Sergei looked up from his notebook. “Your words spoke to my heart, Jeanette. Here I have written: ‘I’m not going to pretend anymore.'”
And then a big can of worms dumped out onto the floor. What had been (or seemed like) a light-hearted, celebratory mood turned gloomy. Sergei (who was acting as Luba’s assistant) and another guy, Alexander, started arguing about some (seemingly) petty chain of command issue. Another guy, Dimitri (who had just returned to the center the day before and was in drug-withdrawals), got really agitated and left the room. So did Sergei.
Things got worse. A lot worse.
Often, God’s Word works like a scalpel. Its truth cuts into our hearts and works to remove the diseases there that keep us bound in misery. This spiritual surgery is painful–and hard to do in public. Witnessing several surgeries going on at once was stressful for me too. We left the Center exhausted and wondering if we made a difference.
I’m sharing all this so you will know that ministry has its challenging and discouraging times. My expectations were based on past visits to the Center where we had parties, banyas, tasty food from the garden, lots of singing and generally good camaraderie. This year, God had a different plan.
Part of that plan included a guy name Renat. A former street boxer and from a Muslim family, he turned 40 in rehab while we were there. The peace in his heart was evident, in spite of lots of good-natured teasing that came his way. When I shared with the group about the novel I’m writing, he was quick to volunteer his story of being a street thug during peristroika times…and part of a mafia racketeering gang. He was in prison more than once and remembered a lot, even though it was 20 years ago. Before we left, he said that having someone listen to him and care about his story was a birthday gift he will treasure forever–much better, he said, than any material present.
Thank you, Renat. YOU made a difference.