Red Raspberries in Ukraine


Ukraine, summer 1993, on a mission trip 

Red Raspberries in Ukraine


We walk the streets of Borispol and Kiev in 1993,

climb dingy high-rise apartments, find no hot

water or toilet seats—search empty shelves

in grocery stores for soap

to wash dishes, clothes, and floors. 


We seek respite from roaches

for our mission team, American teens

eager to share the good news of the Gospel

with those who lost their land and means

to the Communist Manifesto. 


We sense the cost of collectivism,

vacant streets a camouflage

to dens where Ukrainian

and Russian mafia plot to rape

the country’s remaining riches.


We sing to Ukraine’s children,

hear men speak of decapitating and toppling

Lenin’s statue, and wonder what took

them so long, marvel at their endurance

to suffer bondage and starvation.


The team of teens (four leaders in front row), cooks on the left

We befriend a band of women,

cooks who serve us bowls

of Cream of Wheat with red raspberries

fifteen mornings

on white tablecloths.


I pray their smiles, sons and daughters, thrive,

wish to compensate their kindness, seat

them around my family table, place bowls

of Cream of Wheat with red raspberries before

them, share our will to work with those who will.