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Pictured: Kristin Newman, second from left, with some of her Greenhouse teammates

Growing in the Greenhouse: My Summer in Ukraine

MTW intern Kristin Newman spent her summer in “The Greenhouse,” an intense cross-cultural missionary training mentorship program in L’viv, Ukraine. Following are some of her reflections from the summer.

Greenhouse Week 1
Good reflection is dependent upon good sleep. I am thankful that, after seven days, I am now on a normal sleep schedule. Praise the Lord!

The team of missionaries from MTW and RUF Global in L’viv, Ukraine, has welcomed us to their city, their homes, and their ministry. We have gone through a week of orientation and intentional observation, which involved informational interviews with the elderly and with ministry volunteers, aimed at helping us become aware of our presuppositions and the reality of life in Western Ukraine. And yes, we have embarked on our journey to learn Ukrainian, which is what the sermons, Bible studies, and small groups are taught in.

The interview I had with a gracious lady named Olya yesterday brought me to tears during my devotional this morning. There is brokenness everywhere. Her life is full of constant fear—never knowing what the next day may bring. Yet she is thankful to God. She smiled at a missionary's kindness to her, and she implored us to love our families well, no matter who they are.

Our teaching last week focused on what evangelism is and isn't, and it has made me extraordinarily thankful for the philosophy of ministry this team has and the group dynamic that is growing among my intern family. We attended a Greek Catholic service, as well as one at the Reformed church plant in L’viv, engaged in lessons on evangelism after a team devotion, persevered through language lessons in the afternoon, and feasted with several missionaries. Another intern and I also got to attend an English Bible club led by one of the missionaries here, which was an enriching experience.

There is so much to tell, but so much more to soak in and meditate on before sharing.

Greenhouse Week 3
The last two weeks have been filled with lessons on the "roots and fruits" of our faith. They have been transformational as we meditate on truths about our identity in Jesus Christ throughout the Bible.

We have been busy attending meetings and preparing lessons for the English camp in the Carpathian Mountains, which we leave for tomorrow. This is the highlight of the ministry this summer, where we interact with Ukrainian students and have the opportunity to meet other full-time members of the MTW team in L’viv.

We are excited—tired, yet still excited. It has been such a joy to get to know the team and the various ministries better.

Group Photo

Greenhouse Week 6
I write to you all with a joyful and full heart. The last two weeks have been an incredible time of fellowship with Ukrainian university students, first teaching English in the Carpathian Mountains and then on a trip to visit the MTW team in Odessa, Ukraine.

The camp was off to a frigid start on Sunday, with temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We began every day after breakfast with English classes followed by English Bible time in which the Ukrainian students had the opportunity to practice their English skills by reading and discussing the Bible. The afternoons were filled with hobby classes, hiking in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains, teaching the Ukrainians baseball and American football, and playing games at night.

Following dinner, there was a "Theme of the Day" talk, where a pastor would deliver a message relating to what we had discussed during the English Bible time. Most of the students come from a Greek Catholic background, the predominant religion in L’viv. Some attend Mass on Sunday, but most have not read the Bible. For several of the students, this was the first time they had ever been asked what they thought about Scripture.

Two days after camp ended, the interns and I hopped on an overnight train to Odessa to experience the ministry there. The team showed us wonderful hospitality, invited us to a pizza and game night with their Ukrainian university students, allowed us to participate in their arts outreach with an acrylic pour, and took us on a tour of the city. It was an amazing trip, and we even got to celebrate Odessa Team Leader Bob Burnham's birthday! Both the L’viv and Odessa teams made us feel like family. It will be a tough goodbye in two weeks!

Greenhouse: Closing Thoughts
I look back on my experience in Ukraine and thank the Lord for what I learned and the joy I had serving college students.

The stories I heard this summer, and my own, are a testament to God's faithfulness. Our stories are each filled with waiting, hoping, thanksgiving, and repentance. If we refuse to enter into God's story of our lives, then we are left feeling bitter, cynical, and hopeless. When I struggled with my worthiness and feeling like I wasn't worth being invested in toward the end of the internship, God gave me dear friends to pray for me and to show me the power of the body of Christ.

I also learned that there is beauty and truth that we can point to in everyone's life, regardless of their faith. This helps us connect with others in a natural way and build bridges that help us figure out what makes the other person tick. My roommate from English camp, Lera, loves to read. So do I. The first night we roomed together, we sat on my bed and discussed a bunch of Russian literature. We related Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and how their faith impacted their stories. This engaged her mind and began our friendship—getting us thinking and talking about what the truth of the gospel means in how it is lived out daily. I met her exactly where she was and listened to her wrestling with how salvation works and with God's goodness to her. Before I left, Lera told me that she felt loved, that she felt a renewed sense of hope after this summer and plans to come to the RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) events this year in L’viv.

It takes years to cultivate relationships and to see students come to faith in Ukraine, so I praise God for continuing to draw students to Himself and the delight it was to witness it. God gives us so many opportunities to build bridges with others through pointing to beauty and truth—drawing us out of ourselves and into something bigger and far more extraordinary than our minds can grasp.

Despite the longing I have for the relationships I developed with the Ukrainian students, I know that they are starting RUF soon, and there are still MTW missionaries there with them—serving faithfully, using the bridges we helped create to deepen their connections with students.

Serve with MTW on a summer internship! Learn more and browse opportunities at mtw.org/internships. 

Kristin Newman is in her fourth year at Emory University in a dual degree program in biology and nursing, with a minor in religion. She plans to serve cross-culturally on a medical mission team and would love to return for future English camps in Ukraine.

 

 

Kristin Newman, Lviv Ukraine Nov 22, 2018
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