It is great, when you see your goal and know you are moving towards it gradually. It is rather difficult to talk about work that has no tangible results or some obvious fruits. However, against this background, you realize how important the faith in charitable nature of your work is, as well as love for every person and hope that the Lord will help anytime. Few know that in the complex of a Mental Health Hospital, which is located right behind the Convent’s walls, there is a special department for children, where there are kids with disabilities, different from those living in the residential institutions nursed by the Convent.
I’ve met with a novice George (Drozd), who is listed as an educator in this department and has been visiting it since 2002, from the very beginning of his life in the Convent, to talk about the department and his ministry. I asked him about the peculiarities, difficulties, and goals of the work in the department, although we all understand that there cannot be any other goal except from “sharing warmth and love with those children”.
Brother George shows me the “icon-paintings” made by the children that are hung on the walls of the gesso workshop where he works. He told me that once one of the children drew an angel and made an inscription “Brother George”. And that was done not because he was so good, but because amazing, albeit difficult, children are in this department. There are up to forty people there, and these are children from five to fifteen years old. Both girls and boys. Mostly these are “social children”, who have been withdrawn from dysfunctional families (for example, their parents are imprisoned or are just alcoholics) and who live in residential facilities and boarding homes. These are the bullies whom you can meet in every yard, in every classroom – the naughty children skipping classes. When their behavior does not subject to any adjustment, they are sent to the Minsk Mental Health Hospital in Novinki. And this is not random since all the children living in the department have mental disorders and diagnoses. A child gets in the department three-four times a year, (three times is a kind of a minimum) and stays there for several months. Brother George says he knows many children from their age of five, when they were hospitalized for the first time. These are children with difficult, broken lives and painful stories. For example, one of the boys, who is now living in a boarding home for children, was born in a drug den. His mother left him in the elevator shaft out of desperation. When the little boy was found, he didn’t shout and didn’t cry already. Nobody knew how long he spent in the shaft. When he got into the hospital, he was just out of control: once a class was over, he broke out of the classroom and started to tear off the curtains and throw off flowerpots. He was baptized in the department. It was surprising that during the Sacrament he was quiet, silent, and he listened attentively.
Brother George: “They need love, just as we all do. So, I am trying to give it to them, as I can. And since this is a ministry, then, perhaps, we’re doing quite well. The only thing I want is that these children know there is the way out. It is God. And besides everything they already know, there is another way and another different life. I can’t fix them, you know. Everything is very contradictory: you can’t say these children are happy, because it is not true. They are actually unhappy: no parents, no families, life in a residential institution in difficult conditions, constant need of something… But at the same time, children are especially alive. Their suffering souls are very responsive. The priests who come to the department notice this as well. They are amazing indeed. From the human viewpoint, everything is bad because they have nothing, but from God’s – things are completely different.
I am always happy when they leave smiling and giving thanks. I am listed as an educator here, but actually it is me who needs to be educated”.
About eight people – brothers and sisters – attend the department. They come mostly on weekends or in the evenings when there are no classes. They try to organize kids’ leisure time there: reading, drawing, watching movies or listening to music… Any activity starts with prayer, and if it is a feast day, then it starts with a short conversation about this feast. Sometimes they read passages from the Gospel and discuss them. It should be understood that all children are completely different, with their own peculiarities, and that there is no opportunity to work with each of them individually. Some of them in their teens do not know how to read or to write. There are no specific goals, plans, or methods in working with them. Each time it is a creative process. And the most important thing in working with them is orientation to your own peaceful heart, and as for the rest of it, do anything you can: everyone has their own talents.
Brother George: “I try to behave like a Christian, as if they were my children. They need to be talked to. With teenagers everything is different: nothing should be imposed upon them. I never impose anything, I do not impose Orthodoxy. There are things that are not very clear even to adults. I try to say a living word to them. It is amazing that they listen. I want to teach them to use their heads, so that they learn to think for themselves. You can talk about God in very interesting way. Working with the staff is also important: we are very well treated here. Many of them are Orthodox, they go to church and pray. They always welcome us. We are friends, we communicate. They are also living people”.
Any attention and communication are very important for these children. Sometimes small concerts are held in the department, which are organized with the help of the musicians – the friends of the Convent. Sometimes, charity events take place, such as “The Secret Angel”, for example, which was organized by our Catalog of Good Deeds during the Christmas time. The main idea of that event was that anyone could buy one of the offered gifts for the kids: a toy or a book; or donate some money to buy sweets. Thanks to your help, the children from the Hospital’s special department and the Boarding Home for children with special needs had an opportunity to have a real holiday. By that act you gave the children a piece of warmth and love that they lack.
Although, can there be enough of love?