That’s the question I’ve asked myself on and off over the past 2 weeks here in Ukraine. It seems like things have gone from joy to stress to surprise to confusion to irritation and even to peace.
Like today, my coordinator Inna and I simply invited 3 kids to church with us…
This morning, Anya (19 yrs. old) caught the freezing cold 7:20 am bus to Cherkassy from her town 3 hours away, where she is studying to be a Vet Tech and lives in a public dorm. She was to meet me at 12:30 but she was worried her bus might be late so she came early and waited in the cold outside. When I arrived 2 hours later, it was like I was a long lost relative in her mind, and she presented me with chocolates, flowers and a homemade craft – all this from an orphan who has lived her life in and out of foster care & orphanages and who survives on next to nothing. We went to church with friends and then we all went to McDonalds. Anya had never been inside McD’s before, had no idea what was on the menu and was overwhelmed by the free wi-fi and restrooms with toilet paper.
Two other boys from another town, Denys and Igor (both 16) where also supposed to meet me at 12:30, but when they arrived at 12:50 they couldn’t find me and couldn’t remember the way to the church. They didn’t bring a phone with them and didn’t know how to contact me, so they turned around and road the bus 1 ½ hours back home. When they got to their dorm, they called Inna and offered to catch another bus back to Cherkassy, and they arrived at McDonald’s about 3 hours after church. I just didn’t understand why they didn’t have a phone with them, considering we had just given Denys money from his sponsor to buy a phone last month. Did he still have the phone? Yes – he said, but the battery was dead. I said, but Denys – I charge my phone everyday. But Cyndee, our electricity is cut off for several hours each night at the dormitory and we don’t know when. I shake my head. Again, they were so glad to see us all, and we had a lovely time of catching up and fellowship together.
Until Anya started having symptoms of an oncoming asthma attack…
It seems she didn’t think she would need her inhaler (even in this cold “spring” weather) so she left it at her dorm. Or perhaps she didn’t have money to buy the medicine. She also somehow lost her hat inside McDonalds, had no gloves and was freezing cold one minute & boiling hot the next. Time to go to the pharmacy. So off we went – and we bought her an inhaler (Albuterol is OTC here!) which she promptly ripped open and used immediately, cold medicine and throat lozenges.
I got the 2 boys back to the bus stop, while Inna took Anya to a Youth Group meeting. Anya will spend the night at Inna’s home tonight and take a bus back home tomorrow.
Why do these kids make such an effort to come see me? It’s not for the promise of a free meal, as no promise was given – we were only going to go to church. It’s not because I am so special that they can sit and listen to me talk all day – we speak different languages. I don’t give them money and they don’t ask for any. No – it’s because someone takes the time to simply care about them and to give them a little attention. Inna does a great job of maintaining contact and builds relationships with these young people who are so starved for love and attention that they will spend their whole free day travelling back and forth on busses (which are free to orphans) just to get a hug, smile and love.
They have not been taught to think ahead, how to organize or how to make simple decisions. They have lived their lives in institutions being told what to do at that moment, and nothing more. It’s Inna’s desire to keep ministering to them long after I go back to the States – she will continue to spend time with them, and will tell them about God’s great love for them. And hopefully these kids will start to want to please Him, instead of us.
You can support christian education for orphan graduates, following the link and donating to Christian Education on the Donate page
Danny and I had the opportunity to go back to Kompas Park Youth Camp in Ukraine this summer, and it was an encouraging week for many reasons. Both of us have volunteered at camp multiple times over the years (this was Danny’s 12th year!), and we praise God that He’s allowed us to be a part of this ministry over the years. There is something truly relaxing and peacefully familiar about driving through Khreschatyk Village into Kompas Park.