Keri: So, Anne, I’m excited to talk to you. This is the first time we’ve ever spoken.
Anne: I’m excited to be here with you!
Keri: I told Anne she was my guinea pig, because I’ve never done an interview on my blog before. Why don’t you tell us just a little bit about how a girl went from Chattanooga and ended up in the Ukraine?
Anne: When I was in high school we had a lot of missionaries come in and out of our church. That was also the time when the wall of Communism fell in Eastern Europe. I’d heard a lot of things about Russia and the former Soviet Union, and my dream became—well, let me back up a little bit. I had a lot of other interests. I was also interested in the pro-life movement and I was involved in that in my hometown. I also wanted to be a nurse midwife. That was my dream.
So I combined all these things, and I wanted to be a missionary in Russia and help women who were having abortions because there was such an astronomical abortion rate in Russia. My dream was to have a home for women who were in crisis pregnancies and I would be their midwife and help them be able to work, go to school, and not have to abort their babies. This was my whole dream.
When I was 18 I went for the summer to Ukraine and the Lord really attached my heart here. I have actually never been to Russia but I’ve been here and loved it. And then I wanted to come here full time for a long time. I was at school at Bob Jones for years, and during those several years I worked at HomeSat for several years. And all during this time at certain periods this desire to be on the mission field would come and I would just cry and just ask God, “Why do you give me this desire and don’t let me fulfill it? You don’t fulfill it.” It was really a purging time, just the Lord taking away a lot of the wrong motives and humbling me and making me ready for being on the mission field.
Then one day I got an e-mail from Pavlo who was a student at Bob Jones. He had gone back to Kiev here and he had started a little Bible institute. He wrote an e-mail asking for someone to come and teach English to the students. As soon as I read that e-mail I knew from God that that was my job. So He finally let me come here full time, and I came as a single missionary. The funny thing is that Vitaliy, my husband, was one of my students and we got to know each other. He has such an amazing character and love for the Lord.
Then the next year we were teachers together at the school and he had a very high level of English so we could communicate well at that time. I’m just so thankful that the Lord brought us together. The Lord helped me be obedient at the right time so I could meet Vitaliy and I could live the life now that the Lord has given me. So that’s how I wound up in Ukraine. We were married in 2004, almost 6 years ago now. That’s our little story.
Keri: That’s so great. When you went to Bob Jones then, were you looking to be in missions? Is that what you majored in? How did that start?
Anne: That is also a very funny story. You know I wanted to be a nurse midwife, and that summer I was in Odessa before I started school at Bob Jones. I went into a hospital and you know when I walked out of that hospital I just knew that I did not want to be a nurse. This whole dream that I had created just dissolved. I got back home and I had a week before I started school and I was flipping through the catalogue. My mom is an English teacher and she said, “You’ve always loved to write. Why don’t you do something with writing?” So I chose creative writing. The day was so interesting—the day that I started my creative writing classes, I just knew that was just like coming home. It explained who I was and why I was so weird and it explained a lot of things for me. Now I’m really thankful for how the Lord led me, because I’m still becoming involved in childbirth and things like that.
Keri: That is interesting. You do write a lot, and I love reading what you write. So it all works out. At that point in time you probably did not envision the Internet being what it was, or what it would become, and how that would connect your ministry with the States in the way that it probably has.
Anne: Yes, it has been wonderful.
Keri: When you went to Ukraine as a single missionary did you go on deputation, or were you more of a tentmaker?
Anne: I went on deputation because the school or the little institute—they didn’t have any funds to support me, so I had churches and people supporting me.
Keri: So you’ve been supported the whole time you were over there? I never knew that. What about living in Ukraine? Has it been difficult for you?
Anne: Well that is a really interesting question because it evolves. When I was first here it was hard to go out the door. First of all, there were like seven locks you had to go through to get the door actually open—and two doors.
But not just that. The locks were sort of symbolic. Just walking out of the house was terrifying because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was a foreigner. I would go to the market, and I hated going to the market and people would be talking to me and talking to me. I preferred the supermarket because no one speaks to you and you can just go and read your stuff. And, riding the bus, I was always afraid to say where I wanted to go and everyone hears it. I didn’t want the whole bus to know that I was a foreigner. I’ve come a long way since then. I’m not afraid for them to know that I am a foreigner. I get around really well.
The thing I would say probably has been hardest for me the last two or three years (I’m going to get kind of personal here) has been how my expectations have changed since I had children.
Because I’m used to growing up in a house and having all these family traditions and having a nice house, and here I live in an apartment. It’s living in a huge city where you live in this little matchbox with your children. I think the hardest thing for me the last two or three years has been to be content with the house we are able to have, because—not just the fact that I want to have a house with a yard so my kids can go out and play, but—to be really honest—to not be jealous of other missionaries who have nicer apartments that they have been able to fix up, while I live in this really Ukrainian apartment that I hate and I can’t change any of the furniture or decoration because we rent it.
The verse where God says you have to leave your father, mother, house and everything and you have to be willing to give all those things up for the Lord—that is one thing that God has been—in one way, just being willing to give up my longing for an American house…[I am] giving that up to the Lord right now. And honestly, as I look at it now, I’ve come through struggling with that and the Lord has been helping me a lot and showing me, lately, things that he is able to do in my heart because I’ve lived here and wrestled with all those things. I have become thankful that God has used this to humble me and to show me things where I wasn’t depending on Christ and finding my sufficiency in Christ. Lately that has been one thing I have been struggling with.
Keri: That is understandable, I think everything is a lot more personal when you have kids, because you feel so responsible. Just like your dreams about going to Ukraine, I think you have dreams about how your children will grow up and you are always comparing that. I feel for you. What do you love about living in Ukraine?
Anne: You know, when I first started living here I loved the bread, butter and cheese. They have wonderful bread here. People come here and buy bulk and take it home and freeze it. I’ve sort of gotten used to that now. I think some things I love about life here right now is the people that we’ve gotten to know in the church that we have and a lot of really just being able to do some of the ministry that Vitaliy has been able to get into and that I’ve been able to do. That is probably the thing I love the most. I really can’t ever imagine going to live back in the States because I just feel like there is so much we do here that we love to do. So I’m just really thankful for those things. The work that God has given us to do here, I think, is probably what I love most about living here.
Keri is a wife and mother. She met her husband, Daniel, while attending Bob Jones University. They both consider 2001 a very good year since they both graduated and were married the same summer. After college, Keri put her business degree to use and managed a small records management company. She now manages her two greatest productions, Ethan, age 5, and Micah, age 3. She enjoys writing the Grace post, a collection of spiritual reflections, Bible study, and book reviews, in her free time.