July 1:  Euro 2012 football (aka soccer) championships--I've enjoyed watching the matches on TV and cheering for Ukraine and the Netherlands!
~Visit Chernivtsi (Western Ukraine) and Poltava (Eastern Ukraine)
July 7: American Chamber of Commerce hosts an American Independence Day picnic
July 12: Depart Ukraine :(

*Opportunities for quality time and good goodbyes with friends this summer
*The opportunity to support the other missionaries on our team
*God is teaching me more and more to rely on Him, and not on the people or places around me, for stability/constancy:  "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psalm 90:1-2).

Prayer Requests:
*KCA students who have graduated or moved to other countries
*For me as I transition out of Ukraine and make plans for America
*The new Nazarene mission team, that they would have a smooth transition in and that Ukrainians would be accepting of them

How can I pray for you?

In Christ,

Friday, June 1, 2012

June Update #1: Ministry in Ukraine

Hello, my long-neglected supporters!

I apologize for the length of time between updates, but the past month and half have been packed full for me.  Rather than bore you to tears with paragraphs upon paragraphs, I will just share stories via photographs, as a summary.

KCA Junior-Senior Trip to Prague, Czech Republic
In this beautiful city, I had a wonderful time with 11th and 12th graders on their class trip.  It was a relaxed time, outside of the classroom, and I got to see more of their hearts and interests.  We went sightseeing, had great conversations, and just enjoyed our times together.  I also enjoyed one-on-one conversations, or late night talks, with some of the girls -- I'm so glad God gave this opportunity to hear their stories!

Nate and Alexia convinced me to try Bubble Tea -- yum!
One afternoon, these lovely ladies (Grace, Jung, Victoria, & Yoon Na) and I wandered around the city
"Czech" out more photos on my Facebook page.

 Tobias, 5th grade miracle
While in Prague, we received word that Jop's (pronounced "Yopp") younger brother had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and his family was flying home to the Netherlands for more testing.  A few days later, Tobias had surgery to remove what was eventually identified as a benign tumor.  Approximately one month later, he, his mom, and youngest sister returned home to Kiev.

Sadly, he missed the ceremony on the last day of school, but because he was out of the hospital, he was able to attend his 5th grade "step up" graduation via Skype!

There's Tobias on the screen, with his friend Julian holding the computer.
Our headmaster is presenting him with his certificate.
The KCA community, plus friends of the family around the world, prayed for this little boy and his family.  Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of KCA.  What's more, we had a new teacher arrive this year who had ALSO survived a brain tumor!  God's timing this year has been amazing, and the other day, I saw Tobias at school catching up on his assignments.

Last English Lesson at Obolon

The class presented me with a card on which each of them had written an English phrase, many choosing to write, "I love Jessica."  I hope that now and in the future, these kids will have many more opportunities to grow, but more importantly, ways in which they can grow closer to Christ.

Track Meets, 2012
This year, we had 3 different track meets, and I'm so glad I was part of the coaching staff again this year.  Here are some photos:

Middle/high school teams plus coaches
Bogdan, 8th grade, running in one of the relay races
The Middle School team!
Upcoming Events:
June 5: New volunteer missionary couple, the Sumis, arrive.
July 12: Depart Ukraine one last time.  :(

Sneak preview of the next update (since it was too long for one):
*KCA Graduates of the class of 2012
*Saying farewell to many friends who have become like family
*Summer plans

*My NTS course is finished!  I got an A!  Hooray!
*An amazing 3 years of work/ministry/life at KCA
*Time to enjoy a few weeks of summer here in Ukraine and spend time with friends

Prayer Requests:
*Smooth transitions for all entering and leaving Ukraine during these summer months
*That God would continue to shape my heart so that I can love Him more
*My friend Masha's uncle's deteriorating health and family members caring for him

Thank you for all your support -- I'm so thankful for your prayers and encouragement during this time in Ukraine!

In Christ,