To Russia with Love Pt 2

map and girl

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?)

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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.

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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?

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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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Russia with Love pt 1

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Hey y’all! Happy national milk day!

That really has nothing to do with what I am going to be writing about, but I was just very disappointed that this is a thing and I didn’t even drink milk today.

But anyway, today and next week I want to tell you about the time when God completely changed my life.

The year is 2013. I am 16 years old. During the cold month of January, my best friend invited me to a friends house for a meeting about a potential mission trip. Now, I’d have you know that I have been praying to go on a mission trip since i was 13. I thought, “this is my chance, Jesus!”

We started a small group of about 9 people who had a passion to give love to people in need. Within this group was my best friend, my dad, and other people who are now my good friends for life.

The next 6 months consisted of fundraising (making chebureki and selling them at my church), learning how to talk and evangelize to the Russian people, and getting to know each other as a group.

When I look back at it now, we had no idea what circumstances were awaiting for us during that summer, but I know now that God was there waaayyy before we were. And that gives me peace.

That month in Russia, we visited 4 cities, a couple small villages, and ended in Moscow.

Whenever I tell this story, I get really emotional because this was the year right after my repentance, and right before I got baptized. This was the time in my life when God showed himself to me in ways that I will never understand. I think that’s what makes a Christian life so special. We don’t always know whats waiting for us, but we do know WHO’S waiting for us. 

During our stay there, we visited orphanages, rehab centers, showed puppet plays around the villages, woke up at 4am to clean the town, played with local children, put up a bouncy house, hung out and played soccer with the kids, helped build a church, and encouraged, prayed, and made lifelong friends with the local Christians.

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But wait. There’s more.

We got arrested. “What?! Olesya. You’re totally messing with me.” No dear reader, I am not. Our group got arrested. And guess on what day? That’s right. July 4th. The birthday of the country that was on our passports.

Our group had gotten permission to travel to a different village and put up our bouncy house, play soccer, and make crafts with the kids that were in the “camp” there. Of course we also had bibles with us that we were giving to anyone that wanted one. We also made bracelets that looked like this:

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Black for our sins. Red for the blood of Christ. White for our clean heart. Blue for our salvation. Green for our spiritual growth. Yellow for heaven with Jesus.

As I was making those with some kids (thats not me in the picture by the way), a man came up and started arguing with me that the colors could mean different things. Like, yellow could mean the sun and green, the grass. Well, after he stated that fact, he started asking me where I was from. We were told by our leaders not to say “United States” because, well, we all know history.

He then asked our whole group for our passports, but….our passports, unfortunately, were in another city with the pastor, because we didn’t want to lose them.

Well, he didn’t like that very much. And then he found out we were from the US. He didn’t like that either.

He was apparently the KGB. Yes dear reader, from the moment we stepped out of the plane into Russia, we were watched by the KGB. Our every move, every car ride, every village that we went to…he was watching. I’m pretty sure this is as creepy as it gets. But you know what? God was also watching.

We all got into his van, and this was around 6pm, and we just started singing. I don’t remember why, and who started it, but it was like that was really all we could do in a time like that. Worship.

At the police station, we got our fingerprints taken, we were videotaped, and now I am a “criminal” in the country of Russia. The whole spiel ended around midnight and we had to pay a fine, and told not to do “missionary” work because our visas were “tourist” ones. But the devil wasn’t stopping there. Because my best friend and I were only 17, we had to go through a whole meeting the next day with my dad and some super special people about how they thought we were there to take Russia’s gas….i mean…really?! That’s not aaaalllll America wants, is it?

Now, my favorite person in the bible is Apostle Paul. He’s the second person I want to talk to when I get to heaven (my savior is the first). His story in Acts is so encouraging and so are all of his letters.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) 

The only thing that kept us going was Jesus and scripture. 

How amazing it is to look back now and realize that Jesus was already there. He knew my weaknesses and he knew what was going to happen. He knew we were going to sing. He knew that our patience, compassion, and ability to remain calm in a situation like this were going to influence people’s lives that were in the police station. He knew. And maybe I don’t know the whole story. Maybe I don’t know what happened after we left. And that’s okay. When we suffer for Christ, he always sees that. He always works. Because His plan is so much better than ours. And for that, I will always be thankful.

… to be continued…

 

 

New Beginnings

journal and coffee

Hello world,

Happy new 2016 year!  You may ask- “why the blog, Olesya?  Everyone has a blog these days.” Well, looking at my life, and especially this past year, I realized that I write a lot. And not just boring papers for classes, but in a journal as well. And I have so much to write about. I can’t stay silent. Sometimes it gets a little difficult, as some of you may relate, to understand and navigate through the enormous amount of thoughts that go on inside your head. I have found that writing or talking about everything, helps.

I want to share my life with all of you. I want to share my blessings and how God is working in me, but also my struggles and failures. Many of my blog posts will probably be geared toward females, as I am writing this from a female perspective but nonetheless, I hope people find this blog an encouragement in their walk with Jesus.

I don’t know how “successful” this blog will be, or how many people will view it. I prayed to start a blog for a little more than a year, and God has finally opened the door for me. I will put all my trust in Him and He will use it according to His plan.

My title consists of some of my favorite things. Jesus, people, travel, and coffee. These won’t be the only things I write about but they do show a small glimpse of who I am. I have many things to share about my faith, the people that I have in my life and also the many adventures that I’ve had so far and will be having. I pray that if at least one person is encouraged by my blog, my mission will be accomplished.

Before you finish reading, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes  by Christine Caine:

“Allow God to continually soften your heart so that it beats for what his heart beats for – people.”