ARTESIA — Artesia resident Christina Hernandez had never flown on a plane before.
That was until late last month when she and some people from West Main Baptist Church in Artesia flew on a mission trip to Ukraine.
The flight went from Hobbs to Houston to Germany and finally touching down in Ukraine.
“It was the most amazing experience of my life,” she said. “Every time they talked about it in church it always touched my heart and I always had that fear of flying.”
Hernandez said when church officials talked about going she felt they were looking at her and, “it was my time to go.”
“I stepped up and I said yes,” she added.
“After I said yes and they bought the plane tickets I was like ‘what did I get myself into?’
Hernandez said her experience, “was amazing. The children are so-so lovaable, the first time we drove up to the special school they were already looking out the window waiting for us and you could just see the excitement in their eyes.”
She and the other members from West Main were hugged by the kids, “and you just felt so much love. It was just amazing.”
While Hernandez was a rookie on the trip, Chris Simons was a veteran.
“Our church has been going to Ukraine for many years than I’ve been a member there and I’ve been involved with it for a little over two years now,” he said.
Simons said this recent journey was his third to the Ukraine. He said there were five veterans and five rookies who went as well.
Simons said a number of fundraisers were held.
“We spent several months fundraising and we do some group activities with the church and then individuals will do stuff from a big garage sale to doing lunches at the church,” he said.
Simons said those going usually fall short of their goals, “but it always just works out. At the very end we get a donation and something happens to cover the cost, we always just say ‘if money is the issue, of you going or not (and) if you’re feeling it and you’re curious then don’t let the money ever be an issue.’
Simons said the flight is long and the travelers generally lose a day while in the air.
He said after spending the night in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, the members boarded some vans and headed to Novohrad-Volynskyi.
Simons said the culture in Ukraine is very similar to places like Artesia and Roswell. He said there’s some differences as well.
“There are people just like us, they love Americans, they wanna be Americans, a lot of them have conceptions about who we are as Americans that are largely wrong and we see that across the board internationally,” he said.
Simons said Ukrainians are stoic and,”they do not have the urgency or the drive that we have.”
He cited an example of a minister in a rural area. “He has his home and he’s been fixing it up for years and they had the roof partially cave in and leaks and he had to move his family down to lower floors and it took them four years to find enough wood and save up enough money to finally fix the roof.”
Simons added that Ukrainians, “just go with the flow. There’s just not a lot of pressure, they are disciplined and they are driven in what they want to do.”
Simons said West Main members were showing their support for Grace Church in Novohrad-Volynskyi.
“It’s their mission not ours,” he said. “But, it gives us the opportunity to go do that (and) get out of our comfort zone and to go support them as fellow Christians.”
He said the mission also allows members to get a perspective of, “how blessed we are here. Even our poor (in the United States) are blessed here compared to Ukraine and even like the Philippines where my wife served in July, so it gives people perspective in their lives and it’s definitely done that for me.”
General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.