Friday, July 3, 2015

The Morning Breaks

It has been two years since I returned home from Donetsk, Ukraine.

There hasn't been a day when I haven't thought of my time there.
Of people I served.
Of people I loved.
Of places I lived.
Of smells I had never smelled before.
Of feelings I experienced there--the highest joys and deepest sorrows.
How I felt the prettiest I ever had while serving there.
And also the ugliest and frumpiest.
And how I had never felt closer to heaven.
Or closer to hell.
But overall, every day I remember and feel the changes that happened to me while I learned to forget myself and go to work.

"For whosoever will save [her] life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose [her] life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
For what shall it profit a [woman] if [she] gain the whole world, and lose [her] own soul?
Or what shall a [woman] give in exchange for [her] soul?" -- Mark 8:35-37

On a mission, you learn really quickly that you have to be there for the right reasons. And hopefully you learn that love is the most powerful motivator in the world. In the universe, really. True, deep, soul-changing love.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." -- John 3:16-17

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." -- John 15:13

And these people . . . these beautiful, extraordinary people that you had never even known in cities you had never even heard of become your friends.

For those that know me, you know that I love songs. I am a walking musicbox. One song that has always meant a great deal to me is "The Morning Breaks." It meant a lot to me before my mission--one of my ancestors heard the missionaries singing it in England in the 1850s, he was intrigued, he went to talk with the missionaries . . . and the rest is family history.

I gained a deeper love for the song on my mission. Of course it sings of missionary work. Throughout the world.

But to me, it sings of Ukraine:

The morning breaks, the shadows flee 
Lo, Zion's standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day
The dawning of a brighter day 
Majestic rises on the world. 

The clouds of error disappear
Before the rays of truth divine. 
The glory bursting from afar
The glory bursting from afar
Wide o'er the nations soon will shine. 

[. . .]

Angels from heaven and truth from earth 
Have met and both have record borne 
Thus Zion's light is bursting forth 
Thus Zion's light is bursting forth 
To bring her ransomed children home. 

The morning breaks over the East. The clouds of error disappear and truth goes forth boldly and independently. The glory bursting from afar as hope shines into the hearts of men and women. People who need hope so desperately in that beautiful, hurting land. God is bringing His ransomed children home. 

The morning breaks. The shadows flee.

And somehow--miraculously--God allowed me to be a part of that miracle. And still allows all of us to be a part of the miracle of redemption.

If we choose it.

And why do we choose it?

Because we love God.
Because we love His children.
Because we love Jesus.

That's what it ultimately comes down to.

It is impossible to truly describe the love I feel for Ukraine. For those beautiful Ukrainian people. For their culture, their traditions, their souls. For the cross-wearing, red-kerchiefed babushki; for the unpaved, broken roads; for the grey, Soviet-style doms and sketchy Soviet lifts; for the big, blue, arching Ukrainian skies; for the sweeping fields of golden sunflowers; for the rynoks--the haggling, straightforward, crass rynok ladies, the bustle, the surprises, the dead, dried fish that look like they are staring at you, the babushki selling homemade wares--everything; for the good, wholesome, Ukrainian bread; for that musty, damp, Eastern European smell; for the resilience, perseverance, and strength of the people there--especially the Ukrainian members; for people who are so willing to give; for the way history is marked on walls, streets, and faces; for Russian rap and that twangy, eerie Russian folk and pop music; for the beauty of the people there; for mashrutki and crazy taxi cab drivers; for the Metro and Tramvais; for chai with lemon, raspberry, and mint; for the feel of the place--unlike anything else in the world; for the fancy chandeliers in every home and apartment; for the way that people pray and for babushka blessings; for hearing people's stories--their hopes and dreams and beliefs; for winter melting and giving way to spring; for the struggle and growth and my own "kitchen chats with God"; for people who love me so deeply and for my love for them.

Ukraine, I like you. Love you, even.

[and there alone you kneel and you feel indeed, 
you wanna go and help every soul that you see.
you wanna go and share what you know inside. 
          and show you love them.]-- peter breinholt, call i hear

[i remember days when we laughed so hard. 
we walked along the roads in a country so far. 
i remember children and sounds in the streets; 
and we belonged there.

[and then the broken man in his house one day
he said he wasn't sure if he knew how to pray. 
then he tried and said what's in his heart; 
so pure and easy.]

[slowly turn around and see
there's a part of them in me.]

I will never apologize for talking about my mission so much. 

For remembering it so much.
For loving it so much.
It truly changed my life.
And of course life goes on after a mission. And you know what? I do not believe that a mission should be the "best eighteen months" or "best two years" of a person's life. But a mission should form the foundation for the rest of your life. And your life should be better because of your mission.

My life these past two years has been beautiful and hard and full--just like my mission was.
But my life today would not be the same without a mission.
It wouldn't be as full.
It wouldn't be as rich.
It wouldn't be as deep.

How much is my soul worth?

For God so loved Megan Armknecht that He sent her to Ukraine.

1 comment:

  1. oh sister, my sister. that's the thing about ukraine. it was a place where we always belonged. there IS a part of them in you. i'm so glad for that. and. those shadows. they don't flee on their own. they flee when repulsed by light. because of the rays of truth divine. those rays you carried and still carry. i love you, sister megan beth armknecht. thank you for loving god. for letting him send you to ukraine. so that there we could have days where we laughed so hard, walking along roads in a country so far. i love you. this is such a fitting and beautiful tribute. слава украине нашей. [and the photos! oh, these photos.]