They drove nearly 300 km to see us, across the border from Belarus, where we cannot enter. We only had a few hours with them, but it was a sweet and precious meeting.
Sergei is a church-planter in Belarus. He and his wife Marina have four children – one of which is disabled. Because of this Sergei receives a small grant from the government to look after him. This in turn enables to work in service to the Lord full-time; a small mercy for which he and Marina are grateful. I think William Cowper would identify with this – God does indeed sometimes work in mysterious ways.
Sergei’s church is small – only around 15 people on a Sunday. They meet in a small building that has an adjacent building where he teaches bible classes during the week to young people. Three orphans (in their late teens and early twenties) attend this church that Sergei and Marina have worked with over the years. Two of them have repented. Sergei proudly showed me photographs of them and beams. This fruit from their labour gives them such joy.
Later, with the help of an interpreter (yes I had to manage on my own for a while), Richard and I pressed a little deeper as to their personal needs. They are great. They live in a tiny apartment that they own, but it is very inadequate. They have to climb five sets of stairs to get to it each day, which is very problematic for Marina who needs an operation on a hernia. She is in danger of badly injuring herself. Yet she cannot afford to take time away from her children, who are still very needy at this age. Their eldest son (the one who is disabled) plays the violin and is advancing well but cannot progress further because his instrument is too old and worn out. He also has no music stand.
As they shared these things my hearts was touched in a particular way. I wanted to dig into my bag and pull out fistfuls of money – I would give them all I had if Richard had not restrained me. I wanted to argue with him but thought better of it; Richard has more experience in such things, and I need to learn. We have many more church planters to meet and funds are limited. We rolled out USD$400 for them and even that seemed so insufficient.
I couldn’t help but apologize to them for not helping them more. They shook their heads vigorously and said, “Seeing you is enough.” I wanted to weep. Richard asked me to pray and Natasha interpreted. I poured out my soul to the Lord for this precious couple and asked that that he may lift their eyes from these present troubles and burdens and gaze upon the glories to come, where there will be no more tears or hardships and their greatest longing will be fulfilled, when they see Jesus face to face. When I was finished they were both crying. The interpreter was crying. It was difficult to stay composed.
Lord Jesus, please pour out your mercy on these children of yours. Lovingly care for them and strengthen them and provide for their needs.
(From left to right): Ivan (pronounced Eevan) and his wife Lena, Natasha our interpreter and Sergei and Marina.