For the first two years of our four-year term, I thought, I’ll stick it out for the rest of our term, but there is no way I am coming back. I don’t even want to know what God thinks about it. If I made it through the rest of our term, I figured I would not have to apologize to anybody, not to our supporters, not even to God.
It seemed rather un-Christian to leave God out of the decision entirely, so I changed it to: If God gives me the desire to come back, I’ll consider it. That seemed safe, since I could not imagine ever having the desire to come back. Life in Ukraine had been much harder than I had expected, and I was ready for an easier life. The living conditions were difficult: packing food home from the market, regular outages of power and water. The poverty and dirt. The separation from loved ones. The sense of isolation. The stress on our family.
My husband was not experiencing much job satisfaction either. The local church seemed more concerned about maintaining their traditions than about reaching the lost. I had heard other global workers say, “The rewards are greater than anything we have given up,” but neither of us could say that.
When discussing these thoughts with a long-time friend, I told her, “It is just so hard!” She replied, “That’s not a good reason to quit. Sometimes God asks people to do hard things. When He does, He gives the strength.” I knew she was right. The Apostle Paul, Jesus and others did not stay the course because it was “fun.” It is not a sin to go home from the mission field, but it is important to know God is leading in that direction
I was further challenged toward perseverance by the verse And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9). I realized that if you give up too soon, you miss out on seeing the results of your labor.
Ministry opportunities improved during our third year. God linked us with two national men with a similar desire for planting new churches. Working as a team with these men, my husband helped start a training center for church planters that provided both theory and many practical assignments. The ten men in the program began sharing the Gospel in various villages and towns which lacked churches. They formed small groups attended by people wanting to know more about Christ.
God had to bring us to a point of brokenness. From our place of weakness and recognition of our own inadequacy, we know for certain that anything good that has happened has been accomplished by the power of God. Since I stopped fighting with God regarding the idea of coming back, life has become more enjoyable here. Sure, our water is still off for half the day, and the entry to our building still smells like an outhouse—but I have stopped looking for things to justify my discontent. And God gave grace for the difficulties.
After thirteen years of ministry in Ukraine, we see even more fruit: others came for training and started additional churches. When I meet people whose lives have been changed through the outreach of these church planters, I am grateful for God’s mercy and sustaining grace. Living conditions improved, but the difficulties of our early years showed us how inadequate we are, how incapable of making any dent in the vast needs of this culture. Therefore, we never can say, “Look what we did.” God was strong in our weakness. He loved these people more than we did, but used us anyway. But He loves us too – He gives us a front-row seat to participate in what He is doing in Ukraine.
I cannot say how much longer we will be here. I gave up putting time limits on God. My prayer these days: Use me as You see fit for the building up of Your Kingdom.
Those who sow with tears will reap with rejoicing. Psalm 126:5