Sunday, September 16, 2007

The September 30th Rada elections are becoming more visible. If any village has a bit of good fortune, street lights go on, or water supply isn’t interrupted, people say “oh, there is an election soon.”

We were reminded of that early this week when we were coming back from Melitopol and the road crews were busy putting cow-pies of tar in the holes, then peppering the top with “pea” gravel and pressing it down for good measure. They were followed by a blue Ford tractor with a mower cutting the grass--and debris--along the shoulders. Later in the evening when we went to Tokmak we noticed groups of people hanging blue ribbons on overhanging branches. Driving back in the dark we had to scoot around the unlit, unmarked, blue tractor now mowing in the dark.

Why all the attention? We heard that on the following morning the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych was driving from Melitopol, through Molochansk, and then on to Tokmak to give a speech. Because we had to go to Tokmak anyway we took the opportunity to join in a political rally.

Now, a political rally is somewhat akin to a Sunday morning church service. The same hard of hearing sound person operates the sound system for both groups; some people dress up, others don’t; children quickly find other interests, and we are all waiting for the coming messiah. This earthly one eventually showed up, accompanied by a few well prepped disciples in front of the stage. The speech was delivered and the applause was polite. Now, when Ben was a youth and sitting with the young boys in the South Abbotsford MB Church, long-armed elders would sit behind and remotely control their behaviour through glares, stares and pokes. Here the elders were replaced by bodyguards and police. Not many, but effective. Promises were given, doomsday scenarios presented and off we went.

The people appear election weary. When asked about the election, they shrug their shoulders, and say something like, “let them be, it makes no difference.” They ask, “who will pay for my surgery or my coal?”

On a national scale the political fighting often described as being pro-Russian or pro-Western, hasn’t impaired economic growth which currently is around 7%. The consumer goods are readily available in cities—new stores are springing up everywhere and traffic jams are all too common. However, there is a different story in the villages. Some former Mennonite villages still do not have running water and many only have outdoor toilets. And don’t think you’ll want to go in there to sit and peruse your Reader’s Digest.

Politicians will come and go. But the people in Ohrloff need money for new windows, ceilings, and books in the Community Centre library (formerly the school for the deaf). We don’t want to come in and promise, we want to come and be the likeness of Christ and be doers of the Word. Thanks for your support.

Ben and Linda


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