Greetings once again from Lisboa, where the rain falls harder than Shaquille O’Neal shooting lay-ups in platform pumps, and the numbers on the clock and calendar all blend together.
And, on this particularly rainy day I am pleased to admit that I am quite well-rested and happily over-socialized. While I stare contentedly out my 3rd floor window at the sail boats and cruise ships in the harbor, (or “cais” as they say here), my mind slips back to three weeks ago on a similarly rainy day when I couldn’t have been in a more contrary condition.
I was in London’s Heathrow airport counting the minutes on the clock on my almost-dead cellular device, and pacing the floors as I endured my 5 hour lay-over, when it happened: I ran into (quite literally ran into!) actor Dylan McDermott (yes, of American Horror Story, or so I’ve heard). After awkward eye contact and a blushed smile, I hurriedly walked away, snapping a photo as I went of course.
But, little did I know this would not even come close to the most exciting thing I’d encounter this day. Because, as I stood starstruck, a plane had touched down from Los Angeles bringing me Nadia and the rest of my company for the remainder of my short stay in London.
With two more minutes of free wi-fi left, I got the feeling that this layover was going to be tough. But, as I stretched out my 14 hour-travel legs, I accidentally kicked a girl sitting across from me. Being extremely eager to talk to anyone who spoke English at this point, I quickly asked her if she spoke English before I lost her gaze. She said that she did and that her name was Marea, and her giggly young guy friend next to her was Varadi Mark, or just “Mark.”
The pair explained to me that they were high school students from Budapest headed back home after a short stay in Los Angeles. Their English was decent but their accents thick, so I was relieved when their third traveling partner arrived with near perfect English and introduced herself as Nadia.
Nadia was a 26-year-old woman who was born in Ukraine, but moved to California with her family when she was 12. She explained this all very casually, moving on quickly to other conversations about how different our passports looked or the wait time for their flight back to Hungary. Which got me wondering, “How did this girl end up in Hungary, anyway?”
After some uncomfortable shifts in her chair, Nadia told me that she was a Christian missionary who had been living in Hungary for almost 3 years. The group then told me about the conference they had all just attended in L.A. about Christianity around the world, how beautiful they thought the States were, and how deliciously greasy American pizza had been.
But, I was dying to ask Nadia what she knew about the domestic conflicts in Ukraine. Her voice got quiet and very serious as she told me that she was ‘heartbroken’ to see the people suffering. She said that education is important to Ukrainian people, but that it is nearly useless as the country’s offered opportunities are dwindling quickly. So, she said, people are pushing for the previously Russian-owned/zoned country to join the European Union.
She said that without going into major political ideology, that it would be financially and opportunistically beneficial for “the people “if the country were to join the E.U. But, with political corruption and the financial security of major state leaders at stake, a clash between classes was being waged. “Those who are more loyal to our Russian history are especially against the joining of the E.U.,” she explained. “But, it really all just comes down to money.”
When we spoke that day, Nadia was planning to see family members in Ukraine but was worried about the safety of crossing borders. “We used to cross the borders into both Russia and other neighboring countries freely, but I’m unsure if that is possible now,” she said.
I am happy to announce that I heard from Nadia just yesterday and she has made it successfully to Eastern Ukraine, where both her English and Hungarian language skills have come in handy! As the missionary crosses even more than geographical borders in sharing her faith with those abroad, she has asked me to have all of you join in with her to “Pray for Ukraine.”