Wednesday, June 25, 2008


After traveling through Galilee preaching, healing, anointing and casting out daemons, the disciples returned to Jesus and told Him all about their ministry. Here is Peter’s memory of Jesus’ response.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while." For so many people were coming and going that they didn't even have time to eat. So they went away in a boat to a deserted place by themselves. Mark 6:30-32

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus became very popular. However, He maintained a discipline of rest.

But the news about Jesus spread even more, and many crowds began gathering to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. However, he continued his habit of retiring to deserted places and praying. Luke 5:15-16

We, our family, do a very bad job of resting. If we plan to rest at home, we usually end up cleaning or doing some of those things that we have been putting off. If we go off somewhere on vacation to rest we are often so busy that we need a rest when we return home. We have been here with our dear friend Renee in North Carolina and have had some time of rest. However, we have also been very busy. We have been visiting sites, playing with kids, talking late into the night, preparing presentations, answering emails, preparing financial statements, sending packages, making arrangements for travel, making arrangements for school, for living, etc. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here but have not rested much. We are going to try to correct this situation. We have planned to spend one week (June 25 to July 2) at a retreat center in Virginia. We will not check email; we will not watch TV, listen to the news or turn on our cell phone. We will rest, pray, read, spend time as a family and I pray connect in a special way with each other and with our Lord. We need this time to prepare our souls for the year ahead.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

All American

It’s been a week’s worth of new/familiar sights and sounds for us here in Durham NC. Our good friend and hostess, Renee Combs, has opened her home and enabled us to introduce our kids to all kinds of American sights, sounds, smells, etc… her beautiful spacious backyard, complete with trampoline and hammock has been the scene of much frolicking, jumping, water gun battling, fetch-playing with the family dog, Smore eating, and conversing. We’ve eaten pizza, good North Carolina BBQ, and I-Hop pancakes. We toured the storybook Duke University campus/chapel, went bowling and skating, and explained baseball to our kids at a Durham Bulls game. You can’t get more all-American than this last week has been. Renee’s hospitality to us has humbled and blessed us beyond measure.

Yesterday, all six kids made dinner for Alfie, Renee and I. Their chosen menu included sticky orange chicken, confetti rice, a grape tomato, romaine heart, and zucchini appetizer, and candy sushi. They chopped, marinated, melted, mixed, and even cleaned. They did a great job working together under Renee’s culinary tutelage.
Today, we worshipped in English, at Renee’s church Ebenezer Baptist. We spent a long time at Steve’s grave which is in the church’s cemetery…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We Made It!

After three plane rides, numerous shrink-wrapped meals, shuttle rides, long lines, metal detectors, many “yes, sirs”, Alfie only being searched once and a hotel in Chicago, we made to North Carolina. Our friend Renee met us at the airport; we had pizza for lunch and went to her house. She had been a wonderful hostess. We have had a great time relaxing and getting over jet lag. Julie, Micah and I were up at 5:00am on Monday. It was still dark outside so we went out back and rested on the hammock. Here is a picture of Julie and Micah with the house in the background. I can’t think of a better way to start our home service.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Going Home?

Well, it’s the day before we leave Ukraine for a whole year. We have spent the day running around, packing, cleaning, talking on the telephone and saying goodbyes. Yesterday, we had tea with some of the faculty and staff of the seminary. It has been a pleasure for me (Alfie) to serve with them. Today, we met with our small group for the last time. We studied the Bible then had some more goodbyes. It’s a strange feeling. We are definitely foreigners in Ukraine but I often feel very much at home. In fact right now I feel like I am leaving home for a year. However, I say, “We are going home for a year.” In some ways I do feel at home in the states but, in other ways I now often feel like a foreigner in the states. When I understand what everyone says (in California), I feel out of place. When I don’t understand everything (In Odessa), I feel very much at home. These last five years have changed this family in many ways. We leave Ukraine with heavy hearts. We will miss our friends, our apartment, our ministries and some of us will miss the cat. However, we look forward to being “home” again. We look forward with joyful hearts to seeing family, friends and ministries we used to be part of.

When Peter exhorts his readers to abstain form the desires of the flesh he calls them aliens and exiles (1Pe 2:11). Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). I am realizing that I don’t feel at home in the US or Ukraine because I’m not home. My home is in heaven and even if my mind doesn’t realize it, my soul feels it. All of us who follow Christ are aliens and strangers on earth, but someday we will be home with the Lord. We look forward to that day. John the apostle described the homecoming scene in heaven in Revelation 7:9-10. He described a multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people and tongue praising God together. That is what my soul longs for. I get glimpses of it here in Ukraine in the midst of fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I get glimpses of it in the US with my brothers and sisters in Christ. So, depending on how you look at it, we are either leaving home to go home or we are foreigners going back to the last place we were foreigners. Either way it is easier to leave here and go to the US when I realize that both places are just a shadow of our real home. And we know that some day the Lord will bring us home to the place He has prepared for us and we will know the joy that we have tasted here in earth.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


We are preparing to leave our home in Odessa for one year. During that year we will be traveling and living in the USA. We leave in one week and the process of goodbyes has begun. I will never get used to this part of being a missionary. You spend enough time in a place to build relationships and then you leave.

On May 30th was the Odessa Theological Graduation. Alfie was able to participate and say goodbye to the full time theology students and the part time Pastoral Ministry students.

Today, Saturday June 7, Micah our daughter had her last music exam. She did very well – received an 11 out of 12. After the exam we had some tea and refreshments. We were able to say goodbye to Micah’s music teacher, Lucia and Micah's fellow students. Here is a vidoe of her playing one of her songs.

From the music exam, we went to a picnic by the sea. Our small group organized a picnic to say goodbye to us. We sang together, they gave us a gift (a photo album with their pictures and best wishes), we played and ate together. Igor, the pastor of the group said, “We are very sad to see you go and when Ukrainians are sad - we also eat. So we have gathered to be sad and eat together.” This group has been a great blessing to us. We have prayed together, studied the Bible together, had picnics, laughed, cried and served the Lord together. We thank God for them and will miss them very much.