The afternoon sun was beating down on us as we walked the old brick pathways of Odessa that Sunday afternoon. We were on our way home from church when we happened to spot Slavik and Alyona on the other side of the street. My heart jumped! I felt a sense of joy and relief at seeing friends who could so connect with my heart. I couldn't help but smile at the sight of their faces!
They weren't alone. One more time they astonished me! They were giving missionaries, who had been staying with them, a tour of Odessa. Now, had it been me, I would be wanting to be home taking a nap on that hot afternoon. But, not Alyona and Slavik!
In their love for sharing Christ, they wanted to find more ways to share His Good News. So, they had invited American missionaries from Romania come for a workshop---a clowning workshop. We enjoyed talking to the missionaries and teasing them about 'silly' things clowns do. They mentioned that Slavik had learned how to be a clown. We had smart remarks to make about Slavik already being a clown, of course; but, then we gave some hugs and went on our way. That was on Sunday. The Romanian missionaries were to go home that night or the next morning.
On Tuesday, I was with Alyona again. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned what Slavik had done the night before----Monday night---the night after the clown workshop finished---the night after the missionaries left. Here's what Slavik did. He put on his new clown suit and painted on his new clown paint and he took his brand new clowning skills and went to the children's hospital. He spent the evening with the children on the oncology wing----cheering them with his 'clowning.'
I almost gasped when she told me.
That's not what I would've done after having company for several days and after attending a several day workshop. I would've done something like, oh, you know, watch TV! Not only that....but, I would've been proud of myself for doing it! What about you? Wouldn't you treasure your first night off? Wouldn't you have a sigh of relief that one more event was past and now you could rest a little?
Instead, Slbeavik spent his very first night, after learning to be a clown, being a clown! I can picture myself as a little girl, crumpled in a squeaky hospital bed, being unable to keep the corners of my mouth from lifting when presented with a big, burly, dark-headed clown like Slavik. I know Slavik's smile---there's no way any child would've resisted his charm.
It makes me think, too, of Jesus. I think about Jesus walking with John, and Andrew, and even tax-collectors. I see him reaching out His hand to Peter on the water, and looking Thomas in the eye. I picture Jesus with the children on his lap and healing men on pallets.
And there's one more picture of Jesus in my mind. I can see Jesus walking onto the children's oncology ward in Odessa, Ukraine. He's holding someone's hand as he walks into the hospital. He's holding the hand of a clown----a clown named Slavik.