Hope's Regional Conference has been incredible. I have met some of the most encouraging, inspiring, and light hearted people ever. I can only say I'm glad for this opportunity - it's one I could not have had otherwise. Two of the most entertaining were Sergey and Sparta. These two men coordinate the Tomorrow Clubs of the Luhansk region, among the poorest of Ukraine. They confront the most desperate poverty among the children of Ukraine on a daily basis, yet their hearts are light and they above all inspire hope in others. That is amazing. I also got to know Sveta and Valodia better. At the conference, they sang the most amazing song about God's desire for all to know Him, to know peace, to know love, to know fulfillment... about His desire for us to meet the needs of the poor both physically and to encourage them spiritually. It was incredible.
After a few days of attending sessions and laying on the beach, we decided to travel to Yalta, the site of the Yalta Conference of 1945 between the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It has also been the resort and vacation site of the former Soviet Union for years, a favorite of Lenin's. A statue of Lenin still stands prominently in the court along the boardwalk. To be in a place of such history and beauty at once was amazing.
On the boardwalk, I bought a bracelet made of the woods of Ukraine. It has pine, pear, cherry, and a number of other prominent trees of the nation. I couldn't think of anything better to remember the country by.
We also traveled to a castle in the Crimea region known as the crow's nest. It is an incredible site to behold. It sets nestled right on the cliff of the Black Sea. We had hoped to see the castles of the Romanov family as well (there are two or three in the Crimea region), but did not have enough time.
One of the most important things I feel like I am learning here is the importance of rest. Last year was an intense year for both Travis and I. We were adjusting to a huge move, a new place, a new life, and an intense schedule. My days often lasted from 8 am to 11 pm and weekends were unheard of. It was a running joke among my friends and I that "this is the grad life," but it does take a toll. I've pushed myself hard throughout my life, but I think I've often overlooked the importance of rest. I am learning that here. Life and time carry a different meaning here. Priorities are different, as are the way people approach work and schedules. While I doubt I will ever take on this system entirely, I am learning from it and hope to strike a better balance.