When I first learned that I had the opportunity to travel to Moldova and to lead part of a strategic planning session for the YFC Moldova team, I had a pretty clear picture in my head of what it would look like. It involved a lot of fur hats and gruff faces. I assumed it would be mostly older men, traditional, stern, stereotypically Russian (writing it out is so cringe-y because I know how horrible it sounds, but I’m just trying to be honest). Part of my role was to lead the devotional section, focusing on Nehemiah, as we drew parallels to what God might be asking YFC Moldova to build. I imagined that everything would go through a translator, and so it would be hard to connect with them – hard to read the audience even, since reactions would be delayed. I pictured standing in front of them in a cold classroom as they looked unimpressed and I tried to convince them to pray. I stressed about what to wear – wanting to appear professional and worthy of respect, but without looking like I tried to hard or was out of place. Even though I’m a pretty easy going person, all these thoughts were still milling about in the back of my head, right up until the moment I arrived.
We met with the YFC Moldova team at a place called Oak House. It was one of their ministry centres, a home that welcomed nine young women a year as they pursued their post-secondary education. The ministry director (a woman) lead me through a beautiful rose garden to the back door where there was a cute cat. The National Director gave me a big hug and said he was so glad to see me again. We took off our shoes (my high heeled boots that made me feel *business*) and milled about preparing coffee and cookies in our mis-matched socks. The group gathered on an oversized couch and sat on the rug floor as together they shared their dreams for the ministry. The love and respect they had for each other was tangible. The care for the youth they served and the impact that had was evident by the photos and artwork in the room. Their heartfelt prayers needed no translation and they shared insightful contributions to the devotional in English. I sat beside them as they picked out the best foods for me to try, told me about their families and asked me about mine. The gave us crafts handmade by children in their school and thanked us for facilitating their process of dreaming, praying, and strategizing for their ministry.
It was beautiful. It was cozy. It was fellowship. It was family.
Guys. I WAS WRONG.
I feel like every time I’m weary of a new place or of new people, I am reminded just how alike we are. Why is it that we so often imagine people to be different than us? Why do we so quickly forget that God created, loves, and is working in each and every of us?
We spent 3 days with the YFC Moldova team, ending with a beautiful, lofty, God-size vision of what they wanted to create in their country. (Our team was not there to tell them what to do or how to do it, but to do our best to ask good questions and lead them through a vision building process that they could later recreate.) I didn’t get to see as much of Moldova as I did Ukraine the week before (the goals and structure of our visits were much different between the two), but I did get a wonderful taste of the culture, the people, the YFC ministry, and the food.
Most of all, I came away with a new-found layer of humility, a new sense of awe for how God is always at work, and a new group of friends.
I’m so glad that my expectations rarely match God’s reality!