Friday, June 30, 2006

Dubeyk Center

I didn't have much chance to write about my first day, I will do a whole post on he first two days of VBS tonight. But in regard to the first day, lets just say I had my doubts on how God would be able to use me teaching VBS, but God is so faithful. More and more I have been learning to trust God, but He has once again taught me a very persuasive lesson. More details to come about the actual VBS later.

So you're probably wondering, or not, about this Dubeyk Center that I keep talking about. I have already described it as being a "luxury resort" because of it stark contrast to my living arrangements at Light City in New Orleans, but it really is far from a "luxury resort". From my understanding it currently serves as what we would call more or less a hotel of sorts. As opposed to the gutted warehouse lined with cots wall to wall I actually had my own private room, well, minus two roommates. Two room mates is a far shot from 300 roommates, so yes I would consider the room private. Where as in New Orleans we were lucky to have a charging station for cell phones and cameras and I had to share 2 shower tents with about 1000 other guys and had no running water, here at the Dubeyk Center in Ukraine each room has a TV and a bathroom with a shower. Okay, so maybe the TV was more for decoration, being that 1 out of the 20 rooms actually had a functional TV (that’s how I was able to keep up on the Ukraine-Switzerland game), and maybe I feared for my life when I stepped in the shower because I had no clue what was growing on the shower curtain and didn't know what mutated creature was going to crawl out of the cracks in the tiles next, and the running water from the sink couldn't be used for anything besides…well nothing, but it still had an aura of luxuriousness about it. I think the one common thread between Light City and the Dubeyk Center that brought back memories of New Orleans is the lack of potable water. In that respect I miss the convenience of having the Red Cross dropping off mountains of bottled water everyday for free use.

However, the Dubeyk Center has not always served as a luxury resort for the most influential of the world to wine and dine in Ukraine All along the road where the Dubeyk Center is located are multiple very similar complexes. After a bit of investigating I was able to discover that they are all Soviet Era communist youth camps used for raising kids to best serve the USSR. That is where the interesting part comes in. I can't help wishing I could see the lives of the kids at these camps when they were functional.

Continue to pray that God will use me working through the translator effectively and efficiently. It is a bit slow and tedious at times.

In His Grace,
David Knepprath

P.S. By any chance did anyone see the Ukraine-Italy game? When Italy was still only up by 1 and Ukraine came really close to scoring, the entire city of more then 200,000 (I am not even exaggerating) screamed in a united singular shout of excitement. It was quite possibly one of the most exhilarating sporting experiences in my life.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Crazy Bus Drivers and Train Rides

I am writing this at 5:00am. Jet lag must still be messing with my internal clock, or maybe it has something to do with Ukraine only getting about 5-6 hours without daylight and light is already pouring in my room. Probably a combination of both.

Our trip to Ivano-Frankivsk from Kiev was by far the most stressful leg of the journey as of yet. Everyone who had a final destination farther from Kiev was taking an early bus from the Dubeyk Center to the train station. The bus arrived a little late, in turn setting our entire timetable for the evening back. After loading the bus and scarffing down dinner we all got on the bus, except for 2 girls, of course (Bad generalization, I know, but for a mental picture, these are the type of girls who would have been shaving their legs everyday at the New Orleans camp when we were doing Katrina Relief work.), who we ended up waiting another 15 minutes for. Then things got interesting. We "lucked" out and got the same driver who picked us up from Kiev International Airport. To think I thought he was a crazy driver then, now we were running over 30 minutes late! I feared for many a pedestrian's life that evening. Pastor Romaniuk (The pastor of my church in Ivano) summed it up nicely when I questioned him about the stressfulness of driving in Ukraine while riding in his car, after having feared for my life more then 10 times in 10 minute, he responded saying "I have driven in many other countries, and in those countries driving is a 'pleasure', if you want to really drive, come to Ukraine, this is driving".

If the bus ride made things interesting, this next part made things painful. After unloading the bus in a massive pile on the sidewalk we realized each of us had at least 3 pieces of luggage (with the third being anywhere from a 50-90lb military duffel bag with VBS supplies). However, the train station itself was quite the inspiration. If train stations in America looked anything like this I think more Americans would travel by train. After trudging through the train station and up the equivalent of 4 flights of stairs (The escalator was broken) I easily made up for not working out in the last week. We walked up to platform 2 just as our train arrived and started to shuffle all our baggage to our compartment. After wrestling with all of our bags for 20 minutes in a compartment that was half the size it needed to be, it felt like a sauna. This was nice too, as having missed working out at the gym for the last week I also have been missing the sauna. This "niceness" of the sauna like compartment was short lived as it settled in that it was going to be a 13 hour train ride. I find is mildly amusing, and a tad bit frustrating, that I traveled half way around the world in the same time that I traveled less then 300 miles. Anyhow, any smidge of "niceness" that still remained was stomped out when the full blooded Ukrainian woman, who didn't speak a word of English, in our compartment insisted that the window be shut.

But the train ride was an amazing experience. I learned a very important phrase, "Bud'laska, dajte meni chaj", or "Will you give me a tea please". I enjoyed the opportunity to gaze out at the endless countryside rushing by, pondering the simple lives of a rural Ukrainian with each passing village, and being in awe at the occasional ancient, but astonishing eastern orthodox cathedrals on the hilltops. But the most important thought I had, was not on the history or culture of Ukraine, but a realization about myself. As I laid down in the hot stuffy compartment, each bump of the train, as it twisted and contorted on the tracks, made me clearly aware of the sticky, sweaty, smelly, itchy, and sore state of my body. Believe it or not, I loved it! It reminded me so clearly that the reason I am here is not for a vacation or for personal enjoyment. On the contrary I am here to be used by Christ and to do His work in whatever form He sees fit, no matter what pain and suffering I must endure. For that, it is worth it.

VBS will officially be starting at 10:00 this morning. Most of you will still be asleep at that point soooo…Good Morning!

In Christ Alone,
David Knepprath

P.S. Tomorrow I will tell you how the first day went, and maybe a bit more about the Dubeyk Center.

Arrived in Ivano-Frankivsk!

I made it safely and without trouble (not to much at least) to the apartment that I will be calling home for the next week and a half in Ivano Frankivsk! The Dubeyk Center (Where I was staying my first 3 days in Kiev) was a luxury resort in comparison to my living arrangements in New Orleans, but the apartment is even cushier. Cushy, that is, until you step foot outside of the front door.

I'm sorry I have to keep this post so short. We pay for internet by the minute, and it is half price between 10:00pm and 8:00am. (It is 5:00pm right now, if you were wondering) I will try and get up early tomorrow morning and give a more appropriate update on what has been going on, which is a whole lot!

Please keep me in your prayers as we have our first day of VBS tomorrow morning. I think I have dealt with the 10 hour time difference on adrenaline, up until now. Jet lag hasn't been extremely bad for me, the transition has actually gone farely smoothly. But of course, a lot of you have been praying for me on that exact matter, so should I really expect it to be a problem? :) I will spend the rest of the evening preparing and hit the sack early tonight to make sure I am prepared.

By they wa, Ukraine beat Switzerland! Awesome game. Now we just have to deal with Italy. No problemo. :)

Proshjavaj! (Bye)

Serving Him,
David Knepprath

P.S. Thanks for your comments everyone! That's part of the reason I feel bad for this pathetic update, but you can count on a better one by tomorrow morning, your time. It was heartwarming to hear from people back home.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I'm in Chicago!

...Wheaton to be exact. Just hanging out with some extended family that I have never met before. But they are awesome. We toured Wheaton a bit, walked around the campus and when to the Billy Graham Center (dedicated to evangelist throughout the years), had a water fight (with my cousins once removed, Nathan and Grace), exploded some Diet Coca Cola with Mentos and now we are about to play some Dance Dance Revolution. (Hopefully we will be able to make it over to the C.S. Lewis museum in Wheaton also!)

My aunt once removed brother and his wife are over also, and he has done quite a bit of mission work in Ukraine, so that has been really cool. On top of reviewing my lessons on the plane ride over (Along with reading a good chunk of Lord Foulgrin's Letters) I'm even more excited to get over to Ukraine.

Thanks for you comments guys! I've only been gone for a day but it was good to hear from people back home and I really look forward to sharing pictures and stories! No Mary, I haven't got tired of hearing that. :)

David Knepprath

Friday, June 23, 2006

Game Plan

If your reading this, you should feel lucky. I am extremely tired and still have a bit of packing to do, but I said I would give a brief outline of my schedule, so I will.

I will touch down in Kiev Monday June 26th in the afternoon. We will be bused the Conference Center Dyubek. This is where we will be for the next two days doing a series of training seminars and some sightseeing. By the afternoon of Wednesday the 28th I will be heading out by train to Ivano-Frankivsk with two missionaries. After getting settled in and preparing, we will have our first day of VBS on Friday June 30th. The last day of VBS will be Saturday July 9th from which we will head back to Kiev by train that evening and arrive at Dyubek the next morning. Then before I know it, I will be flying back Tuesday July 11th.

Exciting eh?

Check back to see how I am doing along the way. My next post will either be from Chicago or Ivano Frankivsk. It will be a surprise, for all of us. And don't be afraid to leave comments! :)
(Thanks Melissa!)


In Him,
David Knepprath

Ukraine Advances...

...Is it possible? Ukraine made history at its first World Cup!

*Warning: obscure Seinfeld reference*

While some might have said "the Ukraine is weak and feeble" after they were shut out by Spain in their World Cup opening game, not anymore. After they dominated Saudia Arabia and their win against Tunisia, "You not say Ukraine is weak!" (From the episode where Kramer and Newman are playing Risk and Kramer has Newman down to his last stronghold, Ukraine.)

Andriy Shevchenko scored on a penalty kick in the 70th minute to lead the Eastern Europeans to a 1-0 victory over Tunisia on Friday, making Ukraine the first former Soviet republic to advance past the tournament's group stage.

I will be in Ukraine for their next game on June 30th.


Flight Times

Here is my flight times and flight numbers. A prayer for safe travel and arriving with all luggage accounted for would be extremely apprciated!

Airline & Flight # /(Date) /Departure /Arrival
United 686 /(6/24/06) /Portland 7:59 AM /Chicago 1:50 PM
KLM 612 /(6/25/06) /Chicago 4:40 PM/Amsterdam 7:35 AM
Ukraine Int. 102 /(6/26/06) /Amsterdam 9:45 AM/Kyiv 1:30 PM
Ukraine Int. 101 /(7/11/06) /Kyiv 6:45 AM/Amsterdam 8:45 AM
KLM 611 /(7/11/06) /Amsterdam 10:30AM/Chicago 12:00 PM
United 321 /(7/11/06) / Chicago 8:30 PM /Portland 10:41 PM

By the way, "Kyiv" is "Kiev" in American speak. I just noticed, it's going to be a loooong wait in Chicago to come back home to Portland. Oh well...

Tommorow I will post an outline of what I will be doing and where I will be each day and break down of what a typical day will be like once I get to Ivano-Frankivsk to teach.

David Knepprath

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm Ready...?

Well, I'm pretty sure I am at least. I finished packing last night. I can only check one piece of luggage (the 2nd checked luggage is VBS supplies) and it has to be under 50lbs. I pulled it off with 30lbs. I really hope that doesn't mean I am missing something severely important. I only have 2 or 3 more things I need, which I will pick up tomorrow, on my lunch break. That is one thing I can't say I will miss, staring at a computer monitor for 8 hours a day at work.

Ukraine plays (World Cup) tomorrow morning at 7:00. If things go right, I might be watching their next game in Ukraine against either S. Korea or Switzerland. The mission trip couldn't have been more perfectly timed. There's no reason to stay in the States because we don't have anyone to cheer for anymore. That was a really disappointing game by the way.

Pray that I am as prepared for my physical needs as possible by the time I leave Saturday morning.


Monday, June 19, 2006

If I were 13 years old...

...what would I want to do for fun?

I am attempting to brainstorm ideas for fun stuff to bring that I can do with my VBS kids. As I mentioned earlier, I will be teaching 12-14 year olds. So far I have Frisbee, sidewalk chalk, water balloons, Uno, bubbles, hacky sack...? Hopefully, when I go shopping it will spark a couple more ideas.

I finished off the rest of my thank you letters. That's quite a task, but it was also gave me some really good time to reflect and thank God for each and every person who supported me. I'm also in the process of getting everything together to pack and I put together a decent sized list of things I still need to get.

Well, I have lots to do, and not enough time to sleep. So I'm going to try and at least get a little bit of that. Who knew a five hour game of ultimate frisbee would wear you out so much?! That was 2 nights ago, and I can still barely walk.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Children of Chernobyl

I continue to be amazed at people's willingness and enthusiasm to support me in their prayers and financially. I wanted to thank everyone before I leave on June 24th, and give a quick update. I will be teaching the upper level kids (ages 12-14) at Pastor Romaniuk's church. For my time in Ivano-Frankivks I will be staying with a couple, Bill and Faith Krug, who are missionaries. I will still get plenty of opportunities to taste authentic Ukrainian home cooking, that's all I was worried about.

I recently finished reading a book titled "Searching for God Knows What", by Donald Miller, and one part stood out that I would like to expand on. Don Miller illustrates a picture of the sad fallen pathetic state we were all born in to. The Chernobyl incident, in many respects, is much like our fallen state in sin. A quick search on Google will find pictures of mutated children you would probably prefer to live without seeing. We, in the same way, have become mutated from the image that God created us in. We, in our fallen state of sin, are like these children of Chernobyl, mutated far from, and in some cases beyond recognition. But God in His infinite grace sent His Son to provide healing and comfort, and ultimately freedom, from the morbid state we were born into. This comfort that is given through Christ should, and will, overflow into our interaction with all of our other fallen brothers and sisters, whether they realize their mutation or not.

I wanted to let everyone know that every single person that has supported me is in my prayers as I thank God for blessing me with an incredible family of Christians. Prayer is an amazing tool that God uses in our lives. It is also a mysterious tool, that often is wielded, and not having God's all knowing perspective, without clearly seeing its effects. After rallying prayer support for our team that went to New Orleans to do Katrina Relief work over spring break, I was blessed with the opportunity to see God blatantly and obviously answer everyone's persistent prayers. I can honestly say those prayers were answered by God with a bright shining "YES!"

I will be posting from Ukraine to give you peek into how God is working in Ukraine and using those blessed in serving Him and doing His work in the mission field. Feel free mosey your internet browser on over here whenever you feel like it to see how things are going.

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."
-Paul, heading to Jerusalem, while fully understanding the persecution and imprisonment he would face. (Acts 20:24)

Always in Him,

David Knepprath

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Miracle From El Paso

I've been plowing through my thank you letters. Not an easy task, let me tell you. Time consumeing. Not because of the amount, but because I can't help stopping and thinking about each and every letter that I write. I came to couple letters from El Paso Texas and I just wanted to share a quick story...

God works in mysterious ways. This is an indisputable fact. After sending out my first wave of letters to rally support for my mission trip to Ukraine, I received a phone call. A phone call from my great uncle in El Paso Texas, whom I had debated on whether to send a letter to for fear of sounding like I was mooching off of distant relatives. I finally rationalized the decision because of the fact that even more so then money, I was updating friends and family on the amazing ways God has been working in my life and asking for support in the form of prayer. So, the reason for this phone call? He wanted to inform me that he had passed my letter around at his church and shown it to his pastor. A series of short stories revealed to me ties within the congregation to missions in Ukraine, including that of the pastors brother being a missionary in Ukraine. As a result of this, some were even convicted to the point of supporting me financially on my short mission trip, people I have never even met in my life! This is even more amazing when I realized the fact that I needed every bit of financially support that was sent.

Gotta get back to the letters.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Ukraine To Do List

Just over a week and plenty to do...
  1. Pack. I only have one bag on can check (the other is for VBS supplies) and a carry-on. I should only need 5 days of clothes, which means I'll be washing clothes by hand at least once a week.
  2. Learn Ukrainian. Its only based on a 33 letter alphabet (Cyrillic), and while yes about half the letters look the same, they sure don't sound the same. What looks like vowels are sometimes consonant and visa versa. And then those consonant/"sometime vowels" each have 3 forms. Okay, maybe what I am doing (because of time constraints) can't exactly be called "learning Ukrainian", more or less "dabbling", but I have been studying it on the side and hope to have the basics down for the most part. 15+ hour plane flight should give me plenty of time as well.
  3. Send "Thank You" letters. I'm almost finished with the easy part, writing the letter. I just need to print, copy, sign, address, stamp, and mail them all. Support has been amazing by the way! God has not ceased to amaze me in the ways he has worked to bring in support.
  4. Haircut. I gotta trim the ol' mop.

...On top of working fulltime and trying to enjoy my summer, now that its finally here. Some sunshine would be nice though, but I suppose that will probably hold off until I leave.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Preparation For Ukraine

I will be using this blog to keep everyone updated on what happens when I am in Ukraine, which I hope to do periodically. I will have access to internet in the apartment of the missionaries I will be staying with. Granted it will be dial-up (Going back to dial-up will probably be my hardest transition in Ukraine), but I will try and endure it all the same and put up some posts for those interested.

I am overwhelmed with excitement to have the opportunity to see God's work being done in Ukraine. To be able to be used by Him is just that much more amazing! I leave for Chicago in 9 days (June 24th), and I still have plenty to do! Spring term just wrapped up (Done with Chemistry, FOR-EV-ER!) so I can devote my attention to preparing for Ukraine. Well, what attention I can give something when working full time.

In Him,
David Knepprath

P.S. Just a warning, but if you plan on visiting this blog somewhat regularly, you might have to endure reading some of the random crazy ideas running through my head.

A Request for Prayers

It is unbelievable to think I am already finishing my freshman year in college. It seems like just yesterday that I was a freshman in High School, thinking college was a distant event in my life. God has blessed me immensely in the opportunities he has given me at Mt Hood Community College . One of the highlights was being given the opportunity to organize and serve with a team to do Katrina Relief work in New Orleans over spring break. Not a single person came back from the trip unchanged, for the better. It was an amazing experience in my life, and an excellent learning opportunity to help prepare me for what's next.

April 26th marked the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Reminiscing the explosion of Reactor 4, which was directly responsible for 56 deaths and indirectly responsible for up to 200,000 deaths, is only a reminder of the deeper problems overshadowing Ukraine. Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, it has struggled politically and economically to get traction. Economic output has dropped 40%, and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has even threatened to withdraw help. Mass labor emigration out of the Ukraine in the late 90's, with upwards of 3 million people or 16% of the total population leaving, has not helped the situation. But the Chernobyl catastrophe and the crippling state that the Soviet Union left Ukraine is only a reflection of the problems the Ukrainians face emotionally and spiritually. Legend holds that Ukraine was once the destination of the Apostle Andrew, whose arrival brought sweeping conversion to Christianity. This is unfortunately not the case today. Hampered by the division of the Catholic Church early in the first century and later by the attempts of Soviet Union to crush religion, which had no part in their idealistic dreams of communism, Christianity has struggled in a once devout region. Currently, with the ongoing assault by Islam, Ukraine largely remains a lethargic inactive Orthodox Christian country.

It is at this point that my small footnote in the book of Ukraine's history begins. I have been given the opportunity, through the organization Thoughts of Faith, to serve the Lord and the people of Ukraine. I will be helping Pastor Serhiy Romanuik at his church by teaching Vacation Bible School. I would like to request your support in this endeavor. Above all else, I would ask for you to keep me and the work being done by the Christian Church in Ukraine in your prayers. Pray that time and effort is well spent serving God, and that God will allow us to be the medium through which He works to touch the Ukrainians lives in a way that will have eternal consequences. Thank you in advance for your prayers. I look forward to sharing with you the events of this amazing opportunity.

Romans 10:14-15 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?

David Knepprath

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Challenge of Happiness

I challenge you to name one thing in our world that provides true, pure, lasting happiness.

I cannot imagine a life where everything I love and put my hope in is of this world. It is only a matter of time before it is broken, before disappointment settles in, before it is outdated, before it gets old, scratched, devastated, ruined, shattered, or dies.

Where does that leave you?