YIM is reminder of God's faithfulness and forgiveness

I spent two months this summer in Moscow as part of a Youth in Mission (YIM) team. Great things happened, and I met several wonderful people. However, there were rough times too. It's sometimes easy to focus on those hardships, even when telling my friends about what I know has been one of the best experiences of my life! I can't believe how easy it has been to forget how incredible this summer was!

Fortunately, all this changed during a recent meeting with other YIM alumni, when something was said that brought memories pouring back into my head. We were each asked to write the name of one person that we met on the board, so that they could be prayed for the next day by the Intro to Missions class.

I wrote the name of my friend Leanna, whom I had met at a Fourth of July party we held for two English classes taught by the missionaries. Leanna became our friend at once, and showed a great interest in the Nazarene Church and in the different quality of life she had seen in the missionaries and in us. She was making friends with the pastor at our church and was asking millions of questions. I considered Leanna to be our main contact of the summer.

I looked at the names on the board as I sat down. I looked at Leanna's name. Then I remembered Dianna and her brother Jamal, whose mother is protestant and whose father is Muslim. They live with their mother, and all three of them have to work (school permitting) just to make ends meet. Dianna comes to church fairly regularly, but Jamal hasn't made it since Christmas. Our time spent with Jamal consisted of him asking us all sorts of philosophical and theological questions that we, of course, had no idea how to answer. I wanted to write their names on the board too.

Dianna and Jamal weren't the only ones either. There was Dima, the son of an ambassador, with whom we played American football. Then there was the lady who spoke neither Russian nor English, but could throw a softball better than any of us! Alexy and Kolya were friends of Jamal. Olga and two girls named Katya showed us around Moscow, more than once! Nazgul was a friend of Leanna's who spoke very little English, but shared with us the experiences of the Pushkin Art Museum and a beautiful performance of Swan Lake.

I've often been asked, "What did you learn about God this summer?" I don't know that I've learned anything new, but some of the things I've been taught since childhood are actually becoming real to me. I could talk all day about God's love. His faithfulness. His forgiveness. His compassion. But I have no words to describe actually feeling His love for me, and sensing that He really has forgiven me. I can't explain to you being overwhelmed in a crowd by the thought that Christ died for the strangers who are so close to you that you could hear their hearts beating if it weren't for the metro car racing past.

I seriously doubt any of this would have happened if I hadn't given up my comfortable, familiar routine to feel alone, frustrated, and vulnerable, and to rely on God because I felt I had nowhere else to turn. If I had not done this, I would not have met all these wonderful people, nor would I have seen the tiny glimpses of God working in their lives and in the world around me. Most of all, I would not have been overwhelmed by actually experiencing things I've claimed to believe in for years. This summer with Youth in Mission has been the best I've ever had.