A report from Doug Brendel to all who support or follow our New Thing ministry in Belarus...
Welcome back, New Thing...
Home to the homeless
It’s like coming home, visiting this “soup kitchen” in Minsk.
We’ve been visiting these homeless folks so long, we have old friends here.
Valentina is always the first to greet me.
When my daughter Lydia joined me on a visit years ago, she gave Valentina a school photo.
She kept it — and asked for a new one each time I visited after that. I brought her #5 this time.
Pastor Sasha has been feeding and helping the homeless and poor of Minsk for many years.
In a culture that for decades denied there was such a problem as homelessness, this can be a tough row to hoe.
The group currently rents a humble “café” fashioned from the basement of a Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
New Thing offers modest support to Sasha’s work here.
Thanks to the generosity of friends like you, on this visit we were able to contribute about two months’ rent on their basement space.
This man is my hero. He’s the pastor of this church.
He alone among the pastors of Minsk welcomed the people Sasha calls “my homeless.”
You can imagine how many tons of food this ministry requires every year.
Sasha raises funds where he can (he’s an accomplished painter, and sells his artwork in the U.S., Sweden, and elsewhere).
Viktor and Faina have been serving with Sasha’s ministry forever.
(Faina keeps scrupulous books for the ministry, entirely by hand.)
The lunchtime meal for homeless people is only one component of the work.
Sasha’s team also delivers meals to a shelter for those who are not ambulatory, provides for needy families, and more.
I always try to make a point of greeting every individual.
These folks have been so completely ostracized by society, many are clearly surprised that a stranger is willing to physically touch them.
It was heartbreaking to meet 5-year-old Matthew. He’s is the first child I’ve ever seen at this daily lunch for homeless people.
Little Matthew is disabled, his mom explains, and does not use words.
But like any mom, she loves it when a visitor points out how handsome her little man is!
Volodya was part of this group back in 2010, when we shot portrait-photographs of all who were willing, and published them in a beautiful book called Look at Me.
Volodya is delighted that he’s “famous in America” now.
His good-looking pal Zhenya (who also has a beautiful baritone voice perfect for radio) says — with no hint of irony — that he was too insecure about his looks to be included in the book.
Sasha, Faina, and Valentina all appeared in the book along with Volodya. But most have slipped away.
Did they get on their feet? Were they taken in by friends or family?
Did they find work? Health? Love?
Or did they meet a more disturbing end? We have no way of knowing.
We only know that we loved them when we could, and left them in God’s hands.
God bless you for bringing love when you can, to the people of Belarus.
And so our latest excursion in Belarus comes to an end.
Thanks for journeying with us!
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