By Virginia Holmstrom. This is the first in a series of posts about the Republic of Georgia.
In January 2013, ABC General Secretary Roy Medley and I led 10 American Baptist women to the Republic of Georgia (and to Lebanon) to interact with and learn from the Baptists there. In Gori, Georgia, a small city ravaged by Russian invasion in 2008, a city that is challenged today by an 80% unemployment rate, Georgian Baptist church leaders took us to meet a family they had recently became aware of. The family lived in a tiny armored vehicle, with a small box of food, no heat but the warmth of a kitten and a puppy to hold close through the night. The teenage daughter had been traumatized when she was raped in her neighborhood, and she rarely ventured from the yard. I’ve looked long and hard at these pictures many times during the last year, and my heart breaks each time.
In the absence of social ministries of their Orthodox Church, it was the Baptist congregation that was reaching out as the hands and feet of Christ to this family.
I brought five American Baptist women with me to the Republic of Georgia on a two-week spiritual pilgrimage, in partnership with the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. We traveled to Gori and worshiped at the larger of two Baptists churches. As guests, we were seated in front, facing the congregation.
Imagine my surprise when my eyes lit upon a face I knew from my photos of the family that lived in the tiny armored vehicle. The teenage girl was smiling and whispering to the young people seated next to her. Could it be the same girl? I searched the congregation for her mother and brother. Two rows back, I spotted her mother. After the service, I approached the girl. Her name is Anna. She remembered me and so did her mother. I was wearing some Haitian beads, with the intention of leaving them in Georgia. This was the God-appointed time and place. I placed them over her head and she beamed.
Later I learned that this Baptist congregation in Gori—this small church that runs a soup kitchen at mid-day six days a week to provide persons in the community with perhaps their only hot meal of the day—this congregation had found a house for this family to move into. Today Anna and her mother and brother worship God at the Baptist church in Gori.