Today (April 15) in Ukraine is Paskha (Easter, although the word literally means "Passover"). When I got up this morning, I had my usual cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. And I briefly reviewed the traditional greeting that believers give each other in honor of this special day: "Christos voskres" ("He is risen"). The appropriate reply is: "Istinniu voskres" ("He is risen indeed').
On my way to church, I mentally rehearsed the phrase so I would be ready when greeted by my brothers and sisters at church. Of course, I stumbled on the first try (mainly because I am not a morning person), but quickly fell into the pattern, repeating the greeting or response several times. But as I was walking home, I heard the phrase again--this time very unexpectedly. You see, our church is not in the greatest neighborhood. You have to walk along a number of sidewalks or dirt paths that take you by an assortment of construction sites, run-down buildings, packs of roving dogs and...homeless people.
That was the context where I heard the phrase "Christos voskres." From a disheveled young man whose breath reeked of alcohol. The surprising greeting was followed by an unsurprising request for money. I was ready to say "No" and move on. But something prompted me to talk with him. So I said: "I won't give you money, but I can give you food." And off we went to the local convenience store. His name was Alexander. He came to Kiev from SE Ukraine to get work. But that wasn't working out. "It's really hard", he said. I asked: "Where do you live?" He replied: "At the local train station."
"Christos voskres." I thought: What does this mean to him? Is it just a magical phrase to evoke compassion from a stranger? We arrived at the store and got a loaf of bread and a pound of kielbasa along with 1 1/2 liters of tomato juice. He took it to the counter. The cashier rang it up. She looked at him and stated the total. I gave her the money. Transaction completed. As we walked out of the store, I told him that this food came to him "in the name of Jesus Christ." I briefly shared Christ's love for him. Then he hugged me. And now I cannot get this young man off my mind.
My desire is that God would be pleased to help him see the connection between a risen Christ and his deepest needs. Please pray for Alexander that he may know the crucified and risen Christ! And pray for our church that we will have the eyes of our Savior to see the Alexanders around us and be moved with compassion to show them a Christ who is risen, indeed!