Hello again my beautiful creatures! I feel like it’s been forever!
I know you guys have waited two weeks for this… so today’s the day…
When you think of Russia, what do you think of? Cows? Rude drunk people? Communism? Fields of never-ending forests or grass? Vladimir Putin? Wrestling bears? Yea, me too. At least that’s what I thought before I actually came there.
*First of all, let me tell you something kinda off topic. I spent an entire month in Russia and I didn’t see a single cow. Now, I see more cows on my drive to Eastern Washington than I did in Russia. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think less of Russia because of that but I WAS expecting to fulfill my life long dream of milking a cow……Don’t ask. But I did buy something from a grocery store that had my name on it! (pretty cool, huh?)
It’s so important to note that even in everyday life it’s never okay to judge a book by it’s cover. I believe it’s human nature though, to stereotype. It makes us feel as though we know the person or thing and therefore are more comfortable (or uncomfortable) around it.
Well that’s kinda what I did when I came to Russia.
I thought that if I made this image in my head about what the land would be like, and what the people would be like, and what I would experience there, I wouldn’t have much of a culture shock. That’s a lie. I had a huge culture shock. Even though Russian is my first language, the way people speak there is different. It’s more intelligent in a way. Not only that, but Stacy (the best friend that I talked about earlier) and I, embarrassed ourselves multiple times. I mean, we usually do, but it’s funnier in a different country.
Here’s one example. We were in Moscow, waiting for our train to arrive so we could leave to the village, and we got thirsty. Summers in Russia are HOT. Like, wanting to do the ice bucket challenge for fun, kinda hot. So Stacy and I go to the little store, order two cokes and she starts taking out her wallet, and I’m not kidding, more than 100 small pieces of paper fall out of her wallet onto the floor. Right before that, our whole team exchanged our American money for Russian rubles. ALL of her money fell out onto the ground in the Russian train station with people behind us in line, and lots of people walking by. Right away, I fall to the ground and start using my arms to SWEEP all the money towards me while laughing at the top of my lungs. Now if that’s not a weird sight to see, I dunno what is.. People probably thought “Oh my goodness, stupid American girls”.
Here we are. Happy American campers.
But in reality, moments like these really made the whole trip very memorable.
Before coming to Russia, I thought I had it all planned out. I’m the type of person that usually has everything under control. I make lists, I make sure everything is done by the deadline, I have a little bit of a control issue. I hate having other people do things for me that I can do myself. And I also used to have my life planned out.
When I was younger I answered the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with “firefighter, interior designer, or doctor”. As I became older, i realized that becoming a firefighter required YEARS of volunteering and it was a very masculine job (not that women can’t do it, I just mean, like, have you seen firefighters on TV and stuff??). Interior design was also kind of off my list because I would have to be an intern for a while and find clients, and I just didn’t think it was a job that I could have forever.
So I was set on becoming a Doctor. My beautiful mother is a Registered Nurse and I’m the type of person that goes “all out.” So I said to myself, “if I’m going to do the medical field, I am going to go to the very top”. As you can see, my motives from the beginning were very wrong. I wanted the most money. I wanted to be respected. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it. I hated hearing my friends and family tell me that I was going to get married and forget about school (mom and dad were very supportive though, thanks guys!). I just wanted to make everyone proud of me.
But I learned that when you start thinking and doing things with these kinds of motives, you will never be successful.
That’s why God brought me to Russia.
Through my travels I realized that Jesus and people are the most important things in life. Without Jesus, I am nothing. And when I’ll be on my death bed at the end of my life, I don’t want to be holding my medical lab coat, or the number to my bank account, or my medical degree from medical school. I want to be surrounded by the people I love. I want to remember everything that I did in this life, and know that I have done everything I can for Jesus.
When I was in Russia, I met a young woman named Regina. She was married and was pregnant with her second child. She had a degree from a well known university but she didn’t have a job. At all. She and her husband moved to a small village to be missionaries. There was only one other christian girl that moved there before them, and in total, about 3 families of Jesus followers lived there when we came there. She told me something that I will never forget. She said “with a diploma, in the big city, I am not needed to Jesus. I am needed here.” She sacrificed her life of living in the city. She sacrificed a very well paying job. A chance to be a respected person and proving to everyone that she did it. She sacrificed all that for Jesus.
My whole perspective changed after that. What was I doing? Trying to prove to everyone that I was smart and able to do things on my own? What about showing people the love of Jesus? What about living my life for him? What about sacrificing my life, like he sacrificed His?
Let me tell you something, that’s the month that I realized I love people. I loved spending time with people and hearing their stories. I loved playing with the children in orphanages and singing with drug addicts. I love seeing people’s faces when they light up talking about something they’re passionate about. I love to just sit in coffee shops and watch people (not creepy). Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own struggles. Everyone is so precious in the eyes of God.
Yes, missionary trips are so great and I loved telling everyone about Jesus. I loved helping people out from my heart, and Jesus even commands us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. But I didn’t just do that, I changed myself. Well, Jesus changed me. A mission trip will change your perspective on life, I guarantee it.
Because that’s when I thought about social work. There are so many things I can do with that degree. So many people I can work with. So many lives I can change. And I completely changed my mind. Doctors are amazing people who save lives. But it just isn’t for me. People. That’s where my heart is. And I truly believe Jesus put me in Russia for this realization.
Someone wise once said,
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Seeing these happy faces, how can you NOT want to do this for the rest of your life?
And that, my friends, is how God took an American girl, who had big dreams for her future, placed her near orphaned kids, drug addicts, simple Russian people, and even prison, and turned her life around 180 degrees. God continues to work in me, softening my heart for people and showing me glimpses of His plan, but I will never trust in my own dreams anymore, because His are so much bigger and more incredible.
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her” Luke 1:45
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:4-6
If you want to see more, here’s a slideshow/video on this trip: