The Least

May 22, 2012
All the sentimental, sweet fiction in the world can’t match the power of one true story.
   It was Olia’s (Oh-lee-ah) baptism day. After several delays and four months of heavy slate gray skies, the February 2004 morning dawned sparkling clear, with the snow shattering the sunlight into rainbows. The young woman was ready for the covenant. She wanted to be a disciple of Christ.
But the Ukrainian city of Gorlovka had only primitive facilities. The people of the city were paid only irregularly for their factory jobs. They live in the old socialist, tenement houses, built in rows of identical cinderblock boxes. The apartments are uniformly infested with cockroaches and every other type of vermin. The water, when it runs at all from their taps, comes out orange.
The mission rented a minibus and hired a driver so that anyone from the branch who wanted to attend the baptism had a ride to Donetsk. Only the wealthy mafia had private cars.  The minibus is about the size of a twelve passenger van, but about twenty people wedged in for the big event. But they were used to the crowding. Sometimes the sister missionaries were given seats on Babushka’s laps on the city buses.
Among the travelers were three young boys, ages twelve, nine and seven. They were from a recently baptised family, but their parents couldn’t go that day.
Misha (a nickname that would translate into English as Mikey) was the seven-year-old. Whether he was eager for the spiritual feast of observing a young woman committing her life to Christ or was just along for the holiday, I don’t know. The baptism went off without a hitch, and after the spiritual feast, the missionaries offered abundant cookies in celebration. Misha was good at celebrating. Misha may not have had anything else in his stomach. Misha was warned by the sisters that he’d get a tummy ache if he ate too many cookies. Misha was seven. He took his chances.
As the happy members piled into the van, Misha didn’t say too much about his belly ache. The heater in the minibus battled the sharp Ukrainian winter resolutely, fending off every gasp of cool air within its walls. The bus rocked and bumped and swerved on the rough Ukrainian roads.
Cookies bubbled up and out,return-to-sender from Misha’s mouth and bathed the front of his clothing.
A middle-aged Brat (Brother) Vasily, whose anti-Mormon wife had drawn his two daughters away from their baptismal covenants, called for the hired bus driver to pull over and stop. He carried Misha out of the bus into the frigid cold. He helped him out of his vomit-soaked clothes and scrubbed him with clean snow. Brat Vasily removed his only coat and wrapped the boy in it. He wiped as much of the foulness off the clothing with snow and then carried handfuls of clean snow into the van. He scrubbed the seat and floor with the snow, pushing it into his bare hands so he could dispose of it outside.
When the van was a clean as it could be with limited resources, the man called for the driver to start again. The man sat beside Misha with his arm around him, comforting him and reassuring the child that everything was fine and nobody minded the odor or the delay.
I am left to wonder how often I demonstrate the covenants I have made to be a disciple of Jesus in the way I treat others. When I observe this sort of gentle kindness, it makes me think I need to be more proactive. I don’t need a public cause, I just need a private commitment to be a little more like Him every day.

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