‘One week in March of 2014, on a Monday, I found myself solely in charge of a big singles church conference in Washington DC. The next day, on Tuesday, with no warning whatsoever, I was laid off from my job. Then, on Wednesday, my grandmother passed away. Finally, on Thursday, my landlord told me my apartment building was being condemned because of structural damage, and I had to move out immediately. It was an overwhelming week. I’m a go-getter and I don’t stay down for long. I could have handled one or two of those things…but to have all of them at once and in four days’ time was rough. Needless to say, with all this going on, I went numb for several weeks. Things just kept coming and coming.

Somewhere, in the course of that awful week, I got an email from a man. I used to write a column about singles and dating and most of my readers were older, married men who, I think, liked to read it from the grandpa aspect. It wasn’t a creepy thing…I just discovered that most of the readers were older and married men who enjoyed reading about my foibles. Anyway, this man told me he’d been reading my column for years. He was a grandfather who thought I was funny. He was a producer/director of a dance group that goes on an international dance tour and he asked me, ‘would you like to come?’ Needless to say, my first reaction was, ‘no, thank you, strange man on the internet.’ I deleted the email and moved on and forgot about it.

Several weeks later, I was starting to get myself back together when, suddenly, I got a second email from this man. This time, he said, ‘It occurs to me that you probably think I’m crazy. You don’t know who I am.’ So, he sent me a link to the dance website to prove he was legitimate and he sent me a list of references. On that list of references was the name of a very good friend of my mother’s. He had no way of knowing that this person is one of my mother’s good friends and, in fact, one of my good friends. He said they were going to Serbia on tour and he offered me a three-week temporary job as a writer in residence.

I realized that I had absolutely nothing to lose. As much as I don’t recommend accepting invitations from strange men on the internet to go to Eastern Europe, I took the chance because I could see that this dance group was legitimate and that list of references was good. Eight weeks later, I found myself in the airport in Serbia looking for a man in a cowboy hat. It has been a great experience with the dancers. We went through Serbia and Romania. At first, I was still an outsider and uncomfortable. But I was just grateful for the break from my reality.

I’m now going on my third tour with them this summer. I’ve made several wonderful friends in the group. I’ll be going to Germany and the Netherlands with them this year. It has turned out to be a great thing. It was a great experience and it happened at a time when I really needed it. If I had not been through all those awful things that week, I probably wouldn’t have accepted the invitation. God knows us and He knows when we need Him. Sometimes, I feel like I’m living my life outside my comfort zone and it never gets easier. But I’ve learned that things don’t always get easier and if they don’t, you get stronger. Life can knock you down and it can be really hard. But I’ve learned how to keep getting up and to keep getting stronger.’

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