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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ekaterinburg, Aspect, and the Homeless

Easter Sunday started for me with the daily prayer walk. I was the only one who showed that day. Others were mostly sleeping after the Midnight mass celebration of Easter at the local Orthodox Cathedral. It was a moving service filled with Russian Tradition, icons and ceremony such as the singing, Chanting, bell ringing and candle light worship. The highlight of which was the procession of all present around the cathedral holding a lit candle which had started is
with a light from the Orthodox High Priest and continued in a chain reaction effect in the crown culminating in a Hugh candle light service
We left English Camp after re-loading all the equipment and materials used in the various productions. There were two truck loads of some very heavy equipment.

He group loaded up on a large tour type bus with the folks from Kentucky and a few of the local people who live in Moscow year round. Most were volunteers, one was the wife of the project director for Aventura . It took us about an hour and 30 minutes to reach the north east metro terminal that would take all but us folks from Florida back to their hotels of destination places.
Our group remained on the bus to the Gama Hotel across from the famous Moscow outdoor market. There we dropped off the extra bags we could not take to Ekatrinburg and the took the Orange Line Metro from Rizhskaya to the Brown Prospekt Mira station then the green to Voikovskaya near where I stayed with my Host Family for a week.

Upon arrival we went to the Metropolis mall one block away. Here the team ate mostly American food while I had an ice tea and headed for the Internet café[ 50 rubles for 30 minutes] with very slow speeds.

After the allotted time we went back to the same Metro]green] and rode it to the end of the line Rechnoi Vozkal and there caught the155 local bus to terminal D at Sheramatova airport.

We had arrived at the airport around 11 30 Pm and our flight left at 1 05 AM.
It took us most of the time with passports, checking a few bags and the gruesome Security inspection. We boarded a nice modern Aeroflot 326 airbus to Ekarinsburg, Arrival was on time two hours later, though due to Russia having 11 time zones and they had just lost 2 that very week, we arrived in Ekatrinsburg at 5 00 AM Monday morning.

We were greeted by Igor and Ivan with a large van and Igor’s own car.
Another hour of driving and we finally arrived in the Shelter.
Needless to say we all were looking for a bed. We had tea and cakes and hit the bed.

Around 11 15 AM me Joe and Andrew the other two males of the group were roused up for “Brunch” Soon after Addie laid out or plans for the day.

Addie, Christie, Chantel and Gabby got in the van with Igor and Natashia and headed for the streets. The source of the members in the Shelter, and the location of many, many other homeless people.

The people who receive food and some clothing live under ground in the central hot water heat duct system. For years the Soviets have maintained a system where they build large central heated water systems that serves a large number of buildings in a specific area. It is efficient in that there is only one source of heat for the buildings and it eliminates duplication of multiple heating systems for each building. The down side is that there is one central control for the heating of, say a thousand flats, and there is no individual control for ones particular flat.
As far as the people we are helping, they find ways to “break Into” these duct systems and the are able to stay out of the extreme cold. However, these are dangerous places where many bad people hang out, so it is never safe to live there. Another point is that it is very unsanitary. Most of the people we saw were sniffing glue and other strong solvents like lacquor and Urethane to get high. On our arrival so many of these people emerged from out of thin air knowing that the mission was there to provide food and clothing. Within minutes after arrival we were surrounded by young boys and some older men, two younger women and on this day two Gypsy women who were the mothers of about 5 of the boys.

I brought some baseball hats that were donated by my wonderful Selah Bible Study Group. The kids were so excited that they were getting the hats and food. Look at the faces here and it is heartbreaking to know that this may be the first time they have smiled in a long time. At first it is depressing to see the conditions they live in, then you feel you are really making some small difference in the changing the hopelessness of their lives. They ate up the soup we provided and devoured the bread. This is one of the best meals they probably get all week. Please Praise God for the tireless efforts of the volunteers who do this week in and week out. We asked Igor and his wife how they were able to do this and see the same people over and over and see that their lives of many are not do not seem to be making a permanent change. They told us that if they can help even a few survive and have the Hope of God that He will improve the life of just one then they have fulfilled their mission. I have never seen such an unselfish love for others as I have seen at this mission. And it is true that some do come to the shelter and their lives do change, So there is always Hope and the Love of God that this work is making  a difference.

After we left we visited three other places where many people shared a small room in a flat where there was a common cooking area for three other flats along with a common bathroom. The conditions were deplorable, but at least they were inside a building. However, they still were faced with living in conditions where many of the other people [often as many as 20-30] were also drug addicts and street girls and undocumented folks.

On our last stop we met a girl who had been pregnant several times, and Addie pointed out that she was pregnant again. Another girl there was all white and wane and had cut off her hair in a very jagged style. Addie showed a photo of the same girl a year earlier and we could hardly recognize as the same person. Life on the streets is difficult and it wears on you. [please see for photos by Addie]
Many of these people are killed and there is no record of them. So it is also the mission of the Shelter to help document these people so they exist within the legal system. Think about it, if you had no birth certificate or address or other form of identification would you exist in America. No! Well the system is worse here, and the government has no desire to document these people for to do so would require that they face pressure to help them or give them some sort of government funding. So these people are not just homeless they are nameless and in the eyes of their society they don’t even exist. If it were not for the efforts of our mission they would remain hopeless and helpless. So think of this next time you are asked to support the efforts of Mission Possible.
This girls girlfriend had cut marks all up and down her arm. Conditions of the people and places were so bad I had never seen anything like it. Again I thought of Praises and Glory to the people from the MP shelter who do visit these people at least twice a week and give their time and Love to care for them.

The next day we drove the 130 mile trip o the shelter in Aspect. This is a place where mothers are given shelter and training and where they can come with their babies. All of them face some sort of addiction to drugs or alcohol. The facility is very clean and has a Godly set of rules for the addict mothers. Volunteers help tech them  to properly care for the babies. All of these children were adorable and they were reaching out for us. It made me cry to see them.
The program is yet another testimony to the wonderfulness of God’s work in this area of the world. People come from all over Russia to be here because it is a model Shelter and very well run. Physicians volunteer to come in and check the babies and mothers health. There is a staff psychologist who evaluates the women and recommends treatment for their addictions. When a mother comes in she is not allowed off site for at least the first two months lest she fall prey to the temptation of drugs and Alcohol. Again, the Praise in my heart was for the unselfish giving of the staff who work tirelessly to help out the mothers and children. Just look into the faces of these children and you can see God at work in their eyes. The hope here for me was that these children have bee saved from a life of living in an underground duct bank filled with the evils of drugs, alcohol and sexual abuse. Worse would be the possibility of an early death.

We loaded up the van and headed back to Eketrinsburg to a another church function. This time it was to visit the Tuesday night service held by the Church of the Living God. The service is held in a rented movie theater. This church gathers up homeless boys and girls in the neighborhood and provides them with a service and a small meal. Our mission here was to entertain the children. I am so proud of the talent and efforts of the members of First Baptist. They gave a wonderful performance of song, Dance and a skit with a great moral about keeping away from temptations. Sorry, I can’t sing or dance. I could only give moral support and interact with the children.

They were all thrilled with the performance and all asked a lot of questions about where we live; do we have cars; do we make a lot of money; is there really a lot of shooting in the streets; do we know Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone? They were non stop with such questions.
They especially liked the young ladies in our group and wanted to get their email address. Again, look at the faces of these boys. They live in the streets and have to fend for themselves. They have no home or parents. Yet to see a smile on their faces to me is a miracle. Just one smile from destitute kids like these made the whole trip worthwhile.

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