McWhorter Reports On Georgia
by Captain Sherry McWhorter –
Can you imagine fleeing for your life in the middle of the night, leaving your grandmother behind and running across a cold river with your children in your arms? Can you imagine standing helplessly on the riverbank, watching rebel forces burn your home and your fields just a stone’s throw away across the river? Can you imagine holding your three-month old child as she grows weaker and weaker for lack of food?
Thousands of ethnic Christian Georgians are fleeing across the Inguri River into the Georgian heartland as Abkhaz Muslim separatists attack them. These hatreds go back centuries, and it means misery for the people.
When fighting escalated in May, The Salvation Army responded immediately with ten tons of food from our own reserves, also distributing blankets and medicines donated by the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
People live in abandoned factories, schools, barns, and sheds mostly unfit for human habitation. Temperatures soar above 103 for days on end, for people without water or sanitation facilities.
Denied assistance by the American government, the Russia/CIS Command appealed to European nations to respond, and many sent help, as did New Zealand. Still, the need remains greater than the response.
The Army now operates three canteens for the most vulnerable refugees. Lay worker David Saunders from the USA West is helping distribute blankets and supervise the canteens. A food-for-work plan is being considered, whereby the refugees will dig pit latrines and patch up shelters and be paid with food.
Ukraine Leads Way
One exciting social services experiment in the Russia /CIS Command is under way through the Kiev Mayak Corps. This began as a church for the homeless. Comprised of alcoholics and other people from the streets of Kiev, Mayak Corps met in parking lots in freezing weather for months but will soon have a permanent home.
The blossoming corps has developed a substance abuse rehabilitation program, and many of the men have gained sobriety. Through the generosity of the mayor of a village outside of Kiev, the Army has a farm with a 25-year lease. Potatoes are growing in the rich soil, the pig pen and chicken house are nearly completed, and the men are thriving.
Lt. Alexander Volosenko is not a farmer by training, nor is he a substance abuse counselor. Until recently, he wasn’t even a lieutenant. But now he is all three, and his abundant energy is the driver behind the healing that is coming to the men of the streets.
Men showing promise for rehabilitation enter the Mayak farm after detox in Kiev. There they are building the house, barns and sheds as well as working the land. There is a good supply of raw wood, and with the proper tools they can produce furniture for sale.
The men are finding healing through mutual support and also through the spiritual ministries of the Army’s officers and soldiers. “Graduates” of the program are now in Donetsk, Ukraine, helping to start a similar work there.
This program can be the wave of the future in a land which denied the existence of substance abuse as recently as 10 years ago.
In prison and visit you…
Nothing changes easily or quickly in Russia. The Gulag still exists. The prisons are overcrowded, and methods of the old sort still reign. The prisons are fetid swamps of disease and despair, where children waste their lives and grown men sicken and die.
The Moscow prison ministry carries on the Army’s long tradition of working in places like this. Led by Prison Ministry Coordinator Misha Gavrilov, the Army now works in several prisons in the Moscow area. One is for boys up to age 17; another for girls. These children lack the bare necessities of clothing, hygiene, and medical care.
We can’t get them out of there, but we can let in a little light and hope.
Moscow Region’s youth are going into the prisons, bringing concerts and smiles, toothpaste and underwear. These young soldiers reach out of their own economic difficulties to help the spiritual and emotional poverty of their brothers and sisters in jail.