This Christmas will be a bit different for us this year. First of all, Sarah’s mom is coming to spend ten days with us in December. We are looking forward to baking Christmas cookies and spending time together. Although it is quite unusual for us to be with extended family over a holiday, the strangest thing will be celebrating Christmas in January. Our congregation has decided to celebrate the official Ukrainian Christmas which falls on January 7 according to the Orthodox (Julian) calendar. December 25 is a normal school and work day in Ukraine, and although some people (mostly Hungarians) in our region celebrate this day as Christmas, celebrating January 7 is more missiologically sound considering our goal to reach Ukrainians. One more way this Christmas is different is that in addition to our prayer letter, you are receiving a special letter just about us as a family.
I’ll start with the youngest in the family. Elizabeth turned 3 in September and tells everyone she meets that she is “three,” holding up three little fingers as she does so. She feels so big and grown-up now, often reminding mommy that she isn’t a baby anymore but has become “a kid.” Elizabeth loves to color in yellow and can write the first letter of her name. A couple months ago she started attending a private preschool 3 mornings a week. Our reason for sending her was so that she could learn Ukrainian. Lately she hasn’t been happy there, seemingly because her teachers don’t understand her (not because she doesn’t understand them). We aren’t in any hurry so if she prefers to stay home, then we’re happy to have her with us. Elizabeth is a great communicator, even if she doesn’t speak the language of the person she’s talking to. She uses her hands and facial expressions to get across what she wants. One day I heard her say a sentence consisting of words in three languages – English, Ukrainian and Hungarian: “No, ні szabad!” (Translated all into English it means, “No, that’s not allowed.”) Elizabeth is highly task oriented and can accomplish nearly anything she sets her mind to. (In other words, nothing is out of reach.) We see her as a leader someday.
Matthew will soon turn 6. He loves turtles, Star War’s the Clone Wars, and Wall-E. He wants to become a farmer when he grows up. Matthew started kindergarten in our homeschool and is doing great. He caught on to math very fast and is nearly finished with his book for the whole year already. He has learned 12 letters of the alphabet so far and can read some simple books using those letters. He and Abigail made a great lapbook about Ukraine this year. Matthew loves swimming and has just started to move beyond doggy-paddling.
Abigail, 7, fills the role of the oldest child perfectly. She is mature and dependable, paying careful attention to details. She wants to be a ballet teacher, piano teacher, golf teacher, and school teacher when she grows up. There’s definitely some teacher in her! This is her second year of taking piano lessons and her first year of ballroom dance lessons. She has a gift for languages and can communicate in Russian with her piano teacher, in Ukrainian at dance lessons and Sunday School, and in Hungarian with her friends. Abigail loves drawing and coloring, playing with Playmobil, and taking pictures.
I, Sarah, love homeschooling Abigail and Matthew with Sonlight’s curriculum. Ideally, we would like to be able to send our children to a Christian school, but there are not any decent schools in our area, much less a Christian school. I am glad to have studied elementary education and pleased that the kids are happy here at home. Their education down the road remains a question and a matter of prayer. Besides homeschooling, I lead an English bible study at church and participate in an English book club comprised of English teachers from the language school I helped start 7 years ago. I also started a blog this year at www.devuysts.blogspot.com to help family and friends know what we’re up to.
George enjoys his work with the Mukachevo Reformed congregation although this year has presented a lot of new challenges especially with developing healthy leadership. The church’s seminary intern, Robert Shpontak, has been a great blessing. Our prayer is that he will eventually become their pastor. George has especially enjoyed being trained and training others in the Timothy Leadership Training. He sees a lot of potential for (and a lot of work in) getting this program running in multiple cities in Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. If the weather is good and time is available, George appreciates a day of peace and quiet on the golf course. He has to travel to Debrecen, Hungary (it takes at least 3 hours to get there) for such an opportunity but it’s well worth it. George is a great father and husband and no matter how busy or stressed he is, he makes time for his family.
We remain happy living in Ukraine and encouraged by the little signs of transformation we see in the lives we minister to. Even after 14 years overseas, we are constantly learning about ministry in the in Ukrainian context. We pray for God to use us as His instruments.