Sometimes God uses complete strangers to remind me of things only He really knows about my life.
I was sitting at gate D8, clutching my passport and boarding pass in my right hand, the handle of my carry-on in my left. I thought about the two short months I’d been preparing for the trip, and the pit-in-the-stomach anxiety that had all but kept me from going.
It’s not that I didn’t want to go, per se. There were moments when I felt the paralytic fear drain away and I became genuinely excited for the trip. But I just didn’t feel like I should go. After all, I had prayed about it—I had asked God directly whether it was His will that I go on this study abroad. And when He didn’t seem to reply, I had offered a possible course of action: choosing to stay at home. I had felt comfortable with my decision, relieved, peaceful. And that calm seemed about as clear of an answer as any I’ve gotten in life. So I told my parents about my choice, and considered the whole matter settled.
Until my professor phoned my father to enlist his help in getting me to reconsider.
Reluctantly, I changed my mind and my plans at the very last-minute—and anyone who knows me well knows that last-minute changes aren’t really my thing. That change triggered a series of tough decisions as I struggled to organize a trip I just couldn’t feel comfortable with.
Sure, I saw miracles that nudged all the details to fall into place. And of course I was grateful to God for His mercy, for the support of my professor and my parents, and for the thousands of dollars in scholarship money that materialized to help cover the cost. I certainly didn’t mean to come off as unappreciative or flippant.
But what about that answer I’d gotten? What about the feeling of comfort and peace as I thought about staying home? I just couldn’t shake it—I couldn’t let go of the thought that I shouldn’t go. In the two months that followed the email confirming my acceptance to the study program, any time I considered the prospects my stomach would tighten and my heart-rate would increase. I was scared and preemptively homesick.
Then, as if to confirm all those hesitations and fears that churned in my chest, less than a week before my flight out to England my grandmother suddenly died. And as my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins conversed to arrange for the funeral, it became clear that Saturday was the best day for the services. Saturday—one day after I was scheduled to leave.
The news crushed me. I’m not sure if I was angry, or just disappointed and heartbroken—not only about Grandma’s death, but about not even getting to say one last goodbye at the funeral—but whatever the emotion was, it grew as I choked out a tearful prayer. Father, why? Why do I have to go? I’ve never felt good about it, and now . . . now this? It just doesn’t make sense, Father! Explain it to me!
Well, He didn’t explain, but He did calm my heart for a moment or two in between spurts of pain. At the continued encouragement of Mom and Dad, I chose to leave despite my reservations. “It’s what Grandma would have wanted,” my parents said. “You know how much she valued education.”
So I can’t say that I sat in the airport terminal with a smile on my face at the prospect of some grand adventure awaiting me just past the doors of a red, white, and blue Boeing 757. All I could think about was my family, the funeral, and the fears.
After a handful of self-pitying moments at gate D8, a woman walked into my peripheral view. She seemed nice enough, but what stood out to me was the small black plastic nametag that hung on the front of her blouse. I perked up, instantly recognizing the uniform worn by missionaries of my church—the same style of nametag I had worn for a year-and-a-half in Ukraine. Soon the woman sat next to her husband in a row across from me, their backs turned to my direction. A mission president! I thought, feeling a flash of excitement for the first time that day. It took me over ten minutes to collect enough courage to approach the strangers, but eventually I walked up and introduced myself.
The couple was so kind. They told me about themselves, about their call to preside over a mission in Africa, and about their excitement to serve God and His children. They asked about me—my hometown, my studies, and my study abroad. Then President H—- asked, “Did you serve a mission?”
“I did. I was in the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission.”
His face lit up. “Have you kept up with the language?”
“I’ve been trying to,” I replied. “I’ve been taking classes and talking with people in Russian whenever I can.”
President H—- asked if I’d noticed a couple wearing matching red jackets. I hadn’t. “They’ve been traveling a lot, and they’ll be on this flight,” he told me. “I spoke with them a bit, but they said that they really only speak Russian.”
Just a few minutes later, President H—- introduced me to the couple—a remarkably Slavic-looking pair from Moscow. We began a conversation in Russian, and the man asked how I’d come to learn the language. I told him about my eighteen-month mission in Crimea. Suddenly his wife chimed in. “In such a short time you learned to speak Russian so well?” She peeled her eyes open wide. “How?”
Before I could respond, her husband shrugged and said, “By faith. Faith helps with things like that.”
The impact of that statement didn’t hit me until later. At first, after the man had offered his explanation to his wife, we had simply continued the conversation, each of us grateful to have found someone to speak Russian with. Then the boarding call had sounded, we wished each other well, then parted to fill our seats on the plane. I sat in my chair for a while before deciding to pull out my Kniga Mormona—the Book of Mormon in Russian—and begin to read. I read about young soldiers whose faith in Christ was so strong that they were protected in battles. And their leader wrote about them, “yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them” (Alma 57:21).
According to their faith it was done unto them—the word faith commanded my attention. Faith. Vera in Russian. Hadn’t I heard that sentiment just a little while earlier? Hadn’t that Muscovite man discussed my faith, my vera?
He had been right, after all. I had, in fact, learned Russian by faith—a faith that led me to leave home, to stumble through thousands of grammatical mistakes, to devote hours of personal study in difficult Russian texts with no teacher, to wander to streets of Crimea, to open my mouth to strangers. And God had blessed me tremendously. Perhaps my language abilities were the only measurable trait that evinced God’s Hand working miracles throughout the course of my mission.
According to my faith it had been done unto me. According to my faith, God had helped me learn Russian.
So why, then, a voice whispered in my mind, why do you doubt that God could make such miracles happen again?
Where is your faith now?
I put down the book and stopped reading. I repeated the questions in my mind, rolling over them, feeling out their source and significance. It seemed that God was trying to tell me something. “You had vera once, and I blessed you,” His words took form in my mind. “If you have vera again—just one small ounce of faith—then everything will work out again. Trust Me.”
Perhaps, I wondered, this whole situation is just one more lesson in vera.
I wish I could say that that thought changed my mood on a dime. But let’s be honest—change takes time, especially in hard, unforeseen circumstances that require a leap into the dark. Even now, after almost twelve hours of traveling as I sit in a hotel lobby in London writing down all these thoughts—I still can’t fully grasp why I’m here. I don’t know what God has in store for my time here in England, or why this experience required that I miss my grandmother’s funeral, or why on earth I felt such peace with the notion of staying at home rather than flying out here. I don’t know why God asked me to alter my plans at the last possible moment.
But I believe that He orchestrated that meeting between me, President H—-, and that couple from Moscow. He wanted to remind me about vera, and that by it all things become possible. Perhaps, knowing how stubborn I am, God knew that He’d need to make the correlation as clear as can be, so He sent in a mission president and a couple of Russian speakers, as if shouting to me, “Greer, remember your mission! Remember your vera!”
I think I can remember the feeling of faith. I found it once on the streets of Ukraine. Maybe there’s some here in England as well—enough for me to hold on to despite storms of worry and doubt.
According to my vera, so let it be done unto me.