Sunday, April 12, 2009
GATES AND GATE-KEEPERS
Common to every household in the towns and villages of southeastern
Ukraine are fences and gates. These gates are necessary and functional. First of all they provide a degree of security. Then they also protect the pedestrian from the fierce-sounding, ever-present yappers on the other side of the gate.
Gates also make a statement. Some appear welcoming, others seem to say "keep out". As each little house has it's unique character, so rarely are two gates alike. Many are colorful and creatively designed, some are whimsical - Ukrainian folk art. And there are those that appear to be status symbols and can only be described as "grand entrances".
We are reminded of elaborate gates leading to manor homes of some
of our ancestors. We identify a few as we travel along the country-side. Some are white-washed and kept in good repair. Others, such as the example above, situated close to where we live, are falling into ruin.
And we can't forget the gate-keepers. These intrepid babushkas can be seen sitting on their benches outside their gates. A Ukrainian describes them this way:
Proper Ukrainian traditions are carefully watched by our “Vice Squad”. Our babushkas spend the better part of their day sitting out on their benches. They are active, pushy, know everybody and everything. Don’t argue with them if they say you aren’t behaving properly – it would be best just to disappear.
I can't take credit for this picture. So far I haven't had the courage to stop and take a photo for fear of being slighted, because sadly I don't have the language to ask for permission.
At the Mennonite Centre our gate is open seven days a week. All are welcome to come in. Some come just to sit on our benches and soak up the sun. Some come as tourists, having heard about the Centre and wanting to see for themselves. Some come with medical needs and visit our doctors, others come with more critical medical issues and we try to help if we can. Some days the Centre rings with song as groups rehearse for Sunday services. Some days we hear the laughter of children as the Mom's group gathers. Again we express our gratitude to all those who are helping to make this happen.
Today we heard of another gate. It is Palm Sunday in Ukraine. In our church service this morning we were encouraged to open the gate of our heart to Him who welcomes all without discrimination. We want to do the same.