Tag: Russian

101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part II


1. Emoticons are typed differently in Ukraine.  Instead of a smiley face like so: :), you will see them like this: ))).  The bigger the smile, the more of those: ))))))))))))))))))))).  And of course the same goes for the opposite sad face ((((((((((((((((((.

2. Ukrainians and Russians have their own version of Facebook called Vkontkte.  It means Contact.  People can have all kinds of music and movies uploaded on their accounts.

3. It’s a lot easier and a lot more regular for people to take things illegally on the internet including music, movies, books, software, etc.

Body Art

1. Tattoos are not near as commonplace in Ukraine.  Usually if you have a tattoo it means you were in prison.  Each tattoo means something, prison tats that is.

2. Body piercings are much less frequently seen here as well.


1. The public buses do not have an electric strip or a cord to pull to chime a bell.  You must walk to the front of the bus and tell the driver where you would like to stop.  Or, if the bus is packed full of people you must pass your fair up through the crowd.   People are extremely cooperative with this in Odessa.

2. To make the bus stop you must hold out your hand.  They won’t just stop because it’s a bus stop.

3. Sometimes there’s no bus stop, or at least a sign that there’s one.  Ukrainians often know the route and seem to instincively know where to catch the buses.

4. Buses in Ukraine are much smaller than the ones in the States.  They can get pretty crowded at times.

5. The bus drivers are pretty crazy.  One guy I know calls it surfing.  Often all the seats are taken and you will have to stand, hold on, and keep your balance.  Watch out for screaking sudden stops.

6. Previously the Odessa airport had no arrival or departure signs.  Well, a new update — they just had em put in!

7. Trains have departments where people can all sleep in open rooms with other people.  It gets quite hot and uncomfortable and there is little privacy.

8. The trains are all pretty old.  I think they have ridden them until the wheels fell off and then just put on some new wheels.

9. A few weeks ago our friend Mark had the front of his van hit buy four policemen out of uniform at 50 MPH, racing four policemen in uniform.

10. Odessa has lots of narrow streets and no freeways. It is a city of over 1 million people and it hugs the curve of the sea, so if you want to go to the other side of town it takes forever!

11. They cannot build a desperately needed underground subway in Odessa because of the endless paths of catacombs.

12. Instead of a fire extinguisher on the trams you will find boxes full of sand for putting out fires.

13. On the airplanes they give you a white papercloth for your head. Why didn’t we think of that?


1. You will not find paper toilet seat covers in the public restrooms. I had grown so accustomed to this. Guess us Americans are spoiled.

2. Like many places in Europe you will sometimes have seperate small rooms for the sink and the toilet.

3. Sometimes public restrooms will not even have a seat.  I’ve even heard stories of people carrying them with them on trips.

Having Babies

1. Often when people are having children they have to travel to their hometown where they have their names registered at the hospital.  It is quite a time consuming ordeal.

2. Due to the low birth rate in Ukraine, when people have a baby they are paid a good amount of money.  I am not sure of the exact amount, but after a month after birth you will be given 1 or 2,000 dollars.  I believe for each child this number increases a bit.

3. The birth rate in Ukraine do to poverty. The poulation in Ukraine and Russia is actually decreasing every year.


1. Rental agreements can be very unreliable.  We recently almost had to move out of our flat again because the owner was thinking to sell.  We prayed and he changed his mind.  :), excuse me, ))))).  You’d be as well off spitting in your hand and shaking on it then signing any forms.

2. All the flat buildings, even the new ones being built are the old Soviet style concrete buildings. I do not know why they continue to build these types of buildings, it does not seem very time effcient.

3.  These buildings do not have fire escapes.

4.  All these buildings are heated by radiators.

5. When looking to rent a place, you will not have much luck using a classified.  Maybe use the internet if you want to get ripped off.  People usually hire someone to find a place for them.  Once the place is found and an agreement is signed this person will collect their share.

6. The perceived value of the flats is way too high for what you get.  A nice one bedroom flat would go for 100,000 to 200,000 dollars.

7. When they count rooms in a flat they count every room.  A two bedroom house in the States would be considered a three bedroom house in Ukraine.

8. Many people extend their building size by building bigger balconies.

9. One good thing is there haven’t been any earthquakes or tsunami’s here, so that is good. Just an occasioanl flood. Odessa was flooded this year because the drains are clogged with too much litter.

10. Some people have a second vacation home not far outside of the city by the beach. They call these dachas.

Cultural Dont’s

1. It is considered rude to point at people in Ukraine.

2. Sometimes saying thank you to them sounds insulting.  Don’t be offended if you give someone something and they don’t say thank you.

3. Don’t spit on the street, although it is said to be very common for Ukrainians.

4. Don’t where hats inside buildings. No biggy there right?

Interesting cultural things

1. The number of roses you give someone usually has some kind of significance.  It is not good to give a woman an even number of roses, make sure it is an odd number.


1. The handicapped are called invalids and usually really looked down upon.  Many of them are stuck in their homes to be ignored by society, if they have a home.

2. It is not very common to find delegated parking for the handicapped anywhere.


1. People in Ukraine say thank you after the meal, not before.

2. They like to eat Carp in Ukraine.  Of course they eat it in China and other places as well.  Only in the States is it considered garbage fish.

3. McDonald’s is usually crazy busy.  I have never seen McDonald’s so crazy busy in the States, except maybe New York, as it is in Odessa almost every time I go there.  Sometimes you can’t even find a place to sit.

4. Ukrainians have very good manners and are very picky about washing their hands.  Often people will want to wash their hands just from coming in from outdoors.

5. Ukrainians in some ways are healthier than Americans as they are satisfied with much smaller portions of food.

6. They eat a lot less meat in Ukraine at far less frequent meals.

7. It is common to see people come back to Ukraine from the States a few pounds heavier than when they left.

8. My wife is a great cook!

At the beach

1. Many guys are into speedos and it is not a thing.

2. People in Ukraine tend to be pretty unashamed of their bodies and don’t have many inhibitions about themselves on the beach either.  In one way I suppose that’s a good thing.

3. The beach along Odessa is great although it gets very crowded sometimes.

4. The water is a little polluted but everyone swims anyway.

5. Many people seem to live on the beach in the summer and look like they go there every day.


1. In Ukraine they call their cats differently than Americans do.  In the States we say, “here kitty, kitty, kitty…”  In Ukraine cats understand, “ksss, ksss…”

2. There are lots of stray dogs in Ukraine.  Because of the poverty I suppose and not being able to have adequate places to house the strays.  There are quite a lot in our neighborhood.

3. Many people own dogs in Odessa.  It is very common, which I don’t understand because most people live in flats.  They are good sized dogs too.

4. Often people, including ourselves, bring their leftovers or old bones outside for all the stray cats and dogs.

5. It is not good to bring strays into your home as they often carry sicknesses.


1. No definite and indefinite articles.  Russians do not use the words, “the” or “a”.  It is in the syntax.

2.  Russians tend to stress every word differently than I naturally do as an American.  It is just one of several things which make learning the language a challenge.

3. Pronunciation is very important.  Unlike English where you can pronounce words different ways, in Russian this can sometimes mean very embarassing things.  Be careful with your pronunciation.

4. Russians know it is hard to learn their language and respect anyone who’s willing to give it an honest try.

5. In Russian people are usually allowed to mix around the sentences more. This is helpful in translating, at least from English to Russian anyway.


1. I have seen some ads of girls on buildings that definitley wouldn’t legally fly in the States.

2. Girls in Ukraine definitley like glamour and showing their femininity.  A friend who was recently visiting commented that they all look like they are on a runway.

3. High heels and boots are everywhere.

Safety Protocols

1. Often on kids toys at restaurants or public places you will see safety hazards.  In the States these would definitley be some kind of insurance liability.


1. In the movie theatres they use the same 3D glasses over and over.  If you don’t return them they will charge you $50, even though they are sometimes old and scratched up.

2. The public movie theaters show movies in Russian although most the populace speaks Russian.  I have a friend from Russian who can’t even understand them.

3. At the movie theaters in Ukraine, when you buy your tickets you have assigned seating.  You don’t just buy a ticket and then go in and find your seats.

4. Many people do not go to the movies or buy DVDs but rather download their moves for free on torrent sites.  It’s the way people do it in Ukraine, movies or digital products are usually pirated as a normal part of life.


1. Cigarettes in Ukrain are dirt cheap.  People can buy a pack of Marlboros for about $1.20, and cheaper cigarettes for half that.

2. Smoking is extremely common in Ukraine. I think they have the second highest smoking rate in all the world.


1. Payscale is crazy.  Once we had a poster of the payscales for the employees in our flat building.  The cleaning lady was the highest paid.  It is not uncommon to see a claening lady making more than a doctor or a teacher.

2. $500/ month is considered excellent pay and is well above the average earnings in most cities.

3. Most jobs are paid under the table as people wouldn’t survive very well if they paid their required taxes. Most of the economy is in the shadows.

4. In February 2013 a new law will be inacted where people exchanging dollars will have to pay a 15% tax. This is because people will hoard dollars, wait for the value to go up, and then exchange them and this hurts the economy. However, if your check is coming from the States this rule doen’t apply to you.


1. In public buildings people don’t usually actually stand in lines.  If there is a line for some public service people randomly sit around the room.  So, what you do when you enter the room is ask who is last in line and you know you are after them.

Garbage Cans

1. Garbage cans are often made of heavy thick concrete.  The people who clean them out have to actually reach down inside and take out all the trash.  What a time consuming way to so it.


1. The bottoms of the tress are painted white in Odessa.  I have been told that people do this to keep bugs off the trees.  It made sense to me then until I saw they painted the bottoms of the concrete poles too to match.  I guess they like the way it looks!

2. In the summer Odessa is beautiful with full green trees everywhere. As well the white flowers come out for a couple weeks on the cherry trees.


1. Go off randomly.  Sometimes through out the year somebody will start lighten off fireworks in your neighborhood.  What would be illegal in the States, here is a birthday celebration!  You can walk into most grocery stores anytime and find them for sale.


1. When someone is playing music on the street to make money, instaed of putting a cup on the ground there will usually be another person holding a hat and walking up to people.  Guess they have to split the tips between the two of em.

2. It is common to see people faking a handicap or being mute to try and ask people for money.  You can usually tell.

3.  Sometimes beggars can be agressive and even get mad at you if you don’t give them anything.

4. If you get on a bus in the city center sometimes you will have someone get on and give their speech to the entire bus asking for money.  They usually seem to get a couple bucks out of the deal.


1. When posing around a monument, a statue or some kind of interesting thing people, especially girls like to hug it.

2. People smile less often for pictures.

Grocery Shopping

1. At the grocery stores you do not weigh your produce in the check out aisle.  Their will be an employee or two in the produce section to weigh everybodies fruits and vegies for them.

2. Bread is often bought without packaging and I wonder how many people’s hands have been on my bread.

3.  Ukraine has amazing chocolate, cookies, sweets, vegetables, and dairy products.

4. There is still no peanut butter here yet.

5. The aisles are usually a much tighter squeeze in the grocery stores in the States.


1. It isn’t much of a surprise if people get a little edgy or hot tempered with each other and then go about their business as if nothing happened.

2.  Many people are extremely polite and it is common to find etiquette and manners that often seems to be forgotten in the States.

Good Deals

1. I had some pretty good chiropractor appointments for under $20 when I was having back problems.  That’s pretty good!

2. There are places here where you can have good sushi for two people for $15! That’s a pretty good deal!


1. Books are quite a bit cheaper. Usually about half what they would cost in the States.

2. Bibles are usually hardbound instead of leather bound, at least most of the time. There is one modern translation from last year, but they have far fewer translations to choose from than English speakers do.

Good hymns

1. The selection of good Christian hymns to sing is much fewer and far between although there are some around. In time we plan to help these numbers some.


Read 101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part I


Have you been to Ukraine? What kind of interesting things did you observe?

If You Only Read One….Make It This One!

Monthly Ministry/Prayer Update

The last couple weeks at camp has been one of the most fruitful and worthwhile things I have ever been involved in! To hear more just follow the link to the NEW VIDEO UPDATE. If you only ever watched just one of my video updates, please make it THIS ONE. :)


Click on this sentence to read why some short term missions might be a waste of time when they are not relational.

To read up on our current prayer needs simply scroll to the bottom, just above the “People” pics.


Just Before Camp the Ladies Had a Craft Day at Our Place


The ladies figured the first step in sparking a Jesus Movement in Ukraine would be to turn everyone into hippies. :)

…and Mexican Food for the Guys!


What’s a better way to get the guys together than to invite them over for scrumptious burritos. We were happy to have a couple Muslim friends over and had a great discussion over a quote from C.S. Lewis book “Miracles” comparing men to Limpets when trying to describe God.

The Team Prepares for Camp


After the team from South Africa flys in, we head to the camp for some training and preparation time. We had servant leaders from many countries working together! South Africa, Ukraine, Nigeria, Conga, U.S., & Canada!

Campers Arrive


After the campers arrive and we help them with their bags.

English Assessment Tests


Very soon after the campers arrive they go through an exam for placement in their English classes. This is for a lot of us and them, our first contact with them.

Conversations Over Meal Time


One of the greatest things about the camp was all the one on one conversations we had. Meal time was a good time to meet new people. As all of the leadership was very intentional about talking to new people I don’t think I sat by the same group twice the entire week.

Morning Meetings


Every morning was kicked off with some silly song that got our blood flowing. Then we’d have announcements and a trivia game where throughout the day the campers would have to approach the leaders to find out if they matched the trivia question. This gave us more opportunities for intersting conversations.

Bible Reading and Discussion Time


To start off the day we’d have a group come together for a time of Bible reading and discussion. For many, this became their favorite part of camp!

The same group would meet in the afternoon for another discussion time about other topics where we focused on getting to know people and helping people practice their English.

English Class


Gert & I were the teachers for the Advanced English Class, so we had the translators as well. The trick was finding words they didn’t know but would be useful for them. We had a great time and I was very impressed by their learning abilities! Poor Sergey, he was the only guy in the class.

Evening Meetings


In the evenings we met for some worship in song and a teaching from the Word. Each night focused on a different attribute of God. We spoke about God as creator, God as perfect, God as a just judge which was the night I spoke, God is love, God is Father, and finally a Gospel call night.

Bible Teaching


It was a great opportunity to show the youth that the cross is the best display of where God’s justice and love meet!



All the different conversations we had with the campers was what it was all about. We were very relationship focused and is my favorite thing about these camps! From the first day to the last we worked hard to connect with those God opened up. Many were open and we were surprised at their openess. They saw our sincerity and let us know how much we were appreciated!

Optional Discussion Times


The afternoons were open for free time but many of the campers joined us for an optional discussion time. I did a knot tying lesson one day and on another did an intro to the Bible talk. We also talked about God and suffering, had a first aid class, and a premarital talk all of which went very well.

Crafts & Tea Time


Various crafts and tea time were prepared for the ladies in the afternoons as well. We are not sure how some ladies actually made it through the door undetected.



The evenings were always filled with a different fun, competitive, and challenging activity where we had to work hard to work as a team to win.

Many of the campers also stayed up late playing all kinds of different games.

Skit Night


Our discusiion groups each had to plan and perform a skit together on skit night. You’d be surprised at how creative some of these guys and girls are!

Gospel Night ~ Decisions


On the final evening Arkadiy gave an invitaion for those who wanted to repent or had questions regarding it. I was very happy about the way we went about it, not using emotionalism or some kind of spontaneous decision tactic to get people to say a prayer.

I believe for the first time I saw a sound model for how to do an “altar call”.



Of course none of this could have been done without the help of the translators! Thank you thank you thank you translators!

Banquet & Certificates


Back in the City


After camp, we are not done yet! We spend more time with the campers at church, the catacombs on a guided tour, seeing the city center where Daria and myself guided a tour for the group, some time at the beach, walking through 411 WWII park and ice cream at the church where the campers say their goodbyes to the team heading home.


After Camp


After camp is over it doesn’t mean our work is over. The people at our church are very intentional about relationships and discipleship and go the extra mile to stay in touch with as many as we possibly can. New friendships have been forged and a large handful made decisions to turn over their lives to Jesus!

We’re already planning another mexican food and movie night after we finish the second camp.


Prayer Requests


Please pray for the second camp, the family camp which begins this weekend.
Please pray for those who made a decision and for those whioch are seriously thinking about spiritual things.
Please pray against legalism and empty traditions and for clarity of the Gospel both at these camps and in Ukriane as a whole!
Please pray for the team as we need an extra measure of strength to get through these camps.
Please pray about whether or not God would have you or your church to be involved somehow!
Please pray for Odessa!
Please pray for Ukraine!

Missions exist because worship doesn’t!



Get Involved


Some ways you can be involved:

Prayerfully. If you would like us to send you a prayer card to remind you to pray for us we would be happy to! Just let us know.
Last month a few individuals were extraordinarily generous and we are unspeakably grateful! We are still in need of month to month supporters! Please pray about being involved as a sender of meaningful missions. To give, CLICK HERE!
Let us know if you would like to come in the future on a construction crew, to help with one of these awesome English Camps, or to give away your life so that God would be worshiped by more Ukrainians! Pray about full time missions in Ukraine! It’s worth it!
To send us some socks and underwear (or clothes) for the homeless, CLICK HERE!


For More Info on the Camp, watch this video:


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nydAyemH0Is?rel=0&w=640&h=480]

Click on this sentence to read why some short term missions might be a waste of time when they are not relational.



Camp Pics


Many more great pics from camp can be viewed HERE.

Monthly Ministry/Prayer Update | March 2012

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

1 Corinthians 9:27

*To see our SPECIFIC PRAYER REQUESTS, scroll to the bottom. Thank you for praying!

There was a man full of the Spirit who went to preach. He prayed and prepared and studied and prayed and he was ready. As he stood to preach, he looked across the room and there was only one person who had come to hear his message – one. Returning home after delivering his message he reflected on all the hard work he had put into preparing the message. Throughout the course of his life God had strengthened him many times and brought him through many hard trials. He knew that to be a pastor he would have to endure many let downs, and many pains, he knew he would have to have the hide of a rhinoceros and the heart of a dove, he knew that though there was only one person in the crowd, he could not allow the numbers to deter him from doing God’s work. He had to remain faithful and he had to continue trusting in the goodness of God. He told his heart to put its hope in God, although he couldn’t help but wonder why only one person would show up to hear him speak. Finally, he returned home and went to sleep. The next morning he rose early to feed his cow. As he stood feeding his cow, the Lord spoke to him, “here you have just one cow, and do you not rise every day to feed it?”

One month ago I flew into Oregon from Ukraine and I have to say things are going great. There are days when the thought to give up has crossed my mind. I considered throwing in the towel at moments when I just thought I didn’t have any emotional steam left, after preaching in a big room with just a few people, then having to pack up and hit another meeting right away. However, these feelings are fleeting and soon are discarded as the Lord strengthens me to continue on, even when I see no fruit. I’m having to learn more and more that I cannot put my trust in the word of man, but my confidence must be in my heavenly Father. When things looked defeating, my wife and I resolutely determined to continue giving sacrificially, as God would have us do. And from unexpected people and places God began pouring into our cup. Will it overflow?


For the last month I have been going to Bible studies, churches, sending out invites and calling numerous people to invite to our missions presentation on Ukraine. I suppose I naively thought in preparation that missions work would be as much a thrill for people to hear about as going to a ballgame or the flea market. The turn outs to these meetings have overall been very poor. Sometimes I don’t raise one single small monthly supporter. However, somehow God has continued to bless the work through unexpected means, be individuals wishing to honor God with their finances who I’ve never met before, or by steadily growing promising financial partners.

One Saturday, after inviting many people to the meeting throughout the week, only one guy showed up. That one guy was a blessing to see. The next day I went to a church where more people wanted to support our ministry in one day then in the whole last month combined.

For a short season, February through April, my focus of ministry will be support raising, while Lera serves with the church in Odessa. Lord willing, by God’s grace, we will raise the needed missionary support in just three months. Many missionaries can spend up to two years doing this. Support Raising is a ministry because we provide an opportunity for people to examine how they are stewarding God’s money, which they’ve been entrusted with, and because it helps foster a missional vision in the church. It is a reminder that each of us should be as directly and radically involved in the great commission, as God is. In some way each of should be doing our part. In Revelation 5 and 7 we see people from every tribe and nation and language worshiping before Jesus. This happens through the work of missions. Missions exist because worship doesn’t!

I would love to ask everyone to sell their house, quit their job, get rid of most of their earthly possessions, leave behind their comforts and privileges of living in the United States and come help us spread the Gospel in Ukraine. Well, if everyone went, there’d be no one to send out and support the goers. All of us have our part.

Do you believe in what we’re doing in Ukraine? If you do, would you team up with us? As we give our lives completely over to furthering the Gospel in Ukraine, would you be a part of the sending team? If you believe in our vision would you join us with just 10 DOLLARS PER MONTH? If a relatively small number of people supported us faithfully with less than the price for two frappacinos a month, we will be full time, long term lifers in Ukraine, penetrating the sub cultures with the Gospel in a country which desperately needs the Gospel!

To worship God in this way and team up with a solid evangelical team, click HERE.

Please notify us if you have made this decision. As part of these ministry endeavors my wife and I would also like to recommend this financial course we took during missionary training in Odessa. You won’t regret it:

Crown Financial Ministries

We would also invite everyone to make a visit to Ukraine, or any other impoverished country for a time. It will forever change your entire perspective!


Preparation, invites, and many many phone calls.

Home meetings!

Sharing Jesus, missions and testimonies in public Schools, a Christian school and an addiction Rehab home!

Old friends!

Great food and a fish fire pit! Mike is a great metal worker!

New friends!

Bible Studies!

For my Valentine!

Few people!

Lots o’ people!

Signing up for prayer support!

California Jesus!

Praying for Ukraine!

Staying connected to home and my lovely misses.


1. Pray for daily faithfulness on my end and the end of others involved in the ministry. That hearts would be fully committed to the work even when it’s hard or there is no immediate visible fruit.

2. Pray for Lera who will be taking a trip to Poland with some staff from church to a missions conference. She will have to return home alone as others stay and sight see and I would appreciate prayer for her safety.

3. Pray for the salvation of many souls in Ukraine.

4. Pray for me as I learn Russian. Pray for quick learning and fluency.

5. Pray for our future church plant and for the team God will bring us together with.

6. Pray for Lera as she looks for our next flat and that we get the right deal.

7. Pray for Katya and Marina in Uganda. They were having some difficulties with their situation such as not being treated too well in the house they are staying and the pastor were they are serving teaching that it is okay to have sex if you don’t have HIV.

8. Pray for funds for the Redemption book to be translated into Russian.

9. Pray for Christian rec centers in Ukraine.

10. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the field and for the government.

Thank you all so much. In this battle we truly need your prayers!

“And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, [the church] multiplied.”
Acts 9:31

Jacoby & Lera

Odessa, Ukraine, and the World | Then ’til Now | Part I


Today Ukraine’s population is primarily Slavic, whether Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish.  The Slavs have been here since day one, whenever that was, inhabiting this forrested plain region above the Black Sea, with Mountain ranges jutting up along the east and west side.  In times B.C. the Slavs which occupied the area today known as Ukraine, did not have a centralized state, a ruler, or a king, with a couple temporary minor exceptions in a limited area.  They were agriculturalists, people who lived from place to place in huts, and in the forrests along the rivers.  They had the ability to cultivate what would later be called the Bread Basket of Europe.

Ancient Slavic Women

Ukrainian land, which was largely covered in trees, was cultivated by burning them down and using advanced ploughing methods.  They were not only farmers but they were warriors and reported for their extraordinary height and strength.  It was said they did not wear armor, but kept a variety of weapons on hand at all times, were fast in attack and used the surprise element frequently, heading into battle straight way on foot.  Often they attacked in small numbers which increased their effectiveness in stealth approach and guerilla like tactics including speedy retreat.  At times they calculated when to attack a territory when it was at a weak point engaged in other conflicts away from home.  Though the paganistic Slavs had no king and could not read or write, henced bunched in with the generic term “Barbarians”, they were respected as warriors by the Romans and Greeks.  Their huts were spread out and dispersed across the land.  It is speculated the very fact they had no king enabled them to survive for a long period of time because there was no central location one had to conquer, or one king to kill in order to defeat them.  The Slavic culture and mother language originated along the Dnieper river.  Because of their agriculture methods, where they burned down an area, cultivated the land and moved on in a few years, they spread rapidly and broadly across Eastern Europe, south into the Balkans, and west into Central Europe.

Since ancient times the area, known as the Pontic Steppe, the Pontic being the name of the Black Sea back then, and the Steppe being the area of land north of the sea stretching north and a good deal east, was ruled by foreign forces, primarliy nomadic horse riding, arrow shooting,  groups from the East.  The Huns, Sarmatians, Bulgars, Khazars, and Mongolians being primary among these groups, and the Khazars the most civilized among these.  A couple other groups from the west had a bite of Ukrainian territory such as the Celts, in ancient Ukraine.  Thracians inhabited a small piece of today’s Ukraine on the southwest corner.  Later around the 3rd century the Ostrogoths, Goths from Sweden who moved further west, as opposed to the Visigoths who stayed east, reigned strong in the area for a time in the first few centuries “anno domini”, in the year of our Lord.  Finally at the turn of the first millenium the Vikings appeared on the scene.

Slavic Cultures 3rd-5th century

Romans and Greeks also had spheres of influence for long periods of time along the Black Sea Coast and the Crimean Peninsula, surving as economic trade posts from which they benefitted from the nearby fish, and natural resources of the Steppe, including slaves.  The Greeks had dispersed from modern day Turkey and surrounded the rim of the Black Sea with colonies, one of these being a fortress called Billhorod-Dnistrovski or, “White-Castle”, 80 kilometers from modern day Odessa.  They did not extend their borders outward from the sea in the north, but were there to serve as trade posts between Greece and the Steppe lands.

Map showing Illyria, Dacia, Celts, and Thrace

Although at times outside forces controlled the land and forced slavic tribes to pay them tribute, the Slavs were incredibly tough and hard to conquer.  Eventually, invading and surrounding cultures were either slavicized or defeated.  The resilient Slavs absorbed such groups as the Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, Sarmatians, and later the Varangian elite into their culture, and through the centuries never lost there own distinct identity or language.  They were here, in Ukraine, ever since anything was ever said or thought about the area, and they are here today.

Light Green, Scythia 7th-3rd Centuries BC | Dark Green, Scythians after invasion of the Sarmatians

If we really wanna go back as far as possible to where the settlers of Ukraine came from, we have to start at a big boat full of animals crash landing on a mountian top in Turkey, or Anatolia, around 4000 BC.  Noah’s three son’s dispersed and became the fathers of the world’s tribes.  Japeth went to the North, so if you are of Caucasian descent, chances are more than likely Japeth was your great great grandpa.  We know that Slavs were in the area very early because of reports from ancient Greeks who had colonized areas along the Black Sea shore, and Greeks wrote stuff down.  Greeks were always sure to consult their Oracles before heading out on a colonizing expedition, so we can be sure they knew what they were doing.  The Greeks liked their Greek mythology of course along with it’s various gods, including Orpheus, a lyre player who could enchant animals and rocks, plummit the depths of hell, write poems about it, and be a semi-Shamanistic  channel to the spirit world.  To the north the Slavs had a vague undefined pagan worship.  They believed in the spirit world and the after life, but not necessarily a heaven or hell.  They understandably revered nature, as all pagan worshipers, and though they were pantheistic, they came at some point to believe in one supreme god in heaven, Perun creator of lightning, perhaps from Judaistic influence or Eastern Christian influence stemming out from Crimea.  The Jews had been in Crimea as early as the Babylonian exile (587-538BC), so it turns out not all of them headed back to Jerusalem with Ezra or Nehemiah.  Many left Babylon and headed north.  While many became merchants others took to living in the mountains between the Black and Caspian Sea.  So, the Jews had a presence in southern Ukraine very early on.  Some of these would later become the traveling merchants called the Rhadanites.  Ever wonder how all those Jews wound up in Poland, Germany, and as far as Spain and Brittain?

Just north of Greece were the fierce warriors, the Thracians, who had their own form of

mythology and favored the god of the underworld, who rode a horse and ran beasts through with a spear.  Thracians and Dacians were henotheists, which meant they believe in one supreme god which they worshiped but were very open to the possible existence of other equal gods.  Their center of pagan worship was a city on the central west coast of the Black Sea, today’s Bulgaria, called Odessus.  The Thracians were inhabiting the Balkans for a very long time before the time of Christ, many centuries actually, but in time gave way to Roman power, under Alexander the Great, from the south, and Gothic and Celtic powers from the north.  What was left of their culture disintegrated into the Slavs who were also moving in from the north.  In the 6th or 7th century the Slavs decided to rename Odessus, Varna, which it is still called today as Bulgaria’s largest city.

Odessus, Now called Varna

Edessa, Mesopotamia

Edessa, Macedonia

Alexander the Great, when the Greeks had their goldenest years, ravaged the Balkan lands.  In 303 BC one of Alexander the Greats’ favorite generals and successor king, Seleucus I formed a military colony in the southern Balkans called Edessa.   It had a famous water fall and was known for being surrounded by abundant water resources.  Perhaps, this is why the Slavs renamed it Vodena (water), when they took it over in the 6th century and built a thriving community.  Many centuries later, this city would be burnt down by Hitler’s Nazi’s to never fully recover.  The city was named by Seleucus after an another ancient city by the same name in Mesopotamia.

This city has a curious legend about it.  A very sick Syrian King named Agbar ruled there and allegedly, according to Eusebius, wrote Jesus a letter asking him to come to Edessa and heal him.  Jesus wrote him back saying that he couldn’t make it, but would send someone after his ascension, who would heal him of his incurable disease.  The legend says Thomas went and healed him.  There are actually many different versions of the story and Eusebius himself wrote many questionable things in his time, although his account of this seems more credible than later stories which arose.  Later a legend came about that on a cloth in Edessa the face of Jesus magically appeared and that it had healing powers.  It was known as the “image not made by hands”.  This became, centuries after Christ, a foundational argument of John of Damascus, a favorite church father of Eastern Orthodoxy, for the validity of icons.

In the 2nd centruy BC the polytheistic pagan Celts had traveled from as far away as Gaul, modern day France, and also filled the Balkans plowing there way through the Thracians.  Some lived part way into Ukraine for a time.  They spread all the way down into Anatolia (Turkey), and formed the city Galatia.  Ring a bell? “Gaul”.  The city of Galatians in the Bible was largely populated by Celts, although they would be crushed by Antiochus creating an illiterate Hellenist society.  Later (64BC) when the Romans began conquering everyone and their dog, the Galatians were no exception.  They became another faithful subservient to Rome forming a unique blend of Roman-Celtic paganism.


Bosporus Kingdom at height 291BC

Ancient Greek Colonies

Long before the slow and painful Thracian demise, around 430BC some Thracians found a place to rule over some of the Greek colonies which united into a state along the northeastern Black Sea.     This became known as the Bosporan Kingdom which was the earliest Hellenistic culture. Hellenistic cultures being other cultures dominated by Greek influence.  Most of these Greek colonies had been experiencing a sort of Independance, however they were greatly dependant on each other economically and on their relations with the Scythians.

The Scythinas dominated the crop and cattle filled Steppe, and worked out trade agreements with the wealthy port colonies.   The Sythians were renown for their fierce brutality and liked to carry around collections of scalps from defeated men or use their skulls laced with gold as drinking bowls.  Despite this, the Apostle mentions that Christ is for them too!

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.”  Colossians 3:11.

Around 250BC Sarmatians, Iranian-Turkic horse riders related to the Scythians, moved into Ukraine from the east pushing the Scythians down to be bunched up with the Greeks in Crimea.  A surprise due to the fact that the Scythians had formerly been impenitrable by the powerful armies of Persian King Darius (513BC).  Perhaps, after many years of relative piece and trade the Scythian forces were weakend.  The Sarmatians forced them to move in among the Greeks.   This eliminated their access to the riches of the Steppes and created serious problems among them.  The prosperous Greek cities began a decline as the Scythians gained clout in the now confined area.  The Sarmatians would rule the Steppe for about 500 years a little north of Roman intrusions cushioned by the Dacians (Thracian cousins) and Goths west of the Black Sea.  The Dacians had a high reputation of nobility, justice, honesty, and bravery.

Linguistic and Cultural Influence Prior to the Decline of Rome (4th-5th Centuries)

In 63 BC  Rome brought a swift halt to the economic pomp of the Greek colonies and the Bosporan Kingdom became their faithful subservient ally after a few bitter wars.  In this era Rome also defeated and ruled Dacia, roughly modern day Romania, where the mountains were plentiful with silver and gold they began bringing back to Rome.  It was during this time that the early Romanian language began to develop with the strong latin influence there.  It is debated who the true ancestors of the Romanians are.  Of course, this begins to introduce us to the New Testament era.  It wasn’t long before Titus destroyed Jerusalem.  Paul went through these Roman territories and visited the Balkans when he went to Illyria, or modern day Croatia, Croats being southern Slavs.  Paul appointed Andronicus as bishop to Illyria who served there with his wife Junia (see Romans 15:19 and 16:7).

A very old tradition later confirmed by Rome says, Philip the Apostle, who some early historians, confused with Philip the Evangelist, and he may be, preached in Scythia, along the northern coast of the Black Sea for 20 years, performing miracles and denouncing the worship of Mars.  It is unkown as to the fruits of his labor, but he must have won some

Map showing the Dnieper river

people to the Lord because he was later crucified upside down in Hierapolis, or Turkey, which isn’t Scythia.  We can assume he had encounters with Slavs, Sarmatians, Goths, Greeks, Jews, and Scythians.  At least we can know the Mars worshipers didn’t kill him, which can’t be said for many Christian missionaries encounters with pagans.  Philip had correspondence with the Apostle Andrew.

Andrew had made his way up through the Caucasius, modern day area of Georgia and Armenia, then around the Black Sea the long way, up through Thracia where he eventually made it to the Dnieper river.  Tradition says Andrew travelled as far north as the Volga river and the old Russian city of Novgorod preaching to the numerous and unorganized Slavic people, who lived a rugged and primitive life, described as having a tan complexion and reddish blonde hair.  According to legend, when he passed by the hill which would later be Kiev, he erected a cross and prophesied it would be a great Christian city, the Jerusalem of Russia.  Andrew is said to have placed the first bishop over Byzantium, and he became the Patron saint of Romania, Ukraine, and Russia.  He was later crucified as well, in Greece.

Map showing the Danube river

Next, the Goths who had stormed down from Sweden through the Germanic kingdoms following the Danube river, would rule the area of modern southern Ukraine, from their capital along the Dnieper river.  They took control of Dacia, the Greek colonies, the Scythians, and the friend of Rome, the Bosporus Kingdom.  In order to form good relations with Byzantium, the Ostrogoths in Crimea were converted to Trinitarian Orthodoxy.  This may be the very reason they stayed in Crimea instead of joining later Gothic conquests out west with Arian, non-Trinitarian, Ostrogoths.  Arians believed Jesus was created and did not exist before his birth and was inferior to and distinct from the Father.  These Trinitarian Ostrogoths could be found in Crimea all the way up to the 16th century.

Gothic reign in orange

From about 100-400AD the Goths along the northwest corner of the Black Sea had a Gothic Kingdom mixed with Thracians, Slavs, and Sarmatians.  The Sarmatians mixed with the Slavs in other areas as well, namely just north of there in Sarmatia, or modern Western Ukraine and Poland.  Other Slavs filled the land north of the Sarmatians towards the Baltics.  These Slavs would play a crucial role in the forming of the first Russian state.  In the middle 3rd century the Goths would push south into Roman territory.  Rome was forced to pay tribute to the Goths to stop their advance, which was humiliating to the glory of Rome who was beginning to have a number of problems.  This would not be the last time the Ostrogoths had their way with the Romans.  The Goths were having their day.  Further north however, on the Pontic Steppe, the Goths would have many bloody conflicts with other Turkic and Iranian nomads attempting to move in from the east or dropping through raiding villages.  The years 250-650 were a time of intense conflict on Ukrainian soil.

Europe in Paul’s day

In the late 3rd century the Romans would push back north into the Balkans through modern Romania, against the Goths and Dacians, but were eventually outmaneuvered by the Goths through strategic political marriages among the Dacians.  The Roman Emporer Constantine finally defeated them all the way back to the Danube, killing 100,000 Goths and driving out 300,000 Sarmatians.  After his death the land was finally lost to Roman control forever and always.  This would be the first of a succession of withdrawals for the once mighty Roman Empire.

Constantine was there in 303 when Diocletian ordered the most massive persecution of Christians in Roman history covering the span of the immense Roman territory of the day.  In 305 Diocletian became deathly ill and abdicated the throne.  In 306 Constantine became Caesar of Britain, Gaul, and Spain and Rome was divided by competing rulers of the day.  In 312, after defeating the Franks his army marched victorious through Italy bearing crosses on their shields swiftly crushing an army twice their size.   He was named Augustus of Rome.  In 313 Constantine reversed the Christian persecutions allowing them to worship the God of their choice, restoring their property and freeing exiles and prisoners.  In 325 he instigated the plans for the 1st council of Nicea where the main accomplishment was the settling of the biblical view of Jesus trinitarion relationship to the Father.  However, when he built the famous triumphal arch in Rome it was covered in pagan images with nothing Christian to speak of.  He also encouraged worship of the sun, which is quite confusing, as the Eastern Orthodox church has venerated him as being “equal to the Apostles”.

Constantinople and Nicea

Constantine did do a lot for the Christians and he managed to reunite the Roman Empire, which was on the brink of crumbling under jealous rivalries.  In 324 Constantine, unsatisfied with the location of Rome as a strategic military and trade location, began to build Constantinople on the Greek city Byzantium.  Ruling in this region would be an easy transition for him especially as he was fluent in both Greek and Latin, as were many of the elite of the day, and some clergy as well.  It would be completed in six years and become one of the most prosperous and important cities for centuries to come.  Christianity did not become an official state religion until Theodosius declared it so in 380.  From 408-450 Constantinople was fortified with mighty, almost impenetrable walls.  They would be needed.  The Goths, Slavs, Vikings, and the Ottomans were coming.


Mountian Jews


Pagan Polish Slavs

Scythians 4th Century BC




Sarmatians vs. Slavs





Mountain Jew




A Christmas Note to Odessa & the World

This week I was upset about the fact that everywhere I go in Odessa I see Grandfather Frost decor and zero nativity sets.  I did manage to find one pretty small one of relatively poor quality.  I have since been informed that many churches do build their own.  It remains very noticeable though that communism did an overwhelmingly excellent job of removing Christ from Christmas.  Here, the New Year holiday has been exalted above Christmas.  A friend told me they even have red communist stars for the trees and this was confirmed by myself as I browsed the stores decor.  

Upon event of my being a little upset about this and having grand images of a countrywide campaign to put Christ back into Christmas, a pastor friend encouraged me to create a flyer with some space for a personal note which we could translate into Russian and leave with our neighborhhod friends inviting them to church.  Hence…

Christmas Greetings,

It’s hard to imagine the government suddenly moving our traditional Christmas holiday three months earlier to September. Christmas is literally celebrated in some fashion on every continent of the globe. For all of us, worldwide, whether we celebrate it December 25th or January 7th it means something far more significant than a winter solstice praising Saturn, the mythological god of the harvest (3rd century BC Rome). Hopefully it means something far greater than merely exchanging gifts with our loved ones. The Sovereign God must’ve known the comfort and the blessing we’d receive from hearing the Christmas story each year through the sound of carols, the beauty of the glowing lights against the snowy backdrops, and the cheer of meeting with our relatives in a warm home, safe and secure from the biting winter cold. Somehow it all seems to fit.

Historically, when we study old Jewish customs, we discover that shepherds did not usually have their sheep out at night after the “first rain”, which began in October. The Gospel of Luke 2:8 tells us, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Christ may have been born born in the fall. It can be debated whether the 4th century western church Christianized a pagan festival, which took place nine months after the day they celebrated the virgin conception or the eastern church had already been remembering the incarnation on December 6th. Whatever we believe about the past, today January 7th can be redeemed and established in our hearts as a day to exalt the living Christ child in recognition of God’s redemptive mission.

There are many distractions that come with the Holidays and it can be a depressing time for some less fortunate souls. The important thing is that we remember the love Jesus had for us all when He emptied Himself of His throne and took on flesh. This sacrifice of being born in such a humble state, to suffer as a man, was the greatest gift anyone ever gave and anyone ever received. This price was paid for the poorest beggar to the wealthiest snob.

The greatest question for all of us is not whether St. Nicolas is Santa Claus or Grandfather Frost, whether he had nine flying reindeer or three horses, little helper elves or a granddaughter, or whether he has a magic scepter or sneaks down the chimney from the roof while all the children are sleeping. The most pressing question is what the incarnation means to us. We invite you to remember with us the importance of the words from the prophet Isaiah (8th century BC) and together we can put Christ back into the center of Christmas and back into the center of our lives.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

English Flyer

And after shortening it up a tad, translation, and some design editing we came up with a final pruduct!  Praise God!/Slava Bogoo!