This testimony is an account of a fine young man from Birmingham, who decided to go on a mission trip during his spring break. He could have gone anywhere, yet he was obedient to the calling of God! I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time as we departed for Ukraine at the Atlanta Airport. His testimony alone shows how we see the face of God in the most simplest times. This trip was conducted by a non-profit organization, called Bridges of Faith, that shares the same goals as 1More, and that is to share the gospel and love of Christ with the children. This trip was March 21 – March 29, 2015.
By Thomas Jones.
I spent my spring break living life in an orphanage in the Kirovograd region of Ukraine. To most people I talked to before I left, this sounded like a ludicrous idea. My friends didn’t know why I would go to what they thought to be such a dangerous place over my spring break. The explanation I gave them is simple: I love God, and He loves me. He expects me to love “the least of these.”
At the outreach, during our nightly debriefing, I heard others talk about these moments in which you see God through the children. I thought this was probably a really cool experience, but I didn’t think they meant it so literally.
On our final day in the orphanage, Olya, the Program Director for the team, decided that Nazar and I should dress in clown costumes all day to teach the kids about loving each other. This moved me outside of my comfort zone. I agreed to go along with the idea.
I was sitting on the floor in my clown costume eating a traditional Ukrainian meal. I wanted badly to change out of the costume before we ate, but Nazar and I had a role in the talent show immediately following the banquet. We needed to stay in costume. During dinner, 10-year-old Vadim, who is very special and requires a full time caretaker, approached me with a dazed look in his eyes. He sat down beside me and stared at me. My silly costume entranced him.
I played patty-cake with him for at least ten minutes, but it never seemed to get old. I taught him the English words for “right,” “left,” and “both” as we clapped each other’s hands. He tried very hard to make the connection between these three simple words. I was so happy.
Then it hit me. Suddenly, while playing a simple hand game with a special needs little boy, I saw it. I saw God’s face in Vadim! My eyes teared up as I realized that I was encountering God. I thought that I was teaching this boy a few simple English words, but this wasn’t what was happening at all. God used this moment, in this location so many miles from home, to reveal himself to me. I can’t really explain it, but I can tell you that it was incredible. It was beautiful. It was love. It was God.
Why did I go? I think I expected God to use me to physically show children who rarely feel love that they have a real God who loves them. While I believe this was in His intent, this was only part of what He had planned. He used those beautiful children of His to reveal Himself to me at a time in my life that I desperately needed to see Him. It is so simple. His love and grace is powerful, and He used a little boy in the Ukraine to show that to me.
While we can’t physically measure the impact we had on those children, I know we overwhelmed this orphanage with love. It isn’t important to try to measure the impact we think we had because I know that God has a different scale. God was evident in this place during our time there, and I know He isn’t leaving that place any time soon. I dearly miss all of my new friends that I made in that place. A few of them I pray for specifically every day. Some told us they want parents, some told us they want to be able to talk to their siblings, and these are things that I ask God for on behalf of them. Ultimately I ask God to continue to reveal Himself to these children who have such a void that only He can fill.
As you can see, God will have an impact on our lives when we are obedient to His calling!