Monday, October 3, 2016
The Presentation I Gave to My Church
During the first month I was gone we were very busy with English camps.
They were like nothing that I had imagined. As we discussed the bible stories we were reading and met with people from our small groups, trying to share the gospel with them I realized how very lost and hard these people were.
The first camp was mainly with people from Odessa, (The city that I lived in.) Odessa is hard soil- People are comfortable; life is better than during Soviet times and they don’t see any need for a Savior. (Sounds kind of like America)
For the average Ukrainian it takes about 2 years of hearing the gospel over and over again before they decide to follow Christ.
Despite this, several people moved a lot closer to God during this camp. We were able to follow up with some of these campers during August.
During the first camp I struggled a lot, between homesickness, exhaustion and feeling completely useless, unwanted, unneeded and inadequate I was ready to come home after the first day of camp.
Thankfully I didn’t have that option and God put people in my path to encourage me when I needed it the most.
(Never underestimate the power of genuinely asking someone how they are and listening, and asking how you can pray for them.)
God showed me during the last few days of camp and once I got back to Odessa that I was focusing on what other people thought of me or what I thought that they were thinking of me instead of focusing on who I am in Christ, and that not of anything that I have done but because of Christ and who He is.
Like it says in Ephesians 2, ‘for by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not our own doing, it is the gift of God. Not a result of works so that no one may boast.’
We had a week between the first and second camp and by the time we were headed back to Kherson I was actually excited about the upcoming camp.
The second camp was by far my favorite, I don’t think that any of us, camper or leader, wanted the camp to end.
The campers ranged in ages from 13 to 19, the majority being under 17 years. These campers were from the war zone- even while they were at camp a group of boys learned that a friend of theirs had been killed by a stray bullet as he was standing in his garden.
Most of these campers had never met an American, had no idea who Jesus was and they were so eager to soak up every ounce of truth that they could learn, almost every single one of the campers said that their view of God had been changed and challenged greatly and they wanted to learn more about Him. Several of them wrote out the entire gospel in their “camp evaluations” and said that they believed it and have accepted Christ.
Unfortunately, because Avdivka and Dimitriov are 8 hours away from Odessa their discipleship has to be left for the most part to one young believer in her twenties who came as a guardian for the trip.
August was a lot slower than July; mainly follow up with campers, bible studies, English club and staff meetings and I was able to sit in on discipleship meetings as well.
It was actually a blessing to have August so calm because I then had the opportunity to get to know Kimberly (the young woman that I lived with), and the other members of my team.
It was a great encouragement and blessing to be surrounded by people who love the Lord and are passionately pursuing Him in every part of their lives. Their conversation, their lives and their deeds all pointed to their love for Christ, not that they have loved Him first but that He loved them and gave Himself for them.
The phrase “living in light of the gospel” was a common phrase to hear- not that they were perfect or that they thought they were perfect. This combined with the book of Philippians and a challenging message by Francis Chan and living in a foreign country was a powerful impact on me.
One day while I was there it struck me, I was in a country that was not my own, enjoying being there but I couldn’t wait to be home, I sang my national songs with gusto and longing, and couldn’t wait to feel American soil under my feet, be with people who spoke my heart language, (anytime I heard someone speaking English without a Ukrainian accent it was such a fun feeling. I wanted to shout "Please! Speak to me! Let me be your friend!!")
I talked about America almost any chance I got, the things that I did were not always in line with Ukraine’s customs, I didn’t dress exactly the way they did, I TOTALLY did not talk the way they did, I was in their culture but I was not of it…
America isn’t my home, although I love her and can be greatly distressed to watch the decay of what was once valued. My citizenship is not of this earth, if I can be so attached to, and eager to return to my earthly country how much more so to my true home? My goal here on earth as a believer should be so different that people can look at me and know, “She’s not from around here” (Just like they did in Ukraine.)
My heart language is the language of the gospel.
My national songs, songs of the Kingdom
To be anticipating and living in a way that shows I am anticipating the return of my King.
To speak of Him everywhere I turn
To love and respect people as God has commanded me to here on earth, and be a faithful ambassador on His behalf, but not to blend into the culture so that my heritage is virtually indistinguishable.
Time on earth is so short, eternity is much, much longer.
It is so easy for me to slip into complacency, “It’s too hard to try to talk about Jesus. I’ll just talk about the weather or the newest Marvel movie.”
Or into pride, “No one really cares so I’m going to stop trying and feel angry that no one wants to listen.”
But neither of those glorify God, which to glorify God is why I was created and He has prepared for me ways in which to walk, none of it is of me anyway so I have no reason to be proud and my King has given me a command so I have no excuse to be complacent and ignore Him.
All in all, I loved my time in Ukraine, I learned so much and I am very thankful that I was able to go.
I also want to thank each of you for your support through prayer and finances.
I would definitely go again if I had the opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone.