Monthly Archives: July 2007

value isn’t all about financial cost or "The Ticket of Great Value"

Last week while in Ukraine, my friend Ruslan and I went to buy a train ticket from a suburb of Kyiv to Vinnytsya. We arrived at about 0825 and there were about seven people in line in front of us. There is a custom I have observed in Ukrainian lines… saving places. The day before we waited for about fifteen minutes to watch the woman close the window because the work day was over. While in that line, a girl asked someone behind us to save her spot. They did. To no avail, none of us in that part of the line got a ticket. So next morning, we’re back at it. So we get in line and there are two windows at this train station the one below for long distance tickets… then there is another one across the hall (behind the line) at which NO ONE waited. She was reading her magazine because she had no customers. It was Friday you see and lots of folks are travelling. So we waited…

and waited…

and people began to arrive who were not what you might call patient. Ruslan and i had a good conversation while in line… and while we waited I noticed those who have made an art of “cutting in line.” They would go over to the timetable (next to the ticket window) and then sort of hang out and wait for their chance (an unsuspecting slow mover in line perhaps) and then they would make their move. Another strategy seems to be going up to someone and starting a conversation and then acting like you have been with them all along… one woman did this and then when she finally got her turn and was ordering her tickets, her phone rang and she told the agent to ‘never mind’ – – – ‘STOP’ she says and then she bolts away, (huge groans erupt from the crowd behind her). Oh, by this time it is no loner a line, it is a crowd.

Behind us was this one woman who appointed her self as the one to yell at everybody who tried to practice the “art of line cutting.” By now it is after 0900 and there were a bunch of people trying to catch a 0930 to somewhere so when one guys busts in the agent (she’s safe behind bars and glass) says she will sell tickets to those catching that 0930 train to where-ever… well, this sat well with no one, some more shouting and a bit of shoving but those people who were lurking on the left, looking for their chance, jumped to the opportunity and in front they went… ‘yelling lady’ let loose big time and I saw the woman in the window pick up her phone and call someone. ‘Great’, I thought, ‘here come the cops.’ But no, the station manager came out and joined the shouting. He sort of calmed them down, but not really. By now we are almost there, two more people to go! and then finally, we get up there and find out the only ticket available is on the “Train of Increased Comfort” (sorry, I didn’t get a pic) so, I took it with no expectations of conditions. I know what I’ve gotten myself into. SO I pay the 11 hrivnas and 14 kopecs ($2.24) for the three and a half hour train ride. Yes, I said $2.24. Yes, for 3.5 hours fast train. (It’s about 300 km or so from Kyiv to Vinn.)

The ticket price does not reflect the time standing in the line… and this is my point. My friend is a really busy guy who has really important stuff to do. But he invested about an hour in line in getting me to a place that benefits him not. Therein lies the value of the ticket… the sacrifice of a friend. Here it is… we took a picture of it…

A “ticket of great value” for “the train of increased comfort.”

Oh, I found out later that the ‘increased comfort’ is not from the physical comfort (there was little of that) but the fact that you have a reserved seat. I will save the train ride itself for another post. Oh, when I got to Vinnytsya, we bought my ticket for the next day’s return train. It took five minutes.

Thanks Ruslan, you proved your friendship and lived Jesus for me.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13


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some like it hot

well, this is the place to be if that’s the case… yesterday in the shade in Szeged at 1400 it was 39 degrees celcius (that’s like 101 F), in the shade! I heard that African winds are blowing this HOT-ness here to central Europe. BBC FORECASTS 105 (f) today here in Budapest. whew, drip, drip… at least we don’t have the USA east’s humidity… I hope that my plane can take off in 107 F temperatures at 1230 Friday!!!!!

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62 years ago today

Sixty two years ago today, the atomic bomb was birthed in the Nevada (right?) desert (eleven years later, I was born). This birthed the atomic age, and was, in my opinion a MAJOR factor in the development of the Cold War. (I just returned from the former Soviet Union and am bringing home some memorabilia from the Cold War. I’ll post more about that later) I don’t know what day July 16th gets… but it’s up there… at least in my experience in life, politics, history and reality itself. I think that July 16 is second in the twentieth century after June 28th but I think I already posted about that… hmmm, let’s see…

I’ve never seen a list of the word’s most important days. But these two would (on my list) be up there. I do know what #1 would be though… The Thursday or Friday (depending on what you do with the day of Jesus’ death) before passover in 29 AD and the Sunday after Passover that year would share #1 (we can argue why the first day of man is not #1 in the comments if you wish (” bring it”) on the list. Why? Easy! Cuz, this screwed up world was, with that act of death, burial and Resurrection, offered REAL peace, from Grace!

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thinking as I watch kids

Today I hung out with Joanna as she did paperwork to live and work here. It is just amazing the hoops that one has to jump through, but it was cool cuz she got a lot done… thanks Mark…

Tonight, I walked from my friend’s house out in Star Mountain (way north Bp) to the train and then rode it to the city. As I stood waiting for the train and on the train I was watching the interactions of the teenagers. There was this one group of kids, three boys and a girl, they were about 15 or 16 years old. The boys had a bag filled with liter bottles of beer. The girls were drinking lemonade in plastic cups. They were also enjoying vodka with their lemonade. As I watched them, I began to feel compassion for them. I have heard many stories about the adolescent culture here in Hungary, indeed its not just here but around the world. In fact it’s the same everywhere it seems. When I returned to the office, I checked the news online from C’ville and saw that NBC29’s top story was a C’ville police task force to investigate random attacks by a gang of teens in C’ville. I think about these kids… drinking, getting high, attacking people… made me kinda sad… Then I think about my own heart… I am not judging them… I am hurting for them, they are out of control, aren’t we all? Don’t we all need the Gospel every day?.

As I walk up the hill from the train, there is this little square with a statue of Mary… she looks down the hill from atop this spire… she’s looking down the hill at a primary school… there was a girl pacing back and forth looking for someone… I looked at Mary, she is lit up by a spotlight, and the girl and wondered what the Blessed Virgin (as my Catholic friends might call her) is thinking about the state of the children, the young people… another block on I felt sad for the young people… Then I realized that I was feeling the same compassion for them that the Father has for all His children… I really felt it deep in my soul… His compassion…

I felt it as deeply as I did once long ago when at the coffin of a baby, I saw John 3:16 opened in this tiny little Bible the baby was holding. At that time I felt the deep hurt of a father having lost a child… I knew deeply in my soul a tiny little glimpse of what God had felt when he lost his Son… no, he Gave his Son… for us… for the girl who paces, for the goth guys on the train, for the girls getting drunk from lemonade and vodka, for the homeless men who live in the park at the end of the train line, for the business man who just picked up his two noisy boys from daycare, for the guy yelling random stuff people in a square today, for the teens randomly beating up people in C’ville, for you and most definitely for me… I need His Grace and Mercy more than anyone… we are so broken, I am so broken, I am so glad Jesus came to make us whole…

Then I thanked him for sending Arden to Szeged, Doug and Lea to Vac, Keri and Laci to Vulovar, Mark and Laura to Budapest. And now Joanna, to Budapest, to these kids… then I thought of the parable of the vineyard… the servants had been sent and beaten, so the owner sent his son… him the people killed… God sent his son for us, to us, to die… tonight one of the boys at our friend’s house asked Joanna a question about Jonah (the boys were watching ‘Vegetales’) and I heard her answer the boy, “he (Jonah) was supposed to go tell people about God’s love, just like us, that’s why we are here” It was a powerful moment for me…

Yeah… we who are followers of Jesus, where ever we are, should tell people along the way that God’s love for them is great. And that He will take us just as we are, and I am glad, ‘cuz I am broken… but like the hole in the wall in Vukovar, I have been repaired, I may not look like it, but He is not finished with me yet…

Follow Him, just like you are, He will do the repairs… that’s what He does.

I’ll not be posting again for a few days, I’m off to Ukraine ’till Sunday.

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A Rainbow in VUKOVAR

So we got some rain on our trip as you may have read in my last post. Here is a cool rainbow as seen from the front window of Agape Church.

I have been going to Vukovar since 2003. I have seen change. The water tower (Thanks Mark for the next pix) is a national symbol… when I take people to Vukovar, I see this symbol… it reminds them of their survival… (see previous post about surviving in a poem)

But I saw two other symbols this year in the two groups I help show around… here is one where flowers have been planted in a yet to be repaired building… (if anyone from EE07 can send me a better pic of this from the sunny day we had, I would be grateful)

Then there is this one… it is simple. As I led a group from Budapest, I told them that I thought this is a real symbol…

The tank shell blasted through this wall… it has been bricked up… my umbrella might give you a sense of its size… I noticed so much of this on this trip… repairs… not finished… just patched…

But you know, there is real hope there… Princess Lea’s parents are there… making a difference… Charles is there… making a difference… so now… I think the rainbow is a kinda new symbol for Vukovar for me… people caring for one another… (yes, I know… there is still hate and will be for a long time but there is hope) Jesus is so there…


Here in Bp, it rained today, high temp was 69!!! Eat your heart out East Coast!!!! So I’m reading Volf this morning on the 4 – 6 tram and here is a great qoute:

“So God is a giver [my emphasis] more the way ducks are quackers more than I’m a biker.” (Free of Charge, p. 69)

So, I wonder what you can do with this quote without the context?? I’ll tell you this, he is talking about our giving to others and why… more from Volf to come…

Sorting through some pix from the EE07 trip, I found this that I wanted to post of the team with the Coppages.

I can’t believe that was a MONTH ago!!!

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EE07 ended on June 30th, when I escorted the team to the airport and watched as they went though security. I missed you guys immediately. I still do.

Joanna arrive later that busy day and it was great to see her, but of course, true to form, some of her stuff was delayed. It arrived later in the week. We hung out on Sunday and then…

On Monday I boarded a train with a group of students led by my friend Mark. I enjoyed another good week of ministry in Vukovar with AMAZING cool weather which lasted until yesterday in the whole region.

Lots of good conversations about life following Jesus with dear friends.

I helped my friend Mark a little with a group of students he led to expose them to what happened and what is happening in Vukovar. We walked the center and I explained what happened. Later we heard from a doctor from NY who has dedicated his life to these folks.

We came back to Budapest on Thursday at 1903 and I bought tickets to Prague (Praha). Joanna and I left at 1330 Friday arriving to visit our friends, the Stewarts in their new home at 2230.

Praha is cool, beautiful; we walked across Charles Bridge (really old with awesome statuary, saw Hus’ church, Kafka’s house (didn’t see any cockroaches though, didn’t turn into one either). But then, as I walked around, I looked deeply into the place and people, I saw the evidence of stronger Soviet influence in the modern stuff, the stores, the folks. As Joanna remarked once, I sometimes feel like I’m in Kyiv and should see street kids.

Ok, I’ve been to Praha; sorry – but give me Budapest.

We came back yesterday on what turned out to be the Berlin – Bp train. It was PACKED!!!!!! most people seemed to get off in Bratislava for some festival. Then we found a section that the air conditioning worked and had some space. It was a good trip.


Last Wed afternoon, I took some ‘I’ time, found the Post Office and mailed a letter. I should post about using Eastern European post offices sometime… whoa, think about that sentence and its historical and current words… Reminds me of the “post outside a pub in The Cotswolds where the post is still standing where the coach would grab the “post bag”… I’m on a tangent, come back… So I go through the turmoil of mailing a letter and then go to this cool cafe to finish Blue Like Jazz (‘cuz I met a guy who went to Reed College who NEEDS to read this book). So I drank coffee and finished the book. Here is a quote that I have read to a bunch of people that I connected with lately… get this…

“It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never really happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.” (p.217)

But, as I travelled through a light rain then storm, then light rain, then clearing but chilly wind… I noticed some war damage that I had not noticed before… so as I sat at this cafe under a shelter from the sometimes rain, but feeling the wind, the chill, I was looking around and wrote this…

Tapping my foot
to the tecno beat
my toes are cold
because of the rain
yes, I’m wearing flip-flops
in the rain.

Here in Vukovar
I look for signs of war
while those here wish
they did not see the mortar scars
on the road, on the sidewalk

RPG holes in the side of apartments
while in the next flat
flowers in pots on the balcony
tecno beat, wind blows cold
Vokovar cold in July.

Blast holes in walls from tanks
reminds me of scenes from The Pianist
While in the flat above the hole
life goes on as I see curtains blow from
the Vokovar cold in July

Flowers and curtains show me that
survival happens.
We have been surviving
since the fall, surviving in
the Vukovar cold in July

Walking down the street,
I see signs of repair.
A window has a new beam above it
new brick around this new window
shows the shaping of a former
gaping hole,
now repaired but not finished

The wind blows cold
the tenco beat in the cafe drives
my toes that are cold on
this 4th of July in the
Vukovar cold in July

Well, that’s it for this morning. I resting in Bp for three days. Heading to Kyiv and Vinnitsya on Thursday.

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