And so it began. Hurriedly, we scanned the rows in search of our seats on the airplane. Found it. As I scanned the crowed I saw many strange faces and heard many languages. From the moment we stepped foot on the plane we were in another world. Even the flight attendants did not speak English. For once we were the minority. This was Ukraine. Not our home turf and, frankly we were lost. As the flight progressed I became more and more aware of how much of a culture shock this trip would be.
This was not my first time in another country, but it sure was my first time in a country where I had never been exposed to the native language before. In Mexico, I could at least sort of understand what the signs were saying and many people spoke English. But not here. Here, in Ukraine, it was a whole different ballpark. The letters on the billboards were not even the same as the American alphabet.
When we finally touched down in Ukraine, everyone was jittery. From the windows we could see huge apartment complexes and massive buildings. People were bustling to and fro everywhere. After we regrouped, we set out to find the bathrooms. This was a daunting task considering all the signs were in another language. Finally, at the end of a long set of stairs we saw our goal. Immediately we could tell we weren’t in Kansas anymore by the way the bathrooms looked. They were messy. They were smelly. They were just plain gross. Definitely not something you would see at a large American airport.
Later that day, through eyes dragged down by exhaustion, we trudged our way through town to exchange our worthless American money into Ukrainian money. As we babbled on about the trip on our walk we passed by many people. Homeless people were everywhere. And anytime we passed by someone and tried to smile they would keep their stone cold stair forward; almost as if because we were Americans we had some ragging disease that would take control of their bodies from a simple glance. And this was just the beginning or our journey. The area where we were staying was very poor. Walking around my heart was saddened by the terrible shape everything was in. From that moment on, I knew I needed to do a better job at making my world a better place. If I never had the opportunity to see other cultures in action I would never know how amazing our life in America truly is.
We stayed in a college dormitory in Lugansk for one week and a “four star” hotel in Kiev for the second. Although these were much better living conditions than many of the homes, they were still nowhere near what Americans would think of as four stars. For instance, there was a cockroach in the bathroom of my room. But, after a long days work with the children any place to lay my head was welcome.
Our goal was to share Jesus’ love. Much of our time was spent building relationships and ministering to those around us. I met this wonderful ball of sunshine named Tanya. I never spoke a word to her but I know that I loved her and she loved me. She would give me little trinkets and follow me around everywhere. I wanted nothing more than to take her home with me. This trip changed me. That may sound clichÃ©, but I am going to make a difference in the world. One person at a time.
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