Just past 11.00 local time last night, our ship, the Dnieper Princess,
pushed away from the dock and sailed into the brilliantly starry night
that hugged the Black Sea.
For some folks, this was their first experience on a cruise ship, so,
quite literally, they had to adjust to the swells that cause the ship
to lurch starboard to port and back, over and over again, all through
the night. Now, granted, these rocks and sways were relatively minor
but still required a bit of choreography on your part to keep your
balance and not fall down like a young foal first realizing it has
legs and can walk.
Americans live in a super-sized culture. Our rooms, well, they ain’t.
Now they are adequate but they waste no space. Most rooms are uniform
– about 15 feet long from door to window, probably six or seven feet
across, complete with two beds with a collapsible table mounted to the
window wall in between, a wardrobe divided into two sides, and a small
desktop with two drawers just inside the door. One great thing –
nooks and crannies abound so we all can store all the things we
A real estate agent would label the bathroom as *the* model of
efficiency – in all honesty, you could shower, brush your teeth, and
take care of any other necessary bathroom function all at the same
time. You walk in and the sink is immediately to one side, the toilet
is immediately to the other. The shower nozzle is attached to a hook
off to the door side of the sink. A drain is in the floor. You can
pull around a blue shower curtain to protect the toilet and towels
This morning we docked in Vilkovo, a little village near the
Ukrainian-Romanian border that seemed to be a junction where modernity
and the old world collided with the latter holding the scorecard
advantage. After strolling past an onion-domed Orthodox church, we
rambled onto the market street for tourists – here you saw name brands
in clothing and home goods that we would recognize and vendors who
were more likely to ply their bargaining skills in English than in
Russian. Just outside the gate, Audi A6s rumbled along the concrete
streets, chasing mongrel dogs and little children alike over bridges
that covered canals choked with algae, debris, and fetid water. Yet
homes tended with obvious care dotted these same paths – beautifully
tiled walkways, decorative stone fences, and an assortment of fragrant
irises, Shasta daisies, and knockout roses were commonplace.
One street to the south marked the entrance to the local market.
Babushkas selling strawberries from crates… shoes laid out on a
table for inspection… fish, and the odor that accompanies them,
being weighed, gutted, and dried under a covered pavilion. A man with
no legs balancing himself on crutches, asking for money not in words
but with plaintive looks. All signs in the Cyrillic of Russian. No
English to make you comfortable.
Yet that’s a huge ingredient in trips such as these – leaving your
comfort zone. I think of Peter during the storm when “he walked on
the water… to Jesus.” (Matthew 14:29)
Talk about leaving what is comfortable (a safe boat) and landing
squarely in discomfort (the stormy abyss). To walk on water Peter had
to discern between God’s voice and his own impulses. You must take an
ultimate leap of faith secure in the knowledge God has called you to
do such. I think all of us feel as if the Lord called us to be on
But like Peter, our home is our boat, secure and comfortable. Yet God
intended for us to be more than people who just avoided failure. He
calls us to step out, in faith, and accomplish great things in His
name and for His kingdom.
Today, though, offered the first fleeting glimmer of the water upon
which we have been called to walk, the world we now enter, starting
tomorrow and Monday.
This afternoon we start rehearsals and sail onward.
Keep us in your prayers.
With love from Vilkovo, Ukraine,