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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Melissa and I are going on the staff retreat today for VBC staff. That was redundant. Anyway, I just finished editing the Immanuel Mission promotional video that I filmed back in December on the Navajo Reservation. If you have been on a mission trip to Arizona before you will like this video (I hope). It shows what the mission looks like in the winter and when school is in session. Let me know what you think. I am still tinkering with it and have not delivered the final copy to the people at Immanuel yet so if there is anything that you think should be changed or added let me know so I can make the proper adjustments.

After I finish this video I am going to start working on the Ukraine Orphanage Project so I will keep you posted. Kosonom.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It has been a good couple of days, talking to people about the trip, hearing about other trips that people took (Lauren to German/Slovakia, Charlie, Tim, & the VBC crew to Belize/Guatemala) and just hanging out with Mel. It is funny how after a trip like this, things that are ordinarily a big deal in my life, become less meaningful. Take baseball for example. I love baseball, the A's, and participating in fantasy baseball (by the way Jen, I am in first place now!), but the importance of such things become less and less when compared to the dire situations in the orphanages of Ukraine and the like. How can I be consumed by the ordinary things in my life when,, in other parts of the world people are struggling to survive. Not that I need to abstain from every bit of personal enjoyment, I just need to find a balance and I am working on that now. (Melissa and I look like we are Siamese Twins in the picture above!)

Speaking of baseball, I got to attend a baseball practice while I was in Hungary that was put on by a guy named Russ. Russ went with us to Ukraine (technically we went with him...he drove). He and his wife are from the States and they moved to Hungary a few years ago to do full time ministry. They even adopted a Hungarian girl last year and it was really great to hear about her and the process of adoption. (hint, hint). Russ works with a ministry call Good Sports International. They put together sports teams, camps, and practices, with the hope that kids (from street kids and orphans to kids from healthy families) will get exposed to athletics, team work, and ultimately, the Lord. I had a lot of fun playing baseball with the kids. I got to pitch for their batting practice and play ball with the kids. I had a blast. Baseball is a pretty new sport for them. I kind of felt like A-Rod playing with a T-Ball team. I was humbled when I tried playing soccer (football) with the kids there though. Even 5 year old orphan girls could work me. I am pathetic!

Most of you have heard a lot about the trip by now so I will not say a ton more. God is still helping me process all that we experienced there and we are now trying to figure out what the next step is. Emails have been sent out to people in Hungary and Ukraine to try to get the ball rolling on this orphanage idea. These are exciting times and it will be cool to see what God has in store.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One of the last days that we were in Hungary we got to visit the gypsy church about an hour away from Debrecen. The gypsy's are a group of people that live in Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and some of the surrounding areas. For the most part they are hated by the European people. It is a common saying among many people that gypsy's will be "the fuel for the fires of hell." Harsh. The church in Debrecen bought a chunk of property in a gypsy village and established a church in a vacant house that was on the property.

We got to attend their Thursday night church service. It was really cool to see these gypsy people with joy, worshiping God, and being treated with love and respect. Gary spoke briefly and then their pastor, a young guy named Danny, shared. I got to hang out with the little kids while Gary and Chris hung out with the adults. Typical. It was a lot of fun chasing these kids around and playing soccer with them. They asked me where I was from (this question really pushed my Hungarian skills to the limits) and when I told them, "America", their first question was whether or not I knew Jackie Chan. Much to their dismay, I did not (and still don't for that matter). The people that I met their were very gracious and hospitable. I met this really sweet high school girl named Lily from the church in Debrecen. She went with us to the gypsy church as she does every Thursday night. On top of that she goes to the nearby orphanage every other Saturday. At only 17, this girl had a very good handle on what it means to serve people and to live a life that is dedicated to loving others and loving God. I was really challenged by my time with her and with the other young Hungarian people that I met as well.

The gypsy church is the primary ministry of Carol Greathouse (she is from Pleasanton, but lives in Debrecen now as a missionary, with her husband Rob). She loves the gypsy people immensely and they love her equally, referring to her as their "mother." It was amazing to see the love that is being shown to a people that a society has shunned and ignored. The gypsy people are hated on a wide scale but due to the efforts by the Debrecen church, and others like it, hopefully this trend will change.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I am home. It feels nice to be back under my own roof with Melissa and our stinky little dog. I am still trying to adjust to the time though. I was wide awake at about 5:30am and fell asleep at about 9:15 last night. It was fun seeing everyone at church yesterday and it really reminds me of how fortunate I am to live where I live and to have the friends and family that I have. Over the course of the next week or so I am going to write entries about the various experiences and thoughts we had on the trip. You can check out the online photo gallery from the trip here. Overall it was a lot of fun hanging out with Gary and Chris and the people that we met along the way. I really appreciated all of the stories and wisdom that Chris and Gary (switching up the name order for posterity) that they shared with me throughout our adventures. Chris has a lot of "good ol' boy" country sayings that I loved. For example...we walked by a really tall guy in Budapest and Chris said: "That guy is so tall that he could hunt geese with a rake." Amazing.

I think I will start off by talking a bit more about the orphanage situation and what we are talking about doing. I feel like I am in that sled dog movie, Eight Below. The main character has to leave his sled dogs behind in Antarctica when a big storm hits and he is forced head back to the states. He does everything he can to make it back to his dogs, against all odds, and with little resources to do so. This is a lame analogy but its kind of how I feel right now about leaving Ukraine. (No, I don't think orphans are like dogs). The first orphanage/hospital that we visited was filled with children aged 3 months-3 years. It was in a dumpy run-down building (right) and the kids were all malnourished, dirty, and slow developmentally. Some stared blankly at the ceiling, some cried, and some just raised their hands, begging to be held. Mothers in Ukraine get $2000 over the course of the first 6 months of their child's life. Many mothers use this as a way of making money and end up abandoning their baby at 6 months only to repeat the cycle again. It is a horrible cycle established by a corrupt and helpless government. As I said in a previous entry, it was horribly sad. The hospital barely had any supplies, the beds were dirty, and the staff was underpaid and neglected the children. The babies receive one meal a day-a concoction of cold milk, flower, and sugar. Not even baby formula. We left there feeling helpless, upset, angry, and confused. How could a mother (and father for that matter) abandon their child? How could a government allow this cycle to continue? What could we do to help?

The next day we visited another orphanage about 2 hours away. It was an all-girls orphanage established by a Dutch Christian church. Here the girls were treated with love and it showed. This orphanage doubled as a working farm and ranch, where the girls learned life skills, grew their own food, and created a self-sustaining living environment. Here there was a sense of love and safety that was completely absent from the other orphanage. We hung out there from almost the entire day. We got a tour of the facility and spent time with the girls. Gary and I played basketball with a few girls and they started calling him "Popa." We found out that this meant grandpa. Though it appeared to be a sweet gesture of love and innocence, they were in fact making fun of him for being old. It was great. These kids were being exposed to the love of Christ and also got to experience a sense of community, family, and love. It was still a sad place to be, knowing that these girls were abandoned, and in many cases, severely abused, but I left feeling hopeful that these girls would have a chance to live a good life.

So where do we go from here? That is the question at hand. Gary, Chris, and I talked a lot about what we can do to help the orphans of Ukraine and Hungary. We know that something more needs to be done and hopefully, as a church and as individuals, we can make a difference. We are looking at potentially buying a plot of land in Ukraine (ridiculously cheap) and building an orphanage (like the one I just talked about). It would require a lot of prayer, man (and woman) power, finances, and planning, but even the prospect of it is really exciting. Melissa and I are praying and discussing what our involvement may be and we are excited (and scared!) at the various possibilities. God is good and we know that whatever he has planned will be the best case scenario for us and the children of Hungary and Ukraine.

Pray for these plans and how you may be involved in them. I will be impressed if anyone actually reads all of this. Sorry its so long. I had a lot to say!

Friday, April 20, 2007

we are leaving debrecen in a bit and will head to budapest. it will our last big adventure before we head home. it has been a good trip and it is hard to see it come to an end. it will be great to see everyone when i get home and to tell everyone about our experiences here. i have now taken about 700 pictures so needless to say, this trip has been well documented. pray for safe travel and that gary, chris, and i will continue to process through the things that we have experienced so that we may do god's will in these countries.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

tomorrow we head to budapest and then we are heading home. this trip has really flown by. this will probably be the last entry until i get home. i get to go to baseball practice today with the local sports ministry. i am so excited! i hope that everyone is well and i cant wait to share more with you all upon my arrival home. chris lost his camera so it would be great if you could pray that he finds it. he is bummed. that is all for now. kosi.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

i am staying at the blue dreams motel in debrecen, hungary. the keyboard i am typing on is crazy. for example, it has these keys: ö,ü,ó,á,é,í. the problem is that those keys are in places that the english keys should be. nem yo (not good). i have decided that i am not going to go in to a lot of detail about te trip until i get home and can spend some time processing everything. i will post a bunch of pictures so that you can get a better idea of what we did here.

this trip has been filled with all of the beauty, pain, poverty, hurt, and love that life can offer. i have taken roughly 700 pictures. some are really spectacular, some are difficult to look at, and some (like you saw) have pig heads.

i have learned how to count to 29 and can say various useless phrases in hungarian. all of the kids laugh at my pathetic attempt at linguistics. we have spent time in various gypsy villages, orphanages, towns, busses, cars, and shops. it is going to be hard to go home. i miss melissa and my family and friends but there is something wonderful about being here. the people have been extremelx gracious and loving. its weird being an american abroad sometimes. its like i feel the need to apologize for how our country often acts and is portrayed. it saddens me to see the infiltration of american media and culture in to this society. kids in the orphanages and schools listening to eminem. movies and american celebrities being idolized by kids just because they "represent" america. the hungarian and ukrainian cultures are incredibly rich and inspiring and its sad to think that they could one day be neutered completely by their attraction to all things american. i am not saying america is completely bad. its just that, the last thing the world needs as an american export is our pop culture and media.

i will talk more about the orphanages later but in short, they tore me a part. 3 year old babies weighing no more than 13 pounds, unable to sit up or speak. hopeless and desperate. the kids we stayed with at the ukrainian christian high school visit the orphanages once a month and we went with them. it was amazing to see these students love these children. they held them, kissed their dirty faces, wiped their running noses, cried with them, and loved them. it was horrific and beautiful all at the same time. it was almost too much to take in. the students reminded me of how jesus might have treated these kids, ignoring their smell and condition, and loving them for the simple reason that they needed to be loved. i had to take a walk for a bit and cry and process it all. something needs to be done and i hope that the video that i am making and the plans that we are creating can help make a difference.

these are a lot of my thoughts, sloppily typed, on a keyboard i cant understand. i will try to write more later and add some more pictures.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ok...I got to a computer. Now I will attempt to write down a brief summary of a week's worth of experiences, thoughts, and so much more. For starters, I arrived in Budapest (switched planes in London and Frankfurt) in the afternoon on Thursday, the 12th. I was picked up and taken 3 hours away to Debrecen, Hungary where I met up with Gary and Chris. I had about 20 minutes to take a much needed shower and brush my teeth. Oh the comforts of home! We then drove 3 hours to Ukraine, where we arrived at about 9 at night. We met up with Pastor Bodi and his team of youth leaders (Andy, Bala, Lucia-all Hungarian young adults) and headed to the dorms of a Christian school in Peterfalva, Ukraine where we would be staying for the next several nights.

The students at the school were amazing. We ate with them, hung out with them, and sang with them. Pastor Bodi was a guest speaker at their school for the weekend, talking about sex, purity, and relationships. It was a mini-conference for the students at the school. It's difficult to write all of the things that I have felt and experienced while I have been away, and I am not sure that I can really properly convey my thoughts on a blog (or any written format for that matter), but I will give you some of the highlights from my time in Ukraine. I will give a more detailed account, with more pictures, when I get home.

-The Ukrainian students loved to sing. Before each meal and throughout the day the students would sing various traditional and worship songs. They sang a lot of American worship songs (in Hungarian) so I borrowed a guitar and did and impromptu worship session. I felt like Deej. It was so cool to sing with the students and hear them sing in Hungarian. It is amazing how alike we are, regardless of where we come from. We have the same basic needs, desires, jokes, and hopes. I loved spending time with the students there.

I need to take off now but there will be more to come when I get more computer time!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hello from Melissa!

Yes, Dan is actually trusting me with the ever important blog. I just wanted to give you all a quick update on Dan's trip to Hungary, Romania and the Ukraine. I don't have a lot of new info but did talk to Dan after he had landed in Budapest, Hungary. Mr. Greathouse a missionary our church supports met him at the airport and was going to bring Dan back to his home in Debercen, Hungary, where Dan would meet up with Chris Kline and Gary Darnell. I have not had the chance to talk to Dan since, but it will most likely be several days before he has access to call, as He, Gary Darnell, Chris Kline and Bodi (Pastor from Hungary) will be in the Ukraine for I believe the next five or six days. I will keep you all updated as I hear more news. Thank you for all of your prayers! I know that Dan and the guys can feel them. Specifically pray for Dan as he traveled over 20 hours and informed me that he only slept 20 minutes! Pray for stamina, health and safety! Thank you all! The baby and I are doing fine!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I leave for Hungary tomorrow. I am all packed but it still doesn't feel all that real. It should be an exciting/challenging/cool/a-lot-of-adjectives trip. I will actually be in 5 countries tomorrow which will be kind of neat (US, England, Germany, Hungary, & Ukraine). Technically not tomorrow I suppose, but all within a 24-hour period. I will update the blog whenever I get internet access. Pray for us. If you see Mel, give her and the baby a hug for me. I will miss them!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Melissa and I just returned from the Doctor's office. The doctor was a very nice gentleman with a name that is easy to pronounce but hard to spell. I won't even try. The appointment was really cool. The doctor took a picture of our baby in such a way that he would be surely arrested if he were not a doctor.
This whole pregnancy didn't really feel real until today. Not only did we get to see the baby's picture, we also got to see its heart beat. Then, to top it all off, we got to hear the heartbeat. It was at that moment that I realized I will likely cry when the baby is born. I am going to be a wreck. When I heard the 100 mile-per-hour heartbeat, my eyes started to well up. So weird!

The baby is 8 weeks and 2 days along and we now have an official due date as well: Saturday, November 17th. BE THERE!!!

In other news, VBC softball suffered its first loss on Friday night in front of a record crowd. The team we played, Nakid Industries, was actually the same team we lost to in the championships last season (Ford of Dublin). They just changed their name. The final score was 21-13. We had 15 people in our line-up. I threw a guy out at home which was pretty sweet, though I am not one to brag. Next Friday's game is at 7:45.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Today is the day you all have been waiting for. Fear not, VBC softball is back! We play tonight at 9pm at the Sports Park in P-Town. We are playing a team called Nakid Industries. I will say it again: Valley Bible Church vs. Nakid Industries. The joke possibilities are endless.

If you are looking for a good laugh and cannot make it to our softball game, you should check out this video. A couple days ago the mayor of Cincinnati threw out the opening pitch at the Reds' first home game. What ensued was nothing short of spectacular. His throw was horrendous. Check it out.

I leave for Hungary in 5 days which is kinda crazy! I still haven't done a whole lot as far as packing goes but I usually leave that sort of stuff until the last minute anyway. Today is Good Friday. Good. Here is an interesting article about a scientist who is the head of the Human Genome Project and is also a believer in God (he is a Christian). It is an interesting read.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Melissa and I went to the Flory's (Amy's parents) for Seder dinner on Sunday. The Flory's were not involved but they did let us use their house which was quite nice of them. Aaron led us through the various rituals, chants, customs, and wine-drinking, that is associated with the Jewish tradition. It was a really cool and unique experience. It also involved a lot of wine drinking. Did I mention that? I cut myself off pretty early because the dinner calls for multiple glasses. Apparently the Jews could handle their alcohol pretty well. They must've also had a low occurrence of heart disease.

A team of high school and college students and adults are leaving from VBC for Belize today. Charlie is one of them. I found some old footage of him and decided that I should make a video as though he got lost there. Its a video from the past/future. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I always play the "Good News/Bad News" game with Melissa so I will play it with you right now.

Good news: David Crowder*Band has a new CD coming out.

Bad news: It doesn't come out until August.

Good news: Ted Nugent is playing guitar on the CD. No joke. See below:

Bad news: The A's lost last night and Bobby Crosby is a girl.

Good news: Softball starts Friday! Be there at 9pm.

Bad news: I have to go to the grocery store and then to school.

Good news: I sold my Pacifico hat on EBAY for $5.51. That is about 500 times more than I thought I would get for it.

Bad news: For some reason Tivo didn't record 24 last night. However, if this is bad news then that means my life is pretty good.

Good news: This blog entry is done.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Today is the A's opening day which, in my household, is celebrated as a holiday, complete with decorations and a tree. Ok, so the decorations aren't really there and, truth be told, I am only only who celebrates this day as a holiday. But celebrate I will!

Mel and I went to Sunol (Little Yosemite) on Saturday with Tim, the Argo's, and their friend Karen from DC. We took Bauer as well. I had never been to Sunol before so needless to say it was quite the treat. Tim took us on a hike up the creek (through the water) where we had to climb up rocks and waterfalls. It was amazing. It is probably the coolest place I have been within twenty minutes of hear. It was quite beautiful. Bauer wasn't took stoked on scaling the rocks and walking up rapids and the like but he was a trooper. Sadly, we buried him there. Post-April fools! Melissa found a snake and was about to pick it up when she noticed it had a rattle (not unlike a baby's rattle....coincidence?). Baby snakes are cute but baby rattle snakes kill you. Write that down. It could save your life one day.

Tim turned 45 yesterday which is quite impressive. I turn 45 in 2028. Hopefully Tim will be able to come to my birthday party then. By that time, my yet-to-be-born/named child will be 21. That is scary.

Melissa is doing well and we are both excited for the Doctor's appointment that we have next Monday. At said appointment our doctor will show us a picture of our child and will likely complement us on his or her (perhaps both) stunning good looks.

Speaking of babies, here is a video of my cousin Nick's son Cristian. He is a stud.