Posted Oct 31, 2012 by 11 Comments

I’d done my homework.

Before heading to Ukraine, I’d read books about its history. I did interviews with people who grew up there; I talked to missionaries who worked there.

I read amazing articles about the first time World Next Door visited Romaniv Orphanage, and the amazing transformations that had taken place since then.

I’d even read the book When Helping Hurts, and been introduced to the idea that maybe these people I’m visiting are not being served by me as much as I’m being served by them.

I thought I understood it all. Boy, was I wrong.


I came to Romaniv and expected to be changed. I knew that I would be touched by the children there. But when I imagined how these kids would affect me, I always pictured it as something transcendent. Something elevated and “spiritual.”

But my time at Romaniv was spent in a crowded, un-airconditioned classroom scrunched up next to some of the most colorful desks and behind them, the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. Some of the kids drooled and needed their noses wiped. And a solitary window, meant to air out the room and disperse the smell, kept slamming shut in the breeze.

At Romaniv, a follow-the-cup game is fun and a great way to learn.

Whatever this was, it wasn’t transcendent.

But when they passed out photos of the children, pictures of each child that could be pasted into their workbooks, I saw an expression I have no word for. A smile surpassing any sort of joy I’ve ever felt.

I found myself smiling too, uncontrollably and for no reason whatsoever. There was nothing spiritual about that moment. It was hot. It was smelly. It was human. And it was very, very good.

Waving goodbye to dozens of boys who crowded into windows as we passed, I felt suddenly disarmed. I was expecting God’s transformation in spiritual epiphanies or profound realizations. But there were none.

Instead, I felt that I had brushed up against something. A God too big to be confined to the “spiritual” and a reality that I’d read about, but never truly known.

Surprised by a Mountain

It took an hour to drive back from Romaniv Orphanage to Mission to Ukraine’s main office in Zhytomyr.

Me, sitting in the Romaniv classroom.

As I passed the pillars at the entrance, pillars covered with the pictures of saved children, I felt like I’d been stripped of something. My “intellectual shield” was gone. Before I came here, it was easy enough to say “God is at work at Mission to Ukraine” but for the first time I was feeling the enormity of those words. God is very big.

And I suddenly felt very small.

I’d grown up in church, I knew God was greater than I could imagine. But there’s a big difference between reading that Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain and standing at its foot.

Mission to Ukraine made me feel like I’d walked smack into a mountain I’d been reading about all my life.


And now I’m seeing that mountain everywhere.

In a crowded upstairs office, four desks jimmied into a room not much larger than a parking space, I listened to amazing stories of women who couldn’t feed their children, whose poverty meant they would have to abort their pregnancy.

Children once labeled “vegetables” are receiving the latest care and attention. Now they’re all smiles!

But because of Mission to Ukraine’s crisis pregnancy center, they were able to receive the counseling and material support they needed. Once seen as impossible burdens, these healthy, happy, children are now thriving as living proof of God’s love.

The child I had read about as a statistic was now playing peek-a-boo with me.

In a quaint cottage classroom I saw preschool children with special needs, who once would have been forever excluded from any opportunity for education or development, receive special classes and training designed to prepare them for school.

I sang “Jesus loves the little children” as a child. But I’ve never imagined those children as unruly or autistic before.

Simply walking back through the halls I was told about children suffering from physical disorders labeled “incurable” by doctors, these children are now receiving care that is transforming them, healing them.

I’ve used the word “hope” before, but never to describe a mother who has just been told her child will not be a vegetable – there is treatment.

A small candy prize can become a great treasure at MTU.

There is not a square inch of Mission to Ukraine that I can go without tripping over miracles and mercies. And my ability to fit them into neat categories has been destroyed. The mountain is just too big, too close, too real.

Humbled and Happy

I knew I was going into a place where God was present. What I didn’t know is what that meant.

I’ve been learning when I travel I’m not bringing the kingdom of God, but visiting it. What I didn’t know is that the kingdom has little respect for theories or book knowledge, and a strong habit of shattering any sort of pride.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt smaller. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more foolish or unprepared. But I do know that from now I when I say “kingdom of God” I’m not talking about an idea.

I’m talking about a place I visited.

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Next Steps
    • Want to hear more about Mission to Ukraine? World Next Door’s partner page has links to video, articles, and great ways to get involved.
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About the Author: Brad Miller is a year-long fellow with WND. A student of Psychology, Biology, and Theatre, he's worked as an actor, teacher, balloon artist and last-minute fill-in guy for any number of projects. He loves camping and tinkering with broken and discarded things. Brad's passion in life is to unleash the potential in others.

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  1. molly lawton said... 


    October 31st, 2012 at 12:40 pm  

    Great article, Brad. So glad to have spent last week with you. God’s blessings coming your way from you Indianapolis family in Jesus. Molly

    • Brad Miller said... 


      November 2nd, 2012 at 8:29 am  

      glad to see you missed the storm and made it back safe. I had a good first week learning with you as well. Thanks for the blessings!

  2. Amy Sorrells said... 


    October 31st, 2012 at 3:08 pm  

    Praise God for our smallness, His bigness, shattered pride, visits, foolishness, and smiles.

  3. Curtis Honeycutt said... 


    October 31st, 2012 at 3:19 pm  

    God is awesome. Happy to hear your time at MtU is off to a great start!

  4. David Rodriguez said... 


    November 1st, 2012 at 9:39 pm  

    Visiting the Kingdom of God…love that image! Thanks Brad! Enjoy the moments and bear witness for us all!

  5. JimM said... 


    November 1st, 2012 at 11:09 pm  

    “I’ve been learning when I travel I’m not bringing the kingdom of God,…” This too struck me Brad, love this servant posture. Your observations, and senses are keen my friend. Want to see more of MTU through your eyes. Peace.

  6. Liz Barron said... 


    November 2nd, 2012 at 2:08 pm  

    Thank you for sharing this, I SO appreciate your honesty.

    (Also love that fact that I can hear your voice as I read your words — you write just like you talk!)

    • Brad Miller said... 


      November 5th, 2012 at 2:07 am  

      yeah, I have a habit of writing the way I talk (or talking the way I write). I’m glad you liked it. Thanks

  7. Tasha Simons said... 


    November 3rd, 2012 at 9:39 am  

    Great article, Brad! So glad to hear that the kingdom of God is something you experienced in such a heartfelt way in Ukraine.

    • Brad Miller said... 


      November 5th, 2012 at 2:08 am  

      It’s hard to not experience it here, now I understand so much better what everyone was telling me before I left, this really is an AMAZING ministry.

  8. Susan M said... 


    November 3rd, 2012 at 8:40 pm  

    Our God IS too big to be confined to the spiritual. I’m glad that you’re there experiencing this and being our eyes to see it too.

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