Creeping between my sleeping comrades to the door, I slip into my sandals and enjoy the fresh air in the overgrown garden. In the farthest corner of the house we were lent stands the privy, decorated with cardboard and spider webs. Fortunately there’s still some water in the plastic bucket and I can freshen up before the day’s work begins. Until all the others are awake, I fetch some pails of water from the well to fill the 100-liter tank above the provisional, plastic-sheet shower. In the evening we’ll be glad of it. Maybe the water will even have warmed up a bit in the sun.
In three minutes I reach the community center, where the hard-working babushkas and their young assistants have already laid the breakfast tables with plenty of food and are now cooking buckwheat for us. Soon the girls arrive, their shoes under their arms, as they had to wade through ankle-deep mud. Together we enjoy the table fellowship and the preparatory meeting for this day’s tasks.
Two teams will visit old, disabled women to saw and split the logs which were delivered in advance, so that they won’t freeze in winter. How glad we are for the former tank driver Constantin, who is very handy with a chain saw. For hours, three of us split wood – the women also try their hand at swinging an axe – while others stow it away or fetch bucket after bucket full of water from the village well, to fill large plastic containers. Old Natasha, walking with a cane, can’t do that alone anymore. Her three sons have all been killed or disappeared.
Wanting to clean the floor in the house, one of our team is horrified by the pitiful sight of a half-naked, motionless old man lying on dirty blankets in a dark corner. Our Russian-speaking companion finds out that this is the amputee husband Gheorghi, who is eking out his last months of life in pain and without medical help. How can we help him except by prayer? Tomorrow we will drop off the requested sack of potatoes and some other food stuffs. Some of our women will give him fresh bedding while we continue with splitting the wood.
After a fine, but for us somewhat unusual lunch, we enjoy a short break. Suddenly, out of nowhere, about 60 3 to 15-year-old children appear, full of anticipation. A young team from a Baptist church in the nearby town put on a varied program of cheerful songs, a play and a Bible story for them in the church hall.
During this time, the remains of our lunchtime soup – stretched with bread and cake – are laid out on makeshift wooden tables behind the house. The children, some of whom come from very poor family situations, pounce on it – two or three to a plate.
Then it’s our turn again. Unfortunately, the starter cord of the diesel generator, which we need for inflating the bouncy castle, is torn. Despite imaginative attempts on the part of our car mechanic, the repair fails. (Constantin manages the following day.) So we bring out the colorful parachute cloth, while others erect a volleyball net on the nearby sports field or play football, kubb, bowls, etc. with the kids. In the dining hall, the kindly donated beads are unpacked and anyone interestd is shown how to make a bracelet or a necklace. Others have fanciful figures painted on their faces or draw their own pictures.
As I admire 5 year old Andrea’s pink butterfly, she suddenly hugs me tightly and I take her in my arms. For the rest of the day people keep asking me why I have glitter on my face! The relationship is unfortunately short-lived; the next day she rejects me and falls in love with the car mechanic. Many of these children are very affectionate, as they often grow up without fathers; these are either abroad to earn money or have left the family completely. During this week we get to know them better. Some are ‘adopted’ by our team members, who will sponsor them by a monthly amount. As we have seen the circumstances and met the caregivers, we know that this aid will be well used.
On Saturday, it will be hard to say goodbye. Each child will receive a packet of chocolate eggs and a large ball donated by myball.ch, which some of us sign with a permanent marker. Even the local policeman wants one!
After dinner, I, together with some other some team members and a translator, visit a poor patchwork family consisting of 8½ persons from four generations. We pray for them and hand over a bag of basic food and sneakers for the kids. I have specially fond feelings for little Marina, who is extremely shy after having been repeatedly beaten by her now absent father.
Finally, we return home, thoroughly sweaty, tired and inwardly moved, and enjoy the lukewarm shower under the stars. Tomorrow the work goes on…
The team, which I was priviledged to be a part of, consisted of 13 young people (average age 18) from around Bremgarten and five over 28-year-old drivers/leaders. The trip in two minibuses through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania took approx 32 hours each way. The whole two week long project, which each member of the team financed themselves, passed off – thank God – with no significant problems or incidents. We would do it again.