I thought I would re-post the story of how I got to Ukraine in the first place, for YIM in the summer of 2008. Here it is, as I wrote it in November 2008. (The original can be found on my Facebook page, and probably on my other blog.)
After I returned from my YIM trip to Mexico/El Paso this summer, I wasn't sure if I would do YIM again. This summer was a time of growth and learning not to have expectations, because God would just shatter those ideas in order to stretch me. I knew I would not have the same teammates or the same experience, even if I returned to the same site. I was hesitant to reapply. Yet I did say, "If God wants me to go again, I'll do it." That kind of thing.
Somewhere in September I decided that I needed to stay home this summer and take Adolescent Development, a course necessary for me to graduate. It's only offered at ENC every other year, and the next time I can take it would be after my graduation date. So I figured whichever college I found that offered it in the summer would determine where I would stay for the summer. So when Joel Tooley was here, I had pretty much decided that doing YIM again wasn't in my future (my brother graduates in summer 09), but that I might do Missions Corps at some point.
Fast forward to the end of October. During all this time, I was thinking that if God called me to missions for life, I'd be okay with that, but that would be something I'd put off till I graduated from college to consider.
[Edit in 2010--since when is God's call something I can put off till later?? What was I thinking???]
In my time with God, and reading devotional stuff, I came to realize that in my interactions with people (be they Bible quizzers or members of a youth group), that it wasn't about how well I felt I connected with them, or that they felt like they could come to me about things. It was about me being there, just having my presence be an encouragement (like this summer back in El Paso). More importantly, it is that I am following Christ, learning His Word, and being the person Christ can use to demonstrate His love for them, so that they can encounter His grace and love.
Bob Skinner, missionary to Ukraine, spoke in chapel one Friday (the next one?) about how God needs to know we want Him more than anything else in life. He also spoke at Wolly and South Weymouth, and I wasn't thinking much about Ukraine except for while he spoke. At one point in the weekend, I wondered if Ukraine was on the YIM site list, but didn't look then, and had no intentions of going on a YIM trip in 2008. I didn't look till Sunday night, and there it was, but all I thought was, "Okay, that's nice."
[If you recall, I had some inklings about doing YIM again, if you happened to read my blog titled "a sneaking suspicion..."]
Sunday evening, as I laid in bed and prayed, I really felt like God was telling me to go to Ukraine. "But God! I don't speak Ukrainian! I don't speak Russian! I speak Spanish, English, and a little French!" Not to mention, going away this summer would throw off "my" plans. Remember Evan Almighty? "YOUR plans?" as "God" lets out a belly laugh. As I laid there and thought about it and wrestled with it, I prayed, "Okay God, I'm going to sleep now. But if this is for serious, remind me tomorrow." You know, so it's not one of those things you think about before going to bed, and can't remember in the morning.
ALL THE NEXT DAY I KEPT THINKING ABOUT IT. Seriously. In the afternoon, I went to the library with my math homework, Bible, and journal. (Never got around to my homework. Ha.) I sat there and prayed and wrote in my journal.
I've been sporadically reading through Proverbs, and that day came across this verse: "There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord" (21:30). Agh!, I thought. Then I was flipping through my Bible's index, looking for the terms "God's call." However, what caught my eye was "Procrastination", which I knew full well was what I was doing about my math homework. One of the entries said, "Do not hesitate in responding to God's call." "Agh!" I responded again.
I knew I'd have to give up a lot of things to do YIM this summer....my ideas of what my future held--being uncertain about when I'd take my needed courses, a full-time summer job to pay for car insurance and my cell phone bill, time with family, etc.
That day I knew my answer would eventually have to be yes, but at the very least, my thoughts became, "I think I'm doing YIM again; there's a possibility now." I began to work on my application.
Two days later in chapel, a woman spoke about how God's plan might not make sense to us, but because God's hand is on it, it makes perfect sense. It is utterly illogical to me why God would have me go to Ukraine. (As I listened to this chapel message, I couldn't help but think, "AGH!")
As of last week, I still had yet to talk to my advisor and my mom, because those were going to be obstacles to get past. I wasn't sure how my meeting with my advisor would go--I figured he'd be supportive of the endeavor, but figuring out the academic side might be a little muddled. I figured my mom would react with, "You need to stay home and work! You have car insurance to pay!..."
I talked to Joel Tooley on Sunday evening, and something he asked stuck with me: "So when was it that you said 'Yes' to God?" I told him I felt like I wasn't at that point just then, because I knew I had a lot to give up.
For whatever reason, I realized that I had to say 'Yes' before I heard from my advisor and from my mom. It had to be independent of me knowing ANYTHING. You know, that whole faith thing. :)
I spent some more time in prayer, and finally, finally, said "Okay God, I'll go. I'll go even if I graduate later. Even if it means not much work this summer, or time with family and friends. I will go--because You have called me." I know it's going to be tough. I know I will need to trust God to sustain me in everything--raising the money, meeting my needs (even if those needs exclude car insurance and a cell phone), and otherwise preparing me.
My brother told me, "I think you should just stay home." Thanks, thanks a lot. You're a lot of help. When I told my mom, "I think I'm doing YIM again this summer," she calmly said, "Ok, well, we'll think about that later; there's a lot going on in the family right now." (she didn't flip out!!! she was supposed to flip out at me!!! haha oh well)
I went to my advisor's office and told him I was thinking of doing YIM again, and that that would throw off me taking Adolescent Development in the summer. Basically, the options are: taking it as an independent/directed study in fall 08 at ENC, taking it as a summer course elsewhere in 09, or going to Olivet for the fall 08 semester. However, the issue with doing the Olivet option is that the courses would need to match up correctly to what ENC has, and they would need to offer what I needed.
While I was there, I was pretty calm. It didn't really matter to me which option would be chosen. I wasn't nervous about how it would work out, just sat patiently and discussed/looked at the options. So now the prayer is that God would work that out somehow.
I do think I have peace about this. And perhaps joy? I'm just like, "Ok, God, I'm doing what you want, I am pretty sure of this!" If this is what God has for me, then He will be faithful and carry me all the way through.
Now (once I finish 2 questions on the application), it will be a waiting game till I hear from Kansas City (or should I say El Paso?) in December if I'm going or not.
And then, I went to Ukraine for the summer. During fall semester, my considerations for where I would be after graduation included Ukraine/KCA if there was an opening, El Paso, or just returning to MD. In December of 2008, I found out there was an opening for a math teacher, and...the rest is history.