He can’t speak the way we do, but says more than many of us. He hasn’t got intellectual abilities as we do, but he is extremely subtle and emotionally sensitive, more than many ‘normal’ guys who we encounter on the way.
His name is Gintaras, which means amber. Are you familiar with this masterpiece of nature? In Lithuania, in particular at its coastal part, there is a lot of amber and it is considered one of the characteristics of the country. That is why the name Gintaras is not uncommon in this part of Europe.
Pricy and valuable
It is known that amber is not a stone, but the liquid resin of pine trees, which gradually thickens and becomes a valuable fossilized clot.
For the amber to become as hard as it may later be seen in jewelry, it must be extremely resistant to rot.
Most of the resin which is drained from the trees is decomposed by the biological processes. Sunlight, rain, microorganisms and extreme temperatures strongly influence the decomposition of the resin and only a small fraction eventually transforms to ‘amber’.
Throughout the lengthy thickening process it must successfully resist all the forces of nature. Therefore, it is both valued and valuable.
Living together with a blind father
Gintaras is fifty years old, old enough to develop into a mature, strong man as he is. True amber – irreplaceable, transparent and clean.
He lived in a block in Vilnius, in a family with a mother, blind father and two brothers. Mom died early due to illness, and later also his first brother. Two brothers were thus left alone with their father.
Second brother was joined by his girlfriend in the apartment, but since they were absent most of the time due to their jobs, Gintaras had to take over many responsibilities in the household and take care of the father. How he managed to do that, considering degree of his disability, still remains a mystery.
He was indeed very attached to his father. When he had to relocate to a different room several times in the community due to various circumstances, he always installed the image of his father in the central and most prominent spot.
Nobody really knows how Gintaras actually lived. Even his neighbors and others who faced him daily walking by, do not know much. He was considered “eccentric”, people loved him and received him well because of his appearance, generosity and a friendly smile, although he’s never been able to talk with them.
Gintaras’ life has turned upside down when his father died. He lost a good friend at the time as well, his strongest support. He and his brother were left alone, the female friend left too.
But after only two months, God has called his last brother. Gintaras was left alone. New unpredictable hit, a new test on resistance of the amber resin, a new opportunity to strengthen and thicken.
Which way forward?
When Gintaras’ relatives learned of the tragedy, they have immediately called the Hope organization. This is an important institution in Lithuania, which primarily advocates for the rights of persons with mental disabilities and, in exceptional circumstances, also helps with the possibility of a short term accommodation.
Time to grow
During this period, the Ark has also opened the door. After living in old house for five years, there were still only Martynas and Aneta there, and community knew that it was time to grow. They were looking for a new member.Gintaras: as genuine and transparent as amber Click To Tweet
‘When we got a call from the Hope organization and heard the story of Gintaras, we took it as a sign.‘ Says Teresa, responsible for the house in the community. ‘We decided to invite him to our community.‘
Here’s how the legend goes. When the Phaëton, son of Helios was killed, his grieving sisters transformed into host trees. Each of their tears turned into amber.
Gintaras first came to the community together with the son of the deceased brother and his wife.
‘I will never forget this meeting,’ said Teresa. ‘We were waiting in front of the house to greet him.
Gintaras stepped out of the car, silent and serious. He shook hands with everybody, having tears in his eyes. No words, no drama, calm, almost peaceful.’
He could not express his feelings by words, but in his own way he let us know how he feels about his loss. In front of our eyes, he could express exactly what he was experiencing, without hiding, without fear. Like a lamb – helpless and defenseless he was communicating: I’m here, I’m hurt, but I have dignity.
‘At that moment I had the feeling as if I have known this man forever.’
His tears turned to amber for all present at the occasion – the result of pain, suffering, but also durability and strength. Life did not spare him, he was challenged, but he stood there and inspired all present by the beauty of amber.
The decision was taken quickly. Gintaras was given his own room and since then he is sailing on the ark, alongside assistants and other persons with intellectual disabilities.
Open heart reception
At our arrival it was Gintaras who greeted us first. He approached us, shouting and showing us all important stuff around the house: picture ‘uuu’, hanger ‘uuu’, clock ‘aaa’, his bracelet ‘uaa’.
Then he took us to his room. Next he showed us the image of his father: ‘aa’, then the picture of Pope John Paul II, who is undoubtedly a second most important man in his life in addition to his father.
He pointed to the radio, took the outlet, annexed it and set to a radio station with music. It was so cute and friendly that we had instantly get fond of this man.
‘It is interesting to note how happy Gintaras is to greet others and give them the feeling of being welcomed. He has a very special gift for those things,‘ said Teresa. ‘I think it was his role back at home as well, when he was alone with his father.‘
Sociable in the truest sense
Gintaras is a very sociable and happy man by nature. He does not speak with words, but speaks with his life, with what he is.
Being sociable is far from merely being talkative as many people would think. It means more than just words.
Someone who can not speak, but responds to events in the community and shares inner feeling with others, even in his own way, is a sociable person.
In times of trouble
Gintaras has another special gift. He offers proximity to a person who suffers and is in sorrow. He would come to you, quiet and warm, he would hold your hand, and he would hug you, kiss you and remain there with you.
Kind to others
‘When someone happens to misplace an item and is searching for it around the house, it is usually Gintaras who occurs in front of you and hands it over. He’s fabulous!’ says Teresa.
We happened to enjoy several of his attentions as well.
In the hallway there is a small bell and before each meal, somebody would ring it as a sign of gathering time. Usually this is done by Gintaras.
Sometimes it happens that we do not hear the bell for the first time and we do not pay attention to the clock. Then the room door would open slowly, Gintaras entering quietly, approaching with a smile and ringing the bell again.
There is no force of this world which would keep us sitting in the room after such a kind gesture. Gintaras takes us by the hands and takes us to the dining room.
Meeting the second half of life
I wanted to fully dedicate this article to him. Not only because of his specific charisma, which illuminates our house, but also because our amber recently met the Abraham.
All the members of the community and some Lithuanian friends of the Ark went to the city bowling center for the occasion. It was the first time that we experienced community outside Čekoniškes, as our village is named. Five bowling lanes reserved, seven family pizzas, balloons and gifts for the birthday boy. Gintaras was the center of attention and he felt good in his skin.
Our world needs more amber
‘In this society, which is ruled by the stress and confusion, we need such people who bring peace,’ Teresa summed up.
And if I may only add that it is virtually impossible to understand the person like Gintaras without a personal meeting with him. Therefore, together with Silva we can only wish for people to be able to open their doors and allow themselves to be touched by Jesus on a new and different way.
p.s. We are still collecting funds for the Ark community in Lithuania. Since you have shown a great interest for the cause, we aim to increase our goal from € 300 to € 500. The money goes to buy three bicycles, a lawn mower and to install the tabernacle in the house chapel. Thank you for your help. Read more about the charity cause here >>