We are safely back in Kharkov and today is our last full day in the country of Ukraine.  It has been a tornado of a tour.  We accomplished everything we wanted and so much more, but our plans unknowingly sucked us into the very heart of the turmoil here.  We never truely were in danger or felt like things were drastically unsafe, but it has been a relief to slowly be spiralling back to the outer regions of the tornado.  I realized yesterday that my friends and family back home would probably be pretty excited, because it looks like none of us are going to actually die on this trip.  Of course, I’m happy to have not died as well, but mostly that is because it would have been rather embarrassing and hard to explain.

There were a few moments of regret.  There was one moment in particular where we found ourselves smuggling balloon animals through a makeshift pro-russian roadblock to visit with a congregation of believers in the Russian controlled town of Ilovask.  This will forever be my definition of “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”  I found myself occasionally thinking, “I bet it would be hard for someone to write a song about some guys that got themselves killed trying to drink tea with an old Russian speaking Ukrainian in the separatist region of Eastern Ukraine.”  I doubt the global news media would have even known what to do with us if something had happened.  It would have taken too long to try to explain who we were and what we were doing.

But every step of our journey has been paved before us in gold.  Just absolute gold.  Both in safety and in effectiveness.  The true weight and extents of the ripples our little stone has created will never be known, but we have litterally watched hearts and minds change before our eyes, not the least of which are our very own.  We didn’t know what was going to happen while we were here, and we definitely didn’t know how people would react to our presence, but we have recieved nothing but unanimous words of thanks and praise from all age, standing and class of people from the major cities to the tiny villages and most interestingly from both sides of the wicked veil of tires and broken pallets that form the dividing line between political mindsets in this region of the country.  What we have found is that all people are the same at heart, and all of them just want peace.  And this fact alone gives me a calmness in leaving.  Serious things will continue to happen in this country, and the future of Ukraine will hardly avoid the dark clouds of confrontation that are on its horizon.  But I have faith that my dear friends here, my family, will weather this storm with graceful patient and righteous determination to persist in focussing on what is truely perminant.  And this new perspective for myself is a gift I pray I never take down and put in a box.  It will rest proudly in the center of my family and will map all of our futures.

Today we will help a new friend move, and then visit a few souvenir markets before returning to the aparment to pack for our flight out of Kharkov in the morning.  I will continue to update as we slowly back our way out of the country, and we will remain as vigilant as ever concerning our safety.  Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement.  Your special role in our journey is not taken for granted or ignored, you have been as much a part of the team here as those of us on the ground.