A story from one of our missionaries who served in Central Asia for many years.
The ground was covered with 30cm of fresh snow – glistering, white but freezing cold. Svetlana was one of the babushka’s (grandmothers) who wandered the streets in the village where we worked. She was 75 years old. I often saw her huddling under a heap of dirty used clothing, sitting on some rags near the entrance of a bazaar. She begged for a few ‘tenge’ from passers-by to purchase a few morsels of food to stop the hunger pangs. I knew her story well because she has told it to me many times, when I had stopped to give her food.
Her tragic story began 20 years ago. At the time, a healthy 55 year old Svetlana still prepared the ground in her small six acre property at the foothills of the Altai Mountain range. Her husband had passed away many years ago and her 30 year old son was serving in the army. It had been a while since she had heard any news from him and she was concerned. However, her trust in the ‘ideological system’ that she had fought so hard for in her youth, is strong.
On that fateful day, a stranger came knocking at her door, bearing a bleak message. Her son was very sick and needed expensive medical treatment from the city. Svetlana panicked. She wished that she had wings that could just carry her to the side of her precious son. Svetlana had no money and the medial treatment needed not just a few hundred ‘tenges’, but thousands. She needed funds for her son’s medical bills, her travel, lodging and food, but had none.
Svetlana’s neighbours were unable to help because they too shared Svetlana’s impoverished situation. There were also no relatives to call upon.
Help came in the form of the strange messenger. He had heard of her family needs and her impending trip to the city. Upon hearing of her financial plight, he offered her a solution. He was willing to purchase her land and property for six thousand tenges. Svetlana was elated. She signed over her land, house and livestock (a few chickens and a couple of goats) to this nice man.Svetlana then packed her bag and set out for the city. The journey took her about seven days by bus, train and courtesy truck rides.
On arrival, Svetlana immediately headed for the hospital to visit her son. To her surprise, her son was not there. Thinking that she had been mistaken about the location, Svetlana tried the other hospitals. After searching for more than two weeks and spending a large portion of her funds on food and lodging, Svetlana called the Army Department.
A search by the Army Department revealed that her son was not in the city but actually classified as ‘Missing In Action’. This came as a thunderbolt to her. She not only was unable to see her son, but had no way of knowing if he was still alive. It seemed like the news about her some was incorrect.
Fearing that she may have been cheated, Svetlana decided to return to her village.
On arrival in her village, she discovered that her worst fears had come to pass. The transfer of her property had been finalised and she was now homeless in her own home town. She tried to look for the man who gave her the news regarding her son but he was nowhere to be found.
Now homeless, Svetlana traveled back to the city. After 6 months of waiting and traversing between government departments, Svetlana’s finances were depleted. Having no marketable skills or ability, she resorted to standing in the bazaars to beg.
When I met Svetlana, she had been begging for almost 17 years. She is a widow, homeless and had no access to welfare support. Her home was the neighbouring stairwells, basements of bus terminals or among the stalls in the bazaar. She was frail and suffering from bad eyesight and arthritis. The ideological system that she fought so hard for in her youth did nothing to help her in her twilight years. There has never been any news about her son.
Svetlana was one of the recipients of a Food Program that we started. Through this program, she and hundreds of other people like her, receive regular meals.
Svetlana is one of those unreached who needs to know the love of Christ.
Will you help bring the Gospel to her?