New Year, New Plan

We just returned from a wonderful, relaxing Christmas break in Budapest, Hungary, where we stayed with Cassie’s parents (Pat and Tina Curby) and got to sleep, rest, eat (a lot!), spend time in the beautiful city, and catch up with friends from Cassie’s high school days. It was a great time with the perfect mixture of relaxing at home and going out to spend time with others. We appreciate so much the supporters and other friends and family who gave us gifts at Christmastime and helped us be able to enjoy our break so much more. We are so thankful for all of you!

As we return to our work schedules (Cassie at school and Nate with his job at home), we wanted to share with everyone some of our plans for the future. We spent most of last semester thinking about different options and praying about what God would have us do next. We were starting to feel more and more sure that we needed to step away from Kiev and the overseas missionary life, at least for a little while. Our college loans are a burden on us, and we felt that we needed to take some steps to get all of those financial concerns more under control before we commit to a longer-term life overseas. After much prayer and discussion with our families and friends, we have decided….

At the end of this school year, we will be leaving Kiev and moving to North Carolina, specifically the Raleigh-Cary-Durham area.  We plan to live with a close friend down there and our goal is that we will both have full-time jobs. That stability will give us the job experience we will need to further our careers in our areas of interest, as well as provide us with the financial means to get a better grasp on our college debts. We hope to do all of that while building a community of relationships with new friends, getting involved in a local church, and finding ministries to be involved with that we feel called to pursue.

This was not a quick or simple decision, but it is one that we feel confident that God led us to make. Here is some more information for anyone who’s curious:

1. Why North Carolina? We have gotten this question quite a bit recently, as we’ve announced our decision to family and some close friends, and it’s a valid question– Nate’s family is almost all in New York state, and most of Cassie’s family lives in Ohio. Why wouldn’t we go to one of those places? Well, we chose NC for a few reasons: we already have a few close friends (and many other acquaintances) who live there, the job market for both of us seems more promising than the locations where our families live, and it’s a beautiful state where neither of us has spent much time before! We are looking forward to the challenge of adapting to a new place again, but with some of the comforts of America and friendships that will help us feel that we have a good foundation to start with.

2. What kinds of jobs will you have? Another excellent question. Our goal is that we both will be working full-time. Cassie is hoping to get a teaching job, probably in a public school. Thankfully, her Ohio teaching license should transfer pretty easily to NC, so we are optimistic that she will soon be qualified to apply for jobs there. Nate is hoping to find a job in graphic design in some capacity. His “best-case” scenario would be to work in a design firm, but he will be looking also at other companies, freelance work, and even working with churches or ministries in the area who need design work done.

3. How will you pay for your move and settling in? Assuming that we are able to get the jobs we want, we won’t be beginning them until the summer. This means that we will be continuing to rely on our supporters at least through the end of this school year. Of course, with moving come many extra expenses. We are putting aside money right now as we can, but we will need to spend at least $800-900 total for our flights back to the U.S., as well as the expenses of traveling down to NC and possibly shipping some of our belongings. We are so incredibly thankful for the financial support we have received the last 2 years since we began talking about moving to Ukraine, and especially how God has continued to provide for us this year for all of the different trips and needs we have had. If you are interested in helping us specifically with our move, please visit our GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/60bua8). We will be contacting our supporters individually to discuss the duration of your support as we near our last months in Kiev.

Please read for some prayer requests we would be thankful for you to lift up:

  • Pray for our final months in Kiev, that we would be present here and faithful to finish well the work that God has us here doing this semester
  • Pray for our job searches, that we would both be diligent and not get discouraged when it seems like a daunting process
  • Pray for KCA as they work to recruit teachers to replace Cassie and several other teachers who are leaving at the end of this year (please contact us if you know anyone who would be interested!)
  • Pray continually for Ukraine and Ukrainian people as they suffer the effects of the Russian war in the east. There are continuous attacks, and many are being killed and injured daily. Though we don’t feel in immediate danger in Kiev, the conflict has caused an upheaval in the Ukrainian economy, making it harder than usual for people to survive on their regular salaries. Pray for peace and for Ukrainians to trust and hope in God’s faithfulness

Thank you to all of you who have followed us in this journey and especially to those who have generously supported us, both through financial support and faithful prayer. We could not have been here at all without each of you doing your part.

To donate: gofundme.com/60bua8

To contact us: cass0909@gmail.com (Cassie) or baird.nathan@gmail.com (Nate)

Happy New Year. May God bless all of you abundantly in 2015,

Nathan and Cassie Baird

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Praises and Prayers

Every now and then, I am struck by how many people in the world are praying for us as we live and serve in Ukraine. We are also so thankful for the financial and emotional support of so many people, but we have seen and felt the power of prayer in huge ways during this last year. I’d like to take some time now to share some praises and some prayer requests in our life right now. Thank you to all of you who devote time to lifting us up in prayer!

Praises:

  • SLC: I just had the privilege of attending the ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) Student Leadership Conference in Hungary with 9 KCA students! We were super busy, but we had a fun and productive time attending workshops and hearing speakers, as well as getting to know different people from all over Europe! I had a wonderful time getting to know the students better and watching them grow and learn things to bring back to KCA. It was a great trip!
  • Nate was also able (while I was at SLC) to spend some time in Budapest with the Re-Birth/Re-act team (the missionaries he is doing graphic design work with this year) working with them and just spending time getting to know them better. That was the first opportunity since he started working with them that he has been able to spend time with them in person, which was a huge blessing!
  • We have the opportunity next month to head back to Budapest for another conference, this time with ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism), the mission board my parents work with. This year celebrates 25 years of ABWE’s missions involvement in Central and Eastern Europe, so this year’s regional conference includes not only current ABWE missionaries, but also any ABWE “alumni” who used to live in the region! Nate and I have also been asked to help work with the youth program at the conference, which will be a lot of fun. We are excited to see my parents, two of my sisters, and several other friends during that time next month.
  • My classes are going great! I am definitely busy, especially as I work on three totally new classes that all include a lot of grading each week, but I am definitely enjoying them. The material and the students this year are so much fun for me. It’s been a huge blessing to see how God has placed both me and Nate into positions this year that we really enjoy and thrive in! We both love our jobs and enjoy them so much.

Prayer Requests:

  • Fall Retreat: Another big event coming up for me (and all of KCA’s middle school and high school students, as well as many other teachers) is Fall Retreat! We leave this Friday and will spend about 3 days at a camp outside of Kiev worshiping God, learning from a speaker, and playing LOTS of fun games! We are all very excited. Please pray for the students and speaker as we prepare for this retreat; pray that this would be a time of amazing learning and growth for students. Pray also for safety and good health; we spend a lot of time outside running around and playing games; injuries and sickness are always a concern.
  • TRPs: Yesterday, Nate and I submitted our residence permits, passports, pictures, and money to start the process of obtaining new TRPs (Temporary Residence Permits). Our current ones run out in about 3 weeks, so these new ones will allow us to live legally in Ukraine for another 12 months. Pray for a smooth process, and especially for it to go quickly, as we need our passports to be able to travel to Hungary for the ABWE conference on Oct. 17th! The TRP process usually takes about 2 weeks, so we feel pretty sure we will have enough time, but it’s always a little bit stressful.
  • Winter is coming–and with it, sickness and cold. Please pray for teachers and students at KCA to maintain good health, and for us also to be able to figure out contingency plans and possible solutions if we have limited/no heat and/or hot water in either our apartments or school this winter. We have heard that Kiev city schools are planning to continue as normal according to the year’s school schedule, so we hope that means we will have heat, but there is still a lot of uncertainty.
  • Finances/Future plans: Finally, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Nate and I are dealing with a lot of uncertainty and burdens when considering our future plans, especially as it relates to making our student loan payments. We are trying, throughout this year, to come up with alternate sources of small income (after-school tutoring, etc.) that can help make up the difference in our loan needs, but we know that for the future we need to make some decisions (that will probably be very difficult) that will help us be able to make wise financial choices. Thankfully, we have a lot of people in our lives who are willing and able to help us (by giving financially and by praying for us and giving advice) that have been a great encouragement. Please pray for God’s continued provision (and that we would recognize it and be thankful!) and for wisdom as we work on these decisions.

As always, we ask for your prayers for the country of Ukraine as well, as they are still facing a terrible war in the east of the country that is affecting people in all areas. Pray for the safety of soldiers and for a resolution that is as quick and peaceful as possible. We are proud to be here and to support the brave citizens of this country.

Please feel free to contact us for more information about anything I’ve written here; let me say again that we are SO thankful for your prayers and support! We really could not be here without your help!

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Looking Forward

We’ve been back in Kiev now for just over a month! We have had a great transition back so far and have felt so much more comfortable than we did this time last year. We know how to get places, I already have good relationships with staff and students at school, and we are both learning more Russian (bit by tiny bit). Another exciting piece of news is that we found peanut butter! There are tiny little 250g jars of peanut butter for about $2 at a Ukrainian grocery store about a 5-minute walk from our apartment. That is very good news. 🙂

With my birthday this past week and realizing that we have been living in our apartment for exactly one year (yesterday), I have been doing a lot of reflecting. The last year of our lives has been nothing short of crazy. We moved to Kiev last year, knowing that it would be a challenge and a growing experience for us; we were only thinking of the “normal” transition things, like learning a new language, navigating a new city, and being far away from our friends and families. We had no idea that a revolution would break out 3 months after we arrived, and that we would see an overthrow of the Ukrainian government, violent protests, and actual war break out in this country. There was no way to predict that– but we are so blessed to see ways that God has provided for us and guided us through this past year.

As we come back this year, Nate is busy working full-time from home with React ministries; he is working as a graphic designer, helping this ministry team build and launch their new website. I have a full load at school, with three all-new classes and several other responsibilities, including chaperoning 9 students on a trip to a conference in just 10 days! We have both felt overwhelmed at times, and we are definitely busy, but we are loving our work and exceedingly glad that God provided us both with jobs we enjoy and are passionate about!

Now, what is to come? This year holds a lot of uncertainties for us. In the near future, we have worries about what the winter in Ukraine is going to look like. We’ve been living here in Kiev without hot water for the last month (we know that hot water is a luxury in many parts of the world, but being without it is something we are not used to), and we are hoping (!!!) that it will be turned back on tomorrow (Sept. 15th)! If it’s not, we are not sure when it will be back. Not having hot water has made for an interesting time taking showers and working to keep our dishes and our apartment clean– nothing seems quite as clean with cold water. Hopefully, the hot water will be back on soon!

Regardless of when our hot water comes back, we are not sure what the winter holds as far as basic heating in our apartment building and at our school, KCA. Usually, government-controlled heating in Ukrainian schools, hospitals, and most residential city buildings is turned on by October 15, and turned off around April 15. However, because of the war with Russia, Ukrainian access to Russian gas sources has been cut off. Ukraine is happy to be free of that dependence on Russia, but is busily trying to find other sources of gas for the country. Because of the need for rationing, many Ukrainian schools are considering the option of extended winter/Christmas breaks, so that students don’t have to come to school from mid-December to mid-February, the coldest months of the winter. We don’t know yet if KCA will have to make that kind of change to our schedule, but it’s possible since we share a building with a Ukrainian school (we do not privately own our school building at this time). We aren’t sure if heat will be turned on as usual on October 15, or how much access to heating we will have, but the director of the other school in our building seems confident that we will have heating (at least limited heat) through the first semester (mid-December, before dismissing for winter break). However, we don’t know yet if the heat will be on when we usually return in January, or if we will have to extend our Christmas break. No matter the situation with heat at our school building, we don’t know what our heating situation will be in our apartment either.

That brings up the question: If we don’t have heat in our apartment, and/or we have an extra-long Christmas break, what will we be doing? We don’t have specific plans yet for Christmas break, since we don’t know how long it’s going to be or if our apartment will be a comfortable place to be during that season. We hope to know the answers to these questions soon, so that if we feel the need to take an extended trip out of the country, we are able to afford the tickets and not have to make plans at the last minute. Please pray for these answers, and for Ukraine to find alternate sources of gas!

Another important thing about Christmastime this year for us is that we would like to try, by that time, to make a decision about what our plans are after this school year. We have felt burdened lately with the need to focus on getting as much of our student debt paid off as we can (and quickly), and that is simply not possible in our current financial situation (support from donors for living expenses and a monthly stipend from KCA for loan payments). We are so grateful for all of the financial support we have received, both from our supporters and from KCA, and we truly couldn’t be here now with out it! However, we are feeling that we need to consider if another option might be the wisest choice at this point. We are trying to do some research and job-hunting in order to decide whether we will: 1. Stay at KCA, 2. Move somewhere else overseas where I can get a paid teaching position and/or Nate can find a salaried job, or 3. Return to the U.S. and find jobs there. We see positive and negative aspects of all of those options, and are just trying to give this decision to the Lord. We have seen so many ways God has worked in and through us in the ministries we’ve been able to be a part of during the last year, and though it is stressful not to know what the future holds, we are excited to see His next steps for us.

Please pray with us:

1. For the country of Ukraine, especially the military and civilians in the East of the country to be protected from harm, and for a peaceful resolution to this conflict to be found! We hear sad and scary stories every day about people whose loved ones are fighting at the front and what Putin’s plans for Ukraine might be–there is much uncertainty here, but we know that God is in control. Please pray for peace and for Putin’s heart to be changed. Pray also for the wisdom of Ukraine’s leaders during this time.

2. For the situation in Ukraine in regards to heat/gas/electricity. With the conflict in the east and the ever-changing political climate in Ukraine, it’s impossible to predict what the winter will hold. We see workers adding insulation to the outside of buildings everywhere (including KCA and one of the apartment buildings next door), which makes us worried about the possible implications.

3. For us to be open to and see God’s direction in our future plans. We are not sure even what Christmas looks like for us this year, let alone next year and beyond. Please pray for us to be flexible, gracious, and willing as we take the steps to make wise decisions.

4. For our ministries. Nate is loving his graphic design job– please pray that he will continue to enjoy it and be able to use his new experience and relationships for God’s glory. Please pray for my workload at school (I am slowly digging out from a huge pile of grading already, 3 weeks in to the year) and for my students- I have so many opportunities to share in the life experiences of amazing kids every day at school. Pray for wisdom and godliness to prevail in those relationships.

We are so thankful for all of you! Thank you for your continued prayers and love for us. We feel the effect! Please contact us if you would like to know more about what we are doing here in Kiev or would simply like to know more about us!

Visit this website to make a financial donation to our ministry:
http://www.gofundme.com/60bua8

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The Most Uncomfortable Thing About Being a Missionary

If you are friends with me on Facebook, or have kept up at all with our ministry updates (scarce as they may have been) this past year, you know a little bit about our journey to get to Ukraine. KCA’s headmaster offered us jobs in March of 2013, and we gave them our official acceptance of those positions on April 1st. After a whirlwind couple of months that included the end of my student teaching, my college graduation, our wedding, our honeymoon, and lots of traveling, packing, and unpacking, we were ready to officially begin our support-raising process…in June 2013. We knew we didn’t have much time to raise the funds we needed, but we were trusting that God wanted us in Ukraine this past year and that HE would provide. He did! We can’t even really use the words “We raised support,” because the only possible explanation is that God worked in the hearts of many people to give to help us financially. Within about 6 weeks, God brought in about 65% of the support we would need for our first year of ministry. With that amount ready, and feeling like God was still guiding us to Kiev, we left in August of last year to start our first year in Ukraine. 

This last year has been exciting, new, challenging, wonderful, terrible, and crazy- sometimes more than one of those at the same time! Through it all, we have left RCE, the mission board we were employed by when we first moved, we have started raising support independently, and we have been able to figure out what our financial needs are weekly, monthly, etc. while we are in Kiev. During this year, we have seen God’s hand at work so much: even though we have been well under 100% of support this whole year, God has provided for us in incredible ways. He has brought new support partners into our ministry, led a new church to take us on for support (for 13% of our monthly support!), and has shown us even in difficult times in Ukraine’s turbulent year that He will always provide. For example, though the political crisis in Ukraine also led into a huge economic crisis that led to a great decrease in the value of the Ukrainian hryvnia (the local currency), that decrease has actually made things cheaper for us, since we base our income on the U.S. Dollar. We have saved quite a bit of money the last few months on rent and groceries because of these changes. 

God has been so gracious to us this year and we are so thankful for the prayers, encouragement, and support from so many friends and family this year. We are, Lord willing, heading back to Kiev in August to continue our second year of ministry there. As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I will be continuing as an English teacher at KCA, moving up to the upper level high school English classes (10th-12th), while Nate will be doing graphic design work full-time from home online with a ministry group based in Budapest. We are so blessed by how God has given us these opportunities that so perfectly fit what we studied in school and where our passions lie. 

There are a lot of things about ministry that have made us nervous, afraid, or anxious. Things like emailing or calling strangers to ask if we can meet with them, moving to new and unknown parts of the world, and getting used to new types of food and different modes of transportation: these are all examples of ways that God has pushed us into uncomfortable situations this year. But, the most uncomfortable part about being a missionary is this:

Asking people for money. 

I grew up in a missionary family and knew that it was a challenge for my parents to reach out to so many churches and people asking for financial support for our move to Hungary, but I never truly understood what it felt like until Nate and I were in the same situation. But, it’s a necessary part of what we are currently doing with our lives. KCA does give us some money each month, which we use to pay our student loan payments, but we rely on generous gifts from people and churches to cover all of our living expenses. 

Like I said earlier, God has astounded us with his goodness and provision, and all of the people He has guided to partner with us this year in ministry. We have made it through this year only by His goodness and grace. We do still have financial needs for this upcoming year, and I would ask for anyone who reads this to prayerfully consider partnering with us in some way, large or small, to help us meet our budget. 

Here are the details:

We need about $1,500 each month for our living expenses in Kiev. Watch this video: http://youtu.be/gzEcMcIzRng to find out how that budget breaks down into rent, groceries, transportation, etc. We currently have support coming in monthly that adds up to $1,095 per month. That is approximately 73%! That leaves us with a need of just over $400 per month. That could look like:
–4 people giving $100 per month OR
–8 people giving $50 per month OR
–16 people giving $25 per month
or a variety of other possibilities!

We deeply appreciate any type of financial gift that anyone is able to give. We’ve received one-time gifts for $15, and monthly support commitments of $200! We have seen so many different people surprise us with their generosity and have seen God meet needs in ways that only He can. Please consider any amount or type of gift that you might be able to share with us. Even $10 would put us a bit closer to meeting our goal. 

If you’d like to support us, please visit this website:
http://www.gofundme.com/60bua8 and click the big red ‘Donate’ button! If you’d like your gift to be a monthly commitment, remember to check the box that says “Make this a monthly gift” next to the space where you enter an amount.

We have a few other specific financial needs during this summer. If any of you are interested in helping towards one of these specific costs, visit the GoFundMe site or contact us for other options for giving. 
1. Laptop fund: Some of you may remember from our video or a previous blog post us saying that we are trying to raise money to buy both of us new laptops this summer. We have already received extremely generous donations from a few of our supporters that have made it possible for Nate already to buy his new laptop! Praise God for that! It arrived in the mail this week, and he has already been working on getting caught up with design work for his ministry team in Budapest. We are so excited to see how God will use this new resource in Nate’s life and ministry. However, we are also hoping to purchase a new laptop for me. This will help me quite a bit with school by giving me the ability to take and work on materials both at home and at school, and will also give me a computer that runs faster and with more power than the computer in my classroom. The remaining cost we are still hoping to raise for that computer is about $500. Please let us know if you’d like more information!
2. Travel expenses: Thankfully, we have already covered the costs of our flights to and from Ukraine for this summer. We are working on finalizing plans of visiting family, friends, and potential supporting churches on the West Coast over the next couple of weeks. We need about $300 to cover the rest of the expenses for those flights/trains/etc. to make that trip and get back to Ohio, and finally to New York. Please let us know if you’d like more information about our travel plans or for information about donating to that fund. 

We are so grateful to all of you who have been a part of our ministry in any extent. Your financial giving has made and will continue to make a huge difference in our lives and our ministry, no matter how large or small. We especially appreciate and covet your prayers for the rest of our summer and especially for the nation of Ukraine, as the people there are still experiencing great violence and evil in the eastern regions of the country. 

To contact us, use Facebook (Cassie Baird or Nate Baird), our Facebook page (Nate and Cassie in Ukraine), or e-mail (cass0909@gmail.com or baird.nathan@gmail.com). Thank you!

 

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Summer Plans and Next Year

I tried to write a long post with lots of pictures to update you all on the last few weeks of our school year. I may just end up putting pictures on Facebook and narrating it there…my Dropbox account is giving me problems and not letting me upload into this post. 

So, instead: I’ll take some time to bring you all up to speed on our latest changes, schedules, and goals for the summer! 

For those who don’t know yet, we have made a few changes to our ministry plans for next year:

–I (Cassie) will continue teaching full-time at KCA (Kiev Christian Academy) as the high school English teacher. I’ll be switching from 8th and 9th grade English to teaching 10th, 11th, and 12th grade English! These classes are World Literature, American Literature, and British Literature. I know it will be a lot of work (and a lot of grading!) and many new challenges, but I am very excited to get to spend more time with KCA’s older students and continue learning and gaining experience in different subjects. Teaching these new classes will give me great experience for whatever our future holds after next year, as I hope to continue teaching once we leave KCA– now I will be able to claim experience teaching 5 different grade levels! I will also continue acting as the KCA National Honor Society Advisor, and will help out in whatever other ways they need me next year.

–Nate will be changing gears in a much bigger way. He spent this year teaching at KCA, and though he enjoyed being able to build relationships with our students this year and challenge himself in new ways with the classes he was teaching, he still was feeling throughout the year that teaching was not what he was called to do in the long run. Nate graduated with a degree in Graphic Design, and has been hoping for a way to use design in ministry somehow. Well, in February, when we evacuated to Budapest for 10 days (during the most serious violence in Kiev), we were able to visit Danube International Church, where my parents attend, I attended for several years, and which is also one of our supporting churches! During the last day we were in Hungary, we went to Danube for church and heard a team of missionaries introduce themselves as a team working to advance ministry through social media. Nate’s interest was piqued, and he went to talk to them after the service. It turns out that they had just recently relocated to Budapest (from all different locations all over the world) and had been praying for a new graphic designer to join their team! Over the course of the next couple of months, Nate and I spent a lot of time discussing, praying, and seeking guidance about this opportunity. Nate recently informed KCA and this ministry team that he would be working full-time with that team online next year. We are so excited to see how God works through this! We believe it was through a divine appointment that we were able to meet those missionaries at a time when we would normally not have been visiting Budapest. 

The team Nate will be working with is called The Rebirth, with their specific social media project called The React. Visit their website at http://the-react.com/  for more information about them. The basic idea is that this team wants to take the presence on social media (which is huge) to connect churches, ministries, and individuals to specific ministry needs in different areas all over the world. This can work by allowing people to advertise, in a sense, the needs in their area, and by giving others the opportunity to visit the website to see what needs/opportunities are available for them to get involved with. Nate’s job right now is to work on designing graphics for their new website as they prepare to launch in the coming months. We appreciate your prayers as Nate makes this transition and as we see the ways God will work through him and this team. 

Please watch this video to learn more specifics about our plans and our budget needs:

So, that’s next year– where are we now? Well, we flew from Kiev back to New York on May 26, the day after Ukraine’s national presidential election. We had a delay in Amsterdam that was inconvenient, but besides that we had no trouble on our flights, and all of our luggage arrived safely. Praise God! 

Since then, we have been staying with Nate’s parents in upstate New York. We’ve been able to spend some time relaxing, visiting with family and a few friends, shopping at Walmart (!!!), and enjoying some American foods and snacks that we missed while we were overseas. We have recently been planning what our next couple of months are going to look like. We’re hoping to spend time in Ohio, Illinois, Washington, and California over the course of the next 2 months before we come back to NY to get ready to fly back to Kiev in August. We are hoping to see many friends (especially at the reunion for International Christian School of Budapest alumni and staff coming up at the end of June in Chicago) and family members, and share with a few different churches about our ministry in Ukraine. 

We are so thankful for the faithful support you all have shown throughout this past year. We are obviously grateful for the financial support our friends and family have offered to us this year, but especially for the prayers and emotional support we have been able to count on during this difficult year. God has worked in Ukraine in incredible ways this year during the political turmoil, and we have been amazed to see His sovereignty in so many situations. I hope to share more on this blog soon about how we have seen God’s hand in the country of Ukraine, the city of Kiev, our school (KCA), and our lives. 

I posted a video link above to a YouTube video that Nate made a few weeks ago detailing our past year, our future plans, and our budget needs for this summer and next year. Please take a look at that and contact either of us with questions or for more information about anything! 

Lastly, feel free to visit our GoFundMe page to donate (both one-time donations or monthly commitments are accepted and hugely appreciated) to our ministry in Ukraine or specifically to one of our summer fundraising goals– new laptops! With Nate making this ministry change to working in design full-time, he needs a new, powerful laptop that can handle the design programs he will be using to work with his new teammates. He hopes to be traveling a bit more during this year to meet with the team, and in those situations especially a new laptop would come in handy. We are asking $2500 for the combined price of two new laptops; that amount would give us the money we need to purchase new, high-quality computers that would last us for several years and be able to run all of the programs we’ll need to be able to use. ***We have received a commitment for a large donation to our laptop cost already, so we are almost halfway there! If you’d like to help us with this cost specifically, you can donate on our GoFundMe page to the designated fund (our “wish list”) or send us a donation and write a note telling us how you’d like us to use it.

http://www.gofundme.com/60bua8

Again, THANK YOU to all of you who have prayed for us and cared for us in a variety of ways throughout this year. We are in awe of God’s sovereignty and goodness to us in what could have been an extremely challenging and negative experience– He took us and our situation in His hands and helped us to see his faithfulness and love through it all. Please comment below or get in touch with us via e-mail or Facebook if you’d like more information about us, our ministry, or anything else! 

cass0909@gmail.com
baird.nathan@gmail.com

Facebook: Nate and Cassie in Ukraine

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How are you feeling?

We get asked that question a lot lately. How are you doing? How are you feeling? Are you nervous? Afraid? Stressed? If ‘something’  happens, what will you do? What are your plans?

I thought I might take some time today to address these questions. I do this in part to give people (our friends, family, supporters…) answers to them, but I also want to write about this as a way to figure out for myself what I actually am feeling. Many of these emotions are negative ones. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining; I just need a way to decompress a little bit by expressing what I’m feeling in writing. Probably, the most pressing emotion I’ve felt for the last several weeks is feeling overwhelmed. I’ll start there. 

Overwhelmed: After escalated violence struck Kyiv a few weeks ago (February 18-20), Nate and I decided to go to Budapest, Hungary (where my parents live) to visit for a short time and get some distance from the situation here. Several other KCA families and teachers (as well as some other missionaries) also took some time away, and KCA canceled school for a full week (we did online material with our students for most classes). Since we got back from Budapest on March 3, our lives have been a flurry of activity. 3rd quarter at school ended March 7, and I have been very busy getting assignments and essays graded from before our trip, from our online days, and from students who were traveling while we were gone and even some who have only recently returned. Amidst that business, we have been reading the news every day and hearing more about Russia’s invasion in Crimea, the illegal referendum, the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and just so much potential for a whole lot to happen in a short amount of time. It’s overwhelming. 

Uncertain: As is the case with many of our friends and coworkers here in Kyiv, we are plagued by uncertainty many days. We go to bed unsure if we’ll definitely have school the next morning. We wake up not knowing if something serious has happened overnight. We wonder if it’s safer to leave Kyiv and go to Budapest again, or even to go back to America for a while. We go to school not knowing how many of our students or teachers will be there with us that day. We check the news all day, waiting for any definite, specific information that could leave us feeling more secure. 

Anxious: I wouldn’t say that fear is an emotion I am feeling very often. I am not afraid of Russia, of Putin, or that we are in real physical danger here right now. Let me say that again. We are safe. I am still feeling anxious, though. This is a feeling that accompanies uncertainty and being overwhelmed. We are busy at school, trying to get caught up from 3rd quarter and all the traveling and missed days; we spend a lot of time–probably too much–talking to other teachers and friends and family about the political situation here and the possibilities of what could happen…which are endless. 

Sad: I’ve had conversations recently with students and teachers about what different families are planning if evacuation once again becomes a reality for the missionaries here. Some families will evacuate to Poland, Hungary, or a different country in western Europe. Some will go to American temporarily. Some will go to America and begin their already-planned furlough a few months early. Whatever happens, we are dealing with emotions of realizing that each day we see our students might be the last time we see them–at least for a little while. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but it’s the life we’re living right now. 

Excited: I know, I know. How can I be excited at a time like this? In a way, it is exciting to be a part of history being made; I’ve never lived in a place like this at a time like this, when a country’s future is being decided right before my eyes. There have been times when I’ve been eager with anticipation, waiting to hear what will happen next. More often than not, the results have been sad. BUT, God is at work in Ukraine! That is the most exciting part! Ukraine is a predominately Russian-orthodox nation in terms of religion, but over these last few months of turmoil, all denominations and peoples of different belief systems and churches have come together at Maidan to pray for God’s blessing and guidance for their country. Amid violence, upheaval, and so many shocking events, God is guiding His people together. We have seen stories of forgiveness, of grace and mercy, and most importantly, of hope. In a post-Soviet era Eastern European country, hope is often missing. Yet, God showed up at Maidan. He is showing up in Crimea. He is showing up in the hearts of people all over Ukraine who are realizing that while the world is uncertain, God is certain. While the world is evil, God is good. When the world seems hopeless, God offers hope. That has been so exciting to see! 

How can you be praying for us?
We are so thankful for so many people who have lifted us up in prayer. There are people I’ve heard about praying for us whom I don’t even know! Thank you! Prayer is, in many ways, the only real action we can take in Ukraine right now. Here are some specific ways to continue that:
1. Pray for Ukraine. Pray for this nation specifically. Pray for its people to be unified, to remain calm and wise (and peaceful, for as long as it is possible). Pray for people here to be drawn to God. Pray for Ukrainian Christians to have opportunities to spread the hope and love of Christ among the people they interact with. Pray for their physical safety, especially as the military mobilizes in preparation for war. Pray for Ukraine!

2. Pray for Vladimir Putin. Many people have been saying things recently about Russia, like “Russia is invading Crimea,” or “Russia is pressuring Ukraine.” The country of Russia is not doing these things. The president of Russia is doing these things. It is hard to watch this pressure and this evil taking place at the order of this one man. We have prayed, and continue to pray, for God to change Putin’s heart. We know God is capable of changing hearts! Proverbs 21 says that the hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord, like streams of water. He turns them any way he wishes. My mom has been reminding us of that verse, and we also talked about it at church yesterday. God can change people. He can change their minds and their hearts. However, we also know that in the case of Moses and the Israelites wanting to escape Egypt, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Sometimes, he chooses to act that way in order to bring greater glory to himself through the circumstances. It’s hard to understand why God makes certain decisions at certain times. Whatever happens, there is no one who does not deserve prayer that God will reach him. 

3. Pray for our students! This has been a challenging time for our kids. They are living in a crazy time of uncertainty in the country many of them have called home for several years. Evacuation seems like the end of the world to some of these students, simply because there is no other place in the world that they can call home. Seniors are worrying that they might not be able to finish their senior year here in Kiev with their friends. Many younger students don’t completely understand the situation, but everyone knows something big is happening. With all the uncertainty we feel, I can’t imagine what life must be like right now for our kids. Please pray for them!

4. Pray for our co-workers. We have a few KCA teachers who have already evacuated (for a second time in just a few weeks) to locations outside of Ukraine. Many other families are considering the same possibility, especially if Russian invasion becomes more active or violent, or moves toward Kiev. Please pray for the safety of our staff and friends, but also for wisdom. It is hard for us to make decisions about leaving Kiev, even for a short time. Nate and I have been looking forward to getting back to the U.S. this summer, but I’m not ready to go quite yet! Pray for guidance and wisdom from God in these decisions- should we stay? should we go? If we go, how long? Will we come back? When? How much should we pack? many unanswered questions. 

5. Pray for us. Pray all of these above requests for us, as well as wisdom in our own decisions about the future. Pray for our ministry at school, that we will be committed to teaching and loving our students above everything else. Pray that we would be an encouragement to others and a shining example of Christ’s hope and love here in Ukraine. Pray that our financial support for our ministry here would continue to come in (we are still short quite a bit of our monthly support, and have had several unexpected expenses recently). Pray that, above all, we will glorify God with our lives. 

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for praying. Please continue! Feel free to be in contact with us by commenting here, writing to us on Facebook (Cassie Baird and Nate Baird), or emailing us at cass0909@gmail.com or baird.nathan@gmail.com . 

If you feel led to support us financially, especially by giving a one-time gift to help with possible evacuation expenses, visit this website to donate: http://www.gofundme.com/60bua8

We love and appreciate you! Thank you for being a part of what God is doing in Ukraine. 

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Prayers for Ukraine

Friends, Family, and Supporters,

I wanted to take a few minutes to catch you up on a few things in our lives (it’s been 2 months since I’ve posted….whoops) and especially to let you know what the current situation is here in Kiev. 

For a quick recap:
We spent Christmas break in Budapest, Hungary with my (Cassie’s) parents and 2 of my sisters, Erin and Anna. Also, one of our teacher friends at KCA (who student taught with me last year as well) came to stay with us in Budapest for a few days during the break. We walked around Budapest, went to Vienna, Austria, ate a lot of yummy food, spent time relaxing with our family, seeing alumni and teachers at ICSB…it was a great time. We got back to Ukraine on January 1st, spent the next week continuing to rest (although I had quite a bit of grading and lesson planning to do as well…) and went back to school on the 8th. Since then, we’ve had a whirlwind of trying to get back onto a good sleep schedule (a continued prayer request….we Bairds have a weakness for naps) and stay on top of all of the work at school. One specific prayer request in this area is that next week on Wednesday (the 29th) is the induction ceremony for this year’s National Honor Society. I was asked to be the adviser for NHS this year, and it has been a long and complicated process to get to this point. I am excited, however, for the ceremony next week to celebrate the accomplishments of many of our students. Please continue to pray that all the details for that day are ironed out in plenty of time. 

(I will try to post some pictures from Christmas and our time since then sometime soon)

So, to the real reason I felt the need to write a blog post today: protests in Kiev.

Let me first say: We are safe. The fighting is taking place relatively near our home, but it has been very contained and we do not feel in any danger. We have to go out of our way to reach the location of the protests. We are safe. 

Since November (almost exactly 2 months ago, actually), many Ukrainians have been camping out in the center of Kiev, having rallies and demonstrations to express their frustration with the President’s choice to move forward in dealings with Russia and essentially turn his back on opportunities for Ukraine with the European Union. The people have been angry, trying to force an early election and convince the president and his administration that he is making serious mistakes. 

There’s not room or time here for a whole story about everything that has led to this point (and I wouldn’t do a good job of telling it), but yesterday (the 21st) several new laws went into effect that severely limit the Ukrainian people’s right to free speech and their rights to demonstrate. Since the passing of these laws, many protesters have begun to fight back more overtly than ever before. There is a constant (and ever-growing) police presence, but also a constant and ever-growing number of protesters. Over the last few days, violence has been escalating to the point of flash grenades, molotov cocktails, and throwing large rocks. 

Last night and early this morning, news broke that a protester had been killed by a sniper gunshot. Since this morning, there has been definitive news of at least two casualties from gunshot wounds and at least one other death from other causes. Some of the Ukrainian administration is still claiming that the police are not armed with real ammunition and live firearms, but these deaths have changed things. People are coming from all over Ukraine to stand with the protesters tonight, and many people seem to think that a large-scale police crackdown is imminent (perhaps tonight, under the cover of darkness). The new laws that have been passed give police the right to arrest people for demonstrating and saying negative things about the Ukrainian government, and people who are convicted could face up to 15 years in prison. 

We do not plan to venture into the center of the city any time soon. This is the fight of the Ukrainian people. We support them, but see no reason to place ourselves in danger. We were dismissed early from school today and all after-school activities were canceled, so that students could get home quickly. We have not heard yet about whether we will have school tomorrow. Our headmaster is in contact with a Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy who has been keeping her updated on events downtown and advising schools with American students and staff whether they should stay open. 

Please pray with us. Pray for the safety of those involved, for the resolution of this conflict in a peaceful and democratic manner. Pray that God would soften the hard hearts of the people who have passed this laws and allowed this violence to happen. Pray that Ukrainian people would seek God in the midst of this dark and difficult time. Pray for our school, for our staff, faculty, and students, that we would all be able to remain safe (especially those who travel near or through the center of Kiev on their way to school) and that we would be a shining light of the love and hope that God offers. 

Please see http://www.kyivpost.com for more comprehensive information on the current situation in Ukraine and how it got to this point. The website has unfortunately been inactive for much of today (mostly due to heavy traffic–people want to hear the news!), but hopefully will be back up and running soon. Also, pay attention to the websites of BBC, CNN, Google News, and other news sites that are sharing international news. Many Ukrainian websites and television news stations have been shut down already. 

Some have speculated that media and even perhaps internet could be limited, in hopes of keeping the news here from spreading. Please keep spreading it! Tell people what is happening in Ukraine, and pray for this country together! 

Contact us at:

cass0909@gmail.com

or baird.nathan@gmail.com

or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nateandcassietoukraine 

To support our ministry at KCA, visit this website: http://www.gofundme.com/60bua8

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