Dad-Daughter Road Trip

My daughter and I took a road trip last week. It had been a while since we’d done anything like that. We went to Washington DC for a few reasons. First because my son Zack is doing an internship there and we haven’t seen him since May. Second because neither Ally or I had been to the capital. And third we could see Dave Matthews in concert, which has become a Harvey family summer tradition. (One that is becoming increasingly challenging as children tend to grow up and have lives of their own)

I have to say that Ally proved to be one of the lowest maintenance teenagers I know. We drove almost 1200 miles in our beloved golden boy without air conditioning. We navigated the Metro like typical rookies. We walked countless miles in heat and humidity. We visited a number of museums, monuments, and attractions without a single eye-roll or heavy sigh.

Several people have asked me my favorite thing about the trip. One highlight that I wasn’t prepared for was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial right where Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech. I waited my turn to take a picture of the chiseled granite block and look out over the mall. It was amazing to insert myself in that familiar picture and imagine the sea of people hoping, praying, and working for equality.

The other stuff…the buildings…the post card images…was cool too. But my lasting memories will be of the spontaneous stuff. Staging arguments in the car as we drove down the highway and seeing the other motorists’ reactions. Us walking around without a schedule and covered in sweat. Zack taking us to one of his favorite burger joints, Ray’s Hell Burger. The look of horror on Ally’s face as Zack and I did our hippie dance at the concert.

But the best slice of my week was this:

Overheated, Ally and I entered the sculpture garden in front of the National Archive. We made our way to a fountain and took a seat on the edge dangling our feet in the water. I don’t know how long we were there. It didn’t matter. We were together; sometimes chatting sometimes not, sometimes laughing sometimes not, sometimes reflecting sometimes not. As the water refreshed our limbs the time reconnected our hearts.

That moment was worth the trip.

A month ago I could have given you 100 reasons that I shouldn’t/couldn’t go. Thanks Krista, for helping me to see past the obstacles and believe in the value of the trip.

Another Reflection from Ukraine

Pastor’s Conversation

Without a doubt one of the highlights of my trip was the time I spent with local pastors on Tuesday and Wednesday (6/29-30). On Tuesday I spend the afternoon with Andre. He is a young man whose only other pastoral experience was in a more rural setting. Now he is preparing to plant a church across the Dneiper River in a newer section of Kiev. He called it a sleeping neighborhood and we would call it a bedroom community.

Dustin and I rode the Metro over to Andre’s part of town, which is an experience all its self. We emerged from the subterranean Metro station into a land of new high rise apartments, a handful of open air markets, a few restaurants, and no visible churches.

We walked with Andre through the community surrounded by nearly a half million people and even he could only point out two churches. It was exciting to hear him exegete his community. He is thinking creatively and strategically to find ways to build relationships. He has two steps in his initial plan. First, they have secured a very spacious (that is a relative term) apartment for he and his wife. It has a large living room that could accommodate 18-20 people. There they can extend hospitality to their neighbors and develop their leadership team. Second, he is looking for a cafe’ setting where they can teach english. I have no doubt he’s going to do very well.

On Wednesday we spent most of the day with Pastor Volva, Pastor Aleg, and Victor who is a youth pastor. It was a tremendous privilege to listen to them, learn from them, and spend time with them but there was a ring a familiarity to our conversation. The challenges and issues we discussed were very similar to the ones we experience here in the United States: “What is our mission? What is the vision God has given us? How do we get our church to grow?” And so we pressed into these lofty subjects separated by language & culture yet united in our passion & calling.

I know I didn’t solve anything but hopefully I gave them a couple things to consider.

  • Like many churches in the United States they have started to depend on the programs and ministries of the church to draw people. We talked a lot about getting to know our neighbors, becoming a regular at a cafe or with a merchant, and getting involved in people’s lives outside the church.
  • Like many pastors in the United States they have become slaves to the urgent. I tried to help them see that time spent dreaming and visionary prayer is just as important as the time they spend preparing for their Sunday sermon.

Words like ‘humbling’ and ‘honor’ just aren’t big enough to describe the events above. The best word I can come up with this morning is ‘gift.’ It was truly a gift to be reminded and assured that I’m part of a kinship, brotherhood, and fraternity of ordinary people called to serve an extraordinary God that circles the globe. It was a gift to remember that we’re in this together. And it was a gift to rub shoulders with such gifted and dedicated servants. I’m sure I received more than I gave and came home not only a better pastor but a better person because of my time with them.

Galina’s House

On Friday night (7/2) our group split up into smaller groups of 4-5 to have dinner in individual families’ homes. I went to Galina’s house. We met her last week at church. She read during one portion of the worship service and also gave a testimony.

When we arrived at her home we were almost an hour late because of a thunderstorm that flooded most of the city streets. We were greeted with great enthusiasm and a bit of relief. She had been worried that something had happened to us. She and her daughter, Olga live in a two room apartment. Not a two bedroom apartment but a TWO ROOM apartment. The door entered into the small kitchen and to the left was the living/sleeping area. Their two beds aligned the walls on the left and right of the doorway. Between the bed on your left and the small patio at the other end of the room was the dinner table. This apartment has been their home since she was married in 1978.

Since we were late, Galina showed us directly to our seats. Six small stools surrounded the table. The night was full of contrasts. Our dishes were old and beautiful. Our flatware was plastic waiting for us to pull them from a cup that also held the napkins. Our food was incredibly simple but delicious. It was a traditional Ukrainian meal. We began with borsch, a red beet based soup. Then salad which was a plate of tomato & cucumber slices, lettuce, and a type of cole slaw. The main course consisted of boiled potatoes and chicken. We had compote to drink. It is made by boiling cherries, black current, red current and then letting it cool to room temperature. It’s actually very tasty.

Our conversation didn’t really get rolling until after dinner. She began by showing us her wedding picture. Then she told us of how she met her husband and continued through the fateful day that he and their daughter were visiting relatives in Chernobyl. Olga was born with down syndrome but had further serious consequences due to the nuclear fallout. Her husband became very sick very quickly and eventually lost his health battles.

From there she jumped back in time to tell us about her childhood which could have been right out of a movie. She adored her father who was a teacher. When Galina’s father left his teaching career for WWII, her mother promised him she would take the children to their home region of Ukraine, far east of where they were living at the time. Galina was three and her sister was four. They set out on a journey that would end up taking them eight months to walk. They would go from village to village resting, eating, and taking refuge wherever they could.

In the military her father was an artillery specialist and was one of the Russian troops that entered Berlin at the conclusion of the war. Upon their arrival snipers continued to shoot at them even though the war was over. Since he was a German teacher he was ordered to seek out and approach the snipers to deliver the news the war was over. He went with hands raised and without a weapon. The German soldiers respected the gesture and welcomed the news that the war was over. Then they usher Galina’s father to a room where a number of elderly people and children were taking refuge to give them the news too. They hugged him upon hearing the war was over.

Her faith story was weaved throughout the others. Her father was a believer while he was a teacher in the communist system. It was God who protected him during the war. He was the primary influence in her life and she had been a believer since her childhood. She told us of finding the Nazarene church and she was excited about it’s possibilities in the new location we had been working on.

Days later I’m still trying to process all that I feel about what I experienced that night. She was so different that the Soviets we were told about when I was growing up. They were people who either denied God’s existence or hated Him if He did…yet she has followed Christ for many years. Galina exudes gratitude and feels so blessed…yet has so little from our perspective. Her life has been so difficult…yet she doesn’t consider that to be negative. It was like all I could see was what she didn’t have and she was so conscious of what she did have.

I will never forget that night or her or how her face looked when she spoke of her God and the people who pointed her to Him.