“Well… this is as close as we have ever been.” I said, just inches from a fellow Young Life leaders face. It was my first ride on a “mishutka” – Moldova’s main transportation throughout the city. In American eyes, this is a 12-seat van with 30 people inside – getting to know your neighbor has never been easier.
My name is Annie and I’ve been to a few places. Throughout my 4 years serving Young Life, I have gone from my hometown, to NW Seattle, to small-town Corvallis, Oregon – all within a year! It was a lot of moving – but now I can see that the Lord was preparing me for what was ahead: serving in Ukraine and Moldova! With a language and culture foreign to me, I was worried there wouldn’t be much I could give. Little did I know, the mere sound of my voice made children marvel. They come, tapping on my shoulder and tugging on my sleeve, just to say “Hello. How are you?” with thick, beautiful accents. They love Americans!
A year ago, the Lord put Europe on my heart in a mighty way – but I had no idea where. When I felt Him later nudge for Moldova … I still had no idea where! But all it took was one e-mail to Young Life Expeditions! They immediately began to help this nudge become reality for this mystery country! It all started with my first month serving at the Young Life Center in Ukraine where I was warmly welcomed by Regional Directors, Sasha Utkin and Sergey Romanyuk who have decades of Young Life experience between them. I was given great training which included attending an amazing Young Life Former Soviet Union (FSU) All-leader conference in Armenia! The experience was incredible – I was so very impressed with the leaders from the many countries of the FSU – they are so full of grace and so very FUN!
Next came my migration to Moldova and my deep connection with Area Director Ted Setchek and his wife, Lena. Again I was wonderfully greeted, given great training and am now a part of Young Life Moldova weekly clubs and diverse ministries – including my very own English club!
People have told me that my “big move” is impressive – but I wish these same people could see what I am seeing. Day in and day out, these teams depend on our God for just about everything. He fills their homes with bread, joy, kids, and laughter. And from what they receive, they do not keep to themselves – they spend their weeks being Mothers and Fathers to many, visiting orphanages, loving on kids who have few adult role models and sharing everything they have.
So…how do you go from Oregon to Moldova?
I’m still trying to figure that one out. But, honestly, I’m more in awe of the heart He had to change behind-the-scenes. How do we become generous, God-fearing people? How do we share, even when we have little? How do we become anything remotely close to beautiful, wonderful Jesus? One verse explains this to me: “… or do you not know, the riches of His kindness are meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
Repentance is the beautiful, continual act of walking closer and closer to God. And through His kindness, we desire to live Godly lives. From His kindness, these leaders hearts shine out in glorious ways. From His kindness to me, I now stand alongside a team who humbles me every day. I never expected He would lead me to Ukraine and Moldova. But then again, years ago, I never expected I could be in a relationship with Jesus. (but hallelujah – we can!) As I get to know people I never thought I’d meet, I’m becoming more thankful that Jesus chose to meet us and how kind He truly is.
I hope as you read this, you say “yes” to whatever He’s nudging you to do. Who knows – maybe it’s to join us this summer! I sure hope so. But we don’t earn His favor – it’s His kindness that leads us to a life closer to Him. So get quiet and listen… He’s probably nudging you to places you never could have expected.
Written by: Annie Beckstrand
See more of Annie’s experience and these Ministries on Facebook: YOUNG LIFE MOLDOVA or YOUNG LIFE UKRAINE and www.ukraine.younglife.org or www.formersovietunion.younglife.org For information on how you can serve with Young Life Expeditions contact Carrie Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org