Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Russian Lessons, Part 3: The Weakest Link

Never has there been a more unlikely “missionary.”

Even when the visa arrived at the last possible moment, it didn’t sink in that I was actually going.

Things were chaotic as always in my world. Way too much going on. I had to miss one mission meeting after the next. When I finally made it to a required one, I looked around the room in a mild panic. I didn’t know the majority of the people going. But they looked like Serious Christians.

I sunk down in my seat a little. Tone it down, Kim. Just keep your big mouth shut. No one will know you’re a frivolous fraud.

(Yeah, but they think I couldn’t be bothered to show up for the meeting where they put together the goody bags for the orphanage workers. Or the one where they cut out the Biblical figures for the felt board. Or when they got the medical supplies together.)

They probably think you’re just a silly Country Club type. A dilettante. An impostor. They’re wondering what you’re even doing here. What you could possibly have to contribute to the group.

Thoughts such as these continued to harass me, even as I went through the motions of preparing for the trip. Even as I bought shirts at WalMart and Target to wear and then leave in Russia. Even as I packed my hair dryer and electric curlers.

A few days before the trip, I began having very serious second thoughts. The mild panic turned into acute anxiety, tinged with a slight depression. I felt completely inadequate in every way. I was beating myself up left and right.

What if you get sick over there? What if you have to stay in bed? Where will you even be sleeping? What if they have to send you home? You will be a curse instead of a blessing. (This was not an entirely unreasonable consideration, as I have been evacuated from foreign countries in the past for contracting things like hepatitis. I have an almost-nonexistent immune system.)

I decided that I needed to back out as gracefully as I could. Before it was too late. I sat on the bed, phone in hand, trying to muster up the courage to call the group leader. I was intimidated by his cut-and-dry manner. I grabbed my Bible to search for a little courage. Or maybe for a sign that I’d mis-read the “signs.”

The Book opened to this:

“...Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor… But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (from I Corinthians 12)

I wept as I gently closed my Bible and caressed its cover. You are too sweet to me, Lord.

I am indispensable.


In that case, I guess I’ll have to go. Evidently, You cannot do without me.

No turning back now.


Later, I found out that a friend who’d signed up for the trip went through a similar experience. In addition to the same name, we share many other characteristics. She, too, was an unlikely missionary. She started to drop out the same day that I did, but also received a sign that she was to go.

Both of us unlikely missionaries were used on the trip in unique, but integral, ways.

The limited amount of Russian I’d retained was enough to enable me to communicate with the special needs kids in the orphanage. They got me, even when the adults had no idea what I was trying to say. No one else in our group spoke any Russian. Being an extroverted ham and a former teacher, I could act things out and engage the kids’ wandering attention. I turned the felt board figure thing into a kind of play, with other team members acting out the story as I read it with an interpreter. The kids were mesmerized. On one of our final days at the orphanage, our interpreter, a very streetwise young man who had become a Christian, used the play as a platform to tell his own story  to a classroom of older guys. All but two prayed to receive Christ as a result.

Love was bouncing off the walls in that dreary place of abandonment. Our efforts at reaching out to the orphans were successful. But I learned far more on that trip than any of the kids we taught.

Lessons that have continued to shape me until this day.

At the end of our time in Russia, our leader (who, in addition to being a fabulous leader, also turned out to be a teddy bear) wrote an analysis of how each member contributed their gifts and manifested their “fruits of the spirit” on the mission.

I cried when I read what he wrote about me:

Faith (deep and abiding): First, just in trusting the Lord to go on the trip, then expressed every day.
Knowledge: You gave the team words of Biblical knowledge and used your Russian language talent.
Teacher: You used your talents of expression to teach the children, enabling you to relate to them.

He wrote something equally affirming about each individual in the group.

Every single person on that mission trip fulfilled a special purpose. Everyone was necessary.

Even the weakest link.


If you wait until you feel completely ready or adequate to do something you’re being called to do, you will most likely never do it. I wonder how many blessings I’ve missed over the years because of fear or insecurity. 

(There’s still more of the story, if you can handle it. If not, check back towards the middle  of next week.)


Susan said...

I love this story! How awesome that God can take someone who feels so inadequate and use the (perceived)weakness for His purpose. Can't wait for the next installment. And, so you will know, I have started reading Anna Karenina. Haven't gotten very far yet, but I have decided that Oblonsky is a piece of work! I am in Anaheim now and it is hotter here than in Alabama. How is that even possible?!

Anonymous said...

As I was reading this post, I was reminded of an exchange in "Prince Caspian".

Aslan says, "Arise Kings and Queens of Narnia". Edmund, Peter and Susan stand. Caspian still kneels. Aslan responds again, "All the Kings and Queens". Caspian responds, "I do not think I am ready." And Aslan states, "It is because of this I know you are."

I'm so glad God does not give up on us, even when we are ready to give up on ourselves!

Thanks for sharing your journey!!


Rebecca said...

It is interesting to me that you still feel you were the weakest link. Do you? Even after all this time? Or is it just to relay the story that it was what you felt AT THE TIME? For in telling the story it became clear that NO ONE was a weak link. EVERY ONE was a necessary part of a STRONG chain that needed to be there (and every where, for that matter, even now).
Kim, you are NO ONE's weak link except in your mind. Accept and own your own strength. No excuses. Doesn't mean no mistakes, just lift that chin and step foward.

Kim said...

Thank you all for these great comments.

Rebecca, I guess Susan hit it on the head when she called it a "perceived" weakness. How we view ourselves and how God views us are often contradictory.

I still FEEL like a weak link sometimes, but I've come to accept that that is often when I am used more effectively than when I rush off and try to accomplish something in my own strength. I agree that we were ALL necessary on that trip. I think that was one of the main points.

It was revelatory for me on many levels.

L., I love that quote from CSL! So wise.

Love, Kim

McCance said...

You and I both know that trip was an amazing experience. In so many ways. I'm so amazingly blessed to have been able to share it with you, Kim!