At the Lviv train station, I said goodbye to the rest of the World Next Door Team and found a nice wooden seat to pass the night in.  My train didn’t leave until 9:45 in the morning.  I looked up at a clock and it read 7:00pm. 

This is the lush greenery of the Carpathian Mountains, the pride and joy of Ukraine.

I’ve always been independent but this seemed a bit extreme, even for me.  I was getting ready to take what would be a twenty-one hour train ride clear across the country on my own, sans translator, to join up with kids and leaders from The Haven at the Azov Sea.

I’ve never been so happy to see a train station in my whole life.

The wooden bench was hard and the armrests prevented me from laying out, so I sort of leaned over as much as I could, letting those armrests dig their way into my ribs.  This, coupled with the fact that I was worried someone might try to steal my backpack out from under me, meant I woke up every ten minutes or so.  And the army dudes who kept waking me up, angrily asking to see me passport didn’t help either.  The sleep wasn’t exactly restful but it kept my body going.<

In the morning, I stumbled out of the station in search of food.  I found kiosks selling chips and sodas and other snacks.  All I wanted was some yogurt.  After half an hour of searching, I settled for a Ukrainian hot dog, complete with ketchup, mayonnaise, corn, and shredded garlic carrots.  I washed it down with a fifty-cent espresso.  Breakfast of champions for sure. 

Five minutes later I found some yogurt at another kiosk.  Oh irony.

I grabbed a couple of sandwiches at random from one of the endless kiosks, a bag of beef flavored chips, a small pack of cookies, and a two-liter bottle of water.  With my meals in hand, I hopped on my train.

I was riding in a cabin with three other people, a Ukrainian granny, gramps, and granddaughter.  I was in one of the top bunks and quickly scrambled up once the fam arrived.  The adults looked at me distrustfully and muttered something under their breath but the little girl, probably around 8 years old, just smiled at me and continued singing.  The only time she stopped was when she fell asleep.

When you spend twenty-one hours lying on a train bunk, with no one to talk to, you start thinking. 

The sea almost always has a calming effect on me. I found out that the Azov Sea is no exception to this rule.

Oh sure, I listened to music and read some books, but I had plenty of time to just process.  And what I kept coming back to, over and over, was that it seemed the natural reaction to start whining and griping about the bits of this experience that weren’t that enjoyable.

And just when I thought that I might start making a mental list of all the hardships of this little excursion, I was struck by something.  This was a twenty-one hour trip to the sea.  Right after a retreat in the Carpathian Mountains.  I was doing things most Ukrainians can only dream about.

In just a couple of weeks I had seen more of Ukraine than most Ukrainians ever will.  I mean, I’ve met people who’ve lived their entire lives without leaving the city of Zhytomyr. 

All of a sudden, that mental list seemed childish.  I began to start making a list of the many blessings that the Lord had given me on this trip instead.

When I finally got to the sea, I was dirty, I was smelly, and I was smiling.

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About the Author: Christopher N. Cambell was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. He is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and an avid reader. He has an endless appetite for stories both true and otherwise and loves using those to better know and understand people.

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  1. Jonathan Pomazon said... 


    July 12th, 2010 at 10:58 am  

    Hey Chris, glad you made it! What a great experience – I trust your time in the Carpathians and at the Azov Sea were each restorative as well as educational.

  2. Kevin said... 


    July 12th, 2010 at 11:03 am  

    Thanks Chris. That reminded why I miss mission trips so much. Recalling God’s blessings in the midst of life’s challenges.

  3. Jim M said... 


    July 14th, 2010 at 8:31 pm  

    Chris, What a great reminder… that finding gratitude sometimes requires a little discomfort. How easy it is to be comfortable.

  4. Tanya said... 


    July 20th, 2010 at 5:24 am  

    Thank you for sharing :)

    I appreciate your focus on blessings :)

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