Tonight I sit in my warm duvet covered featherbed in a new hotel in Kremenchuk. Last night, as you may have heard, we arrived at the camp (10 miles from Chernobyl!) to find out that the village of Ivankiv was without electricity ‘temporarily’. Since we arrived right around sunset, we had to decide whether or not we would stay– or find a plan ‘b’. Google (which worked on Dan’s iphone)- while the electricity (and heat!) did not– told us that the night would bring almost a full moon, along with 44 chilling fahrenheit degrees. We were given sleeping blankets and matches– and had a cozy night of cards and home-cooked pelmeni (ravioli) by the light of candles and flashlights taped to the wall. (Thank you, Dasha, our 16 year old translator– so brilliant!) Amazingly enough- we had plenty of heat to keep our feet warm and toasty all through the night.
Our 6:00am departure had us scurrying through suitcases (in the dark) and on the road to Kremenchuk for a babyhouse visit. After a formal tour (which included dozens of new ‘renovations’ and ‘murals), we sat with the director to talk about young mother programs. She assured us this was in the plans– and asked us for a donation to ‘renovate’. The tour revealed room after room of equipment and renovations– and 77 children with a low LOW quality of life. Babies lying in cribs… paralyzed children without wheelchairs, toddlers rocking themselves to sleep during naptime. Small playpens appeared unused, while a 6 month old with a head the size of a basketball- with open sores- laid in agony. Just pure agony. And our requests (and eyes) begged to play with and pick up the babies while she waved us off. We cast vision for young mothers, while she smiled and said yes, but then abruptly left the room when I told her we would have to get official stamps of approval prior to donating. She escorted us straight to the bus while our team stood by with puppets and balloons and joy and love to share with the children… and she continued to talk about renovations. I excitedly shared the vision to send PT, OT, and SLP trainers for her teachers– since that was a HUGE need addressed by a previous babyhouse…while she curtly said, ‘interesting’– and then swiftly led me to the bathroom that needed new tile. And as I saw a blind little boy lying in the crib smile up in glee when Dan started speaking to him– I KNEW that we were there with a purpose. Even if for just a few moments, a small tour, to remind us and them and the caregivers that they are created in the image of God- with a plan and a purpose and an intimate and personal love that maybe they have never tangibly felt before.
So as the director got cold feet to work with us as soon as she knew it would require accountability– And as we got cold feet standing in the freezing cold crib room for kids with special needs– And as doma allowed her to escort us to the bus quickly, reacting in horror and wondering if we should even go through with our final visits and meetings– we knew that we were there just for a moment to touch the head and the hands and the feet of those who were cold- and sick- and laying in urine??… Even if the one entrusted to care for these children was only concerned about the next wall mural she could paint with donated money.
What a day. What a challenge… to address deep rooted thoughts and fears and judgments of a culture foreign to your own. Thank God for those who have huge hearts and a deep love for the children in their homes. 4 out of 5 positive visits isn’t so bad. Number 5 is just going to take some time and patience– but I’m sure we will get there.
Next stop, Donetsk– The shipment is to meet us tomorrow night so that we can distribute to 4 babyhouses and one HIV positive baby hospital. I’ll keep you posted if I can! Pray for safe travels for CBN, who is donating the truck and driver so generously. It took 5 nonprofits to make this happen– let’s pray the impact is long-term!
Julie (and the doma team)