So here we go. For those who don't know me, I grew up in a small but famous town in Siberia - Mirny. If you look it up, you are likely to come across one of the biggest holes in the world - literally. The town is nestled next to a gigantic diamond mine. Much like millions of small towns of that era in Soviet Union's history - it was not very advanced technologically. Out hospital, which was the pride of the town at the time (and compared to lack of such in nearby towns), is actually on par with a Victorian era hospital, technology-wise. Yet, it played the main part in my, no God's story.
I was 8-9 years old, walking home from school when I was attacked by a stray dog. I did not get hurt much - just one bite on my calve. However, since it was a stray and the animal broke the skin, after I was examined at the "emergency room", the doctors decided that I need to be checked into the hospital and receive a full doze of rabies vaccinations. So that night, my mother gathered few things for me and we went to the hospital.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, don't picture a regular American hospital. Picture something from WW2-era, or earlier. The hospital had a children floor, and adults floor. Unfortunately, the children floor was too crowded, so I had to be placed on the adult's floor. Now the adult floor was broken into halves - one side was for the men, the other - for the women. There was no room on the women side so someone found me a bed in one of the rooms in the men's burn unit.
Now when you picture a burn unit, most people in America,is they never been in a 3d world country, picture expensive machinery, clean environment and privacy for the suffering patients. No, it was a room, not much bigger than my current living room, with regular metal cots with old mattresses. I don't recall details very well, but I recall that it was full of men, about 5-6. It was evening, and I was told to just go to sleep, but I could not. Screaming and moaning surrounded me. You see, the hospital was short on medicine, and mainly pain-killers. These poor men, was simply laying there, suffering alone yet in a room full of other suffering men.
You must have noticed that I did not mention my mother being there for me, or protesting me being put there. In Russian hospitals, the non-patients were not allowed to enter the floors with the sick for hygienic reasons. I assume that some allowed, or in certain circumstances, but the sick were on their own - at the mercy of the doctors and the nurses.
So anyway, at some point a nurse noticed the little girl hiding under her blankets, terrified and alone in this horrible room. She made a big deal about this "Who thought to put a girl in the men's ward?!" I remember some people helping me out and bringing me to the other side - the one for the women. Sadly, there was no beds open in any of the rooms, so I got a simple fold-out cot in the corridor. I laid there, feeling quite afraid, lonely and sorry for myself. There I was - a forgotten, motherless child, alone in this scary hospital, not even knowing what is going to happen to me or what is going to be done. It's not like anyone would really bother explaining the procedures to a child back there.
I did get a bed the next day in a real room. There were about 6-7 women there. They were super-sweet to me, except the one that just laid there and started at the ceiling all day. Other women told me that she was dying of cancer. She was not much older than my mother. No one had visited her.
Now for years, I came back to this memory and shrunk away from it. I asked the Lord, once I became a Christian - why would you make me go through this horrible experience, that possible scarred some part of my fragile young mind? After a while, God pointed back at the memory, and in His small still voice said "Look. Look closer."
And this is the part I have not told you yet, which I now believe in my heart was the reason that I came across that dog, that I came to the hospital, and God gifted me with this precious experience.
The next night, after I already got a bed in the room with the women, the ambulance wheeled in a boy my age to our floor. He was hit by a bus, and they still had no room in the children section. He was hurt pretty badly - his leg was in a cast from hip down, so was his arm. They laid him in the only place they could find - in the corridor by my room. Right where I used to lay just the night before, feeling sorry for myself. He did not cry, he was very quiet. I got to know him a bit the next day. I could tell he was in pain, but he did not cry. He just laid there, alone. His parents never came in, probably because they were not allowed.
My mom brought me my literature textbook, so I have something to read. It had a few almost-full novels there. One of them - Robinson Crusoe. I don't recall what motivated me to do it at the time, at least I never realized, but I used to sit and read this book to the boy. He just listened quietly. His breath smelled of blood and he winced a lot, but he just quietly listened.
After a while, my shots were done, my bite was healed and I was sent home. I went into the hospital a couple of times for a checkup, and saw the boy recovering - hopping around on crutches. He did not recognize me. It stung a bit.
Years went by. And one day, I finally understood that this silly little dog that bit me (not attacked me, bthw. It followed me silently, and gently, almost daintily - nipped me) was placed there by God. That I was at the right place and at the right moment so that I could receive a gift of simply showing kindness for someone in need. I don't know if the boy remembers this - it does not matter. The thanks for this is from me to God. He gave me a chance to selflessly show compassion for a hurting boy I did not know. To share my gift of reading out-loud really well, and hopefully lessen his fear, loneliness and pain.
God used me for his work before I knew him, before I knew of Jesus, and yet, there I was. Perhaps I was, unknowingly the answer for his parent's prayers. Time is not linear for God, it seems, because I can feel his love for me and that boy in the past when I look back at it. Thank you.