Saturday, December 23, 2000

New Borders on the Map

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

Ten thousand miles is a long, long way. Twelve hours in flight, eighteen hours by train and at last a six-hour bus trip brought us to our first stop at 3:00 in the morning. We carted our 150-pound luggage up a flight of stairs, finding the accommodations typical (no elevators, no hot water), our aching travel worn bodies painfully longed for a horizontal position on the feather beds. But our team leader informed us that we were headed to the orphanage for chai (Russian tea). Half-closed lids exchanged glances of “you have got to be kidding”, but we did not come here for comfort, after all we’re soldiers!

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-- he wants to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

Dropping the baggage load off in our rooms and donning our coats, we boarded the bus once again for the well past midnight hospitable cup of tea. Fatigue caused more laughter than complaints. “Didn’t somebody tell them we are Americans, it’s the English that need the tea stuff?”

But when we arrived at the orphanage a few minutes later, it was not just tea that awaited us. Several women as well as the director of the orphanage had been patiently waiting for our arrival all night. They had carefully prepared along with the tea, a meal and desert for us as well. We were overwhelmed, not by the hour or the ordeal we had endured to bring us to Sanchursk, Russia, but by the patience and sacrifice that these workers had made. The meal laid before us, meant there would be less for them tomorrow.

Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-- all she had to live on." Mark 12:41-44

A thousand pounds of humanitarian aid and supplies had cost each of us very little personally. Yes it was heavy and we had given our time to bring it a great distance, but ten tired people were awakened and humbled by these Russians and their sacrifice.

The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 1 Timothy 5:5

For the next two days we brought them help and shared our hope. Typically, we take our lunch at the orphanage during the midpoint of our daily program. But in Sanchursk, we boarded the bus and headed off to the local restaurant. It was not until the end of our stay during our final meal that the orphanage director joined us. He told us why we were eating there instead of with the children. He said, “ We are ashamed we are so poor. We only have tin utensils that are left over from the army to eat with. We were embarrassed by our lack. The only hope we have is that someone from the outside, from the West will care and take pity on us and help our situation.” The Lord provided an open door for the Team Leader to share with this pleading man where his real help would come from.

O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Psalms 143:1

We returned to the orphanage for the farewell party. The children were dressed in their finest clothes. The girls wore hair bows and the boys had on coats. The accordion and balalaika played folk songs. We were encircled by the dancing children, then linked arms with them in jovial two steps. They stood before us holding decorative pictures they had taken from the walls to present to us as gifts. The Director came forward. In his hands he held a ruler and a tattered yellow map, leftover from the former glory days of the Soviet grand empire. He said “This map is the only one our school has. It is old but it has our city on it, and we found your city too.” He laid the map at our feet and continued. “Today, I will draw a line from Sanchursk to Dallas” It is a long line but it is one that will never be broken. We will teach our children from this torn map what this “line of friendship” means. Though we do not have a map to give you, we know this line, and our children will always be in your hearts.”

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. " Isaiah 55:8-11