Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ukraine: EL3 Camp

Alright, I need to just take the time to get this all out! We've been sharing this with many family and friends (of whom we are grateful to for listening), so I've been putting off writing the second entry about Ukraine.

Again, I'm going to explain the festivities day by day of our English Language Camp, and some of the writing is from the posts we made during the trip. (The #3 is in the title because we were the 3rd EL camp this summer). Also, I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but we worked with Radooga, which is a ministry in Ukraine that seeks to change the country of Ukraine through their teenagers and orphans...since the government is incredibly corrupt. For more information about them, check out www.radooga.com.

Friday July 20:
This was the first day with campers! They started out with interviews to determine what classes to place each child in. After interviews, our team was able to practice our games with the kids before we began our first class. And boy, do these kids (ages 10-18) love games and candy!

Each of us led a class (with a partner and a translator) for an hour. We focused on building relationships balanced with teaching English as we deciphered what level each student was at. Each class had a different experience, but quickly we saw God moving in our hearts towards the students, as well as an increased gratitude for the translators. Personally, my class did not "bond immediately" like other classes. We had a student who proclaimed to worship Satan, another student who continually skipped class, a student who talked the entire time (until I asked him to leave to finish his conversation or stay and be respectful), and a student with a physical disability/a girl who did not like him because of it. Although it took time for group cohesion, I can definitely say that the Lord blessed me with a heart to pray for and reach out to each one of them. No worries, there were also many engaged, talkative, respectful teenagers in my group, who I also loved.
Anywho, following class we were able to experience a CRAZY fun time of worship in Russian as we praised the Lord in a unique way with lots of jumping!
Saturday July 21:
Day 2 and the first full day with campers. Today was our first full day with campers. It consisted of three programs, two hours worth of teaching, and team sports. It was a blast! Two things we continued to learn:
1. Ukrainians love background music for everything
2. Ukrainians know how to praise through dancing (and jumping)!

I got sick this morning with bad stomach issues, but with some medicine I was back to normal by afternoon. Everyone on our trip (16 total) got sick except for Corey and a couple others.
We were also blessed to have a fabulous time of fellowship, chicken, laughs and singing with the Ukrainian team at 11pm…until morning. The Ukrainian team was definitely a huge encouragement when we had a difficult session, and they were just so fun to be around!

Sunday July 22:
Another success at Radooga camp! Many of us were tired (maybe a result of last night’s chicken party?), but the programs (sessions with dramas, a message, games and the “rock band”) were always refreshing.
We also continued with teachings, games and recreational time. After the last program ALL the American and Ukrainian leaders went back on stage and had a sweaty dance party to 50’s music just because! By this point, we all had grown to love each other, and we just needed to celebrate the life we have been given!
Monday July 23:
Today was moving to say the least. Actually, “moving” does not even begin to describe what tonight brought during the evening program. In the evening session, the pastor described Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and he asked campers who felt called to come forward.
Our team expected a few to go to the front to pray…and almost everyone went.
There were lots of tears, prayers in Russian and English, and our team was blessed to pray with students who committed their lives to Christ for the first time, as well as those who rededicated their lives. There were hugs from campers that we didn’t even know but who were touched by our example (i.e. Christ working in us!). Words cannot describe this experience, and we do not wish to diminish what we witnessed with mere words. God was on the move, and we felt very revived in our own hearts.
Following the program, we had the opportunity to share as a team the indescribable experience. We knew the Lord was changing hearts because the director of the camp informed us that a few campers called home to share their commitments, and those parents threatened to sue Radooga since “Christianity is a cult”. The Holy Spirit was so evident in the group and prayer though. We know the Lord was working because Satan is trying to gain any kind of foothold he can…but he was failing! Following the prayer was more worship with Russian and English words being simultaneously and passionately shouted out.
Tuesday July 24:
Tuesday morning we found out that the parents who were going to sue the Radooga camp never came by and dropped all charges! It was seriously an amazing answer to prayer. To you it may seem insignificant, but to experience the fervor and urgency in that room as people shared and prayed, especially after witnessing God’s movement in the hearts of the teenagers, was truly an indescribable experience.
One of my favorite memories is seeing one of my campers at the front of the stage last night, lands lifted high, and praising our Lord in Russian. So beautiful.
The same routine occurred today, except in my English classes we share our testimonies and talked about the night before. Some students were scared of what they observed, and others were so excited to start new and already saw the change in others.
For the second session, I taught the kids how to play bananagrams and Spot It! (Thank you, Aunt Candys). They loved the games, and we found it was a unique way for them to practice spelling and saying their English.
Wednesday July 25:
This was the last day of camp. In the morning, we had one English lesson where we provided a large jar of nutella, three bags of cookies/crackers, and two 2 liters of pop to our group as a goodbye surprise. They finished everything in less than a half hour! Following class, we had our last program and said our goodbyes.
After campers and some Ukrainian leaders left, we went back into Kiev to do some shopping. Corey and I were able to eat a three-course meal for a total of $8! When we came back to the camp, we had a long, healthy time of debriefing with the Radooga directors, and then we had two hours of sleep before leaving for the airport.
This trip was truly amazing. There is a special place in my heart for my campers and the Ukrainian translators. Even though it was more difficult for me in the beginning than Corey, but we both are 100% glad we went, and we would like to go back again. I feel like words truly cannot describe what we experienced, so I am very grateful Corey and I had the opportunity to be on this journey together. Only we will be able to understand and remember the funny, unique, interesting events that occurred and people we met. And for this I am thankful.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bedroom Update

Just a little bedroom update... 

I finally have a way to display more of my bracelets. So many times I forgot to wear them because I don't see them (out of sight, out of mind). This wall also needed a little extra something besides the hope frame too.

Oh hai Luna!

Scarf holder that is more functional than the last one because of all the hooks & location. Just need to add the rest of 'em on here. Need something for that corner maybe?

I've been waiting to get matching lamps for a long time, and Hobby Lobby had lamps for 50% off this past weekend! I seriously love that place. I also got a bunch of inexpensive items for the shelves in our silver bathroom. (Pictures to come).

 And lastly, we got a puppy! The moment we got back from Ukraine, Corey has been searching for a boxer. He's been dying to have one for over a year, but we wanted to wait until I was full-time and we were back from Ukraine. It didn't take long for him to find a craigslist posting of someone who couldn't take care of her, and we snatched her right up! 

Maggie is 3 months old, and she weighs around 20 pounds. She loves to lick and jump (we'll work on that), and she already stays in the yard and sits on command. She knows the word "no" and is potty trained...but she got a little excited yesterday in the house, so we'll be working on that too. One of the biggest surprises...she's snores very loudly! Luna is adjusting better than expected, and Maggie is so eager for Luna to accept her. 

We love them both so much :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ukraine: Arriving and Preparing

WARNING: these upcoming blog posts will be extremely long!

Previet (hi)! Although it is difficult to convey all the feelings and experiences of Ukraine, I can say that we both are incredibly blessed to have been part of the team of Americans who partnered with Ukrainian staff to put on the English Language camp at Radooga. The Lord deeply blessed our time with each staff member and with our campers/classes (although some were quite difficult). 

One of my most treasured highlights was seeing Corey step up as a leader among the team. He blew me away with his willingness to get involved, be silly, easily build relationships with kids, share jokes, pray fervently, and serve. I married an amazing man, and I praise the Lord for him! It was neat to have others see what I see everyday in him :)

Since so much happened in the 10 days we were gone, I'm going to attempt to write about each day in a couple of blog posts instead of one large one. I'm also going to use information from the blog posts I wrote for the team while in Ukraine. (They were posted at www.radooga.com/blog). 

Again due to the length of these posts, I may not include pictures. However, all of my pictures are posted on Facebook or they can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.641116861303.2078771.179202313&type=3. If you have specific questions about any pictures, do not hesitate to let us know! We'd love to share our experience at any time :)

Okedoke, Ukraine Part 1. Here we go!

Monday July 16:
We left the airport at noon and arrived in Kiev, Ukraine at 5pm the next day. Two team members actually had flights for the next day, so they ended up switching their flights and flew to Amsterdam while we flew 8 hours to Paris. Did I tell you about those sleeping pills Corey and I tried before we left? They worked like a charm in Grand Rapids, but had the opposite affect on our way to Paris. Needless to say, our entire team was exhausted by the time we finally arrived. Also, Corey and I (along with one other team member) did not obtain our luggage because it was lost in Paris. Thankfully, we packed most of our essentials in our carry on.

Tuesday July 17:
After we arrived in Kiev, we located our rooms and checked out our bathrooms. First adjustment: you cannot flush your toilet paper. Second adjustment: we had a tomato and cucumber covered in dill for almost every meal (along with bread or potatoes), and we also tea with every meal. Then we unpacked what little we had in our carry on and laid in bed thinking, "what in the world are we doing here?" 

Wednesday July 18: 
This was the first day of orientation. We learned much about how the camp operates, and we met our beloved translators! Unique to Radooga is that they need Americans to draw in campers since they are eager to learn English from "real Americans", and we heavily relied upon the translators who create a bridge between us and the campers as English and the Gospel is taught. Then the youth leaders create the follow up and sustain change after the camp is over.

We also reviewed our English Language curriculum, some team members practiced the dramas while Corey and I went out with other Rec team members to practice the silly games. The Ukrainian Red team leader, Geana (sp?), was absolutely hilarious. We never failed to be entertained while with him. After this half day of orientation, we were able to experience the unusually uncrowded metro and have a historical tour of Kiev by our wonderful camp coordinator, Natasha. Late that night, a few of us developed our Rec team cheer. (It was really our team leader, Alex, and one of the translators, Sergey, who came up with it...after having tons of caffeine/unexpected engery). I was the one who led the cheer on stage with the rest of the Rec team when campers arrived. I felt so awkward singing it into a microphone, but then I remembered that "I'm in Ukraine and at a camp. No one really cares" :)

Thursday July 19:
This day we brushed up on our Russian (really we just attempted and pretended we could speak it), practiced in our teams (worship, Rec or drama), prepared for campers to arrive the next day, and we were blessed to worship in Russian with our fellow Ukrainian leaders. Later this day we met the entire Ukrainian team (not just our translators), and words cannot begin to describe how thankful we were for them. They are all so passionate for the Lord, kind, and enjoy having a great time. It is amazing how close we got to them in such a short time (camp will do that I guess), and we are excited for these new friendships we have! 

I plan to write another post all about the second part of the trip which was implementing the English Language camp. Here is a sneak peek:

The camp went from Friday to Wednesday morning, and then we shopped in Kiev Wednesday night. We had our last debriefing session after Kiev and left for home at 3:30am Thursday morning. So many memories were created, so stay tuned!

Poka (bye)!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


So after 4.5 months (crazy!) in our new house, we finally got a dining room table! We still have the 4-person glass one in the kitchen, but this will be way more convenient for functions with multiple couples/family members. Of course Luna has already scoped it out.

Moved a few other items around upstairs...finally a place for mail! 
(I need to spray paint that green table)

New rug, painted the inside of the door, and moved the mirror. I still need to recover our curtain valance, and then the window seat will be complete!

I finally put large (11x14) wedding pictures up! Only 1 year and 8 months later. (Sorry for poor lighting)

And lastly, I got a new carry-on suitcase. We leave for Ukraine in TWO days! 
Today was fun with running club and Stac's cottage. Tomorrow we pick up our team shirts after church, finish packing the essentials, and head out Monday morning. We're so excited! We won't have internet access, but people can follow updates on us at www.radooga.com/blog.

Radooga is the camp in Ukraine that we will be teaching English and sharing the Gospel with teenagers at. We come back around 8pm on July 26th. And no worries, Luna is staying with my parents where she will be spoiled and torture Wilson.

Thank you for all of you who have prayed (and continue to do so), as well as supported us financially. We are forever grateful, and we'll be sure to share pictures/updates when we get back.

Happy weekend!

ps Job update: I will be 2.5 days at Meadow Ridge (Special Ed DK-5th grade) and 2.5 days at Lakes, where the Cognitively Impaired elementary classroom is, (Special Ed K-5th grade) next year!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I worked at Aunt Candys and Fossil today. I'm grateful to have two fun, low-key jobs! Fossil watches have been a bit addicting lately (don't judge!).

Here are the ones I've purchased thus far (with a discount):

 (Bridgette leather)

(Stella polyresin)

(Sydney stainless steel)

Here are a couple I have my eyes on for the future:
(Stella stainless steel--blush color)

(Georgia stainless steel)

I'm excited for the fall collection of bags and watches to come out in a few weeks. I'm sure they will all be dreamy!

Thank goodness Corey approved the spending of my play money...

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Well it has happened...I got a new job! 

I had interviews with River City (NHA), Wealthy Elementary (EGR), and Rockford. I was offered and accepted the position at Rockford! It is full-time, but it will be split as a school social worker and behavior interventionalist (BI). They are very similar except that the BI position involves working with at-risk students and the mounds of special education paperwork is avoided. 

I am very thankful to be working in schools 5-10 minutes from my home rather than 1 hour and 20 minutes away. Although I'm grateful for the learning experiences at Paramount, and I made some wonderful friendships, this will be an advantageous move in my career. The Lord is so good.

I find out Monday what schools I will be at and to work through my contract. I'm looking forward to jumping right in!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Well, we're home from our road trip! We had a fabulous time visiting family with Corey's parents in PA. This is the food Nana was amazed I had never had before:

-baked corn
-coleslaw on top of a pulled pork sandwich
-strawberry pie
-bread pudding
-green bean casserole with almonds

While there we went shopping (and I mean shopping), ate tons of food, watched the Olympic trials, visited Jill's aunts/uncles/cousins in "the valley", saw Uncle Leigh's Mason Dixon band play, heard Aunt Cher sing, ate tons of food, went running and on walks, watched "Say Yes to the Dress" for two hours (Corey seriously didn't want to turn it off), stopped for a baseball game in Toledo, and ate tons of food. It was a marvelous time, and I am truly thankful I married into the family (so far ;)). We're already looking forward to going back! 

Pictures can be found by clicking here or by checking out my Facebook page.

Today we had a low key 4th of July. We visited the Osbeck's in Decatur, ate more delicious food, and then took my cranky/tired self home. We were also able to finally pick Luna up from my parent's house! She was so spoiled and afraid we were going to take her to a new home that she hid under the bed :( As soon as we brought her home, though, she was back to her silly old self.

It's strange not going to Stac's cottage for the 4th of July, but we're excited to see them (and a few other friends) next week! The rest of this week will be busy with cleaning, working out (due to high caloric intake in PA), hanging out with family, and wrapping up 5k items before heading to Ukraine on the 16th. We also have some exciting personal news (no baby) that we'll share soon.

Happy Independence Day!