Saturday, September 27, 2008


I just wanted to let you all know that Kristy is still in the Ukraine and doing fine. I understand the team to be very busy, so I haven't talked to her in the past few days. The pictures you see here on her blog are a little distorted because she is sending them from her cell phone to my cell phone. When I have received more news/pictures I will post it.

In case you are wondering, Kristy won't be home to CA until October 7. Please keep her and her mission team in your prayers.

Guest Blogger and Favorite Sister-In-Law, Lori
e-mail me at

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hats, Hats, and Hats!

Above: Mission Team sorting hats
Below: Orphans with hats!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

She is in Ukraine! With Hats!

So the trip started off with some minor complications. Kristy and her team were to depart Charlotte and fly to D.C., from D.C. to Vienna, Austria and then on to Kiev, Ukraine. That was the plan, anyway. Didn't quite turn out that way!

They boarded the original plane in Charlotte only to deboard because of mechanical malfunctions. Then the flight was cancelled. So their team leader quickly secured different flying arrangements.

What actually happened was that they left Charlotte went to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Kiev. I received word from Kristy that they arrived in Frankfurt at 12:20 a.m. (PST). See picture below.

Below are the text messages I received from Kristy. The time stamp is the time I received the message in California.
At 4:18 a.m. – We are on the ground in Kiev. Waiting to go through passport control and then get baggage and go through customs. It is 2:15 in afternoon here. We have just crossed the 26 hours awake mark and I am thrilled and so happy to be here. Now if I can just keep my traveling companions awake, it will be a fun day!

At 6:37 a.m. - All but one luggage got here. We are not on the bus (not train mercifully….using seminary’s bus) for the 6 hour ride to Rivine. Oh Lori! It is wonderful and rainy and I love all the people and the craziness of this place. I am so happy to be here. Thanks for the prayers. I will message later before bed. Now been up 28.5 hours. Starting to get punchy. It is unbelievable how things have changed. I am in awe! We are driving on an 8 lane highway!! In Ukraine!! Ok pass along that we are ok.

At 10:15 a.m. -- It is just after 8 pm here. We are almost to the seminary where we will get settled in, eat dinner and then (mercifully) get some sleep. We are all doing well though so so tired. It is about 56 degrees out and murky and drizzling rain. Perfect weather. Won’t be able to call tonight…the signal is too weak, but I will try to call tomorrow. Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement. Have a good day.

At 11:54 a.m. – How far is 56 kilometers in miles?
(My answer to her 34.7967 miles)

At 11:59 a.m. – Thank you so much. That is how much further we have to go to the seminary. I am starting to think this is a movie and we are just going to keep going forever :)

I replied back to her “LOL. Hopefully you can get some much needed rest soon!”

At 12:06 pm – Yes. I am ready for some sleep. The bus is very nice but the roads are really really rough. Haven’t been able to sleep so hopefully when we get to the seminary. They plan to feed us soup for supper then let us go to bed.
So after a couple of long days of traveling they have made it! I have only talked to her through text messages but she sounds like she is having the best time of her life, even if she is dead tired. Please continue to pray for her and her team as this is just the beginning!
Today's Quote
"The feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can't get there, is the meanest feeling in the world." ~Edgar Watson Howe

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bon Voyage, Kristy!

If everything Kristy has planned works out, she will be sending me pictures so I can load them here for all you crafty hat knitters and blog readers to view; thus, making me her guest blogger. I know I won’t be as witty and as funny as Kristy but if you would like the occasional update, please stop by from time to time in the next three weeks.

Kristy has made her first leg of the trip safely. I took her to the airport yesterday morning and she arrived in North Carolina safely. She did tell me that when she was on the plane, her seatmate was praying out loud that this plane wouldn’t crash and they wouldn’t all die in a horrible way. Thankfully, they didn’t. (Kristy has a knack at finding all the “interesting” people).

This evening she will be meeting up with the rest of her mission team and tomorrow they will begin this remarkable journey to the Ukraine.

It seemed just like yesterday when Kristy told me she was going to the Ukraine and her dream to take a “few” hand-knitted hats. I asked her how many hats and she believed if she knit a hat a day for one month and some-here-and-some-there she hoped to have a little over a hundred. Today, because of the generosity of you, her family, her friends and most importantly, God, she has 903 hats! It makes me completely speechless when I consider of the enormity of what everyone has done!

Our local paper wrote an article about Kristy and all the hats. Please read it here. It really is an amazing article. It doesn’t seem like it online, but the article was the entire front page of the “life” section in the paper.

Thank you all for everything you have done to make this possible! You really are amazing!

Guest Blogger and Favorite Sister-in-Law, Lori
Email me at

Today's Quote

"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply" -- Hudson Taylor

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And The Winner Is....


Congratulations, Ellie!

Ellie is a local knitter who joined us late in the hat project but contribute a beautiful hat none the less and donated to the cause just last week. Thank you so much Ellie!

Here's how it went down.

My fabulous co-worker Yolanda (who is the wife and daughter-in-law of the generous fellows at Terry's Touch of Gold) brought her adorable offspring by my office (I was working late, imagine that...)

My adorable (if reluctant) models

Sydnee modeling the Hers watch

And Matthew displaying the His watch

I put all of the names in to a hat (a straggler that just arrived today from one of Katy's coworkers) and abra-cadabra....we have a winner!
Congratulations, Ellie!! Thank you so much to all of you for your support. Your generous donations, your monetary support, your time and effort, your encouragement, your willingness to believe in this "little" project....for everything. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Today's Quote
"Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present." Albert Camus

Monday, September 15, 2008

Final Countdown

Wow how time flies! Just 5 days until I leave. Crazy!

Today is the last day for the raffle drawing. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far!

I've gotten quite a few hats over the course of the last week. Currently we are at 881. I am still knitting hats and I've asked a few local knitters to make a few more in hopes of making it an even 900. (At this point, I do not doubt for even a minute that this is a very real possibility.) I have pictures but I don't have my camera handy at the moment.

Thanks for all of your comments and emails about the project. It really has been awesome. I am so excited about this trip. So many things to accomplish at home and work between now and Saturday but I know this week is going to be a whirlwind.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Eight Hundred & Twenty

Total Hat Count: 820

2.73 times the original goal of 300.

Approximately 140 pounds. (That means 3 pieces of luggage devoted solely to hats.)
ETA: correct weight.

More than 90 individual knitters/crocheters.

Based on some very scientific figuring, we will have enough hats for...

.....the children and staff at the orphanage in Rivne (the original intended beneficiaries of the Hat Quest),
.....the children other children in the village where we will primarily be staying,
.....the children at another orphanage we will be visiting in another town.

Thank you seems inadequate but really, sincerely THANK YOU ALL! There are not words grand enough to tell you how awesome this project has been and how sincerely moving it is for me to see so many individuals come together from so many corners of the world for this project. I am moved and awed at your enthusiasm and generosity and sheer kindness and decency. Thank you all so much!

Here they are - 787 (which is what I had as of the deadline. The other 33 arrived in today's mail!)

Rear view (nifty, huh?)

An extra special thank you to Kaylee, Deb & Robin (pictured with the hats, below) who braved the absurdly hot Sunday morning with me yesterday and helped to create this display...which took nearly an hour!

Now, might I humbly suggest that each of you who have participated in this project in anyway find someone and show them the picture of the hats above and say proudly, "See? Look what we did!" and smile and hug them with the pride and enthusiasm of a new parent.

Thank You!!

Today's Quote

"Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes up his mind to do. We are capable of greater things than we realize. " Norman Vincent Peale

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Welcome to the Family

This is my 200th post! It kind of snuck up on me. I wish I had something profound to say but I don't, particularly. I just have pictures of my trip to the park last Friday with the hats and pictures from my front yard of the hats I've received this week.

OH! But first, I have some pictures of prizes. These three prizes were generously donated by Kaylee at Hooks & Needles. By the way, Kaylee is going to be having a big going-out-of-business sale. (Yes, I know, I'm broken-hearted). If you are in the area, stop in. If not, visit the website. She has lots of wonderful stuff that I'm sure will go fast.

Kaylee has donated three prize packages that have nothing to do with hats. (Because we're guessing that after making 700+ hats, people are going to be in the mood for not-knitting-hats.)

H&N Prize #1

A kit for Kool-Aid dying: Two skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash - my Kool-Aid dying yarn of choice - and a variety of Kool-Aid flavors and colors. Not included in the picture, but I will include in the prize, directions for Kool-Aid dying.

Blue-Blue-Blue bundle.



The beautiful blue Lantern Moon hooks/needles/gadgets cozy, a set of Clover US Size 2 dpns and two skeins of Panda Wool. (I'm told the Panda Wool makes excellent socks, though I've never tried it myself.)

And my favorite prize package (lucky for ya'll I'm disqualified from prizes or I would claim this one for myself) Everything you need to learn to needle felt!
A Fiber Trends Needle Felting starter kit with pad, needles and instructions; two packages of roving and a way cool pen style needle holder tool.

Last but not least, here is the gorgeous Anne that goes with the watches in the fundraising raffle! (Only $5 a ticket!)

Hats in the City

Last week the truly lovely and kind Barbara and Carisa invited me to San Francisco for dinner and knitting with their knitting group. Carisa and Barbara were actually two of the first people to know about the hat project because I met them at the Maker Faire back in April (or was it May?...) when I first came up with the idea.

I had such a wonderful time that I was nearly convinced to crochet something. Seriously.

Thank you so much, Barbara, for opening up your home and thank you to the whole group for your warm welcome and your good company and your amazing hat knitting! (Carissa tells me she has MORE hats to send me, too. I'm can't wait!!)

Frolicking in the Park

Here are the hats from the Needle's Eye gang in Santa Fe (group shot, followed by close ups)
(I'd like to take a moment to say - #*(^%@#& to the stupid picture function. In my files those pictures are all facing the right direction but I'll be damned if I can get them to upload right.)

Hats from various knitters all over, enjoying the bouncing bridge

and taking the steps up to the spiral slide

More Recent Additions

This week, too, as been an excellent week for hats.

On Wednesday, I picked up all of these that had been dropped off by the local knitters at Hooks & Needles.
I also picked up these two lovelies, knit by a lady named Coby (or is it Cobi?) whom I've never met or spoken to or gotten an email from but who'd heard about the project at the shop. I called them doubled knitted but Kaylee pointed out that while they are doubly thick, they are not doubled knitted. Coby used a provisonal cast on, knit one hat brim to top and then picked up the cast on stitches and knit another hat brim to top then tucked one inside the other for a twice-as-thick, twice-as-fabulous, twice-as-warm extravaganza of hat fabulosity. I neglected to take a picture of the insides but both have the snowflake pattern on the inside as well. They are very cool.

Speaking of this style of hat, I've gotten quite a few from all over knit like this - or maybe actually double knit, I'm not certain - and they are thick and cozy and oh-so-great. I can't say enough about how talented and awesome all of you are. Double thick and single thick knitters alike, ya'll rock.

Early in the week, I received a big box of 50 hats from Gari and her brigade of talented hat crafters at Maranacook Yarns in Maine. (Gari was one of the very first to get on board with the Ravelry group.) Thank you all SOO much. While taking the pictures of the hats above, it came to my attention that my yard had just been mowed. I put down a sheet for this bunch because I didn't want to spend the whole rest of my evening picking grass clippings out of hats. (After all, I had important things to do like....knit a hat and, umm, watch TV.)

All 50 of the Maine hats (some with their very courteously attached fiber content tags showing)
A couple of closer up pictures of the Maine hats.

And though it seems kind of superfluous to even mention, here's one hat. Knit by me.

Malabrigo Chunky in Floral something (can't remember) that I bought at ImagiKnit in San Francisco. That makes a total of 59 from me. I've got one more on the needles and maybe a few more in me after that but we'll have to see.

So there you have it. The latest members of our oh-so-exclusive, oh-so-exceptional Hat Quest club. Current total? 688. I got a call today from a man at our local paper and he asked if he could do a story on our Hat Quest. I'm stunned. I'll let ya'll know what I hear on that front. (I'm secretly a little nervous about this prospect but it is also kind of spiffy.)

I can't say enough about how wonderful it is to do this project and to have all of you do it with me. I am awed and truly, truly giddy happy about this - happier and more inspired and impressed every single day. I tell people about it all the time - friends and co-workers and perfect strangers. I'm sure my parents and my siblings and my SIL and the rest of my family will be glad when it is done so I will stop with the "News Flash! Guess how many hats I have" business. Me? I am so eager to make the trip and share all of this hat love but I am also a little sad about it coming to and end. Maybe next summer we can make hats again!? : )

On Sunday, September 7, I am planning to take pictures of ALL the hats and everything I have received. Since we are now approaching 700 hats (with 7 days still to go!) I know it is going to be a serious undertaking. If you live in the area and would like to join me, please send me an email and I will give you the details. ( crickitleigh at hotmail dot com) It will be in the morning so shouldn't interfere with anyone's afternoon or evening plans.

Today's Quote:

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead." -Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hats Hats Hats!

Friday after work I took the most recent arrivals on an outing to the park. These hats include 50 that RC has collected in Pennsylvania - PLUS 19 pairs of mittens and 6 pairs of socks, 131 from the knitters in New Mexico, 28 from the group in San Francisco (who invited me to dinner and knitting last Wednesday in the city and it was a wonderful time!!), and varying numbers from other knitters all over.

The total count to date? 619 YES!! Six Hundred and Nineteen!!!!

(I forgot my camera at my parents’ house over the weekend but I did manage to upload a couple of pictures before that. As soon as I retrieve the camera, I’ll show you the rest of the pictures. A fine time was had by all....The mittens, in particular, loved the slide.)
619. I am so excited and amazed! Thank you so much, everyone!! Please keep knitting and sending. I'll be collecting until September 5. That Monday, I'll be shipping them ahead of me to North Carolina. Do you think we can make 700?


As I shared with ya’ll previously, I’m working to raise the additional funds to cover the expense of getting the hats to the Ukraine. I’ve had several people make donations already via PayPal and regular mail - Thank you so, so much to each of you!! To aid the efforts, I’m holding a raffle!

Say hi to Terry Wiggs (R) & his son TJ Wiggs (L). They are the fine gentlemen who own and operate Terry’s Touch of Gold in Modesto. Last week, I stopped by the shop to talk to Terry and told him about the Ukrainian orphans and the hats and all the awesome. I also told him about the package fees and extra expenses that I hadn’t originally counted on. Being the kind, generous soul that he is, Terry agreed to offer up a raffle price to help me race the funds.
His & Hers Watches from ESQ Swiss. Retail value: $400

And just for the knitty fun of it, I’m throwing in a beloved skein from my stash: a skein of Schaefer Anne, in beautiful shades of purple. ETA: Picture of Anne.

Want to make them yours?? Buy a raffle ticket!! The cost is $5 per ticket. (For those who’ve already contributed, I’ll put your name on a raffle ticket for every $5 you donated.) You can use the PayPal link at right or email me at crickitleigh at hotmail dot com, and I’ll give you my address and you can mail in your ticket money by check or money order. All raffle tickets must be purchased before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday, September 15. I’m recruiting the help of my little pal Matthew (coincidentally, the son and grandson of TJ and Terry) to draw the winner, which I will announce on Wednesday, September 17.

As a matter of full disclosure, the money raised from this raffle will be used for the following purposes:
- pay the third bag and (likely) overweight fees for the luggage containing the hats.
- cover additional expenses for my trip to Ukraine like…
- hotel stays when I go to meet the group in NC and the night I fly back to NC, before I return to California.
- Meals while in Kiev
- If we raise more money than I need to cover those expenses, I will donate that money to the children at the orphanage in Rivne.

Thank you all so much for your hard work and dedication in knitting hats. It has been so amazing seeing this come together and in such a major way. The outpouring of kindness and generosity…I just don’t have the words to describe how awed and inspired I am by all of you!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. crickitleigh at hotmail dot com

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Miracle of PayPal

Looky there! In the sidebar! I created a Donate button. Turns out I can receive payments through PayPal. Isn't technology amazing?

Some people have asked if they could simply make a monetary contribution to help cover the expenses of transporting the hats to the Ukraine (as discussed in the previous post) so I've set that up. If you are inclined to donate - THANK YOU! - every amount will help. I will be holding a special drawing on Wednesday, September 17 (my Daddy's birthday) to draw a very special price from among those who contribute financially.

And I am, of course, still collecting hats! I'll have an update on new numbers and the list of contributors in the next several days.

Thank you all for your kindness and ongoing support on this. I leave 6 weeks from today!

(In case you are following world events, dont' worry: I have no intention of allowing the military/political goings-on in Georgia to prevent me from making this trip. While Ukraine and Georgia have many close ties, Rivne is - by my estimation - a very safe distance from the fighting. Anyway, I am among the hopeful that this will wrap itself up soon.)

Today's Quote

"Where there is a will, there is a way. If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it. Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door and keep it open." Pauline Kael

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Drive-by Update

Today I had Chinese food for lunch and my fortune said,

"You have a strong instinct to take care of people you love." ahh...

Seriously, where does the time go? Please forgive me for the lag time of posts of late. When did life get so crazy? (Maybe it always has been...)

As of Monday, I have in my possession 344 hats. HURRAY!!! I am so thrilled. Beside myself excited. This is amazing! And everyday I am a little more excited and eager to see where this is going to take us. 500? 600? More? I am in awe. Thank you so much! This weekend or early next week I am going to post a list of names of the people from whom I've thus far received hats. Just as a check.

For now, though, how about a picture of the latest additions?

There's the whole crowd - 120 new ones since my last post - followed by closer views of the same hats. Can you pick yours out of the crowd?

And this little darling that I particularly love, knit by Ruth in Minnesota.
It is probably a good thing I don't wear hats because I would want to keep this one for myself.

A Plea for Help

I am posting this next bit verbatim from what I posted this morning on Ravelry so if you've already read it there, skip to the "Look What I Did" section below.
Help! Ok. I have been privately panicking about this for the past week and I’ve decided I can’t solve this one on my own so I am appealing to all of you.

When I go to Ukraine in September, the bulk of the trip will be on Austrian Airlines. Back in June, I contacted Customer Relations at Austrian Airlines and explained about the hats and the orphans and they told me how to go about getting them to wave the fee for the third (heavy) piece of luggage. So I went through that process and I thought it was settled and I hadn’t been worrying about that expense. This week I got a letter saying that they have discontinued the practice of waving that fee except under very narrow circumstances…circumstances that don’t include handknit hats for orphans.

I have considered the idea of splitting them up between everyone in the group but there are two things that make that a non-option. 1) I won’t be meeting up with the group until we are all at the airport the morning of September 22 so if it didn’t work out, I would be stuck and 2) we are also taking school supplies and necessity items over with us so everyone is pretty much maxed out in the luggage department.

As with many of life’s worries, this one comes down to a matter of dollars. The mail isn’t a reliable option to that area (which I have known all along) so they are going to have to go on the plane with me. My best estimates (and I think they are very good estimates) indicate that with the large duffel bags I have and the space bags that were so generously donated, I will be able to get all of the hats there in two (admittedly heavy) duffel bags. (I am using an estimated total of 600 because that is where I think we are going to end up. How awesome is that?!?) This means two of us will have a third bag. Per Austrian Airlines, the third bag fee is $105 for a bag up to 50 lbs. These two bags will be heavier than that (right at 70 lbs) so that is another $75 for the overweight fee, plus a $50 charge per additional leg (i.e. we fly from DC to Vienna and then Vienna to Kiev. The $50 additional fee is for Vienna to Kiev.) All of that adds up to an additional $460 I hadn’t planned on.

I will concede that this is an excellent problem to have…but a problem nonetheless. I don’t know about that rest of you but nearly $500 is a chunk of cash for me. I have already covered the $2800 for the base cost of the trip (at least that is done) and then I’ll have the expense of the hotel stays when I go to meet the group in North Carolina and then again when we come back, I’ll have to spend a night in NC before flying home as well as miscellaneous costs while I am away.

I have debated and debated about posting this. I guess it is my Southern roots… I come from a place where it is considered bad form to discuss money matters publicly. (Equally bad form to ask a woman’s age, but that is an entirely separate matter.) In the end, I’ve concluded that we have been in this hat making business together from the beginning so it is only appropriate that I should come to you with this.

In my heart, I know that we are doing an amazing thing with the knitting of the hats and I also know that the Lord wouldn’t get us this far and then not make a way to get them there. I know, too, that, cliché as it sounds, the Lord helps those who help themselves.

All of that being said, here’s my idea. Tell me what you think. I am working on putting some things together – yarn related things, maybe a jewelry item, other things…I’m still working on the specifics. (This idea has only recently come to me.) Anyway, whatever those items end up being, what do you think of the idea of an eBay auction to raise this money? Do you think it would work? Have any of you sold anything on eBay before? I haven’t so I would need some help. Do you have any other ideas? This is starting to keep me awake at night…

And as an optimistic side note, if we raise more money than I need for the expenses directly related to this trip, I would donate any extra to the orphanage in Rivne.

Look What I Did

I have once again (or still...) been neglecting Lori's socks. This weekend, I was being particularly neglectful by both starting and finishing a brand new project. One of these days, I will tell you the whole story behind this but for now I will just show you the pictures.

I knit something for myself. A Kiwi bird.
Based on this pattern, with a fair amount of poetic license. (I added the "feathers" and completely changed the feet.) Thank you, EnnaVic, for the fabulous mug!

Today's Quote
"I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end." -Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If You're Wondering Why

Sixty days from today, I'll be hopping a plane (several, actually) for the Ukraine. It is going to be here before I know it!!
In the fall of 1994, I was starting my senior year of high school. My church and our local association of churches had (and still has) a sister church and a sister association in the Kherson region of the Ukraine and I found out through our youth minister that the following summer, the association would be sending a group of youth and young adults to the area to do some missions work. They were going to be interviewing youth from throughout the association and putting together a team of 10 young people and 3 adult chaperones. I knew as soon as I heard about it that I wanted to go so I put together all of the application and did the interview and in the end, as you may have guessed, I made the cut and spent the months leading up to the summer of 1995 preparing for the trip.

That was a very difficult spring – including getting head lice while volunteering at the homeless mission – but somehow all of that only reinforced the rightness of going. There have been few things in my life that I have been as certain of as I was about going on that trip. I never doubted for even an instant that this was something I was called to do. You know how when you are making a decision about something major, how you weigh the pros and cons and consider the sacrifices versus the benefits and you contemplate if it is what you really want/need? I am usually big for making a list and thinking things through like that but this decision was nothing like that. As soon as I knew I had been accepted to the team, I knew it was the right thing.

I had always wondered what people meant when they said that God had called them to do this or that. I wondered how they knew. Different people had told me different man I knew said that when he was called to be a pastor, it was as if a voice had spoken to him, like a loud whisper directly into his ear. Another person told me that it was like a warmth in her heart, like a rush. I guess for me, it was just a sense of peace, of right-ness and pure joy. I can’t explain it better than that; just that I knew and I never doubted it was where I should be and what I should be doing.

When at last the time came to go, we flew from San Francisco to Odessa, via New York and Vienna. It was a long trip (if I remember correctly, it was about 50 hours from leaving SF until arriving in Odessa.) We were tired and a little anxious, uncertain about what lay ahead. When we landed in Odessa, our plane stopped in the middle of the runway for no apparent reason. Ray, who was our associational director of missions and had been to the area several times, explained to us that the land amidst the runways and on the airport property was used by airport employees for growing fruits and vegetables and for raising livestock. We were stopped in the middle of the runway because someone was herding sheep from one grassy patch in the middle of the runways to another across the way. It was the first of many odd little things none of us had ever experience in the US.
The Ukraine had become an independent nation in December 1991: from communist state to independent republic literally overnight. All of the sudden, people were free to come and go in ways most of them had never experienced. People were able to worship in new ways and talk openly about politics and religion and whatever else they saw fit. In the summer of 1995, politically, things were still largely unsettled and the people of the Ukraine were still finding their national identity (still are to a degree, today, from what I understand. I can’t even imagine what it is like to wake up one day and be a brand new country.) In the midst of all sorts of uncertainty, the people I met there were some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. If you were to press me for one single reason I want to go back to the Ukraine it would be the people.
At that time the economy was really unstable – for instance, a hand embroidered table runner I bought for my mother in Kherson cost more than 1,000,000 Ukrainian coupons…about $11US – and there was a pretty good chance that if you were exchanging money on the streets, you were probably dealing with the mob. The international airport we flew into had chickens and dogs wandering around loose in the terminals and pay toilets consisting of a large tiled room with a series of holes cut in the floor lined up along the wall. (As you might imagine, your thigh muscles get strong fast when you have to literally squat every time you have to go.) Each place we visited, we stayed in the homes of church members in that particular town. Most of the places we stayed didn’t have any electricity or indoor plumbing but the people were wonderful and kind and generous.

We spend one Sunday afternoon with a church group in a small town where, after worship service, we all walked down to the waterfront and watched some people being baptized in the Black Sea. In another village, we met a man who’d spent 30 years in Siberia because he had been caught conducting a Christian worship service in his living room in the early sixties. When I met him in August of 1995, he had been back in his hometown for about a year and had only just met his grown daughter, who was 3 when he was arrested and had lived her whole life thinking her father was dead. A few days later in a different town, we visited a Russian Orthodox church that had been built by Catherine the Great but during Soviet years had been used as a meeting place for visiting KGB officers.

I met people there who had suffered heartache and persecution and need that I cannot even fathom. People who had never even experienced electricity much less had it in their homes. People who used outhouses and didn’t have refrigeration and grew most of their own food and drank their morning milk just minutes out of the cow. Women who made all of their family’s clothes – and not as a hobby, but as a necessity. People who generously opened their homes to us, because they believed in the work we were doing, even when they were barely able to make ends meet without extra American mouths to feed.

I have been a Christian since I was 8 years old but I have never lost a friend because of my faith. I have never witnessed anyone being persecuted for their faith. I have never had to lie about my faith in God in order to save my life or the life of someone I loved. I have never had to memorize scripture for fear that I would be imprisoned if caught with a bible. I’m not sure that, faced with such situations, I could boldly profession my love for Christ. It was humbling and inspiring and truly life changing.
The purpose of this trip was for us to help with building and improvement projects these churches had going and to share our faith and knowledge of God with the people we encountered there. And we did do those things; but more than that, we were the ones who were blessed. My life was changed by the quiet faith and love I witnessed in these peoples lives. By the sincere joy people took in their families and their churches and the little freedoms and blessings we so often take for granted. I was moved by the people who came to the revival services we participated in and shared their stories. It was humbling to see men who walked miles to work in the morning, worked 10 hour days in a factory and then walked home, happily exhausted, to play with their children and carry water up from the river so the family could cook and bathe.
So the short answer, and maybe the cop-out answer in some people’s minds, is that I believe in my heart that this is work that the Lord is calling me to do. I believe that maybe, just maybe, this kind of work in this place, are the reason I was put on this earth. Never for even one moment in the last 13 years have I doubted that I would go back to the Ukraine. Ask anyone who has known me for more than just a little while and they will tell you that I have always talked about returning. I believe that by going there I am serving the God I love and – I hope – making some small difference in the lives of his people. I don’t know what exactly this trip holds in store for me but I hope that by going, the lives of the orphan children or some of the people in the village or some of the people I meet while I am there will be better for my having been there. I do know that whatever happens, I won’t regret going.

A lot of people have asked me why I am making this trip to the Ukraine. And every time anyone asks, I think the answer has probably been a little different. Not because I don’t know why or that the reasons have changed…just that I have found it nearly impossible to articulate. I hope maybe now I have been able to.

Today's Quote

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning

(All of these pictures are from my last visit, with the exception of the Lenin statue. I couldn’t find a picture of my own – though I know I took a million of them – so I found that one on Google Images. Everywhere we went, there were statues of Lenin and on little hillsides and grassy knolls, you would see wooden or metal letters: “Ленин с нами” …. “Lenin is With Us”. Echoes of the Soviet era. That particular statue above is in the main square in Kherson.)