So, a little more about our church here in Kiev.
The church started as a bible study of just a handful of people back in 1991. Over the course of time, they began to hold services in a hall in a local municipal building. This is where the church was meeting when we began to attend in 1998.
The rooms we met in were on the back side of a building where a government-run grocery-type store and other small shops were located. [At that time, there were no grocery stores as are common in the west, and as are now common here in Ukraine. This type of store was often a large room with counters lining the walls, various types of products sold by a woman who would select the items you requested from shelves behind her.]
The rooms we met in were on the second floor, so we would file in one side of a double door (the other side was kept locked), head up the narrow stairwell, and down a long hallway into the one open door for the large room we used as an auditorium. Try to imagine a long, narrow room filled with skinny, backless benches.
It’s really hard to describe it adequately, but I must say that at one point I had a flash of a thought about those locked doors and all of us in that building, together with the words ‘fire hazard’… it was the first of many times where I needed to learn to just turn those thoughts completely off!
I do no have any digital pictures from that time, but I’ll keep hunting for them! Because our children were pretty young, we wouldn’t often wedge ourselves into that big room, mainly because it was kind of hard to inconspicuously get out again in case of some urgent need, settling most often on a bench up against the wall in the open space at the end of the hall. [Mary was 17 months old when we arrived in Ukraine, Benjamin turned 4 just after we got here, and Anna was about to turn seven.]
We used to joke with each other in those first years that nothing was worth doing at church unless it went for 2 1/2 (or more) hours, and with three small children, in a language we were sometimes grasping very little of, church was a very different experience from what we had been used to.
Over the course of time, we began to plug into the life of the church, not merely attending on Sunday mornings. There was a fledgling Sunday School program with a couple of different classes, so Anna and Benjamin began to interact with the kids and take part in programs and kids events. Mark would occasionally preach, and in a short while, began to lead a small group for prayer and Bible study. Our language and understanding of the people and the culture grew a ton in those days, even though there was still so much that we didn’t understand.