Friday, May 29, 2009

тому що ми не можемо забути

I find it uplifting that days which feel the most ineffectual can often be redeemed by a few short hours of extreme purpose.  Last night, several members of the Faceless team had a great opportunity to get to bed early, yet chose to abandon it for talk of future hopes and dreams. Not dreams of fame and fortune but of a coming movement.

As so many people warned me, I was shocked by what I saw when I first arrived at this orphanage. I had mentally prepared in the weeks leading up to this trip for the worst possible scenario. I pictured sad and hungry children, wearing tattered clothes and sole-less shoes. Visions of Oliver Twist asking “please sir may I have another” tormented me in my sleep, but even my darkest expectations could not come close to reality.

Strangely though, the atmosphere was not worse than my imagination, but far better. Despite the mullet being the haircut of choice, the orphans are dressed far more stylishly than ever was when I was their age, and we’ve eaten 4 healthy meals a day since we arrived. Most of the kids are constantly smiling and joking and laughing and the orphanage they call home isn’t half bad.

Today, as I was updating my Facebook status, Alyona, a 16 year old Ukrainian girl, who earlier in the morning had stolen one of the work gloves off my hand, barked at me in Ukrainian to get out of my chair. As soon as I stood, she confiscated the chair and a computer and gave me the universal symbol for “talk to the hand.” This is our relationship and it started when I made smores for her and her friend Vika at the campfire.

It’s not hard to imagine these girls living a life in the United States.  If you put them in a line up with American girls of the same age, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. What is hard to imagine is that statistically, Alyona and Vika are more likely to be sold into sex slavery than to have a career or get married.

Of the kids we’ve gotten to know while we’ve been here, let’s say 10 girls and 10 boys, the statistics say that 2 will commit suicide before the age of 18, 6 of the girls will be forced into prostitution and 7 of the boys will enter into a life of crime.  Though it doesn’t show on their face, Alyona, Vika, Oksana, Shasha 1, Sasha 2, Mischa, Olya and Sergei hold little hope for a bright future, and a vast majority of the United States is unaware that this tragedy exists. My hope is that when they become informed, they choose to act instead of changing the channel, closing the magazine, or clicking to another web page. The convenience of distraction is one of evil’s closest allies.

Earlier today, a couple of the guys and I made the 10 minute trek into town in search of a moneychanger and something cold to drink. On the way we ran into 2 of our orphan friends. The kids look forward to days like this because it is when they receive their monthly allowance from the government. The allowance adds up to 600 grivna or about 80 US dollars. It’s the only money they receive and it is usually blown on frivolous items that most teens are prone to buying. Mischa, one of the teens who met us on the street, had other plans for at least part of his money. As he approached us, he handed Danny a red tin box. Danny opened it to find a detailed collector’s knife, a gift from Mischa. Stunned, we walked with the boys into town. When we got to the moneychanger, Mischa motioned to us that we didn’t need to change in our money, that he had some that we could use if we needed. Stunned again. After finding nothing in the stores we started to walk back to the orphanage. After passing a group of merchants on the street we stopped to wait up for Mischa who was trailing behind. As we turned, we saw him putting money into the cup of an old beggar woman whom my friends and I had walked by without noticing. As if this wasn’t enough, when we got back, he had bought a chocolate bar for all of us to share.

It astounds me that a teen that has been dealt such a hard deck in life can be so generous. It makes me want to fight for him that much harder. These are not worthless degenerates that can serve no better purpose in life. These are loving, caring human beings with loads of potential that weren’t fortunate enough to win the ovarian lottery and wind up born in the U.S.A.

We’ve been blessed as a country and it is our turn to bless others. You have been informed. The question is what will you do about it?  Will you choose to be a part of a movement that won’t carry your name or your personal achievements, but that will change the course of history? Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and catch a glimpse of what the world we live in is really like? Are you willing to inform yourself and others about the tragedy that exists no further than an ride away from your own front lawn? Or will you switch on Conan and forget about it?

The choice is yours.


Paul said...

Hey Josh- Great blogging. You put forth a healthy challenge and are generating some tough thoughts. But I sure do appreciate all of it. You're right, it is easy to turn on Conan, escape and ignore everything around us.

I'll continue to pray for you and your team every day. Hope you feel better. Looking forward to more blog entries.

In Him,
Paul Ternes

Anonymous said...

Wow Josh, this was such a great blog... definitely eye opening. It looks like you're doing some pretty amazing things there and making a huge impact on the people you're meeting!