Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let it Snow

We have the most snow the kids have seen in a long time.  With four new inches of snow on top of what we had from a few days ago, Matthew declared, "This is the best day of my whole life!"  Walking TO church was animated by giggles and slowed down by the need to form snowballs.  Walking FROM church was a constant snowball fight.  The sidewalks along most of our path were not cleared so we literally trekked our way to church.  Our afternoon was spent making a snowman and a snowgirl.  In the center of town, Matthew and Elizabeth hiked up the snow banks and slid down the statue mounds.  We really need to take them sledding!




Pulling young children on a sled is the easiest way to get them around town.


Sliding down statue mound - without sleds
Not very many people nor businesses clear the sidewalks but before George left for Kiev on Friday, he decided to do his part and clear in front of our apartment building.  Elizabeth helped with the use of the sandbox shovel.





Friday, January 20, 2012

Testimony

I was asked to write up my testimony for an application and thought I'd share it with you too.  The pictures are just an added touch. :)

Me on the left, probably at the age of 5
My life is a testimony of God’s intricate involvement in the lives of His children. None of the events of my life happened by accident but were interwoven by God to become the tapestry of my life.

Setting the Stage for Missions
As the oldest of four children I grew up in a Christian family. From my earliest memories, I have known and loved God. My father was involved in Christian ministry which in 1996 took us from rural Oregon to the suburbs of Washington, DC. My parents’ example of following God and being willing to go wherever He led set the stage for me to do the same. While being home-schooled in fourth grade, I read stories about missionaries and decided then that I wanted to be a teacher and a missionary when I grew up.

Discovering a Love for Teaching
During my high school years I attended a very small Christian school and was actively involved in youth group at our church. During these years my faith became more solid and I developed a love for teaching from the Bible. My youth pastor gave me opportunities to occasionally lead our youth Sunday school class which later gave me courage to lead a campus Bible study during college. For the first time I experienced the pleasure of teaching.

Impacted by Reformed Teaching
My best friends at Geneva College
When I searched for a Christian college to attend, Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA offered me the most financial aid and I really enjoyed the caring atmosphere I felt during a campus visit. I decided to go there, not really conscious of the fact that it was a college of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Up until college, I had attended charismatic, non-denominational churches with my parents. At Geneva College my best friends were Reformed Presbyterians (RP). I started attending an RP church and learned a lot from the teaching, preaching, and interaction with the elderly members of the church. Those years were challenging as I grappled with the vast differences in doctrine and practice between charismatics and Reformed. Through it all, I discovered things about both that I appreciated but I also realized I needed to determine what I believed and why.

Entering the Mission Field
Me, on far right in pink, with other ESI teachers

My fourth-grade dream of becoming a missionary had never left me, but, in fact, had increased as I participated in short-term mission trips to Mexico and to Ukraine. During my senior year of college I did half of my student teaching at a local public school and the other half at Black Forest Academy in Germany. At the end of my student teaching I spent a week in Czech Republic. Following that semester, I felt a strong desire to return to Eastern Europe. I graduated in May 1996 and was accepted to teach English as a foreign language with Educational Services International (now “TeachOverseas”). I intended to return to Czech Republic, but due to factors outside my control I ended up in eastern Hungary not far from the border with Ukraine. I spent three years in S├írospatak, Hungary and absolutely loved teaching English, getting to know Hungarians, and leading student Bible studies. It was during this time that I met my husband, George de Vuyst, who was a missionary with Christian Reformed World Missions across the border in Mukachevo, Ukraine. We married in 1999 and have continued to serve as missionaries in Ukraine.

The Lord’s Purpose Prevails
Engagement in Sarospatak, Hungary - May 1999

As I study the threads in the tapestry of my life, I recognize God’s sovereignty and handiwork. Even though I like to plan ahead and be prepared, many times my plans have fallen apart. Repeatedly, I have had to learn to trust God. Only later do I discover how He is in control and how He incorporates each event into my future. God has provided me with a wonderful husband, three fantastic kids, good friends, and a ministry that I love. Through the early days of my childhood in a Christian home, my non-intentional enrollment at a Reformed college, the “mistake” that landed me in Hungary, and so many other so-called “coincidences” I have witnessed God’s hand at work in all the details of my life. I am who and where I am today because of God bringing to fruition His purposes. There is nothing I desire more than to increasingly love my God and to serve Him the rest of my days – no matter what lies ahead.

“Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” ~ Proverbs 19:21

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Faithful

Today I was overcome by God's faithfulness which caused our worship service to be rather unexpectedly emotional for me.  Today marks one of the most poignant displays of God's answer to prayer - a prayer that we have been praying for eight years.  And God has provided more than I could imagine, more than I even dared to ask of him.

Eight years ago we planted a church in our town, praying all along that God would provide a local pastor to continue to lead the congregation when it came time for us to move on.  For a few years it seemed as if there would never be such a person.  We prayed more.  We asked others to pray with us.  Time went on and George continued to pastor the church by himself.  At a youth festival we hosted in 2007, a youth leader from a neighboring city brought a group of young people.  We heard his commitment to God and desire to serve him.  We observed his gentle style of leadership and patience in difficult circumstances.  We prayed that God would send someone like him to serve in our church.
Robert leads small group discussion at youth festival in 2007

Today that man was ordained as pastor of the Christian Reformed Church in Mukachevo!!!  Since that week back in 2007 we have seen so much more in him than we even noticed during the youth festival.  Robert Shpontak is a man of God and a man deeply committed to God's Church being all that God ordains her to be.  He and his wife, Anett, have been called by God to continue the ministry of this church.  They face the responsibility with a healthy trepidation. As we prepare to leave Mukachevo and our direct involvement in the life of this little church is coming to an end, I know that God is the one holding her in his hands.  He is the one who has provided a pastor with the skills, vision, passion, and commitment beyond what I could have hoped for.  God is astonishingly faithful!

Pastor Robert, Anett, and their son Andras
"Not to us, LORD, not to us
   but to your name be the glory,
   because of your love and faithfulness."  - Psalm 115:1