I spent the day in a salt mine with 60 Ukrainians, and a friend, colleague and fellow MOPS mom, 120 m deep underground, while above there was thunder, lightning and hail, as recorded by Conrad.
It was the day after Easter. A descent into the tomb, breathing salty cool air. While climbing down hundreds of steps, we were adjusting our sight, listening to the echo. Then climbing all those stairs back up, emerging into the light, to green fields and a full and deeply colored rainbow.
Walking through the narrow salt tunnel descending into the belly of the earth, moms would walk alongside me with their young kids who were talking fast, asking a million questions in Ukrainian, mesmerized by the experience. Motherhood unites us. What a gift to have this in common.
Half of them spoke a bit if English, and every time we made eye contact smiles would emerge, as a way to embrace each other’s spirit. We asked for their permission to snap a few pictures, here and there, and they agreed openly. We shared that there are moms around the world, friends who send funds for this excursion and we’d like them to partake in it, even if just in the digital form.
A question always comes up when we meet and greet and serve Ukrainian friends: “are we a church?” The truth of the matter is that we are all followers of Jesus, and our belief in Him brings us together to serve, but we are not even part be of the same church or denomination. And yet here we are. Loving our neighbor without expectations or agenda.
Along the way I was touched by unexpected kindness. The bus driver was all smiles and warmth. For a scattered confusing holiday he had to work he was a testimony of generosity, doing the same trip twice back to back, to accommodate the double number of Ukrainians wanting to come.
Within hours the word spread about the excursion and the sign up was flooded. Finding a last minute solution is never easy, but never underestimate the creativity of moms with a willing heart, who walk by faith. Just as they were trying to decide what to do, friend from across the country called and said they received some money for Ukraine, and they don’t don’t know what to do with them. It was the exact amount needed to take the second group on this trip!
Also, at the salt mine, before we reached the long waiting line, I was met by a representative, greeted warmly and invited to the fast track to purchase the group tickets and we got a guide. I feel we all received royal treatment, in these small gestures of acknowledgement and warmth. Our 18 year old friend who speaks Ukrainian and English fluently, translated the guide’s story of the salt mine and we stayed together, strangers who emerge as friends with slightly salty brows.
As we thanked them for their company on this adventure, while the kids enjoyed the chocolate treats we bought and shared, their smiles were broader than ever.
Never underestimate the power of showing up. I wish we could do more, connect instantly, heal fast, but there is beauty in the small steps, faithfully serving with the gifts we do have.