September 3, 2013

  • September means the start of school!

    Hello from the Raineys in rainy Kiev! It has rained all day the past three days. It was sunny today, but is raining tonight, should be sunny tomorrow, but then rain is forecasted all week through Saturday! I’ve got my rain boots ready!

    We are all doing well, but keeping extremely busy. Scott's traveling schedule has picked up. We will join him on some of his trips, but he will often need to go alone because of Bekah's school.

    Bekah’s school is probably the biggest change for our family. She started 3rd grade at Kiev Christian Academy on August 23. She absolutely loves it! Her school day starts at 8:25 AM and ends at 3 PM. We leave home at 7:30 AM, walk to a bus stop and ride a bus to a stop near her school. Scott usually takes her in the morning. Then I leave at 2:15 PM and again ride the bus to her school and pick her up.

    Her teacher situation is interesting, and I know many of you have prayed about this! Currently her teacher, Mr. Musiyenko (Scott and Bekah like to pronounce it “Moosy-ankle”) is the main 3rd grade teacher. He is assisted by another teacher, Mrs. Eide, three days a week for English language and spelling. Mr. Musiyenko’s regular responsibilities are the elementary school principal and PE teacher.

    Some of you have heard the news and know Emily Childress. Emily is from our church in Houston and has babysat both of our girls many times. She has graduated from SNU with a teaching degree and has agreed to come to Kiev Christian Academy and teach 3rd grade this year. She will arrive in mid-September, and will start slowly taking over the classroom responsibilities as she becomes acclimated. We are very excited to have her here with us this year!

    Bekah says right now that her favorite times at school are her “specials.” She has one special a day and these are art, PE, music, computer, and library. I think her top favorites are computer and library. She checked out a book on Friday, and had it completely read by Saturday evening! Her school is taught in English, but she will have Russian class three days a week.

    Bekah has 12 students in her class, and the kids are from at least 7 different countries: Ghana, US, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. It is definitely an international school! Her teacher, Mr. Musiyenko is Ukrainian.

    Sarah will start homeschool preschool the week of September 9th. She will only have school three days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. She is excited to learn her letters and numbers. She loves the individual attention and even the “homework.” We will keep you updated on her progress as this school year kicks off for her!

    Sarah has heard Scott, Bekah, and I spelling things, so she is often asking us, “What does 'etsvm' spell?” Her big thing right now is saying things like, “I have two words . . . .” and going on to say two or three sentences. One recent example is this: “I have 2 words: I’m cold, I’m freezing, and I’m ‘ets!’” Only Sarah knows what “ets” means! 

    Bekah prays for her friends and family every night before she goes to sleep. She prays for protection and also for “all my friends and family to have a good time, whatever time a day it is where I have friends and family.” She prays this every night!

    Scott had an amazing time at Ukraine district youth camp. He was the camp speaker for the week. During the week of fun and craziness that makes up youth camp, God moved in amazing ways! Twelve kids came forward to commit to God for Him to use them in any way He desires, and 34 kids gave their lives to Christ for the first time! Scott even had the opportunity to personally lead a young man to Christ. With Scott’s Russian, this young man’s English, and an amazing God, Vitalik is a new believer in Christ!

    One thing that is fun for us is when teams come to Kiev. A couple of weeks ago, there was a work and witness team here from the Washington Pacific district. They did work on the new Kiev First Church building. We were able to have them over for dinner one night (14 of them!) and one of the days, the girls and I went sightseeing and shopping with them to help translate.

    A week ago, we had the privilege of having a couple named Tom and Carolyn in our home. They were here with a tour group. We had never met them. You see, their mother lives in the same retirement home where Mary Ardrey lives. Mary is Scott's "adopted" grandmother. Mary and Carolyn’s mom got to talking about their trip to Ukraine, and Mary said, “I know people in Ukraine!” Long story short, we were able to have them for dinner during their trip to Kiev!

    Next week, another team arrives called Operation Mary (Bekah calls them Mission Mary). This team is called a “hold and witness” team because they come to hold the babies in the orphanages. They have been coming to Ukraine for 11 years! One of the ladies that has come every time is about 85 or 86 years old and has been married to her husband for 67 years! She says every year her kids tell her that this is her last year. They are a lot of fun! We will be able to have them in our home for a meal toward the end of their time here. We just never know who we will meet living here!

    Thank you all for your continued prayers and support of our family. We are so blessed to have you all in our lives!

July 11, 2013

  • General Assembly and US Travel

    We have had a wonderful time in the United States!  It has been great to see so many of you, and to eat, see, and do some of the things we’ve missed while in Ukraine.


    Since the last time I wrote, we went to Indianapolis for General Assembly.  Scott preached at Idianapolis Westside Church of the Nazarene.  We saw friends from all over the world.  Scott and I spent time going to meetings and manning two different booths at times: the CIS booth and the ERO (European Regional Office) booth. It was super busy, but also very fun!


    One special person Scott saw at General Assembly was Sheryl Perkins Tedder.  She was his quizzing and missions teacher when Scott was a child at Denver First Church. She made a big impact on Scott as a child. She expressed how special it was to see him now as a grown pastor and missionary!


    When Scott and I left for Indy, Bekah and Sarah stayed with my parents.  They had 2 ½ days to themselves with Grammy and Papa Rusty (Habegger).  Then Scott’s parents drove to Fort Wayne to pick up the girls.   They stayed in a hotel with Grammie and Papa Gabe (Rainey) in Indy for two nights together – we didn’t even know what hotel they stayed at! J They swam and did all sorts of other fun things like going to a movie, Chuck E. Cheese, and the library. One day they spent 7 hours at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum!


    While in Indianapolis, Scott and I, (and later Curt, Jan, Bekah, and Sarah) stayed with our wonderful friends Bill, Carolyn, and Ann Morris.  These people have been our dear friends and prayer warriors for many years.  We again laughed and cried and prayed together, just as if we had never been apart. Scott even received his made-to-order omelets from Bill almost every morning for breakfast!


    On Saturday of General Assembly week, Bekah participated in the World Quiz.  It was so much fun for her to compete over the book of Acts that she had studied so diligently this year in school.  She was able to sit with her South Texas District friends, Jacob Martinez and Patrick Henry, during the quiz. She received the Bronze level award and really had a great time!


    After the quiz, Curt and Jan, Marilyn and Farrel, and the Kiev Raineys drove to Bloomington to meet Dan and Heather Towriss and their family.  We had lunch together and then went out on their boat. We had a really fun afternoon with lots of adventures!


    Scott and Bill Morris stayed glued to the livestream from the General Assembly sessions as the new generals were elected. When it all ended, the Global Church of the Nazarene had gained a new GS, and we had lost a regional director for the Eurasia Region in Gustavo Crocker.  He will be a great GS.  It will be interesting to see who the Lord has in mind to lead our region in the days ahead.


    On Wednesday, June 26, we headed our car toward the Lone Star State.  We made it to Houston on Friday evening, and stayed with our friends, Jack and Glenda Holt for our days in Houston.  Scott preached on Sunday at Living Word in the English service and in the Spanish service.  It was so great to see all of our Houston family!


    On Monday we headed to Trinity, Texas, for South Texas District Children’s Camp. We were the guest missionaries for the week.  Bekah got to be a regular camper and had a wonderful week with a counselor and girls from Living Word.  As the guest missionaries, Scott and I had four groups of kids, each for 45 minutes, each day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.   It was so much fun to get to know the kids and to share with them our call, work, and a little of our lives.  We even got to introduce them to one of our favorite Russian cartoons, Masha and the Bear! At the end of the week we had 3 kids share with us that they had a call from God to be missionaries! Praise the Lord!


    After camp, we returned to Houston.  The girls and I stayed in Houston for the weekend, but Scott flew on Saturday to Lowell, Michigan, to preach in Wes Hershberger’s church.  He had a great time in Michigan and was supposed to arrive back in Houston at 10:50 PM on Sunday.  However, long story short, Glenda and I drove together to pick him up at 2:30 AM!  Never a dull moment . . . .


    Tuesday morning we loaded up our car and headed out for Tennessee to see our friends, John and Cathy Aller.  We spent the night in Texarkana, Arkansas, after having spent the evening as a family watching Despicable Me 2.


    We will spend a few days with the Allers on their farm, and then head north to Fort Wayne again on Saturday.  We will spend our last few days there seeing family, and packing, packing, packing!


    We feel like we have lived about a year in this one month that we have been home.  We have had so many fun, special, and crazy experiences that we will be packing a ton of great memories in our hearts to take back with us to Ukraine. We are looking forward to the exciting things God has in store for us in this next year in the CIS.  It seems our lives and ministry are constantly changing, but that keeps us relying on God.  Here are some of the upcoming events for which you can help us pray:


    - Bekah will start third grade at Kiev Christian Academy at the end of August

    - Sarah will start homeschool preschool this fall

    - Scott will be the speaker for the Ukraine District Youth Camp on the Sea of Azov in August

    - Scott and Sarah will travel together to Moldova at the end of August for the Nazarene family camp

    - Three ministry teams will come in and out of Ukraine in August and September

    - Scott has a trip planned to the US in September to speak at the Southwest Ohio District youth


    - Scott will be team-teaching an Evangelism and Church Planting class in Russia to Russian

      pastors this fall, and undoubtedly taking other ministry trips within Ukraine and other countries


    We love you all and pray God’s richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead!

May 27, 2013

  • A Busy May

    I hope you all are doing well.  We are getting very excited about seeing so many of you in just a few weeks as we travel to the States for General Assembly!  We are all doing well.

    I wanted to give an update on our lives in the past month.  It’s been a busy month, so you may want to go get a cup of coffee or tea before you continue reading this!

    We finally celebrated Easter here on May 5.  The date of the Orthodox Easter was over one month later than the western Easter date this year! Pozniaky church, where we most often attend in Kiev, rented a hall (rather than the apartment where we normally meet), so we had room for more people.  We nearly filled that room.  We had a great service celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  After church we had a potluck lunch together.  That is always a fun time to try new foods!

    On May 9, we left on the train for Odessa to visit our churches that area.  The pastor of Odessa First Church is a Syrian man named Nabil. We had a great time with Pastor Nabil!  He loved Bekah and Sarah and made sure our excursions around the city were fun for them.  We ate at a great Ukrainian restaurant, had the best shaurmas I have ever tasted,  toured the Odessa Opera House, played in the fountains, and walked ALL OVER the city! Scott spoke Friday evening to a small group from Odessa First Church, Saturday for several hours to a larger group from many churches, and then preached on Sunday at Odessa First.  After church, we went to Pastor Nabil’s house in the country for a barbeque.  The food was delicious, and it was great to be able to talk to the people in a relaxed, informal environment.

    We arrived home Monday morning and had four days at home to do laundry, have Russian lessons, finish Bekah’s last week of second grade, entertain an overnight guest, and repack! This is also the time when allergies decided to hit the Rainey house! White stuff started floating in the Kiev air, and the coughing, sneezing, and sore throats started.

    We left on the train for Chernovtsy on Friday evening, May 17. I want to tell you a little about what it is like to ride an overnight train in Ukraine. When we have to leave on a train near a meal time, we have developed a routine.  The train station has a special seating section with a play area for ticketed passengers with children.  Sarah and I go in there with all the suitcases, while Scott and Bekah walk across the street to get McDonalds.  They bring it back to us and we eat together in the train station.  Then the girls are able to play for a little while before we get on our train.  When we go on a long train ride, we get tickets for a “coupee”, which is like a small room with two sets of bunks and a small table in between.  When it is bedtime, the conductor brings sheets to put on the pallets for the bunks. Sometimes the windows open on the trains, sometimes they don’t.  Some trains have air conditioning; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  If the windows don’t open and the AC doesn’t work, it is quite hot and stuffy in the train. We also carry on a cooler bag with breakfast foods for the morning.  The train serves tea or coffee for about 50 cents. The girls like to climb up and down from the top bunks!

    When we arrived in Chernovtsy, we met Vera, a woman who runs a kids’ club twice a month there for disabled kids and a support ministry/Bible study for the moms.  The moms have been told since their disabled kids were born that they were given these disabled children because of sins they have committed.  Consequently they carry a lot of guilt. Vera insists that moms who bring their kids to kids club must stay during the club time. Disabled kids don’t get out of their homes much in Ukraine because nothing here is handicapped-accessible.  Few people have cars, and public transportation is nearly impossible for people with severe disabilities.  When the kids arrived at the club that Saturday, I wish you could have seen their faces!  When they saw the workers they knew, their eyes lit up and they got the biggest smiles on their faces.  It was so clear that they feel loved and accepted at this club!

    There is no Nazarene church yet in Chernovtsy, so we did not have Sunday morning service.  Vera took us on a walking tour of the city and also to see a possible site she hopes to purchase in the future to house the kids club and other ministries. I’m sure many of you have seen our pictures on Facebook of the little Chihuahua carrying keys.  That is Vera’s little “baby” Toby.  He is such a hoot! That key is his favorite toy!  He gets all excited if she even mentions it!  She takes him everywhere with her, and he usually carries that key in his mouth the whole time!

    That afternoon, Scott spoke to the mothers who come to the support/Bible study that meets the Sunday following kids club.  The moms were very welcoming and kind to us and gave us a card and a decorative cutting board they had made as an anniversary gift.

    We traveled that evening, again on a train, to Lviv, for some vacation time.  On the train, we met a very interesting Jewish man named, David. He is a professor of Jewish Law who has lived in the States and Canada in the past. Now, he lives in Vinnitsa. He was very kind, and we had a good and interesting talk about faith. We passed contact information and hope to talk again when we travel to Vinnitsa. When he told us his name, he mentioned that he often tells it to people and says, “Hi, I am David, King of the Jews.” We smiled, but I have to say that I am so thankful to personally know the TRUE King of the Jews!

    We arrived at our hotel at about 11:30 PM Sunday night.  We slept in a little bit, then spent the next 4 days on vacation… running around the city seeing the sights.  On our anniversary, we spent the day at a mall in town.  We watched a movie (in Russian), went  bowling, ice skating, and the girls played in an indoor gym.  In the center of the city, we climbed to a bell tower to see the city – 305 stairs! Another day we took a bus tour and walked up a hill to a high point of the city where we had a great view.

    In Lviv, we ate at some fun restaurants.  We ate at a pizza place that is also here in Kiev, but this one had special seating for parents beside a play area for kids.  This play area had video games or movies, lots of toys, and a giant chalk board.  The girls loved it! We also ate at a Ukrainian restaurant where each table was inside its own little gazebo.  Probably the most interesting meal was at a restaurant called “Krayivka.” There are no outdoor signs for the restaurant – you have to KNOW where it is.  You must knock on a big wooden door (no sign on the door), where a man opens a little peephole with a machine gun pointing at you, and says, “Glory to Ukraine!” To be allowed in, you must know the password, “Glory to the heroes!” Once inside the door, you are offered a shot of vodka from the man with the gun, then directed downstairs into the bunker.  It is quite dark downstairs, with plank-type tables and stools for chairs.

    One of their signature dishes is the half-meter sausage.  We ordered that, and Sarah ate most of it! Scott ordered fish, and it came cooked, but completely intact.  After he had eaten, he pointed to the fish head and told the girls that he would give them 5 griven (60 cents) if they would pick it up.  Sarah said, “I’ll do it!”  Then she proceeded to not only pick up the fish head, but gave it a great big lick! She got 10 griven for that!!!!It was a very fun experience!

    Our train back to Kiev was from 10:30 PM to 6:30 AM, so we had an interesting, and short, night of sleep.  We are getting caught up again now. On Saturday night we had ten people for dinner (plus our four)! I made lasagna and lemon bars, which were both a big hit.  The group included two of our Kiev pastors and a family (mom, dad, and 3 grown kids) who are all doctors here in Kiev.  It was nice to get to know the family of doctors better.  They attend Kiev First Church and donate a lot of their time going to small villages to provide free healthcare to needy people.

    These next 2 weeks are crunch time to renew our Ukrainian visas.  We have had 1-year visas, and that year is nearly over.  We are praying that we will receive our letters of invitation on Monday or Tuesday of this week, and then can go to the visa office.  Scott has meticulously gathered every possible document that we think could possibly be requested by the visa officer.  Every time we go, we are asked for different things.  Sometimes they want a particular item; then next time, they don’t need that item, they want something else!  So, we are praying that when we go in, we will have everything we need.  Please pray with us that this all goes smoothly and we can get everything approved before we leave for the US on June 12.

    Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  We feel your love and are so thankful to have you all cheering us on! Your prayers, gifts, and numerous things you do to help us encourage us in tough times and make our ministry here possible.  Each one of you is a part of the work of the church across the CIS!  We love you all and can’t wait to see you soon!

March 17, 2013

  • A Note from Jenni...

    Hello, everyone!

    Well, it has been awhile since my last life update!  We are all doing very well, but have been very busy!

    In January, Scott was back in the US for meetings and was able to spend time with both of our families. The girls and I stayed in Kiev – mostly in our apartment because of the cold weather!  We went sledding a few times, and also got out for trips to the store and to church on Sundays.  Scott had helped me stock up on groceries before he left, so our shopping trips were pretty much just quick stops for milk, eggs, Diet Coke, etc.

    About a week and a half after Scott got home, our friends from Australia, Kyle and Becky Sukanen, came to visit us for 2 weeks. That was a crazy, fun and busy time.  Kyle and Becky have two little boys, 2 ½ years and 7 months.  There was always something going on!  While they were with us, we all went to Vinnitsa to visit the church there, the orphanages, and the Nazarene drug/alcohol rehab centers.  The trip went well, despite Bekah’s tumble down a full wooden staircase!  Praise the Lord, she was uninjured!

    The day after our friends left and returned to Australia, Scott left for a weekend trip to Moldova.  He spoke at a family/parenting seminar and preached on Sunday.  He took the train 14 hours each way! Our pastor from Vinnitsa traveled with him, so he had company.  It was also good Russian practice for Scott – Pastor Roma doesn’t speak English!!!

    Soon, all of us will travel to Russia!  It will be Bekah’s spring break.  We will travel to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Volgograd and attend two district assemblies.  I have to confess that I am also planning at least one visit to Starbucks and hopefully Subway! It will be the girls’ first time in Russia, and my first time since 2002.  I am also looking forward to experiencing life in a country where Russian is the language that EVERYONE speaks!  In Ukraine, so many people speak Ukrainian on the street, and signs are in Ukrainian.  It is confusing sometimes for me as I am trying to learn Russian.

    When we return from Russia, it will be time for Ukraine’s district assembly here in Kiev.  Then, Scott will travel with Lonnie Norris to Central Asia and Armenia to spend time with friends there.  The girls and I will be glad to stay at home and get caught up again on life!

    Bekah and Sarah continue to grow like weeds!  Their knowledge of Russian increases every week. The other day Bekah told me that she needed to “conjugate verbs” for her Russian homework.  I don’t think I knew what conjugate MEANT when I was 8 years old! 

    Bekah only has 9 more weeks left of second grade.  In the fall, we are hoping to send her to a great Christian international school here in Kiev called Kiev Christian Academy.  We visited the school this past week and were very impressed with the facility, teachers, and other students.  Bekah met the kids who are in second grade this year, who will likely be her classmates next year.  They try to keep the classes at 15 kids, but Bekah’s group seems like it will only have about 10.  The kids there are from so many different countries: US, Germany, Ukraine, Korea, Japan, and some African and central Asian countries that I can’t remember!  Bekah will go one day after we return from Russia for an assessment to make sure she is where she needs to be to enter 3rd grade.

    Sarah continues to make us laugh continually.  Today at breakfast, I reminded her that she needed to stay seated until she had finished her milk.  When she was done, she looked at me, and said, “Game over” and got up from the table.  Now where did she get that?!  She wears dresses nearly every day, sometimes with very interesting accessories!  She loves to dress everyone else in the household when she is allowed to do so.  She will literally choose our clothes, then stand by and hand us each article of clothing as we put it on.  If there are buttons or zippers, she will try to fasten those for us.  The other day, I wore one of my baseball jerseys.  I usually only button the top two buttons because I always wear another shirt underneath.  All day long, she was trying to fasten the other buttons every time I got close to her! When we visited Bekah’s school the other day, she promptly told the Admissions Director that she “will not do any homework!”

    Bekah’s other breaking news: she will quiz this week to qualify for the World Quiz at General Assembly in Indianapolis in June!  We have to quiz her over questions sent from Kansas City and send the results.  As long as she scores 85% or better she will qualify.  If she qualifies, and I am pretty sure she will, she will quiz in Indianapolis on Saturday morning, June 22, from 8 AM until 11 AM.   Bekah has worked really hard on learning her material, and I think many of you may have seen her on Facebook this week saying all of her memory verses. We will keep you posted.

    Bekah and Sarah love playing games.  Sarah’s current favorite is Sequence for Kids.  She plays that nearly every day with at least one of us and she often wins! She and Bekah also like to play Tic Tac Toe, Pass the Pigs, and Sorry (Winnie the Pooh version). They also love to play with their stuffed animals!  We really limited the number of stuffed animals we brought to Ukraine, but in our time here, their collection has again soared to zoo proportions!  We have tons of dogs, but also a giraffe, rabbit, horse, hedgehog, cat, penguin, and I can’t remember what else!

    On Saturdays, Bekah and Sarah attend Kid’s Club at our church.  The teachers and kids are Ukrainian, so they don’t speak much English.  I think it is helping our girls become more comfortable around kids speaking Russian and Ukrainian.  They are getting braver to try what they are learning in language lessons. It also gives Scott and me a little date time.  Yesterday we ate at a little café with traditional Caucasian/Central Asian food like plov, kebabs, and shashlik.  It was an interesting experience, not because of the food, but because of the surroundings.  There were no menus.  There was not even a large sign over the counter listing food items.  We just asked if they had certain foods and they brought them to us.  We both ordered bottled water and they brought us each a bottle that was a different brand. The food was quite good – especially the shashlik.  As we were leaving the café, we got a peek in the back room where they were preparing the food.  In one corner was a sawed-off tree stump with a hand-axe lying on it and evidence that meat had been chopped there!  Today we are thankful that neither of us is sick!!!!! Later we stopped at a coffee shop to get hot chocolate and found that that restaurant has a resident cat as a pet inside the restaurant.  Not a stray! It was a nice restaurant, and there was this little cat running around and climbing on benches and coats!  You never know what you will see …

    Scott and I continue to take Russian lessons with Olga three times a week for 2 hours each session.  Olga also works with Bekah for an hour 3 times a week. We have started watching some movies and cartoons in Russian, and recently found a Russian Christian radio station that has a website where we can listen online. Maybe someday we will be able to really, really communicate and understand. Some days we feel like we are doing really well, and other days we feel we will never get it!

    I don’t seem to have much time for hobbies these days, but when I do have a little free time, I enjoy reading books on my Kindle.  I still am exercising, usually 6 days a week.  Our elliptical machine has been such a blessing this winter! I play my guitar most Sundays at church.  Two weeks ago for the first time, I was able to sing (in Russian) the song I was playing, as I was playing my guitar! Slowly, but surely, I am learning this language! Praise the Lord!

    This weekend is a big holiday in Ukraine called “Mazlinitza.” This holiday is to celebrate the end of winter and is celebrated with lots of eating and drinking.  One of the traditional foods for this holiday is called “blini.”  They are very thin pancakes, sometimes spread with jam or rolled with sweetened cottage cheese or some kind of meat. People have celebrated all week by eating these pancakes, but the festival days are the weekend days.  These days are the Ukrainian version of the US’s “Fat Tuesday!” Monday starts Orthodox Lent which is observed by the Veliki Post (Great Fast) for 40 days until Easter.

    We love and miss you all!  We are so thankful to have all of you as our loving support and encouragement team.  Life is sometimes difficult, but knowing we have all of you behind us helps keep us going. Thank you for your prayers and support of us!

    With love from all the Raineys!

January 5, 2013

  • Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!

    Greetings to everyone in the wonderful and blessed name of Jesus Christ! As the Christmas carol states, Jesus was Lord at his birth! Think about it… a tiny baby with all of the divinity of the Almighty contained in his infant life! It is, without a doubt, the greatest story ever told… God becoming man and dying in our place for our sins. What a Savior we have!

    For the first 40 years of my life, I said, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” to everyone during the holiday season. Christmas for Americans is celebrated on December 25 and, of course, New Years on January 1. Here in Ukraine, and across the former Soviet Union, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. So, the greeting is reversed, “Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.” In reality for us, it would be more like this, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Merry Christmas again!”

    In keeping with the season, I wanted to share another fun language discovery. Our friend, Slavic, shared with us that the Russian work for manger is ясли (pronounced “yacly”). This is also the same word used for every common nursery throughout the Russian speaking countries. When you take your baby to a nursery at church or a nursery at a daycare, they call it ясли. To me, this is another one of those language nuances that the atheistic government under the Soviet Union could not dispel from the language. Everyone, for centuries past, has taken their children to the manger! Praise the Lord for His prevenient grace!

    Since I last blogged, our entire family traveled to Armenia for a one-week ministry trip. We were also blessed to have Joseph Sumi, a fellow missionary living in Kiev, travel with us and join us in each ministry activity. While in Armenia, we had many good conversations with our pastors (Karen, Seyran, and Hamlet). We love these pastors and their families and are blessed to work alongside each of them. Bekah and Sarah particularly enjoyed their time with Maria, Karen and Syuzanna’s 7 year old daughter.

    We visited church and property sites throughout Armenia. We also were blessed with some sightseeing on this trip. We visited an ancient Roman temple called Garni, the only remaining Roman temple in Armenia. Dating of the temple is somewhat difficult but there is literary evidence that there was a fortress located at this site in the 1st century AD. We also visited the Monastery of Geghard. This monastery is carved right out of the mountains. Its main chapel was built in 1215 AD, but the site was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator. The name Geghard means “spear” because it is believed that the spear that pierced Jesus’ side was brought to this monastery for a short time by the Apostle Jude (also known as Thaddeus).

    While in Armenia, we were blessed to be able to participate in the wedding of Trino Jara and Anna Artsrunyan. Trino is a fellow missionary in the Church of the Nazarene, originally from Costa Rica, and living in Kiev, Ukraine. Anna is a Spirit-filled lay leader from Armenia. They were wed on December 21, 2012… the last day on the Mayan calendar. You can imagine the fun we had with that! The wedding was wonderful and the celebration that followed was great. The newlywed couple is going to live in Armenia and be a part of the vision and planning for the church in this wonderful country.

    We returned to Kiev on the night of Christmas Eve. Because of a snow storm, a late arrival of our plane, and the difficulty of navigating the snow covered streets of Kiev, we arrived at our apartment around 11:30 PM. Christmas day began our first vacation since becoming missionaries on the CIS. We stayed in Kiev and had a wonderful week of family time! Refreshed and renewed, we are back to our normal routine.

    We have busy weeks ahead with a trip to Khmelnitsky, Ukraine, and the CIS Partnership meetings in Orlando, Florida (USA). Can you please pray for traveling mercies and Spirit-anointed meetings and conversations? I am thoroughly convinced that I need the daily infilling of God’s Spirit in order to accomplish what He has called us to in the CIS. And that is the way it should be, isn’t it? God calls and God empowers!

December 10, 2012

  • From Jenni's Pen...

    I hope everyone is doing well as you get ready for Christmas.  I remember how busy Christmastime was with all of the fun events and parties. Things are just now starting to really ramp up here for Christmas.  I think this is because, as a country, Ukraine celebrates Christmas according to the Orthodox calendar, on January 7.  We have found all of the decorations and things that we wanted to have for our celebration on December 25.  I even have a poinsettia in my windowsill!

    We returned last week from a trip to Sevastopol in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea.  It was so beautiful!  The weather was much warmer than in Kiev, and there were still golden leaves on the trees.  It was quite rainy while we were there, but we still had a great time there with the pastor and his family.  The pastor and his wife have an 11-year-old boy named Artyom.  Bekah and Sarah had a great time with him!  We visited a famous museum, took a boat ride on the Black Sea, looked out over the sea from some cliffs, toured the city center, and toured Chersoness, ruins of an ancient city overlooking the Black Sea. Another fun event was our Saturday evening dinner.  Up in the mountains between Sevastopol and Yalta, we had dinner at a Tartar restaurant.  Our table was on a platform that was open on 3 sides.  Our table was near the ground, so we sat on pillows while we ate.

    Our Russian language is coming along.  We are understanding more every day.  For instance, when we go to buy something, not only can we ask for what we need, we can understand and answer the questions that the shop keeper asks us about our purchase.   In the past when we would go to McDonalds, we would rehearse our “lines” so that we told everything we wanted and wouldn’t need to answer any questions.  We’d just spit it out as fast as we could! Now we can tell them we want a cheeseburger, and understand and answer when asked if we want the value meal, and answer what we want to drink, and if we want our food to go. Church is still difficult because one person talks for so long without stopping.  Our brains just can’t keep up, even though we know many of the words. I find it easier when I am also able to read.  My brain has longer to catch up that just when someone is quickly speaking.  Yesterday at church was really nice because the pastor used power point with his sermon.  I understood more of that sermon than any since being in Kiev – except the ones Scott preached, of course!

    When we arrived home from Sevastopol last week, we were welcomed by our first snow.  Last week we received about 4 inches.  The girls went sledding and built a snowman.  Walking is often challenging, because not all of the sidewalks were cleared before the weather got colder.  Some of the sidewalks have a 2-inch layer of ice on them.  It is kind of funny to watch people try to walk.  Everyone slips and slides.  I haven’t seen anyone fall yet, but I am told it happens often.  This morning it started snowing again.  We have gotten a few more inches and are supposed to get several more throughout the day and overnight tonight.  The snow and ice makes the grocery shopping even more of a challenge.  My nice little cart doesn’t work nearly as well in the snow!

    On Monday of next week, we will travel to Armenia for the wedding of one of the missionaries.  Scott will also have some meetings.  We will travel by airplane, and not return until the evening of December 24.  When Scott was there before, he went to this grocery store that he said I must see!  Grocery stores have become my hobby.  I love trying new stores and seeing what different kinds of things are available.  Hopefully we will also be able to see Mt. Ararat if the weather is good.  It will be much warmer in Yerevan, where we will be for the wedding.  However, we will travel for one night up in the mountains to Gumrie, for Scott to meet with a pastor there. The pastor there also makes shoes to help support his ministry as a pastor.  He is making a pair of winter boots for me.  He has already made a pair for Scott, and he loves them.  I am looking forward to having my first pair of genuine Armenian custom-made boots! J

    Oh, and I should tell you about my early Christmas gift from Scott.  Scott, with help from a friend with US/Ukrainian connections, was able to get a German 220-volt electric blanket!  He decided I shouldn’t have to wait for that until Christmas, so I have been using it already.  Woo hoo!  Now I can turn over easily at night because I no longer have six blankets on top of me. J There are few things that he could have gotten me that I would use or enjoy as much as that!

    When we get home from Armenia, our vacation will start.  We will not be leaving home, but will be taking a break from all work and classes for a week.  We are needing a break to rest and enjoy some family time.  How fun that our vacation will start with just our family in our new home celebrating Christmas together!  By the way, the menu for Christmas dinner is country-style barbeque ribs, mashed potatoes, and chocolate pecan pie, in case any of you happen to be in the neighborhood.

    Well, that is about all of the news from the Raineys for now.  We love you all and miss you so much!  We hope each of you has a wonderful Christmas.

October 30, 2012

  • Stowaways in Ukraine!

    I met with 7 pastors over the weekend, participated in a training conference at Vinnitsa Nazarene with about 70 people, visited two rehabilitation centers in Seleshe, visited the Seleshe Nazarene Church where my church from Houston participated in constructing in 2006, visited an orphanage, spent an evening in the home of one of our pastors there, and preached on Sunday. Every meeting had the presence of God in a powerful way!!!

    We were taken to the train station on Sunday afternoon at 5:15 PM to catch our train to Kiev. And get ready to hear a short story of a wild ride… we arrived, pressed for time because of meetings. We ran from the car to where we were to load the train. Remember, we had suitcases and both girls (Bekah and Sarah) with us. The pastor’s family was also with us helping us get there.

    We were supposed to be on wagon 5. But we couldn’t find it! We found where we thought it should have been, and the pastor quickly began talking with the conductor of the wagon. The train was literally seconds from leaving. It was decision time. We were confused. Our four train tickets and luggage were changing hands from us to the pastor to the conductor. The pastor said, “Load this train.” So, we did… but our tickets in the commotion stayed with the pastor from Vinnitsa, but we were on the moving train.

    As the conductor tried to get us to where we were supposed to be (still with our luggage… and train moving), the conductor said in Russian, “Where are your tickets?” Instantly, I realized that they were NOT with us. Oh my word! It was chaotic to say the least. With our bad Russian, no tickets, we further discovered that we were on the WRONG train. LOL

    Bekah was asking questions a mile a minute. Sarah was crying because of the panic in everyone’s body language. While the train was not our train, it was going to Kiev. Praise the Lord! The conductor found a room for us and said, “I will take you to Kiev!” Wow!!! We entered the cabin and collapsed! We began to laugh that we were stowaways… Bekah teared up at one point in the cabin because she thought that we might have to go to jail for being on a train without a ticket.

    We are building memories to say the least!

October 25, 2012

  • God's Prevenient Grace for 80 Years

    This has been a crazy month in Kiev. God is blessing, expanding ministry, and growing us every day.  Here are a few highlights of the past month…

    1. Pastors’ Meetings: Pastor’s meetings were held during the final week of September in Kiev, Ukraine and Rostov, Russia. Pastors and leaders from 6 countries gathered at these meetings for training in the Power of One… a plan for evangelism and church planting. We were blessed to spend the week with Dr. Gustavo and Rachel Crocker, our regional directors. This was my first time to meet them and really grew to love and appreciate them both in the week we had together. At the same time, I met with pastors from all over the CIS. What a fantastic week of leadership development and training! Since the meeting, I am hearing stirrings of the vision to be a missional church in a needy world. One district, Russia South, is taking the training to all the churches with a plan to enter new towns with the Good News of Jesus Christ! Very exciting!!!

    2. Flash Drives for Pastors: In my early days on the field, I realized the need for our pastors around the CIS to have written resources for ministry. Printed material and textbooks are heavy and costly. I knew there was good discipleship material available in pdf format that could be more easily and economically shared. I had an idea that I would purchase flash drives for all our pastors and load Russian translated materials for ministry and give these as gifts at the pastor’s meetings. I placed an order for 120 flash drives from China to Ukraine. The flash drives looked so cool on paper… with our Russian Nazarene logo printed on each one! I had plenty of time for delivery and loading. However, because of an error in the shipping documents, the flash drives were stopped at customs in Kiev. A three-week struggle ensued as I tried to get these flash drives out of customs before the pastor’s meetings. God made a way! Three days before the meetings, I was able to receive the flash drives and proclaim to a number of people… God made this possible!

    3. Cold weather is upon us: Jenni and I have truly become Texans. We know it full well when the fall weather in Kiev seems like winter to us. We have predictions for our first snow this coming week. Bekah and Sarah are excited.  Mommy and Daddy are a bit nervous!

    4. Dad and Mom Habegger: Early October was blessed by a wonderful time with Jenni’s parents, Farrel and Marilyn Habegger, visiting Kiev for the first time. They arrived on October 3 and were with us through October 15. We kept very busy as tour guides taking them to the city center, shopping malls and souvenir streets, birthday parties for both Bekah and Sarah, two Kiev churches, an indoor water park, an Ukrainian Architectural outdoor museum called Pyrogova, the Kiev Zoo, World War II museum, and the forest.

    As I continue to study the Russian language, I learn more and more nuances to this great language. I was struck by the reality that during the Soviet Union, when the government was intentionally atheistic… teaching people that there was no God… the soviet people could not get away from the concept of God, even in their language.

    The word for “thank you” in Russian is спасибо (said “spacybo”). That word comes from two different words, спаситель (said “spacytyel”) which means Savior, and Бог (said “Bog” with a long “o” sound) which means God. When someone says “thank you” in Russian they are actually saying “God save you.” Did you catch that? With a government that was intentionally teaching that there is no God, the people every day whispered a prayer to one another, “God save you.” 

    Here is another one… The word for “Sunday” in Russian is Воскресенье (said “Vaskreshenye”). Are you ready for this? Воскрес means “risen”. The word for Sunday in Russian means “Resurrection day”!

    How cool is that? God’s prevenient grace on a generation of people who were taught, “There is no God.” These precious people of the former Soviet Union continually talked about God every day for 80 years!

    This Sunday, I will be preaching at Vinnitsa Church of the Nazarene. Vinnitsa is about a 3 hour train ride from Kiev. Jenni and the girls will be with me. I would appreciate your prayers for God’s anointing as I share His Word.

September 19, 2012

  • A Miracle of Timing in Volgograd

    The past couple of weeks have been filled with God’s blessings, life’s challenges, and great adventures.

    Often, people ask me, “What are some of the differences between the States and Ukraine?” Well since my last post, we had an experience that answered this question in an interesting way. The city workers in Kiev spend their summer preparing and fixing the water lines for the winter. There is much digging that goes on around every apartment building.

    In the States, the city water supply enters the home as cold water. Homes have hot water heaters that provide hot water. In Kiev, the city water comes into each apartment through two lines… hot and cold water. When there are repairs to the water lines, they might be happening to only ONE of the water lines. Sometimes, you have no cold water. Sometimes, you have no hot water.

    Well, a couple of weeks ago, we woke up on a Sunday morning with no cold water. Just for a moment, picture trying to get ready for breakfast and church with ONLY hot water. The shower water was too hot to use in a normal way. We didn’t have any drinking water. Very interesting morning to say the least!

    Our daughter, Bekah, has started second grade. We are homeschooling again this year. The last two years (pre-school and first grade), Jenni has done all of the teaching. This year, in our new setting, we share these responsibilities. Adding to this, we have our Russian language tutor now working with Bekah three hours a week in Russian. The other day, Bekah declared, “In second grade, I have three teachers!”

    I teach Bekah math, Bible, reading, poetry, and physical education. Jenni does a whole bunch of other things (organizing the teaching plans, phonics, writing, science, geography, art, and health). And then, of course, Russian. We complete her school week in four days (Monday – Thursday). So, Bekah’s school days are quite busy for her, and us.

    This past weekend, I made my first trip to Russia since 2002. I traveled to Volgograd, Russia, on Friday and returned on Monday. While in Volgograd, I spoke twice at a singles’ retreat, preached on Sunday morning at one of our churches, and spoke at a couples’ seminar on Sunday night. It was great to see old friend and meet new ones. God was with us and blessed our time together in so many ways.

    I want to tell you of a miracle of timing that ONLY God can accomplish! While at the singles’ retreat, I met a young man named Eugene (English translation of his name). Eugene met a Nazarene single girl from Volgograd about one year ago, named Katya. God used Katya to lead Eugene to repentance and faith, and they fell in love. After speaking the second time on Saturday, Eugene wanted to talk with me. We spent the next two hours talking about his spiritual journey and God’s love for him.

    I learned about his relationship with Katya and discovered that they were one week from their wedding day. Then, if you can imagine, one week after their wedding they are moving with Eugene’s work to Australia. They are both feeling the pressure/anxiety of getting married and moving far away from the love and support of family and church.

    I asked, “What city are you going to in Australia?” Eugene said, “Oh, it is a small town. You probably haven’t heard of it… Gladstone.” Well, about three years ago, there was a young couple from my former church in Houston, Kyle and Becky Sukanen, who moved with Kyle’s job from Houston, Texas, to (wait for it) GLADSTONE, Australia! I made contact that night with Kyle and Becky, and they are planning to welcome and befriend Eugene and Katya to their new city.

    I shared with Eugene that God does not miss anything! A year ago, when God brought Katya and Eugene together, He was calling us to come to the CIS as missionaries. God knew all along that I would be in Volgograd, speaking at the singles’ conference where Eugene and Katya were the week before their marriage. What a wonderful God we serve!!!

    I am back in Kiev now, preparing for next week’s pastors’ meetings in Kiev, Ukraine, and Rostov, Russia. This next week, I will have opportunity to meet around 30 of our pastors on the CIS field. It is a very important week for me in ministry as God opens doors of friendship and love with the pastors across our field. Would you please pray as we train them in evangelism and church planting?

    We know the Lord’s daily presence in our lives. He is faithful! We trust Him and see Him working in so many ways. Thank you for your continued prayers!

September 1, 2012

  • First Minstry Trip Out of Ukraine

    In the past few weeks I have taken my first trip out of Ukraine into another country of the CIS… Armenia. On Friday, August 17, I left Kiev for Yerevan, Armenia (the capital city). Traveling into Yerevan is very interesting. Flights arrive into the Yerevan airport at 3:30 AM! I met up with Lonnie Norris, the CIS field strategy coordinator, along the journey and we arrived in Yerevan on Saturday morning... at that very early hour after a night of missed sleep.

    I learned much about the country of Armenia while visiting there with the pastors. Did you know that Armenia was the first Christian country? Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion… early fourth century. Also, from the capital city of Yerevan, you can see (on a sunny day) Mount Ararat. I was only able to see a dim outline of the great mountain during this visit. I took a picture, but if I posted it and showed you where the mountain was you would doubt my sanity. Mount Ararat today belongs to the land of Turkey, which is a sore subject for many in Armenia.

    Armenia has a rough and difficult history of wars. One of the topics that came up often in simple discussions was the genocide that occurred in the early 20th century. The genocide occurred at the end of World War I. The Ottoman government (modern day Turkey) determined to eliminate the people of Armenia and massacred somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people (mostly men). The people are still greatly affected by this history and speak often of great-grandparents who lost their lives during this horrible time.

    Another great point of discussion for the Armenian people was the devastating earthquake of December 7, 1988. It occurred near the city of Gyumri, where the Church of the Nazarene has four churches within 30 minutes of each other. The earthquake killed approximately 25,000 people and devastated many towns and villages in the area. Many people were forced to live in storage containers for many months. In fact, today (24 years later), there are still people living in these containers. When the earthquake hit, it was already very cold. Most families were forced to live outside in tents for up to a month to avoid further loss of life due to the collapsing of the buildings.

    During the three days in Armenia, we met with the district superintendent, the district’s kid’s club director, and 6 pastors. It was also my privilege to preach at Akhuryan Church of the Nazarene. God blessed our journey to Armenia. What a wonderful group of pastors we have there! We are working through some challenging things on the Armenia district, but there are reasons for excitement and the future is bright.

    The departure from Yerevan is a similar story to our arrival. The flight out of Yerevan left at 4:30 AM… meaning that we had to arrive at the airport at 2:30 AM… another sleepless night.

    Following my trip to Armenia, I traveled to the European Region Office in Busingen, Germany. We stayed at EuNC and were a part of a training session done by Dr. Gustavo Crocker and Dr. Stan Toler. We were surrounded by around 25 leaders from Europe and Asia for training in evangelism and church planting. My desire and challenge is to turn and train others across the CIS field on the same topics over the next two years. It was a great time of learning and growing.

    It was wonderful to return home to Kiev and my wonderful family. Jenni, Bekah, and Sarah did great in my absence, but we rejoiced as we were reunited together 8 days after I left Kiev.

    This past week was our week of VBS at Pozniaky Community Church of the Nazarene. It was a great success as this church plant continues to train new leaders for ministry and reach their community for Christ. The VBS was broken into two groups (younger kids from 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM and teens from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM). One of the highlights for me was seeing teenagers who came to faith in Jesus during the week of youth camp in Ukraine NOW serving and sharing with the younger kids the life-changing stories of Jesus Christ and salvation through Him!

    In the days ahead, I will be speaking to a group of 30-35 singles regarding godly relationships, preaching in one of our Kiev churches, and meeting with pastors from across our field. We greatly appreciate your prayers and loving support of our ministry here. God continues to help us learn the Russian language. We are seeing progress…