Marina approached me on Sunday morning with a question. â€œWhat are your plans Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?â€
The rest of my ministry team was away with a group of students bonding on a hike that would be something like 80 kilometers throughout the week (thatâ€™s like 50 miles). No thanks.
My week was left pretty open and in a moment of spontaneity I said, â€œWhat do you have planned?â€
Thatâ€™s how I found myself on a trip to the western part of Ukraine with one of the students and her friend that I met about five minutes before we stepped on our overnight train.
I awoke the next morning on that train to freezing cold and a rather unexpected sight. There were large flakes of snow falling from the sky and settling on the land outside. Oh and itâ€™s the month of May.
Thankfully that stopped before our final destination was reached an hour later.
We visited two cities during our day – Mukachevo and Uzhhorod. It was a gorgeous day filled with castles, walking, flowers, more walking, good pizza, and a little more walking.
What impressed me most, however, was Marina.
If you know her, you love her. She is the kind of person that seems to bring light into any situation. Sheâ€™s also a bit mischievous, which is probably another reason I love her so much.
We had a lot of fun and interesting conversations during our 36 hour trip. It was clear that her friend that joined us was not a believer, but she did not shy away from difficult conversations (like when he wanted to argue that fasting is just an imposed diet that is pointless).
On our train ride home, two older men boarded with tickets for seats across from us. There was some polite conversation as they consumed a very manly, Ukrainian fare of bread, salo, and vodka. (I just said hello and smiled, since my Russian doesnâ€™t extend much past that.)
During conversation it was discovered that one of the men was an atheist and Marina politely (and ever with a smile) jumped into the discussion armed with Bible verses, theology and historical references. I only caught what Marina translated for me, but she clearly did not need my assistance.
It was exciting though to see one of our students so willing and able to witness to a total stranger on the train and to her friend that was with us, and I mostly just listened from the side and prayed. This is what we want to see happening with our Christian students, and it gives great hope for the future!
It was an unexpected trip full of surprises ..including the giant spider that sneaked up on me as I was using the bathroom in a cemetery… and Iâ€™m so thankful for the opportunity.
As we near summer camp, please pray that our Christian students will be a light to their peers at camp, that they will be bold in their faith and willing to share with others the hope that Christ offers.