The Jesus Hug
By Alex Yefetov
It was Men’s Central Connecticut Tres Dias #37, but to me it felt like a bad version of Alice in Wonderland. The community had kindly invited me to attend the weekend with the goal of later sharing my experiences back home in Kiev, Ukraine. At that time, in 2000, the Kiev TD community was just shaping up.
That was the plan, pure and simple. But obviously, the Lord had in mind a different scenario. Just three weeks prior, the Ukraine doctors issued the final diagnosis for my three-month old son Pasha. (Some of you might still remember the prayer request sent around via the TDI Newsletter at the end of 1999.) It was stage 5 ROP (retinopathy of prematurity) which means the retina had begun to fully detach from both my child’s eyes. It was a desperate case to deal with in the most of Europe, not to mention Ukraine where the first attempts to treat ROP were made just a few years ago.
So my wife, my son, and I arrived in the United States a week before the CCTD weekend to meet with a Newark doctor reported to be one of the top 10 retina specialists on the planet. During our appointment, the doctor confirmed that yes, the surgery, considered to be the most sophisticated one done on the open eye, is the only option, but it costs a fortune. A myriad of complications are possible, and the success rate is only 10%. If it was not performed within a couple of weeks, he added, it would be too late. This meant total blindness.
Flooded with all this information, I sat in the doctor’s office looking at everything as if I were in some sort of parallel reality; the voices became muffled and distant. My English evaporated somewhere…
This was the morning of the first day of my CCTD weekend. Taking into account my circumstances, I had been excused to arrive later. I found myself sitting at the table in rollo room, forcedly smiling back to the cheerful looks I received from all around.
On the second day, during the silent prayer chapel, I collapsed. No more strength to keep the emotions within, no more courage to believe that everything is still under full God’s control, no more reasoning to explain to myself what was happening. I was perched on my knees, like everyone else in the chapel. Souls wept, but on the outside—simply quiet sobbing. The tears generously watered my cheeks and fell on the mat underneath me.
I had no idea how long I stayed there, sobbing and praying. Then, all of a sudden, it happened. With great astonishment I felt two big, mighty hands giving me a firm embrace-from behind! At first I froze, afraid to move an inch, and the very next moment I relaxed in this firm abrazzo. It’s warmth meant strength and safety.
“Thank you, Jesus…” In a few minutes I dared to turn to discover that it was my dear brother in Christ behind me. He knew about my family situation but had no clue what I was praying about.
Later he shared with me that as he prayed from the opposite side of the chapel, a clear and tangible thought formed in his mind: “Come over to Alex and give him a hug.” His first reaction: “What a strange idea. I barely know this man.” As the prompt repeated again and again, he finally overcame the anxiety of looking somewhat weird. He stood up, approached me, and extended a nice firm, long hug I will never forget.
As Teresa of Avila stated so well centuries ago: “Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses all the world.”
Yes, my brother’s hands were Christ’s hands.