Trip Start Dec 01, 2008
7Trip End Dec 12, 2008
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We then had to return to Sofia (our plans having taken something of a divergence from their original course) with 600 Christmas boxes for two churches in one of the poorest areas of the capital. Moderno Predragie is a mixture of communist era concrete appartment blocks (about as sexy as it sounds) and small thrown-together houses that form a large maze. After hooking up with Tedi again we followed our friends from the church and eventually came to a small building that looked as ramshackle as any we have seen so far, barely the size of a tennis court.
We knew that people were waiting for us but we could not have been prepared for what was to follow. There were at least 200 men, women and children waiting inside the church and as we entered you could feel the excitement rise. There was a group of 25 kids at the front of the church singing and dancing, accompanied by a couple of young lads on keyboards plugged into one of the loudest P.A's ever heard. Places in front of the huge speakers had been reserved for us and we were ushered to the front and then the celebrations began in earnest!
Roma people are a pretty excitable bunch so when they have something to sing about the result is something very special. We sat amazed as they performed songs and dances, the gathered crowd joining in clapping and dancing along to the infectious rythms and praising God for the presents that we had brought. After 10 minutes we turned around and realised that the word had gone out that we had arrived and that there were now at least 300 expectant faces looking back at us. After being introduced by the pastor, Rich passed on a few words of greeting from all those in the UK who had prepared boxes.
For the next 4 hours we distributed gifts to people from the neighbourhood. All the while the singing and celebration continued. To say this was a priviledge would be an understatement of classic Englishness. We witnessed people in tears because they had received something as simple as a box containing some basic items like toothpaste and soap. If you have ever wondered if your Christmas Box would make much of a difference then this place sweeps such thoughts away. We have so much and yet so often we take everything that we have for granted. If you had so little money that everyday items were out of your reach and you received a gift of a flannel, a tooth brush and a hat, would you not be moved to tears by the knowledge that someone, a stranger, in a foreign land had taken the time to prepare this present? Could you contain your joy if you had prayed for some gifts for your children because you had no means of providing it yourself?
We made some real friends in that place. The Trussell Trust is committed to helping people such as these and a dialogue has now started so that we can identify how we may be able to help with some of the community's long term needs.
Probably due to tiredness Rich took a wrong turn and a slightly longer than anticipated return journey to Scravena via several Sofian districts finally ended our day back at the House of Joshua and our longed for beds. Tomorrow Molly will return home and Dave, Any and Rich will have to make do without her cheery smile and obsessive camera pointing.