We said goodbye to Mariupol again yesterday. It was a somber fairwell. Having proven that even under some of the worst of circumstances it is still possible to return, it is a lot easier to walk away. We may never come back, but this time it doesn’t seem quite so impossible, and that changes everything.
We took a bus north from Mariupol into the region capital of Donestk. Along the highway were a number of Ukrainian militia checkpoints but they were not stopping busses, and we passed through them without any problems. Not that we were worried about being stopped, because I doubt the militia would have had any issue with us. Confrontations at checkpoints have been in the news a few times recently, but the conflicts are at non-milita pro-russian checkpoints further north in the state where they have constructed roadblocks barring entry into a small town that is completely under separatist control.
We arrived in Donestk and had a pleasant reunion with our friends at the Sunset extension school here downtown. The school has expanded to over double the physical size of what it was when we were here ten years ago. It’s amazing to see not only the physical growth, but the interest from the Ukrainians that still flood the classrooms every year wishing to become peachers. There is a map in the one office that shows pins where all of the graduates now work scattered across the whole of Eastern Ukraine. I have no doubt that this is providing a hidden and incomprehensible stabilitity in the region with so much superficial precariousness.
Two of these young graduates will be coming with us this weekend when we travel to Ilovansk just to the east of Donestk. We are going to attempt to make contact with a struggling congregation with very loose ties to the congregation Bobby works at in Mt.Carmel Illinois. We will stay one night with them and meet with the church on Sunday morning before returning to Donestk in time to catch a fast train north back to Brandon’s home in Kharkov.
Due to the more rural nature of Ilovansk we will likely be in a zone of internet silence for the weekend. I will try to convince Brandon to get a message out over the cell phone data lines to let people know that we have arrived safely, but otherwise, my next update will probably be from Kharkov in several days.
Thank you for your prayers and interest in our travels. It has been an amazing trip so far, and every individual day is worth all of the difficulties.