For the next three days, over the weekend, I was in a daze. I didn’t know what to do. I was paralyzed with fear. This definitely was uncharted territory for me. When we decided to join the MJBI team, no one told me about the Ukrainian Mafia.
I was the leader of my clan and we had no water. It was up to me to get it turned back on. We couldn’t shower, wash dishes, or do any other essential things that one does with water.
Odessa, A Unique City
After classes, I decided to walk home. I needed to pray and clear my head. Odessa, despite the poverty, is a beautiful city. If you can look past the dirt to the golden cobblestone streets and its creative architecture, you can see that she once shined. Unlike most Soviet cities, where there is little to no creativity in designs, Odessa has a Mediterranean feel.
Odessa’s cobblestone streets
The French and Italians, not the Russians, influenced its architecture. Sitting on the Black Sea, Odessa is one of the most popular vacation spots for citizens of the Former Soviet Union.
I was so blessed when I returned to Odessa in 2010. The city has changed so much. It is clean and all of the formerly gray buildings have a fresh coat of paint. The city is full of cafés and restaurants. On a sunny day, it is one of the most beautiful places to be. During the winter in Ukraine, the clouds can move in and not depart for several weeks. Sunlight carries many health benefits, including vitamin D. Three weeks without it, can leave one feeling depressed. At times the clouds over the city felt like a prison. However, on this day, it was sunny and beautiful.
Odessa’s famous Opera House, which according to Odessa’s citizens is only rivaled by Rome’s. Hitler stole its gold-laced curtain during WWII, but Odessa got it back at the end of the war.
With the cobblestones beneath my feet, I walked back to my apartment. I began to pray.
Clarity Through Prayer
A few things became clear. Nothing escapes God’s view. He allowed this to happen. What was He seeking to teach me? When the unexpected and unwanted happens, that should be our question. What am I supposed to learn here?
I was immediately brought back to the passage of Elisha with his servant. The king of Aram sent out soldiers with horses and chariots to capture the prophet because he, being a prophet, was giving advice to the King of Israel, telling him the plans of the king of Aram.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17)
The Lord was teaching me:
He is with me and he is stronger than the meanest mobster.
Intimidation is a spirit and that is what the Mafia relies on. Just like terrorists.
As a believer, I had to stand up to intimidation.
The door I shut in the face of the yelling ‘babuskka’ — big mistake. Deribosovskya 19, Apartment 4A.
Of course, I had already concluded that I should never have slammed the door in the face of the shouting babushka and I would offer to pay for any damages that my leaking washing machine had caused.
I felt confidence return to my soul. Yes, God is bigger. He allowed this to happen to teach me to stand in the face of fear. He can protect my family and me! By the time I got home, I was ready to confront hard-face and get my water turned back on.
According to my book, You’ve Mail From Odessa, they had told me that they would not turn the water back on until at least Monday—after the insurance people had accessed the damages. The whole mess began on Friday. I don’t remember all that, but fortunately, I have a book that serves as a diary. Peter, who I thought was the owner of the store, until I met hard-face, told this in Russian to Tatyana, the wife of the assistant director of the Bible School—now director.
I walked downstairs to the Reebok store and trembling, I entered. Just because the Lord had revealed to me that intimidation was a demonic spirit meant to paralyze me, didn’t mean that I wasn’t a bit scared. Hard-face was still a vicious, mean, and ruthless human being.
I was taken to his office. He was angry and he didn’t like the American standing before him. Even worse, I was alone and had no interpreter with me. I cannot remember why I went in without one, but it was most likely because no one was willing to come with me! Peter, his manager, went to look for an interpreter and I was left alone with hard-face in his office. Awkward, scary, and uncomfortable and just three words that come to mind.
And next...the conclusion!
Lessons from Odessa Part 4