Sunday, August 10, 2008

Glimpses of Jesus

Have you ever had one of those rare moments where you have seen the love of Jesus embodied here on earth? I mean really see it. In a world with so much sin and brokenness I think sometimes those moments can seem rare. But then you experience one and you never want to forget it, because in that moment you saw a glimpse of Jesus, a snapshot of Christ's love.
I had one of those moments this summer. We have a driver at our mission who is named Nikolai- "Uncle Kolya," as we loving call him for short. Uncle Kolya begged us all spring to take him as our driver to camp- as he wanted to help out and be with the kids. For 2 1/2 weeks Kolya not only served as our driver, but ended up being a leader to the 10-12 year old boys, as we were short on male leaders. Kolya became a father figure to these boys at camp, and I watched amazed as I saw these boys open up to him and look to him as the father they never had. I also stood and watched as tears flowed from this grown man's eyes as he said goodbye to these same little boys at the end of camp. Though seeing his tears moved me, it was a different moment on the beach a few days later that is forever pressed into my memory. The moment when I saw a glimpse of Jesus.

It was about 8:00 on a Tuesday morning, and our team of leaders was meeting on the beach of the Black Sea for morning prayer and devotions. We were sipping our tea and getting ready to begin when a man stumbled over to our group. His name was Sasha. Upon first glance it was apparent that Sasha was an alcoholic-- emaciated and disheveled in appearance from a homeless, alcohol dependent life. His face and hair were caked with sand, showing us where he had spent the previous night. "Give me some Vodka or money"- his crackily voice whispered as fell to his knees beside our group. I felt uncomfortable. What were we supposed to do? We told him no, we couldn't give him money or alcohol. But Sasha wouldn't leave, he just knelt there, unable to move--crying out in pain for the relief he so desperately needed. Our team told Sasha we could give him water, tea, or the cookies we had, and that we could also pray for him. He agreed. So there on the beach our team prayed for Sasha, prayed he could find healing and freedom and cried out to Jesus on his behalf. After the prayer and giving him some water our team began to start our morning devotions, though Sasha still lay near by.

That was when I noticed Kolya.

Without a word, Uncle Kolya got up and walked to Sasha. He knelt down beside him and started to share with him how his life could change, how Jesus could free him of his addiction, how his life didn't have to be like this. I then watched as he grabbed a bottle of fresh water and began to wash Sasha's face with his own hands, pulling out the layers of sand from his bushy beard. Tears streamed down my face as I watched how he then walked Sasha down to the water, and with the help of another leader, he proceeded to bathe Sasha right there in the Black Sea. Kolya then disappeared for a moment and then returned with a clean change of his clothes and donned them on Sasha. There he was, a grown man, helping dress another man--one most likely of the same age. Not much was said throughout this 20 minute interaction, but in my heart I knew I was seeing the face of Christ as I stood silently and watched. I was thoroughly humbled there on the beach that morning. Humbled at the glimpse of Jesus I saw through the loving touch of our Uncle Kolya. Humbled at the grace of God -- how this drunk, homeless man stumbled across a little group of believers on the beach that morning and as a result encountered the love of Christ through the humble service of one brother.

I wish I could say the story ended there, or had a different ending--but sadly, the next day, Sasha died there on the beach. Just several yards away from where we had met him. He died with one of our leaders right next to him, who had been giving him water and had prayed with him in his final moments of life. I have no idea where this man was in regards to his relationship with Jesus when he died--I can only pray and hope. But I have this sense in my heart that it wasn't a coincidence that out of all the people on the beach that morning, Sasha found our little group, that Sasha met Kolya and was ministered to, or that when he died, he died in the presence of one of our leaders.

In a strange way I think it was God's mercy. Another glimpse of Jesus.

6 comments:

Heidi and Felix said...

Karen,

I am always amazed at the awesome power of the grace of God. Indeed, he sent that man there, he placed your group there, and he chose your group for Sasha to spend his final minutes with. Thank you for sharing this amazing story. It reminded me to thank God for all I have and for his grace he has bestowed on all of us through his adoption of us through his son, Jesus Christ. I pray to see Sasha in heaven one day!

God bless you, Karen.

Felix

SET said...

So incredibly moving, Karen... Thank you for sharing!

Mike and Gail said...

Wow!!

Thanks for sharing.

Annie said...

This is one of the most beautiful and powerful stories I have ever heard. It reminds me of Mother Teresa and her sisters, who cannot always make a permanent difference in people's lives, but only make their last months, weeks, years, days, hours ones where they experience the love of God, through the hands of His servants - maybe for the first time in their lives. Uncle Kolya is a hero of mine. Also, I must say that you have some of the most beautiful photos here that I've ever seen.

The Lont Family said...

I teared up the day you told me this story a couple weeks ago, and I now have tears streaming down again as I read your reflection of this experience. It really is a precious memory to be treasured.

Debbie said...

Wow. I am so touched by this story and that God has given you the privilege of seeing Him work through His servant Kolya firsthand. Thank you for sharing.

I'm glad to "meet" you; Heidi and Felix talk about you often. :-)

~Debbie in Colorado