It’s been so great to have you in English class this past week. I’ve learned so much about the Ukranian culture in our discussions in class as we talk about the hopes and dreams for our lives. It was striking to me that almost all the students in our class were born in Ukraine and have lived in Ukraine their whole life: “Ukraine is a country of patriots,” I was told.
When our team shared about our journey to eleven countries in eleven months, I saw a longing in your face… you mentioned having the deep desire to see the world. Yet, for you it seemed like this was just a fantasy, a far-away dream that had little potential to be accomplished. You told me that due to personal economic situations, as well as the red tape within the Ukranian visa system, traveling to multiple countries was almost impossible. That broke my heart… I asked myself, “Why me, and not you?” Why would God give me the privilege of traveling to eleven countries in eleven months, and not you?
The last day of class, when we passed out class photographs, you lined up to have me sign your photos and asked me to pose in pictures with you. This actually made me feel like a celebrity…someone told me “I have always wanted to speak to Americans, but have never been able to.” I get the sense that just because I’m from America, that we’re living in an ideal world. But God looks at all of us in the same way – we’re all His favorites. I’m actually not that different than you. Like you, I daydream about my future marriage: who will I marry, will I have kids? I struggle with temptation: how do I stay pure, why did I just say that? And I long after Jesus, wanting nothing more than His love to be poured out in all the earth, just as you do…
There is so much that I learned from you this month. I so appreciated seeing the way you love – how you poured out your heart on others and expected nothing in return. As Americans, this can be hard for us to do – we tend to put up walls between us and others. Someone told me that the Ukranian culture is based on relationships – I really respect that about you. From the moment we met you, you opened your heart to us. Within just a few hours, I felt like I had known you for years; we were family. I couldn’t believe it when nine of you showed up at midnight to hang with us and see our team off – I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anyone live as selflessly as you. When we had to say goodbye, you held me so tight, with tears streaming down your face. Don’t think that because I wasn’t crying that I wasn’t hurting inside, because I was. I just didn’t know how to express the pain that I felt. I didn’t know it was possible for me to get that attached to another person in just a few weeks.
If there is one thing I could say to you, I’d encourage you to dream big, girl! Never let your dreams be dictated by what people say or the situations around you. I believe in your dream to see the world – Did you know that God gave you that desire? Continue dreaming with Him – He is your loving papa who wants nothing more than to give you the desires of your heart. He might not answer your prayers in the way you expect, but know that God answers every prayer in His way and His time.
Although I’m leaving Ukraine now, know that we’re just an email or Facebook message away from one another. I hope we can keep in touch – please let me know how you are doing and how I can be praying for everything that is happening in your life. Know that you always have a second home in America – I’d be so blessed to take you around my neighborhood and welcome you into my country, just as you did for me.
I love you –
Your sister in Christ,
Here is a photo of the Intermediate-Advanced afternoon class that Charlie and I taught. Below, the theme of the day is God’s provision – the students are conversing together to construct structures to protect their eggs:
Below is our evening class. I was so blessed when the last day the students showed up with gifts for Charlie and I – chocolate, pins, and even a handmade poster-sized painting! I’ve worked in many camps before but have never received so many gifts, which further displays the welcoming hearts of the Ukranian people: