On this day two years ago, I boarded a train that took me away from Donetsk. In hindsight, I’m glad that I had no idea how significant that day was. I had no idea that I was about to start a trial that would still affect me two years later. But I did and it does.
I think the main reason leaving Donetsk was so heartbreaking for me was how long and hard I had worked to love it in the first place. Donetsk required every ounce of effort and love that I could produce. I didn’t grow to love it until I gave it everything I had. So when we left, it felt like I was leaving the most important parts of myself behind.
It took me a long time to recognize that it was a blessing and privilege to love Ukraine so much that it hurt. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel like much of a blessing to me. But I can say without a doubt that the Lord has been with me through every step of this confusing and painful and lonely journey. I can now testify of the miraculous healing power of the Atonement. I am so much more whole than I was two years ago. And I hope that two years from now I will be even more whole. In my journal I found a folded up piece of paper with my feelings from two years ago. I can’t believe how far I’ve come. This is what it says:
“I will attempt to tell you what is in my heart. I am not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me but I know that you would rather know the truth and I know that I will want to remember this someday.
The first emotion was anger. Frustration really, I guess. It is simply not fair. Which, I know life is not fair, but still. Our mission was doing better than ever before. Our numbers were up 400%. We were so dang obedient it’s not even funny. We were doing everything. And then it was taken away.
Next came sadness. This one lasted for awhile and is still mostly there. I have never had my heart broken before but I’m pretty sure this is it. We miss Donetsk. We miss our people, the Lochheads, the members, the investigators, the random people on the street who laugh at my name, everyone. We don’t know if we will see them again. Our hearts are just sad.
Also fear. We are all so afraid. They always say that trials now are preparing you for something else. We are terrified of what is coming next. Sister Nash and I jump at loud noises and quick movements. We are afraid to put our hearts and souls into Kiev because it could get ripped away from us at any second. I think we have seen too much. It got to us.
We feel helpless. The worst part is that it is literally 100% out of our control. There is nothing we can do about this. We are just waiting and seeing. The same thing we’ve been doing since November and it’s not healthy. We can’t focus. We are trying to work and that helps to take our minds off it, but it’s always there still.
Lastly, we are lonely. Our district was our family and now we are all separated and not allowed to talk to each other. We miss them, and we worry about them so much. We miss our people in Donetsk. We worry about them. At least we have each other.”
These words feel so dramatic now, but I can remember how strongly I felt them as I wrote them. I still feel sad or frustrated or helpless occasionally, but reading my words from two years ago has helped me to see how far I have come. I recognize that over the past two years I have gradually been able to hand this burden over to my Savior and He has helped me heal. Maybe I will never know exactly why I was given this particular trial but I know what the result was. I can now testify without a doubt that the Lord does not abandon us in our time of need. He was right there with me on the train to Kiev and the plane to America and even now. I don’t know if I’m to the point yet where I can honestly say I’m grateful that this happened, but I am grateful that I came to know my Savior and trust in Him.