Mormon Channel Blog

Self Reliance: Lessons on Faith from Ukraine

December 5, 2015

Katie Ridinger is a native of Ohio who moved to Ukraine over two years ago to join the Peace Corps. She has had several experiences there that have strengthened her and taught her about the Christlike attribute of faith.

I became a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine in the spring of 2013 but was evacuated in 2014 due to political instability. When volunteers were allowed to finally return to Ukraine in May of 2015, I took the first date available. As a Peace Corps volunteer I am paired up with a boarding school and orphanage that specializes in students with learning disabilities. I live in my own apartment about a 20-minute walk away from the school, and I will be here for a total of one year. I live on a stipend, which is comparable to the amount missionaries receive. My daily life includes organizing after-school clubs at the boarding school, arranging seminars, and connecting with other organizations in my town.

Returning to Ukraine in 2015 was an easy choice for me because I had faith in the Savior that He would be with me. My faith was strengthened greatly during my first year here, and it has continued throughout this second term as well.

I’ve learned that faith is like the motion detector light at school. I have to take a few steps in the dark until it illuminates, and if I want the light to continue, I have to keep walking in the right area. When I feel alone or as if my service is not doing any good, I pray to my Heavenly Father and ask for His help, and then I have to take a few more steps to move forward, trusting in Him.

An example of this happened during the first month I returned to the country. As I thought about what clubs I could organize, I noticed that the students enjoyed using my camera to take pictures. The idea came to my head that maybe a photography club would be a good idea. I was quite nervous about starting it and began asking around if others thought this was a good idea. Miraculously, I was able to find a translator and a willing teacher to run the club in our school with me. Together we met weekly to write a grant to secure funds for materials needed. Throughout the grant-writing process we have hit a few bumps in the road, but we have kept moving forward. President Hinckley once said, “Grant us faith to look beyond the problems of the moment to the miracles of the future.”

Another time my faith was exercised in Ukraine was whenever I had to go to the bazaar (market) to buy food. I would make sure I studied the words of the food I wanted to buy before I went, and then I would pray that my mind wouldn’t forget them. Even though sometimes I struggled for words, I seemed to always be with a vendor who was willing to be patient with my language.

Sometimes it gets quite lonely in my town since I live alone and the nearest American is an hour and half away, but this has led me to act on faith many times. For example, the first time I was here I became friends with a shopkeeper near my old apartment, and now in my new apartment, this woman lives in the apartment building next door! When I feel alone I call her up, and if she is home she says to come over. Though our language exchange is rough, we seem to have some of the best conversations. She always makes sure I am fed and sends me away with a bag of treats. I told her I consider her my Ukrainian mom. This woman, along with three others I consider my dear friends, remind me that along with the Holy Ghost, I am not alone here.

Working with children has also affected my faith. There was a time when I needed to buy a lock for my bicycle within the hour, so I prayed and went to school to ask for help. I was immediately surrounded by a group of four students who literally ran all over town with me without fear to find a lock before the shops closed. They are eager to act, eager to help, and do it with no expectation of a reward. The children at my school have shown me unconditional love every day. Their easiness of trust in me is an example of how I must trust in the Savior.

It’s exciting that I will be here to see some of the fruits of this club in an upcoming exhibition, but there is a very likely chance that I will never know the full extent of my service here in Ukraine. I may never know the outcome of my work, but I have faith that if I do my best, the Lord will take my efforts and create something better. I’ll continue to take steps in the dark because I trust that He will turn the light on and I will be guided forward.