Healing bodies, souls in Ukraine
    August 1 2011 by North Carolina Baptist Men

    Since 2008, North Carolina Baptist Men has partnered with Roma (gypsies) in Munkacs, Ukraine. Initially slated to transform an old KGB listening post into a house of worship, the need for volunteers was redirected when the young pastor said “would you please just come love on the children?” Teams eagerly switched gears and focused on the children.

    Members of First Baptist Church in Roxboro spent a week last summer working with up to 300 children each day. Along with teaching Bible stories, crafts and music, they conducted several medical clinics. That experience gave Jill Burleson, nurse practitioner at Duke University Medical Center, the desire to conduct a week-long medical mission trip. Her dream became a reality in the spring of 2011. The following is her account of that experience.

    “Our van passed a whitewashed brick wall, switching the scenery from a quaint village in Munkacs, Ukraine, to a trash heap. Mud roads jostled our insides while we tried to comprehend the stark reality behind that wall. Filth, trash, mud, disease, houses crafted crudely out of sticks or mud, roofs patched with cardboard and trash to hold it in place met our eyes first. Children with naked brown bodies and swollen bellies from malnutrition ran alongside the van to cheer and wave. Their dirty faces strained to make out these strangers coming to visit. The need was overwhelming. And the tears began.

    BSC photo by K Brown

    After walking through the gypsy camp in Munkacs, Ukraine, several children followed Jill Burleson and other North Carolina medical volunteers to be assessed and treated. See video and photo gallery.

    “However, those tears were soon dried by mamas and children clamoring to hug, kiss, and engulf us into their fold as if we were family. We entered a building, from which a melody came floating lightly, joyously, on the putrid air, turning the stench of the trash into a holy aroma rising to the heavens. And there we worshiped.

    “I recalled these scenes from eight months before, the beginnings of a dream to bring a full medical team to the gypsy camps of Munkacs. Now after planning and packing, it was reality. For a week, our team provided medical care to almost 450 people from the gypsy communities. Some were extremely sick, like our Lily who was severely burned and whom we labored over intensely each day. We were relieved to watch her bloom as the week progressed.

    “Others suffered only from malnutrition and received vitamins. The rest fell somewhere in between. All were given undivided attention. It was our privilege to hold their hands, listen to their lungs, hear their hearts (whether through story or stethoscope), and try to convey God’s love to them in words and actions.

    “My soul sighed at the end of our week in Munkacs. I realized that in my daily life, I tend to forget how to sing heaven’s song that the gypsies know so well. How the love flows naturally and praises drown out the world, melting the rubbish of life into a campfire’s ashes.

    How gently the spirit can hold a child that isn’t its own, or how the flinch of a person touched kindly for the first time feels under your fingers. How it is to bandage hearts and hold hands, and how love needs no language to be perfectly understood.

    “I learned in this week how it feels to have a homecoming in the middle of a garbage dump. How it is to have the strength of Samson when holding a child who just needs to be close. How it is to feel that child wrapped around you so tightly it’s as if she is trying to seep into your very heart.  And how it is to feel your heart break as you realize she has.

    “The medical and societal needs of the gypsies in Munkacs are many. But in their beautiful pain, they are reaching for God, rising from the rubbish, and bestowing a renewed blessing to those of us fortunate enough to serve them. It is only by God’s grace that we have anything to offer them in return.”

    Visit baptistsonmission.org/ to find out how you can volunteer to help in Ukraine.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Jill Burleson [RN, ANP-BC, MSN] is a nurse practitioner at Duke University Medical Center in Durham. She works in the division of cellular therapy.)
    8/1/2011 9:44:00 AM by North Carolina Baptist Men | with 0 comments

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.