Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Zaporozhye

Our final week in Zaporozhye was a blur. Our trip from Knyajzicki to Zaporozhye was the most painful journey I've ever been on in my life. I had been feeling somewhat sick in the village but had no idea just how sick I was until the trip back. For the longest eight and a half hours of my life to date, we traveled by bus across bumpy, rutty roads. With only three scheduled stops and no alternative options of crossing half the country that night, I was trapped on a bus feeling more pain and sickness than I had for as long as I can remember. We arrived in Zaporozhye on Sunday morning to learn that the I35 bridge had collapsed in Minneapolis (in the village, we had heard vague reports of a bridge collapse in California - something was lost there between the news's journey overseas and between languages), that our ministry country directors had to leave the country immediately and unexpectedly, and that my brother in law had been in a severe accident where his vehicle had flipped and ignited with him still in it. All the news at once combined with being sick was a little overwhelming, but we had commitments to fulfill and only a week to fulfill them in.

After just a few hours of sleep between the early morning arrival and Sunday morning, we got up to go to Calvary Chapel, the church I'd been attending in Zaporozhye all summer. It was a good morning - a chance for Travis to meet people I'd been working, serving, and ministering alongside throughout the summer (through there's no official partnership, many of Nadezhda Ukraine's staff attend Calvary Chapel, and many who attend Calvary Chapel participate in Nadezhda's ministries). Sunday afternoon we spent with my girls from the July children's camp. Aside from being sick, it was the perfect day. Travis finally met some of the girls whom I had become so close to across the summer and who had changed my life. It was amazing to him building relationships with these girls and having fun with them. One of the greatest blessings was the fact that he was able to meet Olga, my best friend and a stronghold of sorts for me across the summer. Each moment was one I was grateful for, knowing that at the end of our time together that day, I would be saying goodbye to these amazing girls and women for an indefinite period of time. Each goodbye was bittersweet - it was hard to let them go, but I was grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime to meet them, know them, live alongside them, and love them. They are amazing girls.

They day also brought what turned out to be an unexpected goodbye. We had planned to see Olga the next day (Monday) for lunch, after which she was leaving for a missions trip in Central Asia. But an extended visit to the clinic the next morning ended up covering the last time we had planned together. We said goodbye to Olga that night on the marshutka with short "Patka's" and kisses to the cheek. I'll never forget watching her wave goodbye as the marshutka pulled away thinking, "I'm glad this isn't the last time I'll see her this summer," and for an instant, wondering if I would really see her again. Somehow, I don't regret our goodbye. I miss her incredibly, but goodbyes are hard enough. We had a wonderful day together and a friendly goodbye with every expectation to see one another again. I know I'll see her again.

Monday brought an experience I will never forget! Without access to clinics and translators across the weekend, I dealt with being sick and in pain the best I could. Monday morning, we headed into one of the clinics in Zaporozhye. Using outdated equipment and a blend of Western medicine, Eastern holistic healing, and wives tales, the doctor diagnosed me with an internal infection. I was told I became sick by coming into contact with something cold (in Ukraine, cold objects, beverages, and breezes are thought by many to cause every disease and disorder from colds to sore throats, so contact is avoided with all of the above). I was given Russian antibiotics and pain killers to last me through the week until I returned to the states. Additionally, I was told to stay away from cold objects, tomatoes, and hot foods. At that point, I was willing to try anything and everything! I paid literally with a box of chocolates and was on my way. My brother, a doctor in the making, emailed me promptly with other home remedies and a mixture of accessible medications that would help to alleviate the symptoms until I got back in the states.

The rest of the week was filled with fast introductions as Travis met the staff of Nadezhda Ukraine and the many friends I'd made across the summer, followed almost immediately by heartfelt goodbyes on Thursday. For four short days, we enjoyed the city I'd spent the summer in and cherished the people who have changed our lives together. Though I was homesick and ready to see home and family again, our time together in Ukraine seemed to go by too quickly. We spent Wednesday night with John and Karen, the pastor of Calvary Chapel and his wife, and their children John and Esther. It was an incredible night. We spent hours talking about the summer, about our lives and marriages, and about what God may bring us in the future. Like us, John and Karen have a heart for global ministry in poverty, and like us, their future stands before them wide open. So many options seem to present themselves - so many directions are available that seem equally good. So we are all relying on glimpses of His plan and are praying for responsive hearts. It's an exciting place to be in life, but one that carries much uncertainty and challenges as well. After hours of talking and praying together, a storm came in that forced us back to our flat. It was an awesome summer storm that carried much needed rain for the drought filled region. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful summer in Zaporozhye.

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