Ch1. The Arrival
When Pope John Paul II arrived in New York, he was greeted by a crowd of thousands of people, the streets were cordoned off by hundreds of police officers, and he paraded down the boulevard like a conquering hero. The spectacle was on every news channel and in every newspaper and magazine. When Jesus came to the Ukraine, however, there was no such spectacle.
When Jesus visited the Ukraine, it was much like it was when he arrived in the First Century in Galilee. There was no parade or shouting in the streets, no special announcements or news stories, no angelic chorus or trumpet call for the King of kings. Like 2,000 years ago, the people simply stopped and stared.
In Kiev they were staring for good reason. Standing in the street before them was a ragged looking dark skinned foreigner with long hair and a thick beard wearing an old brown robe and muddy sandals. It was January.
All eyes followed the peculiar man as he walked into the crowded marketplace near the snow draped Lukyanivskaya Metro. The odd man looked around at the snow and ice and suddenly realized that he was cold and began rubbing his arms for warmth.
A grandmother selling vegetables yelled at him from across the way. “Young man, you’re going to freeze out here! Put some clothes on.”
The shivering foreigner mulled over her words, as if he had heard them before and was trying to remember what they meant.
Another old woman sucked through her teeth and grumbled at the site of him. “Damn foreigners,” she whispered just loud enough for him to hear.
The foreigner took this as an invitation to talk. “Excuse me,” he said to the surprised grandmother. “Can you help me?”
“I don’t give to beggars,” she said harshly. “Get out of here and go find a church.”
“Oh, I don’t want money,” the man said cheerfully. “Can you tell me about this place?”
“Where are you from?” she asked, examining his dark hair and Middle Eastern features. “Turkey?”
“No. I’m originally from Israel.”
“Oh. You’re Jewish?” the grandmother said knowingly.
“Yes, sort of,” he said, thinking deep into the past.
“What are you doing here?” the woman asked. “And where are your clothes? Do you want to freeze to death?”
“I am here to see Ukraine,” the strange foreigner explained. “To see the people, the culture. And yes, I would like some warmer clothes if you happen to have any.” He rubbed his arms for warmth again, as if only in that moment feeling that he was cold.
“Do you have money?” she wondered.
“No,” he admitted. “My father will provide me with whatever I need wherever I go.”
The woman grunted distastefully. “What does your father do? Is he rich?”
“He is a kind of manager. He is very rich, but not like you think.”
The woman glared at his robe. “Well he doesn’t dress his son very well.”
“I am like the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. I gather what God gives freely,” he said with a mysterious grin.
“So you’re a gypsy? A Jewish Gypsy,” she said with amusement. “Lord, you’re the first I’ve ever seen.”
“I’m not really a gypsy,” he clarified. “I just travel a lot. I’m a free man.”
“An American?” she guessed from his constant smiles.
“No. Not that kind of freedom.”
“What kind of freedom, then? Freedom from your brain?” she asked with annoyance as she stared at his frostbitten toes.
The foreigner laughed. “Freedom from the things that enslave mankind.”
The woman stared at him for a long moment. “Why did you come to Ukraine?”
The man suddenly became very excited and animated as he explained, almost like a child. “I heard you had a peaceful revolution here. Peaceful revolutions are rare. They’re a sign of a maturing nation. I wanted to come and see for myself if your people were really changing and becoming more like God.”
The woman chuckled. “More like God? I don’t think so. The revolution was a wave of hope and wishful thinking. Nothing more. Nobody learned anything. Nothing really changed. The rich are still rich and the poor are still poor.”
“We’ll see,” said the foreigner.
“Look at me!” She held up a potato from her old, worn out basket. “I should be at home helping my daughter take care of her children, but I’m here selling potatoes in the street because I don’t have enough money to live on. Here’s your revolution.” She angrily threw the potato back into the basket.
The man smiled. “You know, the happiest people I have ever met were poor.”
“And what does that mean?” she yelled. “I should be happy about this?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I just mean rich people aren’t any happier than you. Not necessarily.”
“No, they’re not happier. They’re just warmer and fatter and have bigger cars and bigger apartments.” She put her hands on her hips victoriously.
“Sometimes,” the stranger agreed.
“Yes, I’m glad I don’t have those things,” the old woman said sarcastically. “Then I would be truly unhappy.” She laughed mockingly.
“I’m sorry if I upset you,” he said, peering into her eyes. “I only wanted to say that it’s not a lack of money that makes people unhappy. They are always lacking something else.”
The woman became quiet. She cleared her throat and said in a hushed voice, “Yes, well who isn’t missing something in life?”
The foreigner nodded his head. “There. You’ve understood. Everyone is missing something.”
The woman stopped what she was doing and simply stared at him.
He continued. “I’ve never known a sad man who was rich in relationships. Alone, every man is poor. Together, all men are wealthy beyond imagining.”
A tear welled up in the old woman’s eye. She rubbed her nose and looked away from the stranger for fear that he might see into her thoughts. She was feeling guilty about something. She changed the subject. “Where are you really from?”
The foreigner smiled again. “May I have a potato? I’m very hungry.”
The old woman wiped the tear from her eye, and with renewed confidence threw her hands up in the air and shook her head vigorously as she shouted. “My God! You are a strange man. You are certainly not from here. Here, take it.” She stuffed the potato roughly into his hand. “Welcome to Ukraine.”
The strange man leaned over and gave her a gentle hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you,” he said simply.
“Gospadin!” she shrieked with surprise. She looked at the people around her to see if they had seen the embrace. She giggled and blushed with embarrassment.
The wild-haired foreigner turned to walk away. The woman composed herself and called out to the man. “Wait!” She ran over to him, took off her scarf, and wrapped it around his neck. “I don’t want you to die of cold before you eat that potato.” She grinned like a proud grandmother.
“Thank you,” he said sincerely, his hands pressing her forearm affectionately.
He turned to walk away and she called out once more. “What is your name?”
The foreigner turned around and looked her in the eye. “Jesus,” he said, and then paused to consider something. “Jesus Josephovich.”