Our trip to the refugee center with the students got off to a rather rocky start. Well, kind of. We left the school for our 10 minute drive to the center in 6 cars. I was the last car in the group and was following – since I had no idea where I was going. At all. (A side note – I don’t know where things are in Kyiv, unless I have been there and so far only know a few street names. And Google Maps is nearly useless here in Ukraine.) I got stuck in the traffic of the outdoor market and ended up making a wrong turn. I knew that where we were ending up wasn’t right (I know general areas of the city, thankfully) and the long story is that it took me almost an entire hour to get there. Meanwhile, everyone else was already there waiting on me. Not a good beginning!
We started singing immediately after we got things set up. Out of the nearly 180 people living there, we had about 30 in the room with us and some came in and out during our worship time. Once we started singing more came in. It was quite a small room that was tile and concrete so the students voices really carried in the room. It was kind of like singing in a tiled bathroom. They really sounded great.
The people sang with us and many of them were obviously and visibly touched by the words of the songs and scriptures that we read. It was really a special time. We sang a few traditional Russian/Ukrainian songs as well as some songs that we used to sing in America (although, we can’t really call them American worship songs because they have been adopted here and people are often surprised to find out that we sing them in America in English. They don’t know or care that they started out in English.).
These people have either been displaced from the Eastern regions or they have simply not been allowed to return. I don’t want to give details about any of the people we met or their exact circumstances on this public forum, but let’s leave it at saying they are people without a home and without earthly belongings. When we sang “How Great Thou Art,” it was so meaningful to contemplate the absolute greatness of God no matter what our earthly circumstances are. When we sang the song “Still” (the Hillsongs song) there were tears. When we ended with the “Prayer for Ukraine” there was pleading to God for help and then just a reverent silence following the song.
The people we met really want us to bring the kids back again to sing. It was quite a trick getting it scheduled and getting the kids there, but we will do our best to do something there again, even if with fewer kids next time.
It was very sobering to drive up to our comfortable home after being with these people who have lost everything.
On the way out of the hall today, I met a young woman who was so obviously pregnant that I asked about the expected delivery date. (I learned a long time ago to not ask when the baby is due unless I was ABSOLUTELY SURE that the woman is actually pregnant. Ha!) With hope in her eyes and joy in her voice she told me in November. I can’t imagine having a baby in a refugee center. But then again…what new hope always comes with a baby. Maybe it will be a new beginning for her sweet family.
Please pray for these special people we met today. We look forward to our next visit.