Living in Ukraine has brought many challenges. The greatest has been developing relationships that are genuine - with no personal motive. First you have the language barrier. HELLO or PRIVYET! Yes, we have to be able to talk to each other.
Second, you have the gender barrier. It's really not a good thing to develop relationships with other genders for the clear possibility of being mistaken. Don't take me wrong - I have men who I consider good friends. But, all those friendships come through a relationship with me and Tim (the couple).
Third, you deal with the church culture. (This one bugs me no matter where I live.) Americans rushed to the former USSR after the union fell. With a sincere passion for "these poor" people to know Christ, we saw record numbers of American believers come here to "save" Ukraine. We poured money into the churches and trained them to depend on Americans! But, few did anything about developing relationships with Ukrainians and mentoring pastors, training business people and women's leaders with one goal of pointing them to Christ. Too many people gain their personal satisfaction or fulfillment through their own form of missions. Don't be fooled - the Ukrainians aren't! One very wise Ukrainian asked me a poignant question. "Are many of the Americans who come here to teach us people who aren't teaching in their local churches?" Our relationship building has been hindered because of so many Americans who come here with motives they don't even recognize! Christ was here long before the first American volunteer came. And, he is still here today! Church culture can hinder relationships between believers if we focus more on the "church" than the "person".
Lastly, the hardest thing has been that relationships take time and they take work. I know I can't develop deep relationships with just over 2 months left here. I also know I need to nurture the relationships I have and in a sense "set these friends free" to move on to a long-distance relationship. It's hard - especially because I have so few really close friends. But, it's a good thing too. We've shared relationships - we've invested in each other - it's time to move on and begin again. There will be new relationships, and even new challenges. Praise God that some of my Ukrainian relationships will not end when we leave, they just change due to proximity! Relationships are important, but they change and some even end. Not a bad thing. It's a God thing!