Yesterday a group of us from HfO went to a nearby village and visited elderly widows and widowers, bringing them food packets and asking them questions about their lives and listening to their stories. Several of these people remember the forced famines of the 1930s and 40s, and fought in WWII. Their grit and fortitude are humbling and I'm thankful they gifted us with their stories. But honestly, I felt like the worst version of myself the whole day. In the van driving to the village, I didn't try to engage my Ukrainian friends in conversation, I just looked out the window and indulged in loneliness and self pity. Once in the village, I felt completely helpless and useless. I couldn't carry packets because I was a girl and there were too many guys available to carry them so it wouldn't have been culturally appropriate, I couldn't speak with the people we were visiting because they couldn't understand my accent and I spoke too quietly for them to hear me even if I found something to say in Ukrainian, I didn't know if it would be appropriate to hug them or hold their hands, I didn't know what questions to ask even through a translator... these were all the excuses running through my mind mixed in with selfishly focusing on feeling cold, tired, and hungry (even though I had warmer clothes and shoes than the people we were visiting and ate breakfast right before we left). I wish I could say yesterday was a one-off, but I have many days, and if not whole days, constant moments like that. Moments when I give up and retreat inside. Moments when I seek to be understood rather than to understand, to be comforted rather than to comfort, to be served rather than to serve, and to be loved rather than to love. The longer I live here the more I see my own insecurities and fears and selfishness blocking me from loving others well.
On days like that I wonder what I'm doing in Ukraine. I could be so much more "helpful" in the States. I love my life here, but it's pretty small. I do so little, and I struggle with being worthy of the trust and support people give me. I was praying about this a few days ago, and God reminded me of Psalm 37, specifically verse 3, "Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." Psalm 37:3 NASB. This is the same verse He reminded me of 5 years ago every day as I drove to a job I didn't see fitting into any story of significance (spoiler alert: it ended up setting a foundation in my character and in relationships that would make living in Ukraine possible). The same verse he reminded me of when I worked with IJM and felt so small and useless to the amazing work IJM was doing. And I was struck by a deeply simple truth, our purpose, mission, calling, whatever you want to name it, remains the same no matter where we are. Circumstances change but principles remain the same. We are to dwell in Christ and in the land our feet are currently standing on, and we are to cultivate faithfulness as we would a garden, slowly and consistently in the tiny, seemingly insignificant details.