Sunday, November 01, 2009
The Amazing Race/Journey of Faith
My friend, Coleen, has an amazing ministry teaching women to scrapbook their faith, journal their gratitude and/or prayer. She began designing a journal for her classes at the conference. Another friend, Tanya, works with family ministry and prepared to teach women about self worth and faith. Friendship evangelism discussions were organized. Others volunteered to interpret, translate talks and worksheets, perform skits, be prayer leaders and the worship team. The Kelly’s planned wonderful meals. Welcome packets, many door prizes, a Hawaiian banquet and a prayer room were prepared. A friend from America brought Mary Kay samples for each lady. Facials and fingernail polish, and crafts would be offered. Yet we had more staff than participants signed up. But the ones who were coming were very, very excited about the prospect. So we continued with preparations.
Last Friday, the H1N1 flu pandemic became a problem in Ukraine. Because of several deaths, Western Ukraine was quarantinesd and travel restricted. Oops! The women from there cannot come. We have heard that tomorrow, our area may also be quarantined. So far large public gatherings have been banned and schools have been closed for the next three weeks. As of this writing, I do not know whether the rest of the ladies will be able to come on the 13th or whether we should postpone it until the first of next year. Actually, I am amused and amazed at what God knows and does. Cancelling the retreat with only a few would be much easier than if there were many. And possibly the retreat will still happen. This is just part of the race—missed boats and delayed flights, anticipation of what’s ahead, the challenge of things beyond our control.
There have been lows the last couple of days but they are always followed by highs. All I can say for now is that God is gracious. He does have a plan for me and each lady this conference is meant to touch. Somewhere, somehow He will show us His plan. Until then, I am still His daughter and His love will sustain me through the detours and roadblocks of life. He will do the same for the other women. Whether a journey or a race, it doesn’t really matter. In the end, what counts is the destination (pit stop) and the One who is waiting there to receive us with open arms.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Christmas Card from the Nelsons
Breifly, I am working on updates on my blogs for those of you who are interested in what has transpired during 2008. Right now we are in the middle of distributing 900 plus gifts to widows, moms and kids through SAI and our partners. Smile Alliance International and Manna Worldwide are signing the final paperwork for a formal partnership which will eventually finish the Smile House Project. The first floor is half finished now but without dental equipment or furnishings. SAI will be responsible for the clinic. A transition home for 16 year old girls who graduate from Komorivka Orphanage is planned for the second floor and will be managed by Manna. Other plans for the remainder of the building are being worked out. So if you are interested, please check www.smilealliance.blogspot.com for general ministry updates, www.smilehouse.blogspot.com for the dental ministry updates, and www.livinginukraine.blogspot.com for everyday life updates.
The Smile Alliance International website www.smilealliance.org is functioning but still needs a lot of help. We are posting a list of needs on it along with other pertinent information. God has been very faithful and your support has made this ministry possible. Thank you again. May you be indeed blessed this Christmas and in the year to come.
The Nelsons and Smile Alliance International
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Sometimes It's Hard being so far from America
Our electricity wows were finally, I hope, taken care of yesterday after two years by an electrician putting in stablizers but the cost was unbelievable. We are Americans so we are taken advantage of over and over. I know it. And I know God called us here. It just doesn't seem fair. But life is not fair. I know many people here who receive less than $200 a month. The electician charged over $100 an hour. He was good. Got the job done. We needed it. It's just frustrating.
Then the holidays are coming and I am missing my family and the life we used to live. There are many good things and God just sent us a huge amount of food through our Smile Alliance Board. He takes wonderful care of us. He provides. I spent many hours excitedly unpacking boxes--there were things for the kids and widows but so many things for us as well. And I know with a certainly that we are blessed. It's just that just sometimes it is very hard. In this day and age of uncertainty, I know there are many who are sad and afraid and that don't have the Living Hope that transends all fear. And when I remember that and our reasons for taking on this challenge and living this new life, then I can deal with it. It's just sometimes, in the middle of the night, that I am sad and it seems hard. It's a part of life.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Our Amazing God and His Provision
I want to share an amazing story of God’s love and provision. There are myriad details—fascinating to us but perhaps boring to others—that I have written out in longer form. If you are interested in more detail, write me. I’ll send you the long story. But here is the story, still long but as brief as possible..
When God helped us buy our house in November of 2006 we could not purchase the land with it because the land had not been privatized. Only a lot of paperwork and haggling with governmental agencies could accomplish it. Last summer we checked with the realtor to see how much the land would cost. Six months later she called and had a price, the paperwork done, and a large bill for us. Though not our intent, we now had the paperwork but no money to purchase the land. Told we had until the end of 2008, we wanted to find out for sure, so friends helped us meet with the village mayor. We discovered that half of the purchase fee was due by the end of April and the remainder by July 31st. We still had no money.
Many prayers went up on both sides of the world. Our efforts to provide the funds by borrowing it proved futile. We had to place the land entirely in God’s hands and trust the outcome, favorable or not, to Him. My mother’s death in April was a difficult time for me. Plans and schemes were set on a back burner. But in the end, a legacy of love from became a possibility for funds by the end of May. The city council gave us an extension until the end of that month with the stipulation that the entire amount be paid at that time.
That’s when delays ensued—banking errors, national holidays, UPS and postal snafus, time zone differences that caused missed deadlines. Dear friends and family, bank employees, postal and delivery workers all attempted to facilitate a quick resolution but to no avail. Meanwhile, the value of the dollar plummeted worldwide and the exchange rate for Ukrainian griven versa dollars fell steadily from 5.1 to 4.4 at the lowest. It may not sound like much but it is huge—at the difference between these rates what would have cost us $1000 to buy in February cost $1159 by mid-May.
During this time, Richard and I really felt at peace (of course, there were a couple of times that I freaked out but not as much as I would have a few years ago.) We knew God had a plan, especially when we looked back at all the details. Finally, the money (which had to be paid in griven) was deposited into the village’s bank account at 5:00 PM on Friday, May 30. How’s that for coming close to the deadline? But this is NOT the end of the story.
We are both very, very thankful for the land and to everyone that helped us obtain it. Now we don’t have to worry about someone else privatizing it and buying it out from under us. We praise God for His continual provision and abundant love. But I am most excited over a legacy of love for my mother.
Without delays, the funds would have been available the third week in May, on Thursday. The dollar hit its lowest point that day, 4.4 at our bank and 4.5 everywhere else. Our bank is always lower than other exchange places. I laughed as the realization hit me that either God was delaying the transaction so the rate would go back up or we were being taught a big lesson in trust if it continued its downward spiral. I felt impressed to make a pledge to God that if there was a higher rate when and if the transaction went through, that I would give the difference (between 4.5 and whatever it might be) to God for some special project for His choosing. If not, that was okay as well. After all, it is all His money and He can supply funds for any of His projects from His reserves.
Within a day, I knew God’s project was a playground for a special needs orphanage we had visited a couple weeks earlier. Eighty boys, ages 5-26 years, live there. They have only one teacher who does mostly paperwork. The director and staff are very good with the boys but the state has classified them as Imbeciles (I kid you not) and unable to learn. It was the most difficult place we have ever gone to. Mission to Ukraine staff are visiting once a week and teaching basic words and concepts and that God loves them. They desperately need a playground with special equipment to stretch unused muscles and to give them something to do.
The dollar rallied at the first of last week but started to fall again toward the end. When our banker called to say the transaction had been completed, we asked what rate our dollars had exchanged for. They had traded the highest in over a month at 4.8. The next day the rate was down again. The difference? $1966.25 I am ecstatic. My mother would be so very excited. Already the project is taking off. A friend has pledged more money. A lady at church has offered to help us find teams to help build the playground. She also has an occupational therapist coming in July to visit a baby orphanage in Zhitomer and we are setting up a meeting with MtU at the same time. The therapist may be able to help them design the playground. This all goes to reinforce my belief that God is in control of all details of life. If we allow Him to work, He will work everything out for our good. Even if the land sale had not gone through, I would still have believed. I probably would have questioned why, but in the long run, it’s better to trust and walk with Him than to try to do it my own way. I wasted too many years doing that. Praise His name!
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Saying "Good-bye for Now"
I am, also, very grateful to my sister, Karen, who spend the last few years ferrying mom to appointments, watching over her living situation and finances, and being on call for all kinds of requests. Without Karen, Mom's last few years would have been indeed difficult and Richard and I would not have been able to have followed God's call to our ministry. Thank you so much, Karen.
Mom will be missed by all of us but we were very blessed to have her in our lives all these years. And she lives on in our hearts and in her many journals, poems, and stories. Good-bye for now, my dear mommy.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Joy and Smiles
Last week I was the city hall in our village and one of the workers and I were trying to converse. My Russian language skills are limited at their best and my Ukrainian is non-existent. She asked me a question and then she mimicked crying. She was asking if it made me sad to be here. I had to tell her that sometimes, yes, it makes me sad.
But there are many things that give joy if I watch for them. I praise God for new friends and a place to live. I praise Him for his faithfulness and the words of encouragement He sends through friends, both old and new. I look out my window and see new buds on the trees. I hear the birds singing songs of joy. I know that someday, I will have lots of time to be with my family. I know I have eternity to spend with them but I have only a short time here to perhaps make a bit of difference in this distant land. So, in spite of these temporary lapses into self pity, I forge ahead and do what I can to make someone smile.