We made it! Finally our bodies have adjusted to the time change…seven hours ahead of Eastern Time Zone! Thank you to all who helped to get us here! We are so blessed & grateful!
Our first couple of weeks have been filled with meeting so many wonderful people and trying to navigate our way around a new city while not knowing the language. What an adventure! Time is flying by faster than we imagined.
Learning, (well at least trying to learn,) the alphabet has been a huge help in figuring things out. Many words are somewhat similar once we learn the alphabet. For example, the word супермаркет is the word supermarket, and once you know the letters, it has meaning! The kids have had a lot of fun trying to teach us some basic Ukrainian and Russian words! Most Ukrainians speak Russian, at least in this area. Mukacheve had a major Soviet military base here, as this was one of the farthest west regions of the former USSR. So, Russian is what most seem to speak here. In smaller villages and rural areas, apparently Ukrainian is used more. Our church is multi-lingual. Everything is translated. The pastor, (Joel, originally from California,) usually preaches in English and his Ukrainian wife Katya, translates into Russian. When someone speaks in Russian, Katya, or one of the many bilingual young people translates for us English speakers. Being an English speaking church does draw some to the church. There is an English Club that meets weekly and draws a good crowd, as many want to learn and practice English. We are assisting in these classes. It is an outreach as some come to the class from outside the church, and the Bible is used as the curriculum. The classes are so fun!
Mukacheve is Beautiful! Just like any American city, some parts of the city are rougher, but crime seems to be low. The Ukraine government has some instability, but we are far from any intense fighting. Quite a few refugees from the war in the East have relocated to the area, and quite a few are part of our church. There are also a few refugees from other parts of the world that have settled here, with a dozen or so of these precious people making a home with us in our fellowship. Some of them seem more at home speaking English than Russian, which is possibly what brought them to our church. We just had a baby dedication for a beautiful baby, but we can’t show any photos to ensure their safety. Here in Mukacheve, the people are lovely and peaceful. Births are on the rise as the town is family friendly. People are pushing baby buggies everywhere.
Spring has sprung since we arrived and the flowers and leaves are in full bloom!
We can hardly believe it’s been three weeks since our arrival! With so many opportunities to pour into the people here, we have not been bored. We have included a lot of pictures in this post to try and give an overview, but pictures simply cannot show the reality of life in Mukacheve. To keep up with our daily activities, we have posted an album of pictures on Facebook here:
The predominate religion that most identify with is Orthodoxy. Although it appears it’s nominal for many. We have heard from some of the locals that the older generation highly discourages attending evangelical churches due to trust issues. Some refer to evangelical churches as ‘sects,’ or ‘cults.’ They believe the churches are only after their money, which is always in short supply. (The average worker makes about $5/day.) We are trying hard to convince them we are self-funded and do not even take offerings, that our purpose here is to love them and share the Lord. It’s awesome that we are seeing people receive Christ weekly! The Friday Nights Cafe is growing with youth of all ages. Quite a few are neighborhood kids that show up to hang out and end up coming to the Saturday bible study and pizza. Several are former atheists who end up coming to Christ by asking questions and searching truth for themselves rather than simply relying on what they have been taught. Some were angry and bitter from the horrible situations they have been through and found that love still exists. Please keep these ministries in your prayers that hearts would be healed and lives would be changed.
Sunday morning worship is powerful. The instruments are few, but the Spirit is flowing. On Sunday evenings, we take part in a street ministry outreach in the City Center which has brought many to the Lord, (several last summer, 5 2weeks ago and 4 last week!) With the language barrier, we are unable to talk directly to very many, but they listen to our greeting, being curious about the Americans, and interested in the music and skits, then one of the locals in our group will interpret. Probably most of the sharing is done by the local youth. It’s inspiring to see their eagerness to share the love of Christ to their peers. If anyone prays, we exchange contact info to connect later. The church is focused on training and discipleship.
A friend of Arthur came with his dad to the event. After Mark spoke, Arthur was blessed to lead his friend to Christ! We are never sure how many are reached through any word spoken, but God’s word will spread one to another and never return void! It will accomplish it’s purpose and thankfully doesn’t need or depend on us. So no pressure! It’s all Him!
Although we have seen an abundance of beauty, Mukacheve has its dark side. During the 50 years of Communist control, stone buildings were erected throughout the city to house the Russians brought in to occupy. These buildings still stand and serve as apartment housing. The contrast between the Free Ukrainian housing and the Communist Oppression housing is drastic. Just as a free country brings creative love and beauty to its surroundings, God wants to bring his love and beauty to their hearts, and ours.
Despite some difficult history, Mukacheve is a beautiful city nestled in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. Pray for the people to see God’s love!
Thank you all for your support and prayers!
Mark & Nora Apple