Meeting Marina

Ever since my first cry over the plight of the poor here, they have been getting my attention more and more. As has become my practice, I wait for God to show the way. Marina is a young woman Lydia and I had seen a few times on the subway before I spoke to her. Our knowledge of her was limited to a few facts:

She’s young, but I could not guess her age. She wears the same (not clean) clothes most of the time. She boards a car on the metro on her crutches and announces, “Dear ones, please help me. Don’t feel bad about a few kopeks. Please!” She then makes her way down the aisle to the other door, exits at the next stop, and repeats the process in the next car. It’s a depressing pattern that a lot of beggars use, and the response is always poor. On the one hand, I don’t blame people for not giving; who knows where the money really goes. What dark figure stands behind and controls the process?

But I don’t really care. When I later saw her one Sunday on the way home from church just sitting quietly, slumped in a seat, I knew it was time to break my silence. Leaning over as I gave some money, I asked, “Are you tired?” She nodded. I asked her name. When she told me, I offered, “We will be remembering you.” That was enough for that time. I left with a heavy heart, begging God to let us cross paths again. In a city like this, that pretty much never happens, even with beggars whose whole working day is on the metro.

It happened last Tuesday. I couldn’t even see her, but I knew the voice. I was so excited, I could hardly contain it. “It’s Marina!” Diana was baffled; “Who is Marina?” As she walked by, she broke her own stoic glare with a smile in our direction and said, “I remember you.” Lydia stuck out her hand and offered the only thing in it – a small piece of costume jewelry that she had just found. Marina smiled and received it before heading towards the door. At the door, she looked back again at me, and I motioned for her to come back. There happened to be a seat next to me, and I got to ask more about her.
“How are you doing? How does this work for you?”
“Not so bad, but I’ve got two little brothers to take care of. Our father is dead and mother is gone.”
“How old are you?”
“Well, actually, I just turned 19 today.”
I consulted with Diana, and we offered to take her to eat.
“I’d love to, but I have to go get my brothers from school.”
“We want to help you more.”
“Whatever God tells us to do.”
She thought a minute and then proposed, “Can you meet me on Sunday at 3?”
I agreed, and the train arrived at our stop. We parted with her warm, sweet smile of gratitude following us up the stairs. It was a hard day of tears after that for all of us.

Then we remembered that I was going to be gone on Sunday. Diana insisted that it would be criminal to let her down. I finally decided to try to track her down the next day, knowing from her what her “beat” was.

I sat on the platform, beginning to see the world from new eyes as I watched train after train pass by and the thousands of passengers come and go. There were other beggars too, and I watched them interact. They have a community, I realized. One was a young lady that I initially took for Marina, also with crutches. I watched her get off at this stop, go back the way she came from, and a half hour later return again. By now I knew that Marina was not to be found, so I decided to be bold and approach this young lady. She did know Marina (“she didn’t come in today”) and agreed to pass on the message that I could not make it, along with my phone number.

Do I have a thousand questions and concerns? Sure. We’ve just decided it’s time to let God take care of those matters and lead us through this new labyrinth to the treasures He has ahead at the center of His will. I think He’s prepared us for such a time as this.

This story continues here.


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