The Nairn congregation of the Free Church has recently hosted again a group of school-aged children from Chernobyl in the Ukraine, in a partnership developed alongside other local churches.
Many will remember the horrific explosion at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, close to the border between Ukraine and Belarus, in April 1986. While time moves on and the world’s gaze only occasionally returns there, for the residents of that region everything changed that day, and the legacy of contaminated food and soil and the consequent health-related issues remains an ever-present daily reality.
Over the years charitable efforts have been made, among other things, to bring to the UK some of the children who have been born into the affected region since. One such charitable group was founded in Nairn some twenty years ago and in recent years many young children, aged about eight to twelve, have benefited from a few weeks’ stay in the town during the summer holidays. A different group of children come each time and, amongst other things, are treated to fresh healthy air, free medical and dental check-ups, new clothes and some traditional Highland hospitality.
A number of churches in Nairn have been at the forefront of this enterprise, sharing something of the love of Christ with those from such an unfortunate background. In recent years, Nairn Free Church have also been delighted to play a small part in such a worthwhile effort by playing host to these young visitors and their local host-families.
Nairn minister, Rev. Murdo MacLeod, says, “We were really blessed to have been able again to have these children as our guests - playing games, eating, chatting, singing, and even teaching them some ceilidh dancing! Our in-house piper fairly kept the neighbours entertained as our young friends learned ‘Strip the Willow’ in the garden in the early evening sunshine! I’d love to have heard them trying to describe it to their families when they got back home!”
While the short time spent with the children offers only a limited experience, all the congregations involved have been encouraged to know that the children leave with a sense of what God’s people in a faraway land are doing to help them even in this small way.
“Although what we have done is very modest,” said Murdo, “it’s always good to remember that small things can make a big difference. A mere month spent in a healthy climate is believed to add as much as three or four years to the life-expectancy of these children. Our hope and prayer would be that the spiritual ripples of a small dose of kindness would lead to a just-as-disproportionate blessing to these children and their families. The God who used the widow’s mite and the young lad’s few loaves and fishes is well able to use and to grow our little contribution offered in the love of Christ.”