Remember this butterfly? I think God put it in the aquarium for me so I will remember the truth it represents every time I go. I can so easily forget. I feel like winking toward heaven as I walk through the butterfly room. ;)
We have had the privilege of having one of my best friends from Bible College and her husband here with us for 2 days. They were both at Calvary Chapel Bible College when I was. They have been serving in Ukraine for 9 years since I last saw them in Austria (the college has since moved to Hungary).
Conor and Koren fell in love while serving on the mission field together. They have the coolest story of how he proposed. They were serving together in orphanages, Church-planting, intense ministry all while being JUST friends. They both were secretly falling in love with one another but didn't breathe a word about what was happening in their hearts to each other or to their friends. They just prayed about it and asked God to lead. One heartbreaking night while saying goodbye to some orphans, they cried together as they prayed over the children.
After praying together, Conor says, "Koren, I am SO thankful God brought you here to walk through these hard things with me. I am very thankful for you." Then he (remember no word has ever been spoken between the two about their love) bends down on one knee and says, "I have a question for you. Will you marry me?". She cried and said "Yes!, Yes! I love you!".
That is a CRAZY-fun story for you single girls!!! To remind you that God can lead you to your husband without you having to follow the world's rules.
Engaged in an orphanage! I LOVE IT!!!
Committed to serving Jesus together.
Then they go riding off on a horse into the sunset....well... kind of...
They now have been missionaries for 9 yrs in Ukraine, have 3 kids, a 7 yr old boy, a 5 yr old girl, and a baby girl on the way. They were telling us about where they live and about the people who live there. It is very dark spiritually (less than 1% of the population Christian) and evil reigns (alcoholism, government corruption, abuse, drugs, pornography, murder-all out of control). They left their families and everything comfortable. At different times, their little girl and Conor's sister became gravely ill (on their death beds) while they were serving there and medical care in Ukraine is a nightmare. They were rushed to the states where, praise the Lord, they both recovered. Koren gave birth to a baby there in a dirty room with no pain medicine. They planted a Church in a building where there was no heat (about 15 degrees), children wore snow suits, and Conor could see his breath as he taught the Word of God. They had no car and Conor had to carry sacks of potatoes home for them to eat from the store. The heat kept going out in their (tiny)house for 4 months and they couldn't figure out how to get it fixed. They spent years learning the very difficult Ukrainian language. They have seen horrifying abuse in the orphanages (and on the streets) there. It is so cold in the winter that Koren hardly leaves the house with the children. Their little boy said to Koren on a bus ride, "Why can't we live near grandma where it is clean? Why do we have to live here where it is dirty and there is rust everywhere?". Koren said, "Because these people don't know Jesus. If they did, it wouldn't look like this. We are here to tell them about Jesus." His face brightened and he said, "oh, ok.".
So, Tim and I listen (with our jaws on the floor) as they tell us what their lives as missionaries are like. I said, "Conor, how do you keep your eyes on Christ when it is SO hard?" (same thing I asked our other missionary friends because I know I would have thrown in the towel by now). I said, "is it seeing souls won for Christ?". He thought for a second and said, "well, we can't really base it on that because years can go by when we don't see souls saved. That is definitely the goal! Some years we see miracle upon miracle, salvation by the hundreds but some years... we don't. We continue on simply because we know this is where God wants us, people are perishing, and because
JESUS IS WORTH IT".
I was stunned/humbled/convicted/amazed/encouraged/spurred on by such pure hearts.
They also listened with hurting hearts as I shared about my suffering and chronic trial (which all the sudden seemed really lame). Conor looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Steph, I want you to know that God is Faithful, He is at work in this, and He is ABLE. Our God is BIG". Those words from his mouth spoke to my heart and held weight. They prayed for God to heal me.
We had a beautiful time together while they were here. It was so fun to think back on the days we were in Austria studying the Bible together not having a clue what God had in store for us.
It seems like yesterday we were praying for each other's husbands (along with you, Amy!!!). God blew us away by His faithfulness in giving us our wonderful husbands.... and now all of these sweet children-- crazy.
So, I share all this with you to encourage you in your suffering. Whether you are a missionary on the front lines of life and death or just trying to be faithful with the trial God has entrusted to you. Remember these words, Jesus Is Worth It. Knowing Him, Living for Him, Becoming more like Him- He is worth it.
He is worthy of our praise, faithfulness and perseverance. May we have faithful hearts and not give up even when our circumstances are too heavy to bear. Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep telling people about Jesus. Keep reading His Word.
Because HE IS WORTH IT.
As I have have been thinking of Conor and Koren and their lives, this verse came to my mind...
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."