Posted by: Bonnie | September 20, 2007

‘I am Losing My Life’


Thatched roof house in Ukraine.

The first MJBI began in a small, fishing village about 50 kilometers outside of Odessa, Ukraine, in an old, Communist indoctrination camp for Russian youth. It was located at the end of an unpaved road that was lined with homes made with mud bricks and thatched roofs. The village resembled something out of “Fiddler on the Roof.” It was about 100 years behind the United States. 

Sometimes the wind blew so hard through the windows that it would blow the candles out on the table. Our first winter in Ukraine was one of the coldest they had had in years. We went often without heat, electricity, and water. For these pampered Americans, it was a rough beginning.  I wanted to return to my warm home in America nearly every day for the first year.

One particular morning is imprinted on my memory. The heat and electricity were out, so Julia and I were in the kitchen all bundled up in our winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens. The room was frigid. Julia worked on her homeschooling for the day, while I endeavored to cook an egg on the stove for her breakfast. Suddenly, the stove went out too. I just looked at that raw egg, staring me in the face.

I told Julia that the gas was gone as well, and she could not have an egg for breakfast. She stood up suddenly and burst into tears. Julia was only eight-years-old at the time and had been very courageous through all the rough transitions that life in Ukraine demanded of her. But I wasn’t surprised to see such an emotional outburst.

She finally caught her breath and between sobs she said, “Mama, Mama, I feel like I am losing my life.”

I ran to her and threw my arms around her neck. I sobbed too. After a couple of minutes, I said, “Julia, I feel like I am losing my life too. In fact, we both are losing our lives. Jesus has granted us the privilege of losing our lives. Something dies in us, so that something can live in others.”

That was a hard moment, but one I would not trade for all the memories of Julia’s childhood. It was a lesson lived in living color about embracing the irony of God’s kingdom–about how you really find your life when you lose it.

We stayed in Myaki for almost a full year, completeing the MJBI school year. And I recall it now as the sweetest year of my life. God’s grace lifted us through those times and carried our family over the rough times. I remember it as a year full of contraditions–the stark difference between the warm fuzzies you feel at the church altar when you respond to an emotional call to the mission field, and the cold reality of living it out in a foreign place. I remember feeling extreme highs and lows. And trying to stay true to what God had called us to do through a torrent of emotions.

I would have given up and gone home, but somehow God allowed me to stay. I would have turned back and said, “Forget it. It is too hard.” But God just wouldn’t let me do that, because He wanted all the credit for the humble beginning of the MJBI in Myaki, Ukraine.

And I know He deserves the credit, because I quit every day for one year.

Many mornings I wouldn’t want to get out of bed, but I would hear the first MJBI students praying and singing out to God, asking Him to reveal Himself to the Jewish people of Ukraine. Accustomed to such rough situations, those students knew we were suffering and I know they prayed for us too. Those prayers sustained us.

It is hard to believe now that over 11 years have passed. Look at what God did in these past years. And I believe the best is yet to be.

The advent of this MJBI photo journal has stirred the pot of memories. We have so much to be thankful for, so much to look forward to.

The YouTube below is a brief history of the MJBI that will help you put the puzzle pieces together from the past and encourage you to join the vision God has place on our hearts for the future.

This video was created for the tenth anniversary of the MJBI which we celebrated last fall.



  1. Wayne and Bonnie,

    This is great. The picture and story from Myaki is so precious and provoking. Many blessings to you and your family and staff and all the wonderful co-laborers of the MJBI International

  2. Great to hear from you Jon. Hey, you have some great stories yourself. We love and appreciate the whole clan.

    Linking arms forever!


  3. Bonnie,
    When I first looked at the foto, my flesh was thinking, I dont think I could live in a place like that, but as I read, and even now as I write, my spirit is leaping within, for the chance & opportunity to go out, and indeed, lose my life. Its almost as if I can taste it. I LONG to go back to germany & DO all the things I have been trained for! I have a time frame in mind, not sure if its truly is the Lord, but, its something I am aiming for! If I could, I would pack my bags today & head out!, But I know there are things I must learn & train others in this year before I can head out…

  4. Sarah,

    If you stay faithful to what God tells you to do, He will give you the strength and joy to accomplish it. I know that God has big things for you. I am cheering you on as a champion in Christ.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment. I always look forward to hearing from you.


  5. […] us to our lowest point, so we would utterly depend on Him. You can read the whole story here and here and […]

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