how to deal

In July, when Josh announced that he was ready to return to Texas for good, I knew that I was in for some emotionally hard times.  I had my dream in my grasp, and then it was suddenly threatened to be taken from me.

This experience was not my first.  It happened once before in 2001.  After attending a missionary training school in the Czech Republic, Josh and I returned home to begin pursuing full-time mission work in Ukraine.  After looking into it a bit more, Josh decided that the timing was not yet right for us to go do full-time work.  I was devastated…so much so that I allowed myself to listen to Satan’s lies about worthlessness and discontentment.  I didn’t have a career or a plan of what I was going to do.  I became bitter and angry towards my husband for taking away my dream.  I felt like a horrible person and hated myself, my marriage, and my situation in life to the point that I became suicidal.

So when Josh mentioned that he wanted to come back home to Texas this summer, after only 4 months in Ukraine, I remembered all that I had gone through 7 years before and knew there was only one thing for me to do if I was going to survive this 2nd heartbreak – run to the throne of God and allow him to carry me through this fire.

As Josh was contemplating the move, I drowned myself in scripture, worship, and prayer.  From those moments with my Lord, I received 2 very distinct and profound words:

1.  Proverbs 14:1 – The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her own hands. This verse has hit me harder than any other verse.  Through it I came to realize that no matter what decision Josh makes (at the time, whether to stay in Ukraine or return to Texas), success will ultimately be on MY shoulders.  If I want my “house” – my marriage, my relationship with God, my ministry – to stay strong and thriving, then it is completely, 100% my responsibility to see that it stays strong.  It is MY actions, MY words, and MY attitudes that will determine the outcome of any situation.  As the head of the household, Josh is to make the decisions that he sees best.  But it is my response to his decisions that make or break my “house”.

I really had two reactions to Josh’s decision to come home:  fight it with all my might to stay in Ukraine, or submit to his decision and return quietly.  Which one would build my house and which would tear it down?  I chose to quietly follow.

2.  No matter what I pray concerning the entire exodus back to Texas, I hear one phrase over and over again, “It’s going to be okay.”

And it has.

Where we are

After 20 hours of worldwide traveling (including 10 hours with non-stop screaming children and rude flight attendants), we are now in our home in Texas.  It’s a weird feeling…I did not expect to be here again for a long time, and especially not here to live.  Yet, as we all know, life changes and sometimes we go in directions that take us to unexpected places.

I haven’t blogged much about the move, because, honestly, I don’t know what to say.  There are so many things going on in my heart and in my head, and I daily have to check my heart.  I’m learning to live by God’s Scriptures; to guide my actions, thoughts, and words based on Biblical truths and not by my own emotions.  It’s a hard thing to do – to surrender my own feelings – but it’s the right thing to do.

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Over the next week or so, you will see changes to this blog.  It will move more towards a personal blog about me: life, thoughts, events, ministry, readjustments.  It will definitely get more personal into my mind.  I hope you keep reading.

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One last thank you for sticking by us through the last 2 1/2 years.  You have been there through all of our ups and downs, praying all along the way.  The kind words of encouragement have helped make those down times a bit easier and kept us energized during the up times.  God has truly blessed us with amazing friends and family…and even blessed us through people we don’t know!  Our deepest love and gratitude go out to you!

a personal letter from Josh

Dear Friends and supporters:

I’m sorry to let you know that Lindsey and I have decided to return home to Texas. During our time here in Ukraine, God has made it clear to me that I am not called to full time mission work. However, we understand the importance of missions and will continue to participate and support them. I know that this is disappointing for many of you and hard to understand, but know that I love the Lord and want to follow his leading and not my own.

Having been here just over 3 months, I’ve had a lot of time for self evaluation and meditation on my motives for coming here. First, it is clear to me that it wasn’t because I have a calling for full time mission work, but rather I was trying to please Lindsey and the love she has for the Ukrainian people. Secondly, I let the money be a large deciding factor in us coming here. When we first began pursuing our mission work, the funds quickly started to accumulate. During this time, I still felt unsure about coming to Ukraine, but I saw the growing funds and let it lead me. However, just because the funds are available doesn’t mean you start building a building without first establishing its foundation.

On coming to this conclusion I have had to ask a lot of hard questions and make some hard decisions. I honestly believe that God brought me here to reveal these things to me that I may better serve him. Had I known what I know now I would have not pursued this path as hard as I have, but sometimes this is how we learn. I hope you will forgive me in my unplanned misleading when I told you that I was called to be a missionary. Lindsey and I both strongly love the Lord and want to serve him wherever we are, we’re just trying to figure out exactly where and how to serve him.

Upon our return home on August 13, I will return to my career as an electrician. Lindsey will continue full-time mission work with Sons of Salvation in their administrative and communications department. She will also help lead and facilitate short-term mission trips worldwide as needed; her first assignment being in the Bahamas in October. We both will serve in church ministries as well.

As far as our funds are concerned, we will no longer need any more continuing support sent for our work in Ukraine. The funds we have already received will continue to be used in Lindsey’s ongoing mission work with Sons of Salvation.

Thank you for your understanding and prayers as we are making this transition. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via email, as we do not yet have a USA phone number.

With my deepest gratitude,

Josh Parks

A Meeting and a Beating

Thank you for all your prayers concerning the meeting with the orphanage’s programs director.  The meeting was originally scheduled for around noon, but due to a seminar we met later in the day.  When we arrived, she still wasn’t there, so we sat down with the Head Director, Yuri.  Although he was amicable and open to our program, he made it clear to us, “No Preaching.”  He went on to explain that the kids come from many different religious backgrounds and he doesn’t want us imposing our religion on them.  He also said, “art – okay.  But we really need sports equipment.”  Sorry, no athletic abilities here – only art.  He agreed, said there’d be no problems.  After discussing all the details with him, the programs director finally showed.  When meeting with her, she had a different opinion about what we could do: “Bible lessons  – okay.”  Olga is a Christian and said that she teaches the students Bible and tells them about God.

So, the dilemma – who do we follow?  The Head Director who says no and could ban us from ever coming back if we do talk about God, or the Programs Director who says that talking about God is okay.  Fortunately, for this particular art program, we have no dilemma.  The program itself is not Christian focused – meaning that it comes from a secular University and does not directly include Bible teachings.  However, it was written by a Christian who incorporated all Christian themes into the curriculum.  The teaching will not be preaching; thus following the Head Director’s request.  However, because the themes are Christian, and we who are helping lead it are Christians, we can easily talk one-on-one with the kids about those themes and how they are a part of our Christian beliefs.

The planning of this trip has been a rollercoaster ride.  One moment things were all planned out, but the next minute everything changed and we had to start over.  Several times throughout the last month, we all thought that this camp was not going to happen.  Yesterday was proof that God is always working even when we cannot see it – we just have to be patient and let Him do His work.

On the way home, there was an older man, drunk and possibly a little mentally off, sitting on a window sill begging for money.  His clothes were dirty and disheveled.  His skin dark and leathery.  Not feeling compelled to give money, we continued to walk by.  But just as Josh was directly in front of him, the man took a large, heavy stick (think wooden broomstick but heavier and thicker) and hit Josh on his arm.  Josh stopped, turned in shock, and just looked at the man.  i wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  But Josh quickly turned back to us and just kept walking without saying anything.  I can’t help but think that this drunk man should be very glad that Josh is not a violent person.

A stranger’s hospitality

Monday began a new chapter in my life here in Ukraine:  traveling alone.  Josh and I have split up our language lessons 2 days a week due to the fact that we learn at different paces.  So, Mondays I venture out solo for a few hours.  This first day Josh was sweet enough to walk me to the bus station (about a 20 minute walk).  I wasn’t nervous at all, but Josh still is quite protective of me being alone in this still-fairly new environment.

As I was sitting in my seat, waiting for the bus to leave, a small lady in front of me, maybe in her 60s, turns to ask me a question.  Not understanding her I said (In ukrainian), “I speak English.”  She kind of giggled, then said a slew of sentences.  (by the way, this happens so often and It always amuses me – I will tell someone that I don’t speak their language, and then they immediately proceed to talk to me in that language for several minutes – all I can do is stand and smile, or mimic their facial expressions).  She then stands up and comes and sits in the empty seat next to me.  For the entire 40 minute bus ride, we try to engage in conversation.  I struggle to tell her where I am from, why I am here and for how long.  Maria tells me about her nephew who is a Medical Professor in New York, shows me where her son is buried, and explains that she is going to visit her sister in Uzhgorod.  I’m not sure what was wrong with her sister, but whenever she spoke of Elena, her eyes teared up and she would just shake her head in sorrow.  From what I gathered, her sister is diabetic and is having problems with her feet.  Also, they are both pensioners, and cannot afford much.  Although I was only able to understand bits and pieces of her story, i could feel her heartache and her love.

She gives me her address in Mukachevo and motions for me to give her mine.  I don’t usually just give strangers my address, but 1.) I’m a missionary who desires to reach out and meet new people and 2.) I felt safe with her.  After we exchange addresses, she tells me to come over anytime.

When we get off the bus, she takes my arm and tells me she wants to buy me coffee.  Having arrived to town early, i say okay.  We stand and drink our coffee in silence – I feel awkward as she just stares at me and smiles.  Afterwards, we walk to the mashrootka taxi realizing that we are going to the same area.  During the entire mashrootka ride she talks about me to the women facing us.  Even though i did not understand one word, I knew she was talking about me because Maria kept gesturing towards me and the ladies kept glancing over at me.  I just smiled (and felt like a complete freak show on display).

Finally at the center of town, I plan to say my thank-yous and goodbye…but no, she is not done with me yet.  She pulls me along, through the bazaar, into the market, down an alleyway, into a courtyard, and through the front door of her sister’s house!  Oh my goodness, what have I gotten into? I am now late for my lesson, I don’t know these ladies, i don’t want to be rude, but i don’t want to end up like poor Gretel caged up in some old ladies kitchen.

The time with them turned out to be wonderful.  We all three chatted as much as we could despite our language barrier.  Most of the time they just laughed and smiled and patted my hand.  Offering me food, i accepted, remembering that you never say no to a Ukrainian’s offer of food – it’s a major offense.  No problem, I can eat a little bread and cucumber.  Instead she sits in front of me a HUGE bowl of green borscht, complete with the finest chicken parts, skin and all.  Oh my goodness, I can’t eat all this!

“Eat. Eat” they say.  So, I eat it.

I finally had to be firm (in a polite way) and say I had my lesson (which started 30 minutes ago). They walked me to the door, telling me to come to both there houses anytime.  One of them says something about God, and I, having learned the word for “heart” over the weekend, turn and say that God is in my heart, too.  They just laugh.  I walk out, wondering why they were laughing at that.  Then,  I realize why…I just told them that “God is in my puppy!”

Oh well, I’ll try again on Friday when I go for more Ukrainian Hospitality.

I finally got my Chinese…

FOOD!! Since moving here to Mukachevo, I’ve been missing two foods that I ate constantly in America: Mexican & Chinese. So, I was super excited when we came across a Chinese restaurant in Budapest – it was so yummy!

As for my Chinese visa, I was once again denied; this time due to proof of residency – which i was never told I needed nor has this ever been needed in the past nor was it posted on the website. We’ve done a lot of thinking and praying about our next step. We both feel that the best thing to do is to just cancel our trip to China. We no longer have the time or the budget to continue pursuing this visa. Although the China trip would be an amazing experience, we’re content about this decision and have peace about it. God is doing great things here with us, and He will do great things in China without us.

So, after being denied early Wednesday morning, we just relaxed and spent the day enjoying one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to.

my heart song for this day (week)

My heart is heavy, o Lord.
My eyes, blinded with tears.
Burdens press my shoulders,
weights drag me down.

The thick fog of uncertainty
blocks the path I should take.
Crags and Cracks along the road
falter my steps.

I am confused,
lost,
tired,
unsure.

But you are still my God,
guide,
strength,
redeemer.

I will continue to praise you
even if I can not see you.
I will continue to worship you
even if I can not hear you
I will continue to seek you
even if the storms still rage.

I know you hear me,
hold me,
love me.

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