From Rev. Bob Gamble

We received the following e-mail and remarkable photographs from our friend, the Rev. Robert Gamble, who works with street kids in Odessa, Ukraine. (We hope readers remember Bob’s visit to Louisville last year, and his thoughts on Good Friday.)

Bob is collecting used laptops and digital cameras, as he notes:

Dear friends,

Final call for used laptops and digital cameras. ( Thought I would say this first in case you don’t read further)

I am in the final weeks of my trip around the States; I have visited many people and churches. I fly home to Odessa, March 16th. So if you have used laptop or digital camera to donate, IT IS TAX DEDUCTABLE . please email me right away so i can tell you where to send it. I will have another photo class in the summer for kids and i need laptops for volunteers who come.

Before i left Ukraine, Anna Naduda an artist living in Kiev http://www.naduda.com/ (take a look at her website)
gave me a lifesized photo of a boy who lives at The Way Home. This photo had already traveled some of Eastern Europe and is part of a photo art project of hers. I took Vitya to the states.

So here he is in some of the places i travelled to.

the sanctuary of Balmoral Pres in the Memphis area
outside Madison Ave Pres in new york
in the library of Mary Brueggemann’s home in decatur ga (trying to look like a book)
stepping out into the snow at the home of Ann and Mike Mische in DC area (Ann and Mike attend Nellysford Pres in VA.)
waiting for worship to start at Old First Pres in Tallahassee
on the light rail sysltem MAX in Portland OR
relaxing at a condo in San Destin FL
with a teen he met on the beach
Colum and Neil Dillon are preacher’s kids from First Pres Cumberland MD
David Hopper is an elder and Rebecca Taylor is the pastor at Reidsville Pres in Reidsville, NC

He hasn’t seen these photos yet. I will let Anna Naduda show them to him.

I’ve been away from Odessa for too long, it seems, so I will be glad to get back.

Grace and Peace,
Robert Gamble

Dr. Robert Gamble, D.Min. Th.M.
www.thischildhere.org
cell in states 828 301 7104
in Ukraine +380636117928

If you are interested in donating, visit: www.thischildhere.org

You can scroll down the page and click on donate. If you don’t have or want a PayPal account click on “continue” for “Dont have a PayPal account?” It will take you to a page to enter credit card info.

or you can mail a check to This Child Here, 245 Seaview Ave. Daytona Beach, Fl 32118.

Either way, I would like to thank you, so send an email to me. robertgam@gmail.com

My address in Ukraine:
This Child Here,
C/O Doroga K Domy (The Way Home)
Str. Sofievskaya 10
Odessa, 65082,
Ukraine

Here are the photos Bob shared with us:

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Notes From Bob Gamble on Good Friday

“Hole From Below,” Bob Gamble photoWe’ve received some correspondence from our friend Bob Gamble, who visited the Women’s Center in February, just in time for Good Friday (and Easter), and wanted to share it with everyone. Bob says it’s OK with him, so here goes:

EASTER STORIES , for preachers, teachers, and all travelers on the journey of Holy Week.

Good Friday

1. Last fall, a journalist and photographer came from Sweden to do a story for a newspaper that would proceed a fund drive for UNICEF. The journalist was a beautiful woman, tall, well dressed, her blond hair spilling over her black, wool coat. She had a gentle manner, but she was a journalist with a job to do.

We went under the street, about 15 feet under in a concrete block room; I climbed down the ladder first. We stood on large metal pipes, in the dark without a flashlight. I called out and a voice answered. The journalist heard me talking to him but couldn’t see him. Then a boy came out of the shadows, his feet showing first, then legs and arms and face, him staggering because his nervous system was ruined by the drugs. The journalist didn’t say anything; when the translator came down and he said to her, “Are there any questions you want to ask him?” and I saw in the dark how she just shook her head and said nothing. Then she kind of stood there while I gave the boy medicine and the translator told him how to use it… “Is there anything else you want to know…. do you want to go back up now,” the translator asked her. And she said, “I just want to stay for a little while.” And that’s when I knew she was weeping. She can’t speak anymore, I said to myself. It’s one of those slow cries that women can’t stop when tears just keep coming out and down. She went up the ladder. I followed her. Even outside she wept.

2. We were in an abandoned garage, I and an Australian who was filming for UNICEF. There were three boys in the little room and they were all high on Baltushka which is a wicked and debilitating drug. I was making conversation some boys who lived there. I knew this boy on the streets had at least one brother, so I asked, “Where’s your brother?” And he said something that I didn’t understand and then I saw him catch his breath. He sucked in for a second and then he said “On oomare” which means, “he died.”

To appreciate Easter one must pass through Good Friday which I believe means recognizing places of pain and death in your life and in the world. For much of our lives we live on that Saturday between the two. This is true certainly if we are attempting to heal the pain of the world. In such times, Easter means hope.

Here, to me, are signs of hope.

I spoke to a church in Orlando. A woman who owned horses was there and spoke to me afterwards. “I’m thinking about making a change in my life.” She said. Months later, she sold the stables and sent me $2000. “I want to use this for horse therapy” I wrote back. Not two weeks passed before a young university student from Germany walked into the office announcing that she wanted to volunteer her time with us during the summer. “What do you want to do?” I asked.

“Well, I know some things about horses.”

She found the stables, the trainer, set up the program. Now street children from our dormitory go twice a week, for 3 hours each time, to clean, feed, and ride horses.

In January, two students came from Cambridge University. They heard a talk about street kids, found me on the web and wrote to ask if they could come. They should get a medal for their work. In one week, they went to the streets, hung out with our kids and built a website for students from 5 different universities in England to volunteer as interns with us. With them, I came to the conclusion that the way to inspire students to study is to hire tutors to teach and mentor them. Those girls from Cambridge arrived on Monday; by Thursday, I received the surprising email: $5000 had been donated. And who gave it? A teacher. I am paying for the tutoring of two children already.

I’m not saying everything is rosy. There are plenty of moments of frustration. What I am saying is I’m ASTONISHED at the way things fit together. It seems that the words of Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction may apply, “It doesn’t matter if it is an According to Hoyle miracle; what matters is God got involved.”

Grace and Peace this Easter,

Robert Gamble

Dr. Robert Gamble, D.Min. Th.M.
www.thischildhere.org
This Child Here,
C/O Doroga K Domy (The Way Home)
Str. Sofievskaya 10
Odessa, 65082,
Ukraine

Time with This Child Here . . .

Thank you, Bob Gamble, for turning our attention to the situation of children who live on and under the streets of Odessa, Ukraine.
Our time with Bob involved a lot of looking at images. Maybe that is not surprising, coming from a photographer. But the images were surprising, these faces of individuals, confronting us with the timeless question with which one human being confronts another — who is my neighbor? And the places these children live: hard to enter, and evidently even harder to leave, even for places that offer more order, more care, more of a future.
Our time with Bob involved lots of questions, and challenges. How does a person hear their call — this word about which we hear so much, and about which we often have so much uncertainty? Perhaps — as Bob seemed to suggest — it comes by following up possibilities, suggestions, opportunities, that don’t seem to be part of any bigger plan . . . until things start to fit together, and things start to happen. Bob emphasized on Friday afternoon that a call might not mean “parish ministry.” “There is a world of opportunity for people who are driven by their faith to make a difference in the world.”
Friday night’s worship, rescheduled from Thursday, happened — that might have been something of a miracle in and of itself. And it had its own raw and simple beauty. We entered Hundley Hall through a pile of trash (artfully constructed by Jorge Gonzalez) — to remind us of what these children live with daily. We sang to Johanna Bos’s recorder accompaniment, and listened to musical meditation (“I’m Waiting on an Angel,” by Ben Harper, performed by Jorge), saw more images, were led by Bob to reflect on the meaning of “the word made flesh” — which words of ours have been, are being, made flesh? Are they, have they been, graceful words, true words?
We heard some advice, and not the usual preacherly advice. “Your past is connected to your future in ways you can’t even imagine.” Your past as the ground out of which God is making the human you are becoming. “It makes a difference when you send a person.” It was true for Jesus. It’s still true, in all the places where people are called to meet other people and be good news for them. “You make decisions every day. Don’t collect a lot of stuff; collect experiences.” “When you’re where you need to be, things fit together.”
It’s clear Bob Gamble is where he needs to be, and that the children of Odessa, Ukraine benefit from that. May many more of us find the places where we need to be, and bring words to be made flesh in those places!

“I was sick and you took care of me . . .”

 We have been having flu at my house – first me, then my daughter – and this has mawaiting for foodde me think again about the problem of homelessness and the children Bob Gamble works with who live under the streets of Odessa, Ukraine.  What happens to these children when they are sick?  Who takes care of them when they have flu?  Who drives to the drugstore, gets them cough drops, brings them hot soup on a tray, and calls the school to say they won’t be attending today?  Who e-mails their teacher to make sure the homework assignment that was due today will be received even though they are not there to turn it in?  Who asks them “How are you feeling?” feels their foreheads and takes their temperatures, keeps track of when it is OK to get another dose of acetaminophen?  Who stays home with them and keeps them company?

Maybe their friends.  But their friends are also children, and there are limits to what children can do for each other, as competent and as tough and as doggedly realistic as children can be when they have spent a long time learning how to live in a harsh real world. 

Maybe no one. 

Maybe someone from The Way Home – that’s the idea of a program that reaches out to kids on the streets, and works to meet their pressing needs.  It’s the idea behind their patrol project, that includes a health care worker, someone with legal experience, an educator, the idea that what these homeless children need is to get some of their needs met, and one of the needs that is unlikely to be met otherwise is the need everyone has to be taken care of when ill.

I forget, over and over, even now, at my pretty advanced age, that I am not invulnerable.  It was even easier to forget that when I was younger.  And then, sickness happens.  I get sick, feel tired, find I can’t do everything I thought I could and had planned, have trouble getting through a normal activity or two, need to lie down, need to take a nap, could really use a hand or just need someone to do something . . . then I remember, or rather, can’t help remembering.  We are not self-sufficient, perpetual motion machines.  It doesn’t even take that much to knock us down, or out.  We need help, support, places to rest, people to take care of us.  We all need that.  And some of us have much too little of it, or none of it.

The care of the sick is a women’s issue, and a complicated one!  Women have traditionally been associated with caring for the needs of sick people, and especially sick children.  Once again, the traditional association and its implications make for some complicated issues.  We may not want to reinforce the customary, presumptive linking of women and the care of the sick.  On the other hand, we don’t want the traditional association of women with the care of the sick to (a) devalue the care of the sick [why, after all, should a traditional association with women have any tendency to reduce the value of an activity?] or (b) prescribe an immutable role for women – as if caring for the sick became something that defined women as such, that women were required to do because of their woman-ness, or that women are imagined to have some special competence for, which they then are somehow required to use.  On the other hand, we don’t want to suggest that women shouldn’t care for the sick, as if refusing to perform that vital activity on principle, or shirking this human responsibility along with other, more powerful members of the society, would be some improvement.  Instead, “who takes care of you when you are sick” needs to be raised, again and again, as a question with a complex gender dimension.  It’s a question that receives different answers, from men and from women, from children and from adults, from children with parents and from children without them, from those with reliable care-givers and from those without.  Whether the Who who takes care of you is someone you know, live with, love, care for when sick in turn, must pay, a stranger, someone really good at it or someone barely competent at it, someone who cares about you, or someone who doesn’t matters. 

The answers to this question generate an index of the extent to which there is good news for our neighbors, and for us, in our world.

You can hear more from Bob Gamble of This Child Here on the subject of the needs of children who live on the streets of Odessa, Ukraine, at a special service of worship Thursday night, 2/21, 7:00 p.m., Hundley Hall, and at lunch Friday, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m., in the Women’s Center.  If you are interested in speaking at greater length with Bob Gamble, please contact Courtney Hoekstra, Women’s Center Student Coordinator, to reserve time on Bob’s schedule for conversation in the Women’s Center, Friday, 2/22, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

A Litany of Misery, This Time for Street Kids

 “Hole From Below,” Bob Gamble photoSome of the same words and problems keep recurring in our reflections (I guess I need to start tagging them!) – HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and violence against women in general, health care (and its absence), education (and its absence), sexual exploitation, addiction, poverty.

This time, it seems, this litany of misery comes from the lips of the folks who work with the street kids who are at the heart of Bob Gamble’s mission in Odessa, Ukraine.  According to Bob’s website, This Child Here:

“The best estimates are 140,000 children live on the streets of Ukraine. In a country with a population of fifty million, it may seem a small percentage, but the number is still staggering. Street children survive by living in groups with their own laws. They carry things, beg, steal, and become prostitutes to make money. They don’t go to school; they have no time, no friends and no documentation. When they are not begging or making money or sleeping, some inject themselves with drug store chemicals or squirt glue into a plastic bag and inhale”

The partner organization The Way Home maintains a website in English, Streetkids, that gives more details about the work being done for and with street kids in Ukraine.  This work includes providing housing and education to kids who come in from the streets, and the outreach work of “social patrols” who make rounds providing food, clothing, medicine, advocacy, for kids who haven’t given up on living on (or under) the streets – yet . . . 

These children, who range widely in age – the Streetkids website includes a story from a girl on her own since the age of 7 – are at risk for HIV and AIDS because their desperate circumstances contribute both to prostitution and other unsafe sex, and to drug use, with its attendant risks. 

This is on top of being at risk for other serious diseases, like tuberculosis, and for conditions – like starvation – that afflict children without adults who care for and about them, and without structures of support that reliably provide food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and socialization.  Even if they want health care, or schooling, they can’t get it without documentation that makes them visible, real, to the state.

Streetkids talks about children who are “escaping” their families.  This may mean that homelessness in Ukraine, as in the US, can be a consequence of fleeing violence.  [The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that as many as 50% of the women and children who are homeless at any given time in the US chose homelessness over domestic violence.  Do we need to say that these shouldn’t be a woman’s only options?]

What a Hobbesian vision this is:  a desperate war of all against all that is how children live when they are fending for themselves as best they can.  But it’s not abstract political theory; it is the concrete reality of the lives of some 140,000 children in the one city of Odessa alone.  The vision of The Way Home and This Child Here is directly opposed to that hyper-realistic vision, that vision of how things just are (and, according to some sophisticated pundits, always will be).  It’s the vision of how things could be, even now, already, when people act out of a different concrete reality – the concrete reality of new life, of redemption, of justice and love.

Some Issues Are Always “Women’s Issues”

Svets on the streets of UkraineI haven’t been asked why the Women’s Center is arranging the upcoming visit with Bob Gamble of This Child Here, which we are awaiting with great anticipation and joy.  I am not sure what this means, and I don’t know if this absence of questioning is something I should be more happy or more unhappy about.

It might seem obvious to people that the Women’s Center would be interested in mission with children who live under the streets of Ukraine because women are always interested in children.  Whenever an issue involves children, we — whoever “we” are — may expect women to be involved, because children are women’s area of primary responsibility.  And this might be true, and even potentially unobjectionable, except to the extent that it reflects a thinking that only some, specialized people really need to be concerned about and involved with children, while people (regular people, norm-al people) are unaware of children.   If this is why it makes perfect sense that the Women’s Center is bringing the work of Rev. Bob Gamble to a wider audience, it would seem to reflect some negative patterns, practices and structures that the Women’s Center’s mission is to shake up.  The Women’s Center has not embraced the mission of This Child Here because the welfare of children is, in some special and segregated sense, women’s job.

But we have embraced this mission — precisely because the welfare of children is a central human imperative, a human issue, which makes it a women’s issue.

That means that all of us, women and men, are on the hook for being concerned about the welfare of children. 

Rev. Bob Gamble to Visit Louisville This Month

Bob Gamble at workThe Women’s Center will have the pleasure and privilege of hosting the Rev. Robert Gamble, of This Child Here, on his visit to Louisville later this month.

We know those who have heard any of Bob’s stories about working with “children who live under the streets of Ukraine” will share our excitement about this imminent visit. We are looking forward to hearing his stories, seeing the images he has promised to bring, which we hope to have on display in Winn Center (we’re still working on the arrangements for this), and pondering what this example of ministry on the front lines means for us, to what it calls us.

We will be thinking, over the next month, about some of the relationships between working with street children in Ukraine and the basic work of rethinking the paradigm of relationships between women and men, with the ultimate object of securing full justice for all human beings. The relationships are, perhaps, as subterranean as the steam tunnels and networks in which the children with whom Rev. Gamble works every day take refuge. And as structural.

Bob Gamble will preach on the LPTS campus on Thursday, February 21, at 7:00 p.m. in Caldwell Chapel, and will present more about his work at a lunch-hour gathering on Friday, February 22, 12:30-1:30 p.m., in the Women’s Center, White Hall. He will meet with interested students in the Women’s Center on Friday afternoon.