Then I started hearing…
‘Семья.’ Family. You are my family.
This year, one of our team members who had been twice, but not the year before was looking for a familiar face. Her Russian friend had shown up last year and asked me, ‘Where is Marca?’ I had to tell her Marca is not here, to which Nadia immediately replied with concern, ‘Is she ok?’
This year, as we finished our tea and delicious sweet rolls…some Russian hospitality customs are really fantastic, we were walking out and the kids swarmed. In the merriment of hugs, hellos and I’ve missed you…I looked around for the faces of graduates. We have several grads that hear a Woods Chapel team is coming, and show up over the weekend to see familiar faces. I found a few…Sasha, Artyom, Pavel…but no Nadia. We walked through the school and up the stairs to the small room that doubles as an auditorium with a stage, where several of the kids had already gathered.
As Marca walked in, a head popped out of the first row to watch the Americans walk in…and there was Nadia. Marca had a myriad of emotions, and I had a huge sense of answered prayer.
Throughout the day they had several small conversations, just trying to catch up.
But my favorite part was when Nadia went through all of the kids who were in the family group that Marca had spent 2 trips with their group. Vitalyi entered a portrait of her in a drawing contest and did really well, and his drawings have gotten so much better! Olga is at the same school with Vitalyi…this person is here, this person is doing this…sharing the family news with a relative she might see once a year. As I observed them at the back of the bus, Nadia’s face lit up as she talked. There was no doubt about her love for Marca, and no doubt that she knew that loved was returned.
Her words to Marca where, ‘You gave me hope.’ And isn’t that how we all want to impact people? Motivation for the struggles, and knowing someone is there…Nadia is a success story. She is at the Medical Academy and doing fantastic! It’s unusual for an orphan to make it, especially someone as young as Nadia. But isn’t that how family should support each other?
The kids are contagious…their enthusiasm for activities, for learning about us and most of all their strong desire to know their American friends better. At the core is a need to be known. Each year we watch as kids open their gifts from their friends, and every year the first thing they grab out is the letter and photos that are sent to them.
WCC members sent video this year as an experiment in being able to share messages. It went over so well that many of the kids wanted to send video messages back. As I taped the kids talking, they were nervous, but their excitement to show themselves on video was evident. They had considered their messages on video as gifts, and wanted to give that gift in return.
As I taped Alyona, Sharon Hutchen’s friend, she was showing her photos to the kids around her. Her excitement was like nothing I’d ever seen out of these kids before. She pointed to each person, said their name and mixed those photos in with the few photos she has of her biological family. To her, Sharon’s family is her family and I got her feelings on tape as she said on her video, ‘I miss you so much! Avery has grown so much!’ It melted my heart to know that she feels so loved, and included, by a family half a world away that is brings to her high pitched squeals of excitement.
The amazing thing about this year was that after 4 years of investing into the lives of these kids that we see each year…conversations were real, not just surface. That’s when you know you’ve crossed into new territory, and when you know the Kingdom work has become very real. You’ve not only gained new family, but you’ve poured hope, love, commitment and friendship into a child abandoned by their family.
I have tried here, but I would never be able to fully express how honored I feel to be a part of their family. And count them a part of mine…
There are so many more stories to tell! Please join us in the Lecture Hall on January 6 at 12:15 pm as we share more about our trip, show videos from the kids and talk about the amazing kids we have the privilege of knowing. And if you missed it, we blogged our trip…you can check it out at http://www.russiamissiontrip.com.