Friday, December 28, 2007
A mark in the sand
An eventful trip, a lesson learned, another rock on the monument -- there are many ways to describe the weekend train journey on the 14th-16th Dec to an unpronounceable (to me) Ukrainian town at the top of the Crimean peninsula.
Let me start at the beginning...
Jon has been playing with a band, and they have had a few concerts, including one in Lviv -- which was a great weekend away. So when I heard about another one in Crimea, I applied for the time off and was looking forward to another great trip.
The trip there was the normal train journey, but as we stepped off the train on a platform (that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere) with snow floating down I remember commenting on how surreal it was for me. An interesting choice of words.
We were taken from there to our hotel where we dropped out luggage and then back to our host's place for breakfast. Not understanding the language it took me rather a long time to figure things out...there were different people there I didn't know, or understand why they were there...things started to become clear as it was translated to me that we were actually part of a youth conference...one that had been in the making for awhile...one that was covered in prayer...where God was really the center. This didn't make too much difference to me...all I wanted at this stage was a shower & sleep. Thank goodness we headed back to the hotel for just that...all was going well.
The next thing that I remember rather clearly was arriving at the church...on entering this building we got the normal stares...and then almost instantly a lady came up from behind and introduced herself to me. Being the dumb foreigner that I am, I gave the standard blank face of 'I have no idea what is going on' until my friend (a God-send actually) helped me out. We exchanged names, and I got the normal response to my name -- it being rather hard to pronounce the 'th' at the end of Ruth in this culture. (I normally get called "Root"!!)
This was about 4pm, and the band started to set up & practice...and here started the long wait & fast! We had not eaten anything since our breakfast at about 10am, so here was hoping we could grab a bite to eat between practicing and the conference starting at 6pm. No such luck...it was practice, then straight into it. I lost interest at the point my stomach started talking louder than the translator! There was a short break...then straight into the concert, finishing about 11pm. I was asked to sell CD's (what I would describe as a bad joke!) after the concert...as you can imagine I wasn't really that successful!! LOL
So by the time we got back to the hotel...to then eat bread with salami & cheese (for the 3rd time that day) I had really had enough. It was at this point that I was regretting my decision to come. I was not looking forward to the next long day ahead!
So Saturday morning arrived...a bit of confusion as to when we were suppose to be at the church...but I decided food was in order, so to the cafe we went...today I was going to be prepared! It seemed that I needn't have worried. The lady who I had met on the first night went out of her way to look after me with food & drinks this day -- not that I could really understand her questions.
So it was after the afternoon session and I was sitting at the back -- bored, cold & no-one to talk to that I started writing down my complaints, that I was feeling homesick, was 4 days overdue ...and my obvious need to learn the language. I wrote about 4 things that had been bothering me. I was really just counting down the hours until we left for the overnight train -- drawing plans for our house to try to keep myself positive.
I'm not sure what changed...but as the last guy got up to preach...I really wanted my friend to translate it for me. He started to talk about losing your first love. He read from Revelation where God was talking to a church...he acknowledged that he could see their hard-work, their faithfulness, that it was good BUT his one accusation against them was that they had lost their first love. The preacher described it as putting activity before relationship. This really spoke to me, it took me back to NZ and the youth work we had been doing, but where was my relationship with God now...I really felt touched & convicted by God. I knew God was speaking to me. I was surprised because it had never really occurred to me that God would convict me through translation of a sermon. I was humbled, glad to hear God again & also very thankful for my friend who was willing to translate for me.
But it didn't stop there...God wasn't just breaking a small peep-hole in my cynical wall, He was goin for 3 strikes! The next thing was the youth pastor got up, and started to give what we call an altar call which for some reason always makes me feel uncomfortable. I think this maybe due to the fact of having it done so many times and no-one responding -- I'm not sure of why my feelings are on this. But this time it was different...I think you could have probably seen my jaw drop as 3 people immediately walked forward when he gave the invitation. It is hard to explain, but I was shocked and again humbled to see how hungry these people are for God, to see fruit and people crying out for Him. It was here that I realized that comfort brings complacency and that because we have everything we need our desire for Him is weakened. It was here that I started to cry, I felt so convicted of my bad attitudes. I felt so humbled, and blessed that God still choose me to be a part of this conference (even though I wished I wasn't there) and that He wanted to teach me & show me some very special things. I was feeling so blessed but yet so undeserving of that blessing, that despite my pride and aloofness these people where being a blessing to me.
Then to really blow my socks off...here came the 3rd strike. As we were standing at the back (I couldn't stop crying) the lady (the one from the first night, who had kept looking after me, despite my coldness) came up from behind and through my friend translating asked me where I was from, how long we had been married etc. She then asked if we had children. I answered no. She asked if we wanted children. I answered yes, very much so. She said to me..."You will have a child, and he will be strong in God. The devil will not want this, but he will be strong in God. Everyday you need to tell him that you love him, and every day you need to tell yourself that you are a good mum for him because God has given this child to you because you are a good mum." I was blown away! She then kinda disappeared off, although I thanked her and apologized that I couldn't speak her language. I really couldn't believe what had happened. With all my bad attitudes, my complaints, God had spoken to them all...he had blessed me when I deserved it least. My tears where like the waves washing away the barriers that I had placed in my mind. I still find it hard to be here...I still struggle with the language and not understanding what is going on and feeling rather useless, but I need to remind myself of this mark in the sand. To start to focus on my relationship with God, my husband & my friends with my heart in the right place, rather than 'doing all the activity'. I get the feeling that is just the beginning...I'm not sure of what's next but I am sure that God loves me & HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!