Sunday, July 31, 2005

Another Small Picture

"Did you have a good time in Russia?" The question has many forms, but everyone asks it-"what did you do?" " See?" " How did you spend your time?" I have many answers, for the many questions-but I have to say that it was a good experience. I have "volunteered" all my life, in different places--in schools, churches, wherever I chanced to be, and there's always the chance to be helpful to another being.

My doctor asked if I were sure I was up to this and my answer was that there would be children to work with and that would always be possible. Assigned to paint walls, I did. Whenever that slowed down I could explore the big old building and grounds, clean up a bit, talk to other team members, "talk" to the Russian workers, see the goings-on in the Church School.

There were sometimes 60 children, crowded around tables and sitting on wooden stools before their crafts-for-the-day, just like our American children. One day they were given a new t-shirt to decorate with squeeze paints; one boy had an American flag on his back. One had "U.S." on his, one drew a map of the U.S. Micah drew a monkey in a tree-I called him "Micah Monkey." They learned to 'sign' Jesus Loves Me, something I had to learn. There's a playground with basketball goal, volleyball net, equipment for climbing and there were different kinds of balls. Not much actual structured phys ed, but balls would fly thru the air in different patterns. A plastic Frisbee and a beach ball were favorites, and if we joined in we were welcomed. On the last day the kids were allowed to take the balls home and so they were hoarded and deflated to fit in pockets, so that nobody could debate ownership. Each day they enjoyed crackers and fruit, snacks just like kids here and had small toys and crafts to do and take home. Everything furnished, I suppose, by visiting VIM workers, this year or earlier.

A weed-whacker, brought by previous VIM, was used on the dirt playground where there were foot-high weeds, no grass.

Children are children, I find, in states and countries other than mine, and they are happy to be taught new things. One little Hyperactive's hands were constantly in his next-door neighbor's craft making and constantly being restrained from "helping", just like home. Some would sing willingly, some had to be coaxed into participating, some were shy and some outgoing. The language barrier was always there, but our being helpful and interested could overcome any barrier. And watch out for the smiles!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

VIM Russia 2005

Chuck's account is quite prolific, and quite accurate due to Jean's daily letters. I really can't add much to it except that it was a great experience.

Most fun to me was working with the children--which is the reason for my going. One of my regular Sunday School kids, in Richmond, asked me in all seriousness "What are y'all converting the Russians from?" My answer then was and still would be, "We aren't going to convert them FROM anything--we're just going to show them God's love because we understand that communism did not allow them to go to church to see that."

We saw children at the orphanage and Bible School and though we found it hard to really TALK we sure communicated! Whenever we returned "home" from a tour on the bus they were waiting because they knew we would be glad to see and play ball with them. We watched little ones performing and though they sang and spoke in Russian, we knew exactly what their subject was and we knew the fun they were having. We answered questions from the interpreters, and one really wanted to know at what age we baptized children; she had no knowledge of religion in her background and had learned little before we came--obviously she was not a church goer or a Methodist! We can only hope that now she knows God's love--because she worked in our midst and knows that we came to live with them and to improve their physical surroundings. They liked participating in our worship and loved to sing our songs. And they showed us how to dance!

Chuck has newspaper accounts of the I95 traffic accident, but he couldn't tell the anguish we felt on that bus from 1:00 a.m. til 5:30 when we watched the police, firetrucks, ambulances, lights, sirens and finally just went to sleep to wait. About 5:30 police helped the driver turn around and we drove back NORTH on the road shoulder and west to Route 1 with the other millions of stranded cars. Drove at 5 mph about 15 miles to a clear route and arrived in Richmond in time for lunch. Took us about 12 hours, longer than it took to fly across the Atlantic from London. And we were in London the night before the bombing and what must have been in confusion in Heathrow airport.

We worked with the World Peace Organization, and surely God helped us show His love and peace.