How often have I felt I was just “surviving” my time in Kiev?! I was called to check this mindset after reading a blog excerpt from someone I have never even met this afternoon. In her story she says:
“One morning I climbed into her van with the girls in both arms, sweaty and disheveled, to go to the grocery store and mentioned in an effort to make fun of myself that I was “surviving”. She politely corrected me by saying “God does not call us somewhere so that we merely survive”. Ouch! 🙂 Those words have challenged me a ton and have bumped my eyes upward and off of myself many times when I was tempted to just survive. I pray that I can have eyes to see His work around me …, in me, and love well through the duration.”
The circumstances are different for this woman and me, but I believe the truth is the same. There is purpose in our time here. It isn’t just a place to endure. We have had ups and downs emotionally as it has been a somewhat hard transition. We live in the city where I don’t speak the language. Lest that simple sentence not register I emphasize that we have always had a yard, or at least a neighborhood for our kids to play safely. They love to create and explore outdoors. Countless hours have been spent making forts, climbing trees, playing sports, making rock and stick restaurants with mud and leaf food. It is culture shock in a double way. We live on the fifth floor, and don’t forget the winter! So, I’ll spare the whiney details, and skip to the part about me feeling sorry for myself from time to time. After all, it is easy to feel stupid on a daily basis when I stare blankly at the cashier telling my total, not knowing what people are saying when they pass my daughter, dog, and I on the sidewalk, can barely repeat the phrase to get off the bus at the next stop, and other little things which add up each day. It doesn’t mean we don’t have good days and good times. We do. I am just relating how I have certainly considered myself “just surviving”.
But, on the good days I look around at the people we have met. Ukrainians, Americans, Dutch, Kazakhs, Koreans, and more. Many of them are here as missionaries. They are here long term, not just “surviving” a few years for a good paying job. How humbling to see them serving my children as teachers at the Christian school, preaching God’s word faithfully in the churches, hosting internationals in their homes to build relationships, living at an orphanage, and more.
And quoting the wise woman referenced above:
“Also humbling is the generosity they have shown us even as ones who have no connection with their personal ministry.”
I have felt this many times. Many of these people are living on raised support. Some have sold everything and left their home countries. They have no “home” to go back to. They call this home…yet they host, befriend, and share their life with me.
Something I have wanted to say publicly for some time is how blessed I have been by people here. Whether it is the Ukrainians I have connected with, the amazing people at Kiev Christian Academy, the people who have come to adopt from this country, the missionaries. It is eye-opening to be here. To see them give their lives for something they believe is worth sharing, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It looks different in each life. An American who came on a short tour mission trip and found his bride. A tall, beautiful Ukrainian woman. She is smart, wise and matter-of-fact. They serve here as a team. Him leaving his country. Her mothering, and working, and taking time to befriend me. The missionary mother with five kids who has so much joy. It’s like I don’t even want to talk to her if I am having a bad day because she is just so gosh, darn cheerful. Love her. A driver. Newly married, proud father, so humble, reliable and kind.
This is their daily life. Am I that impatient and hard to please? I think so. I tend to want to do things quickly and simply, neither of which happen here. I pray a spirit of contentment will grow in me through this time. Some things are just hard to express. I want to remember these relationships and real people when I am tempted to feel like I am surviving. We need to live while we are here. Our life isn’t on hold while we make it through this assignment. What a horrible way to go through life! May I not be guilty, but embrace the time and place God has put us, even when I am tempted to forget.