Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Big Mess

In yesterday's post I talked about how God's love shines through an impossible situation. Situations like that are going on all the time in people's little lives, and in the big world.

The Olympics are going on this week. I am having fun watching some of the competition. It's very inspiring. I got out for a long bike ride on Saturday that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise.

But there's tragedy mixed in. There was the deadly knife attack on relatives of an olympic coach and wars are going on in and among some of the countries. One that has grabbed headlines lately is between Georgia and Russia. What a mess.

I don't pretend to know much about that situation. I learned some things that relate to it, however, when I spent time in Lithuania in May.

I've mentioned my trip to Lithuania before.* It comes to mind because I got an email yesterday from someone involved with the East European Missions Network and because my daughter mentioned it in her blog on Tuesday.

Both Georgia and Lithuania are former "republics" of the Soviet Union. Both have Russian minority populations.

In May, during my time abroad, I had a very interesting dinner conversation with Naomi's Lithuania roommates.** One of the roommates was Russian. She and her parents live in KlaipÄ—da, Lithuania, the city where Naomi spent her spring semester.

Though they live in Lithuania, they identify themselves as Russian. From what I understand, the same is true for many ethnic Russians living in the country of Georgia and the area of "South Ossetia." Russians moved from the motherland to the "republics" during the Soviet era.

At some point the parents of Mila (Naomi's Russian roommate) moved from Russia to Kaliningrad. Then Mila's dad's work transfered him to KlaipÄ—da. Like thousands of others who moved during the Soviet era, they made the new place their home.

Everything changed in 1990, when Lithuania became independent along with the other 15 Soviet republics. Mila's family, which had enjoyed privileges during the Soviet period of Russification, now found themselves as foreigners. Lithuania declared, for example, that all business needed to be transacted in Lithuanian. Mila's parents did not know that language. There were also complications for her dad because, as I understand it, he was held in foreign ports without pay for long periods of time because he worked for the Soviet merchant marine.

Mila's family was very poor, even going without food at times, until her parents learned Lithuanian and became more integrated into that society. Even so, still today they consider themselves Russian... and if they had the opportunity to reunite with mother Russia? I don't know them at all, but I can understand why they might think of it as a good idea. And I think that's how Russian people in Georgia might feel.

It is a big mess and very complex. Not easy to see who is in the right. But it is good for us to care. I know God cares. God never shies away from a mess. We know that because of Jesus, who came down into a very messy political situation when Rome was occupying Israel. In fact, it's right there in those big messes that God seems to be obviously at work.
*If you're really interested you can read my journal. Click here to download the 12 pages.
**You can see a picture of Naomi's Lithuanian roommates ("Russian and Belarusian") on her post from Tuesday (the second to last picture).

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