Today I rescued a bee. It was clearly struggling, moving slowly, limping, not flying, its body wet and bedraggled, possibly wind swept and hungry following an early morning battering of torrential rain. From yesterday’s blue skies, sunshine and warm air, everything turned suddenly grey, overcast and threatening.
Gently handling the bee, feeding it on a teaspoon with a drop of honey in water, it slowly began to revive. Strength obviously returning I placed it on the sheltering leaves of a sunflower in our garden and I have spent the last hour watching it recover, feed off the flower itself and to seeing it eventually take off and fly over to other plants and ‘feeding stations’ in the garden brought great joy to my heart.
I should’ve been working, as there is a lot to do and the day before me is filled with more writing, mentoring sessions and meetings but somehow I believe that I will look back and say, this was perhaps the best thing I’ve accomplished today.
As I spent time observing, hoping, yes, kind of praying for the bee’s recovery, my thoughts turned to the Ukrainian family, a mother and her two sons, who have come to live with us. It was so good to hear at the breakfast table how well they are all sleeping. Deep and long hours of sleep that has evaded them for several months, since that dreadful day, February 24th this year, when Russia invaded their beloved country. Following Russian cruise missiles hitting their city, killing and injuring hundreds of the fellow citizens, the family have been sleeping at a relative’s underground shelter during the night, the sound of missiles overhead disrupting sleep and disturbing minds.
Leaving their husband and father and wider family relatives behind, they made their way across Ukraine into Poland. From there they flew to Gatwick, frightened, worried, anxious. Met by friends of ours, Christians for whom helping, offering hospitality and welcoming the stranger is a natural outworking of their faith, they spent their first night outside of their beloved country in the company of people who cared. A meal together with our son and his Ukrainian wife, mother-in-law and baby Thomas.
The next morning, they began their journey north. Put on a train that was to take them direct from Horley to Peterborough, where they would be met by other friends of ours who would put them on the direct train to Alnmouth, our nearby station. These plans immediately hit problems when the train was unexpectantly terminated at London Bridge. Having to get off the train and stand anxiously, uncertain as to what to do and surrounded by rush hour crowds, in an unknown place, with very limited grasp of the English language, they sent us a message. We prayed! I alerted my Prayer Accompaniers group who prayed, the family prayed and as we tried to advise by messaging, they were approached by a policeman. Given some of the horrific findings and the poor reputation of Met officers, it is a wonderful testimony to report both an answer to prayer and the remarkable helpfulness of ‘an angel in disguise’, a policeman who was Ukrainian! It was truly a miracle! He took them down into the underground and put them on the train, giving careful instructions as to where to get off at Kings Cross and how to get to the mainline station concourse. Within minutes of arriving at King’s Cross, in their yellow tee-shirts that they’d been given the night before as gifts from Dnipro Hope Mission, (the charity my son and daughter-in-law founded) the family were recognised as Ukrainian and were taken to the train that would take them directly to Alnmouth.
On board, they experienced friendship, kindness and the generosity of the train crew who gave them food and drinks to supplement the picnic they had received from their hosts the night before. It was wet and miserable in London but upon arrival in Northumberland, the skies were blue, the sun was shining, Blue and yellow, as in the Ukrainian flag. Our hearts, home and hospitality open to them, as in our Northumbria Community Rule of life, “recognising that in welcoming others we honour and welcome the Christ Himself”.
Settling in, the first visitors to our house that afternoon, friends and fellow Christians, came bearing gifts of welcome for our guests and our first meal together, a Ukrainian meal, was lovingly prepared by our wonderful neighbours. The ensuing days, adjusting to the changes, challenges and opportunities of bringing strangers into our home have been a blessing. None of us are blind to the realities that such a change of circumstances brings; nor too the horrors and heartache that Russia’s evil war has brought to this family and their nation. Whilst we are facing an inevitable recession, a winter of discontent, understandable strikes and living with the consequences of an appalling, incompetent government and fearing further escalating food, fuel and living costs, it is easy to lose sight of the plight of others.
On Saturday, we had a brief, Google translation aided video call with the husband and father of our Ukrainian family. A fine, strong man, loved by his wife and sons and expressing love and concern for them. There he stood outside, in his beautiful country dressed now in combat gear. Like so many fellow citizens, he now finds himself in the Ukrainian army fighting the Russian army. A war that continues to escalate, the consequences of which pose a serious threat to the wider world. A war that signals the emergence of the dawning of a new era, an uncertain future, and ‘no return to normal existence’. When we wake up by listening well, thinking deeply and living authentically with the realities of the world as it is, we might know what it is to live as God intends and to make a contribution to seeing his Kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven.
Whether it’s rescuing a solitary bee, welcoming a stranger, living as good neighbours, being friendly, helpful, hospitable, not being selfish but generous, praying, thinking about others more than ourselves, seeing through the lies and propaganda, speaking truth to power, walking humbly, working for justice, acting with compassion – these are the things that make a difference, that help to transform and make the world a better place. A world that reflects God’s loving purposes, a world where light overcomes the dark and goodness conquers evil. As Desmond Tutu once said: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”