Two months in Slovakia, back in the classroom, growing kids
Last fall I developed this pain on the left side of my neck that I couldn't explain. I hadn't hurt myself, and limiting my movement, getting massages, and several visits to a chiropractor didn't help. As the weeks passed, the pain got worse. Even simply turning over in bed started to hurt.
It's no secret that 2022 was the most unsettling year of our lives. I slept in 49 different beds and made three transatlantic trips to and from Europe. Our family spent nearly a year living out of suitcases in four countries. After months of so many unexpected events, we jokingly decided our family motto would be, "What's one more thing?" Not long after that, someone asked if we wanted to adopt a baby.
We finally arrived to Slovakia in early January. It felt unreal to move into a place we wouldn't be leaving after a few weeks. Katie immediately and visibly began to relax as we got our suitcases unpacked and put away. Friends in Kyiv sent a couple carloads of our belongings, and Justus finally got to play with some of his birthday gifts from last February. He's already told us he never wants to leave.
I was a little more apprehensive to get settled. I realized I was hesitant to get comfortable for fear we'd have to up and leave again for some reason. But as those first days passed, the built-up pressure we had all been carrying inside began to release. Within days, the pain in my neck completely disappeared.
There's a lot to be said about the power of feeling settled.
After two months, it's still a little strange to be here. It's strange to live full-time in Slovakia and yet continue our full-time work in Ukraine. It's strange to be leading the Ukrainian Bible Institute from the children's room in the church building in Košice. But it's a good strange. It's a very welcome strange for us.
The church here received us with open arms. One brother helped find our rental place before we arrived so we'd be able to move right in. Another sister has helped us get through the temporary residency process. We have been so touched by the hearts in the small congregation here, and we are enjoying getting to know everyone better.
One of the primary reasons we chose this city is that it is very close to the Ukrainian border. Soon after we arrived, I traveled into Ukraine to take care of some business at the bank and to meet a friend who had driven some of our belongings from Kyiv. Traveling into and out of Ukraine in a single day was a new experience, and I will be making more trips like this in the future.
As I mentioned in our last update, we are here with new co-workers. Rob Hindman has joined the staff of UBI and he and his family are also with us in Košice. We worked with them in Kharkov several years ago, and it is good to be together again.
The Hindmans arrived to Košice in early November (which was when we had intended to arrive as well). They have been busy getting their family settled and are also working to get their residency finished.
Setting Up Shop
Something else that drew us to Košice was that the church here said we could have some office space in their building. After a year of trying to get things done with the family in the next room of whatever house we were in that week, it has been a breath of fresh air to have a quiet place to go every day for study, teaching, and meetings. Our house is only a ten-minute drive from the building, which is also nice.
Back in the Classroom
I finally returned to the classroom at the beginning of February after almost a year of having to be focused solely on administration responsibilities for the school.
I just finished teaching for nearly five weeks in a row. The students and I went through a study of Hebrews, and then for another week and a half we were looking at different aspects of Christian mentorship. It was a blessing to be with them each day and to see their excitement about the material and to hear their feedback. I love to teach, and I had missed it very much.
Beyond the Classroom
The Ukrainian Bible Institute continues to partner directly with Sunset International Bible Institute (SIBI) to get humanitarian help to individuals and churches in Ukraine and around Europe. SIBI’s help in gathering the funds has been so important to the work in Ukraine, and UBI's connections with its graduates and its growing network of churches and other giving opportunities has enabled us to get help to where it needs to go. Right now UBI helps coordinate the monthly delivery of more than 2200 bags of groceries for families in over 30 different locations around Ukraine.
Little Eliana is healthy and growing fast. She is smiling all the time now and occasionally forces some awkward laughs out as well. Tomorrow she'll be five months old. She is an easy-going baby, and she enjoys being around others. On Sundays she spends most of her time in other people's arms. One thing she hates, however, is the car seat. Actually, "hate" doesn't quite express it. Loathes, abhors, detests—those words might be more accurate.
Justus turned six in February, and he too is growing crazy fast. He is in the 95th percentile for both height and weight for his age. He has made several friends at the park in our neighborhood, and he loves spending time with the Hindman kids.
He is still a proud and doting big brother. He loves his little sister very much. Eliana has brought out a sweet side of him we always prayed existed deep down somewhere inside.
Katie is doing well, gracefully juggling two children, our home, and even helping with some of UBI's finances. She and Justus keep to a regular schedule for homeschool (which he hates very much). School is a real challenge for both of them, but he is learning a lot. Katie does a much better job than she thinks she does.
Until Next Time
It has been quite a year for our family, and we have learned a lot. God has been faithful and he has been good, and we are thankful to be where we are right now.
Thank you so much for every prayer, for every word of encouragement, for every place to stay or car to drive or neck to hug or shoulder to cry on. Thank you for your unwavering support.
Brandon and Katie
Justus thought Eliana started to cry because he walked away from her. He came back to comfort her, got real close and spoke real sweet and said, “You thought I was leaving you?…Never close, never far. Always medium away.”