An Unexpected Invitation

I had met her the weekend before (Palm Sunday weekend) on a bus trip to visit a monastery in the eastern half of the country. As we parted, getting off the bus at 6:00 am Monday morning, she hugged me and asked, “Do you have plans for Easter?” Easter is the biggest holiday of the year here in Ukraine.

“No,” I answered.

“Come to my place on Thursday,” she invited, “and I will show you how to bake traditional Easter cake.” I was excited at the prospect of learning a traditional recipe from the country I now call home. When I showed up Thursday after work, we had the time-consuming task of baking yeasted cakes ahead of us. Both of us love baking though, so were up for the challenge. “I would like to invite you to come home with me for Easter,” she said. “No one should spend Easter alone, and my parents have said that it would be fine.”

And that is how I found myself traveling to the western half of the country a few days later.

We arrived the day before Easter, which is typically spent preparing. My friend and I jumped right into the kitchen alongside her mom, finishing assembling cookies and cakes before heading as a family to her grandma’s house in the village. Aunts, uncles and cousins welcomed me with open arms. We were up until 11:00 pm decorating the Easter cakes—baked by us on Thursday and some by her grandma as well—and completing other food prep. Around midnight, her grandma packed an Easter basket to take to church, filled with a cake, some cookies, Easter eggs and candy, and left for church. Everyone else would have a quick nap and would leave around 2:00 am to meet her there.

People spilled outside the village church by the time we arrived. At the end of the service, everyone came outside with a lit candle burning in their Easter cakes. The priest, et al, walked around the church building proclaiming, “He is RISEN!” Easter baskets and people alike were blessed by the priest one by one. And around 5:00 am everyone started to head home to break the fast and eat before heading to bed, only to wake up later to eat more.

I often marvel at how God orchestrates things. At this point my friend and I had only known each other a week! We’d met on a trip that I was certain God wanted me to take, but that I had been nervous to go on. Celebrating the resurrection of our Lord with her and her family, the baking and eating, the conversation and laughter – it is one of my favourite memories from my time here so far.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” This is one of my favourite sets of verses, and it comes after the famous ‘There is a time for everything’ passage. None of us knows all that God has done and will continue to do, but we can know that He has made and makes all things beautiful, and we can be thankful. With this in mind, we can follow him and trust him, even when we are not certain.

Joining that trip the weekend of Palm Sunday was a last-minute decision. I was uncertain about it but felt God nudging me to go. Even though I didn’t know God’s whole plan, I went anyway, trusting in Him. I saw many beautiful places and I met several ladies who I would continue to be friends with long after the trip was over.

What unexpected ways has God brought you together with people from your host country?

Join us for the 2022 Velvet Ashes Online Retreat as we explore the desire for home. Together we’ll journey through the powerful pathway that Solomon’s temple provides for us today. We’ll invite the Holy Spirit to draw our heart’s into deeper connection with God. Retreat with the worldwide community April 22-24!

3 Comments

  1. Phyllis March 30, 2022

    Слава Україні! Are you still here? And what a wonderful story. Easter here is the best holiday ever.

    1. Amanda March 30, 2022

      Easter in Ukraine is definitely the best holiday ever! I ended up leaving shortly before Russia launched their first attack, but I am still working in connection with the ministry that I was involved with while there.

  2. Heidi March 30, 2022

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing!

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