Sorry to be MIA for so long. We had a power outage in our building and therefore didn't have internet access for a while. The weekend passed uneventfully. Saturday offered a brilliant blue sky, so Robert immediately wanted to walk to the port and look out over the waters. The view was indeed beautiful. Brides once again gathered near the Opera House for photos in the bitter cold wind. Several wore fur coats over their gowns to make posing in the dropping temperatures tolerable. We walked to the Mother-in-Law Bridge again to take pictures of a newer tradition her in Odessa. All across the expanse of bridge are engraved locks hooked along the railing. Its quite a site and we walked part of the length of the bridge looking at the delicate gold locks and heavy padlocks with the names and dates of newlyweds inscribed. It appears that couples make their way to the bridge after the wedding ceremony and place their lock as a symbol of their unity. Robert wanted to know if the marriage doesn't work out if they cut the lock off. He's so un-romantic! :P
We walked to the big Russian Orthodox church in the square. Robert was curious to see inside, so we followed two old women through carved, heavy oak doors. I was concerned about not knowing proper ettiquette. Since the old women donned headcoverings, I improvised with my jacket hood. We crept up marble stairs to the entrance to the sanctuary. A hall opened before us with gold painted walls, intricate marble inlaid floors, and ornate artwork of saints, priests, and Christ painted across the ceilings and walls. There were a handful of women crossing theselves and lighting candles at the front of the hall. We tiptoed in and followed the walls around looking into the faces of reverred men and women of their faith. On one side of the hall, a priest stood chanting melodically and swinging incense. The smell made me breathe shallowly. He wore a long gray wool robe with gold thread embroidering the cuffs and neckline. His hair was pulled back into one long ponytail and he rocked gently back and forth as the bells on his chain rang in time to his motions. Worshippers wandered forward to place little pieces on paper on the table before him, prayer requests perhaps. A canopy of purple velvet arched across a gold and jewel enameled covered coffin at the opposite side of the hall. Plexiglass covered the open casket and the form of a body shrouded in muslim laid inside. We couldn't read the writing, but assume it must have been one of their priests. There were no pews, no chairs of any kind within the sanctuary. We later learned that the Russian Orthodox church believes it is disrespectful to sit in the presence of God. On our way out, a young priest in black robes nodded to us. He was a striking young man, almost seven feet tall. Robert took the opportunity to try and communicate with him about his faith. He spoke very little English, but tried to answer Robert's quesions. Without much luck, Robert gave up and we made our way back down the marble stairs.
The experience left us longing for familiar worship. We missed the opportunity to attend church last weekend, so we started searching for possibilities for the next morning. I remembered reading about American PCA missionaries on Jim's blog. I quickly found the link and a cell phone number for the missonary and Robert made the phone call. Bob Burnham and Robert chatted and he got directions and times for the next morning's worship service. The church was just across the square from us! In fact just steps from the Russian Orthodox Church we had visited that afternoon.
Sunday morning we found the building and was warmly welcomed inside by the youth standing out front. It was the largest collective of smiling faces that we have seen since being in Ukraine. We made our way to a rustic wooden pew in the middle and waited for services to begin. My attention was immediately peaked when I heard American voices behind us. A MTW representatve from the States, Rev. Shaw, was preaching that morning. He and his wife introduced themselves and another group of visting Americans behind them. A kind faced older man slid onto the pew next to Robert with two headsets and spoke swift Russian. We looked at him quizzically until he smiled and said "Hello! Welcome! I knew you were Americans!" in his perfect American accent. Dan Underwood is part of the mission team serving at the church. He and his wife are from Deleware. He offered us the headsets so that we could hear the Call to Worship translated into English. The music would be in Russian, but at least we would understand the sermon by Rev. Shaw and the announcements. When the music started, I was unprepared to hear the same hymns we had sung at our church before leaving for Ukraine. The emotions of how much I missed home and the familiar overcame me and I fought back tears. I whispered the words in English to the songs and our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ sang along side of us in Russian. The service was long, two and half hours, but was satsfying. We were able to partake of communion and Dan invited us to have dinner with he and his wife on Wednesday evening. I want to encourage believers to take the time to contact your misions board in the States and find out if there are missionaries of like faith serving in the area you may be going to. They will be a source of grace and comfort during your time here. After two weeks, I can already sense the desire to return home. Many families will be here for many weeks or months to complete their adoptions. You will need all the help you can get.
We are planning on visiting the internot today and spending time with the children. Court is scheduled for tomorrow morning, 9:15. Please remember to lift us up in prayer.