Tuesday, January 28, 2014

From Fears to Faith in Ukraine

I had never been on an airplane before.

But, I found myself packing my bags and getting ready to leave on a jet plane to a place I'd never been to before:


I felt so strongly that I needed to go that I left my husband and my Bright Girl, who was a toddler at the time, for two whole weeks.

I almost didn't go.

After all the mission trip support money came in from friends and family, I found out that I was pregnant.

How could I go on a mission trip pregnant?

What good could I do?

But, still I pressed on.

I couldn't turn back.

Somehow, I knew that I was crucial to the team. I needed to be there. For a reason.

Early in the morning, the day before the trip, while down on my knees and with tears streaming down my face, I committed myself and my unborn child to God. 

This is it, Lord. I’m ready. But, I’m scared for the baby. Please take care of it. I dedicate myself to You and Your service and place my life and the life of my unborn child in Your Almighty hands.

My mission team was a group that I was to meet after flying from Orlando to Atlanta, GA. I'd never met them before, but the mission to love the Ukrainian people, teach them English, and tell them about Christ, brought us together and our kinship in the Lord gave us immediate cohesion.

The excitement of the trip and the knowledge that the Lord was leading me there gave me perfect peace on the long flight across the Atlantic Ocean to eastern Europe.

Before teaching, we got together to pray and eat dinner with the Ukrainian missionaries. I felt led to share with my team that I was nervous about teaching and wondered if I could really make any difference in our students’ lives.

“Expect great things from God,” challenged Sally, another girl on my team. She beamed a bright smile and held my shoulder reassuringly.

The bus awaited us the next day, rumbling on the street corner next to the communist style concrete apartment where we were staying. Its fumes permeated the breezeless air and added an extra warmth to an already hot summer day. We boarded silently, expectantly. 

The whole prospect of teaching was thrilling because we heard that many of the Ukrainians were spiritually curious and would ask us questions about our faith in Christ.

Upon arriving, one Ukrainian student from another class named Natalya befriended me right away. She waited outside my cabin door to walk with me to classes.

“Hablas espaƱol?” she asked.

I didn’t think I would need to speak Spanish in the middle of a Slavic country. But, it turned out that knowing a little Spanish came in handy.

Natalya barely knew any English, and I barely knew any Russian or Ukrainian. So, we figured that we could communicate with each other in Spanish—the only language we both knew. 

We called each other, “mi querida amiga,” which means, my beloved friend.

We walked everywhere together, the Ukrainian way—by holding hands. At first, I felt a little childish, holding hands with my newfound friend, but eventually I got used to it and missed this simple way of showing affection when I came back to the U.S.

Toward the end of camp, I found out why I was called to Ukraine.

Natalya gave her life to Christ in my presence. 

What joy filled my heart to see her brought into a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Now, Natalya was my sister in the Lord and we would always be connected no matter how far away we lived. 

And, Sandy was right; 

Wonderful things happen when we expect great things from God. 

It never ceases to amaze me how the Holy Spirit, unseen like the wind, sweeps down into the deepest part of person's heart, and awakens it to new life.

“As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the maker of all things.”
(Ecclesiastes 11:5)

“The wind blows where it wishes,
and you hear its sound,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
 So it is with everyone born of the Spirit…

For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:8, 16, ESV)

July 2003, Natalya (right) and I at English Camp--mi querida amiga, my beloved friend

2003 English Camp team with me, 12 weeks pregnant

Studying with my teammates Wayne, Sandy, and Charlie

Ukrainian students in our English class

Ukrainian students singing and dancing

The mission trip to Ukraine was a life changing experience that I would never forget.  But, there was one thing that got me down.  One morning, while praying, my Bible accidentally slipped off my cot and thudded onto the floor.  It broke open in the middle, right at the book of Job, ripping the introductory page in half.

At that moment, a wave fear swept over me and took my breath away. 

I knew that although God loved Job and was very pleased with him, He allowed Job to experience overwhelming loss and sorrow.  It made me wonder.  

Does God have something like that planned for me?

I had no idea how much faith I would need to carry me through the darkness that was about to come into my life. In a way, going on the mission trip prepared me for what was to come:

When I found out that my unborn child had no kidneys. 

Little did I know that this would be a special trip for me and my baby. At that time, I didn't know he had a condition incompatible with life, so a trip to the other side of the world was a memorable experience I had while pregnant with him.

And, I will always hold the people of Ukraine in my heart.

It saddens me that Ukraine is going through such turbulent times right now. I think of my friends who live there and pray for their peace and protection.

Please join me in praying not only for the people, but for the leaders of Ukraine
that they will fear God and be wise in their decisions for their country. And, that they will have humble, tender hearts toward their own countrymen.

Although we do not know the future, we can expect great things from God.

And, no matter how dark things seem, 

Nothing can put out the light of Christ.

He is with us, always and forever (Matthew 28: 18-20).

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)"