From Russia, with God's Love
by Ryan Duncan
The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
Last year, I set out to fulfill my longtime goal of traveling to Russia as part of an international missions’ team. The organization I applied to was one I’d volunteered with in the past. Every December they would partner with Russian Christians and visit orphanages just outside of Moscow. Once there, they would spend the day handing out gifts, singing songs, and hopefully telling the children how God loved them. Now, I’d been on missions’ trips before, but for some reason I knew this one was special.
Deep down, I sensed that God would do something truly amazing through this trip, and I wanted to be ready when it happened. In the months leading up to our team’s departure, I did all I could to prepare for the work ahead. I picked up books on Russian history, volunteered in my Church’s Sunday school, read my Bible and prayed heavily like never before. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself rising up as a Christian leader who helped many lost souls encounter God. As you might expect, that’s not how things played out.
The trip was by no means a failure, but it certainly wasn’t the mountaintop experience I’d been expecting. For starters, the moment we touched down in Moscow I became utterly, painfully, violently ill. My first two days in Russia were spent in a hotel bathroom, where I almost took the liberty of placing my headstone. After pulling myself together, I became overwhelmed with our constant travel and shifting schedules. I had trouble connecting with my teammates, with the children, even with God.
By the time I returned home, I was feeling very disillusioned. What had I done wrong? Was my pride to blame for everything that had happened? I fell back into old routines and life went on as it had before, except for one thing. Before departing for Russia I’d promised my church’s Sunday school leader I would volunteer for six months, and I still had three months to go.
Fast forward a year later, and I am now a regular volunteer at my Church’s Sunday school. I try not to speculate, but I think that may have been God’s plan all along. After all, God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes our disappointments are merely detours to His purpose.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Intersecting Faith and Life: Remember, sometimes God has to take us halfway around the world just to lead us next door.
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."