Stories From Ukraine | Meet Roma
Stories aren’t just found in a good book, they’re hidden behind the eyes of the person right in front of you. They have flesh, they have feelings, and they have a name.
But are we willing to listen?
When we hear a story that moves us, we are inspired to do the same. Stories give to us the gift of understanding someone’s beginnings and struggles. They have within them the power to move us from being overcome to overcomers. And they remind us that we’re not alone.
Over the next several days I plan to share a few stories from friends that opened up their lives to me while I offered a listening ear and willing heart. My hope is that you’ll take the time to read, share, and consider slowing down the pace of your life to listen to the stories of the people around you today.
On a small, wooden bench, I watched a young man sit by himself as he stared at the stars. He didn’t seem alone even though there was no-one sitting next to him. I walked over to him, placed my hand on his shoulder and introduced myself. He smiled and told me his name was Roma. From that moment on we were inseparable.
Roma was born with cerebral palsy 38 years ago. Three days before his birth, his mother was admitted into the hospital at the beginning of May Day (International Workers’ Day) during the Era of Stagnation in the Soviet Union. This was a period of time in which Roma’s country was experiencing negative economic, political, and social effects. When Roma’s mother was evaluated at the hospital the doctors decided to administer Terbutaline to delay labor so that they (hospital staff) could participate in the holiday. It was told to me that this was quite a common practice during that time because May Day was a highly celebrated occasion filled with parades, family gatherings, and time away from work that was extremely precious to all people.
After Roma’s mother received her shot the doctors and staff left the facility and she laid alone on a gurney for three days until hospital professionals arrived back from the holiday. It was at this time the doctors induced labor and began preparing for Roma’s birth. On May 3rd, Roma was born and pronounced dead. His body was lifeless and cold. The doctors worked tirelessly to restore Roma’s breathing and a miracle happened. Roma began to breathe and his body came back to life. Roma believes that God resuscitated him so that the works of Jesus might be displayed in him. But this miracle did not come without complication. Because of the lack of oxygen and the hospital practices, Roma would live with cerebral palsy the rest of his life.
Roma has experienced ridicule and embarrassment because of his uniqueness, but he has also learned compassion and patience that he would not have known if he had not been given what he calls “this gift”. Roma lives as an invalid near Kiev and is not assisted by the government or his family (which is a normal way of life for those living with disability in Ukraine), so he currently lives in a monastery that has prostitutes and drug dealers living next to him. He quietly mentioned to me that he grew up with “believing parents’, but he has learned more about his faith from the prostitutes and addicts he lives next to.
During our group time Roma shared that he was struggling to find work and money because of his physical limitations. He wants to use his hands and live a life of dignity but he hasn’t found opportunities that allow him to do so. A few of the people in our group decided to pool some money together and gift it to Roma, but he refused to accept the offering at first. When Roma finally gave himself permission to receive the money he decided to give it away to other campers with need. Roma constantly displayed a image of Christ and selflessness and made no complaints about his circumstances.
On the last day of camp just before people loaded up into their buses and headed home Roma sought me out. Roma grabbed my shoulder, looked me straight in the eyes, and in his best english said, “I love you!” We took this picture directly after those words and, as you may see, my eyes are just a tad swelled up from the tears that came from that exchange.
We can learn an immense lesson from my friend Roma. He believes his story brings him opportunities to talk about Jesus and his mercy. I hope his story frees you to do the same!
March 06, 2018
March 05, 2018