Autumn is here! The evening temperatures have been dipping into the 40s, the oppressive and stagnant heat and humidity have dissipated, the air clear and the sun is warming not oppressive. I appreciate so much the transformation that takes place at this time of year.
Down here in the ‘holler’ that means that Marina is now back in school | as a junior in high school | , running cross-country, taking several college level classes and doing most of the driving to and from school as well as running errands “in town.”
The summer crops from our two gardens have pretty much been eaten, canned or frozen… those which were not decimated by blight or the vast array of insects that have mercilessly gorged themselves on all manner of vegetables. I am amazed by how much time, back-breaking work and nurturing goes into tending these plants in order to produce anything substantial. We will never look at the produce section of a grocery store the same!
Yet there is indeed great reward when, after a day of canning I step back and survey our counter-top lined with half-quart ball jars of pickled beets, jalapeno salsa, tomatoes, bread and butter pickles and fresh-frozen corn, squash zucchini and peppers. Baskets hang from the ancient hand-hewn beams in the Mill, filled to the brim with potatoes and onions, garlic and squash.
We’re now harvesting, splitting and stacking a supply of wood for the stove with which we will heat The Mill this winter.
I have thought often of a card, sent by my parents when we first left for the overseas mission field at the end of 1994. Written on this card was a verse, and enclosed in it was a contribution to our financial support given in memory and in honor of both sets of my grandparents. Inscribed in it were these words: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
Jim, Marina and I were privileged this summer to attend ReachGlobal’s Europe Division family conference in Portoroz, Slovenia. God revealed himself to us, individually and as a family, in his transforming power, truth, forgiveness, grace and love. Each of us were blessed to worship, pray, learn, reflect on the Word, laugh, dance and cry along with fellow missionary families who have all “gone out weeping, carrying seed to sow” across Europe and North Africa. It was like a very large family gathered together along the Adriatic Sea, who drew strength, comfort and joy in the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Spirit worked in each of our hearts and minds throughout all of our activities – the youth program was especially meaningful, even transformative, for Marina. We each left Slovenia changed and refreshed. On the heels of the conference we were able to take a few days of family vacation in Italy, from whence we headed to Ukraine.
From the moment we stepped into our apartment in Kyiv and greeted our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living there, we began “working the phones.” In a few hours we had eight days fully scheduled with meetings with people all across the city – even to the neighboring city of Belaya Tserkov, an hour away.
Each visit typically involved us sitting together around a table trimmed with Ukraine’s finest and freshest foods, for it was the height of the harvest season there. Ukrainians are SO hospitable and were overjoyed to visit with us. We spent hours – not just one or two but seven or eight! – around the table, drinking multiple cups of tea as everyone shared stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives, news of family and friends, good news and troubling events that have taken place in our absence, coupled with rich times of Spirit-led prayer. We were particularly proud of Marina – it had been 2½ years since she had spoken much Russian, so by mid-week she had gotten over her insecurities and just “took off,” fully engaging with children and adults that she’s known since she was two years old and that have had tremendous influence on her life, spiritual formation and development as a young lady. It was truly like “going home” in so many ways.
One evening we had an open house in our apartment and invited as many friends as we could think of from our days with The Navigators and our church plant “Feofaniya.” We cooked and baked throughout the day in spite of the 90-degree heat outside and the absence of AC or fans inside. Our apartment was once again filled with laughter and chatter as everyone greeted one another, exchanging news and stories while lots of kids and babies ran around and played.
I returned from Kyiv with my heart overflowing with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with me. The Lord of the harvest has been good to us – we are grateful for the utter privilege to co-labor with Christ in the field. Looking at the group photo, we realize that, of all those people gathered together that evening in our apartment, only Jim and I knew all those young adults, now raising their own children, before they professed faith in Jesus. We had sown the seed of the Gospel and saw it take root in their hearts and minds. We have been instruments of God’s grace in their lives as the plants have grown and been tended and watered and pruned, and have seen God give the growth… and they are bearing much fruit, fruit that will remain.
Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your partnership with us in the work of the Gospel.