Category Archives: Ramblings

Visiting the dentist

Dr Hyde became my dentist in 1993.  I needed some dental work done and since I was moving to Ukraine soon, he agreed to take on my case.  I had not been to a dentist in years due to an extremely traumatic event in Daingerfield, TX while in high school.

Dr Hyde showed me that dentists could deal with their patients with lots of patience and love and care.  Whenever I am in the US, I always see Dr Hyde and his wonderful staff.  The dental hygienists have worked for him for years!

Being a missionary means that I live in different places and from time to time I have to see a dentist in the country where I live.  I remember the first dentist I visited in Kiev in 2004.  After the cleaning I promised myself I wouldn’t return.  They did some type of sandblast stuff on my mouth and my teeth were sore for weeks.

While living in Kazakhstan, I had an incredible painful episode and had to see a dentist.  Fortunately, Dr Hyde was able to consult with me via email and phone and helped guide me to the right decision.  And, I must say, the dentist and his staff were wonderful and took very good care of me in Karaganda.

Now, I found myself living in Donetsk and it is time to find a dentist.  I am truly dreading it.  I need to have my teeth cleaned and I have one tooth that seems to be getting more and more sensitive and I need to have it checked.  I have known this for months and still haven’t taken the effort to try to find a dentist.

Several other Americans living in Donetsk have told me who their dentists are and I am sure they are great people.  Yet, I don’t know that anyone can beat Dr Hyde.  If I was facing major work, I would probably take vacation and fly all the way home to Wichita Falls just so that he and his staff could take care of me.  I just wish Dr Hyde would make house visits!

The cold has arrived…

Since returning to Donetsk on January 5, it was been freezing or below with snow on the ground.  I think it has been a little strange as we have more snow and it is colder in Donetsk than the capital city, Kiev,  which is more north.

The last few days have seen the temperatures drop considerably at night.  The daytime temps are cool as well.  Just today, I was out trying to pay bills and noticed the cold.  However, I remember the long winter in Kazakhstan with temps dropping to -35.  I have become a wimp as the temp was in the 20’s today and I thought it was cold.

The forecast calls for the temps to moderate some in the coming days.  I have heard that February is the month with the coldest temps and most snow.  Last February saw lots of snow according to locals.  So, we still have much to look forward to!

This past Monday, a young brother commented how disappointed he was in the lack of snow here.  We have some snow and have gotten a couple of more inches this week, yet he was wanting more.

It’s funny how songs get stuck in your head… a couple of years ago I purchased a Christmas CD with lots of classics.  One such classic is “Babe, it’s cold outside.”  Well, now, whenever I go outside and its cold, that song hits me and I start singing.  All I’m missing is the fireplace…

I think I know how Elijah felt…

Then he (Elijah) was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”   (1 Kings 19:3-4 ESV)

Last evening was a very momentous occasion for me.  A group of eight people came together with one desire: to see Jesus’ Name proclaimed in the heart of Donetsk.  I was on “Cloud Nine”.  I have been a part of several new church starts, but never from the very beginning.  So, for me, last evening was a mountain top experience, much like Elijah must have felt after defeating the prophets of Baal.  (Please know that I am not equating myself to Elijah, just his feelings…)

Immediately after Elijah had his great victory and he heard that Jezebel wanted his neck, he forgot the glorious victory God gave him and he fled.  I have often wondered how Elijah could have done just that!  He fled?!

Last evening, a great thing happened in my apartment.  Yet, this afternoon, while underneath my kitchen sink trying to repair a leak, a moment of weakness came over me and I wanted to run and hide!  Much like Elijah…

Immediately, I got out from underneath my sink and began to pray to Almighty God, seeking forgiveness for my weakness.  It was as if the Lord said to me, like he asked Elijah, “What are you doing , Joe?” (paraphrase from 19:9)

God wasn’t finished with Elijah at the time and I know He isn’t finished with me either.  Even though I have been a Christ follower for more than 35 years, I still am a child.  I will always be a student.  So, yes, I guess I sort of know how Elijah felt at that moment of despair.

And I decided I am not the plumber my Uncle Lewis was and I got out from underneath the sink and called a true plumber.

Bring on the playoffs

After 35 bowls, 70 teams, and 24 days, the college world “crowned” a mythical football champion at the BCS Championship game.  There are now so many bowls that the colleges are looking at allowing teams with a losing record to play in bowl games.

Most of these bowls have names that literally change from year to year.  Gone are bowls named Peach, Sun and Bluebonnet and have been replaced by bowls named Godaddy.com, BBVA Compass, and Chick-Fil-A bowl.

This year, almost every game was on ESPN.  Even the coveted Rose Bowl game that was an ABC stable on New Years Day is now shown on ESPN.  The bowl games are big business for ESPN, who’s parent company in Walt Disney (who also owns ABC).  I watched a couple of those “lesser” games where low attendance was the norm, even though the schools are “required” to purchase tickets that they might not be able to sell.

I love the bowl season, even though I feel there are way too many of them presently.  What I don’t understand is something that ESPN could now call for and would make great business sense… a playoff system.  Imagine an 8 team playoff system, where the first round is played in a nearby bowl (would be one of the lower tier bowls) that would automatically be a sell out!  The second round would be played in a larger regional bowl (which would sell out as well) and then having the championship game in one of the four locations currently used.

Even this system isn’t perfect, but at least there would be some sort of playoff system to crown the best team, the bowl games would still be played and ESPN and the FBS would be happy (and richer, which is the true reason there is not a playoff system now!).

These are just my thoughts and I realize that there are probably hundreds of possible scenarios.  I would just like to see a playoff… The last couple of years a couple of teams have finished undefeated (even after the bowl season) and I would like to see them given a chance to prove whether they deserve to be there or not.

Super (busy) Saturday!

Saturday was a fairly busy day for me.  I invited an American brother over for breakfast.  We hadn’t talked in some time so we had lots of catching up to do.  I prepared lots of food and we enjoyed the conversation along with the food.  We visited for almost 3 hours and had a great time of lifting up each others requests.

As soon as he left, I got ready to head out to another part of the city.  I wasn’t sure I knew the way by car, so I took transport.  I was headed to the same tram that I missed the day before. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for the tram and arrived at my next appointment on time!

I met this brother and his wife through their son who had done some work in my apartment.  When I had met him previously, I was struck by his demeanor and his spirit.  Each time I have seen him at church he always came up to speak to me.  They invited me to their apartment on Saturday.

We had a great time talking about family and Ukraine history, and even discussed the somewhat controversial topic of the Ukraine famine.  I say somewhat controversial as people have different views of the event.  This family gave me some great insight into what their parents and grandparents shared with them about this tragic event in Ukrainian history.

After a couple of hours, it was starting to get dark, so I headed out to catch the tram back into town.  I had one more meeting with a young brother I met last summer.  We met at a local shopping center and had some terrible coffee at a shop.  While we were sitting there, a large group of young people showed up.

It is interesting to note, I have not noticed lots of young people with body piercings in Donetsk.  It is the one big difference I have observed between the young people in Kiev (the capital) and Donetsk.  However, what I observed in this food court may change my mind.

It was fun to watch how they interacted with one another, how loud they were, etc.  You just don’t see this much here!

My friend Sasha suggested that we take a walk, so we walked from the shopping center to Pushkina Boulevard.  It was a cold evening, but the walk was very enjoyable.  I live near the boulevard and close to the other end of the boulevard.  So, we walked all the way from one end to the other.  After arriving near my apartment, we said our goodbyes.  I got home around 7 p.m.

What a day!  It may have been busy, but is was super!  I enjoy days like this one!!!

Christmas eve blessings…

The pastor of Gethsemane church asked me to join him this afternoon (Christmas eve in Ukraine) to visit some homes around the church to share the Christmas message.  I truly enjoyed my time.

The first home is just around the corner from the church.  When we arrived, we visited with the wife and husband of the home.  They are an older retired couple.  After sharing and praying with them.  Afterwards, the wife shared with us about her 95 year old mother who lives with them.  She invited us to pray over her.

So, we went to the mother’s room.  We found a frail woman laying in her bed but her voice was fairly strong.  I learned that she has spent her whole life in the Donetsk region.  As we left, I realized that she must have been in her early 20’s when the Nazis invaded Donetsk.  I really hope that I have opportunity to visit with this lady in the near future.

We walked down the street to another home and had a tremendous visit with another retired couple.  Their daughter and granddaughter live in St. Petersburg and so don’t get to see them often.  However, the daughter was there for New Years and Christmas.  We sat in their living room for more than an hour talking politics, life in general and other stuff.

Later, the pastor, another pastor and I drove over to visit one family from the church.  They have 2 small daughters and it was fun to talk with them.  It was fun to hear the brother admit that he has a desire to preach and see the excitement from the 2 pastors.  What a special time for me to witness this!

The road to the church is covered with about 6-8 inches of ice and it wasn’t fun driving down it twice today.  I think I will take the tram there tomorrow evening for Christmas services.

Other than the driving, today has been a great day to participate in ministry.  I received many blessings…

Welcome 2011!

I really hope to blog more in 2011.  I find it challenging but I want to inform what is going on in my life and ministry.

I spent the last week in Budapest helping with a youth retreat.  It was my first time to join this retreat.  It was enjoyable and I had fun meeting new people.

The hotel we stayed in got quite full by New Year’s Eve.  There were Hungarian students who lived in the hotel and I met one of the young men.  His name was Dominik.  He didn’t actually live in the hotel, but his brother did and they came to spend New Years Eve with their friends.

At around 11 p.m. I met Dominik in the lobby and we began talking.  His English is pretty good and so we had a great conversation.  I learned that his grandmother was a Catholic believer who attended church often when she was alive and that Dominik went with her frequently.

I was able to share with him and discussed some spiritual things.  As it got closer to midnight, I knew I needed to be with my group and I was sure he wanted to be upstairs with his friends.  So, I got his Facebook info and sent him a request.  During the night he friended me and we have sent each other notes several times.

He is leaving for England soon.  He will study there for 1 year.  He is going to attend a riding school.  In just the short time we talked, I learned much from this 17 year old young man.

The next day, I had the opportunity to talk with several Slovenes who had come to Budapest for New Years as well.  Klemen was a sharp student with lots of ambition.  His friends were as well.  They taught me lots about their country that I did not know. I was fortunate to get to meet them and share a little with them.  He is also on FB, so I hope he will friend me so that we can continue to chat.

I am in Kiev for a couple of days, but on Wednesday I will head back to Donetsk so that I can spend Ukrainian Christmas there.  I was on the streets in Kiev today and there was absolutely few people driving and or walking the streets.  The days between New Years and Christmas (Jan 7) see few people at work and lots of people at home visiting family and friends.

I have enjoyed my time the last 10 days, but I am ready to be home in Donetsk to see what unfolds in 2011.  Happy New Year!

Where are you going in 2011?

I know that many people make resolutions each year.  I know I have in the past, but quit making them as I never seemed to be able to keep them.

Instead of resolutions, I am setting to goals.  Our organizations has changed in many ways in the past 2 years.  One of those ways included the method for how we reported progress in our work.  We changed to a goal oriented method.  I like this in many ways.  I set 3-4 goals for the year and each month I have to report how I am working toward that achievement.

One of my goals for 2011 is to intentionally get out in my city and meet new people at least once a week.  So, I am going to look for coffee shops, cafes, small restaurants in my neighborhood that I can frequent and get to know the people who work in them.  It will help me in many ways personally and ministerially.

I hope it will help me personally in getting to know people, learn more about their culture, their lives.  Ministerially, it will help me know how I can pray for them and hopefully, understand what is going on in their lives.  I think that I am going to set aside one morning or afternoon a week to do this.  I will change up the day so that I may be exposed to different people in different situations.

A map enables a person to at least have some idea where they are heading.  Hopefully, with this new goal setting method, I can stay on track and heading in the right direction to Impact Donbass and ultimately, lostness.

Merry Christmas

While snow falls in parts of the US, we have watched most of the snow here melt in the last few days.  While I didn’t see a white Christmas, it was a joyous occasion.

Merry Christmas from me to you,

Joe