I am thinking of Vika. She comes into my mind while I am watching the children of my church congregation rehearsing for this year’s nativity play. One of the ‘shepherds’ is just saying:
“I don’t see how anything could change our life to the better. Why should anyone care for us?”
Vika lives in Belarus. I met her in a children’s home. Igor, the Bible Society’s CEO, had taken me down to the South of the country, to the region which 30 years ago had most been affected by the explosion of block 4 in Chernobyl, on Ukrainian territory, right across the border. This part of Belarus is still the most contaminated area today, and many people there feel left alone, with no perspective for the future.
A provisional solution
Although she was 10, Vika looked like a six year-old to me. She was shy too. Together with three of her brothers and sisters she was staying for a few weeks in this home, whilst her mother was in hospital giving birth to another child. They were happy to be here, they had made friends with the other kids and enjoyed the warm and peaceful atmosphere of this home where everything was clean and nicely arranged. Later we learnt from Irina, the director of the institution, that shelter and care is provided for children whose parents are unable to look after them. It is a provisional solution; after a few weeks the children will either go back home or will be sent to a foster family.
Vika was cautiously looking through the Children’s Bible that we gave her, with visible interest, and we understood from her comments and answers that she was not very familiar with Bible stories. But what she did recognise and liked most was the story when Jesus was born – Christmas. She had already told us her greatest hobby was to write stories herself, so we encouraged her to write the Christmas story down in her own words and read it to her friends. She seemed to like the idea. When we left, dinner time was approaching and she gave us a beautiful smile while she was carefully laying the table for everyone in the big room.
The Bible Society team is visiting this place regularly to bring books for the children. Thanks to Irina’s personal interest and Christian commitment the ministry was started, and all children who spend a couple of weeks here get a chance to receive a Children’s Bible and read or hear the stories. For many of them, it will be the first time.
On the following day, we visited a nearby hospital. A doctor and a nurse, both committed Christians, had invited the Bible Society team to bring Bibles and children’s books to the hospital library. It was Sunday, and we were guided around the children’s department. In one of the rooms we found a woman who was absent-minded, her eyes not taking any notice of us; we were unable to communicate with her. The only thing we could do was to wish her all the best and God’s blessing. Outside, Igor explained that I had met her other children on the previous day. She was Vika’s mother! She had psychiatric difficulties and could not take care of her children. Yet she had just given birth to another child.
Listening to the little ‘shepherds’ sharing their hopelessness in our rehearsal I was reminded of this family in Belarus, wondering how Vika and her family would spend Christmas. Would they be together? I imagined Vika reading the Christmas story to her family from the Children’s Bible that she had received, or from her notebook where she may have written it down in her own words. She could be like their angel, bringing them hope and good news…