This was my 12th mission trip with Hope4Kids in the past four years. It’s been an honor to become a sort of photo journalist on these missions. As Tom’s sister I’ve been intrigued with his ministry over the years but to actually go and experience it has been beyond my wildest dreams! My biggest dream as a child was to go to New York at Christmas time. I never considered that God would one day allow me to go to countries like Uganda, Peru, Chile, Cuba, Romania and Russia! I still have not been to New York but one of these days. . .
This trip was incredible! I met so many heroes. In Romania I was impressed with dedicated people who spend their days serving the poor and trying to make a better life for societies’ outcasts as well as reach them for Christ.
Mishu, the pastor to a gypsy village has eight children and makes so little money. He would work for free and almost does. People come to him and he will spend out of his own meager income so they can have flour and not go hungry. He has no roof on his house and last winter his family huddled in one room in order to stay warm. Alina told us he never complains and constantly gives. We thought this hero should be honored so we told Alina a team member wanted to pay for a roof on Mishu’s house. Alina has great needs of her own but she lit up and you could see the joy on her face and hear it in her voice when she said, “Oh! I am so happy for him! I can’t wait to tell him!” Mishu wept when she told him the news and again she said, “Nobody deserves it more than Mishu. He sacrifices so much for the people here.” Never have I seen such joy for another receiving a gift. Alina and her husband don’t have their own home but her thoughts and delight for Mishu added her to my list of heroes.
Meeting Sasha again was a tremendous pleasure for me.(photo of Sasha and me above). I met him three years ago and this time was armed with questions for him. I was privileged to interview him twice and with my digital recorder not working I wrote so fast I can barely read some of what I wrote. On our last night he showed up at dinner and brought a friend. His friend brought a photo album of their Democratic Union, the most radical, non-violent group in Russia who have fought and continue to fight for Democracy. To sit and listen to someone who fought alongside Gorbachev and Yeltsin in the early days and to hear the disillusionment of those dreams for a democratic society was another thrill beyond my wildest dreams. To be told of these guys being imprisoned for speaking out and promoting their ideals was unbelievable. Sasha has been arrested and jailed at least fourteen times since 1987 yet he continues to hope his country can experience true democracy. He loves his country and will fight to his dying day to make it a better place. I’d have to say that the pages of insight I gained from my conversations with Sasha have been among my most memorable lifetime moments.
This team was amazing. We jam-packed so much into our days that no one got much sleep yet everyone kept their good humor and flexibility. I know that each one was touched and will never be the same whether they come back and serve with us again or find a place to serve in their own communities. Everyone was fabulous!
It’s always an honor for my husband, Robert and I to travel with Tom. When Robert retired from the city of Phoenix five years ago Tom told him, “Come to Cuba with us and I’ll show you an adventure of a lifetime.” We did and were not disappointed. We go as often as we can and will continue to do so for as long as God allows it. I remember watching Tom on our first trip and thinking, “This isn’t just a job to him. He truly loves everyone he comes into contact with and they love him back!” He’s an amazing man and along with Robert, Tom is at the top of my list of heroes.
My first hero is Jesus and the way He loved people and treated the lowest in society with such a value. I want to be like Him and when I stand before Him one day I know it will not be because of anything I’ve done but because of what He did for me when He died on the cross. Because He has forgiven me of so much and has extended such mercy to me I want to serve Him all the days of my life. I know that by serving I’m not working my way to Heaven because the price has already been paid and that frees me to serve with joy!