Did You Notice?

Oh wow, what a weekend we had!  I had quite a big adventure in Kiev on Monday that I’m excited to share with you, but first things first.  I hope you have heard of the situation in Ukraine right now.  What started out as a political move has become a huge human rights protest that is shaking the nation.  We can’t help but wonder why God put us here at such a time as this, but we are honored to stand with our beloved Ukrainians as they fight for their nation.  

My uncle, Steve Bittner, has been a lover of Ukraine for many, many years.  Ukraine was in his heart before it was a thought in our heads.  His deep love for the Ukrainian people is one of the many reasons why he is a member of the Wide Awake International Board of Directors.   He wrote a blog post yesterday that did me in.  It’s exactly what my heart is screaming, so I just had to share it with you.  Please read and ask the Lord how you should respond to His voice.  Thank you for your prayers for Ukraine.  

Did You Notice?  (originally posted here)

Take a look at this photo…

Really, really look at it. Look at her eyes for more than just a few seconds. I cannot get this image from a few days ago out of my head. She is standing on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, hoping that the government of her nation will turn towards Europe and will not step back towards Russia. She is hoping.

Look at her eyes and think about what it would be like to be her age in a country that has been oppressed again and again. Look at her eyes and think about the fact that her parents or grandparents or someone she loved was shipped off to the gulag or was starved to death in a famine that killed 33,000,000 people and was orchestrated by the government.

I know that we all have different things that have come into our lives and grab our hearts and make us uncomfortable and cause us to feel like we need to do something. I also know that something that grabs my heart may not grab your heart. I know that.

Ukraine grabs my heart. When I first ventured outside of U.S. borders in October of 1992, and ended up in Ukraine, I was a rookie traveler. I was a rookie traveler who grew up in a comfortable family, and who always had pretty much what I needed. I left the country 21 days later, crumpled up on the seat of my bus, unable to stem the flow of tears from my American eyes. My heart was forever changed that day.

The late October afternoon I left Kiev, just steps away from where the babushka in the picture is standing, Alexander, my interpreter, from across the room, mouthed three words that have haunted me to this day…”Never forget Ukraine.”

I never have.

I can’t.

I’ve been back twelve or fifteen or eighteen times. I don’t know. I’ve lost count. It doesn’t even matter. What matters is that I never forget Ukraine.

I can’t forget the Roma children who experience intense racism that robs them of education and opportunity for a better life.

I can’t forget the babushkas like the one in the picture above, who, in the last two weeks, have again dared to hope that things might change for the good in the land that they love.

I can’t forget the sadness that has overshadowed this land…sadness borne of evil men who have caused grief after grief after grief that has slapped and beaten and knocked these people down.

I can’t forget the depth of the warm hospitality of people who would give you their last loaf of brown bread or that one precious vase that belonged to their great grandmother once they realize you are for real and your care for them is simply that…care for them.

I can’t forget the children in the state-run orphanage system that don’t get the care and the education that they so desperately need. The problem usually isn’t the workers. The workers often love these children and are dedicated enough to stick around for years for a few dollars a month. They simply don’t have the resources to provide what is needed in a country that is an economic wreck as a result of years of oppression and plundering by those same evil men I mentioned earlier.

I can’t forget that my burden is not your burden. I will keep going to Ukraine. On that fateful day in early October of 1992, my wife was standing at the window of the Eugene Airport with our three boys at her feet and their noses smashed up against the window, waving as the plane taxied down the runway, our six month old daughter in her arms.

At that moment, I felt the Father nudge my heart and whisper that what was happening was far bigger than I realized. Now, twenty years later, that six month old is in Ukraine working with those Roma children and those orphans. She returns in a few days.

Now, twenty years later, my niece and her husband and children have moved to Ukraine to work with more of those orphaned children, the lost of the lost, who have been hidden away due to disability. Yes, the continuing story is far bigger than I realized.

As important as all of this is to me, the point of this missive is not that you feel bad or take up my burden, though of course I want Ukraine to be important to you, too. If you’ve read this far, I want you to refer back to the title…Did you notice?

Did you notice? Now, look at the photograph below.

This is a photo I took at the beginning of the Christmas pageant at 7:30 p.m., last Wednesday night, at First Presbyterian Church. It’s a long-standing tradition, put on by loving volunteers, who facilitate and coordinate and hold the hands and guide the feet of the disabled adults who present this gift to the community every year. If you’ve never experienced this event, don’t miss it next year.

Now…what does the presence of several hundred thousand people in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, have to do with a small group of disabled adults in Corvallis, Oregon? Actually, the clue is in my question…Did you notice?

Did you notice these events? Did you notice these people? Did you take a minute to see, to really see what is happening around you? Some events are earth-shaking and are significant. Some events seem insignificant, but are not. Notice them.

That’s my challenge to you. I’m not challenging you to take up my burden for Ukraine, though I do think you should be concerned about what is happening there. (Here’s why: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/02/opinion/frum-ukraine-russia/index.html)

I’m challenging you to notice. I’ll leave it at that.

Just notice.

And then do something.

Thank you.

Lately in Pics

All you all fed up with Turkey? (hehe..get it?)


I won't bore you with a big, long Thanksgiving after-the-fact post, but instead will just sum up the last few days with pictures. Some of which, are Thanksgiving pics!


Our turkey was butchered days before we ate it. Cool, right? Jed did a darn fine job cooking it, despite the lack of true oven settings. Remember this?

Still, we pressed on and managed to have a most wonderful day!

Cornbread stuffing prep!

Ukrainian potatoes are wow. SO DIRTY! Ha! I'm amazed at how clean the produce is in the US. It's a hilarious difference I never notice before.

Jed and his turkey...

Tanya, Addy, and I ventured out to the big meat market in search of salo, pig fat, to baste the turkey. Awww yeah!

The makings of Pumpkin Pie Vareniki: the discovery of the century.


On Thanksgiving Day we went to the big market to buy thick tights for the kids. All the kids here where them under their pants. Cozy!

Pre-feasting visiting

And...the best part of our day! We had some very special guests join us for Thanksgiving. Vitaliy, Yulia, Eugene, Oleg, and Tanya were the best guests. We are so thankful for our friends!

Today we took the kids out for a special lunch after church 🙂

Pizza was pretty tiring. Seth fell asleep on the bus on the way home!

There you have it! Sorry I don't have a lot to say, life is full and good. 🙂


Please pray for Ukraine. There are huge protests happening in Kiev right now, and others around Ukraine. The President was supposed to sign an agreement with the EU this past week that would have aligned Ukraine more closely with the EU. At the last moment he did not sign and decided to align more closely with Russia instead. Many Ukrainians are very disappointed, to say the least. They felt that this agreement with the EU was a step toward progress for this country. People are disheartened and disappointed in their government. There is unrest. Please pray for God's kindom to come here and now. Pray that more and more hearts turn toward the Father. Pray that God's will be done in Ukraine and among it's people.

Downtown Kiev tonight




21 Days of Prayer with Wide Awake

Hey all!

So, if you’re the countdown type, you may be interested to know we’re moving to Ukraine in 20 days!!!!  Yesterday we started a 21 days of prayer countdown over on the official Wide Awake International blog.  We would love it so much if you would join us there!

All the preparation, all the talking, all the waiting on the Lord, and the time is finally here.  It’s Go-Time.  We simply cannot do this alone.  We need the prayer of many, many people with hearts to see God move in Ukraine.

Would you join with us, our church, and our board as we seek God about specific things these last 20 days?  Thank you!!!

I’m re-posting today’s prayer post here so you can see what we’re up to, and then if you want more you can check out the Wide Awake blog for daily prayer points. 

Wide Awake day 2

We are in such a tender season of transition, as we move from a place rich with familiar comforts to somewhere new and somewhat unknown.  You may be in such a season yourself.  May God transform each of our desires for “comfort,” and create in us hearts that give willingly and gratefully for the opportunity to do something significant for His kingdom.  May God grant us all undivided hearts, being mindful only of what matters to Him.