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VISION Team's Homeward Flight Itineraries

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The VISION XVIII team is coming to the end of its ministry in Ukraine. They will have their final public presentation Sunday morning (around midnight Saturday night Pacific Time). The team will return to their apartments to pack, then catch an overnight train to Kiev. A day of sightseeing is planned there, followed by a short night in a Baptist missionary apartment and and extremely early arrival at the Kiev airport Tuesday morning.

All flights below are on Tuesday, June 1, and all times are local to the indicated cities.

The main group consists of Mike Alvarez, Daniel Ciccarelli, Elizabeth Converse, Caleb Davies, Amanda Graham, Francisco Guerrero, Emilie McDonald, John Townsend, and Val White.

Here's the main group's itinerary:

    Lufthansa 3233 dep Kiev 6:45am, arr Munich 8:10am

    Lufthansa 9280 dep Munich 11:40am, arr Dulles 2:40pm\

    United 240 dep Dulles 5:30pm, arr San Diego 8:06pm

Heather Lawton travels to Jacksonville, FL on the following itinerary:

    Austrian 7172 dep Kiev 7:45am, arr Vienna 8:50am

    Austrian 93 dep Vienna 11:30am, arr Dulles 3:15pm

    United 7308 dep Dulles 4:55pm, arr Jacksonville 6:48pm.

Larry Wilson

has the following itinerary:

    Ukrainian Intl. Air 101 dep Kiev 6:20am, arr Amsterdam 8:20am (returning to San Diego on June 11)

Lizzy Byrd will remain in Kiev, joining with a group from her home church for further ministry with Little Lambs Orphanage. She will return to San Diego June 20.

Please pray for the team's safety through the remaining miles of travel, both on the road, on the rails, and in the air. God has been gracious over the years, and we know we are in His hands!

Thanks so much!

Larry Wilson

VISION Faculty Adviser

P. S. I hope to post ministry updates for these last few days of the trip, so please check back!


Day 17: Friday, May 28, 2010

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Being the Last Link in the "Operation Christmas Child" chain!

Our last big orphanage day took place on Friday, this time at the Saltavka Orphanage. This facility is run by the government, but the local Slavic Christian Ministries (SCM) people have a relationship with the director and staff that allows for an ongoing weekly ministry of sharing love, attention, and above all, the gospel message with the children here. This facilities tends to be used as a transitional place, so most children stay only 2-4 weeks before being moved elsewhere in the system. As Vova, our host pastor, put it, "Your presentation may be the only time some of these children come in contact with the gospel in such a direct way in their entire life."

 528 Saltavka Orphanage

Donations from our VISION supporters go not only to pay our trip expenses. They also provide gifts directly to the orphans themselves and to the institutions that care for them. We were able to give out personal gift bags to the kids, but also to donate much needed playground and sports equipment, as well as food supplies to the orphanage...all in the name of Jesus Christ, and thanks to the generosity of those of you who helped with this trip!

 528 Gift bag 528 Gift bag distribution 

An exciting and unexpected part of our visit to Saltavka was the opportunity to be the ones to place Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes from Samaritan's Purse into the hands of these orphans. Most or all of the team members come from churches who have participated in this ministry at home, packing the shoe boxes, and to be on the other end of the process and see the kids' eyes light up was a HUGE BLESSING!

528 Op Cmas BOX 528 Liz hands out Op Cmas Child boxes

 528 Op Cmas Child boxes 2

528 Op Cmas Child boxes 


528 Op Cmas Child boxes 3


Day 16: Thursday, May 27, 2010

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Ministry at Work

On Thursday, we headed out to the northwest edge of Kharkov to give a boost to a church building project with Pastor Sergey and a crew of his church people. The first photo is a panorama of the work area. The church building will be beyond this yard and the houses on the far side. The trenches are dug and the concrete forms and rebar grids are being prepared.



527 Construction Project Panorama

The girls, aided by two of our translators, formed a "bucket brigade" to move and stack all the lumber you see in the foreground as it was dumped by a truck. Mike and Daniel (center back) build dozens of wooden frames to be used as concrete forms for the pouring of the concrete foundation. The rest of us guys laid out and tied together many grids of rebar for reinforcement of the concrete. John, our missionary traveling with us, assisted in all operations.

 527 Tying Rebar

Here are the four neat piles made from the chaos of the dumped lumber. Great job, girls! (and John)

 527 Girls finish four stacks of boards

Dr. Cheryl Fawcett, former SDCC prof, now a missionary in a variety of countries, joined us for the afternoon and evening. As the Lord worked it, she "happens" to be in in the same country and the same city we are in, teaching Bible in another ministry. How amazing is that?

 527 Cheryl Fawcett joins us

The day concluded with pizza along the Kharkov River, having fellowship with young people from Pastor Sergey's church. It was a good ice-breaker, because we'll be with them again Saturday afternoon and evening, and our last VISION concert will be in their rented facility Sunday morning.

 527 Riverfront

All are in good health and the team unity has been a tremendous blessing.

Keep us in your prayers!

Larry Wilson

VISION Faculty Adviser


Day 15: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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Ministry at Play

After our rainy Tuesday, Wednesday dawned cool and windy, but turned sunny just in time for a ministry with Calvary Chapel in a playground near Pastor Viktor's apartment. They had never tried this before, but it proved to be a big hit with the kids and parents that frequent this area. They plan to have these regularly with their own students and youth, building trust in their neighborhood and paving the way for more ministry in the weeks to come.

526a Playground ministry526a Parachute down

 526a Val and Lizzy under chute526a Kids and parents under the chute

  526a Playground ministry KOH

In the afternoon and evening, VISION participated in a Sports Center ministry with the Calvary Chapel group. Several visitors joined in, some who had been invited at the park on the previous day.

 526 Sport Center ministry v-ball

Two young men, both Arabic speaking (and probably Muslim) students taking Russian at the nearby university, were invited in from outside the sports facility. We had a chance to teach them some ping-pong, and they stayed through VISION's songs and dramas. (One is visible in the photo below, being shown a printed program by one of the Ukrainian women. We trust that seeds were planted leading to better understanding of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for sin. Pray with us and the Calvary Chapel members that these two young men will come back to the regular worship services and other events held at that same facility.

 526 Sport Center ministry audience526 Sport Center ministry drama

Thanks for sending us and supporting us!


Larry Wilson

VISION Faculty Adviser





Day 14: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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Tuesday started pleasantly enough, as VISION assembled with Pastor Viktor of the local Calvary Chapel church (the one we sang for on Sunday morning) to strategize for the day's park outreach events.

We then headed to Gorky Park, one of two major parks in Kharkov. Though it was cloudy, we had no idea of what was coming. By the time we had sung a couple of songs, it began to sprinkle. By the end of the first drama, it was raining. We took some shelter under the trees in time for the massive downpour that followed. God apparently had other plans for us!

 525 Singing in Gorky Park BEFORE525 Singing in Gorky Park AFTER

 525 Rainsoaked Daniel and Amanda525 The day brightens in more ways than one!

We "hung out" in the Calvary Chapel rented assembly room until late afternoon when the weather was clearing up, then split into three groups for the evening ministry. Daniel, Lizzy, and John went with one translator to pass out invitations to a sports outreach for the next night in a nearby apartment complex. Caleb and Valerie went with an American who runs an English Club as an outreach, and the rest of us went to Shevchenko Park (the other big park in Kharkov) to "open" for the Calvary Baptist mime team. (VISION couldn't do a lot of their program due to having only six members on the scene.)

Though the weather was still damp and rather cool, by the time the mime team began, there was a pretty good crowd of onlookers.

525 Street conversations525 VISION presents in Shevchenko Park

525 Calvary Chapel mime team

Before and after the presentation, team members walked around, distributing invitations to the upcoming sports outreach and engaging passers by in conversation, with the help of Ukrainian interpreters.

We pray that many who were invited will come to Wednesday night's activity to hear a fuller presentation of the gospel!

Pray with us!

Larry Wilson

VISION Faculty Adviser




Day 13: Monday, May 24, 2010

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Being part of the Harvest!

VISION's ministry often involves opening doors and planting seeds for follow-up by local pastors and missionaries, but on Monday, we rejoiced over seeing the Lord bring a harvest of eight souls into His kingdom through the team's ministry!

We spent the morning at a rehabilitation center called "Kingdom of God, playing volleyball, sharing names and background information, and presenting our program of songs and dramas. John Townsend, the missionary from San Diego who is traveling with us, gave a clear gospel message, and afterwards four of the residents came forward in public, one by one, to pray with John and a translator and receive Christ! What a joy that was for us!

524 KoG Concert 1524 KoG Concert 2

 524 KoG Lizzy prays with handicapped girl

In the afternoon, we went to "Hospital 17," and took turns holding and playing with babies and toddlers who were abandoned or taken from troubled homes by the government. SCM people here go every week to give a little love to these precious ones beyond what the nurses can provide.

 524 Hospital: Visiting abandoned babies

In the evening we drove to a Baptist rehabilitation center for another concert. Alcoholism and drug addiction are huge problems in Ukraine, partly due to the high unemployment rate, but mostly due to the lack of positive influence from God's word in this society. We appreciate the work being done to put these people back on their feet, but most of all, we admire those that provide the real answer to these problems in Jesus Christ.

524 Baptist Rehab Ctr 

Thanks for continuing to pray!


Larry Wilson

VISION Faculty Adviser




Day 12: Sunday, May 23, 2010

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Day 12: Sunday, May 23, 2010 – Four Contrasting Churches

Sunday was another full day, with services in two churches in the morning and early afternoon, lunch in a local cafeteria, a visit to Kharkov’s central Orthodox church and a nearby art and craft market, and an evening youth service in a third church.

523 Bavaria church 
concert The first church, called “Bavaria,” was a relatively small congregation meeting in a rather large theater space, giving them plenty of room to grow. Their music was quite conservative, but included the interesting element of dance with colored flags, as well as a drama featuring the devil tricking people into worshiping other gods, so that they ended up in hell. Within their service, VISION did a 45-minute program, and John Townsend gave a message. Then we had to leave early to go to the second church.


Calvary Chapel (VISION provides the band)

This was a small but dynamic Calvary Chapel group with around 20 attendees. Their ministry model is bilingual, with all aspects of the service presented in both Russian and English, so they attract students and others from various countries who know English better than Russian. VISION provided the worship band, including yours truly on electric bass. After sermons by both John and their pastor, Viktor, we did a very short program of our own music—songs only, as there was no space for dramas. We will be working with this group a couple of days this week in an evangelistic outreach effort in a nearby park.


 523 Orthodox Church, 

Our afternoon visit to the Orthodox church was a reminder of how many people depend on ritual and good works to gain favor with God. The church was filled with people moving from icon to statue to shrine, crossing themselves and kissing each item, lighting and placing candles, and often gazing in contemplation at the images before them or high on the walls above them. One little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, was most notable, doing all of the above from station to station, but also taking it upon herself to blow out and discard candles that had burned too low, relight those that had gone out, and straighten the crooked ones. Such a precious young life, seemingly already locked into the ritualistic pattern – we can only hope that, as she grows up, she will come in contact with people who can lead her into a personal knowledge of the Savior, the only Way, Truth, and Life.


on stage at Metalist church 

When we walked into the large “Good News Church” in the Metalist area of Kharkov, we knew we were in a different environment. Their youth worship team was rehearsing, and let’s just say that conversation was impossible in or near the sanctuary.  Their playing and singing were excellent, but there was certainly a LOT of it! The worship was exciting – hoppin’ and happenin’, and many of the VISION team thoroughly enjoyed it. We plugged into their system and they made sure there was a LOT of us, too! After all the hopping and clapping, the young people listened respectfully to VISION and responded enthusiastically after each song or drama.


Lizzy Byrd is much better! On Sunday, she went with the team all day, but did not perform. She was on liquids only. Today (Monday) she has started some yogurt and similar foods, and was able to perform with the team. It's good to have her back, especially her trademark giggle!

More on Monday's ministry in the next post. Thanks to everyone for all the prayers!



Larry Wilson
VISION Faculty Adviser

Back on the internet in Ukraine

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Day 11: Saturday, May 22, 2010 – Awana to the rescue

Lizzy stayed at the girls’ apartment today to rest and sleep, with an English speaking lady to watch over her, as the team went out to the next orphanage. This one is called “Father’s House,” which is state-regulated, but not state-funded, and therefore dependent on donations. Run by Christian women, the facility cares for a small population of about 20 in the age range of about 10-16 years.

 522 Father's House exterior

As the orphanage ministries are organized by SCM here in Kharkov, we have 8-10 hours of time to spend with these kids (who typically speak no English), with least 5-7 hours allotted for group games and activities. It’s a challenge for our team members to come up with enough ideas to fill the time.

522 Tug-o-war, Awana style 

When Vova, our host pastor, opened his trunk this morning and revealed a big bag of Awana game equipment, Emilie and Amanda were overjoyed! Both of them have grown up through and served as leaders in the Awana program, and knew exactly what to do. Amanda drew an amazingly round Awana circle with chalk, and the entire morning was filled with races involving colored bowling pins and bean bags, tugs-of-war (tug-of wars?), and other assorted activities.

 522 Caleb tells about Zacchaeus522 Orphanage audience

 In two sessions, the team presented flannelgraph Bible stories (seemingly interesting even to the older kids), along with their own songs and dramas. There was a lively Q and A session, in which we were surprised to learn that many of the orphans had taken one or two trips to Italy for some event pertaining to orphans.

522 Tree-studded soccer field 

In the afternoon, it was USA vs. Ukraine in a soccer (“football” to them) match between our four guys (plus sympathy help from our host Vova) and the teenage boys of the orphanage. Part of the challenge was the fact that there are several giant trees and a basketball goal standard within the boundaries of the soccer field, adding a whole new dimension of challenge (not to mention risk) to the game. After going up 2-1 early in the game, USA ended up losing 10-2. Sorry, about that, fans!

During the day, we had a couple of updates on Lizzy. She had awakened a time or two to read her Bible or take a shower, but was sleeping most of the day. It sounded encouraging. By the time we got back to her, around 9pm, she seemed much better, with less pain and no more vomiting. She decided she could begin to take liquids starting Sunday.

Saturday, May 22 -- Finally Back Online!

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Day 9: Thursday, May 20 – On to Another Chapter in VISION’s ministry to Ukraine



The VISION team departed from Dniprodzerzhinsk Thursday by train. (If you think that city name is scary in the Roman alphabet, here’s how it looks in Cyrillic characters: Дніпродзержинськ!)




During the five-hour train ride, we had an interesting encounter with a man who heard us speaking English and introduced himself. His name is Sergiy, and he is an evangelical believer involved in orphan and camp ministries, including puppetry and magic illusions for kids. He was amazed to find a group of Americans on a train in the middle of Ukraine, let alone the fact that we’re believers and involved in similar ministry, and he felt it was of God. He asked if he could teach one of our team a few “magic tricks” with a length of red rope, so Lizzy took that on. These are used to attract kids’ attention, and also to illustrate simple Bible truths.




We arrived in Kharkov with no problems and were met by Vladymir (“Vova”), the Ukrainian director of Slavic Christian Ministries. Vova was my host a year ago when I had the opportunity to visit Ukraine for four days following last year’s VISION trip to Poland.




He, along with two translators, Natasha and Lena, delivered us to our next lodgings, two apartments about 2 miles apart, where we settled in and got a good night’s sleep.







Day 10: Friday, May 21 – Love in Any (or No) Language




The ministry of Slavic Christian Ministries (SCM) focuses largely on orphans, and our schedule with them includes several all-day visits to various orphanages. On Friday, we had a great day visiting Krasnakutsk, one of the best government-supported facilities in Ukraine, as Vova describes it. It was about 90 minutes northwest of Kharkov in a beautiful green and gently rolling landscape with many trees including pines.




The children there are very young, from age 2 to about age 9, around 60 in number. We tailored our performance to them, adding a flannelgraph lesson on Jonah, taught unrehearsed but very effectively by Liz Converse through an interpreter with materials provided by SCM. (I must report that Mike’s performance as the “strong man” in our drama “King of Hearts” was a little too intense for one of the young children, who ran cowering to one of the orphanage workers for protection.)




When we weren’t performing, we played a variety of group games with the kids, and generally spent time carrying them around, roughhousing with them, and just holding them. Their craving for a human touch was evident, and it was moving to see our student’s willingness to show some of God’s love to these kids. We so admire the women who serve in these facilities, giving the children the mothering that they so desperately need.




Many of the VISION members had tears in their eyes as they pulled themselves away from these precious orphans. They would have taken some home, if that were possible. (Vova says that very few of these children ever get adopted. For information on how you can get involved…just let me know!)



521 Francisco as the Goose




521 John Townsend explains kaleidoscope 




 521 Caleb and new friends




521 Francisco and kids 




521 Three reasons to smile 




 521 Musical Chairs




521 Lizzy with orphan 




During the day, it became apparent that Lizzy Byrd was not feeling well. She did her best to stay involved with the performing and game-playing, but by our late dinner in a cafeteria, she was experiencing tremendous abdominal pain. She has had bouts of a digestive disorder in times past. It apparently has to run its course and the only thing that can be done is to stop eating and try to relieve the pain. In the States, the treatment has involved hospitalization and IVs. We were able to contact her parents and get more information. At this point, the decision was to allow her to rest and sleep as much as possible, and try to ride out the pain. We had several prayer sessions over her and are praying without ceasing as we continue into Saturday.

Keep praying!

Larry Wilson
VISION Faculty Adviser



Monday, May 17, 2010 -- Being American in Ukraine

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On Monday we went to the Technical University, where we had a great visit with a room full of students training to be professional English-Ukrainian interpreters. Very few Americans find their way to Dnieperzerzhinsk, and we provided a golden opportunity for these students to polish their skills. After presenting a program of our songs and dramas, we divided into smaller groups for conversation. The subjects, of necessity in a public university, began with cultural and geographical issues, but topics of philosophy and faith also came up.

Team gathers for English class visit
517 Q and A with Eng Students

 517 combined pose with flags

Later in the morning we drove nearly an hour out into the countryside, thinking we would visit a more primitive kind of school. Instead we found a most impressive learning center with a computer lab to rival SDCC's (and far beyond our Music Lab set-up).

517 Krenichi school on stage

Again, being American gave us a lot of clout, as English is a huge part of this school's curriculum. The teacher was so pleased to have us. Her classroom was amazing, including a bulletin board so honoring of America that it is probably not found in any of our public schools!

517 USA bulletin board

In the evening we returned to the MIR theater ("mir" means both "world" and "peace," and was the name of the Russian space station). There we presented a full 90-minute concert in a smaller theater room. Though the audience was smaller than we hoped for, the invitation given by the Pastor Vitalic afterward resulted in 13 people asking to receive Christ! The local ministry will follow up on these, and we rejoice in the increase God provided!

 516 MIR Theater exterior
517 Monday night at MIR theater

Sunday, May 16, 2010 -- Sharing Worship with Ukrainian Believers

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Sunday morning found us participating in wonderfully varied worship service combining the Left and Right Bank churches. It was held in a movie theater rented by one of the churches, and included a giant stage with space for both churches' worship teams, plus VISION's songs and dramas. 

 On Stage at Joint Worship Service
The people were so warm and accepting! It is good to share times of worship with fellow believers, and see what God is doing in a land so distant from our familiar situation.

 At Dnieper River, Mike and Lizzy invite locals to attend Monday concert

 That evening, we joined with Left Bank youth and walked to the Dnieper riverfront where we passed out flyers inviting people to attend our Monday night concert. With the help of interpreters, our students were able to engage some in conversation about the Lord and our faith.As the sun went down over the river, we shared some mutual worship with the Ukrainians, providing yet another testimony to the passers-by who know so little of God's love for them.
 516 Sunset worship with Ukrainian youth

Saturday, May 15, 2010 -- Serving the Lord and people

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Today was a very full day, but one of satisfaction, seeing how God worked through the team in a variety of venues.


Serving the Needy

Caleb helps with the clean-up.Mike serves the борщ (borscht)After a time of rehearsal and prayer in the morning, team members had a chance to follow Jesus’ example, when He took a towel and knelt before his disciples to wash their feet. The ministry we’re with here in Dnieperzerzhinsk operates soup kitchens in two locations every Saturday. Homeless and needy Ukrainian individuals and families in the area know they will get at least one good meal of borscht and bread once a week from the evangelical believers. Workers move among them and pray with them as they eat. What a testimony to the community surrounding these church locations!

Our students were privileged to assist in this process today, the guys in the “Left Bank” facility and the girls on the “Right Bank” side. (With the Dnieper River running through the middle, all locations in the city are identified by the locals as one of the above.) What a blessing it was to see our guys pitch in with a cheerful attitude, providing bread, picking up the dirty dishes and washing them, working alongside the faithful church people, and cracking the ever-present language barrier with smiles and laughter.  


Mutual Inspiration with Ukrainian Youth

515 Youth meeting

In the afternoon, the team got back together on the Right Bank to share a time of worship and present a concert for a large group of young people. This church seems to have a thriving youth group, and certainly a "happenin'" worship band! We're learning that worship times can easily span 45 minutes and more of continuous singing and praying, both before AND after our 45-60 minute VISION presentation. It was encouraging to see that this part of the future of Ukraine appears to be heading in the right direction spiritually!515 Mike in the drama King of Hearts515 Lizzy gives her testimony





Bringing Churches Together for Community Outreach

515 Ministry in the Park

A balmy Saturday evening found us as the featured event in a gathering of five area churches in the city park of Dnieperzerzhinsk. The park was teeming with local families and youth. At first there was a lot of confusion about where we should present, and it seemed we may not be able to at all, but the Lord led us to the perfect spot. When VISION began to sing and present dramas, dozens of people came to listen and watch, and church members passed out literature.515 Preparing the Sin Box for a drama More seeds planted....!







 Please continue to pray for VISION XVIII and Ukraine 2010.

 Larry Wilson

 VISION Team Faculty Adviser



Friday, May 14, 2010 8:50 PM : Outside Dnieperzerzhinsk, Ukraine

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Day 3: Friday, May 14 -- Hitting the ground running!School: Liz Converse Converses

The VISION team’s first day of ministry in and around Dnieperzerzhinsk, Ukraine on Friday was a very full, but rich experience.

We began with an hour of shared prayer with the students of the local Bible college, in anticipation of the upcoming Global Day of Prayer. The Lord’s name was lifted up in both English and Russian, and the language barrier didn’t keep us from sensing the Holy Spirit who “bears witness with Himself” in all believes, no matter what nationality.

After that, we headed into a busy day with our first three ministry opportunities.

A Rehabilitation Center Making a Difference

Our Farm Conversationshired minibus took us out into the beautiful green countryside, mostly flat with some gently rolling terrain, with many trees and croplands. We arrived at a small farmhouse with several outbuildings that serve as a Christian rehab center for recovering addicts of drugs and alcohol (both big problems in Ukraine).

After a tour of the facilities, including the rabbit hutches and poultry pens, we presented our first program of the trip in the shade of a giant tree for both the residents of the facility and several Christian workers who came along with us. It was clear that the dramas we presented depicting how Jesus Christ can liberate a person trapped in sin and redeem even the worst sinner who looks to Him in faith were deeply moving to those who attended.

Following the program, we had opportunity to hear some of the testimonies of former addicts who have now come to Christ and are growing in Him, and even serving in outreach ministries or nearby villages and other rehab facilities. What a blessing that was!

A Government School Open to the Team

Group Sings at School

One of the most amazing aspects of VISION’s ministry over the years has been the openness of public schools in various countries to allow us into auditoriums, classrooms, and gymnasiums to present to students of all ages the message behind the gospel of Jesus Christ. Regrettably, we’ve never been able to do this in the USA.

In some places, we are instructed to come in with a cross-cultural approach, often emphasizing the universal youth problems of drugs, alcohol, and immorality, but nearly without exception we are given the privilege of singing any song or performing any drama we have, and often we can couple that with testimonies about the impact Christ has had in our own lives.

We had such an opportunity here in Ukraine today, before about 40 well-dressed and respectful high school juniors, who not only absorbed every detail of our presentation, but asked significant questions afterward. We pray that the seeds planted will be watered by the local Christian workers, and that God will bring forth the fruit for His kingdom.

Loving the Father- and Motherless

While VISIONs past have visited orphanages in several countries, that kind of ministry will be a very large part of this year’s trip. Orphans – mostly kids abandoned by their parents or taken out of troubled homes by the State – are a heartbreaking statistic in Ukraine. Each represents a soul that, in addition to the lack of parental love, has the same need of salvation as all of us.

It was our privilege Friday afternoon to visit a church-run orphanage and provide a bit of love and care for a group of about 60 orphans ranging from about 6-16 years of age. Valerie, supported by other team members in colored T-shirts, shared the story of the “wordless bracelet,” with colored beads representing the various aspects of the gospel message, providing such bracelets to all the children as a reminder. It’s so sad to see the children in this situation, but we are thankful for the concerned Christian workers who invest in them day after week after year!

As the day drew to a close, the warm muggy weather dissolved into a light shower of cool rain, reminding us of God’s ability to refresh us and make us ready for a new day on Saturday.

Thanks for supporting and praying for VISION XVIII and Ukraine 2010.

Larry Wilson
VISION Team Faculty Adviser


Wednesday-Thursday, May 12-13: A 3-D experience for VISION!

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Wednesday-Thursday, May 12-13: A 3-D experience for VISION!

Some 31 hours after their 4am wake-up call Wednesday morning to get to the San Diego airport,  we’re thankful to report that Thursday night the VISION team members have settled in with the Christian families who will host us for the first week of our ministry here in Ukraine.

It took two vans, three planes and two minibuses to get us here. That’s one more bus than expected, because, though the trips were all safe and without serious incident, they were not completely trouble free.

DELAY: After our five-hour flight across the country to a rainy Dulles airport near Washington, D.C., we boarded the jumbo jet bound for our eight-hour hop across the Atlantic After pulling away from the gate, however, we stopped out on the taxiway and began a 75-minute wait for weather nearby to clear, along with the heavy air traffic that had been re-routed around it.

Finally we took off and “enjoyed” the long overnight flight to Vienna’s airport. The trouble is that the delay gave us only a half hour to get to our connecting flight to Dniepropetrovs’k, Ukraine, and in the process, we found ourselves in very large herd ( to call it a line would be too polite) of other travelers with our same problem trying to get though a security line. Though we actually arrived at the gate over 10 minutes after the announced departure time, the Lord held the plane for us, and we climbed aboard for the last leg of our journey.

DIVERSION: So the last leg turned out to be a little crooked. In the air we heard our flight was being diverted to another airport some 50 miles AWAY from Dniepropetrovs’k, due we believe to some diplomatic activity that closed that airport. Then, when we did land at the alternate airport, the customs officials held us up, brought in an English speaking person so they could question us at length about our intended activity in the country. (Our sweatshirts with John 3:16 on the back in Russian could be a clue.) Finally, after some conversation with the missionary traveling with us, John Townsend, they relented, and all was well. The airline (Austrian) arranged for a minibus to haul us over to Dniepropetrovs’k airport which took about 90 minutes. (That was the extra, unintended bus.)

There we met some of the Ukrainian brothers and sisters who have been arranging our schedule this week, and we all got on ANOTHER mini-bus (the one planned for all along), to take another hour’s drive to Dnieperzerzhins’k (Do not adjust your computer monitor...these are real places!)

It is here in Dnieperzerzhins’k where we will sever until next Thursday morning, when we take a train to Kharkov.

DINNER: On arrive, we were treated to a wonderful meal of borsht (the Ukrainian national soup) and a type of pasta stuffed with potato. I’ll have to get the name, but it sounded like “Brenneke” the family name of a former VISION member from the 90's.

While in the process of recovery from jet lag, we will hit the ground running Friday from morning to evening with 3-4 ministry opportunities that have been set up for us. Please pray for stamina after the grueling travel (I could use some just to finish this message!), and especially for the Spirit’s empowering of our presentations and interactions on Friday (starting at 10pm Thursday California time). Ukraine is 10 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time.

Signing off for now...some photos to come...Thanks for supporting and praying for VISION XVIII and Ukraine 2010.

Larry Wilson
VISION Team Faculty Adviser


Preparing to minister to Ukrainians in their own language

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Final exams are over. Commencement and grad celebrations fill the day Saturday. Then, Sunday night, the VISION team will begin an intensive training "camp," where we will share times of Bible study and prayer, receive information about the cultural differences we will encounter, and review the songs and drama sketches we will use in Ukraine. 

Because one of VISION's distinctives is the presentation of much of our program in the language of the country we visit, five of our songs are in the Russian language, which is spoken in the eastern part of Ukraine. Three of the songs are well in hand, but we have just received the Russian lyrics for the last two, so there will be much to learn! It's a great challenge, but over the years, the goodwill and receptivity of the people has proved the value of this effort over and over!

This year, the challenge is greater because Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, so there is little clue of what the words even sound like from looking at them.

Here's an example of about 10 seconds' worth of one of our songs:

Мы у престола благ узрим Его лицо,
Увидем всех друзей, навеки будем с Ним
Когда услышим звук все соберёмся там
Как грома звук в ночи воскликнем мы

Of course, we can't learn to pronounce the words from that, so we listen closely to our translator and write down a "phonetic" spelling. Here's what we have for learning the above, including the original English lyrics.

M[ee] oo preh-stoh-lah blahg, ooz(ih) reem yih-voh lee-tsoh
oo-v(ee)-dyem fsekh droo-zyeh, Nah-veh-kee boo-dyem sneem.
Kahg-dah oo-s(l)ih-shem zvook, fsyeh suh-behr-yohm syah tam
Kahk gro-muh zvook v’nah-chee, vahss-klee-knyem m[ee].

Here's the English from which the above was translated:

Around His throne of grace, we'll see Him face to face.
With those who've gone be- fore, we'll be apart no more.
When we will hear that sound, as all are gathered 'round,
Like peals of thunder loud, we will shout.

So, who does the translating? Each year, we must locate someone who is fluent in both English and the language we need. Knowledge of music and familiarity with biblical and worship-related expressions are also helpful.

This year, the Lord led us to two individuals who don't even know each other. One is Daniel Neverov, who participates in a worship team at Shadow Mountain Community Church. He and his wife Lilly are both natives of Uzbekistan, but the Russian they know is quite standardized throughout the former Soviet republics. The other is a Ukrainian native named Lydia Cooley, a music teacher and colleague of our adjunct music professor Harvey Tellinghuisen. She was aided by her American mother-in-law, Diane Cooley, who helped by suggesting alternate phrases in English that could lead to a better fit of rhythm when translated (a vital aspect of these translations.)


We are so thankful to these people graciously gave us several hours of their time to work out the best flow of rhythm and syllable stress, as well as singing or speaking the resulting lyrics so we could record them and write them down phonetically. May the Lord bless them richly, as we take their language to Ukraine.

Now, to finish memorizing all these syllables! Pray for us!

Ukraine: May 2010

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 In May 2010, the team will embark on a three-week ministry in this former Soviet republic which is now enjoying a measure of freedom for the spread of the gospel.  We will be working primarily with Ron Putnam and Slavic Christian Ministries in the city of Kharkiv, about 20 miles from the Russian border, in northeastern Ukraine, for approximately half of the three-week period. The other half will be spent with John Townsend of Mission Valley Community Chapel, whose "Matthew 25:34-40" ministry has a work going in the city of Dniperdzerzhyns'k.  While in Kharkiv, we also hope to have opportunity to supplement the teaching ministry of Dr. Cheryl Fawcett, a missionary of Shadow Mountain Community Church, who will also be in Ukraine in May, including Kharkiv, the very city where VISION is planning to serve.  VISION's ministry will include evangelistic programs in public schools, orphanages, civic cultural centers, outdoor venues, and churches. They will interact with Ukrainian high school and university students, sharing Christ with nonbelievers and encouraging believers.

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