I saw God work in a few different ways this week. Here are a few stories:
The day before we opened the playground to the public, we invited children to play some field games and relays at the local stadium/soccer field. Many children came and we raced, used the parachutes, and competed. We had 10 adults in charge of over 50 children. Only one of the adult volunteers, spoke the language, Kazak! But somehow we made it work with only one translator! I guess you could say that the children understood the language of love and that we cared about them. After the games we told them to invite all their friends to come the next day for the opening, there would be games, gifts, a pool, and a trampoline.
The day of the opening we had to finish the work, clean up, and decorate the area with some finishing touches, and of course, fill the pool with water. The children stood at our gate the whole day and played in the street while waiting to be let in. Later some parents complained that their children wouldn’t even eat breakfast because they were so excited to run outside and be the first to be let in to the playground!
Finally, the time came to cut the blue ribbon and let the stampede flood in. There they stood, towels around their necks, standing there since morning in childlike anticipation. What a sight it was to see them crawl all over the place, running too and fro, the tickets that they earned in their hands, eager to them spend on an activity. Many of them never have the opportunity to jump on a trampoline or swim in a pool. The village we were in does not have either.
I was in charge of guarding and supervising trampoline use. I will never forget the looks on each of their faces as they held out a blue tickets as close to my face as possible! And even more in my heart and memory are the numerous goofy smiles and uncoordinated jumps of kids who never experienced a trampoline before.
After that day, I realized how beyond honored I was to be a part of such a project.
But we only did the easy part. We came for three days, built the playground, and left. But the hard work begins now for those local believers. They have to feed the kids every day, and will try to raise them to know God. These children are either neglected or left at home without parents because their parents have to work. Please pray for God to raise up consistent and long-term ministers for this Hope Center. Please pray that God will raise up a native minister do this ministry because they will understand the culture and the Kazak language.
Around ten to fifteen minutes before we opened the playground, a contentious neighbor woman came to yell at us.
She said “who are you people? Why are you taking our kids from home? Why aren’t our kids eating at home but ran here today? We don’t know what you’re teaching them or feeding them!”
Another woman who apparently was the mayors wife came and said “have you gotten permission to do this? Does the major know?”
We started to pray and sent a message to our prayer partners. Within an hour all was well, the women calmed down and the situation was settled. The people who were the most contentious and skeptical left the most happy and agreeable. Later we were told that when we sent the message, believers from all over the world were praying for us! It gives me chills to think of it, the power of prayer, and the help of the Lord to answer! Our team marveled at this many times in the following days.
Our team was hand picked by God. One of our leaders who coordinated the project expressed how concerned she was that this team wasn’t gonna work out.
She thought, “we have to American men, two long-term German volunteers, and two short term Germans, one of which can’t speak a lick of Russian, and we have a girl from America! All flying in at the same time and most not knowing each other. We don’t know any of their skills, or who they are, how are we gonna make a playground??”
But we all brought the needed skills to the group. One happened to know how to weld, and we needed a welder. When we were putting up the fence, one happened to have experience working at a chain-link fence company. And everyone got along like old friends. We truly became like a family, along with the local believers and staff of the Mission Organization.
I was so blessed to be a part of this team. I learned so much about The Lord, and about the Christian faith through fellowship with these guys. Praise God! All blessings flow from him.
Another incredible experience I had was visiting a Kazak home and having a full course Kazak meal where I tried several things for the first time:
Camel hump meat
All in the same sitting.
Praise God for strong stomachs! And probiotic supplements!
The Kazak tradition is to bring out the head of the sheep or ram on a platter and give it to the guest of honor. They will then cut off pieces of the head and give it to people sitting around the table and give them a wish or blessing. Thankfully we never got around to eating the brains. My friend received an ear, so that he will listen as much as he speaks. And I received the tongue, so that my words will bring a spark of hope and not a forest fire.
And that’s as close as I ever got to kissing a sheep.
Stay tuned, fam!