A couple weeks ago I was invited to preach by a South African missionary at a small church plant. While there we met an older Armenian couple, also visiting, who had emigrated to Ukraine shortly after the break-up of the Soviet union. They invited us over for lunch this week. They and their 2 adult daughters live in a one room apartment. It was sparsely decorated and their clothes were in a cupboard in the wall. We gathered around a small table where we sat on the bed or floor. We were served a delicious meal as they told us more about themselves. They were very proud of their country's Christian heritage, but persecution and life there was apparently hard enough in the early 1990's that moving to Odessa was an improvement for them.
They apologized for their cramped living conditions but there was no sense of embarrassment or shame as they shared their lives with us. The father, Samvel, beamed with pride as his daughters sang praise songs for us they had written in Russian and Armenian. One daughter, a teacher who speaks 4 languages, talked about her struggles to find work and the difficulty of living on a small teacher's salary. I started to say something about how, as a former teacher I could understand, but fortunately I stopped myself. I realized I had more money in my pocket than she probably made in a month. I realized that even on a salary that could have qualified for food stamps in America we lived at a level of comfort this family could only dream about. I do not say this to be dismissive of anyone's financial difficulties back home, but the plight of this family helped restore some perspective for me. Any self-pity we had as we continue to struggle with the coldness of this culture was dispelled. Their obvious joy and contagious faith was a timely reminder for us that, as Christ said, a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he posseses.