Monday, March 30, 2015

Христос воскрес - Christ is Risen! Воістину Воскрес - Indeed, He Is Risen!

The past few days have been a whir of ministry. Not necessarily because of Easter, but just every day ministry. We have been swamped. Not before being blessed a number of times, however. Tonight and tomorrow I want to tell you two true happenings that blessed us and made me really think of what is truly important. Enjoy!

Our pastor and his family were missionaries in the Ukraine for many years. Yesterday during our church service our pastor's wife told a story about one Easter early in their ministry.

During the Easter season it was a common tradition to greet everyone with the phrase "Christ is Risen" during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. The one being spoken to was to respond "He is risen, indeed." Then, on Easter Sunday it was a common tradition to exchange a loaf of "paska" or Easter bread. This sweet bread, usually home made, often looked something like a tall cupcake.

Their family lived in a house that from the outside looked like a run down shack but inside was quite nice. That was actually good, because all around them were high rise apartments that sometimes weren't very nice themselves. Of course, everyone knew where the American missionaries lived, and it would have looked bad if they had lived in a really nice house. Then everyone would have thought that they were rich Americans. By not having a nice house, it made them more equal and, therefore more approachable to their Ukrainian neighbors.

Outside of their home, by the street, was a big dumpster. Before too long after moving in, they noticed a woman who looked as if she was in her 60's sifting through the trash in the dumpster and hunting for food. They later found out that she lived in the cemetery in a type of trash receptacle that was used to dispose of the excess or dead grave flowers.

After a few days of watching this lady scrounge in the trash, they decided to take the leftovers that they had from their meals and put it in bags to hang on the out side of the dumpster for her to find. Even if they didn't have any leftovers, they would make sure they hung something out there. They didn't know if the woman even knew who was leaving the leftovers, neither did they really care. They just wanted to make sure that the homeless woman was fed.

They never really met the lady. One day our pastor just happened to be outside when the lady came and got the food. He greeted her and realized how poor and disheveled she was. That was the only encounter they had with her. Until about eight months after they moved.

It was Easter and they were learning the Ukrainian Easter traditions including greeting one another with Христос воскрес - Christ is Risen! Or responding with Воістину Воскрес - Indeed, He Is Risen! They also learned the tradition of giving the paska - Easter bread to friends and family.

Христос воскрес!

Воістину Воскрес!

They recall that on Easter Sunday they heard a knock on the door. When they answered they saw standing there the poor, homeless lady with a paska in her hand. As she was handing them the Easter bread she simply said "Христос воскрес" to which they responded "Воістину Воскрес". Then she was gone.

Our pastor's wife said that probably the woman had spent all that she had buying that bread. This time, though, it was the homeless lady that didn't care what anyone thought. She had noticed the love given to here by complete strangers and through them, she saw the love of Christ. And, He, made all the difference.

Christ is Risen!

He is Risen, indeed!

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