Finding my Calling in Ukraine

by mallory qualls

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In middle school, I started having random interactions with disabled kids who I didn’t know. Everywhere I went, I was getting smiles and hugs all the time, and I loved it. From that time on, I knew I wanted to work with kids with disabilities for the rest of my life. During my junior year of high school, I started feeling a call to full-time missions. I went on my first trip with Merge High School Ministry to Chicago, working in a Boys and Girls Club, and various soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The summer after my senior year, I had the opportunity to go on my last Merge trip to Kenya, where I fell in love with the idea of international missions. Moving into the Young Adults ministry, I had no intentions of going on a short-term trip because all I wanted was to return to Kenya, but I was no longer in Merge so I didn’t have that opportunity. Little did I know, not having that option was one of the best things that could have happened to me.

I was approached by Barry Rodriguez in the winter of my freshman year of college, and he asked me if I was signed up to go to Ukraine the following summer to which I responded, “Absolutely not.” He told me it was a trip focused on kids with disabilities and their families, and because I am so stubborn, I was still uninterested. He decided he’d try asking one last time, and thank God he did. He showed me one of the promo/informational videos that Brian Raves made for Mission to Ukraine (MTU). Two minutes later, I got on the Grace website and began applying for the trip. Those wonderful people and that country stole my heart before I even got there.

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Within hours of arrival in Ukraine, I already felt at home and immediately adored every single person I met. We went to the MTU headquarters in Zhytomyr and from the minute I got off the bus, I knew that place was different. There was nothing special about the outside of the building that gave me that feeling. In fact, it looked just like every other place on that street. Somehow, I just knew. They obviously don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but the meal we were greeted with that night felt just like a Thanksgiving feast. There were so many people crammed around a table covered in so much food; I didn’t know what to do with myself. I saw God amid everything that week and didn’t ever want to leave. The friendships I formed that week are some of the most cherished friendships to this day, and my camper still weighs on my heart daily because I miss him so much. I have never in my life been as joyful as I was those weeks at camp, until I found out I was going back for the summer, and again when I found out I would get to move there.

Getting there this time was even more exciting than the first time because I had friends I was dying to see. I was greeted with so many hugs and hellos, I couldn’t have been happier. Getting to spend the week with my favorite friends and the most precious children on the entire planet made me again realize that God has put a desire in my heart to pursue full-time missions by serving kids with disabilities. I was hesitant to tell people in fear that their response would be, “you’re just excited, it’ll wear off” or “that’s crazy, you need to think about that some more.” And honestly, I have gotten those several times. Every time my response is the same: “Yeah probably not. I’m for sure moving.”

Obviously, if this was going to happen, I would need people to be on my side. I reached out to Steve Boles, the Executive Director of MTU, asking if he had any volunteer work I could do stateside to serve MTU. Steve responded asking if I would like to join him for lunch to chat about different opportunities. He was on board with my vision and desire to move! I am so passionate about MTU and the way they are not only changing the lives of the children and families they serve but also caring for struggling mothers on the crisis pregnancy side of the organization. I can't wait to finish my degree and move to Ukraine to fulfill this dream of mine that God put on my heart.