As I previously mentioned, my son, Jackson, was adamant about vising Ukraine. He began expressing those feelings more than two years ago after doing some fundraising for a church in Novagrad-Valensky, and it was quite obvious that God himself had placed those feelings on his heart. I have never tried to hide the fact that Jackson was much more interested in the trip than I was and that I simply agreed to go along because I felt it my parental duty to do so. You can read more about that here and here.

After returning from the trip, it took a while to process everything. Anyone that has been on a mission trip understands what I mean. It was a lot to take in.

We have been home a couple of weeks now but there are still two questions I receive on a regular basis:

1. How was the trip?

2. Would you go back?

The short answer to both is, “Amazing!” and “Yes!”

I know – it surprises even me.

The reality though is that even as amazing as the trip itself was, the part that will stick with me for the rest of my life is seeing the impact it had on my son. And equally as impressive was seeing the impact my son had on so many others.

Leading up to our excursion I asked Jackson, on more than one occasion, if he was at all nervous about the trip or anxious about the ungodly amount of travel that awaited us. His answer was always, “No. I’m just excited and ready to be there!” Always. Of course he’s a young boy and they don’t tend to have many worries at all, so that’s not too surprising, I guess.

But the motherly side of me knew that just because he said one thing, it didn’t mean his actions would match up when the rubber met the road. I was fairly certain he would have a least one meltdown on the trip and likely several.

I was wrong.

We had a 2 hour drive, a hotel stay, an early morning wake-up call, a total of three flights and another 3.5 hour car ride, just to get to our destination and not once did he complain. We slept in a hot seminary and a hot hotel room with no air conditioning and not once did he complain (I wish I could say the same about myself!). We walked a total of 10.6 miles in one day and not a complaint one. We woke early, ate foreign food, went without TV and video games, didn’t speak the local language, and used a “hole in the ground” as our toilet at times and again, the kid didn’t complain or even come close to having a meltdown.

It was mind-boggling, really. I’m not trying to paint my son as a saint by any means, because, well, he’s a pretty average 10-year-old boy. He fights with his sister, whines about chores, has to be forced to practice piano, and grumbles about most dinners I cook. So the fact that the two of us not only survived 10 days together on a mission trip to a war-torn country but somehow thrived is nothing short of a miracle!

Aside from the lack of complaining, another thing that surprised me was the way in which Jackson interacted with the locals, as well as with the other members of our church that accompanied us on the trip. I would catch myself simply observing as he joked with the younger people and conversed with the older ones. I was in awe of his magnetism. Maybe it was the fact that he was so young or maybe it was his approachable demeanor, but people seemed to be drawn to him. After our very first day at camp, a young girl named Viki hunted down a translator and drug him over to Jackson so she could talk to him and ask him questions. It was the cutest thing ever! Of course he wasn’t thrilled that his mother whipped out her phone and began taking pictures and recording all of it, but again, he refrained from complaint (until we got home and we were talking about it with his dad!).

Sweet little Viki made him this adorable picture to remember her by!

Oh, how he loved Jackson!

In another instance, we spent an entire day prior to the start of camp visiting homes of church members and gathering food. At one of the homes a man and his wife offered us fresh squeezed juices and cookies. It was a welcomed relief on the 100 degree day, especially since we had been traveling in a van with no air conditioning! Anyway, as we sat on their porch, filled our tummies and cooled off a bit, the man asked if anyone would like some cold milk. Jackson, a milk lover from way back, quickly replied, “Ooh, I would!” Well, that’s all it took! The man eagerly fetched the cold milk and from then on the two of them were best buddies. He even tried to convince Jackson to move in with him and offered him “all the milk and beef he desired!” At the end of the trip the man bid Jackson farewell by hoisting him on his shoulders and carrying him around like he had just won the Tour de France or something. Through the translator he told Jackson how special he was and that he knew he was destined for great things. He then gave Jackson a Bible verse to keep close to his heart and even now when I read it I get choked up. It was one of the most special moments of the trip for me.

Jackson’s new buddy, through the translator, is trying to convince him to stay in Ukraine.

There are countless stories I could share. Stories about friendships formed, lives impacted, and hearts that were changed. I could talk for hours about the people and the experience. I really could. But the main thing I want to do today is to encourage you to listen. Listen, not only to your children, but in the stillness listen for the voice of God. You’ll know when you hear it and you’ll know when to listen. I can’t help but cry just about every time I think about this trip. I cry because I’m thankful God spoke to my son and he listened. I’m thankful because God spoke to me and even though I hesitated, I listened and obeyed. It was scary; I’m not going to lie. But I had no doubt it was His will and I’ll be forever grateful that he led us to Ukraine. I have always had a special bond with my son but through this trip I was able to experience a different side of being his mother. It as if I was able to get a glimpse of his calling in life, which gives me a better understanding of how my husband and I should raise him going forward.

Friends, it’s easy to become distracted in this loud, crazy, busy world we live in; but if you quiet your soul and rest in the stillness, you too will hear the voice of God and it just might change your life!

Here we are with our new friends in Koprivna, Ukraine. What a blessing!