who am i. pre-departure thoughts on Ukraine.

In a little more than 48 hours, I’m leaving.

And I have no idea where I’m going.

Sure, I signed up to go with a team from Mission to Ukraine to, well, Ukraine. But the land is one I’ve only heard stories about . . . seen pictures of . . . studied books on, which tell of a people who lived through the Holocaust and world wars, and, as if that wasn’t enough, those times were bookended with pogroms on the 19th century end and the iron curtain on the other.

I don’t know where I’m going, Lord.

I’ve met a few people from Ukraine, beautiful women who come to the States on occasion and tell us about how God is working there. Their faith is so strong, so certain, it makes me feel like a near-pagan when I’m around them, so thick are my doubts and fears.

I don’t know what I can offer, Lord.

The photographs I’ve seen of the work of Mission to Ukraine show the handicapped leaping, the speech impaired singing, the mourning laughing, and lonely darkness splayed open by touch.

I don’t know who I am, that You called me, Lord.

My airplane tickets show the certainty of take-offs and landings, departures and returns. But I am at a loss for what to pack. What can my broken heart bring to salve the wounds of others? What can my doubting heart stuff into a suitcase that could share, with certainty, the Gospel? Can a carry-on bag as tattered as mine contain even a handful of hope worth sharing?

Lord, who am I?

Echoed by the ambivalent fugitive, Jean Vajean of Les Miserables, who am I, indeed? That the Lord is mindful of me, let alone wants to use me? To think I, of all people, can pull back even a corner of the curtain of oppression still rising from a hope-starved land?

*****

“My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on.”
~Jean Valjean

*****

Who am I, as I consider my departure Friday morning?

I am saved.

That is all.

And I am willing.

The rest is in His power.

The rest is in His hands.

*****

Be a part of this journey, by joining us in prayer and petition, that God uses broken vessels to shine light and hope and to see Him in the most unlikely of places–even in ourselves. 

And stay tuned, for (technology-willing) posts from Ukraine next week!

*****

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Wild Geese

wildgeese

Wild Geese 
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. 
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers. 
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

Our Guard and Shield

gatePsalm 121 (The Message)

Psalm 121
A Pilgrim Song
1-2 I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

3-4 He won’t let you stumble,
your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
Guardian will never doze or sleep.

5-6 God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you-
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.

7-8 God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.