Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ukraine 9 – Day 12 (October 10)

Considering this blog is “mikenhelen”, it is high time according to Mike that I (Helen) post one. So this one is written from my perspective as I recline on the couch feeling stuffed with food—we’re definitely eating well here. Too well!

Most of the day was taken up with visiting families that Halia knows are in need. The first couple we visited was Ivan and Tamara. Tamara is a retired schoolteacher and had quite a personality. She was very animated while talking and it was clear she would have been a very interesting teacher. We certainly enjoyed listening to her. Her husband had a stroke a while back and was not feeling up to visiting. As we entered the living room, we laid our eyes on a meal she had prepared of bread, sausage, cheese, pilmenee (like perogies with meat inside) and cookies. I think we all inwardly groaned as we had just finished breakfast not long before. We took a little so as not to offend but Ukranian hosts do not seem to settle for that. I don’t think they have the phrase “I’m full” in their language! They keep saying, “Eat, Eat”. She told us how she had read through the New Testament a few times and now wants to read the Bible all the way through. If she has questions she asks Yaraslav who is a good resource for her. As we were leaving, Tamara stuffed a number of pears into our bags—just in case we hadn’t eaten enough?!

Next we visited a couple that Malcolm has met several times before. He is a deaf mute and cannot get out of bed without help. His wife is his sole caregiver but in the last six months has developed bad rheumatoid arthritis and struggles to take care of him. She had a look of despair on her face as she described the situation. He has quite the string system in his house; from his bed he can open and shut the door, and when the front door opens, a light goes on so he knows if someone is entering the house. We brought bags of groceries to each of these families.

Our third visit was to another retired schoolteacher who at the age of 82 had boundless energy—much more than I have and she’s approx. 4x my age! I sat right next to her and kept getting my knee slapped or her hands put directly in my face as she told her stories with gusto!

Our last visit was for me the most memorable. We arrived at the house and the door was locked. We learned this is because Natalia is bedridden. We phoned her and she pleaded for us to wait until someone came to unlock the door in 5-10 minutes as she was really looking forward to our visit. She would be about 35 years old and has multiple sclerosis. She stays in the house all day by herself but she has such a sweet spirit and joyful disposition. She really enjoyed seeing Malcolm again as he visits her just about every time he comes. Malcolm explained that he might not see her again as we do not know what a day brings and she got really teary. He took this opportunity to explain the Two Roads chart to her and the man that had unlocked the house. They both listened intently and it seemed from her reaction and radiance that she truly knows which road she is on. The man listened quietly and understood the chart. We hope it will continue to speak to him. We left copies there. They set out a bowl of apples and pears and we took one each. They were so insistent that we eat more and when we were leaving he tipped the whole bowl into my bag. He wasn’t going to take “No” for an answer!!

We also visited the largest orphanage in Ivano with about 120 kids. About 30 kids gathered in the library as Malcolm spoke to them using the world’s smallest Bible and Mike did his rope trick. The behaviour wasn’t great and it got a little chaotic at the end while we tried to give out either picture Bibles and New Testaments—depending on age—as well as texts and suckers. Some of the kids seemed to think we were stupid as they came up saying they didn’t get a sucker while their cheek was bulging with the one they had already started! We got through it though.

Although we are not doing too much physical activity, it seems we have no trouble falling asleep at night. I think part of it is being emotionally drained after being confronted with so many pitiful situations. We are only helping a few and it seems only a drop in the bucket when we consider how many people are living in the same conditions. It became real to me when Tanya, a nurse, told me what she makes in a month. I make more before my first coffee break of the day at work. Many of the breadwinners of the families make about the same with a family to support. There is so much poverty everywhere.

We are now over halfway through our trip and the days are flying by. I’m not sure if you’ll hear from me again before the end of our trip as my laptop privileges may be suspended after Mike sees the length of this post. After just hearing how much I’ve written, he said, “People won’t want to read something that long”. I know otherwise as you’ve reached the end of this epistle. Regardless, I wanted to report on a full and fulfilling day.

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