This spring Rod and I had a unique opportunity to visit Ukraine. The next few blog posts will be about this wonderful trip, and most of them will be stitching related!

Rod and Debbie arriving in Ukraine. Our host church greeted us with a concert!

Rod and Debbie arriving in Ukraine. Our host church greeted us with a concert!

I hope it comes as no surprise to those who know me, to know that I’m a Christian. I’m an active church member, singing in my church choir. I also sing with Arkansas Master’Singers, a statewide choir of about 200 members, made up of Baptist church musicians from across the state. We have a mixed chorus, a men’s chorus, a women’s chorus and an instrumental ensemble. We sing several times a year in several venues in Arkansas, and take mission trips when the opportunity arises. Two years ago we were approached by Michael Gott International, a Christian evangelistic ministry operating primarily in Ukraine, to undertake a singing mission trip to east Ukraine. We were to be based in Donestk, and sing in several locations from there. About half of our group, including Rod and I, agreed to go, started raising funds (we all paid our own air fare, lodging and food costs) and the trip was on!

Arkansas Master'Singers in Ukraine

Arkansas Master’Singers in Ukraine

Then things got really dicey in the Donestk area, and the trip looked like a horrible idea in February of 2014. We were to leave April 21, 2014. The pastors in west Ukraine asked us to come there instead, venues got changed, concert halls booked, lodging rearranged, air travel reticketed (do you know how hard that was – for 82 people!?), and our plans changed! Instead of Donestk, we went to Zhytomir and Kiev in west Ukraine and sang 8 concerts. It was the trip of a lifetime! I’ve traveled internationally before, lived in Germany when Rod was in the Army a long long time ago. But Ukraine is completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced, in terms of language structure, architecture, food, just about everything. The people are lovely, warm and friendly. I’d go back in a minute!

Standing room only every one of our 8 concerts

Standing room only every one of our 8 concerts

Everywhere we went we sang to standing room only crowds. The concerts were free. We raised money to pay for the venues and the associated expenses before we left. We also had power points to translate our English language songs to Ukrainian. We discovered that our American-style of church music, with a lot of emotion and facial expression, was fascinating to the Ukrainian people. After each concert we met as many people as we could, and even though we didn’t speak Ukrainian, smiles were universal!

I was in the center of the back row, every night, but tried to smile to the back row of the hall!

I was in the center of the back row, every night, but tried to smile to the back row of the hall!

I’ve been in Master’Singers for about 15 years, but when the trip came up I told Rod he had to join too – I wasn’t going out of the country without him! I’m so glad he did. We had a wonderful shared experience, one we’ll remember forever. And he’s staying with the group!

Rod in the group!

Rod in the group!

We learned so much about the Ukrainian people, about the conflict that is raging. Everything kind of blew up just a couple of weeks after we left the country. Understandable we have very strong feelings about what is happening there, due to our experiences, but we won’t go into it here. But our prayers are with the Ukrainian people, and if the opportunity comes to return, we will.

In the next few posts I’ll share about the embroidery we saw – which was everywhere!

 

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