It's a long way from Neosho to the Ukraine, but Jack and Barbara Sanders are excited about spending several months in this far eastern part of Europe.
Even though the international headlines are filled with conflict and suffering in this part of the world, this Neosho couple are happy to be involved with the Ukrainian people.
Actually, Barbara has been in the Ukraine four times to work at a Christian camp. But this time, she will be with her husband, Jack, and they are staying until May of 2015. With only a break back home for Christmas, they will be teaching English in Odessa, a large city on the Black Sea.
Although they will be teaching English, it will be informal, or conversational, English — not formal from a text book. As Christians, and as this is a Christian mission, they will teach stories from the Bible in these classes.
Since this is their first time to stay for a full school term, many things will be different. They expect to learn as much as the students, who they expect may range in age from 8-80. The school, sponsored by the Living Hope Church, has about 60 students. The church also sponsors the camps each summer. A recent baseball camp featured young American Christian college students.
When Jack read about the church asking for a couple, young or old, to come to Odessa for the full school term, he felt moved by the appeal. Barbara, too, had seen the notice. When they started discussing it, they realized that this was their calling.
Asked if all the fighting in Ukraine worried them. Jack said, thus far, most of the fighting was in the eastern part of the country and Odessa is in the southwest.
"We've just been very much at peace about it," he said.
Odessa is a large town with about a million people and it is a resort area. Many rich people come to spend the summer on the Black Sea and and many cruise ships stop at Odessa.
"It's a beautiful city," Barbara said. "They have beautiful buildings and a beautiful church in the downtown area. There is a lot of history there."
Barbara laughed and said she doesn't speak any of the language other than "thank you." But Jack is trying to learn it on the internet and is having some success. Barbara thinks it is because he majored in Greek when he was in training for the ministry.
Jack and Barbara will miss Neosho and their family when they are gone, but they are excited about the mission. They appreciate all the prayers and good wishes.
When they return next May, they each have a wish.
"I do hope we can say we were patient with the students, and not show ourselves as ugly Americans and ugly Christians," said Jack.
"I hope I can say I showed a lot of love for the people there—so much that they love me back," Barbara said.
Surely, Jack and Barbara Sanders deserve being this week's good neighbors.