Keynote Speaker

OIP

All I can say is it was an opportunity.

The mission team at church was planning a trip to Belarus, the former USSR. By design they were forming a Business Conference to English speaking students. My husband and I ran a cottage industry in home remodeling, so we qualified.

At the time, I felt we were the comedy relief of the group. Our fellow travelers were bona fide professional business people. We, on the other hand were a pint-size home business.

Our missionary sponsor approached the women of the group, “The Dean of our local girls’ college contacted me after learning of your visit here. If one of you has a free morning she would love for you to come have a chat with her students.”

I did, so we made arrangements to get me there. Boris was to escort me to a meeting place where someone would take us to the college.

“How is this individual going to recognize us, as neither of us know her?”

It seemed like a legitimate question, but if I had given it any thought, I look quite American.

Arriving at the college, the Dean welcomed me into her office. “What are you going to speak on?”

Speak on? I thought I was coming for a chat with students.

I proceeded to explain the nature of our business and she seemed satisfied. She graciously took me to the classroom where I was to visit with the students. There was a podium at the front of the room. This was not going to be a ‘chat,’

Swell, my speaking notes are back at the hotel room.

I was given a cup of tea that I never got a chance to drink. Students just kept pouring into the room, soon it was standing room only.

After my introduction, I began with how our business came to be. Immediately a hand shot up from one of the teaching staff.

“Is this going to take very long?”

A portion of my warm welcome flew out the window. Except for the girls, they seemed to soak up every word I spoke. I explained that we didn’t plan on running a business that it evolved with time.  The skills of my husband were passed on by word-of-mouth that led from one construction opportunity after another.

I shared how it takes money to make money, insofar as obtaining the right tools for each job. We operated for several years before finally getting some business cards, only because clients asked for them. God was blessing our endeavor.

The students listened intently. The business opportunities of 2005 were unheard of in this third world country. But what interested them the most was when I spoke of our home, our children, and how many cars we had, as well as my quilting hobby. They were enthralled by the pictures I brought.

To my amazement, I managed to share everything without my notes. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. It proved to me how God meets our needs when we step out of our comfort zone to speak of him.

We came to bring hope and encouragement to a people with limited opportunities. We brought home a deeper appreciation not only for what God has done in our life, but also the freedom we take for granted.

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.