My heart was trembling in agony and I was sobbing so hard that I could hardly talk. I was standing in the Minneapolis airport getting ready to say good-bye to my younger sister Sheila. It was the summer of 1993 and communism had recently fallen in Russia and my precious baby sister was flying over to Moscow to become a missionary. Even though Sheila is younger; her wisdom is far greater than mine. Sheila looked at me and told me that I needed to stop crying and pull myself together. She asked me what is the worst thing that could happen to me over in Moscow? I told her that she could die over there and than what would I do!
I will never forget her response to my fears. “Michelle, whether I live or I die, I will be with God. What more could you ask for?” I was humbled and I felt ashamed that I had not put my trust in God. I remembered the little pin that I was going to give Sheila as a farewell gift. It was a picture of God’s hand and resting in His palm was a young girl. It goes along with Scripture passage from Isaiah 49, “I will never forget you my people, I have carved you on the Palm of my hand. I will never forget you, I will not leave you orphaned, for you are my own. Would a mother forget her baby? Or a woman a child within her womb? Even if these forget I will not forget you because you are my own.” I had bought pins for myself and our other sister Jimella, to wear close to our hearts while Sheila was in Russia.
The time had come for our final hug and although the tears were streaming down my cheeks and dripping off the end of my nose; I felt a peace from deep within. It was not a peace that could come from me, it was the peace that passes all human understand, the peace that can only come from God. My heart ached as I knew it would be almost a year before we would see each other again; and this was long before e-mail and cheap phone rates. I was excited for Sheila and all of the people that I knew she would touch with God love and to be able to share His precious word with them.
To know Sheila is to love her. She has a wonderful sense of humor and she embraces life with exuberance and all that it has to offer. When we were growing up Sheila would always read joke books and after we were supposed to be sleeping we would hear her laugh with great enthusiasm over her jokes.
Sheila is very creative and it would always shine through in the plays that she was involved in at school. She was never content to just be one of the actors, she helped design and sew costumes and anything else that needed to be done. She was also involved with the Speech team and always did well. Sheila is very intelligent and she graduated in the top twenty in her class.
She loves the Lord with all of her heart and her dearest desire is to serve Him in all that she does. I admire her ability to “Teach the Faith” her passion for The Word always shines through.
Sheila would need all of these things to meet the challenges of living in a foreign country. Learning a difficult language, understand a new culture that did not have any conveniences, and being so isolated from family and friends. Sheila’s faith in God helped her meet each challenge and difficulty. Her letters home were so precious to all of us; and we were able to share in her adventure through the stories that she would share.
Sheila had been in Moscow for a few months and it was the beginning of October. That week-end I decided to go home to visit my parents. That night we were watching the news we saw the horror that was happening in Moscow; they were in a midst of a Civil War. We sat there in shock and disbelief; and we watched the events unfold right before our very eyes. The phone begin to ring with family and friends calling from all around the world asking if we had heard from Sheila. We had no way of getting a hold of her and so all we could do was pray and ask others to do the same. After the phone had quieted I shared with my parents the talk that I had with Sheila at the airport. I had given my mom a little statue of a little girl carved in God’s hand. We talked about how we knew that Sheila was with God no matter what happened and that He was holding her close to Him right now. We found comfort that Sheila was living with a Russian family and she had quickly become their adopted daughter and they were very protective of her.
As I went to sleep that night I held onto to two thoughts: Sheila is with God and He has her in the Palm of His hand. I awoke many times and I could feel God’s peace surrounding me and I prayed that it would surround and enfold Sheila and also my parents.
The next morning the phone rang; I’m not a track star but I made record time in running down the steps to get to the phone, we knew it had to be about Sheila. Hearing her voice on the other end of the phone brought tears and hearts that were grateful to hear her beautiful voice. She said she knew she had to call because we would all be worried sick; she shared that while it was bad it was not as terrible as the news stations were sharing with us. Her Russian family had forbidden her to go out and would not do so until it was once again safe in the streets of Moscow.
Sheila spent almost two years in Moscow and shared God’s love with many people. Her letters shared many of her adventures and the struggles that she discovered living in a foreign country.
Sheila is now happily married and is back in the States. I am so blessed to have her as my sister and my friend.