Carrie-Anne and I are leaving Sunday afternoon for ten days in Kharkov, Ukraine to visit our good friends David and Olivia Nelson. David and Olivia are almost to the midpoint of a five year missionary commitment in Kharkov. And we’re going there to see the work God is doing in Ukraine, to join in that work, and mostly to encourage the workers.
I admit my only knowledge of Ukraine comes from the Label Baby episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer and Newman encounter a patriotic Ukrainian while playing Risk on the subway. (“The Ukraine is weak. It’s feeble. I think it’s time to put the hurt on the Ukraine.”) You can see the clip I’m talking about by clicking here.
I know the Nelsons are excited about us coming to see them. And it’s not just because we’re bringing new sheets and curtains and maternity clothes for Olivia and Tabasco sauce for David. I think they’re genuinely experiencing God at work in their lives and in the lives of the people they’re meeting and they want so desperately for somebody from their home congregation to see it first-hand. They want to share what they’re doing and what God is doing through them with the brothers and sisters here who are supporting them.
No, things have not been completely smooth for David & Olivia in Kharkov. I’ll never forget that Sunday morning in March last year when they told us over the skype on the big screens in our worship center how hard and difficult it is. David looked right into the camera, right into our eyes, and told us that missionary work in Kharkov is not glamorous. Nobody speaks English. It’s a different language, different culture, different everything. They’re dealing constantly with rejection and lonliness six-thousand miles away from family and friends who love them so dearly.
Since that time, David and Olivia have suffered through a miscarriage. There have been other setbacks, too. At the same time, they’ve seen the Russian speaking church there grow from nothing to almost a dozen disciples of Jesus. They’ve baptized Andrei. They’re studying the Bible every day with Christ-seeking Ukrainians. Their resolve is inspirational. Their commitment is beyond measure. And the God they serve is great.
Olivia has written before that they do feel “hugged” every time they receive a letter or a card or an email from Legacy. Carrie-Anne and I can’t wait to give them real hugs next week. We can’t wait to eat with them. To pray with them. To laugh with them and, maybe, even cry. We can’t wait to meet Andrei and Vitali and Galina and Valeria. I can’t wait to sit in on their Russian classes with Yelena and Vladimir. We can’t wait to read God’s Word with Nikita and Ura and Victoria. I can’t wait to share the communion meal with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, united by Christ, blessed together by his love and grace. To put faces and personalities with all these names we’ve been lifting to God in prayer for two years is going to be such a blessing.
Airport workers are on strike at Heathrow in London which could possibly affect our travel. We’ll be twelve days without Dr Pepper. David tells us the nicest restaurant in Kharkov is a McDonald’s. The only hot water in their apartment is provided by a portable heater in the bathroom.
But we can’t wait.