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Hunter Reports in from Russia

By Lt. Colonel R. William Hunter – 

R. William and Barbara Hunter The Lighthouse Corps is a Salvation Army congregation and ministry reaching out to the homeless and dispossessed of Kiev in the country of Ukraine. It is tragically easy to become displaced in this country. Due process of law is unknown, and when a member of a household is arrested, the entire personal property of that person and their family is immediately confiscated and, as the term is, they are de-documented.

The person, be it mother or father, is sentenced to a term in prison, usually of long duration with little likelihood of survival. The remainder of the family, within hours of the arrest, is turned into the streets, regardless of the time of year. No one can work because they have no documents. I am told that people survive, in the winter, about six months under these conditions. This is not history. This is last Sunday.

Many of the children attending the Lighthouse Corps live as best they can in the underground stations of the Metro. They beg. They steal. They do the unimaginable. And they call it, for want of a better word, survival.

There are others who attend this corps. Some of them are described in “A Chaos of Uniform.” They largely have in common the lack of a home; not temporarily, but as a permanent address. There are alcoholics. I have heard and wept over their testimonies and seen the ordinary essentials of life described with an awe and a gratitude that has never been my privilege. I have seen men younger than me, whose only activity was waiting to die, stand in a small group and sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in words that I can’t say, and mean them with a reality that I have yet to experience. I have seen men with a desperation to help each other because of certain knowledge that they will soon need such help themselves, and wonder if I will ever know what it means to “bear one another’s burdens.”

Others attending the Lighthouse Corps are the babushkas. A babushka is a grandmother or old woman. They have a uniform: a large, heavy overcoat and a scarf folded in a triangle and knotted under the chin. They seem to share a common posture-the painful folding of the body that is the sure sign of osteoporosis. They too have a permanent address of nowhere. It was overwhelming to see what a Salvation Army uniform could do for the babushkas.

The changing room for people in “A Chaos of Uniform” is the nearest alley or doorway. I shudder to think of how much time I can take putting on my uniform.

From time to time, the city decides to do something about the homeless, usually in the wintertime. They send buses around to gather them up. Nothing like a ride in the country to see the snow, except it’s a one-way trip. And to make it even more interesting, there is a cool hosing off in the sub-zero temperature before the buses leave them miles from the city. Somehow, many survive.

Frankly, this is happening too fast for me. I’ve only been here three and a half weeks as I write these words. If I’m here much longer, I’m sure I will die. I genuinely hope so.

In the midst of all this, only by the grace of God, Captain Lois Dueck walks with power and hope among the people. Of course, her real name is Christ. And the homeless and dispossessed of Kiev know that immediately. In fact, they seem to have gotten the preposterous notion that they, too, can become Christ. Since they don’t know any better, they do. Their faith is amazing. Their works bring dimension to Christ’s promise that those who came after him would do even more than he did.

My orders to the Russia/CIS Command indicated that I was to play a part in the leadership of this command. I’m not ready for that, so I’m just going to try and serve for a while.

 


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