Thursday, June 27, 2013

Robert Gamble: This Child Here Update 2013

Introduction by Warner Davis

Robert Gamble of "This Child Here," a ministry to street children in the Ukraine, wrote an article published in Columbia Theological Seminary's Spring 2013 edition of its periodical Vantage. Because of the need it portrays that we ourselves are involved in addressing by virtue of our financial support, I offer it to you. Please read it. I think you'll be moved.

by Robert Gamble

"Photo, photo!" Jana shouts, motioning with her hand for me to follow. She wears a t-shirt and jeans that are gathered by a belt at her waist. Even in the dark, I can see her dirty hands, the black beneath her fingernails, and filth across her face. Her breath reeks of glue.

She leaps to the platform and disappears down a hole. I crawl up the concrete, dragging my camera bag, grab the sides of the rails, and go below. The room is ten by fifteen feet. In front of me are several massive steel sewage pipes too large to put my arms around. Smaller pipes run parallel and up; valve handles are the size of steering wheels. It looks like a jungle gym. Jana stands in the corner, her hand on her hip. I raised the camera. She does not smile.

Outside, two streetlights, a nearby gas station and darkness -are the backdrop. I shoot rapidly, glancing always at the screen on the back of my camera. In forty minutes, I take two hundred images of boys and girls from age eight or nine to fifteen, hugging each other or climbing on top of each other to get in front of the camera. Their faces pressed against the yellow dog that sleeps on top of the platform - faces which are solemn, smiling, wide mouthed, closed, intimate, distant.

Jana's face has changed. The images I took in February showed her clean cheeks, ice blue eyes and shy smile. Now it is fall and, at fifteen, they tell me she has become a prostitute. I photograph her shrunken frame, her eyes dimmed by life on the street. I know these children. Their lives are horrific, and photographing them is compelling.

Ukraine is a country suffering from a crisis of care for her indigent children - children in orphanages, children on the streets, children living in and leaving broken homes suffer tragically. In the PBS documentary "The Road to Matveevka," statistics are given that, after leaving the government facilities of Ukraine, one in ten children commit suicide. The percentages of those who turn to drugs and prostitution are much higher.

When you get hit with forsakenness at this level, it changes you. It is through the pain of a thing that you begin to feel. When you feel, you listen. That pain you feel about something and for someone, pay attention to that. That cry you hear from some place, pay attention to that. That awkwardness you feel when you look at the way things are, pay attention to that. It is in these things, God is speaking.

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