It was early in the morning. The sun had risen, but hadn't yet crested over the mountain ledge keeping all the world or at least Uzbekistan in a dark shadow while the sky lit up with color. I had eaten a ko'k samsa for breakfast, a pastry stuffed with mint for Navruz, a Muslim holiday. I had also drunk a piola of black tea, the leaf pieces swirling about the bottom of the cup. I didn't care for tea. Mostly I drank it because it kept my hands warm in the unheated sitting room. With very few words to anyone in my host family, I dressed, ate, drank, and left for my volunteer post as an English teacher. I didn't feel very dressed up for my first day of class; wearing four or five layers of clothes makes one feel frumpy. Not to mention the 10 pounds I had gained in 3 months making me bulge out of my sweater. It had also been a little over two weeks since I last showered. My hair was swept up in a traditional scarf to hide the oil and dirt.
I stepped out onto the road. I could see a black dog wandering the street; I prayed he would cross and not disturb me. I started walking toward Maktab 2, the school where I would be teaching. It was 8 blocks away. Clutching my bag full of books and pamphlets from the Peace Corps, I began shaking my head.
What am I doing? I'm not a teacher! I'm scared to death! Oh Jesus, I just want to go home where I can be loved by my fiance and my family. Where I can be comfortable. Jesus what am I doing here? I am so...lonely. So far away from everyone I love. From everything that I know. Even you God, even you seem different, like a God I don't even know. I'm too far away. Did you come with me? Are you the same God in Uzbekistan that you are in Minnesota?
In an instant I knew. The same God that had thoughtfully carved out the lakes in Minnesota had also lovingly created the mountains I was now gazing upon. These very mountains were touched by the Creator. God, I've never seen these mountains, yet you created them. Have I seen a part of you many have never seen? God's heart for Central Asia. His love for these people. This land. You are with me. But I am afraid...and lonely. I am doing a job I don't know how to do. I am surrounded by people I don't know, who don't know me, and worse, who don't know you. I don't even have familiar food, language, or even bathrooms to make me comfortable. Help me, Lord.
Then a song rose in my heart...
I lift my eyes up to the mountains
Where does my help come from
My help comes from You
Maker of heaven, creator of the earth
Oh how I need You Lord
You are my only hope
You’re my only prayer
So I will wait for You
To come and rescue me
Come and give me life
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Every morning as I stepped out of my family's gate in Gazalkent I sang this song to myself. And the Lord was faithful to strengthen my heart each day. Two months later we were all sent home with many stories to tell and thoughts to process. Many things have I kept fondly in my heart. One of these is how this song and the scripture it is taken from drew me into the bosom of the Lord. Now when I sing it, I see the mountains tinged with pink and purple majesty. I remember how weak I felt. And I recall the faithfulness of the Lord. And I am filled anew with life.