Today’s post features a player who would also have made my imaginary All-Name team. The spotlight shines on Asher Wojciechowski. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2010 draft after shining for The Citadel where he was named 2010 Southern Conference pitcher of the year, Asher played in the Blue Jays system for 2 years before being traded to the Astros. He made his debut for the Astros in 2015. He bounced around the waiver wire with stops in Miami and Arizona before signing a minor league deal with the Reds near the end of Spring Training. They recalled him on May 20 and he has appeared in 3 games for them this year.
And his story for me, is a little bit personal. I met Stephanie, the woman who would become my wife, at Missionary Training in 2003. We were married on New Year’s Eve 2004 and two weeks later, we moved into our first home. A house we were renting that was built behind the house our landlords owned in Uzhgorod Ukraine. We lived in Ukraine for 13 of the next 16 months, teaching English as a Secondary Language, coaching American Football and hanging out with some kids in a nearby orphanage. It was a life-changing experience that I will look back on fondly for the rest of my life. Today, as I sit down to write this post, I am reminded of the orphanage in Chastlivtsy. We would go there one day a week and hang out with the kids. We may have taught them a little English, or sang some songs with them or maybe tell them a bible story. There was a language barrier that was an obstacle to our communication – we would have to speak through translators, but the excitement that these great kids had when we arrived and the joy they showed in interacting with us are the memories that I carry from those experiences. I also remember their living conditions. Many had had a hard life to that point. I wonder from time to time what they are up to now. I know Steph is facebook friends with some of them. But the boys that I worked with most frequently, their dirty faces, the smell of old, shabby clothes, I don’t know how life turned out for them. I pray that they are OK.
These memories came flooding back to me as I read this article from americansportsnet about Cincinnati Reds pitcher Asher Wojciechowski. (then with the Houston Astros).
When he was nine years old, his family left their life in the United States to serve as missionaries in Bucharest, Romania. There they spent time ministering in an orphanage. He describes it like this. “The kids were just left (behind); their parents didn’t want them. It hurt them. Being with them, it helped them, and it helps me, too… I would go there and play with them, because we were all kids,” he said. “I remember how dirty the living conditions were. The lice, the dirty clothes, the dirty toys.”
Before the move to Romania, Asher had taken an interest in baseball, dreaming of playing as a pro. He took his stuff with him to Eastern Europe, but there was not a lot of baseball being played there. In the article, Asher’s dad, Randy tells it like this in this article from The Houston Chronicle. “That was probably the hardest thing for me, because that was my calling and I felt really bad, I felt bad that we were going to take him to Romania and that he might not ever play baseball again. We didn’t know how long we’d be there; it might have been the rest of our lives, we just didn’t know.”
His mom says that when the talk of moving to Romania and giving up baseball came up, Asher’s response was “Well, Momma, if that’s what God said we need to do, then we need to do it.’”
Now God has an amazing way of working things out. Just 2 years later, Asher would play baseball in Romania as part of a newly formed Little League team. From the Americansportsnet article
“But Randy is convinced that a higher power brought Asher’s favorite game to their new doorstep. `Asher was the best player and the captain. He helped teach the other kids to play. He was willing to give up (baseball) for me and lo and behold, God brought baseball to us.’”
Asher remembers the experience like this “It just gave me a different perspective on things, getting to see other cultures and travel in Europe. It made me more open-minded because everyone is different. And it showed me the power of love and the power of Christ.”
The Wojciechowski’s would leave Romania after 3 years and Asher would go on to play college and then pro baseball. Now his Major League career is underway and reminds us that God writes our story and makes it unique for us.
Here are my takeaways from Wojciechowski’s story:
1- It’s all for God – I really appreciate Asher’s response to being uprooted and forced to give up baseball. “If that’s what God said we need to do, we need to do it”. Wisdom from the lips of a nine year-old. Do we still believe that? Do we trust that God will work it out for His purposes? I know that I struggle with that. It doesn’t make any sense but I battle feelings of entitlement – like God owes me something. He doesn’t. He offers me something. He offers me a chance to join Him in what He is doing. And if I take Him up on the offer, He has an amazing adventure for me. I’m challenged to let that be my answer when I feel God lead me in a direction I wasn’t prepared for. If God says it, let’s do it!
2- God’s plan is unpredictable – Did Asher Wojciechowski have to give up his dream of being a professional baseball player? for a while yes. What does he do now? Well, he is a Major League Baseball player. How did he arrive there – Well, he put God first, He walked through doors that God opened. I’m sure that it is not how he dreamed it up. But I’m also sure that it happened exactly as God planned it out. What kind of amazing and creative twists has your story taken? Have you ever stopped to consider how unlikely the circumstances that came together were that led your life on the path it has taken? To me, it is strong proof that God is real – Only God could work all these things out so perfectly.
3 – Memory Banks – Our lives are a set of incredible experiences. Thinking back on our time in Ukraine, it really was an incredible experience. I’m glad God brought our time there back to my mind. I am challenged to remember those kids at the orphanage in my prayers – that God would protect them, draw them to Himself and that even though language was an issue for us at the orphanage, that during the time we spent together, God’s love showed through us to those great kids.