The sun is sinking beneath a beautiful, Ukrainian sky.  Below me I hear my host family chatting in a language completely foreign to me. I am full after eating my third bowl of borscht for the day and I hear stray dogs barking beneath my window.

How is it that I find myself in this place? How did a college student from Moody Bible Institute, born and raised in America, wind up listening to a “babushka” chattering as evening falls?

The sun setting in Zhytomyr out the window of my new home.

Prior to coming here, the furthest I had traveled was over the border into Mexico. Beyond that I have zero experience in international travel. I speak one language and get hopelessly confused when trying to find countries on a globe. And yet, here I am, sitting in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.

This crazy adventure all started one day in March when I got a phone call from World Next Door with the cheerful announcement “You’re going to Ukraine!” I must admit, with the credentials I just listed above, I was a little shocked. And honestly, I was slightly terrified. I knew I was standing on the brink of something big, and deep in my adventurous heart I knew I could never refuse.

The entrance to Mission to Ukraine’s center where I will be going every morning.

Fast forward two months to my team and I boarding three flights and finding our way to Kiev, Ukraine. As I stepped out of the airport in my sleep deprived state, I smiled to myself. There I was, standing on Ukrainian soil, off to encounter the kingdom of God in a new place.

As we drove down the streets in our hot, stuffy van, I tried to keep from drifting into slumber and attempted to read signs and drink in the sights of the city. Honestly, this was a humbling moment.

Here I am in a place where I have no ability to communicate, navigate, or really contribute much of anything. I have come in faith, and in faith I will have to continue. I knew from that moment on I would be living each day by trust, trust in my hosts, and ultimately trust in God.

My very important Ukrainian dictionary and map of Zhytomyr.

My time here so far has been a whirlwind of meeting amazing kingdom-minded people, getting acquainted with the city, and witnessing firsthand the work of God among the overlooked and oppressed. I have come to Zhytomyr to learn from those who work at MTU and from the people whose lives are being transformed by this work.

I will be focusing on MTU’s work with the disabled in Zhytomyr and I have been blessed with the opportunity to tag along with the folks at MTU as they love on these kids. Already I’m blown away by their humble hearts and willingness to dedicate their lives to loving those who are, by the world’s standards, unlovable. I will also get to interact with those who have disabilities so that I can begin to understand what their lives are like.

Some of the kingdom work I have already witnessed first hand.

During the week MTU has classes and therapy for kids with disabilities at their center. And every Friday a group from MTU piles into a van and drives an hour away to the Romaniv Orphanage for disabled boys where they spend time ministering to the boys. I can tell already that there are stories here, stories that are just waiting to be told. I can’t wait to witness them, and to share them with you.

So, get ready for a summer that I believe is going to profoundly change my life and hopefully yours. My heart breaks for a group of people who have been marginalized and virtually ignored. So join me this summer as we seek to understand what God is doing and wants to do in a city called Zhytomyr.

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About the Author: Krystallin was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is currently a senior at Moody Bible Institute majoring in Communication Studies. After graduation, she hopes to spend her life pursuing justice for the oppressed. She loves adventure and chases tornadoes on her time off.

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Comments

  1. Jim M said... 

    Reply

    June 15th, 2010 at 8:33 am  

    Krystallin,

    It’s easy to sense your anticipation, for the reporting you are about to do. You have by now felt a touch of the heartbreak you will experience as you witness the struggles of the marginalized. And also you have had a small taste the joy of of watching Jesus work through the teachers and caregivers you have seen. You are correct, God is about to put you face to face with his Son at work, life will never be the same.

    Peace.

  2. Ken N said... 

    Reply

    June 15th, 2010 at 8:47 am  

    Great post!
    you are working with an incredible team. -they truly are some of the most dedicated, humble servants I have ever seen. I am most blessed to be able to work with them. thanks for what you are going to do for these kids, their families, and the work of MTU through your thoughts, words, and pictures.

  3. Curtis Honeycutt said... 

    Reply

    June 15th, 2010 at 9:03 am  

    Krystallin, I think you’re underestimating yourself. Your perspective is wonderful and I look forward to hearing about what God is doing in Zhytomyr through your eyes.

  4. Kris Schneider said... 

    Reply

    June 15th, 2010 at 10:22 am  

    Krystallin, I can’t wait to hear more from your walk of faith in Ukraine. You will be awesome! Praise God for workers there at MTU that see these kids for who they really are – precious in God’s sight. Keep up the good work and enjoy every minute!

  5. Amy Catanzaro said... 

    Reply

    June 15th, 2010 at 10:34 am  

    Wow, Krystallin,
    Thank you for the touching insight into the world of Ukraine. I consider myself a fairly traveled person and yet know little about this interesting country and the ministries taking place there. I am excited to hear more about the story of the orphanage so that I may pray accordingly. Thank you for your honesty in this article, and I also love the flavor and spice you add! Looking forward to continued writings!

  6. Virginia Baldwin said... 

    Reply

    June 15th, 2010 at 8:47 pm  

    Good reporting. You make me want to return to the Ukraine. It is a beautiful country and the people I met were really special. Someday we will be together where they speak only one language. Praise God! Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go.”

  7. Dave Rod said... 

    Reply

    June 18th, 2010 at 4:52 pm  

    Looking forward to the stories of the kids, of the MTU people and of course your own story. I’m thinking part of your calling is about to emerge. Enjoy the ride!

  8. Maeven said... 

    Reply

    June 20th, 2010 at 4:24 pm  

    Excited to read more from you, Krystallin!

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