In its simplest form, the message from featured speaker Shari Tvrdik to those gathered for the Ottawa YMCA’s fourth-annual Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning was one never knows in what way and in what direction prayers will lead.
Tvrdik, a native of Somonauk and now the executive director of the Cup of Cold Water Ministries based in Norway, Illinois, told the group of nearly 100 people how her prayers took her from her childhood desire for a piano to eight years with her husband, Troy, and her four children on a mission halfway around the world in the poorest region of Mongolia.
“You never know what’s going to come from your prayers,” said Tvrdik, author of the book, “One Baby for the World: 24 Days of Advent from a Missions Perspective.”
Using the lyrics from the song, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” that was performed for the group by Christina Eltrevoog, Tvrdik told how some of her first prayers were for a baby grand piano to help fulfill her dream of becoming a professional pianist.
Seeing ads for the starving children in Mongolia, however, she and her sister gave all their savings to help them. That act of caring set her on her lifelong course of helping others, including the mission funded by Cup of Cold Water that took her and her family to Mongolia.
“I had no intention of going to the other side of the world. I didn’t even have a passport when the possibility came up,” Tvrdik said. “Our community really showed up for us the day we left because it was four in the morning when we had to leave and church and community members all showed up along our long gravel lane, some holding signs that read, ‘We love you!’ and encouragement.
“But we believed that God wanted us there just out of the blue, so we went and I don’t regret it at all.”
Tvrdik spent the first 18 months in “survival mode,” getting used to the cold climate and lack of electricity and running water in an impoverished region of Mongolia where people traditionally live in a ger – the Mongolian word for what’s more commonly known in English as a yurt or circular tent. She then began a church in the living room of their small home as a ministry worker with Flourishing Future and as an advisor to Desert Rose, a home for impoverished, abused and abandoned girls.
“The communities of Ottawa, Somonauk, Sandwich, Newark, they supported a ministry to nearly $500,000 a year,” Tvrdik said. “It wasn’t just us, it was the house, the communion centers, it was an amazing thing. They all had a hand in it and we couldn’t have done it without them.”
Tvrdik said the six years she’s been back in Illinois, first in her work as communications director and now executive director of Cup of Cold Water, has led her to develop a passion for Ottawa, an area she was never that familiar with growing up. She said that quite a bit of her work takes place in that “beautiful city with a lot to offer.”
To an audience that included new Ottawa Mayor Robert Hasty and YMCA executive director Joe Capece, several members of the YMCA’s Chaplain Team offered their thoughts, praise and prayers for the city and the YMCA in its efforts to help those in need around town.