Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Lost Sheep...A Shepherds Plight

It was warmer in Moldova...

I didn't think I'd have much use for long underwear once we left Moldova, and although I left about two-thirds of my winter clothes behind to be distributed as needed, I hesitated on leaving the underwear - quite frankly the idea of giving someone "used" underwear, even long underwear seemed kind of creepy to me. As it turns out, I need it now...freezing rain, sleet and bone-chilling cold have set upon San Antonio, and believe me, we ain't used to this stuff.

In Moldova, I don't think the temperature ever got above 39 any day we were there, and we had some wet/snowy weather..

Maybe it's the fact we're back in San Antonio that it seems so much colder...that and the cold harsh reality that the heater in our primary car is not exactly a blast furnace, something which also is not a critical need most days, but I feel far colder today than I ever felt in Eastern Europe.

Not to say it wasn't chilly in Moldova, in more ways than one.

I'm still working on getting coats to the kids who asked/prayed for them, but the Eastern Europe Director for CERI has told me essentially that it would cost me more to ship them to Moldova than to buy them, and suggested I give money to CERI to wire to a contact there with instructions to buy the coats, as he put it, "Moldova is not a philanthropy friendly country." U.S. mail is out, FED-Ex is a possibility. Right now, the point is moot since any "sales" on winter coats in San Antonio have likely been postponed due to a surge of opportunistic capitalism...until this ice storm passes.

Anyway, as I alternately huddle between the fireplace and the glow of the computer monitor, my thoughts today have been about reaching kids. There are a couple of reasons for this, not all of which deal with Moldova.

While in Moldova, I was teamed with two "experienced" guys - men who have been there before and who are each "sponsoring" children at the orphanage where we spent the bulk of our time - to teach a "voluntary" daily Bible study class. It was very basic stuff, lessons on the Widow's Mite, God's Gift of Jesus, the story of the sacrifices made by Mary and Joseph...

All the lessons were intended to touch on the idea of the true nature of giving.

Our class was made up of pre-teen and teen boys and you can imagine their enthusiasm...if you can't, here's a picture.

Oh yeah, they were thrilled. Most days we simply tried to keep them participating, and the nature of the "message" drifted quickly to how they were going to be tempted, and it wasn't going to be easy to make the right choices which we tried our best to tie back to our basic theme of the day...with a modicum of success.

For a couple of days though our "conversations" quickly turned into debates between my cohorts, myself and one kid who really didn't belong in our class. A big kid, whose name no one could tell me, except to say he was "Sasha's brother." Sasha is apparently a kid who has already left the orphanage and was also known as something of a trouble maker. The name he wrote on the name tag I gave him, I'm fairly certain was actually a suggested position for my head, which would be anatomically impossible to assume.

He was argumentative, foul-mouthed (although the translator tried to censor some of his language), and arrogant.

He was angry...and he was seeking.

He yelled, and spouted out questions, tough questions about theological differences between Baptists and the Orthodox church. This went on for some time, and when I gave him my best answers, he eventually spewed what I assumed were curses...

The translator finally looked at me somewhat awkwardly and said, "He doesn't want to hear from you anymore."

I took that as something of a success...I can debate with the best of them, but it helps to know what the other party is saying...I figured if I frustrated him into cussing me out, he at least didn't have an answer.

After our first day of this "debate," one of the guys I was working with turned to me and said, "He's the lost sheep."

I didn't want to disagree. I'm familiar with that parable, and I couldn't say he was wrong...per se.

The next day's "lesson" was dominated by the same kid in much the same way and it was then I began to ponder the "lost sheep" parable a bit deeper.

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders..."

I would love nothing more than to bring this young ruffian to Christ, but our time in Moldova with this batch of kids was extremely limited. I soon stopped participating in the argument and started trying to re-gain the attention of the other kids...passing out photographs I had taken, giving them some small treats, and letting them peruse photos I had brought along of our family, and friends.

By the time I left Moldova, I had made peace with that one kid, but I felt I had at least reached a number of the others a bit more deeply. It will take far more work than I was able to do to convince them Christ is the answer to all their problems...Christ-like work.

Maybe I was wrong, but it seemed to me that there were are a lot of lost sheep in the "open country" of that classroom, and not near enough shoulders.

Throughout Moldova, the number of "lost sheep" is in fact staggering.

I think it was Plato who said, "Know thyself mortal."

It's on cold, somewhat lonely, days such as this that I feel I must still remind myself of the only "non-mortal" whose shoulders are broad enough to carry us all.