The photo above is of a gift by Kairos, an organization that operates the Ukrainian refugee Center in Suceava.
It is a statue of an eagle with Isaiah 40:31 engraved on it.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
I had incredible encounters with many people while in Suceava, Romania, on the Ukrainian border.
I want to share my stories with you.
When do you feel happiness and a sense of fulfillment in your daily life?
I feel the most fulfillment in my life when we can share sorrows and joys with others.
This time it was a short mission and I came prepared with medical consultation, Shiatsu, and Tai chi for relaxation to help the Ukrainian people with their grief. But I imagine it was the most gratifying to them that we were there with them. They appreciated that we came to see them from far away, Japan.
The next thing was that we could share activities and fun (origami, flower arrangement, sushi making, Tai chi, etc.), and following that we listened attentively to their stories.
The provision of medical care itself, as I had imagined it, was not in vain, but I also believe that the pleasant memories of the past will remain in their hearts forever and that they found comfort and joy through it in their current difficult times. This time I carefully measured and brought the donated medicine in order to make it through customs, and they were all useful and appreciated. I am hoping that next year, Dr. Michio and I will be able to enter Ukraine if there is a need during the postwar reconstruction of Ukraine. We hope to be able to bring the rest with us at that time as well.
I would like to take this opportunity to show my appreciation from the bottom of my heart for all the clinics, pharmacies and drug companies that provided us with their services.
Some people who prayed earnestly and showed their support may have been disappointed. I have not done enough this first time to provide sufficient support in a war-ravaged country. However, I think I was given an important theme "What is the meaning of support?” I will make further improvements based on this experience so we ask that you continue to watch over our activities in the future.
In Suceava, the houses and yards were large and they planted magnificent roses. You can see flowers planted in beautiful colorful planters by the windows. It was like scene found in Switzerland.
The Ukrainian Refugee Support Center was renting the building and the grounds. They were in flux because some people returned to Ukraine and others moved to other parts of Europe.
The parking area were spacious and the children's play area was safely set up. All were private rooms with toilets, washrooms, showers, and spacious kitchens with a microwave, automatic coffee set, and many herbal teas. There was a large refrigerator on the third floor.
Currently, three meals are offered by catering.
The menu includes fried or mashed potatoes, meat (chicken, pork, beef), pickles or cabbage, and various delicious soups.
Unfortunately, there were no facilities with access to gas or electricity. No matter how delicious the menu was, when it becomes routine, it tended to become same. I was short on fresh vegetables, so I bought some at a nearby supermarket.
Another thing I couldn't help but regret was the weeds that had grown unbalanced and careless beside the building on the spaces on either side of the parking lot. I was wondering if I could somehow plant some beautiful flowers there. I decided to plant a pink rose I had bought at a store. I didn't have a shovel, so I was working with a spoon, removing hard stones When I looked up I saw a five-year-old boy playing on his bike, so I asked him to help. We both weeded and dug up the hard stones as he planted that rose.
Flower arrangement day was August 17, which was my 71st birthday. A missionary who came from England made name tags and I guess he knew my birthday when I registered.
On the morning of my birthday, he said "Megumi, Happy Birthday." It was surprised.
A young Ukranian staff member also greeted me.
I asked him, "How did you know that?" He replied with a smile, "It may have magical powers," with a mischievous look in his eyes.
In the evening, I heard a voice behind me saying, "Dr. Megumi, could you come here?"
I thought a new patient came to see me, and I turned around. This is what I saw.
The Romanian staff manager, the psychologist, and the rest of the people who came from Ukraine to work as staff gathered. I was thrilled to have people celebrating my birthday, which I had not expected in a foreign country, and I thought it was a miracle.
One Ukrainian woman knocked on my door the next morning. She was holding a lovely bright red rose. She said, "I wanted to participate in the flower arrangement yesterday, but I had to work late and couldn't make it. So I brought these as a gift from my family." I told her that it was my birthday yesterday, and she gave me a big hug.
I cherished this flower and enjoyed it in my room. And I bought another yellow flower. I was going to plant the two together before I returned to Japan.
I was still so preoccupied with the weeds. I was pulling them out by myself, but, the soil was very hard clay and stony, and the roots were so deep that it was difficult to do this with bare hands. I had half given up and decided to plant only three kinds of flowers, but God led me to someone I had never thought of.
On my way home from my weekly visit to the Baptist church next door, I saw a man eating a bunch of grapes on the property, and I asked, "Hello! What are you doing?”
The man was the owner who lent the property and lived in the house next door.
I thought this was an opportunity! I told him, “I want to make flower beds here, but I can't get rid of the weeds by myself. I want to borrow your tools if you have any. You don't have a mower, do you?"
He said "Yes, I do. I will ask someone to mow the grass tomorrow. ”
I was so surprised. So I proposed to Pastor Valentine and his wife who are in charge of the organization called Kairos.
It was a “Flower Garden project.”
Ivan, the owner of the property agreed and will cut the grass tomorrow. The hard stony soil will be treated and carried away, and rich black soil will be laid in its place with our donation. As for the flowers, we would be happy if the Romanian volunteers would give us 1-2 seedlings from their gardens."
They replied "That is a good idea. Please give me some more time to think about it. “
Finally, I received a final answer, "There is a youth camp, and we are going to have volunteers from the camp come and work in the garden."
I was so excited to hear that it was going to happen.
However, he could not ask for any more help from Romanian Christians since they had been cooperating with them in various ways. After I discussed it with Dr. Michio, we decided to pay for the fertilizer and flowers.
However, I did not know where to buy flowers. I went to a nearby orthodox church that had beautiful flowers on display.
I should ask the priest there. He told me about a store.
I went to buy the flowers with a young man, from the U.S. who was serving as a driver, and the Romanian manager.
We bought all the fresh chrysanthemums in the store. And we ended up with a wonderful flower bed.
I had planted the little flowers and moved to the other side.
While I was watering the flowers the owner came to me and asked how much it had cost.
I told him it was about US$200. He would pay half of the cost. Since he was one of the supporters of this project, I decided to take half of the money.
I thanked him for his generosity, and I cooked three vegetarian dishes for him and we toasted with a glass of his homemade red wine on Sunday night.
Then the unexpected thing happened. Other youth began unloading their car of houseplants and placing them in front of the center.
We completed this project with the participation of many people in a short period. The most pleased was the Ukrainians living in the center. There was a gentleman who used to make flowers in his greenhouses in Ukraine, but he lost everything in the war. He asked, “This flower is called "хризантема" (hryzanthema) in Ukrainian. What do you call it in Japanese? I am so happy because I used to grow this flower too. This is the national flower of Japan, right?"
An old lady loved the flowers too and tried to plant them. However, she could not continue to work. When I visited her in her room she hugged me with pleasure.
Friendship was built during this time with two Romanian ladies and me.
One is Mrs. Anca whom I met at a Baptist church service. She asked us about my situation, took me for a drive, and treated me to tea at a 4-stars hotel in the suburbs. She told me about the history of Christianity in Romania and the story of when the Communists entered the country. She also invited me to her home prayer meeting but I could not attend due to my schedule. She is a faithful believer in God and a cheerful homemaker and has a full-time job in Ukraine to help with various procedures for immigrants.
The other is Mrs. Magdalena. Her family had hosted our Japanese group for one night before we came to Schavae. She and her husband invited me to a decadent coffee shop and gave me a moment to relax on a Sunday afternoon.
She graduated from Timothy Bible Seminary and is a licensed pastor, and is currently working as a translator and literature coordinator for CEF (Child Education Fellowship), a Christian missionary organization in Romania. She has been to Japan for this work. On the left is her husband, Nelu.
I also used the bus to do some shopping.
Talking with a group of high school students on the bus while laughing a lot with them was also memorable. There seemed to be very few Japanese people in Romania, and I was often mistaken for a Chinese person. I also met a young Ukrainian couple (a dancer and an acrobat) who wanted to emigrate to Germany or France, and I gave them my business card and asked them to contact me if they ever came to Japan.
I also met a woman from Vietnam who had come to Bucharest to work. I listened to her many hardships. There were also conversations with Romanian children in the center. I do not know how to express my gratitude for having met so many people, because I rarely have a chance to talk with strangers in Japan.
I am truly grateful for all the encounters I have had.
The staff gave me these kind words and a colored picture the night before I left this center.
Thank you for your kind heart. Every day you gave us so much possibility and good emotions!
Now we know a little bit about Tai chi and we will practice in the future!
God bless you and your family.
You will remain forever in our hearts.
This is a view of the last tai chi lesson.