Saturday, August 08, 1998

Terminal - The Real Meaning

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” James 1:27

The first day the East West Ministry team was in Kaluga, the Cultural Center Director, arranged for the “clowns” to go to the orphanage for the children of Chernobyl. Of course those words brought the worst images to mind. What would we be met with, row upon row of hospital beds, children with severe deformities? We really didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived, we saw children’s drawings on the walls, murals in the hallways, and even though it was an older facility – the cleanliness was striking. What we did not see were hospital beds. What we did see was the smiling faces of children from classroom to classroom.

We had an opportunity to go “door to door” where the children sat quietly awaiting our arrival. We shared stories of the Little Apple Tree, (about prayer, patience and waiting on God) and did tricks. “Tiny” made balloon airplanes (only of few of them crash-landed) and told of how far we had come to make the visit. We learned that laughter, the music of the soul, is a universal language, understood by anyone, anywhere.

As we left we asked our two interpreters if these children had lost their parents in the disaster and if this was the reason they were now in the orphanage. They replied “oh no, all of these children are terminal. They are just waiting to die. For them there is no cure and no hope.” Our hearts sank – the smiling faces we had just seen, the laughter we had heard was temporary, yet the Lord had given us a chance to bring just a ray of sunshine into their world for a brief moment.

Would realizing the prognosis of the children made our performance better, would we have shared more, stayed longer? That I can’t say. I realized that their appearance fooled us. While we had an understanding and sadness about their life in the orphanage, we saw happiness and joy, laughter and merriment.

This is all too true when we meet individuals who on the outside appear happy, and well adjusted. We talk of the government and the weather, exchanging “tricks” of conversation without thought to the state of their spiritual health. In Kaluga, at the home for the children of Chernobyl, I learned a new meaning for the word “terminal”. And committed to look beyond the surface on the faces I meet to the heart that is hurting and lost. I want to bring the Truth, the Light and the Way and ask questions about the eternal not the temporal. As the millenium approaches the Lord’s return gets closer day by day (even if it is still a long way off we are still that many days closer).

Let us each be careful not to be fooled by the appearance of those we meet, and see we are living in a “terminal generation”.