We know that many of you started reading this blog to get an update on our “Journey to Russia” – the physical trip across the world that brought so many new cultural, spiritual and life experiences to our twenty-one travelers. Now that we are home safely, you probably expected the blog to end. Candidly, we (the travelers) did as well.
But that’s not the case…because our journey is far from over. On the plane ride home from Moscow, we realized that the journey had just started. A journey that is going to involve so many more people, so many more kids, and so many more ups and downs in the months and years to come.
Since arriving home, many of us have spent every waking, non-working moment (okay, probably some working moments, too!) thinking about our experience. Not just thinking – but praying, thanking, planning, sharing, laughing, crying, dreaming and hoping. We are filled with enthusiasm and optimism for what God is doing in our lives, in the lives of the orphans and how the majesty of what we witnessed and experienced in Russia is still taking root in Chapel Hill and in Slobodskoy. So what’s keeping us going these days? It’s our vivid recollection of kids like Katya.
Katya was the first child we met at the orphanage. She was dressed in her traditional Russian folk outfit, which was handmade by Veronica, one of her fellow orphans. As we walked into the cafeteria for the first time, the entire orphanage was gathered and greeted us with a hearty “Hello” – yes, in English! We then were treated to this Russia folk song, presented by Katya and accompanied by the music teacher on the accordion. Click HERE to listen for yourself on YouTube.
Katya’s voice is angelic – and her personality more so. She sang for us throughout our trip…and at any chance she could get. Katya is a born performer who loves to share her gift with others.
But that’s par for the course at this orphanage. Amidst all the challenges and struggles they face, each child had a gift to share with us. For Katya, it was her singing. For Veronica, it was her ability as a seamstress. For Alyosha, it was his stuffed animal mouse that he presented to us on day 1. For Natasha, it was the first cross stitch she had completed after a year’s work. Each with a gift given to us – no strings attached. They had so little, yet they gave so much. They didn’t expect anything in return. Given from the heart with love. So humbling to be given such a gift. And such significance during Holy Week as we considered the ultimate gift given to us in Christ’s death and resurrection.
So that’s what keeps us going. Katya. Veronica. Alyosha. Natasha. Ruslan. Vova. Sasha. Sveta. Misha. Galina. The staff. Our translators. So many people with so much to give. There’s nothing we can do to match the generosity and love of these new friends. So we humbly offer them our friendship rooted in God’s love and hope. And a commitment that we will keep going, keep visiting and be there for them as the journey of life continues. Yep, this is just the beginning…