It’s Spring, time to ‘plant’…

Thursday March 19, 2015 – feeding the block post.   Went out to the block post #1, by the water canal with rice and meat.  So thankful that we found the meat at a good price, and had some rice.  Feeding 30 men isn’t easy when you must plan around a war.  We arrived at the block post, and things were quiet.  We met several of the men, and they were very thankful for the food and encouragement.  We said a prayer over the men there at the bunker area.   Valeryi was observing all the guns and equipment, when we hear shooting.  It seems pretty close, and the men tell us to get in the bunker.  Two of the men stand in front of the opening to the bunker.  We hear shouting over the radio, and asking for someone to help, ‘close the gate,…..close the gate…’  this means that there was a ‘hole’ in their line, and they needed to close that gap.  It was all very tense for a while, and then things got quiet and the commander thanked us, several men kissed my hands, and then they told us to ‘run for your car’.   We took off running, and did not looking back.   

March 20, 2015 – Leaving the hospital on today, we met a soldier in the stair well.  We had not seen him earlier, and asked where his room was.  We followed him to the 3rd floor, and we had no other men on that floor.  He said it was the cardiac ward, and that he had ‘high pressure’.  ‘No – duh….we are in a war’, but he was very stressed looking.  We followed him in the room, and introduced ourselves, and he was shocked that anyone was giving out free tings.  We gladly gave him a care bag, and some clothing, and asked what else he may need.  He shyly asked for some slippers.  I told him that we would be ‘right back’.  He looked at us in disbelief.  Valeryi and I scurried down to the car and got the slippers and a few other things, and ran them back up to the room, where he was just sitting on the bed.  We entered, and he was clearly shocked to see us again.  We handed him the slippers and other gifts, and he stood up, eyes were like glass, welled in tears, and he profusely thanked us for our gifts, and for the visit.  Kissing my hands over and over, we slowly backed out of the room, visibly seeing what just a little of kindness can do for a person’s spirits.  It was no trouble for us at all and yet it was like Christmas to him. Thank you Lord, for the opportunity to serve him.

During our rounds at the hospital delivering aid and subsequent food; we met a man who very much isolated himself from us.  He didn’t and wouldn’t look at us, and even turned away in the bed while we talked to his 4 other roommates.  First visit we just left the care bag on the end of his bed, as to not disturb him.  The second visit, he was out of bed, but didn’t make any eye contact with us.  He watched as we gave the others the couple of items they asked for.  I’m not so sure that he wasn’t just watching to see if we would make ‘good’ on what we said we would do.  Each time we presented the same offer to him, ‘do you need anything’.  The reply was always ‘no’.  Kind, but ‘no’.   The 4th visit, we brought clothing to share with them men, and this time, he did take a nice heavy sweat shirt, and a pair of pants, but I noticed they were going to be too short, but he wanted them anyway.  The pants he was wearing, were about a 40 waist, and he was about 33.  I remembered in the back of my mind that we had a pair of pants in the garage that a worker had used, so I decided to launder them and return to the hospital and give to him.  The following day, we needed to return to the hospital and pick up all our food containers, and the man had moved to another room.  We found him, and he was so surprised that we made the effort to come back with pants that would fit him.   There on his bedside table we saw our Bible tract, and his other clothing very neatly folded.  He was wearing the sweat shirt.  His demeanor had completely changed, and he smiled.  I asked if he would allow a photo, and he smiled and said ‘yes’.   Then he very nicely put his arm around me, and allowed Valeryi to take a photo.  He literally was 180 degrees different then the first day we saw him.  I’m praying for him, and that some how he will come to know Jesus, we planted some seeds, watered them, pray that they grow. 

Really, that is all we are, gardeners in a big field of dirt. There are sections to be planted, some to be watered, some to have weeds pulled, and some to harvest…one never knows where you will be dropped, and what path God is going to take you down when you rise in the morning. Keeping an open mind, prayerful heart, and ‘ready’ feet (and hands) for whatever you may encounter. One day we go to the hospital and meet people from ever area of the ‘garden’…some with a faith that needs encouraging, some with a searching heart that needs direction, some that have a faint knowledge of God that need patience and a listening ear, and some with very hard hearts towards, as that is what war does, at least this war, as it remains so confusing as to WHY this is happening. All require an ear to listen, to listen to their needs, their desires, and their broken hearts. So much paid, grief, loss, it is so difficult, but we perserver, as that is what we are called to do.

Decided to go out and bless some locals today at the trash dumpster.  Getting to people is sometime difficult, and uses alot of gas, so one must be creative. People frequent the trash dumpsters, and there is a chainlink fence around them, so I decide to use this fence as the display area for FREE clothing for those in need. We placed a few signs to encourage people to only take what they needed and leave the rest for others, then we hang the clothing on the fence. Usually within about 15 minutes it is all gone. We have a lot of seasonal clothing, and with spring around the corner, we needed to move out the heavy winter.  We offered it many times to our IDP’s that come on Sundays, but we have so much, and they are 99% walking, they can’t carry clothing and food, so clothing gets left behind.  We did this at several dumpster sites that have fences around them, so what better place to hang the clothing.  Fence Freebies, is what I like to call it, and it was great to just pull up to the fence and hang clothing over it.  Later, I had to go into town and there were only 5 pieces left on the fence, so I just reloaded the fence with more!   What a easy way to …‘Clothe the naked…’ 

March 25, 2015 – We take so much for granted.  A shower, fried potatoes, tea, just simple things…we are so caught up in trivial things, the latest fashion, best car, just things that don’t matter.  Youth are in a hurry to grow up, and do what, work the rest of their lives…in a hurry to find a mate, and sometimes it is just any mate, just to NOT be alone.  Life passed you by and then you are grown, and before you know it, you are full of aches and pains and complaints.  We had the priviledge of serving 4 soldiers this morning for a shower and a big breakfast.    They came in from an all night block post watch, exhausted,  with layers and layers of dirt from weeks without bathing.   It was fun to prepare for our guests, and it was with much pleasure to find towels, soap, shampoo, razors, new under garments…they were so surprised.  They bathed and shaved, and came down stairs for breakfast.  We served a nice breakfast of potatoes with onions and meat, fried eggs, raisin bread, apples, and my banana cake.  We made sure that they were very full, and that they were able to relax before returning to the block post.  They told us over and over that they felt like ‘family’ that we made them very welcome.  Mission accomplished!   For someone to say we are like ‘family’ is the greatest compliment, as though they are guests, they are far from their own families, so we can be that substitute family for them. When they prepared to leave, we prayed over them, then it was many hugs for everyone. Seeds planted, and well watered.

Another day of ‘fence freebies’ as we have more clothing that we just need to ‘move out’.  Dropped off about 20 pieces and within 20 minutes they were gone!  We left a sign this time, proclaiming ‘God’s blessing on them. And to take what they would like, it was FREE.’

Clean clothing – never take that for granted.  Frequently we are given the laundry.  Today it was all from our guests.  Then later we were called and asked to wash 200 sheets from the main compound that the officers are staying in town.  Couldn’t swing that, so we just pick it all up and took to the washing lady in town.  1745gh ($62.00) later, the laundry is to be ready Saturday morning.  I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to serve, even in such a small way. The men are able to shower, but then the sheets are dirty, so clean sheets are needed for the psychological well being of our ‘protectors’.

March 26, 2015 – Too young to die –  Yesterday afternoon Oleg came over with the Commander from the local Peacekeeper unit.  His job is to find people that are basically spies for RU or just giving information to ‘the other side’.  Both Valeryi and Alyona and her boyfriend Sasha, had been approached by some men in a white ‘Lada’ posing as DNR and asking them questions, and Victor wanted interview them to get the information.  We mentioned this to Oleg, and he brought Victor Peterovich over to interview them.  After the interview, he mentioned he wanted to return tomorrow to talk with me about a couple of things.   Absolutely, he is welcome any time…Oleg arrives at 9:30, and Victor around 10.  He is very professional, and introduced himself and explaining his job title and description.  We discussed many things, but the thing I remember the most was his account of what happened at Illoviasck; and the obvious sadness he felt over the loss of so many men.  Good men, good soldiers, and that no one would come to their aid.  As he told us about this, his head was bowed, and he rarely looked up.  He recounted the last week of August, saying that they had been fighting for 5 days straight with no rest at all.  They did not have enough equipment, and they needed back up, but when he asked for just 7 men to come and help, there were no available men to come and help, they were all just barely holding on to their own places.   Victor said that there was only one hour in 5 days that there was no fighting, and it was in that hour they supposedly had this ‘green corridor’, but really, it was a “caravan of death”.  They were told to ‘go’, and they decided to grab as many of the wounded as possible, with most of the men carrying at least one wounded man on their back.  They had to pick and choose ‘who’ they would try to save, because not all men could carry someone, there were too many wounded.  The anguish in this man’s face was beyond describable.  He shared how those that were left behind were ‘finished off by the Russians and chechens’, that they could see and hear them shooting them.  They were running for their lives carrying wounded, which some were shot again and killed, but they continued to carry them as shields for themselves.  It was during this conversation, I found out that one of my friends, from the Peacekeepers, was killed; another taken prisoner.  I can still see that mans face, hear his laugh as he carried food in our center for us to later distribute to others.  He was a very nice guy, too young to die, but then isn’t anyone!  I spent the rest of the day reflecting on the time I had with this young man…yes, I gave him a Bible tract, I remember.  I remember thanking him over and over for helping.  It is this type of news that reminds me to say all I need to say to a person, as that may be your last time to speak.   Victor was clearly traumatized by the battle, and needed to ‘vent’.  There is no ‘therapists’ here in UA, no one to talk it over with, you just ‘suck it up and go on.’  Ukraine is just void of this much needed psychological help.  So many soldiers have seen so much, too much for their young lives, and they need to be allowed to work through this.  There is no avenue.   My heart ached for this man, and the obvious pain he was in. We welcomed him to come and visit anytime, if we needed respite from his surroundings…it isn’t much (that we offer), but it is respite, hot shower, home cooked food, the laughter of children, a guitar to strum, and of course prayer.

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