For Lisa Snyder, a nurse and successful woman of the 1990s, Ukraine was never a place she longed to visit -- let alone live. The self-described nonadventurer has been content living at her modest Catonsville rancher with her two terriers.
But next month, she'll drop everything to go to Ukraine in the former Soviet Union to spread the Gospel.
"I'm probably the most unlikely person in the world to do that," the 33-year-old woman said. But "I knew God was really speaking to my heart. I felt there was something out there he wanted me to do."
She volunteered to make the trip in February after her minister at Chapelgate Presbyterian Church in Marriottsville announced to his congregation that volunteers were needed to help teach Christianity in the former Soviet Union.
The Rev. Ronald E. Steel learned about the project during a January church conference in Phoenix and said he wanted his church to participate in the unfolding of "history" -- an open door to Christianity in the former Soviet Union.
"After 75 years of atheistic-totalitarianism, this is a big step," Mr. Steel said. "This is an unprecedented time to be a Christian. The opportunities worldwide are staggering."
On Aug. 1, Ms. Snyder and 11 other North American volunteers are to depart for one year in Odessa to teach a curriculum called: "Christian Ethics and Morality: A Foundation For Society" in the public schools.
Ms. Snyder, a five-year Chapelgate member, is the only Marylander among the group of 100 volunteers called CoMission, an international group of interdenominational churches and missions that will make the trip.
The volunteers are part of the first wave of an anticipated 12,000 volunteers to go on the mission.
When the volunteers arrive in their new home, translators will help them provide basic teaching skills to teachers, who use obsolete resources and methods, Ms. Snyder said.
In January, Alexander Asmolov, Russia's deputy education minister,signed an agreement allowing the mission work, Mr. Steel said. An invitation was then extended.
Mr. Steel stressed, however, that the volunteers aren't going there "to replace Marxist and Leninist indoctrination with Christianity indoctrination." They can make a choice, he said.
"We're not going over there to be . . . TV evangelists or beat people over the heads with Bibles," Ms. Snyder said. "I want to let them know, 'There's a God who loves you.' "
Since volunteering, she's been studying the Russian language and reading Russian history books.
To pay for her plane ticket, materials, food, and room and board, Ms. Snyder raised $22,000 through her church and civic organizations.
The trip will mean big sacrifices.
On July 20, Ms. Snyder will leave her seven-year job as a registered nurse at Baltimore Medical Systems, where she earned a decent salary. She'll also leave behind her family, home and two dogs. "All the material things in the world aren't as important as eternity," said Ms. Snyder, who is not married and has no children.
In applying for the mission, she underwent an extensive psychological examination, which intended "to make sure you're mentally stable and will not crack up in a foreign country," she said.
She also completed a 30-page application form, which asked questions about her childhood, spirituality, leadership and maturity.
When she arrives, she knows she may not have a place to stay. There's a year-and-a-half-long waiting list for housing. "I'm not going to worry about it. I am leaving it in God's hands," she said.
In her hands, she'll carry the maximum allowable 140-pounds worth of belongings, or two regular-size suitcases.
"It will be light traveling," she said. She joked that a year's worth of toilet paper will be among her packed items.
As the departing date nears, she grows sad. But "if only one person comes to know God, it's worth all this," she said.