Keynote Speaker

20200202_141930 © jb katke

“Do any of you ladies have an open morning to chat with a few college girls?”

Our missionary sponsor had entered the Belarussian hotel lobby where we were basking in the warm sun shining through the window. We were part of a group of business people attending a Business Conference in Belarus, the former USSR.

I volunteered and Boris, a national, was escorting me to the college.  “How is this person we are to meet going to know us,” I asked. It seemed a legitimate concern as neither of us knew this individual.

Had I given it a moment’s thought would have realized I looked very American.

Upon arrival I was hustled into the Dean’s office. “What is it you intend to speak on?” Speak on? I just came to for a short visit with your students. She seemed to approve of my explanation that my husband and I have a small home business and would be sharing how that came about.

I was lead into the front of the classroom and offered a cup of tea I never had time to drink. I should have noticed the podium a few feet from me.

Eager young women were pouring into the room until eventually it was standing room only. I could feel excitement in the air.

The light dawned. Suddenly ‘the visit’ began with an introduction of their guest speaker and invited me up. Oh no, my speaking notes are back at the hotel!

Taking a deep breath, I dove in. Giving a brief history of our business. A venture that grew with time. Immediately a hand shot up from one of the instructors, “Is this going to take very long?”

My warm welcome plummeted. Except for the girls, they seemed to soak up every word I spoke. I mentioned that we hadn’t planned on becoming a business. But the skills of my husband were passed on by word of mouth as one construction opportunity led to another. The business evolved and God was blessing us.

The students listened intently because back in 2005 self-employed businesses were unheard of in this third world country. They wanted to know more, about our home, family and about my quilting hobby. They were enthralled by the pictures I showed them.

To my amazement I recalled everything my notes had and was able to give these young women a vision of life in America.

We came to offer encouragement and hope to a people that have limited opportunities. We came home with a deeper appreciation for what God has done in our life, the country we call home, and the freedom we take for granted.

I highly recommend traveling to another country, not the vacation areas, but where the people live. I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience.

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