The team arrived back in DC yesterday afternoon after a wonderful trip to Ukraine. I think each and every one of us had a very powerful, memorable, heart-changing experience. I know I certainly did. Everyday was action packed from early morning until late at night. I could probably write a small book describing the sights, sounds, tastes and emotions, and I wouldn’t have even begun telling some of the amazing stories. So, to start, I’m going to post the short version of the trip. Katrina kept a detailed journal, and I will be sharing that when she posts. I will share a link to pictures once I get them online.
Our leaders, Caleb and Ashley, encouraged us, when we are talking about the trip, to start with describing the trip in a single sentence and telling one story. I am following this model for this first post. More stories will come. If you want more details about a particular story or want to know about a particular aspect of the trip, feel free to ask at any point via the comments section or in person.
So, here I go.
One sentence description: While in Ukraine, our team helped with a day camp at an orphanage, visited a rehab center for kids, a baby orphanage, an institution for adults with disabilities (both physical and mental), and visited 5 churches in Krivoy Rog, Smela, and surrounding villages.
The one story: To be honest, it is difficult to just pick one story, both in terms of what I think other people might find interesting and in terms of what impacted me the most. So, I’m going to tell a story that is neither the most interesting nor the most impacting but best describes (in my opinion) the emotional condition of many of the people we met and their reception of us. The interesting and tear jerking stories will all come eventually. So, the first story I’m going to tell is about my babushka (“babushka” is a term referring to an older woman/grandmother). The first village we visited was about 40 minutes or so outside of Krivoy Rog. Even though this village is very close to a large city, it did not have any plumbing, and not all houses had electricity. We went to this village for a church service to help support the pastor in that village. The service was held outside. Before the service started, we were mingling with the people who had come. I went over with one of the translators to talk to a small group of older women who were sitting off to the side so they could be in the shade. I ended up talking mainly to just one of the women. She told me about her son and some of her physical ailments. When the service started, I went back and sat with the rest of the team. Near the end of the service, our team went around to pray for people who wanted prayer. The group of women all wanted prayer. So, I first went to the woman I had spoken to before. I prayed for healing for some of her physical ailments and for her son, who was having difficulties. When I finished praying, she was very touched, mainly by the presence of God, but by someone simply giving her the time of day. She hugged me, and then she just held me in her arms for the rest of the service and until it was time to leave. I was so honored to be able to just love on her (who even knows the last time any of her family came to visit her), and she was so thankful just to have someone to love on her. It’s amazing how meaningful hugs and kisses on the cheek can be, even when they come from a stranger (although, I didn’t feel like a stranger in that moment). I didn’t have a translator with me for most of this time, but it didn’t matter because words were not important for this moment. So many people we met, regardless of age, were so happy just to have people to come and hug them, to listen to them, to eat a meal with them, and, most of all, to actually care about who they are, regardless of how long or short the interaction. Simply, so many people needed love in the most basic form, needed someone to care they were alive. They needed a physical experience of God’s love. To brag on my team, time and time again, each person did an amazing job of sharing that love.
So, stay tuned for more stories over the next several days/weeks/however long it takes me to flesh out my experiences.