Another hosting program comes to an end. The pool towels are folded and stored away. Beds are stripped and sheets are being washed. The kitchen is clean. And yet the quiet is deafening. The emptiness is strange and uncomfortable. The memories, sweet and yet raw. I will attempt to share a few random memories that I hope capture the spirit of our annual hosting of Ukrainian children, orphaned and alone, through no fault of their own.
The first few days the children were here, they were quiet during sabraniye; staring at me with unfamiliar eyes. (Sabraniye is Russian for “gathering” and is what we call our nightly Bible study time. The photo above is of our last sabraniye). It did not take long before the children began interacting: sharing prayer requests, asking questions, joking, speaking longingly of their hopes and dreams. At one point my heart overflowed with joy when one boy, who had previously said he did not believe in God, asked for a Bible to read along during the lesson. I delighted in their retention of what was begin taught; and I laughed on the last night when a previously shy boy sat in my chair and began conducting his own sabraniye, complete with my usual comments and questions.
One night we talked about treasures here on earth and how they did not compare to the treasure of Christ. I started this discussion by asking what they longed for in this world more than anything. None of these impoverished children said money, cars, or fame. They wished only for a family. My husband and I are blessed financially. If money could make them happy; satisfy their deepest desire, then I could, and would, give it. But I can’t provide them all a family. Only God can do that. And only God can reveal to them that even a family will not ultimately satisfy. They need Christ. And yet my heart aches that they must return to a place where there is no one to lead them there.
One of our translators who lives here in America is an orphan who has a student visa and is in college in the US. After spending a few days around me and Jay, she remarked “I wish I could be a kid again (pause). A kid with a family. It must be so nice just to say ‘Mom, I need something’ and you are right there.” We take for granted all the many blessings we have. A home. A family. I was asking one of our boys about his life. He focused in on how long he had been in the orphanage. He is 15. He has been in the orphanage for 9 years. “longer than anyone else” he pointed out. He told me how long each of the other kids had been there; repeated he had been there the longest, and then he laid his head on the table, covering his face with his arms.
One Sunday, a young man adopted from Ukraine about 6 years ago, shared his testimony with the kids. There was not a dry eye among the Americans or the Ukrainian children as he shared about his life in Ukraine; his problems after adoption; and his recent transformation by Christ. The children hung on his every word and in the end, I pray, found hope.
I don’t do statistics. But right here in our little group, whether it be with the kids themselves or their friends and extended families back in Ukraine, we see teen pregnancy, cutting, abuse, prison. Sin has ruined our world. It has ruined the lives of these 19 children. In Ukraine, America, Africa, Haiti, the harvest is plentiful. I thank God for the few harvesters He has sent into my home these last 21 days. These children have experienced love. And each of them has heard the gospel. They have been hugged, fed, pampered. I am thankful for visitors from Iowa, Mississippi, and Colorado. I appreciate the churches and businesses who have sponsored meals and activities. And yet sometimes I cry because of the greatness of the harvest and the scarcity of workers. And yet in all these things, I know that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.
In 2 days, a team of 13 of us, most of whom just spent the last 21 days with GtU, will board a plane to spend a month in Ukraine. While there, we will share the love of Christ with impoverished village children. We will once again play, hug, laugh and share what it means to follow Christ. And then, as is always the case, we will tearfully say goodbye, longing in our hearts for the day when sadness, poverty, alcoholism, and orphanages will all cease. Lord Jesus, come quickly.