Sunday, we attended church, then headed downtown for the May Day Victory celebration. It is the Russian Veteran's Day/Fourth of July/ Memorial Day combination actually commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany's invasion. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the closed off streets walking around enjoying the festivities and traditional Russian song and dance on various outdoor stages. The day concluded with a huge fireworks show we were able to watch from the end of Ann and Robert's street. A wonderful cultural event to witness and partake in.
Monday afternoon we prepared for a party with several of the long-time East West interpreters. It was a sweet time of fellowship, catching up and sharing old photographs and making new memories. That night we shared dinner with several of the Hope House young men. We sat around the table like one big happy family, talking about the happenings of the day, life in general, and concluded with each of our favorite verses in the Bible. What a sweet treasure to hear the young men share why particular words of scripture were meaningful to them. I shared my "Minor Prophet" Zephaniah 3:20, and told them this night was a good fulfillment of God's promise. One of them paused the round table move to the next person and said, "All those children you have seen know how much you love them. They will never forget you. We never did. God will bring them back to you." Yes, our God is good.
Tuesday, Robert and I picked up one of the local pastors and with our interpreter headed out an hour outside of town into the countryside. There, ten very elderly (ranging from 75-95) widows reside in remote rural town. I did dress up and take some stories to share with them. The first room we went into, one of the women (the oldest in the home) was sleeping but the other patted the bed for me to sit next to her.
There with my funny wild hair, bright clothes and glittered eyes I sat as she softly stroked my face, my hair and my eyes and repeated over and over again, "the children, the children." She has no living family, she has no one to touch - but that day she had me.
Robert and Ann had been there before and said the women were depressed and kept sharing, you don't want to get old, it is terrible." I went from bed to bed, they hugged me, they kissed me, they smiled and laughed at the stories.
In the end when I was preparing to leave, one said with a smile, "We are about to die, but we will see you again." I went up to her and opened my eyes wide and said, "Look deeply in my eyes so you will recognize me. We will have a new body in heaven so I want you to see me." One of the other ladies started laughing. She said, "Don't worry, we will know you. We will come looking for you, and certainly find you!"
"In perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things, things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1
Oh the things He has planned - we cannot imagine!
We returned to the city just in time for me to "de-clown" and prepare my heart for the testimony I would share at the "You Are Not Alone" club meeting that evening. I opened with the Message translation of the last verses of Hebrews 11, "They did not receive the promise, they lived on the cruel edge of the world."
Certainly each one of these young men and women have been to that cruel edge. Those who have the influence of the faithful may make it back from the edge, but countless thousands of other widows and orphans fall over the abyss of despair dropping into hopeless - unless someone comes and shares the Truth and shows the love of Christ.
After the club meeting was over, the young teen girls came for a Slumber Party. We had set up a jewelry making station, a manicure parlor, a foot bath and massager, mini facials complete with mud masks and bless Robert's heart (and back) he carried all the projector and sound equipment up three flights of stairs so we could watch movies!
What a sight we were with balloon hats, bedazzled nails and toes and black dead sea mud smeared on our faces. One of the English speaking girls said, "Only Americans think of such things."
Only God gives us the opportunities.
We have seen Him at work here hundreds of ways - but one hundred forty-six is a good number to sustain me for another evening.
"The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow" Psalm 146
Touched by His goodness