Zabarol – I visited here when I was in Ukraine in the spring. Zabarol is a women’s institution, a sanitorium, a place where women go who have no other place to go. Here I met an engineer who is suffering with Parkinson’s disease, a young woman who embroiders beautiful linens, a woman who, for lack of medication for her clinical depression, wouldn’t leave the corner of a stairwell, and so many “Tonyas.” I saw women naked and sick, wrapped only in sheets. A lack of femine hygiene items gave the place a distinctive odor, and yet even so, I sensed the fragrance of Christ upon these ones whom He defends. As we went from room to room, I prayed, with the help of a translator, for these women – that they would know the love of God, that they would see themselves as beautiful daughters of the King, made in His image, that their eyes would be lifted beyond their institutional dwelling to the dwelling place being prepared for them even now. They cried and I cried as I, and the other women with our group, moved from room to room. We passed out bags of crackers, lotions, and granola bars. One woman was having a terrible time opening a granola bar. As I went to help her, she glared at me, clutched the bar to her chest, and refused to let me open it for her. She was afraid I was taking it from her.
Now, I am here, in my home with precious Katya. Most of the time she is absolutely delightful, but occasionally I get a glimpse into her inner world and Zabarol looms at me. Polly Pocket is hard to dress. Katya struggles and struggles. Eventually, I coax her to release the doll into my hand so that I can help her. I show her how to dress her, but she has shut down. Her eyes are glazed over and her hands are lax in her lap. When I try to give the doll back to her, she’s not interested. All I can think is that she’s like the woman at Zabarol, but instead of fighting back and holding to the doll, she gives her up and shuts down. What am I to do? Do I let her struggle and struggle? Or do I help, but cause her to retreat? I’m hoping that through these days of love, simplicity, and kindness, hope will be kindled and Katya will be given a future beyond the institution.
Katya’s orphanage houses children from age 6 to about age 15. According the director of the orphanage that we visited in Rivne, they work to prepare the young women and men to enter society. They work to “socialize” them and give them a trade so that they can be productive citizens. Yet, at Zabarol, there were not only the older women, widows who had no one to care for them in their old age, there were also young women in their late teens and twenties. I couldn’t help but wonder if some of these young women came straight from an orphanage and are condemned to spending the next sixty years fighting for granola bars.
My heart aches for the older women who simply need someone to care for them in their remaining years, to honor them, to sit at their feet and learn from them. My heart aches for the young women who never made it into families, who spent years institutionalized and now seem to have no hope and no future. My heart aches for the thousands of Ukrainian orphans who are fed, schooled, have a warm bed, and a clean toilet, but don’t have mothers and fathers. There is no way that I can personally save them all. And yet, as Albina, one of my Ukrainian friends, said to me, “Cindy, we can’t be indifferent.”
So, I’ve opened myself up to care, and it hurts. But beyond the hurt, deeper than the pain, higher than the mountain of despair, is hope. “I know you are coming back, Jesus. Why don’t you come back NOW and make all things right?” I ask, and yet I know the answer. He’s waiting for the “GO!” from the Father, who is waiting for the full measure of His people to come into the Kingdom. THEN, He will not delay. He will return as a victorous Champion and restore the broken walls, dry the teary eyes, annoint the least of these as the greatest in His Kingdom,and make all things RIGHT.
So, for Katya, I pray. I pray that she will receive healing for the hurt that she has faced in life. I pray that I, my husband, my children, and my church will be vehicles for the Lord’s redeeming work in Katya’s heart. And I pray that as we see the desperation and the desolation in our world, our hearts will not be overwhelmed and turn cold. I pray that we would not be indifferent, but rather that our hearts would be tender to be broken for the things that break the heart of the Father.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing. Psalm 68:5-6b