AUTHOR: Heather Velvet Johnson
When I first started working at my current job, I would frequently get asked where I am from or the occasional bold statement saying, “You’re not from here.”
I would tell them that I was from Illinois or near Chicago, and they would respond with,
“No, where are you from?”
They didn’t believe that I was a born and raised American.
Even now, though I know almost everyone I serve, I’ll get an occasional visitor who asks me the same question.
They are somewhat satisfied after I tell them that one side of my family is of Scandinavian descent. However, I’m still left puzzled as to why they don’t think I’m American. My best guess was that it had to do with the hat I wear at work (a food service requirement), which gives off a European flare. I’m also in uniform, so I’m not able to show any distinctive style of dress.
I thought this was limited to my work setting until several weeks ago when I was driving to Chattanooga for a weekend class.
I stopped at a gas station and was in the aisle looking for something. It wasn’t yet 7AM, and a man came around the corner, spotted me, and said, “Don’t say anything, but I gotta know. Are you from America?” (He told me afterward that he didn’t want me to say anything because when I talked, he would know whether I had an accent or not.)
I smiled, amused, and told him that I was entirely American. He was slightly disappointed because, apparently, this man took pride in the fact that he could often recognize foreigners from afar. I reassured him that he shouldn’t feel too bad because apparently everyone else also thinks I’m foreign.
I drove away baffled.
Before Mongolia, I never had anyone question whether I was American.
As much as I have felt like I’ve adjusted and transitioned in the past year, apparently, I haven’t on the outside looking in and give off some “I’m new here” signal.
I was used to being a foreigner in a foreign country where I clearly looked different and clearly was different. So it’s bizarre to be seen as a foreigner in my own country.
I’ve been in Atlanta now a year and a few months. I feel settled, but it doesn’t feel like home yet. Truthfully I don’t think there is any place that feels like home anymore.
I don’t feel too sad about it, it just is what it is. I was traveling a lot over the summer, and whenever someone would ask me where I was from, I always hesitated. Yes, I was living in Georgia, but I’m not from Georgia. I’m from Illinois, but that’s not home anymore either. If I threw Mongolia into the mix, it would open up a whole series of questions and confusion.
Not only do I sometimes feel like I’m the new kid on the block, but sometimes it feels like God is the confusing foreigner with strange cultural norms.
I don’t understand Him, and why He does the things He does.
More and more, I realize I’m baffled by how He works. When things are going well or seemingly stable, it’s easy to rest in the mystery. It’s not so easy when things are falling apart in your life. It’s not easy to be baffled then.
Today I went on a drive through north Georgia to meet a friend for a hike, and I decided to listen to one of my favorite artist’s Christmas album. It's mid November, and usually, I wait until after Thanksgiving, and I’m very strict about this self-imposed rule.
But it’s been a week of feeling God’s foreignness, and I needed something with real hope that I could hold onto. I needed the reminder that God, too, was a foreigner when He came down as Emmanuel.
So when I feel like a foreigner, when everything in life seems like a mystery or an unwelcome plot twist, I have Him to cling to. And I have Him, who knows what it feels like to experience life in all its pain, mystery, and foreignness, even when it is bewildering.
Author: Shari Tvrdik
The following is an excerpt from a letter submitted to Little Pink House of Hope, written by Shari Tvrdik, Cup of Cold Water Ministries missionary to Mongolia.
“Of course,” I laughed to myself.
Of course Dr. Jeanne is a red head.
Only a red head would travel to the Mongolian slums with stage 4 cancer.
I knew red heads, more on that later.
It took grit for Dr. Jeanne to come to my aid on the other side of the world.
Grit and courage.
Dr. Jeanne came at a time in her life when her days were important.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by her gift of days, to me, a complete stranger.
She came because I needed a psychologist .
Well, not me actually, at least not right then.
An entire nation needed a psychologist.
I had been working in the slum district of Mongolia for six and a half years as a missionary to the suffering poor, and especially the street child. It became obvious to me that the greatest need surrounding me, apart from Christ, was mental healing.
Trauma was everywhere but there was nowhere to go for help of this kind.
The problem was that psychology was yet an underdeveloped field in Mongolia. As much as we wanted to help and heal the children, we were simply not equipped to handle the sizable pain they needed to work through in order to overcome and thrive.
I imagined the miracle first, because that is where everything beautiful first springs from.
Faith is something first hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1)
I "hoped for" an experienced psychologist to come to Mongolia (for free) because we had no funding to pay for it. She would train our psychologist in trauma therapies, our psychologist would begin to reach the broken hearts and minds of the children and the nation would be turned right side up.
But it wasn’t.
What experienced psychologist would want to spend her time and money traveling to the unpopular destination of the Mongolia slum district?
It looked bleak.
And then the miracle unfolded in the most unexpected way.
“Shari, I’ve got her!” It was Cup of Cold Water Ministries Director Dan Hennenfent, emailing me from the USA.
“Her name is Dr. Jeanne, she has thirty years of experience as a psychologist specializing in trauma therapies especially with children”
My heart jumped inside my chest.
“Here’s the catch” he wrote.
“She has stage four breast cancer and traveling might be a challenge, but she is willing to go for it anyway.”
The world muzzled my hopeful soul.
I thought of my mom, the first red head I'd ever loved.
The mammogram machine.
That look in my dad’s eyes.
Her last breath.
My sisters sobs.
We had all stood outside the house together. Circled up at sunset because that’s when she left us. The setting sun glowing up the yellow autumn trees.
What had just happened to us?
I hate cancer.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring her here.” I typed out to Dan.
“It’s dangerous. We do not have reliable doctors or hospitals.”
And then I added with my mind made up, “please thank her for considering it.”
I hit SEND and felt the sadness.
It was Dr. Jeanne who replied.
It is on my bucket list to give something of myself to someone who needs it. I’d like to come.”
A few months later, against all my better judgment and despite my fears, I stood waiting for Dr. Jeanne outside the arrival gate in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia,
The red hair hit my heart.
I loved her immediately.
I held her close when I greeted her, like I had found a treasure.
I squashed down the what if’s about the coming two weeks and chose to entertain the idea of what a miracle Dr. Jeanne's arrival truly was.
Dr. Jeanne outworked me in those two weeks. She had a plan and she didn’t want to waste time. I could blame her cancer for the naps she took each day, but when she slept I slept too, from the sheer mental exhaustion of her many classes and trainings.
She blew my whole team away away, so much so, that I often forgot about her cancer.
When I hugged her goodbye I was without words. How could I express to her what her gift of days had meant to us?
Dr. Jeanne’s short term mission work in Mongolia reminds me of the planting of a forest.
The work to make the ground just right, the toiling and the tilling, the planning, or perhaps one never purposely plants a forest, perhaps it starts with a simple seed.
Her plane left the runway taking her from those seeds and returning her to her family in the USA. She left Mongolia with the same kind of hope I had as I "imagined" her arrival.
Faith, the substance of things first hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
I imagine again, one day, long after we are all gone, a lush forest will be there.
I wonder, will anyone know about the small redhead from the United States who gave from what little she had to spare to come and push those first seeds into the hard soil?
Children will be healed from the inside out. Dr. Jeanne left a legacy.
She taught me through those weeks in Mongolia that it is possible for your darkest hour to hold the greatest gifts you have left to give.
Dr. Jeanne told me about the Little Pink House of Hope as we traveled from one meeting to another on a rare hot afternoon in Mongolia. It was an organization which awarded dream vacations by the sea to people in various stages of cancer. They provided all the food, housing, entertainment and even doctors and nurses so that the families could create a beautiful memory together.
“I’m not a water girl.” She giggled.
“I’m not one who likes to get in the water but oh,” and here she paused looking out the car window. I watched Dr. Jeanne as she slipped away somewhere far from the dusty streets of Mongolia.
“Oh how I love to just look at it, the big wide ocean, and feel my smallness. Somehow it makes me feel safe to be so small.”
She told me how she would love to bring her three children to see the ocean one day. She wanted them to know it, the bigness, the whole of the sea in front of them.
I imagined her standing by the ocean, telling her children how small they were in the Great arms of God.
I decided that day I wanted to try to help Dr. Jeanne get there.
I have returned to the United States.
Although I don't have cancer, I do have a bucket list and one of the things on that list is to write to you about this amazing women, in hope she may be awarded your vacation by the sea.
Yesterday, I asked Jeanne to come over so I could interview her and write this story.
I hugged her without that red hair, for it was all gone now. She still felt like a treasure in my arms.
“I’m not afraid to die, “ she said.
“I just don’t want to leave my children.”
Mei Mei, Jackson, Makaia all three adopted by Jeanne because that’s the woman she is.
“Why do you want this vacation Jeannie?” I asked her.
She replied, “I want to make a memory a really beautiful cancer free memory.”
And then she smiled, “But even if it’s not cancer free, it will be a memory of all of us small by the sea together, and that’s enough”.
And this is the way I can help her, to tell the story of Dr. Jeanne. On behalf of the street children in Mongolia, and a missionary who needed a miracle, would you kindly consider choosing Dr. Jeanne Wysocki for a Little Pink House of Hope.
There is no soul more deserving in our eyes. Sincerest Gratitude,
Dr. Jeanne Wysoki and her family were awarded the Little Pink House of Hope vacation in April 2018.
She showed them the sea.
In loving memory of Dr. Jeanne Wysocki 3-18-1962 - 1-26-2019
Stories From The Past
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