Yours truly, Natasha, Gayle
Early this morning I was awakened by the ceiling light being turned on and our host saying something to Gayle and me in Ukrainian. I had no idea what she said, but Gayle had just been up to use the restroom and hadn't flushed since she didn't want to wake anyone. Gayle said, "I think she wants you to get up to use the restroom." So out of the bed I climbed. After that it was impossible to go back to sleep. Gayle and I started to get ready for the day. Our host began making our bed back into a sofa. We had slept in the living room of her tiny efficiency apartment. Her bed was a twin size located in her small kitchen. We knew this because her adult daughter and son had brought us to her apartment the night before following our concert at their church. Our host, Natasha, had stayed at the church to help with clean-up in the kitchen. She hadn't gotten home until close to midnight and Gayle and I were already in bed with the lights out. But prior to getting into our bed, we looked around the apartment and took pictures. [No, we didn't snoop, if that's what you're thinking.]
Natasha had been up, preparing our breakfast. After she made our bed (she wouldn't let me help but motioned for me to sit in a chair). She put a table cloth on the coffee table, set out plates and cups. She served blintzes (filled crepes); buttered white bread topped with red caviar; sausage and cheese; left-over from the church supper macaroni and breaded chicken and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. She offered coffee. I asked for boiled water and fixed a cup of hot chocolate. Natasha seemed interested in what I was drinking, so I offered a packet to her and she seemed to enjoy the taste of it. I tried the caviar, but immediately knew I wouldn't be able to eat it. It was salty, fishy tasting, and crunchy. I could barely get the bite down. Then it occurred to me to find my Russian dictionary to try to find some way to communicate with her. She knew ZERO English. I found the word "expensive." Showing the word to her, she nodded yes. I did the best to motion to her that I was sorry but couldn't eat any more of it. To compensate for this, I took 3 servings of the blintzes and she looked pleased.
Next she opened a large, decorated box of chocolates. They were about the size of a chocolate-covered cherry and had some sort of filling in them. I thought they tasted good which she must interpreted as "Please, may I have some more?" She went to the kitchen and brought back two plastic bags and proceeded to fill them for Gayle and me to take with us. [I passed my bag around on the bus.]
During our breakfast Gayle and I showed Natasha the photo albums we had brought with us. Mine was filled with photos of my 3 kids, their spouses, and my 3 grandchildren. I included a photo of my house in spring time and one in winter, plus a photo of Peppi, my canary, and a photo I had taken of Wooddale, our church. With the aid of my dictionary and our actions, she seemed to understand what she was seeing. She got out a photo of her husband and was able to tell us her he had died 5 years previous. She showed us photos of her two kids and 2 grandchildren. Then Gayle and I gave her our hostess gifts. I gave her a purple prayer shawl I had knit and the first four Love Comes Softly books by Janette Oke, printed in Russian. I pointed to Janette's photo on the back covers and found the word "friend" in the dictionary, indicating Janette is my friend. Natasha was so pleased. She had a little tear in her eyes.
Soon it was time to gather our things. Natasha had called a taxi to take us back to the church. Even though we couldn't communicate very well with language, we understood each other by our actions. After talking with other choir members on the tour, Gayle and I felt we most likely had stayed with the poorest person. It was a very special time for me. One of the things that helped me decide to participate in this mission trip was knowing that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are going to be with us in heaven. How nice it would be to get to know some of them before we get there!
We drove back to Kiev, about a 2.5 hour trip. Traffic in Kiev was very heavy. Impatient drivers drove onto the pedestrian pathways to get ahead of the grid-lock. Our bus was a double-decker, and Gayle and I always sat on top, near the front. We had a fantastic view of everything. The Ukrainians, for the most part, drive very nice cars. We saw Mercedes Benz, BMWs, Chevrolets, a few Toyotas, and VWs. Our bus driver maneuvered our bus through amazingly small, tight passages.
We drove to a beautiful catholic church in the city. During World War II, the Russians closed all of the churches, so this one has become the House of Organ and Chamber Music. It was there that we gave our 4th concert. At the beginning of the rehearsal, I was told I would be giving my faith story during the program. Following the rehearsal, I met Masha, my interpreter, and she and I went over my text. The only part for which she needed clarification was "I dropped out of college." She didn't know what "dropped out" meant. When I said it means, "I quit," she understood. I had prepared two identical copies, making yellow bars after each sentence. I told her I would pause at each yellow bar indicating to her this was when she would interpret what I said.
When the time came for me to deliver my faith story, I felt very warm and my heart was racing. Masha and I stood before the crowded church and I was able to read it without crying. The sound in the church wasn't good - no microphones - so many of the choir members, seated off to the sides during this part of our program, told me they could not hear me.
After our concert, we visited with the people in the audience a little and then boarded the bus and left for the Kiev Central Baptist Church. We were stalled in lots of traffic, arriving at the church around 7 pm. We had 7.5 minutes to use the restroom and line up to process into the sanctuary.
Mid-way into our performance, our choir director pointed up in the choir and motioned, "you're next." I was certain he was pointing at me. I thought, "Am I to give my story again since choir members had said they could hear me at the afternoon concert?" So I began to get warm and nervous. At the conclusion of the anthem, I stepped past the sopranos and was about to round the piano to the podium when I noticed a woman coming to the stage. I thought, "This isn't Masha, my interpreter. Am I having a different interpreter at this concert?" I was nearly ready to walk out onto the stage when in my peripheral vision, I saw Nathan, our tenor soloist coming from the rows behind me. It was then that I realized our director had pointed at Nathan and not at me! I was so embarrassed! Following the service I apologized to our director and he said it was no problem.