I am so blessed and humbled I am to have been part of this mission. When I knew that I was called to go, I didn’t know why. A week after coming home I’m just beginning to understand some of the reasons. One of those reasons was to witness the joyful spirit of loving and giving that I received from everyone on the trip.
Christi led our devotions before and during the trip, and as part of that she had us read a book entitled A Mile in My Shoes by Trevor Hudson. The most powerful passage of the book for me was that when going on a mission, we should go
- As pilgrims, not as tourists
- As learners, not as teachers
- As listeners, not as talkers
- As receivers, not as givers
The first three of these made great sense to me, both as guidance for missions but also as guidance for each of our pilgrimages through life.
I didn’t completely get the last one though, to go “as receivers not as givers.” This seemed contrary to “it is better to give than to receive.” But my new friends in Russia – the orphanage staff, the translators, and especially the kids taught me about true giving, by making me a receiver.
People in Russia are delighted by the gifts they receive, because they focus on the meaning of each gift, not its monetary value. They display their gifts, and will explain each one in detail to you. In general, they have little wealth. The kids in the orphanage have a couple of sets of clothes and a few personal possessions, and our translators don’t have very much either.
Yet, as delighted as they are with getting gifts, they treasure giving more. All of them gave their love and friendship so easily and generously. I was deeply touched but also a little embarrassed when our translators gave each of us individual gifts. The kids in the orphanage freely gave us their treasured photographs, their friendship bracelets, their silly bands, things they had made, whatever they had. At meals they would even offer you their food. Their giving spirit was so strong that you simply could not decline their gifts, because it is so important to them to give.
Contrary to what I thought before I went, I was blessed to be a receiver so that I could see these extraordinary examples of giving. It’s better to be a receiver than a giver when it teaches you how to be a better giver.