Tokens of Love and Gratitude to Christ | Part 16

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Until We Dance at the Foot of God’s Throne

Doug and Roma pastor outside church, where on Sunday it's standing room only

Doug and Roma pastor outside church, where on Sunday it’s standing room only

Our missionaries, Doug and Marina Landro, are a unique couple. Doug is a longstanding member of Camelback Bible Church, having ministered among us and on our behalf for over two decades, and Marina, an optometrist, is Ukrainian. Together, they pour their lives into reaching their community with the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Doug pursues a multi-pronged approach to ministry. He helps his local church with teaching and the construction of new facilities, such as a welcome center and rooms for discipleship. He reaches out to international students in Uzhgorod, including both a large contingent of post-graduates from India and Ukrainian refuges from eastern regions of the country. He coaches youth pastors and youth ministers all over Ukraine. And he ministers to the downtrodden Roma (Gypsy) communities of Uzhgorod.

Marina is the youth pastor of their local church and a gifted mother of three children, the oldest of whom, Bogdon, was a great translator and friend to the three of us, especially to Jonathan.

Roma collecting water from the town's only faucet, installed by Doug and his church

Roma collecting water from the town’s only faucet, installed by Doug and his church

Perhaps the most moving experience in Uzhgorod was a trek to the outskirts of town and the Roma communities to see Doug’s ministry among this neglected segment of society. In Slovakia, the largely unemployed Roma are supported by government programs. In Ukraine, they are forgotten and ignored.

Doug and his church have cleared large heaps of rubbish from Gypsy villages and provided people with dumpsters. In one particularly impoverished village, where there is no running water in homes, Doug has installed a community water faucet underneath a small shelter. A steady line of women and children come throughout the day to fill their pots with this precious liquid asset.

Just as in Slovakia, the Roma in Ukraine brim with warmth and express genuine gratitude to us for visiting their village. The privilege, however, is clearly ours. To mix with this struggling group of joyous human beings could not help but inspire our hearts, slow our pace, and prompt searching questions such as what it is that actually constitutes fullness of life.

To this question, many Roma have found the best answer of all. Doug introduced us to a Roma pastor whose church is so packed on Sunday mornings that many people must stand outside. The pastor beamed when I asked him how he came to trust in Christ as his Lord and Savior and why he, the pastor, continues to live for the Lord.

Lesli reaching out

Lesli reaching out

He told of earlier days when he was wasting his life through drugs and illegal activities, albeit achieving, unlike most of his Roma neighbors, a measure of prosperity. But, he asked rhetorically, ‘How prosperous was a life mired in moral filth?’

Hands raised worlds apart meet in Christ

Hands raised worlds apart meet in Christ

When a friend told him about the reality of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, he did not hesitate to commit his life to the Lord. Since then, he’s been a pastor, a blessing more wonderful in his mind than anything he could have deserved.

Doug told me that this pastor is different from other pastors, in the sense that he never asks for anything – money, food, or clothes. On saying goodbye, I couldn’t resist passing him inconspicuously a folded 200 hrynia bill, the equivalent of 10 American dollars or three days wages in Ukraine. Discretely, he tucked it in his pocket, preserving a secret between the two of us. Then his eyes welled up with tears and, stretching out his arms, he pulled me into himself, giving me a bear-hug that lasted many moments.

I had done so little. Plus, it didn’t seem at all right to enter this man’s life one moment and then exit the next. Surely, I could do more to serve him. And, yet, I may never see him again, not until we dance together at the foot of God’s throne.

I will return to Arizona. He will stay in Uzhgorod. How I do wish I had more lifetimes to minister Christ’s love in other parts of the world.

It is my greatest longing.



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