On December 5, we are celebrating one year of our family’s life here in L’viv! Lots of memories from that LONG trip a year ago…deboarded in New York for technical problems, running from one end to the other of the Munich airport (only to miss every connecting flight), the unexpected blessing of a hotel shower, meal and bed in Munich, and finally arriving safe and sound in the L’viv airport! We’re glad now to reminisce about that crazy trip from the comfort of our own home!
As we reflect on this first year of ministry, we want to thank you all for your support, prayers and encouragement. It is such a blessing each time we hear from one of you and to know that you remember us in prayer, even as we think of and pray for you! Technology and long distance communication have come a long way since Nicole was a missionary kid, trying to convince her wary friends that they should “get email” so they could stay in touch!
All that God has done…
Sound and worship ministry is actually how we first met at our sending church about six years ago, and the Lord has had us involved heavily in those ministries here, too. It’s been fun to work together again in this capacity, Josh as “sound guy” and Nicole as worship leader. Josh works closely with another sound technician to oversee this ministry at New Horizons church. In addition to running sound for some of our weekly services, he provides training in this area, as well as support in problem-solving and equipment set up for the church. He also runs the “words” ministry: those people who make sure there are song lyrics on the screens during worship. We are excited about this area of ministry, because we feel it’s a place where new people can be involved and those who are young in faith or don’t even know the Lord yet can contribute and be discipled at the same time.
Throughout 2015, Nicole’s role in the worship ministry has changed several times. She continues to serve as overseer of the worship ministry now and has led Sunday services most of this year. Part of her work in the ministry has been to develop some policies and guidelines for the worship team, as well as to focus on team building. Due to some recent health problems, she has had to step back from the physical worship-leading on Sundays for a season, but we are praying about how the Lord will lead in the future.
Josh continues to lead the weekly English club evangelism, where 15 to 30 students attend to practice English with native speakers. It is a conversational environment, where he and other church members focus on teaching English and developing relationships with the students. They also have occasional special events at English club, like a Thanksgiving dinner recently. People attend this club from our church, other churches and the community.
In addition to these regular responsibilities, Josh takes part in church staff projects and activities as they arise. He loves to “just be there” to help with whatever is needed.
One of the strongest burdens on Nicole’s heart has been discipleship. She continues to meet regularly with girls and young women from the church to develop relationships and support these sisters in the Lord. She has a heart to listen to, encourage, challenge and simply love these precious women, and she is continually blessed by how much she receives from each of them, as well. Several of these young women have taken on new leadership roles and grown so much this year, both in their own walks with the Lord and in their hearts to serve Him.
Growing up as a missionary kid herself, Nicole remembers how the Lord used her stay-at-home mom to be a living example of a Christian wife and mom in a culture where Biblical principles of family and marriage had not been regularly taught for many years. Nicole now hopes that girls coming into our home will find that same example, by God’s grace! Similarly, we love having couples and young families into our home to develop friendships and offer discipleship. During this year, we met with one couple for pre-marital counseling, and it has been exciting to watch them get married and grow together as a new family. We hope to do more of this type of discipleship in the future.
During this year, we were also able to take part in the annual National Calvary Chapel Ukraine Conference, where people from the various Calvaries in Ukraine come to fellowship, worship and serve. In addition, our church organized the annual Calvary Chapel Western Ukraine conference, which was a time of fellowship and encouragement for the Bodies in several Western cities in Ukraine.
A year of challenges…and blessings
First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” God has been speaking this lesson into our hearts a lot this year, reminding us that even in the difficult times, we can and should always be thankful. He has given us so many blessings that we don’t deserve!
This has been a time full of spiritual warfare, which we’ve seen again and again in ministries, our family life, relationships, and many people’s personal lives. There have been physical challenges in ministry, such as an unexpected and quick move for the church, followed by a ton of remodeling of the new building and then an accident that led to property damage. On the flip side, our new building is much larger and provides us with space to grow as a Body and embrace some new ministry opportunities. Also, it’s in an industrial park, instead of an apartment building, so we no longer have neighbors complaining about the noise of our worship times.
Many people in the church, including those who serve or lead, have gone through difficult changes in work, school, health or relationships, and there have been definite times of heaviness as a result. We’re thankful to see that this church body pulls together and supports one another in these times, we ourselves having also been the recipients of so many people’s prayers, support and encouragement.
Health has been one of the greatest struggles our family has faced here. We generally had few difficulties with this in the States, but our bodies did not take too keenly to our winter move and the barrage of germs we constantly encounter here on public transport. We seemed to pass colds and flus back and forth almost non-stop last winter! We’re so thankful that so far, our immune systems seem to be fighting these bugs off a little faster this year! Nicole has also had a number of other health problems arise, which have been challenging, both physically and emotionally. The healthcare system and mentality differs greatly between Ukraine and America, so part of the challenge has been just knowing how to respond to and treat things. Her health is better right now, thankfully.
Many have taught or told us in the past that one of the first places our enemy strikes is in our family. We’ve definitely experienced those attacks in various ways, but we pray for God to use these times to strengthen our marriage, our parenting, and our love and patience for one another. We also see how God uses these struggles so that we can be open with those we disciple, admitting that we make mistakes and need God every day and encouraging them to depend on Him, as well!
Baldonado family life
In August, we celebrated four years of marriage and our daughter, Nora’s, second birthday. Nora is doing wonderfully here in Ukraine. She’s a spunky toddler who makes everyone laugh, and she thinks she owns the church building! She still loves going outside, and she’s developed a strong love for reading. She is starting to practice her Ukrainian more and more and loves to count to ten in “kanian”. We’re looking for opportunities for her to have more exposure to the language. We also hope to find ways for her to make more friends. She has a few friends at church, but so far it’s been difficult to get together with those families during the week. Nora is very social, so we hope she’ll be able to play more often with other kids.
Our family is excited to announce that we are expecting a baby in early June, 2016! We have been praying for some time now that God would bless us with another child, and we’re so thankful for this Little One! Nicole had some serious complications early on in the pregnancy and was on bed rest for a month. The doctors here have told us that is was truly a miracle that the Baby survived, and we are praising the Lord and thanking Him continually for His goodness and the testimony of His grace in this!
As we head into 2016, we are excited to see what ministry opportunities God will open. Josh will continue in sound and English ministries and continue to work for Healthiest Employers. Nicole will continue in women’s discipleship, and we are praying about how God would have her involved in worship further.
Nicole still has a strong burden for anti-human trafficking ministry. She worked for three years in Indiana as part of a statewide task force to address this issue, and she’s had some opportunities to engage in this ministry here, as well. She hopes to be able to serve in anti-trafficking in L’viv on a regular basis.
As a family, we will continue to be involved in discipleship for couples and families. We also have a heart to keep reaching out to friends here who do not know the Lord, people that God has brought into our lives through simply living our Christian life here.
We remain open to other ministries or opportunities God may bring in the coming months.
Praises and Prayers
We’re so thankful to God for:
- The fruit in ministry, friends’ lives, and our personal walks with God
- The new church building and the space and ministry opportunities it gives us
- People who have gotten more involved in ministry or leadership in the church
- God’s continued provision for our needs
- Our health
- The new Baby we’re expecting in June
Please pray with us:
- For salvation for a few friends here
- For continued maturity and growth in people in the church
- For the establishment and growth of healthy, godly marriages and families in the Body
- For God’s strength that we would stand against spiritual warfare
- That God would give us wisdom in managing time and pursuing ministry opportunities
- That each of us would learn Ukrainian
- That God would provide friends for Nora
- That God would keep the new Baby and Nicole healthy throughout this pregnancy