This afternoon Amy and I walked from the Obolon church to the Dreamtown mall, where we needed to go to the store before continuing to Domino's for lunch.
We walked a path I had walked many times last year, past a small store, through a park, through a neighborhood. Most of the time, I was watching the ground by my feet, so that I would not slip and fall on the ice. At one point I looked ahead and saw a man carrying a rolled-up carpet, but did not stray my eyes to the left or to the right before looking back at the sidewalk.
A few moments later, Amy wondered aloud, "Why are they putting that plastic tarp over that man?" Close to the picnic table--about 15 meters from us--there was an ambulance and three medics who were standing around or otherwise not rushing. These people were covering up a man who had been sitting at the picnic table. We could see his arm (and hand) hanging between the table and bench, along with his feet. Fortunately, nothing else--like his face--was visible to us.
Other people were standing around, watching, and admittedly we stopped and stared for a few minutes. I don't really know how to respond when I see a dead body (obviously, I shouldn't take a picture. that's just creepy). This wasn't something on TV--but something that was really happening before our very eyes. We wondered the cause of death--quite probably the cold (at that point it was around 20*F, at 1:30pm) or alcohol, or both.
Then my mind began to wonder, who was this man? What circumstances in his life had lead him to this point -- of freezing to death in a park, surrounded by many apartment buildings? Was he a husband, a father, a son, a friend? As I write these thoughts, I am watching the part of The Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf falls into a great chasm. The other members of the Fellowship mourn the loss, then must continue on their journey. Who will be mourning the loss of this man tonight?
We continued on our way, talking about what we had just witnessed. Just around the next apartment building, on the next sidewalk, friends, couples, families were walking and enjoying the sunny day, ignorant of what had happened around the corner. Very likely deaths from the cold or alcohol or both are common occurrences. I don't want to forget this (since it was my first time seeing a dead body someplace other than a funeral, I probably won't), and don't want to brush it off as just another experience in Ukraine.
I almost wanted to say to these people, "Do you realize what is happening in your own neighborhood? Do you realize that people are dying deaths that could have been prevented?"
The Church of the Nazarene runs drug/alcohol rehab centers to help those who are caught in addictions. Many of the participants first hear about the programs from their family or friends. The CotN also provides humanitarian aid for people across the country. Volunteers are taking in children as their own in order to stop destructive cycles. Church members are building relationships with their neighbors, in order to share Christ's love and redemption with them.
I wish things could change overnight. I wish we could be rid of these social ills that plague our communities. I wish that I could be a bolder example and storyteller of Christ. I wish that I wasn't so afraid of the unknown or my own inadequacies.
I wish that this contrast of "Christ is already victorious; there is hope for the world already" and "The world is not yet as it should be; redemption is not completed"* could simply be "Christ has come and conquered, and all is well with the world."
I wish that Christ's love (not fear/legalism) could be shouted from the rooftops. I wish that people would believe that God is real, that only God can make us whole, that God restores creation to the way it should be.
Life in Kyiv, Ukraine is much more raw and gritty than you might think.
*In this time of Advent, we are looking towards Christ's birth at Christmas, and His second coming, even though He has already come and lived among us and triumphed over death.
**My iTunes is playing an ironic set of tunes -- "O Holy Night" then "My Jesus."