Going to the Chapel

On Saturday, we went to the wedding of one of our dearest and longest friends in Lviv.  We’ve known Inna for 14 years, and we were so thankful that the Lord brought us back to Lviv in-time for her wedding day!  She was the most beautiful bride we have ever seen!

Lindsay & Inna have been best friends since they met in 1996.  Lindsay was honored to serve in the wedding as one of Inna’s bridesmaids!

In Ukraine, the bride’s father removes the veil before giving her to the groom.

Wedding rings are worn on the right hand in Ukraine.

Lindsay cried.  A lot.  🙂

Our dad officiated the wedding ceremony.  Here, he’s praying a blessing over them as they stand on a traditional Ukrainian wedding prayer cloth.

The new Mr. & Mrs. Tychenko!

The Blessing Family with the Tychenko Family.

To begin a Ukrainian wedding reception, the wedding party comes in and honors the couple’s parents by bowing 3 times in front of them.

The newlyweds’ parents congratulate them with korovai, salt, and champagne.  The korovai is a beautiful, traditional Ukrainian wedding bread that symbolizes community.

Inna & Yura shared their first dance to Steven Curtis Chapman’s I Will Be Here.

The entire day was beautiful and romantic!  Please say a prayer for Inna & Yura as they begin their new life together.

March of Life update pt.2 (from Krista)

Saturday morning we put on our walking shoes and headed to the march.  I think because there had already been some reconciliation at Friday night’s service, some people felt there was no reason to come the next day for the march.  All of the 200 people who had attended the night before weren’t there that morning, but we still had about 100 people show up.

We hadn’t advertised the march in Lviv very much, except for telling churches about it, but apparently people got wind of it through Kyiv.  When Kyiv started advertising a lot, the official site for the Lviv City Council put up an article about it, and press websites began talking about it as well.  When we had first approached City Council for approval, they told us we wouldn’t be getting police protection or escort.  But, to our surprise, we showed up Saturday morning and there were 2 police cars and 4 police officers there to escort us….by order of the Mayor!  Apparently, when the Capitol started advertising and talking about this, the local government decided it was a bigger deal than they thought.

Jewish memorial at the site of the Lviv Ghetto.

Praying the Mourner's Kaddish.

We gathered at a monument dedicated to victims of the holocaust, located near the former Ghetto and train stop that took them from the Ghetto to a concentration camp in Poland.  First, a local Messianic Rabbi prayed the Mourner’s Kaddish (a Jewish prayer that mourners recite), and then we lined up on the street to begin our 4 km (2.5 mi) walk.  The streets weren’t completely blocked off, but it was a 2 lane road the whole way, and we were given 1 lane to walk in.  There were 4 people who walked at the front, 2 carrying Ukrainian flags, and 2 carrying Israeli flags.  I was glad the streets weren’t blocked off, because we definitely got the attention of all those who drove by us, and hopefully they went home and researched what was going on in the city that day.  We had a bus follow behind us, for those who were older or handicapped and couldn’t walk that far, but most people walked.

Marching 2.5 mi. along what was a Death March route during WW2.

Arriving at the field behind the former concentration camp.

Oleg Vasyukov - holocaust survivor.

After walking for a little over an hour, we arrived at our end point – a field where the Jews were forced to relinquish all their belongings to the Nazis, behind the former concentration camp.  We gathered there, and began to listen as Oleg Vasyukov told his story of surviving life in a concentration camp as a 9 year old boy.  He was taken with his mother, brother, and some other relatives, to a concentration camp in a town on the Eastern border of Ukraine.  One day, the Nazis began loading all children 10 years old and younger into a cart, to take them to a gas chamber.  Oleg bit the hand of one of the German soldiers, and was beaten so badly they left him for dead there at the camp.  He wasn’t dead though, and later his mother and brother came to get him and take him back to the barrack.  His aunt began insisting to her sister, Oleg’s mother, that she take her 2 sons and try to escape from the camp.  So, on Dec. 25th, 1941, under the cover of a snowstorm, a mother took her 2 sons and escaped from Drobysky Yar concentration camp.  For almost 2 years, they hid in various villages until the Soviet army invaded in August of 1943.  They found out later, that the day after they escaped, the Germans began to liquidate Drobysky Yar concentration camp by mass shootings.  Though they escaped, Oleg’s brother, who became a member of the Resistance, was eventually killed.

Oleg and Gunther.

After Oleg told his story of survival, Gunther came up and asked Oleg for forgiveness for all that his people had done to him and the Jewish nation.  Oleg responded to him by saying, “Of course I forgive you! Though there really isn’t anything to forgive you for; it wasn’t you who did all those terrible things. You don’t have to live with the guilt you feel. But, if you need forgiveness, then I forgive you.”  And in that moment, Oleg and Gunther hugged – the grandson of an SS officer, and a Jewish survivor who was left for dead by an SS officer.  Only God can orchestrate such moments!

The outside service was supposed to last under an hour, but we ended up standing out there for nearly 2 hours.  A number of the Germans spoke, repenting for the deeds of their relatives, and a number of Ukrainians spoke, extending their forgiveness.

To end the service, we had the Germans stand at the front, and the Ukrainians went down the line hugging and forgiving each person.  It was a beautiful time and I know that God was pleased by what He saw that day.  There were difficulties in planning the march, but we stood on the promises God had given us that He would bless this event….and He did!  He brought to pass what He had promised, and we got to stand and be a part of it.  It was amazing to be a part of an event that was publicly displaying support for Israel – without making a loud demonstration.  All we did was walk through the city and carry Israeli flags, but the people of Lviv saw that there are those in this city who stand with Israel!  There was reconciliation between the Jews and the Germans, and also between the Germans and Ukrainians, and we have prayed to God asking Him to remove any curses brought on this city by unforgiveness.  Now, we are expectant for what God will do and the blessings this city will experience.

All the Ukrainians hugging each member of the German team.

Thank you all so much for your prayers!  God definitely answered and blessed us!

Ways to continue praying:

* Many in our church are interested in learning more about the Jewish roots of Christianity.  My dad is planning on doing a weekly Bible Study in Autumn, and it will probably be opened up to any churches who would like to join.  Pray that many more hearts will be open to learning about this great treasure of our faith!

* Pray for the pastors who were against taking part in the March of Life, that their hearts will be open to seeing God’s heart towards Israel and the Jews.

* There is still a lot of anti-semitism in the world and in Lviv.  I’ve been reading comments to an online article about the march, and many people are leaving anti-semitic comments – one even went so far as to say, “All Jews (though the author used a derogatory term) need to get out of Ukraine!!!”  It’s so sad to see such hate in people.  I have engaged in conversation on this site though, and one guy has been asking me a lot of questions.  He’s asked me if I forgave the Germans and if the Jews forgave them.  Now he’s asked me what we’re supposed to do with the fact that Ukraine, as a nation, was also affected by the Nazis, and that not all Germans feel guilt for what their countrymen did.  Please pray for me, that I would use wisdom in answering his questions, and that somehow he would hear something different in me and begin to ask further questions that might lead to an open door to share the power of Christ’s forgiveness with him.  So far I don’t feel like I should be saying things about my beliefs regarding God, but if he were to ask me questions, I would gladly answer them.

*Now that the march is over, I’m seeking God to see what the next step in my ministry here is.  Please pray that I would know His will and what His plans are.

March of Life update pt.1 (from Krista)

After 3 months of preparation, it’s all over and done with.  Towards the end, we had some slight difficulty with the other man helping to organize the march, and it affected my expectations and excitement.  But, God in His amazing goodness and mercy, exceeded my expectations, especially at Friday night’s service.

We arrived at the church, not really knowing how many people to expect.  But, as we got ready for the meeting to start, people began to pour in, and by the start of the meeting we had around 200 people!  We began with a time of worship, led by a one-armed keyboardist – the man was incredible! – and he also had a clarinet player with him.

After we sang some songs, the historian got up and began to tell us about the Jewish history of our city, Lviv.  Despite the horrors that took place here during WW2, there is much the locals have to be proud of in their history.  One of the national heroes, Bogdan Khmelnytsky (c. 1595 – 1657), was an extreme anti-semite, who led many pogroms throughout the country, ridding cities of their Jews.  In his conquests, he would write to a city ahead of time, and ask for permission to come and kill all of the Jews.  Lviv denied his request.  Worried that he would defy the refusal and come anyway, they opened the city gates and invited all the Jews who lived outside the city to come inside the gates for protection.  There were other stories of the good this city had done for the Jews, and it was a good reminder to not get focused on just the bad.

German lady, whose grandfather was stationed in Lviv, apologizing to the Jews and Ukrainians .

Following our lesson in Jewish history, the Germans came up and began to share why they were here.  A team of 11 Germans came to Lviv (a total of 150 came to participate in the various marches in Ukrainian cities), and a few of them had grandfathers who served in Lviv.  Apparently there is a bureau in Berlin, where they keep records from the wars, specifically detailing when and where someone served.  Relatives can write to the bureau and request information on where and how their relatives served during WW2.  Over the past few years, people from this church in Germany have written and inquired about their relatives – some finding out that their grandfathers were stationed here in Lviv.  Those whose grandfathers served here began to repent and ask forgiveness for the destruction their grandfathers brought to this city and for the blood-shed.

Germans, Ukrainians, and Jews praying together.

After that, the German team stood at the front of the stage and invited the Ukrainians  to come forward and form groups with them to pray.  A side note that is important to the remainder of this story and how God orchestrated everything, is that my dad briefly spoke before this prayer time and had me translate for him – which then labeled me as a translator between the Germans and Ukrainians, as they only had one translator for all 11 of them (it wasn’t scheduled for my dad to speak though, or for me to translate for him).  So, while all the Ukrainians began coming forward, 2 ladies, one in her 50’s, the other in her 60’s, came to me.  The younger of the two stopped and asked me, “Please tell the Germans that this lady’s parents were killed at Babi-Yar,” (Babi-Yar is a ravine in Kyiv where, in the period of 2 days, 33,771 Jews were killed).  I didn’t know what to do with the information just given me, as there were no Germans near me to pass it onto.  I told them I would be sure to tell the Germans, and they joined a circle of people to pray.  About 10 minutes into the prayer time, a man comes, takes me by the hand, and begins to pull me through the crowd.  He takes me to one of the German men who is standing with a Ukrainian man, and tells me to translate for them.  After the first man finished praying, the leader of the German team asked me to come and translate for him.  I translated for each person he prayed with, and each time, he had me ask them, “Was your father or grandfather in the holocaust?”  Each man answered with a no, or that they didn’t know anything about their relatives.  After a few minutes of no one else coming to him, he leaned over and asked me, “Do you know anyone here who had a relative in the holocaust?” Immediately, I thought of the 2 women who had entrusted me with the information of the older

Grandson of an SS officer asking for forgiveness from the daughter of 2 holocaust victims.

lady’s parents.  I motioned for him to follow me, and we made our way across the room to these 2 women.  I told him that her parents had been killed at Babi-Yar.  He asked me to translate for him (despite the fact that his German translator was standing right next to us – just another God moment in this whole ordeal), and told me to tell the woman he was sorry for what his ancestors and countrymen had done, and asked if she could forgive him.  I translated this to the lady, and she just looked down at the floor.  The younger woman leaned over to me and said, “She’s not a believer and has actually not been feeling well throughout the service.”  It was obvious this older lady didn’t really know what to do with what she was hearing or how to react, never having experienced the forgiveness of Yeshua, or such love that could bring a man to repentance for the sins of his grandfather.  We asked her one more time, “Can you forgive him?”  She looked up and said, “They killed my mother.  The Germans killed my mother.”  Gunther, the German man, said, “I know they did.  I am so sorry that my grandfather and my countrymen killed your mother.  Please, can you forgive me?”  After looking down one last time, she muttered, “I forgive you. Yes, I forgive you.”

I am still completely blown away by what happened that night, and that God allowed me to be apart of it.  Those two women had no reason to stop and tell me of this woman’s family history, but for some reason they did.  The Germans would have had no way of knowing I could translate for them, until my dad asked me to translate for him when he was unexpectedly asked to speak.  The Ukrainian man could have easily taken the German/Ukrainian translator to translate for the prayer time instead of me, but for some reason he chose me.  Gunther could have switched back to his German/Ukrainian translator since she was standing next to the 2 women, but he continued to speak English and allow me to translate.  So because of that, I was able to play a small part in seeing the grandson of an SS officer ask forgiveness of the daughter of 2 holocaust victims, and then see her forgive him.  It was as if God was confirming to me, “You are where I want you and you are doing what I want you to be doing.”  Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought I would get to be apart of such an amazing moment, and yet God allowed me the honor and privilege of being apart of it.

Dancing and rejoicing together in the freedom of forgiveness!

The prayer time continued a little bit longer, and then the Ukrainians decided it was time to rejoice and began dancing to Hava Nagila!

After some frustrations, wondering if anyone would even come, God came and blew us away! It was a great start to the event, and we all looked forward to Saturday with anticipation of what God would do then.

(Update about Saturday’s March coming soon!)

Back in Ukraine

Hello, everyone!

First and foremost, we want to say thank you so much to everyone who has supported us – financially and prayerfully – as we have been going through this transition.  We are pretty sure we wouldn’t have made it without y’all!

Bria and Lindsay returned to Lviv on July 21st, re-joining the rest of the Blessing mission team (i.e., Krista and our parents)!  Wrapping everything up in Nashville didn’t go as smoothly as they’d planned, but it was a time of learning to trust the Lord, even when things don’t go as expected…a lesson that will come in handy, and undoubtedly be repeated many times in the future!  We are amazed at how easy it is for us to fall back into ungodly beliefs that tell us as long as we’re following the Lord and obeying His will for us, everything will be smooth as silk.  On the contrary, He made it clear in His Word that things would not always be easy when we obey Him, but no matter what, He will ALWAYS be with us.  We hope we will always be mindful of this as we go through difficult times and that we will always find our rest in the Lord.

Our Father has been so gracious towards Bria & Lindsay as they have been settling back into Lviv.  The effects of jet lag were minimal and they have been enjoying time with family & friends, and jumped right in to help with construction on Bethel House.  The current project that all 3 of us are working on is staining and varnishing thousands of wooden boards that will go on the ceiling of the 3rd floor, which is where us 3 girls will have our rooms.  It is so exciting to be getting our hands dirty, being a physical part of Bethel House being built.  The only downfall is that it builds our anticipation so much to see it completed, that it’s almost unbearable to have to wait! 🙂  Please pray that the work will continue to progress quickly and the ministry of Bethel House will soon begin.

Bria hit the ground running in Lviv, with her first return jazz concert taking place just 3 days after she got back!  It was an outdoor concert, and the weather and the reception of the audience couldn’t have been more wonderful.  She’s been putting up some videos of the show on her YouTube channel, which you can check out at www.youtube.com/briablessing.  Now, she is taking a few weeks to enjoy settling back in with the family and helping with the work on Bethel House before focusing on her ministry against human trafficking.  She has already begun her research of human trafficking in Ukraine, and the statistics are even more staggering than she’d anticipated!  Within the next month, she’ll be working on finding out who is already combating slavery in Ukraine, where they are, what they’re doing, and how she might be able to partner with them; as well as determining what, if any, other areas of work need to be started up.  Please pray that God will open up the right doors at the right times, and that she will have the wisdom to discern which steps she should take and which people she should work with.  And most of all, please pray for the end of human trafficking – in Ukraine and around the world!

Lindsay has been immensely enjoying all the work on Bethel House.  The current work is focusing on the part of the house that will be occupied by our family.  We are hoping to have our rooms completed soon, so that we can move in and finish the work on all the guest rooms.  The work has been progressing well so far and it is very exciting to see everything take shape.  Please pray with us that the Lord will provide for the work to continue progressing quickly, that Bethel House will be completed soon!

Krista has been working on the March of Life, which is coming up this weekend.  It is all coming together very well and we are praying now for a big turnout.  Everything starts Friday night, when there will be an informational meeting with 11 Germans from the church that began the March of Life ministry, and also a WWII historian who focuses on what took place in Lviv during that time.  Saturday morning, people will meet at a monument, which stands at the site of the former Jewish ghetto, and walk 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the site of the concentration camp, where there will be additional speakers, including a local Jewish man who survived living in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.  Finally, to close out the march on Saturday evening, some of the local churches will gather for a joyful service to celebrate life. Please pray that many will participate in this event to show support and love for Israel and the Jewish people.

Again, thank you so much for your support and prayers; we treasure them greatly and ask the Lord to pour out His blessings on each of you as you walk in the path He has laid out for you.

In His love…
Bria, Lindsay, and Krista Blessing
blessinggirls@gmail.com

Update from Krista (June 12,2010)

Gal. 1:10 – “For I no longer live to please men, but to please God.”

Well, I’ve been in Ukraine for about a month now.  It’s been so great to be home, be back with my parents and friends, to be in this amazing city, and to begin the ministry God is calling me to.  While I’m striving to live this verse daily in my life, it seems like in the coming months there may be more opportunity to experience what it really means.  We are finding out about more anti-Semitism in Lviv and in the churches here, and planning the March of Life will probably be opposed by some.  But, I know God has ordained this march, and it will go on, despite what man thinks.

Since arriving in Lviv on May 5th, things haven’t been moving as fast as I had imagined, but slowly and surely my parents and I are starting to work on the March of Life.  We’ve met a couple times with the pastor of a Jewish church here in Lviv, who is helping us to organize the march.  It was so great to meet another pastor in the city who has a love for Israel and wants to see a march take place in Lviv.  My dad and I also met with a woman we know, who is connected to the Greek Catholic church here, and invited them to take part in the march with us.  Of course, she’ll have to take it to the heads of the church, and then they’ll have to take it to their leaders – so, we’re not quite sure when we’ll hear back from them.  But, we are hopeful that they will take part in it.  It has been visible since arriving in Lviv, that God is doing a work in the catholic church in regards to Israel.  It appears He is giving them a new revelation as to Israel’s importance to Him, and they are acting upon that revelation.  We will begin calling other pastors in the city and trying to set up meetings with them.  We have bought 40 copies of Don Finto’s book, “Your People Shall Be My People” (I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it!) in Russian, to give to the pastors we meet with.  We are hoping that they will read it and get a revelation of God’s heart for Israel and the Jewish people.  We are also waiting for the organizers of the main march in Kyiv to send us an official letter to take to the City Council here and get permission for the march.

On that note, please be praying for us as we pursue this.  Our desire would be to set up a stage in front of city hall (it’s a very central location in the city) to have a short ‘program’ at the end of the march.  We would like to see a praise team sing some Jewish songs, and have a time where pastors from the different churches can repent for what happened here during WW2 and for the anti-Semitism of the church today.  We are praying that this will be a breakthrough in bringing down the walls between Jews and Gentiles, and start the process of reconciliation.  But, to do that, we will definitely need permission from the city council, and we’ve heard that many of them are anti-Semitic.  The other pastor helping to organize the march told us that while talking to a city councilman one time, the councilman asked him, “Is there really anti-Semitism in Lviv? I’ve never seen it.”  There are constantly nationalistic meetings in the center of town that are anti-Semitic, you can hear nationalists standing around on the weekends having anti-Semitic conversations, and there are tons of swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti in the city.  So, there is no way this councilman has not seen or heard the anti-Semitism in our city.  The pastor who told us about this man said that many councilman and pastors just want to brush what happened here during the holocaust under the rug for fear that if they acknowledge it, it will require some sort of action from them, and it would be ‘unpopular’ to stand with the Jews.

We know though that God has ordained this march to take place in our city, and this just shows us that there is an even bigger need for it than we had first thought.  God has told us He will be with us through this march, so we are just trusting Him!  If He wants the march to end in the city with a public display of support for Israel, He’ll work in the hearts of the city council and we’ll get permission.  If He doesn’t want the march to be that big and public, He’ll shut the door for that idea and we‘ll show our support for the Jews privately.  Either way, His will will be done, and the glory will be His.

In addition to that, I’m working on getting all the release forms figured out for interviewing holocaust survivors.  I’ll be going to Germany and France next month to visit some friends, and I’m searching for opportunities there to interview people.  My friend in France has told me that I can talk to his great-uncle, who was a prisoner of war in Germany.  I’m contacting my friends in Germany as well, to see if they can set up some appointments for me.  But, God is already opening up doors, and I’m believing this will be a ministry trip, not just a ‘vacation’.

It’s exciting to see God setting things up and getting to be His hands and feet on earth.  But, while it’s exciting, there are also struggles.  Even though I’ve spent more than half my life in Ukraine, I’m entering a new season of life and ministry, and that brings a whole set of new adjustments in life.  So on that note, here’s a short list of things you can pray for:

  1. Please pray for me as I readjust to life here and rebuild friendships.
  2. I’ve had to deal with a Jeremiah attitude since arriving – believing I’m too young for the job and unqualified.  God has quickly dealt with those lies though when the enemy has planted them.  Pray that I will daily stay close to God to fulfill the ministry He has for me.
  3. Please pray that God would be at work in the hearts of the pastors and city council, to stand with us during this march and support the Jewish people here.
  4. We have had some frustrations with the pastor helping us organize this (due to different views on communication and him changing the plans without telling us), so please pray that we would be able to work together without conflict.

Thank you all so much for your prayers – they are a great support!  I pray you are all being blessed as you serve God in the place He has you, fulfilling what He has called you to.

All for His glory!
Krista Blessing
blessinggirls@gmail.com
Short update on Bria and Lindsay: They are still preparing for their return to Ukraine and are working on getting everything done before leaving. They will be sending out an update in a couple of weeks.