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2008 - January/February PDF Print E-mail


239 Duke Road

Columbia, La. 71418

(318) 649-7720


January-February 20008



Hello to all!  Lately I’ve been thinking about how important laughter is to all of our lives!  The Bible says a merry heart does good like a medicine!  Maybe that’s why so many of us are becoming so sick!  We’ve forgotten the art of laughter!  Yes!  We see little things here and there that make us laugh a little, but we’ve forgotten how to laugh at ourselves, and enjoy the little things that might possibly make us cry if we don’t have a good sense of humor about it!


            I’ll never forget not long after arriving in Ukraine, we were invited to a birthday party for the lady who had been a big help to Shane while he was remodeling and preparing our house before he came back to get us from the US.  We had no interpreter with us that night, and wed learned just enough Russian probably to be dangerous.  Mary was so worried that she might gain weight because shed no longer be so busy in the sports shed been so active in over the years.  She was depressed and scared of what might happen to her, and she had cried to me about it.  Well, Ukrainians love to celebrate their birthdays.  They make a big deal of it with flowers, champagne, & lots of food and candy.  That night, we learned how much they love to see their guests eat.  She kept shoving food at us, and wed already eaten at home that night since we had not realized that we were invited to this birthday party.  Mary kept whispering to me that she was full, so when Vera shoved the candy bowl right in front of her face, and insisted that she eat some, we looked at each other and began to grin.  Marys face begged for my help, so I proceeded to try to explain why Mary didnt want to eat anything else.  As I shook my head left to right, I tried to elaborate with the little bit of Russian I knew with some drama added to it, Mary--tolstie (which means fat).  I didn’t know how to say that Mary didn’t want to be “tolstie”.  Vera looked at me mortified, and as she began to speak, I understood by her expressions and simulations what it was she thought Id said.  She had a scowling look on her face, and as she pointed toward skinny little Mary, she said, Mary nee tolstie.  TbI tolstie,which means, “Mary is not fat.  You are fat.”  Then Veras friend got in on the conversation, and she looked at Vera with disdain for what she‘d said to her guest, and she began to motion toward me and then toward all of the other women sitting in their row as she spoke.  Nee tolka ona tolstie.  Mwee eta tolstie tozsha,which means, “She is not the only fat one.  We are all fat too!” 


            Because Vera had misunderstood my communication, she was quickly taking up for our sweet little innocent daughter, who sat oblivious at first to what all was being said.  Her friend, obviously embarrassed about what shed said, and trying to make me feel better about it, included herself, their other friend, and also Vera in the decision about who was fat.  I think they may have never even realized that Id figured out what was said.  They were all laughing at themselves, and still being entertained by what was said.  When I looked at Mary and told her what I thought took place, we both cracked up laughing with them.  We didnt know each others language, but we were sharing in the most common language of all--laughter.  Nobody got angry or offended, although that misunderstanding could have left any one us angry and bitter at the very start of our stay in Ukraine.


            That was just the start of all of our funny adventures and stories about living here in Ukraine.  We’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, gotten frustrated a lot, and even fought a lot!  Needless to say, these times will be something I don’t think we’ll ever forget.  But…I am reminded every day to try to focus more on the positives of life than on all the negatives.  I’m not saying that it’s easy to do, but with God’s help, I pray that I will be able to take all the bad circumstances and heartaches in my life and through the healing medicine of laughter, try to forgive and forgive and forgive again until seventy times seven, and make life a little bit better for the people living around me just by being a better person inside myself!  I don’t want to be remembered as someone who died with a bitter and broken heart, even if I forever have to live in the most stressful, hurtful, and hardest circumstances and life experiences that any woman would ever have to experience!


            Caleb and I were in the US from the end of October until the first of January, which I felt was way too long for me!  I became too comfortable, and when it got time to leave our family and friends, especially Mary, I felt as if I just might die!  The stress and fear was almost like that of the very first time we boarded the plane to leave our home to live in Ukraine!  My nerves were on edge for a few weeks even after we arrived!  Nothing seemed normal anymore, and I just wanted to go back home!  I have learned my lesson!  God works in the most mysterious ways!  After a week or so of being here, suddenly, our water pipes completely froze solid!  What we thought might possibly be the most dreadful experience actually turned out to be the thing that probably brought us out of our depression!  I had to get things in order quickly, so I told Shane we needed a big barrel!  We got a plastic one to put just outside our bathroom door, and now, every day, we haul in our water to this barrel from our outdoor well!  It hasn’t been an easy task, and Caleb and I both have ended up down in our backs, possibly from the extra strain, but it got our minds off America and onto our mere survival!  Ha!  No more good hot tubs of bathwater, but, Hey!…We have a tub and toilet still!  The septic tank is still in order, so we keep buckets in the bathroom to flush the toilet, and we still have electricity, so we bought an electric hot plate for the bathroom to warm a pot of water to bathe.  Needless to say, we only take sponge baths because it’s too hard to carry all that water from the well, but it’s better than nothing at all!  The hard part has been the clothes washing!  Wow!  I’d forgotten how stressful that job is, bending over to scrub and twist!  We still can use the washing machine for things like blue jeans, but we have to pour the water in as it’s needed, and it takes about six or more buckets for a load of about two or three pairs of jeans!  It’s not worth hauling in all that water for anything other than the hardest stuff to wash by hand! 


            I’ve developed a system myself!  I warm kitchen and bath water, put more water on to warm for someone else, sponge bathe, sprinkle some detergent in when I’m finished and throw in my shirt if it’s dirty, wash it out, and then toss in my underclothes and socks to soak.  By the time I’ve brushed my teeth with a cup of the hot water I have boiled, I’m ready to rinse out the clothes and hang them all on the heaters around the house!  We’ve had lots of clothes hanging on the heaters lately.  The clothes get hung on the line, freeze solid, stay there for a day or two, and then we pry them loose to bring them inside in the evening so we can hang them about the house to hopefully dry near the heaters before morning! 


            We’ve also had a time lately with our house guard!  We were told early in our stay here that we must have a guard for our home in order to keep up with any of our belongings because people would come while we were gone and take all that they could get their hands on!  That may be true, but lately, we find ourselves literally guarding our house guard!  He is an alcoholic, but he had been what is called “coded” when we first arrived, and you could not find a better man in all of Ukraine--he was a hardworking, kind, gentle man who Caleb quickly developed a bond with as if he were like a grandpa!  Caleb really loves him, and so do we!  The problem is, he is struggling again with this problem, and we don’t know quite what to do.  We love this man deeply, and want him to be able to stay, but we are at a total loss of what to do!  He has several “friends” in our village who have almost nothing to do with him when he is sober except maybe to get a little work from us for a little money to buy more booze!  I feel for all of them, but I have decided that they are all like vultures!  When Victor gets down, it seems they can be seen quite often, hanging around outside our gates and across the road at one of the vulture’s homes.  It’s like they’re just waiting to make their move to fly in on him, and start eating him alive!  If we shoo them away, they watch for him to walk back toward his home down the street so they can attack him there.  They wait for their chance to fly in and get his money.  Some of them he is scared of, so he will give his money to them freely, without thoughts of ever getting it back!  Others manipulate him with friendships and favors!  I have seen enough to make me completely sick!  I understand what alcohol is like!  It is just as the Bible describes it--like playing with poisonous snakes!  The last week or so, he is doing much better, and is able to work and maintain his job.  For now, we are just hoping and praying that he will be able to continue his work without falling back into this trap.


            Please pray for this man that we care about so much that God will do a work in him so that he will be able to completely overcome his addiction.  Please pray for us also, that we will be able to overcome all the darts of Satan, and become the people and witness that we should be here in Ukraine!


            The city services are becoming more rich and sweet each Sunday, and we’re having an average attendance of about twenty-five each time we meet.  Many are beginning to speak up with personal testimonies of how God is working and moving in their lives, and good things are starting to happen in the lives of some!  The one young man who got saved at camp was having major difficulties from a circumstance in his life which had begun before his salvation.  He was to become the father of a young lady’s child, but their relationship had dwindled even before he had gotten saved.  In the beginning, he planned to try to work things out with this young lady, but the two of them could not seem to make things work, and she had told him not to come back to her because she did not want him to be a part of their lives.  One Sunday, he humbly told his testimony and explained how he had thought everything would be so much easier after he had gotten saved, but that he was actually still struggling because of hard things in his life.  He explained his situation of the mother of his child, and about how he loved her, but could not seem to make things work.  He asked that we pray for him, so we made a circle that day and had a special time of prayer for him.  It was so sweet as many of our group prayed especially for him.  Only a few days later, he began to call our cell phones, but because of the bad signal in our home, we could not seem to get connected to be able to talk.  We would get a signal that he had tried to call, but when we tried to call him back, he also had no signal.  Finally, I was able to talk to him long enough to know that he wanted to go with us to the city Bible study that night as he usually does.  Well, there was nothing usual about that night.  He was so excited that he couldn’t contain it!  We had several with us that night, and one of them was Victalic.  He interpreted the whole way from Zhennya’s home until we got to the church, for almost a solid hour, as Zhennya told of all that had happened in his life.  First of all, he had gotten things right with the mother of his expected child, and they had talked to their families and also gotten things right with them.  Second, he had told her how much he loved her, and that he wanted to be with her and be her baby’s dad, and she had accepted his proposal.  They had gotten legally married that day before, and he was so happy and wanted everyone to know.  Third, she was in the hospital awaiting the expected arrival of their new baby in only a day or two, and he had sent her a bouquet of flowers.  She was also happy, and could not understand how he had changed so suddenly.  He testified to us that he told her that God had changed his heart, and made his life different than it had been before, and now he wanted to love her and be with her as husband and wife and as his baby’s dad.  He wanted to make a good home for his child.  He told her that she would be getting many more flowers in time to come!  That is a symbol of affection and love in Ukraine!  Zhennya was so ecstatic about all that had happened that he could not stop talking that night, and he said he believed God would answer the prayers for him, but he just wasn’t expecting everything to happen so fast and so sweet!  The baby was born a day or so later, and although it had to remain in the hospital for extra days because of having jaundice and an eye infection, it is beautiful and healthy!  Just two days ago, we went to the hospital to take them home with their new bundle of joy!  They were such a happy couple, laughing and smiling as they were carrying their sweet little package home for the first time!  We were also able to get a Christian student eye doctor here in Ukraine to look at the baby’s eye to determine what kind of treatment it might need, so we’re praying that all will be well with that also.  Please pray for this new little family and for all our people at the city mission of Lugansk!  


            We already are meeting once each Tuesday night in a borrowed church building close to where we meet in the Chinese restaurant on Sunday.  Shane teaches an advanced Bible class with about eight students each week, and I am teaching an advanced interpreter class to prepare English speakers for the camps this summer.  We have also been meeting on Thursday to have a type of youth English fellowship so that young people can play games, visit, and practice interpreting for Americans.  We are hoping this will entice new people to come and be a part of our worship group in the city, and also to gather new interpreters for summer camps. 


            The village church services are a little bit harder than working in the city.  For some reason, many of the people don’t want to attend the Bible studies with other people who attend, so a lot of people dropped out over time.  Usually, there are only about four or five people, not including us and some of those who come from the city to help work with this group.  The last few Sundays we had a good attendance though, with about sixteen there, which is better than it has been being in the past.  At one time, the young people were coming for Sunday school type classes, but when we left to go home for a time, the kids wouldn’t attend for the young man I left in charge.  When I got back home, it would take a few weeks to get it built back up, but then the cycle would happen again as soon as I left again until almost none of the kids came at all.  I have started an English type class on Sunday with one of the Ukrainian girls from Lugansk city group helping.  I am hoping this might stir an interest in their hearts, and they might possibly start reading their Bibles.  We have had around ten people each Sunday.  I will be using some scripture and Bible truths to teach this class.  Annya, the girl who is helping, came one day so that we could visit the school and orphanage to invite the kids.  Caleb had heard through some of the kids in the village that they were at least talking about it.  They were making deals like kids do, telling one another, “If you go, then I’ll go!”  Ha!  Just like American kids, aren’t they!  Some of those kids have attended, and others who have even told me they would be there have not shown up.  I hope these classes might give us a chance to introduce them to the message of Christ.  I know that Annya will be a good helper.  She is a very sweet Christian girl, and I have confidence that she will do a good job.  Please pray for us!


            Shane is working with the young Chinese man named Alec off and on during the week, and in his poor Russian, he tries to disciple him without an interpreter to the best of his ability.  Sometimes he gets an interpreter to come out and have a good discussion, but usually they try to manage alone.  Alec seems to be taking things in quickly.  He reads the scriptures from his own Bible, and then Shane asks him what it means.  Shane is able to understand better than he is able to communicate the message completely on his on.  Then he tries to guide Alec in the direction of his understanding the scriptures.  When he is with an interpreter at other times, they might discuss what their teaching was about. 


            When we first arrived back in Ukraine, I was working in the kitchen, and Shane had an American visitor, so Alec could not understand anything of what they were saying.  He came into the kitchen where I was working, and began talking a little bit, asking me how our visit to the US had been.  I told Alec I missed my family, and that I was sometimes worried about my Mom since she has some pretty serious health problems.  As I finished telling him about my own family, I asked him how his family in China were doing, and how long it had been since he’d seen them.  As Alec tried to tell me, he began to cry, but he was so embarrassed by it that he left out of the room.  He had said that he talked to them sometimes, and they were okay, but it had been ten years since he’d last seen them, and he missed them very much.  A few minutes later, he came back into the room, and told me he didn’t want to talk about his family anymore.  It broke my heart for him, and later I told Shane of what had happened.  Alec has an American father-in-the-faith who has sponsored him for some time now, and given him opportunity to dedicate part of his life to being discipled and to help in the ministry.  Alec had been pretty depressed acting lately, so Shane talked to him about this, and Alec expressed some of what was on his heart.  First of all, in his culture, he said that people normally tried to help take care of their elderly parents, but he felt badly that he was not able to give them anything, and he had not even visited them to make sure they were okay in all these years.  Second, he was struggling with the fact that he was not able to live from the small amount he received, but that in his culture, it was considered a shame to work at a secular job and also be a minister of God’s word.  I had not realized how serious Alec took his position of Bible learning, but obviously, he felt that he was learning for the purpose of being a serious minister of God’s word.  He was struggling because he needed to decide whether he should continue his work in the ministry or get a secular job so that he could provide for his family.  In his conscious, he felt he should do one thing or the other.  Later, Shane conveyed his feelings to his American sponsor, and obviously, God has moved in all of our hearts for this young Chinese man.  We are now able to give him a better amount to live by each month, and his sponsor also asked us to buy him a ticket to China so that he can go and visit his family for the first time in ten years.  When he first got saved, that was one of the things he had told Shane--one day he wanted to go see his Chinese family again, and tell them face to face about this Jesus he had met.  Pray for Alec as he goes in April to see his family, and hopefully tell them the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.


            This fall was a busy time for Shane as he had two teams come just after Caleb and I went back to the US, and just before he also came back home.  While we were home, we were able to visit about ten different churches or other connections of ministry.  Because of God’s desire to see people come to knowledge of His Son, things are steadily becoming a building block of so many people working together here in Ukraine with different skills, talents, interests, and ideas.  A group called Student Life from Alabama are in the process of bringing about two teams of possibly fifty people to carry out one summer camp and also to do carpentry work on the Belerechinka orphanage.  They hope to gather a group of fifty for the first week of camp, and then bring in a new group of fifty for the second week.  Wow!  I was amazed.  We also have some of old faithful people who will be returning for one of the camps with a group of about ten people for possibly the whole two week camp, and two other groups are considering bringing several others to help in the camps.  There is interest being stirred in the hearts of Christian people all over to reach these sweet children with the gospel message of Jesus Christ and good time of discipleship to bring these kids up in the truths of God’s word.  We believe that these precious children will be the foundation that God is laying for the future Christian church of Ukraine.  If you desire to be a part of teaching and training these little ones during any of the three fifteen-day camps this summer, you can reach us through the email address above.  We can usually be reached every day unless the signal is down, but it won’t normally be a long time down, so just be patient if we don’t answer you right away.  The dates for summer camp this year are the following along with the worker crew we are already expecting for each of the camps:


FIRST CAMP:  June 14 - 28  (We expect a full crew from a ministry who is working on providing two large teams, one for each week of this camp.) 

SECOND CAMP:  July 5 - 19  (We expect an average size team mainly consisting of members from North Monroe Baptist Church and others joining with them.) 

THIRD CAMP: July 26 - August 9  (As of now, we have some who have expressed interest in this camp, but as of now, no one has made firm commitments and preparations with us.)


Hello from Shane!

Big events these months:  Our village has gotten a new refrigerator--lots of talk & excitement now over “cold drinks”-- Some of the Babushkas (grandmothers) are expecting a rise in mortality rates as unsuspecting young folks drink cold fluids & die.  (The old folks say cold drinks are bad for the health!)


Minimum wages have increased much, & will be over $100 a month this year.  Between rising fuel cost & minimum wage increase, prices have risen sharply.


Our people are praying-- we have had a few times of corporate prayer among our worship groups & God has answered almost all -- people are encouraged to see the Hand of God moving among us.


New Year/Christmas holidays have produced a number of drinking binges -- we are still feeling the after-effects.


Sadly, the babushka who owned a very modest home in which we met in Mala-Urivka has died at the age of 83 -- She helped & encouraged many poor & “under privileged” folks!  She will be sorely missed, & now we lack a meeting place in the village.  We are waiting on God’s provision & direction in what to do -- this village saw something of an “awakening” in the past, but “secret persecution” has made ministry there hard!


Along with the wage increase, several village old folks have had a good year of producing homemade vodka, which has contributed to many of our village binge drinking.


During recent distress, I sought the Lord, and He caused me to better understand the fact that when you become a friend of Christ, you become an enemy of the world.


I also better understand that as believers, we may have earthly treasures to be desired, but our presence/involvement brings light to every situation--exposing deeds and evil men -- so the world would rather live in darkness without light, and therefore, for the most part, oppose the providence of God.



God bless you all!

Keep Pressing On!

Shane, Marilyn, Mary, and Caleb Duke

Crossover Ministries Associates

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