Monday, December 14, 2020

VOLUME 5 - Fall 1998

Saving Sasha 

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 2:3 

We had to laugh. It was the fourth time the bus driver had pulled off the road to ask for directions. Twelve Americans accompanied by an equal number of Russian interpreters, and over 200 flies were lost somewhere in rural Russia on our way to an orphanage. Our mission: to deliver humanitarian aid and "save the lost" in the name of Jesus, but just now we appeared to be the only lost! Missionaries, soldiers in the heat of the battle, come home with their own version of "war stories." 

Supporters and those who remain at home want news of the "victory". The trip to this orphanage on the edge of nowhere was more like Saving Private Ryan than a technicolor version of what was accomplished, souls saved, lives changed, and prayers answered. On the bus for six hours, we tried to hold our testimonies intact. Laughing at the circumstances, yet struggling with the mission aware of the challenge that faced us when we arrived. Was it really worth it? Traveling by trains, planes, and post-communist buses thousands of miles to appear in a western whirlwind flash, with clowns, games, and stories of the God who loved them and would not forsake them. 

"Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' Luke 15:4-6 

Upon arrival, a four-course meal lay before us, prepared with loving hands in a show of thanks for our visit. Giving out of their obvious poverty I was ashamed not to finish every morsel on my plate.

 Afterwards, the children gathered and merrily participated in our program. We learned they had never been visited by any foreigners. What a sight we must have been! All of our shenanigans, fun, laughter, love and joy, the photos, pencils and toothbrushes, inextricably tied to the name of the Savior. The God who sent us, truly has not forgotten them. 

Off to the side, needing special attention, stood a small boy named Sasha. Little Sasha became a ward of the state when his drug addict mother died. His surviving father languishes in a Russian prison. He appeared to have suffered severe burns, clothed from head to toe despite the unseasonably warm weather. 

We learned from the director, Sasha suffers from a rare skin disease, one that leaves his skin scaling and dry, cracking painfully and bleeding at the slightest bump. He has never been able to sleep with his eyes closed. For the disease has even ravaged the one comfort such children have, the world of dreams. Dreams that one day, someone will come to save them; the proverbial knight on the white horse. 

Our bus was not white, and the saints inside have yet to be knighted. But we left determined to return to America, and find a way to save Sasha, to make available the medical treatment he needs. Sasha we cannot forget. He gave us an understanding that our mission at great financial, emotional and physical expense to each of us, far out of our comfort zone - may just be to reach one child, desperately ill, who needs a Savior. 

After a musical performance by the children, we began the process of goodbye. Trying to hug each one, one more time. Taking pictures, creating memories, and trying hard not to show our tears until we were out of sight. Struggling to find a way to know we had fought the good fight - our mission a success. The children ran to the edge of their road. Frantically waving hands slowed, dropping to their side as the bus drove away into the world outside
...we had to cry.