"Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land. Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls."
--Doctrine and Covenants 100:3-4
Five years ago I walked in Ukraine for the first time. Breathed it in. Spoke Russian with people who had never met an American in their lives. Saw grey doms and a great, blue Ukrainian sky.
Ukraine changed my life. Forever. That mission to eastern Ukraine changed my life. Forever. Some experiences change your heart and make you deeper and braver than you could have ever imagined. My time in Ukraine was one of those experiences for me. A marker. "Pre-Ukraine," and "After-Ukraine."
I will always feel like Ukraine gave me more than I could ever give back to her. In some ways, especially as a young idealist, it is disappointing. But perhaps that is the lesson. That people and places will always have more to give than you could ever give them. So you thank them for their goodness with love. All you can give is your heart and your love. Let everyone know that you love them, or that you are at least trying to.
I truly believe that Ukraine gets some of the finest souls in the world to love her. I'm not saying that I'm one of the "finest souls in the world," as there are much finer souls that I know who have come to Ukraine and given more than I ever could. But I am grateful to have worked shoulder to shoulder with those people, and even more honored to have been allowed a glimpse into the lives and hearts of the incredible Ukrainian people. Five years later, and they will never leave my heart. And I refuse to throw that love--or this land--away.