In our mid-lives–the time when most begin to think about retiring someday–God called us to the mission field. We had a lovely home, and Wayne had a fulfilling job. He served as an elder at Shady Grove Church for nearly a decade.
We had led many short-term missions trips. We especially loved visiting Eastern Europe, and we felt that God had someting for us to do concerning the Jewish people someday.
We tearfully said good bye to family and friends and boarded a plane for Ukraine. After flying and connecting and flying and connecting, we arrived in the former Soviet Union about 24 hours later.
We had rented a small village house that had a well and a grape arbor. That first night we fell into bed exhausted and feeling strange in a new place. The phone didn’t work, the electricity was out, and the water wasn’t running; so we had to dip in the well to drink. We could not bathe, yet… In fact, we did not bathe for one week after arriving. I know that sounds horrific.
We were entering a baptism of fire, the burning off of the comforts of home… We couldn’t speak a word of Russian, and we didn’t know our neighbors.
The airline had left our luggage in the rain, so our clothes and suitcases were soaked. They also left our two cats’ pet carriers in the rain, and they arrived in Ukraine wet, cold, and totally freaked out. Well, they weren’t alone.
I was concerned the cats would get sick; they had been left wet in the cold cargo part of the plane for 24 hours. No wonder they did not purr for 30 days after arriving!
On top of that, our landlords had not move out… their stuff filled the kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets… Later, we were told that this is customary–renters should just “move their stuff over” to make room… That was totally shocking to me! I was looking around and wondering if I could live like this for the next five to ten years…
Our first morning we awoke in the village house–with friends, family, and memories behind us, and new adventures and new friends before us. The house was very rustic, but I was already thinking of ways to ”fix it up.”
Wayne and Julia still slept.
I fixed a cup of coffee and opened my journal. I looked at the sweet, morning light coming through the window. With all this uncertainty and strangeness, my heart settled into the kind of peace that only God can give when there is lack of human understanding, when there is lack of comfort. I didn’t know what would happen next. I just knew God had prepared us and would take care of us.
I wrote this poem in those very first moments of our new beginning.
Puzzle pieces of morning light
gleam through thin kitchen curtains.
Outside plump ruby grapes dangle
from twisted vines, and
vibrant grape leaves
in the still of first light.
My soul is as peaceful
as the Ukrainian morning.
I read and drink coffee
in the humble kitchen of
stout-hearty Soviet friends.
Their rickety kitchen table jiggles as I journal.
A half-eaten grape cluster
leans against a chunk of
yesterday’s crusty brown bread.
My heart sings and swells for simplicity,
for quiet. Distant jagged patterns and
neon colors of home emerge:
grasping for Donna Karan,
clawing for Vera Wang,
force feeding the fat,
rescuing the apathetic,
competing, running in the
left lane winded, jaded,
gathering with both fists full.
This home-scene memory
rushes before my eyes vivid,
but I can’t hear it.
The morning is too quiet.