“It seems unreal!” Have you ever received a similar response from a person you were hoping to encourage? Or from someone you were trying to cheer up? “Unreal” was not something I was prepared to counter. I had no words to follow this statement, so I listened and asked myself if I was pitching something that was too far-fetched.
During the past few months I have treasured the interaction with my fellow students in Ukraine. I have the privilege of teaching them English online as part of my scholarship work here at AIIAS. The Level 2 English classes commenced online in August of 2022, with hopes to continue face to face within a couple of months. But then their paperwork dragged on, and the Ukrainian students’ hopes to be at AIIAS began to dwindle away. We started out as a class with five students, and by November of last year there were two who chose to continue studying.
In an attempt to encourage them, I shared devotional thoughts focused on Bible passages that would bring comfort and hope. We would spend some time sharing our current experiences or prayer requests. At times I would describe life in the Philippines, especially life here at AIIAS. I would speak of blue skies, warm weather, a green campus, showers of rain, a park for their children to play in, and so on, hoping to bring life to the picture they had of AIIAS.
“Unreal”: the response of one of my fellow students hurled me to a reality check. Compared to their reality, what I was sharing seemed unreal. For me, a person who is pragmatic, who easily spots what’s missing, who dissects and overanalyzes situations, hope can fade in an instant. Would I be able to see the Shepherd in the midst of the chaos my fellow students were experiencing? In the midst of an airstrike, with continuous power cuts and lack of heating, would I still see the Shepherd who protects and provides? Would my hope stand firm?
I have recently been learning that being hopeful is a choice. When we find ourselves up against giants, we can choose to abide in or abandon this hope we profess to hold on to. Hope grows in the most unlikely places. It breathes life into the weary and brokenhearted. Hope is the olive branch in the beak of the dove after an apocalypse. Hope comes to life when we reach the end of ourselves and find our lives in the hands of Someone so much bigger than we are.
The hope we have in Jesus Christ is sure, true, eternal, personal, and available for all who are willing to choose it. Our hope comes from God. His promises are eternal, for He never changes. In the face of daunting circumstances, I pray that I will have an “unreal” hope.
Beersheba Maywald-Jacob is a Ph.D. student in intercultural studies and mission at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Silang, Philippines. She is married to Andrew and has a newborn.
Photo by mari lezhava on Unsplash