Friday, April 09, 2010

Visitor from afar

As I was tidying up after the lunchtime Eucharist today, I was approached by a young woman, who asked if I was Father Keith. I looked more closely and realised it was Dr Laura Ciobanu, on a return visit from Bucharest, where she teaches and practices medicine. We met when she was doing some specialist training here four years ago, and have met twice since when she's returned to see friends. All these meetings could so easily not have happened, but somehow were meant to happen. On this occasion she'd been told that I was unwell and had probably left the church, since I'd slipped into the sacristy after the service to work with Philip on an email for a few moments.

Last time she brought us the gift of an icon of St John the Baptist from home. This time, there was a special personal gift for me - some holy oil and incense grains from Mount Athos, the home of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. It was just so touching to be remembered, and to see her again. Her Father is a priest in Bucharest, now semi-retired following a stroke, but active in prayer and pastoral guidance in his local church. I bet he must be proud of his accomplished daughter. She went home, after her internship, to do something about medicine in her homeland, rather than earn a relative fortune somewhere else. She said it is so hard because the whole system is still run by communists, hanging on, with little vision or new sense of direction, not knowing how to address the need for change or cope with it when it happens. Much like here I suppose, though more far reaching in consequences where she is. Being here for her was a bit like being a dream world where dreams came true. Back at home, the dreams are more like nightmares.

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