April 4, 2022, 5:00 PM

A gift day…

We got the call as we were doing our best “Lucy and Ethel drive in Poland!” routine, zooming down the best maintained highway we have ever driven on. (Should I mention that there are no speed limit signs posted on Polish highways? No I probably shouldn’t.) The caller was a representative from World Central Kitchen telling us that the Kitchen had enough volunteers and we could ‘have the day off’ but that we were to report for duty early tomorrow at 8:15 AM for our Covid tests. This turned out to be miraculous news because the 5 hour drive somehow stretched to eight full hours. We got lost a few times —  our own version of the Exodus.

It wasn’t just about getting lost. We needed a day to adjust to where we were and to see the country not like tourists, but like people who are paying attention to all the details of daily life. And we needed a day to build our teamwork. We ended up singing at full voice to Carole King’s “Tapestry” album and there was quite a bit of car dancing. Maybe that was just me now that I think about it.

Cheryl said at one point ”You know if we have been on vacation we would never have seen any of the small towns that we’re driving through.”

We drove by native trees that looked like Dr. Seuss had drawn them and we saw birds that flew like pterodactyls that we think were a type of crane. We saw multiple Orthodox churches set into the hillsides, made of stone or wood, and numerous roadside shrines, crucifixes and ‘devotion huts’ for want of a better term. Religion is ever present in Poland, in a far more overt manner than we are used to seeing. 

                                

Cheryl and I also needed to navigate adventures like “Hey, how do we put gas in this rental car anyhow?” without the pressure of a time crunch. After successfully pumping that gas, and basically high-fiving each other for being so successful, we were accosted by a burly man who was banging on Cheryl‘s window, claiming that we had not paid for the gas. Cheryl smiled and pointed to me and said “She paid for the gas.” It was then I realized, “No I didn’t!” When I ran back into the store to pay, the angry cashier behind the window pointed at me and said “You!” and then made the sound of a police siren and the motion of a light swirling over her head, indicating that she was going to have me chased down by the police if I hadn’t paid. Ah, the journey is in the details!

Obviously Ukraine was never far from our hearts and minds. Everywhere we went we saw Ukrainian flags; on the highway we saw caravans of military vehicles heading to the border area where we will be tomorrow. I spoke with a man today who said in broken English “My head, it hurts! These people who trust the Russians they are listening to lies lies lies!” After speaking with him my heart hurt. He lives within 7 km of the border and he feels powerless.

We also managed to wander unexpectedly into Ukraine. On one of our lost travels through the countryside, Cheryl’s phone pinged and welcomed her to the roaming charges in Ukraine. We swore to each other that we wouldn’t tell anyone so that no one would worry about us, and yet this is exactly what we should be talking about.

The reality is is that not all borders are useful for crossing, and these country roads that dipped into and back out of Ukraine as we drove through Poland were not suitable for crossing. This is part of the lesson for us, that there is no clear border along every inch of our countries, that there is a way to and from these places that is not paved with hardship and terror, that our job is to help create a world where we intersect and cross over into each other’s lives and towns and countries without making note of boundaries just the way we did today.

Cheryl and I had our own short and adventurous version of the Exodus as it took us longer to get to our destination than it should have, but tomorrow, oh tomorrow. We are going to see an entirely different kind of Exodus and I pray that God makes us ready.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28. 

I know that this is an often overused and poorly quoted verse of scripture. But I think what Jesus wants us to know is that he doesn’t see these distinctions even though WE do. We are never going to be perfect at not judging each other’s gender identity or each other’s skin color; we do not yet know how to treat each others as equals because we don’t believe that we are all equal. But it is a standard that God wants us to keep in mind as we serve each other, and as we try to see with God’s eyes and serve with God’s hands.

So today was a gift day from God. I’m currently sitting in a beautiful Airbnb that looks out over the Polish countryside. The sun set behind the hills above the house, and the moon rose an hour later as a brilliant sliver over the opposite hillside. The wind is howling tonight and we have been promised that we will have warmer weather tomorrow than the winter weather we have been experiencing. Tonight we feel safe, and we are warm, and we are well fed.

Tomorrow we report to duty at the border and we are leaving by 6:30 in the morning just in case we manage to get lost again. We will be sure to be on time for a work experience that may change our lives, and which will allow us to see changes in the lives of others that we cannot even begin to imagine.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,    

ML+ 

                         

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