RIDE Event Recap & Home Again

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Thank you to everyone who supported me, whether in prayer or financially or other ways, during my time in Australia. It means so much to me.

Thanks to your support, I was able to stay for the Sydney RIDE event! It was a lovely event that I hope and pray glorified God by bringing in an awareness of the plight of refugees along with funds for those projects who help refugees around the world.

I worked on the kids’ track, which had stops that asked the kids to think about what it would be like to be a refugee.

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I was also honored to do the prayer at the event. It was a lovely wrap up to my time in Australia.

I am now home and enjoying reconnecting with those around me. Praise God that my travels were safe!

Thank you again, to everyone who supported me.

Colossians 1:10-14

10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Philippians 3:14

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

God bless,

Oksana

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Back to Minnesota!?

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Luke 12:27-28

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

 

One of my favorite things about Australia is the wonderful gardens that people have right in their yards! I hope you enjoy these photos of flowers, just a little glimpse into my daily walk to the bus stop and God’s creation. The flowers seem very odd to me because they still grow in winter because it rarely gets below freezing!

Despite the lovely flowers, I am looking forward to coming home! I plan to be home and settled by early September! Hooray! My tickets have been purchased and I am eagerly waiting to see everyone in MN again!

Below are some praises and prayer requests. Thank you SO MUCH to my supporters who have been praying or giving. It means a lot.

 

Praises:

  • My presentation to a local school went well and that God filled me with calmness before I talked to the students
  • I will be able to reconnect with family and friends and my boyfriend very soon
  • The work that God has enabled me to get done while I’m here

Prayer Requests:

  • A focus on God and my ministry here
  • A RIDE event that brings glory to God and for the safety of all participating
  • That I will cherish my time here up until departure
  • Safe travels back home
  • A smooth transition back to Minnesota

The focus of this last month is the RIDE event. I’ve been writing media releases, contacting groups and people who might be interested in riding in the event, promoting the event via social media and updating our task lists so future planners know what needs to be done and when/how we accomplished those tasks. I also gave a presentation to school students and to my church about RIDE. The RIDE event is about raising funds and awareness of the refugee crisis around the world and to help people show love to others. It is great to use skills I learned in college and prior internships for God’s glory.

As RIDE approaches and my time here comes to a close, I want to shout-out to the Cheng family. Geoff, Deb, Liam and Selina have become my Aussie family while I’m here and they are so dear to my heart. They’ve invited me to family outings, celebrated with me and comforted me when I was down. I’m so thankful for this family.

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My Aussie Family – the Chengs!

I also want to shout out to the staff at ITeams and the families who have so graciously hosted me, both the Vellas and the Mallisons! They have all helped me grow as a Christian and taken care of me while I’m here in Australia and I am very grateful. Thank you all! 

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 ITeams Staff 2017

 Look for one last post when I return home!

Ghazals, Church Birthday Celebrations & the Harbor Bridge

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During the month of June, I spent time with my Dad when he came to visit, prepared for the RIDE event and attended events for the Sydney Refugee Team.

One SRT event was a prayer night during refugee week. Another was hosting some of our refugee friends for a dinner to celebrate the shortest day of the year. In Iran, they do a big celebration for the day so Julie, Matt (the lovely people I am staying with) and I tried to recreate that for our refugee friends.

This included pomegranates (there’s an easy way to get those seeds out that one of my refugee friends taught me), watermelon, candles and heaps of food. We also read some ghazals, which is a form of poetry. It was a lovely evening of fellowship.

 

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Below is one of the ghazals I wrote:

I thank Jesus for His Sacrifice
The way He died for human vice

I no longer need to rely on fate or the universe
My life is much more than a roll of the dice

I am wholly dependent on God
And His son who died to pay the price

I now have brothers and sisters
With whom I share life and advice

My heart no longer beats for this world
The ultimate lure is not merchandise

I cannot wait for heaven
Where believers live with God in paradise

Additionally, I attended a Persian church for its fifth birthday celebration with a few of my co-workers. The church service was all in Persian and one of the church members kindly translated for us during the sermon. There was a power point of pictures from prior years and we even sang happy birthday to the church! The evening ended with big meal and this massive cake that our refugee friend made. My friend Julie was also along for the celebration and reminded me that it was beautiful that God is worshiped in all languages, which was helpful to hear.

The service got me to process language barriers in a way I hadn’t before. Many refugees I know are in English classes and learning as they go. But my heart really went out to people who come in not knowing any English, and especially their first few days in a foreign country. It was a very frustrating experience not knowing what was being said at the service and trying to pray or concentrate during worship.

My Dad and I had a great time when he came to visit. Here is a photo of us on top of the harbor bridge:

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Praises

  • Praise God that my Dad got to visit and that all of our travels were safe
  • Praise God for all those who have supported me through prayer and giving during my time in Australia with International Teams

Prayer Requests

  • Pray I keep my mind on Jesus and work as if for Him
  • Pray that God will comfort refugees as they get used to new languages and customs
  • Pray that the RIDE event will glorify God

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Blessings,
Oksana

Arvos in Straya

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Hello to my wonderful supporters!

You might ask…Why does Oksana work with refugees? What does Oksana’s work with refugees look like?

The Refugee Highway Introduction (2016), from the International Association for Refugees, is a great place to start in answering these questions (copy and paste vimeo link above into your browser to view). But to summarize, there are over 65 million displaced people in the world. As Christians, God calls us to love those around us. The following verse also summarizes it well for me.

Leviticus 19:34

“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Working alongside refugees is meaningful ministry. Sometimes it just means sitting with them and having a simple conversation to help them learn English. Many times, whether they are Christian or Muslim, they are often happy to let us pray for them at the end of a visit.

One of my new refugee friends just finished up chemotherapy and is currently in nursing school while her husband is going through English classes. Another family is facing a much more somber situation, where we bring food to a mother with five kids and her husband who has cancer. The help we provide is really important to the family, and a wonderful opportunity to share the hope of Jesus.

Despite their difficult situations, the hospitality of the refugees is something that has really touched my heart. Our visits to the homes of our refugee friends almost always include coffee and also biscuits.

Besides working with refugees, I am doing administrative work alongside the team leaders of the Syndey Refugee Team. During the past month, this included planning a wonderful Volunteer Connection Arvo.* We had discussion, training (on vicarious trauma – SEE PICTURE!), prayer, a devotional and lunch! It was great to get to see the volunteers get some time where they could be rejuvenated through fellowship with other volunteers and time with Jesus.

On Fridays, I help with the planning of Ride for Refugees, a family-friendly cycling event, currently held in three different cities in Australia (Sydney, Toowoomba, Brisbane). It has been really wonderful to be able to take the skills I learned from working on citywide events and use them here! Abby (my Ride for Refugees supervisor) and I can see how God set up my planning experience for great use here.

We are working on our master planning sheet for the event and prioritizing what needs to get done and when. I am also keeping in contact with past riders through social media and email updates.

If you want to help me stay longer in Australia (up to just under a year), you can become a monthly donor here https://give.iteams.us/.

 

You might also ask …how does Oksana talk, now that she is in Australia?

Below is some Aussie (Australian) lingo!

Australia – Straya

Fish and French Fries – Fish and Chips

Cookies – Biscuts

MacDonalds – Maccas

Sunglasses – Sunnies

Breakfast – Brekkie

How are you? – How are you going?

University – Uni

*Afternoon – Arvo

I think – I reckon

Friends – Mates

Lots – Heaps

Thank you – Ta

Joking – Mucking around

Barbeque – Barbie

Gas station – Servo

Pickup truck – Ute

 

Finally, you might wonder…Is Nick (Oksana’s boyfriend) coming to visit?

Yes! Nick is visiting along with our friend David in early April. I am so excited for their visit.   I’m grateful to Rod and Abby for allowing the boys to stay with them. We plan to visit the beach, go into the city and attend a BBQ that I am thankful to my super cool supervisor for hosting.

Praises:

  • Thank the Lord that the heat has subsided!!!!! Yay.
  • Thank the Lord that I am feeling much more settled in to Australia after being here for two and a half months.
  • Thank the Lord for my fantastic co-workers at International Teams who have helped me settle in.

Prayer requests:

  • Pray I will hold steady in my faith and desire God above things of this world.
  • Pray for the refugees, many of whom have experienced a lot of trauma on their way to Australia.
  • Pray that God will work in the hearts of the non-Christian refugees we help.

 

Thank you so much for your support! Comment below to let me know you are praying or with future questions you want me to answer in blog posts!

 

What’s New in Australia?

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What I’m Learning

I had this subconscious idea that all people who were sharing God’s message overseas were perfect. They were these selfless, doubtless, altruistic people who gave up everything and no longer had needs.

Sound a bit drastic? Perhaps it is. But I think a little part of me believed it.

What I’ve realized since being here is that my stereotypes were wrong. Even during my work here, no one in the office works 7 days in a week. We work regular work hours and then take time to recharge so we can fully show Jesus’ love to those around us. God rested on the 7th day and calls us to rest. I’ve made mistakes while here, like missing my bus.

I’ve had my doubts. Sometimes the Bible is quite confusing and needs working through! I’ve learned more about theology, like different ideas of Calvinists and Armenians. I’ve also delved into God’s verses about showing love to everyone around us as we do our ministry.

But, despite all of that, I am so thankful to be doing God’s work here in Australia. I’ve realized that, just like God said, I’m the imperfect one and his light shines through despite that. I’m thankful that Jesus paid for my sins on the cross. I’m thankful to know no one is perfect and also that God gives us specific gifts to put to use in our daily lives.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

 

What I’m Doing

While here, I get to watch God show his glory in action, despite my imperfections, while I work with International Teams on a variety of projects.

Three days a week, I work with the Sydney Refugee Team (SRT). Our team visits refugees, many from the Middle East. I now know 4-5 Iranian families and have met refugees from Iraq, Egypt and Myanmar (Burma). We bring food parcels to 16 families (see photos of us packing them!) each week as it is very hard for the refugees to find work. Some refugees are not allowed to even apply for work, depending on their VISA Status. While my VISA took 10 months to apply for, it is a small fraction of the time the refugees often wait for VISAs. Some are in limbo for five years or more. Also, we bring our friendship and prayer to the refugee families as they adjust to a new culture and sort through the trauma many of them experienced on their way to Australia.

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The culture of the refugee families is very hospitable. I am constantly being offered treats and tea or coffee. I’ve learned I love Persian food, thanks to E who cooked Ghormeh Sabzi, a Persian stew. The refugees also ask us about some of the mail they get, as their English is not always extensive enough for documents that come in the mail.

I am so thankful that God and YOU – my supporters – make it possible to do the work I am doing here. It means a lot that you are supporting me in this role.

As an organization, we want to ensure our volunteers thrive and thus, part of my role, for one day each week in the National Office, is to help develop a volunteer care plan. The plan is for the many volunteers who faithfully serve through International Teams. SRT has around 50 volunteers and Streetlight has 6 or 7.

The last day of the week, I work with RIDE for Refugees. This is a family-friendly cycling event to raise money and awareness for refugee causes in Australia and around the world. Last year there was $127,000 AUD raised, touching many lives. My role with RIDE is with planning, posting on social media and raising awareness about the event. RIDE is held in three locations: Sydney, Brisbane and Toowoomba three separate dates over August and September. At this stage, my funding sees me to July or August, but not through to all of the events. I love the days where I get to plan RIDE because I can put my administrative skills from past internships to work!

All of the days of the week, I’m getting used to currency conversions, people driving on the wrong side of the road, homesickness and the HEAT.

Today is the hottest day since I’ve been here and it’s 111 F this arvo (afternoon). Right now I’m in the aircon (Aussies shorten everything). We usually have one or two days a week that is between 98 and 107. That being said, this is the hottest year in Australia for the past 150 years. Thankfully, February is the last month of summer!

 

Below are some praises and prayer requests!

Praises:

  • I can now use the public transportation tolerably well
  • The family I am staying with are lovely, kind and accommodating
  • I’ve gotten to try lots of food from different cultures like Vietnam and Mali

Prayer requests:

  • For the refugees and opportunities to share Jesus’ love during our visits
  • For my adjustment to the weather
  • That planning for RIDE for Refugees goes smoothly and we can work ahead

 

Blessings,

Oksana

Arrived and in Australia

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G’day mate!

Many thanks to my supporters who sent me to Australia! I arrived a few days ago and am thankful to the Lord for His provision of safe travels. My flights were quite long, but I made all of my connections (with only a little running).

Upon arrival, I was greeted by Deb and her two wonderful kids, whom I already think of as my Aussie brother and sister. They made me signs (see below) and International Teams got me a welcome bag with sunscreen (50 spf) and some fun Aussie food.

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So far, I’ve been addressed as “my love” and “darling” more in my 5 days here than my 22 years in America. I love the funny and endearing Australian greetings!

I’ve been quite homesick the first week but I know as time passes, I’ll continue meeting great people who will make goodbyes at the end of my stay very difficult.

The first few days have been a whirlwind of Aussie culture, between learning the public transportation system, meeting the family I am staying with and a LOT of sleeping. I accidentally took a nap the first day that lasted 7 hours. Thankfully my host family stayed up and let me have dinner at 10pm Aussie time. They are very sweet and have a wonderful home.

I started work at the International Teams office on Monday, now that I’m a bit more adjusted to the time difference!

Monday was mostly meetings. I will be working on developing a member care plan for volunteers with International Teams Australia. To do this, I will be working with the different “pockets” within International Teams, including the Sydney Refugee Team (food bank and refugee visits) and the Streetlight program. I’ll post a blog in about a month with more details on each aspect of my job and hopefully a few stories!

Praises

  • Safe travels here
  • A wonderful family to board with
  • Learning the new culture

Prayer Requests

  • Adjusting to the time and weather change (it was a crazy 107 F last Friday, which is hot even for Australians)
  • That I will continue to integrate and feel less homesick

If you’d like to stay in contact, please message me on Facebook, email me or get WhatsApp or Skype! I do not have international data for regular texts and calls and have somewhat limited wifi. I also would really appreciate letters! Message me if you want my address.

Thank you again to all of you and to God Almighty for supporting me!

 

 

 

 

 

The VISA Arrives! Now is the time to be a supporter!

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After waiting and waiting and waiting, my VISA has arrived!

YAY!

It was a bit shocking how quickly it got here. My background check through the FBI that I needed to submit the VISA took 2-3 months (the first time and the resubmission).

The VISA took 3 weeks.

Given my newly acquired VISA, I will leave soon! I already committed to one month as a temporary hire with the City of Ramsey (thanks so much to Ramsey!) prior to receiving my VISA in record time and am looking forward to working there and spending time with family over the holidays.

The plan is to leave in mid-January and arrive in Australia just in time for summer!

I am not funded for an entire year, only about six months at this point. If you are not yet a supporter, please let me know if you want to pray for me or support me financially (https://give.iteams.us). Can’t remember what I’ll be doing while there? Scroll down, as I have a recap in previous posts 🙂

Thank you all for your support and waiting with me! I’m told sometimes God makes people wait to help them grow. Hopefully this means I’ve grown a lot!

Please pray that:

  • Planning goes well between buying plane tickets and packing
  • I’ll grow closer and closer to God with this experience

 

Blessings,

Oksana