June 25 – Friday
We began the day by visiting the worksite. It is a 2200 sq/ft basement space that will be the location of Svetlana’s church. There are two main objectives. First we are to remove the debris from the floor so we can pour a new level concrete floor. Second we are to jackhammer three windows out of one foot think cement. Honestly it was a very intimidating visit. The rubble will need to be carried out in buckets and I have no idea how we will bring in the new cement.
Next we went to the Dniepor River where we will be conducting a VBS. There is a large walkway above the park where we will set up. The church we are helping with this is only a few apartment buildings away.
For lunch we went to Dream Town, the largest mall in the city. From the outside it looks very old and rundown but inside it is very modern…like anything you’d see back home. We had lunch in the food court working with our interpreters to help us order. It was very western and there wasn’t any Ukrainian food to be found. The funniest restaurant was a chicken place called McFoxy’s, kind of what you get when you cross McDonald’s with Buffalo Wild Wings and the 70’s.
After lunch we rode the Metro to the WWII museum. Before we arrived there we passed an old building called the arsenal factory. It was peppered with bullet holes from the 1917 revolution. It was a civil war that took place when the Bulshavics took power by sending in Russian troops from the east. Bob Skinner gave us an incredible tour through the museum. He explained so many things about the events and the effects of the war on the Ukrainian people. He said three things build a framework in understanding the people of Ukraine: Orthodoxy, the war, and communism.
The museum is a progression from the good days in the early 20th century, the attack of the Germans and the German occupation. The German’s not only took all the livestock and grain back to Germany but they also loaded up the top soil – some of the richest in Europe – and took that too. The words “raped, pillaged, and plundered” come to mind. The museum continues to wind it’s way through the battles at the eastern front and the turning point at Volgagrad. The Soviets chased the Germans all the way back to Berlin. D Day was the nail in the coffin.
60 million people died in WWII. 500,000 Americans, 5 million Brits, 7 million Germans, 8 million Chinese, but 30 million people from the Soviet Union lost their lives. 1 in 4 Ukrainians died. They have a saying here, “Everybody lost somebody.”
The war still effects people today. Every village in the former USSR, no matter how small or how big has a war memorial. They are committed to not forgetting. After every wedding ceremony the bride and groom go the village war memorial and have their photo taken. They know when they arrive at the wedding feast they will be asked by the grandmothers and grandfathers if they did. Students learn to fire, clean and reassemble weapons as wells as bandage wounds in school. Why? Because “we lost 30 million people once and we won’t do that again.”
Outside the museum stands a statue of Mother Russia which is over 300ft tall, a small replica of the one in Moscow. Kiev was the capital of ‘little Russia.’
We then returned to the ministry center where we had another huge meal prepared by our gracious hosts. The local pastors and leaders joined us. I had the privilege of speaking to the group after dinner. I did my typical Rublev message but it was different. I had to work through an interpreter, Volva my new pastor friend from Keiv 1st church. And second the people knew Rublev and seen his trinity in the orthodox churches. I also shared with them the old saying, “You are not my friend until your feet have been under my table.” I thanked them for allowing us to be their friends and stressed the importance of having a large table and inviting others to it.
To end the night some of us walked the half mile to the McDonald’s. It was great just to chat in a place that seemed somewhat familiar.