How was your trip? That is the first question you are asked when you get back from traveling somewhere. For me, that is a hard question to answer with one short statement. I guess if I had to use just one sentence, I would say, it was good, bad, disheartening, joyful, and eye opening. The 2nd question I hear is would you do it again? That is an even more difficult question to answer. Every part of me says no way. I like my own bed, air conditioning, food I actually want to eat, cold water to drink, and normal bathrooms. The part of me that desires to follow Christ says that if He asks me to go, I will go. If it means reaching children and being a part of their lives even if only for one week, I will go. If it means sacrificing when it’s hard, and trusting God through it so my children can see that I do more than just tell them to trust God, I will go.
As many of you know from my updates, this trip did not start off well for me. From the time we left DFW until the time we arrived at the camp on the Black Sea, I was so sick I was not able to eat anything more than a few crackers at times. It was awful. I kept praying and asking God to help me, but I felt like He just didn’t. Elise would just rub my arm, and tell me to please not cry. All I wanted in those 3 days of travel was to go home, but not on a bus, a train, or a plane. I wanted to wiggle my nose and be home. I told God I didn’t understand why He changed so many things for us to go on this trip only for me to be completely useless. Then God started working. Let me go back a little so you can understand every part of how this happened. Our first flight was from DFW to Minnesota. This was where it began. When the plane took off I felt sick to my stomach, and landing made it even worse. We had 45 minutes on the ground to get from one gate to the next, and then it was the long 8 hour flight to Amsterdam. By the time we got to Amsterdam I was carrying barf bags with me from the plane. We had 3 hours there, so we went and asked for some medicine to help with motion sickness. They gave me what I needed and told me how to take it since I couldn’t read it, and so I followed their instructions. At this point, it got really really bad. We were about to board the next flight and I was crying. I did not want to get on the plane. I felt horrible, but I got on the plane and curled up as much as I could and tried to sleep. We finally arrived in Kiev, Ukraine where we were taken to a church to rest until evening before our overnight train ride. It helped, but I was having issues, and they weren’t going away. Several people gave me different meds. I even took charcoal just trying to make it better, but then it was time for the 10 hour train ride. It wasn’t so bad because I was able to try and sleep through most of it, but when we had to start getting ready to get off the train, things went downhill fast. Again, I was in tears and when we finally got off the train, we got on a bus for 2 hours to get to the camp. This bus ride was the worst form of transportation I have ever experienced in my life. It was hot with no A/C, and it literally bounced all the way to the camp. BOUNCED! Needless to say, by the time we got to the camp the tears were heavy and Amy took me to a room to lie down, plugged in a fan, and left me for dead. : ) Just kidding, they did what they could to help me. At lunchtime Elise brought me some soup. It was some weird red stuff, but I was able to force down about 4 teaspoons full of the broth, and go back to sleep. God was working. A few hours after resting I got up, took a shower, was able to eat dinner with the team, and I was doing great. Amy told me she was so worried, and that her parents who were teaching adult students in another part of the Ukraine had asked them to pray for me. I knew I had my prayer team, my family, and so many people praying, and God worked in amazing ways. My recovery time was nothing, and I know it was only because of Him.
Instead of writing about what happened every day, I am going to share parts of my journal with you that I wrote while we were there. I think you might appreciate this as writing is not my thing. : )
*side note: I write many times about Amy, she is the amazing woman who started this ministry and runs it. Her organization is called Worldwide Women’s Witness, and you can find it on-line. She is amazing…just amazing.*
Saturday, July 7th – I know people are praying for me, and I am begging God to heal me quickly so I can function, but it’s just not happening. I don’t understand why God would do all of this to bring me here, and then I am so sick I can’t do anything. For now I feel a little angry with God, and resentful He hasn’t helped me. I am praying for joy because Satan has managed to steal every bit from me. On a happy note, Elise is doing great and thankfully not sick.
Later the same day:
Before we left for this trip, my awesome hubby gave Elise and me a journal, and in each he wrote scriptures and a sweet personal note. Today I opened my journal to write and re-read the verse he wrote which is Isaiah 41:13. It immediately brought me joy. The Lord MY God took hold of MY hand, and He helped me. I cannot thank the people enough that prayed. Today started awful and ended with a blessing. Thank you Jesus for allowing me to serve you and making is physically possible.
Sunday, July 8th – Today has been a good day. The campers arrived on the buses, and we were ready to welcome them. In our team devotional this morning, Amy told us how important body language is to make them feel welcome and loved. This was partly because of the language barrier, but also because during the time of the Soviet war they had to learn to communicate secretly with one another. One look would tell everything without a word being spoken. Each student had to be tested on their English level to be placed in the correct class. We wrote name tags for them in English. I saw a group of girls pointing to each other’s name tags and giggling. It made me smile thinking that must look strange to them. I hope I can teach them the way they deserve and make it understandable.
Monday, July 9th – Frustrated! Today was our first English lesson, and I feel like a complete failure. The lesson was short because it was about getting to know one another, and they went through it in about 15 minutes when we had an hour to fill. I was all over the place trying to figure out what to do, and the kids knew I was lost. They asked me if I spoke Ukrainian or Russian, and I said no. They proceeded to speak in their language and laugh. Of course, I felt like they were laughing at how stupid I was. I don’t blame the kids. Really, I am the one failing them, and it makes me sad. There is one question they all pretty much answered the same, and it spoke volumes to me. I asked, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? They almost all said this camp. I was thinking, I would love to go to Tahiti with beautiful scenery, the lavish huts where you can sleep over the water, and all they want is to be at this camp. It’s not even a nice place to stay. There are no awesome amenities here, why would they choose here? I don’t have the answer to that question, but it’s something to think about. This morning in our team meeting, Amy shared with us about a few of the children here. Yesterday a young boy had a birthday, so they all sang to him and gave him a gift. He turned 14, and since he lives in an orphanage, it means he only has 3 years left before he is put out on the street alone. A birthday for him is just a reminder that it won’t be long until he is completely alone. He begged the camp to let him live there and not send him back. There is another boy who Amy tested that shared with her that his mom had to unmarry his dad because he is sick with alcoholism. He said the last time he saw him his dad punched him in the face. My heart is broken for these kids, and at the same time I just want to throw my hands in the air and tell God I still don’t understand why he wants me here. I am not a good teacher. These kids deserve better than me. I can’t fix their problems, or take away their pain…..WHY am I here? I don’t know why I am here, but I will try my best to teach them as much as I can, and I pray God would help me. Please Lord allow me to be a good teacher, and to show them your love the best way I know how.
Tuesday, July 10th – Today’s lesson went so much better. The kids did a great job, and seemed excited. The kids go after English class to do activities and crafts. I found a few boys from my class drawing on the sidewalk with crayons. I told them they were very artistic (one of our vocabulary words that day). I hope I am making a difference in the lives of these children. I feel like we don’t spend enough time with them to create a bond. As long as they see Jesus in this, that is all that matters. Elise and I could not sleep and got up at 5am. We walked to the beach and took pictures of the sunrise. Thank you Lord for allowing us to see your light.
Wednesday, July 11th – The lessons continue to go great thanks to God. I know it has nothing to do with me because teaching is not my gift. I am so grateful that God has helped me through this. Sometimes when you’re in a place like this, the kids are at camp and involved in activities they enjoy, they seem like happy, everyday kids. It makes you forget what might be hiding in their hearts and minds. I think that is true anywhere. We are so busy with our lives that we forget we just might be walking past someone who just needed one smile their way. Makes me think of the song, Lord give me your eyes. “Give me your eyes for just one second; give me your eyes so I can see. Everything that I keep missing, give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken hearted, ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten, give me your eyes so I can see.” Oh Lord, please give me your eyes to see what I have been missing for far too long!
Thursday, July 12th- Class went fairly well this morning. The lesson was a little more complicated so I am not sure the kids got as much out of it as I would like. They tried very hard, and did a great job. There are many children here who honestly don’t care to speak English, but we are praying God would open their hearts and allow us to create a bond with them. Many of the kids are very angry, and rightfully so. I don’t blame them for being angry; I just hope they give us a chance. On a more personal note, we went to the beach yesterday when the camp kids went. The beach here is very different. The sand is full of seashells (OUCH!), and there are jellyfish everywhere. Elise enjoyed picking them up, and digging holes to fill with water to make little jellyfish habitats. Don’t worry, they didn’t sting. : )
Friday, July 13th – Today we had a great English class. We went over how to order at restaurants and they got to role play. They seemed to really enjoy that. I mentioned we only had a few more days left, and they said they were not excited about that. I was surprised. I guess bonds were being created before I even knew. There is a kid I want to take home with me. He is just the sweetest thing, and so adorable. Every day we hear a new story about another child, and it’s so disheartening. A young boy was having trouble with his feet, and it was because his shoes were too small. We have an incredible translator named Ira on our team, and she went and bought him some shoes and even a few new items of clothing. You would not believe how he lit up just to get a pair of shoes, and a new outfit just for him. Oh how it made feel so ungrateful. My kids get new shoes every time they need them. I hope every single time I purchase a pair of shoes, I can remember to be so grateful that I have that ability. One of the ladies on our team shared a story with us today about something that happened during and after class with a student that brought me to tears just hearing about the incredible power of God. I can’t share the story here because it isn’t mine to tell, but if you are ever with me, ask me about it. I may never understand why God allows so many children to live in these types of situations, but I believe that what He knows is far beyond what I could understand. Tomorrow is our last class, and I feel sad to leave knowing I will more than likely never see these kids again. Lord, let the time we have here be enough.
Saturday, July 14th – Today was our last day of English class. We played games to review everything we had gone over, and we had a great time. I wrote each of them a letter. I hope I am able to stay in contact with them. One of the boys even brought his cell phone and asked to take a picture of me. I thought that was really sweet.
Sunday, July 15th – This morning we got up and got ready for our last day with the kids. Today we handed out a diploma to each of them for completing the English class. Amy told us that a woman who had taken one of the adult English classes took the diploma with her to a job interview to show them she learned English from American’s, and she got the job because of it. Some jobs here need people who speak English and Spanish. In the Ukraine, it’s almost every job that they need to know some English. We didn’t go to a single place that there wasn’t someone that spoke enough English to get what we needed. It got me thinking about how different that is from here. If they were to come here not knowing English, they would be guessing unless they either had a translator or were really good at charades. How sad is that! In both airports overseas that we stopped at, all the signs had an English version. Most of the shops or eateries, had their signs and menus translated in English as well. As a matter of fact, I had one woman and her daughter stop me, point to the gate on her ticket (that was in English), and ask where to go. I pointed in the right direction which was the opposite of mine or I would have let her follow me. All I could think about was how scary is must be to be in a place where most people cannot understand you, and there are no directions or signs to help you get to where you are going. It brought me straight to Jesus thinking about this lady. Have you ever told God you just didn’t understand? Have you ever wanted to follow in that direction, but you just didn’t understand the signs pointing you there, and all you could do was ask and hope if someone pointed in the right direction you might be able to stay on the right path without losing sight of Christ? There will be people in your life that point you in a direction that seemed right, there will be signs that you thought you understood, but when you hit that dead end, you realize you had been traveling the wrong direction for far too long. It is never too late to turn around! Jesus will show you the right path to take, and you don’t have to be afraid that He doesn’t understand you.
Monday, July 16th – Yesterday we left after lunch. Many of the kids came to the front gate to tell us goodbye. There were many tears, and many hugs. I saw one of my students as we were getting on the bus, so I grabbed her hand through the gate and told her how much I loved having her in my class. It was a bittersweet moment. I miss my husband and son so much that I just want to hug them, but I will miss these kids too. I have one last story to tell, a moment that spoke to me in a way I will never forget. I love music so songs can be very meaningful to me. There is a song that we sung with the kids at camp. It is a song I know, and grew up with, but I had forgotten about. The words went deep. I was sitting next to one of my students, and when I read the words on my song sheet, I leaned over and said, “This is a great song.” We sang, “I have a maker, He formed my heart. Before even time began, my life was in His hands. I have a Father, He calls me His own. He’ll never leave me, no matter where I go. He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls, and hears me when I call.” At the end of the song, he looked at me, and said it was a really great song. My heart hurt, but at the same time I was happy that he understood the depth of the love of Christ in that moment. Some of these kids may have never experienced unconditional love from the people in their lives that should have given it, but they each have a Father who calls them His own, and will never leave them no matter what choices they make. This is not only true for each of them, but for each of us.
Maybe now you can understand why a simple statement after the question, how was your trip, is not enough. This was not a great trip. I can’t walk away from this trip thinking it was great because I couldn’t save every child there from either of lifetime of no love or a life full of hurt. I think being a mom makes you want every child in the world to have what you think is the best. This trip had a wide range of emotions. My eyes have been opened to more than I can explain with my sucky writing skills, and lack of descriptive vocabulary. I am just so thankful that God allowed a person like me to serve Him with my daughter by my side. I will end with one last song that over the last few months has been close to my heart. “I don’t know how it is you looked at me, and saw the person that I could be. Awakening my heart, breaking through the dark, suddenly your grace is like sunlight burning at midnight, making my life something so beautiful.” Only you Jesus could make something beautiful from the ashes of my life.
To view the video, click on the link below. You can click on the icon in the bottom right hand corner to view it full screen. I am pretty sure I did something incorrect when loading the pictures because they seem a little blurry in the video. : )
I have been photographing this little one since she was born and she is about to turn 2 years old. I had a great time wondering around with this family, and I think we got some really fun shots. Enjoy!!
Last weekend I had the privilege to shoot this family. What an incredible personality their daughter has. At only 2 years old she was talking to me like she was 12. I truly enjoyed spending time with this sweet family. Here are just a few of my personal favorites.