Wednesday, 08 July 2015 15:24

In His Steps

Written by Iliya Stefanovich

As we approach the Thailand embassy in New York to get my Visa fixed, we notice two policeman standing by the doors. There was an error with my Visa and I had problems when i resent it. The plan was to get my Visa fixed the same day of my flight. As my friends and I curiously look up at the police officers, we were told that it was a Thai holiday and that the embassy was closed. My visa wasn’t fixed fixed and I had an international flight coming up in just a few hours.

As we prayerfully turned back around, God gave peace in my heart and allowed me to fully trust in Him. Instead of being worried like I usually am, God was teaching me to put my whole trust in Him and to know that He is in control. Before I stepped on the plane, I prayed that God would send me someone that I could witness to in English, hopefully. As I kept that thought in the back of my head, I stepped on the plane that was filled with Asians. I have not seen one american yet but curiously sat in my seat, awaiting that one person that would sit next to me. At a distance, I saw an american guy approaching closer and closer. Doubt approached me and I thought out of all the seats on this plane, I doubt that this guy will be the one to sit beside me. As the young man approached my isle, he looked down at his ticket and confirmed with me that the window seat beside mine is his. Wow! Nothing is impossible for God. As I had doubt in my head, God had a different plan. God showed me that nothing is too impossible for Him! As the sweaty, tired young man plopped himself down next to me, I knew that this was what God had in store. Minutes later, we were talking away. Our “where are you going to” conversation led to “if you were to die tonight, where would you go?” It was a difficult conversation, but God was right there leading me through it.

The plane flight went by very smoothly filled with lots of naps, music and delicious food. The prayers increased as we entered Thailand. As I was standing in line to get my passport checked, thoughts were running through my head. If only they don’t notice that my sisters visa is in my passport. I approach the man and hand him over my passport. As I was filled with God’s amazing peace and trust, I heard the stamp slam down a few times on my passport. As I looked up, I had the biggest smile on my face! Again, God was showing me that nothing is impossible for Him. The man didn’t notice the error on my visa! Praise God!

God treated my sister, Kristina, her friend and I to a lovely, beautiful vacation down at Krabi. With beautiful cliffs to clear, blue water, this was a wonderful start to my summer. Vacation went by very blessed and I was excited to start this new journey here in Thailand with some fun in the sun. As we pack our bags, we head to a dry and very hot, deserted town in Tak. As we go through the gates of Avoda, I get welcomed by many of our students with smiles and greetings. As I approach my new home where I will be living, I was impressed at how huge and nice our wooden cabin was. We even have a separate bathroom! I was expecting to live in a slum sort of falling apart house made out of scrap and branches, but this was just very unexpecting. God allowed very easy and safe transition to the living conditions and food. The people here are very nice and always have a smile on their face. One thing I knew I had to practice was smiling. As week by week goes by, I started figuring out my role here more and more. I began teaching in public schools twice a week. In one school, I get to work with teenagers and the other elementary. I am happy that I have a variety of students I can work with. At the end of the school day, I am amazed that I have just taught English to about 200 student!

As Tuesday approached, I knew that soon I would be surrounded by my little students, who eagerly try to get a hold of my hand and put their little arms beside mine to see how white I am. As they stare in shock, they wonder how a person could be so white. You may think how is it possible to teach in a complete different country with an unfamiliar language. The first week was a little difficult, but as weeks went by, I was constantly being taught by my students and we found  amazing ways to communicate. The more I am around my students, the greater my desire is to learn Thai. I am also involved in our “We love you club” as a couple of us staff go out to the village and spend the precious time with children. From Bible stories to singing songs, God gives us the opportunity to gently witness to these buddhist children once a week. Some of these children come to our saturday school that I am also involved in. I also teach English here to about 60 children. I am filled with so much joy and the children melt my heart more and more each time. The happiest moment I have had here so far was when I was going through a giving up kind of feeling moment. The day was going by a little rough and I felt like I wanted to just give up. Nothing was turning out right. As I enter the classroom I notice that the students are making colorful, handmade cards. As I approached a little closer, I noticed that a lot of them were making cards for me! From I love you Oksana to teacher Oksana, I was filled with so much joy as each child patiently awaited in line to hand in their sparkly, colorful creation into my hands. God was showing me that these students need me. Not only to learn english. But so much more. To show them love and give them the attention that they are lacking very much in their lives. God was renewing my thoughts and was showing me a greater purpose of being here. As I wake up each day, I know that it is a new day to serve God in all that I do. And it’s not even about works. It’s all about Christ and who He is.  Even when I fail or may want to give up, Jesus is always here to refill me with joy and pick me up and help me to keep moving forward. As days go by and turn into weeks, I am bonding with my students more and more each time. Students in school and our students here in Avoda. The girls and I have a special bonding time when we hang around the kitchen and happily cook. From making powdered sugar, fluffy pancakes to churros, the girls excitedly await to devour this American snack. From sleeping on the floor in the girls cabin, I was awakened many times at night with the realization of how hard the floor really was. As morning slowly crept up, I was awakened by a pain in my back, promising myself that I will never be back to sleep with the girls again. A couple days later, I was back at the floor again. This time it wasn’t as bad. Now I have slept on the floor about ten times already and crazy to say, I love it! I love the floor more than my bed. Well I guess it never hurts to try something new and really try it out. Also, the more time I spend with our girls here in Avoda, the more they keep asking me, “How long are you going to be here for? When are you leaving? If you leave, who will bake with us and make us dessert.” My plane flight says that I am supposed to be here till November. As I prayerfully reconsidered with God, God showed me that I need to stay here longer. I have always wanted to be involved in full time mission work, not just a few short weeks of missions and back home to my life, but I wanted something more. Something where God could really use me to impact children’s lives and really be commited to being there for them. As I look at my plane ticket, I happily crumble it up and throw it in the trash. My heart is here and my life is here already. I am willing to stay here as long as God wants me here. It’s not the location but the heart. Are you ready to serve God wherever He puts you, even from your own home? How can you be an encouragement to those around you? How can you spread Christ’s love and share it with those that are perishing?


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