Learning Life

Posted Jun 11, 2010 by 26 Comments

As I sit on this rocking chair out on the porch, my stomach full of homemade Ukrainian food and the sound of children playing outside wafting in through the open windows, I try to remember the series of events that brought me to this place. It might not sound very different from where I was a week ago, where anyone reading this might be right now, but let me assure you that it is.

Just listen closely and you’ll hear a series of sounds that don’t exist in the English language and smell unfamiliar scents blowing in the wind. While Zhytomyr may be a bustling city similar to the one I came from, six thousand miles and infinitely better coffee separate us.

These beautiful faces are proof that God is alive and active at Mission to Ukraine.

Though we’ve only been here about a week, I feel confident enough to turn my initial assumptions and observations into facts. One fact in particular has given me reason to believe that by the end of the next two months, it will be hard to leave.

That fact is this: the Ukrainian people are some of the most hospitable, welcoming and kind people I have ever encountered. Perhaps it’s in their blood to feed me until I literally have to be rolled out the door, or maybe they can just sense my new found love for borscht. Maybe all Ukrainians aren’t like this or maybe it’s just a beautiful picture of our global faith family loving each other. Whatever the answer is, and I think the last option is probably most true; Ukraine has perfected the art of first impressions.

But, a good first impression should always leave you wanting more. And as I continue to discover new things about these people and their culture, there is certainly more to be had. I am attempting to learn bits and pieces of the rich Ukrainian history in order to get a peek inside the way the people think. I have learned through conversations that poverty and oppression have ruled the country for centuries and that despite their recent independence, traces of Soviet influence still linger.

Despite Ukraine’s recent independence, Zhytomyr is still affected by Soviet ideals.

But even as the new pro-Russian President makes moves that could endanger humanitarian and non-profit work, the folks at Mission to Ukraine have not given up hope. Just walk in the doors and you can see why. Two pillars stand in the entryway, both covered with pictures of childrens’ faces. One pillar is covered with the faces of the disabled children they have all grown to love and care for over the years.

The other pillar is one of life, filled with pictures of children who are alive today because their mothers decided not to have an abortion due to Mission to Ukraine. As I stood and stared at those photographs, I couldn’t help but feel emotionally smacked in the face with the beauty of human life.

In a place where the average woman has six or seven abortions in her lifetime, the sanctity of human life is taken for granted and the ability to control it is grossly misused. But this is exactly the place where the hearts of the women at Mission to Ukraine lie. And this is the place where I will be learning all summer.

Even after spending only a brief period of time discussing plans for the next two months with Natasha, the woman in charge of the crisis pregnancy side of Mission to Ukraine, I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store.

I have the opportunity to get to know a group of pregnant women who are clients at Mission to Ukraine on a personal level. I will see what their daily life is like and I am confident I will see the Lord provide in unimaginable ways just when He is needed the most.

If this little guy isn’t enough to make anyone realize the beauty of life, I don’t know what is.

I will get to build relationships, make friends and invest in people’s lives. And I will also see women working through one of the hardest decisions they will ever have to make. I will watch them struggle emotionally, financially and maybe even socially with a decision that will affect them and their families. And hopefully I will be a part of bringing even the tiniest ray of hope into their lives.

As the summer continues and I learn more about this organization and the women who are affected by it, I am going to need help. I can only do so much as an English speaking twenty-year old girl in a country where I can’t even pronounce the street I’m living on (yet). Nonetheless, I hope to discover their needs and through you, the readers, to meet them.

So if you need encouragement, if you need a visual aid in knowing that the Lord’s hand really is at work and that His Word truly is alive, just look at these faces. Know that these hearts are beating because He has a special plan in place for all of them.

And know that you can be a part of it.

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About the Author: Lauren Schneider was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is a Journalism/Mass Communications major at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Lauren loves writing and photography and could eat Chick-fil-A every day for the rest of her life.

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  1. Jo Nading said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 7:38 am  

    Holy moly my dear. We’ve not yet met, but I’m Jo – and I am an avid WND reader/follower. You are an amazing writer, and I cannot wait to read more and meet you through the pages you bring us. No doubt in my mind that you will be greatly used, wholly loved, and forever changed during and after your internship. Talk about first impressions! This was my first one of you, and YES you have left me wanting more.

    You have my prayers and my attention.

    many, many blessings to you.


  2. Ken Ney said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 8:46 am  

    Wow-great article! you have captured the dilemma and plight of the women in Ukraine very well and have placed yourself on the front lines of God’s Kingdom penetrating the darkness in Ukraine. Thanks for being there and being willing to let yourself be used by God.

  3. Rob Yonan said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 8:57 am  

    I can’t imagine what 6 or 7 abortions does to one’s soul, let alone to the soul of a nation.
    I can’t imagine the depth of stories told on the pillar of photos. They are the hope.

  4. Hannah Hadley said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 8:59 am  

    Wonderful! Love this.

  5. Molly Lawton said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 10:39 am  

    Your writing brings tears to my eyes!!! As one who has serve through summer camps in Zhitomer with MTU, you have captured my heart as you have through the written word visualized again what I have seen and know to be true. As my 3rd grade student, you have grown up to have a heart that honors the Lord and is giving Him first place. Nothing gives me greater joy!! May Jesus continue to use you in advancing His kingdom and may you grow more in love with Him each day.

  6. Don Lawton said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 11:45 am  


    Great article! It’s inspirational, insightful and humorous. I’m relating to being stuffed, moved to tears, and the inability to name the street where you live! I can’t wait to see you in one week and hear about all the things you’ve learned and the people you’ve met.

    Don Lawton

  7. Tyler Bender said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 12:34 pm  

    The angle you’re taking in your writing will tell some pretty captivating and moving stories. It looks like I’m not alone in looking forward to more from you. So glad you get to use your gift of writing and love of photography to share these people with us and the wnd community. Awesome first post.

  8. Stephanie Mueller said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    Thank you for your continual opening of eyes. Praying for you and can’t wait for your next story.

  9. Kevin said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

    Wow! What a heart wrenching beginning. You have put the words into pictures and pictures into words so well. Can’t wait to see how God works through your mission there.

  10. Erika said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 2:16 pm  

    Nicely done, Lauren. Your depiction of this place and the people you’ve encountered is quite stunning. Keep up the good work!

  11. Tanya said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 2:31 pm  

    Thank you, Lauren. Your article is very beautiful, delicate, and truthful. You are a blessing :)

  12. Mighty Chandler said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 2:41 pm  

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. What a great opportunity for you to be apart of such a wonder mission. Please share all you have with us.

  13. Andrew Znachko said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 2:41 pm  

    Lauren! Thank so much for this article! It is beautifully written and very refreshing for me. You do a wonderful job potraying the people and mission of MTU and fan my flame of desire to return to the wonderful friends there. Thank you for this testimony of God’s grace, goodness, and love. Please keep sharing, I really look forward to reading more. Be blessed and have fun!

  14. Virginia Baldwin said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 3:33 pm  

    I agree with all the others who made comments. While I was reading your article I was thinking how grateful to God I am for the technology He has given us . You can keep us posted as to what you are doing and how you are feeling on a day to day basis. We don’t have to wait until you return for us to be informed. We can keep in touch with you, also. God is so good.

  15. Chyrise Ney said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 4:06 pm  

    My dear sweet Lauren, I am amazed how quickly God has given you a glimpse inside the hearts of these wonderful servants of Christ!!! I am humbled by your ability to write so beautifully and with such compassion at the tender age of 20! Thank you and I can’t wait for more!

  16. Kris Schneider said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 6:42 pm  

    Lauren, I have read this article over and over today. Wow! You write so beautifully. :) Thank you for sharing with us how the hand of God working in a place most of us have never been to or may not ever have the chance to see firsthand. I’m so thankful for the opportunity you have to be there and especially for the wonderful people of MTU who are taking such good care of you AND the precious children there. God is good, isn’t He? Love you lots!

  17. Becky Rogers said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 8:33 pm  

    Lauren, What an awesome article you have written! I can’t wait to read more and follow how God will use you this summer as He surely will! I had no idea what a gifted writer you are :) Love, Aunt Becky

  18. Bill Schneider said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 11:05 pm  

    Lauren: That is a great article and I hope it finds it’s way into the hands of young people who find nothing wrong with aborting a life. After they read your article they will change their mind. In your next article I’d like to have the name of your street. Keep up the good job. Love you. Grampa

  19. Scott Schneider said... 


    June 11th, 2010 at 11:24 pm  

    Lauren. GREAT article. As always i am impressed with your writing. The harvest is plenty. Thanks to the MTU and all the interns for being God’s workers in the fields. Keep up the great & important work. Cant wait to read the next ones. Love ya.

  20. lauren howard said... 


    June 12th, 2010 at 6:05 pm  

    Lauren, you’re writing is so wonderful. It is amazing that I know you have this gift, but rarely get to see it. It is a blessing to all of us :] I can’t wait to read and hear more about everything each day you are there. I’m so proud of you.

  21. Jim M said... 


    June 14th, 2010 at 11:10 pm  

    Lauren, what a touching story. You are a very accomplished writer. You have all that you need, we all look forward to seeing God’s work through your eyes and talented writing.


  22. Dave Rod said... 


    June 18th, 2010 at 4:59 pm  

    Every time I hear the stats of abortions in Ukraine I am stunned. What do you suppose are the factors that promote such injustice? Do we need stories that will encourage and build our faith? Uh huh. We do. We’ll be waiting. thanks!

  23. Maeven said... 


    June 20th, 2010 at 4:30 pm  

    I’m so excited to read more from you… especially about the women there and the struggles and difficult decisions so many of them have to make. We all need an advocate, and those women you are going to encounter are blessed to have you tell their stories.

  24. Stacy Madden said... 


    June 21st, 2010 at 2:45 pm  


    You have such a wondrous way of describing the sights, sounds, and impressions of the people, their challenges, and your purpose in their lives. I had no idea of your amazing writing talent and can’t wait to read more!


  25. Linda Znachko said... 


    June 24th, 2010 at 6:22 pm  

    I love how God has redeemed the boring summer you had last year. It is what helped to spur you on to find something more significant to do with your summers…wow girl!
    Your writing is annointed, it is oozing with your heart for Jesus.
    Thanks sweetie!

  26. Christie said... 


    August 31st, 2012 at 2:35 pm  

    Love, Love, Love!

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