Remember Your Vera!

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.

Advertisements

Peregrine: A Conversation about Wandering

Peregrine: adj. Foreign, alien, coming from abroad; wandering, traveling, or migrating.

I’m just not sure that today was the best day to tell me, that’s all.

– Sure it was.

But I’m not even home yet! It’s been months since I’ve seen my family. How can I start planning another trip when I haven’t even finished this one?

– You’ll figure it out. Your parents will help, and so will Dr. K—-. Don’t worry about it.

Heh. Right. You know what a worrier I am. – And speaking of worries, how’m I supposed to pay for all this? I have no job, and no one will want to hire me if I’m only gonna be home for, like, what? Two months?

– It’ll work out. Seriously, stop worrying! You’re making too much of this.

I know, I know. Sorry. – I mean, I should be grateful, right? And I am. It’s just. . . yeah.

– I know.

Yeah.

– You’re homesick.

Well . . . I wouldn’t say. . . .

– Greer, you’re homesick.

Well, maybe. I guess.

– There’s nothing wrong with that; don’t be ashamed. You want to spend time with your family. And like you said, it’s been a while since you’ve seen them. It’s completely natural to want to go home.

But—well, shouldn’t I be past that by now?

– . . . What do you mean?

I mean, good grief, I’m twenty-three years old. I’ve lived in a foreign country, traveled to conferences and to visit family, and I’ve even come out here for this internship. In less than a year I’ll graduate college and head off who knows where for grad school. And, theoretically, someday I’ll get married and go start a family somewhere.

– And?

And so I really don’t think I should still be stuck on the idea of being at home. It’s time to move on. I’m too old to be homesick.

– Nonsense.

But seriously. If I’m stressing out so much about a study abroad, how’m I gonna handle moving away for good?

– Well, honestly, I think you already have.

. . .

– . . . Greer?

. . .

– Greer, think about it for a second. When was the last time you really lived at home?

. . . A while ago, I guess.

– Mmhm. And that only lasted a few months. You’re in a transitory period. Moving around’s normal—expected, even. And you’ve handled it well this far. I think you can make it in England for a couple of months. But that doesn’t mean that you have to stop missing home and family.

Hm. Yeah. You’re right.

– But I understand how difficult it is. After all, you’ve got a loyal heart—you grow attachments pretty quickly, and those attachments run deep.

Heheh. Yeah. Like praying to never be transferred on my mission.

– Exactly. And look at how that turned out! You stayed in one spot, and learned the strength of deep commitment. That’ll really come in handy someday. But you learned something else on your mission too. Remember that one day, on the bus heading back to Simferopol?

Which day? There were so many.

– The day you first thought of yourself as a traveler.

Oh yeah! I was thinking about what to write to Mom and Dad in my email for the week, and then all of a sudden I was like, “Whoa. I never would’ve called myself a traveler before. But this week we went to Evpatoriya and Sevastopol, and next week we’ll go to Bogatoe and Alushta. And every week we go places and buy bus tickets and travel and stuff—like pros.”

– Yep. For a missionary who never left one area, you sure traveled a lot.

Yeah. And I’m grateful for that.

– There was something special about it, wasn’t there? Think of the people you met and the skills you acquired. You saw all different shades of humanity—in others and in yourself.

Hm.

– That’s one of the reasons experiences like this are so important.

I suppose.

– It’s true. Greer, do you realize how much you’ve changed because of all the places you’ve been? – And do you realize how many people you’ve changed because of your interactions with them in your travels?

Well, I don’t really know about that second part. But . . . but yeah, I think I’ve changed a lot the past few years. I’ve grown up a lot.

– Mmhm. And you’re not quite through just yet. That’s why you need to go on this study abroad. There are things you need to learn, and if you pay close enough attention, you’ll be able to learn them in England.

Yeah. Yeah, I know.

– And you’ll be able to do some good there too.

I sure hope so!

– Don’t worry—you will.

Hm. – Well, like I said, I really am grateful that everything’s worked out so far. And I guess that it’ll keep unfolding somehow.

– It will.

All right, then.

– . . . So, how are you feeling about it?

Well . . . I guess I feel a bit better.

– Good.

But I still think it might’ve been better to find out once I’d already gotten home.

– Well, you’ll be home in a few hours anyway.

Is the plane landing soon?

– Soon enough.

Good. It’ll be nice to be home.

– For a couple of months.

Right. Only a couple of months.

– Then off again.

Then off again.

– But you’ll remember what it says in the scriptures?

Which part?

– In Psalms. “They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their souls fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.”

Hm. I like that. Thanks.

– And later, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” – No matter where they might wander.

Amen.

– Amen.