Yandex Metrika
A busy summer - a chance to give love and mature spiritually

Working and changing from within - disadvantaged women's stories

women farmstead procession field

It is half-past one on a Sunday afternoon. The disadvantaged women at the Convent's farmstead are attending a worship service at the Church of Saint Sergius of Radonezh. They are wearing beautiful coloured kerchiefs. The Communion has begun, and all the women have formed a line approach the Cup. After the communion, the celebrating priest Andrey Lemeshonok says a sermon. He ends it by saying to the women, "I wish you to stay in good health, and for peace to reign at the farmstead. May you all learn to love one another, and that way you will know what paradise is. For where there is love, there is Christ. Nothing evil can happen in that place, for it is filled with light and purity. The light of Christ enlightens everyone around Him."

For every resident of the farmstead, summer is a busy time. As a known Russian saying goes, the fruit of one summer day's work lasts a year. We interviewed several women about their daily work as a chance to learn to give love to one another, know God's will and follow it.

work on a tractor

Sister Victoria: "My biggest challenge is to change from within"

At the farmstead, Sister Victoria drives a tractor. She recently completed driving school in Minsk, and uses the tractor to plough and till the soil in spring and clean the snow in winter. Confidently, she walks towards the tractor with an ignition key in her right hand. She puts a funnel into the tank to add some diesel fuel.

Victoria has been here for eighteen months. She arrived from Vitebsk hoping to find work in Minsk but had her handbag stolen in the metro. All the money that she had saved up for rent was gone, along with her passport and mobile. She asked for advice in a nearby church, and they told her about the farmstead. At first, she was planning to stay here for a short time, but she liked it here and decided to stay longer. Elena explains, "I am not made for city life. I grew up in a rural home, and I am more comfortable in the countryside. I love being around nature and appreciate the prayerful surroundings. I have gone to church before, but my faith was very weak, like most other people's. But something changed. I have transformed from within. There is more peace in my heart. I still have the urge sometimes to slam the door and leave... But I am not going to act on it."

planting potatoes

Victoria comes to the hood and opens the lid. I need to check the oil. I have already replaced a generator myself. I am making progress. Some things I picked up from the driving school, and others I have learned myself. I am no stranger to machines; all of them are alike, but some are bigger than others. Victoria pushes the hood down, climbs into the cabin and starts the engine. A moment later, she is back in the field.

Sister Elena: "We are in God's territory"

For Sister Elena, the morning at the farmyard starts at 5:30. Her job is to prepare food for the animals. She takes care of the goats, pigs, rabbits and chickens. Potatoes for the pigs are boiling in a large furnace. Elena has been here for a year. Before coming here, she spent five years as a labourer at Saint Elisabeth Convent.

feeding a cat

"They sent me here from the Convent," explains Elena. "They said I had too much pride in me, and asked me to stay here for a while to reconsider my ways. Of course, I was not pleased. But I said to myself, 'May Your will be done, O Lord!" It could have been worse. I would have had to leave the Convent and live in the world if I had disagreed. But guess what? I am happy here, and I like this place a lot. I am pleased with my life. If you do not believe me, look at my face! It is all written here.

I am living in nature; I enjoy the clean air. It is a blessing. It is God's land, God's territory. And I am His servant. I dedicate all my work to Him, I could not imagine anything less. They can be quite demanding here, more than at the convent. All the life here, and all the work I am doing are tangible. There are fewer worship and prayer services here than at the Convent, but one can always engage in a continuous prayer on one's own. I feel that my work is of great value to God. Recently, Father Andrey Lemeshonok offered me to return to the Convent, but I am not sure if I want that.

reading akathist

It was God's will for me to be here, a great experience in learning and understanding. Here, I have cleansed myself from price and conceit. I realised that I was working here as a service to God. Sometimes, lifting heavy objects and taking them somewhere on a wheelbarrow could be a bit onerous. But the pain in the muscles goes away after some time. We are all God's servants. He trumps our fatigue with His grace. We just need to pray. Sometimes I become so tired that I cannot move a limb. Even then, I pray to Him, "Lord, have mercy on me." He helps, and after some time the tiredness is gone. Just ask our Father in Heaven for His sympathy, and He will shed it on us generously.

I am sometimes ashamed at my reluctance to put up with any hardships, and I lament my faint-heartedness when I call on the Lord to spare me of them. Perhaps I will have more endurance when I grow up spiritually.

inside st sergius church

Perhaps the hardest thing for me is the vast number of people waiting to see me out of the Convent. I am praying to remain here. My daughter, aged 33, respects my choice, but she wants me near her. Recently, she asked me what was holding me back. It is the people who are close to me in the spirit. They are people who love God and come to live in Him. They are working in His name, and are helping each other as a family. I know what prayer is and what power it can have. When you have no energy to continue, the sisters will pray for you, and you will rise back to your feet. Even at my most difficult moments, I have a better life here than in the world. This is my home. I belong here.

In conclusion, Sister Yelena adds, “To appreciate my words, try living here for a month or so. We had a beautiful winter here with a lot of snow - so lovely! The trees were all covered with ice and frost. It was magical. If you have not seen the sunrise and illuminate all this beauty, you have missed a lot!"

Recorded by Olga Demiduk

October 04, 2022
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