8/22/14

Tiny Traveler: Liv Wilkins

Meet Liv. A secondary education major at Valley Forge Christian College who visited Russia in March of 2014. Liv is hoping during this upcoming year to add a second major in middle level education.She says that her immediate plans after graduation are: "Take pictures with my friends and rejoice that four (maybe 5 if I add my double major) of college is over.  Then go into the big kid world and find a job.  I have no idea where I will end up but my heart has been set for years on teaching over seas.  Russia seems like an extraordinary option, but God’s options are extra-extraordinary so we shall see!  My not so immediate goals are to change education, or at least that is what God is telling me right now." Her goals for her blog in the next year or so are to keep people reading and keep up with posting. "I have never been good at journaling or keeping up with these kinds of things, but I think I have some good friends that will keep me in line if I am slacking.  Hopefully I don’t run out of masks for Mask Mondays! J
 
God has granted me a love of language. He makes me giggle over grammar, relish in reading, whimsically wonder about words, and he saturates me in sentences.God has also given me adoration for fashion, and especially shoes.  High heels, loafers, vans; metallic, bedazzled, black—you name it I love it. 

See, God tends to work in silly ways and He used both speech and shoes to make my latest missions trip to St. Petersburg, Russia one of the most inspirational and moving trips I have ever been on.  He tied each aspect of each love affair I have with these two objects together until they were intricately woven into my mind.  And in a second, I will tell you how, but first—background.
 
My name is Liv.  I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.  No, I do not ride cows to school.  No, I do not live on a farm.  No, there are no polar bears here; you have confused Nebraska with Alaska.  By the way, they don’t have polar bears either.  Just thought I would get your questions out of the way.  I am a city girl addicted to Starbucks and stargazing.  Unfortunately, stargazing is not very doable in the city.  I am a city girl who loves traveling abroad and I have had the opportunity to thanks to friends, family, and God’s provision.  I am a city girl who grew up as a pastor’s daughter.  I have been in the limelight of ministry and I have been torn between loving and hating every minute.  I have had experiences that have strengthened me.  I have gone though periods where I felt lonely and periods of life where I felt loved.  My favorite bible verse is cliché (Jeremiah 29:11).  Despite all of this I have found that I am still loved and cared for by God.  He has a purpose for me; I want to fulfill that purpose not to the best of my potential, but to His. 

So, in comes Russia.  In approximately March of 2013 I was scrolling though Facebook and saw that Andy and Nancy Raatz, family friends were moving to Russia from Moldova to continue God’s work for them there and in a split second my mindset changed forever.  God said, “You’re going there.” I said, “LOL, nope.” And thus we begin an adventure. 
For just over 365 days God pounded Russia into me.  Every single day I overheard, read, and/ or saw something about Russia.  He provided funds faster than I could have dreamed.  He provided the perfect team. And then he sent me to learn a lesson: Speech and Shoes. 
I had been on one other missions trip to Derry, Ireland in 2010.  It was there I became enamored with different languages and shoes that represented other cultures.  So, I started talking with an Irish accent and bought a pair of fashion forward (the trend hadn’t quite entered the states yet) combat boots.  Likewise, in Russia, I started speaking Russian and bought a pair of high-heeled boots and then God did some crazy stuff.

Speaking a different language is hard, but communicating is easy.  The very first full day in Russia we headed out to a small village about two hours outside of St. Petersburg.  We had the pleasure of ministering with a group of college-aged students.  The day was full of fun and excitement, but I was impacted most on the bus ride.  My team was awesome, but I noticed they sat with each other and the youth group sat seperately.  I knew going into this trip that I had to step out of my comfort zone.  I sat up front with the strangers and we acted.  The language barrier was so hard to over come so we didn’t even try.  We subconsciously decided that waving our arms, flashing pictures, and teaching each other new words in strange languages would help us connect, and we were right.  By the end of the day everyone was “talking”.  The girls and I had a great conversation about our families.  Who was the oldest and youngest sibling? They acted out taking a picture and I proceeded to share pictures of my family.  They knew very simple English words such as ‘age’ so we were able to show each other with our fingers how old we were.  The best part of the day was singing with our new friends.  They knew worship songs we knew, but they didn’t always know the English words.  The beauty of this was we could sing the same songs, in different languages, and still be completely surrendering to the same God.  The God of Isaac, of Jacob, of Abraham, of Americans, and of Russians—The God of all. 
Now this may seem like a very simple concept, but think about it for a second.  We cannot walk up to someone who speaks a different language and expect them to know exactly what we are saying, but in a split second, with music in the background and God in the foreground we knew exactly what these students were meaning. 

From then on I picked up Russian fast.  I had a few people talk to me in Russian thinking I spoke it fluently (only if I kept my conversations to one word…but good enough! J) Olga, one of our translators, taught me word after word and God certainly blessed her with patience for me and my need for language.  I soaked it up like a sponge.  Laying in bed one night in our small room I thought “We should be so fascinated with the language of God we become fluent in every language that praises him so nothing hinders us from worshiping him fully.” Now, humanly it may not be possible for all of us to fluently speak the millions of dialects and languages that we have around the world.  And that is okay, because God gave us tongues.  How cool is that? God gave us a perfect unhindered, uncomprehend able language to worship him with.  Humans haven’t tainted this language.  The connotation of each word is exactly what God intends it to be.  It is so incredibly pure.  We can sing and speak in tongues.  Russian and English have been tainted and ruined by society.   We can only praise God to the best of our abilities and it becomes so much more powerful when we put them together.  Imagine what it will be like in heaven when we are praising in tongues—a heavenly language!
Speaking and language is only half of what God taught me while over in Russia.  Shoes, and whom they represent is another. Have you ever heard “Walk a mile in their shoes?” This is where I got the idea to purchase a pair of shoes that represent each country I minister in.  Russia is fabulous.  The people are always dressed to the nines.  Gorgeous tall women and muscular men put on facades to hide the hurt behind.  Hair is always nice, but minds are amuck with needing peace.  Faces are painted thick with makeup, but the lack of smiling is hiding pain that only Christ can heal. The heavy coats and tall boots keep bodies warm, but there needs to be a spread of spiritual warmth in Russia.  I felt all of these heavy feelings every time we stepped onto the Metro.  The biggest thing for me though, was how high the heels were on the boots of almost every young lady riding on the metro.  To me it screamed, “I want something more.” Immediately I knew I had that something more. 

It is a crazy thought I realize to think that by someone putting on a simple pair of heels could be saying something, but the fact that society as a whole in Russia is crying out for a savior makes it slightly less crazy.  You see, like in America, girls want to be noticed.  The men too, of course, but by just focusing on women’s shoes you can see a trend.  The thoughts tend to be  “I am going to be the most beautiful, I will have the most expensive things.” Instead of “I am beautiful in God’s sight, I am rich because God has blessed me.”  As soon as I found my pair of Russian boots and put them on I knew they were the ones.  These boots remind me to walk a mile in the Russian women’s shoes each time I wear them.  I have to think like Russian women, think that I have no hope, and then I have to walk a mile in four inch high heels to feel what it’s really life.  Imagine doing that without God.  It is impossible.  Doesn’t that alone make you want to go over and share exactly what God has done for you? Because of what Christ did for us on the cross we are free to wear whatever kinds of shoes we want.   We don’t have to be hard on ourselves because we are not perfect or because we are not tall enough, we simply have to come to the Father barefooted and dirty and he will clean us and make us new.  I am constantly awestruck by the faithfulness of God.  Everyday, I put on a “pair of heels” and he gently reminds me that I am enough all by myself. 
Speech and Shoes changed my life.  Two passions that I never thought I would see collide.  And here they are, together.
How beautiful are the passions that God places on your heart, for he will wreck, inhabit, and rebuild each of them for the glory and honor of Him.  If only you let Him. 



Have you ever been to Russia? Have you ever experienced a language barrier when in another country? In what ways has God used your passions and interests to further His work?



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