(for part 1 of this story, go here .)
It was the summer of 1994. I was working a summer job for the state of Tennessee, and Kevin was going to Torez, Ukraine for a 3-4 week mission trip. By the time he left for his trip, he had received rejection letters from all but one of the physical therapy schools that he had tried to get into. The only one left was UT Memphis - the one he had been on the waiting list for the year before. He was scheduled to receive a letter from them while he was on the trip.
I can't really explain adequately what this mission trip did to my husband. He experienced something that he had never experienced before. People who had next to nothing generously gave of themselves, their time, their food and their most prized possessions. They had no "trappings" of material pursuits to keep them from accepting what Jesus had done for them. They welcomed him and loved him immediately. And he them. On the last day before he left, he was invited to 4 lunches just so different families could say goodbye to him. He was presented with enormous amounts of food and expected to eat at each one. When he left there, he cried on the bus for 30 minutes and couldn't stop. There have been maybe 1 or 2 times in his life when I have known him to cry like that. He was affected deeply, and knew that this is what he wanted to do.
I believe that part of the richness of this experience came from the spiritual gifts that Kevin has. He has a way of making deep friendships quickly. He takes time with people and talks with them about spiritual things with an ease that most people don't have. He is gifted in developing one-on-one relationships. He has never been very ambitious in the pursuit of material things. He has an adventurous spirit and relishes new experiences and situations. He felt "at home" doing what he was doing in the Ukraine.
Meanwhile, back in the US, the girls and I were visiting with my parents and had received THE letter from UT Memphis. Kevin called me from Switzerland on his way back from Ukraine and I tearfully told him that he didn't get in UT Memphis again. Waiting list, again (which had yielded nothing the year before). He was encouraging and told me not to worry about it, that he felt that maybe God was leading him in another direction. He said that he had made getting into physical therapy school his god, and this trip to Ukraine had put that all into perspective.
He arrived safely home from his trip and we talked a lot about what he had experienced and where to go from here. He had tried for 2 years to get into PT school. But his world had been turned upside-down on this mission trip. I know that in our conversations he talked about wanting to go back to Ukraine to be a missionary. One of the men who had taken the trip with him had even said that he thought that the church should sponsor Kevin to go back there and stay. (with our family, of course.)
Outwardly, I was timidly supportive of this idea. I wanted so badly for him to have a job that he felt good about. I felt so bad about him not getting into school. But inwardly, I was scared. I had visions of what kind of life I would have living in an impoverished Ukrainian city. Growing my own vegetables, buying meat off the street, washing my kids' clothes in a bathtub, homeschooling....... I couldn't let my thoughts go too far, or I would freak out.
It was only a few days after his return to the states, that one day Kevin received a phone call from a Dr. Connelly at UT Memphis. He was being called up from the waiting list and she wanted to know if he was still interested in starting PT school. I, of course, was ecstatic with this news, but he was hesitant. He told Dr. Connelly that he would accept the offer, but school didn't start until January. He could back out anytime before then.
Why would he back out? After waiting and trying so hard to get into school, his heart was turned in another direction. He questioned why God would do this and if the offer for PT school was from Him, or from Satan - to distract him from what he really felt he should be doing. I wondered the same things, but oh so wanted him to go to PT school - and not the Ukraine!
In the end, he talked with a sweet sister who had taken the mission trip with him. She gave him some advice that made sense. She said that he could go to the Ukraine now and treat the people spiritually. Or he could go to school, and then be able to go and treat them physically as well as spiritually. Those were exactly the words he needed to hear. He made the decision to go to PT school, which would be its own kind of learning and training experience for our family.