Thursday, May 26, 2016

3... 2... 1... Furlough!

Let it be known that I... Charity... have given in to the pressure.

Several of you have wanted to follow our adventures on our first furlough. I think it has to do with your insatiable appetite for reality TV shows. At first I thought... wow, that would be totally boring. But then I thought... you know, there are reality TV shows about everything from people losing weight to big families to people who have messy homes.

So, I guess following a missionary family around while they are on furlough would fit right in. Our house isn't overrun with clutter, but while traveling sometimes our van looks like a science experiment. We don't have a huge family, but when you try putting a family of five in a small hotel room our family certainly feels large. And losing weight? Let's just say furlough is a beast that few missionaries tackle successfully on the scale. But we are sure going to give it a try!

It won't exactly be a TV show, but you asked for it...
You got it!

Welcome to our crazy adventures!

3 kids...
2 parents...
1 minivan...


3... 2... 1... Furlough!


Tuesday evening we said our tear-filled goodbyes on the other side of the world in Asia. It is tradition there for everybody to visit you the day that you leave. We had everything packed early that morning and ready to go so that visitors would not disrupt our packing. We had food and snacks ready to go for everyone that walked through the doors.

And so many people came! One after another, they filed in to spend time with us and say their goodbyes.

That evening, Levi, our national assistant, told me, "Auntie, you have had many people come to say goodbye. That shows that you have made a difference in their lives. If you had not been a good missionary, they would not come." Yes, his words made me want to cry.

Another tradition... they all want to go with you to the airport. So as we headed out to the airport, we had a huge entourage leading the way. It made us feel special... but also made the tears flow even more. When we arrived at the airport, many more friends met us there. They helped us unload our luggage onto carts. Then came the final goodbyes.

I hugged all the girls and we wept. Then something happened I will never forget. In this culture, men and women have no physical contact in public. Even husbands and wives avoid touching each other. There are no handshakes between men and women. But for the first time since we arrived on the field, Levi said, "Auntie, I will hug you." There was no greater gift that young man could have given me. He truly has become like a son to us. After he hugged me, another dear friend and pastor reached out to shake my hand. Then another Bible college boy followed and reached out his hand to shake mine.

Even now, the tears swell within my eyes as I think about the love they were conveying by neglecting their culture to embrace showing affection as they do in my culture.

After we completed the long line of goodbyes and wiped away the tears one more time, we turned away and walked into the airport.


You always wonder when reverse culture shock will begin.

Let me tell ya... It starts in the airports.

We landed in Doha for our first layover, but it was a short layover. We rushed quickly to our next gate. When we got there, we had just a few minutes to sit down and rest before the next flight. The problem was that there weren't five seats available together. We spotted an American sitting in the center of a long row of seats. He noticed our dilemma, and kindly moved over to give us five seats. I smiled and said thank you.

Then he asked, "Is that enough?"

I bobbled my head "yes."

He gave a puzzled look and then asked, "Um, so is that enough?"

Slightly confused by his repeated question, I repeated my head bobble "yes" and then said "yes" just to be sure he understood.

He looked at me funny, paused briefly, and then hesitatingly asked, "Are you sure?"

I assured him it was plenty and then we all sat down. I could tell he thought I was strange, but I assumed he was the one with the problem.

My husband handed me a bottle of water for me to chug down quickly before boarding the plane. As I took a huge gulp, the light came on in my already jet-lagged brain. It was only then that I realized the source of the miscommunication.

I had done the head bobble "yes" instead of the American head shake "yes." Americans shake their head up and down to say yes. I, however, had been bobbling my head side to side for the past three and a half years to say yes. The poor man had no idea if I was saying yes or no or maybe or "whatever, you mean old seat hog."

Somehow over the last few years, I have lost the ability to shake my head yes.

This is going to be tough...

The Plane Landed...

A huge "thank you" to those who prayed for my sweet Granny. I have no doubt that your prayers are why my Granny is still here and why I was able to get the hug I so desperately wanted. We visited with her and sang and prayed for her. What a treasure! 

Welcome back to America!

Trying on clothes at the store...
Me: The shirt is a little big.
Gabe, my 9 yo son: (Disappointed) Aww... Well... We can have it sewn down.
Me: Gabe, we are in America. I can walk over there and grab the right size.
Gabe: Really? Great!

Gabe: Do they really do free refills here?
Me: Yes, and you can even walk right over there and fill up your cup as many times as you want.
Gabe: (shocked) As much as I want?!!

Let the humbling begin...
Cashier: Do you have a rewards account with us?
Me: Um... I don't know.
Cashier: Would you like to sign up for an account?
Me: I don't think so, but I don't know. (All these decisions were stressing me out... I just want to pay for my stuff! By now, I am dripping with reverse culture shock sweat.)
Cashier: Well then your total is $....
Me: If I had an account already, what would it be listed under?
Cashier: Your phone number.
Me: I think my number was .....
Cashier: (Types in number) is your name Charity?
Me: (huge sigh of relief) That's me!
Cashier: (obviously suspicious of me and how weird I am acting) You have reward points and saved $5.
Me: Well, that's great!
Cashier: Your new total is $....
Me: (staring blankly at the card reader) Um... I have no idea how to use this.
Cashier: (slight pause... now convinced I am a nut job) Well, you stick your card in there and it tells you everything you need to do.
Me: That sounds easy enough. I hope I remember what my PIN number was!
I don't even want to know what was going through that cashier's mind...


Just for laughs! I thought I left squatty potties in Asia! This is too bizarre!


So I guess furlough isn't boring after all! Adventure seems to chase us around.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

VBS Program (Science Theme) "Laboratory of Fun" - Daily Themes and Lessons

Now that we have discussed the planning stages of a Vacation Bible School program, I wanted to share what I believe was one of our favorite (if the kids could vote) VBS themes from 2013. I had been looking over different ways to incorporate science experiments into our VBS program as a way to really get the kids' attention and help them "see" the Bible lessons we are trying to teach them. Using these Bible stories along with the experiments from Mad About Jesus, was a great success! These experiments are a lot of work to gather and prepare for each day but they add so much to your program and the looks on the kids' faces definitely are only one reason they are more than worth it!

Theme for the Week: Laboratory of Fun
Goal: To use science experiments as visual reinforcement to the daily Bible lessons.

First you will need a Professor to do the daily experiments.

We asked a lady who attended our services if she would be our Professor and perform the science experiments each day. Please meet "Mrs.'Pipetkina' - (taken from the word 'pipette') 
It was a great experience for her to help out and gain this experience. She and I spent much time together praying for each lesson as we gathered together daily over several days to translate the experiments into Russian. Each day I stood by her to help in case she needed something and to hold up verses which we had printed out that went along with the experiment.

Day 1: Theme: Sin separates us from God but by accepting Him as our personal Savior we can receive forgiveness of our sins. 
Story: Samaritan woman at the well
Verses: John 4:1-30, 39-42
Science Experiment:  - Object Lesson 1: "One Sin"

Day 2: Theme: We are saved by faith, not our good works.
Story: Pharisee and the Publican 
Verses: Luke 18:9-14

Day 3: Theme: Through Christ we can do all things.
Story: Peter walks on the water
Verses: Matthew 14:22-33
Science Experiment: Object Lesson 12: "Leap of Faith"

 THIS was a lot of work but a HUGE hit with the kids!
Even some of the adults wanted to "walk on the water".

Day 4: Theme:He will strengthen us if we ask Him in prayer.
Story: David and Goliath
Verses: I Kings 17
Science Experiment: Object Lesson 2: "Even Little People Can Do Big Things"


But, I will take this time to show you an amazing photo booth another missionary painted for our special VBS week. Isn't it awesome!?

Day 5: Theme: Christ died for us because He loves us.

Story: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch - 

Verses: Acts 8:26-40

 This was the greatest object lesson of the week which made it perfect for the final day's experiment. A great illustration that had passersby stopping to watch to see what happened.

We pray this post is a help and encouragement to you as you prepare for upcomingVBS programs in your area of the world. We would love to hear from you if you use any of these ideas.

Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Russian pancakes (blinchiky)

I had tried and tried to make "blinchiky" the way friends give me the recipe (just throwing the ingredients into a bowl and not really measuring any of them) but I could not get them to turn out. I ended up spending way too much time making a mess of batter in a skillet. Frustrating! I just knew it didn't take that long to make these thin little 'pancakes' and set out to find a recipe. I ended up trying this crepe recipe which turned out wonderfully! They were thin, easy to cook and flip in the skillet and tasted great. So, I use this recipe below to make 'blinchiky'. This recipe is way more fool-proof than guessing at the ingredients each time. 

1 1/2 cups milk
 2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks 
2 tsp. sugar 
1 TBSP salt 
5 TBSP butter, melted plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour 

1. Whisk together milk, vanilla, yolks, sugar, salt, and butter until well combined. Slowly whisk mixture into flour until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container; refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. 

2. Once the batter has set and you are ready to fry them, lightly coat a 6 -1/2 to 7-inch crepe pan or non-stick skillet with butter. Place over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Remove from heat; pour 2 to 3 tbsps of batter quickly into center of pan. quickly tilt pan and swirl in all directions so batter covers bottom in a thin layer. Return pan to heat; cook until center is dry, about 1 minute. Jerk pan sharply back and forth to loosen blinchik. 

3. Lift edge of blinchik; when underside is golden brown, flip with your fingers or two spatulas. Cook until top is brown in spots, about 30 seconds more. Slide onto plate. 

4. Coat pan with butter again and repeat with remaining batter. layering blinchiky on a plate. To keep warm, cover with an inverted oven-proof dish and place in a 200 degree C oven.

Russian people love to eat blinhiky with different fillings, including everything from 'varenya' (fruit jams) to chicken and mushrooms. So, choose your filling or just scarf them down by the handfuls like my teenage boys do! :) However you like to eat them, enjoy! I would love to hear what are some of your favorite filings!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I Don't Quite Fit

We all realize that missionaries go abroad and stand out from the crowd. Many times they have different eye color, hair color, accents, mannerisms than those around them. But for those of us, who serve in Asia or any country where the individuals are much more petite than westerners, many times we literally "Don't Quite Fit In". It can be quite humorous at times to see us try fit into average spaces:) Here are a few humorous pictures of these moments.
Trying to use a mirror for an average person.

Trying to walk in a restaurant.

Trying to fit on a scooter. Which BTW, in many countries you can see up to 5 or more people sitting on these.

Squeezing into tiny bathrooms.


Squeezing packages on to tiny vehicles.


Trying to carry all your shopping goodies on a bike like the locals.


Trying to get out of the bathroom without scalping yourself.
This is a sign we see on a regular basis.

In many countries men struggle to find shoes that are bigger than size 8 or pants that are longer than 30".

Many ladies live in countries where a size 0 is an average size and although you maybe a small in the states, you find yourself wearing an XXL.

Men and women alike find themselves running head long into doorways that are smaller than 5ft and sent reeling and holding their head for quite a while:)


Many ladies find themselves trying to lean over kitchen counters meant for women who are 4" tall. Similar to the lovely lady Julia Child.

It is very common to see husbands doing a half squat to shave in the mirror or tie their tie.

So as you can see we make quite the funny scene at times:) You can't help but see the humor in the Jolly Green Giant Missionary.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vacation Bible School - Using a Point System (re-post)

Hello again! If you are dropping in this week we are talking about a great way to use a point system and keep track of it throughout the week of your Vacation Bible School program. 

I can tell you that every day of every VBS program we have held, the day's activities begin with a registration time. We set up two tables labeled for each age group - one for the younger children (ages up to 8) and one for the older children (ages 9 and up). This 30-45 minutes is the time when as the children arrive they can report to the registration tables, giving us their name, worksheet from the previous day, quote their Bible verse, and report/register any visitors they invited and brought with them for that day. 

One of the first things to consider is how YOU will keep track of attendance and  of how many points each child earns throughout the week. 

Here is a basic chart that I designed to fit our VBS point system. It is basic but it works for me! One added advantage that I had was obtaining a list of students from the local school so that I could enter in the children's names even before we held our first VBS. This saved us time by not having to write all of their names in each year. 

As you can see there are the point categories for Attendance, Bible Verse, Activity Sheet, Visitor, and Participation. I also added a "Note" section to the far right for any additional information including the name of their visitor so we can be sure everyone is counted for and points are awarded to those who invited them.

We print up two copies of these sheets - one for the younger age group and one for the older age group. I take these sheets home at the end of each day and use them in tallying the daily points to be punched onto the children's point cards.

As you can see in this photo below, each child is wearing a card that corresponds to his team color (we usually divide the children up into two teams.) At the top of the card is a place for the child's name. Then below the name are "point stars" of (in this case) 10 points value each. Each day the child attends VBS, he is  given this card to wear for the day until game time so that he too can see his progress and be excited about how many points he earns throughout the week. Let me add that the children only receive these cards beginning on the second day. Everyone who comes for the first time (no matter what day) receives points for attendance, Bible verse, and the activity sheets. We do this to give those who can only attend one day a few points to be able to purchase something from the "store" at the end of the week.

Each day during snack time, we gather these point cards, and I take them home to use a hole puncher and punch the points on each card once I have tallied the child's points for each day. It is a bit time consuming, but I think it is important to do things orderly, and it is also so exciting for the kids each day to see more holes punched in their point cards!

The last day is quite busy as you must take time during the day's activities to add up the rest of the points earned from that last morning's registration and add it into the totals. That way the children have all of their points tabulated and you can reward those who invited the most guests, memorized the most verses, and then give them ALL of their points to spend in the "store"!

VBS 2010 - Some of the children with prizes they bought with their points

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to better explain some aspect of these posts so far about planning a VBS program. I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Challah Braid

Challah braid is a special Jewish braided bread eaten on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. You can read more about it here. I am sharing it today because it makes for a great companion to soups, especially pea soup, and homemade meals.  My family loves this bread! It is light, almost like a popover texture inside, and irresistible with softened butter! This recipe takes a while so start it ahead of time. It is definitely worth the effort!


2 1⁄2-2 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour or 2 1⁄2-23⁄4 cups bread flour
2 1⁄2 teaspoons dry yeast or 2 1⁄2 teaspoons quick active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
vegetable oil
1egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
poppy seed (optional)


Mix 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Heat water and 1 tablespoon oil until very warm (120 to 130). Add water mixture to flour mixture. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat in 1 egg until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until double. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening. Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a rope, 14 inches long. Place ropes close together on cookie sheet. Braid ropes gently and loosely--do not stretch. Fasten ends and tuck ends under braid securely. Brush with oil. Cover and let rise in warm place 40 to 50 minutes or until double.

Heat oven to 375. Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water and brush over braid. Sprinkle with poppy seed if desired. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Check bread at 15 minutes and tent with aluminum foil if it seems to be browning too quickly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and cool.