Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
My heart is filled with gratitude — first, to our loving God, always present, always providing what we need, always leading the way. There are also countless people to thank. I will not name them individually, but you know who you are and, more importantly, God knows who you are. He sees you. Jesus said “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) Whether it was a donation of t-shirts for the children in Slobodskoy, or a bag of candy or gum, or any of the other numerous supplies and gifts which we brought with us, it did not go unnoticed by God.
I am thankful for the many sponsors, members of Christ Church, women of Legacy Bible study, family members and friends in the community, for writing letters to the orphans, praying continually for the children and our travel team, and donating gifts and supplies for the mission trip. I also am grateful to a wonderful group of youth who spent part of their summer and fall creating handmade friendship bracelets for all of our Slobodskoy friends. The gifts of your time and talents did not go unnoticed. I appreciate you so much, and the children and staff in Slobodskoy orphanage also are very grateful to you. And once again the gratitude always goes to God, because without Him, we would not be the people we are, with hearts full of love for God’s children.
This trip was different from the first, but equally moving. The most striking difference I noticed was in the children, caregivers and staff. It wasn’t just that some of the children had grown quite a bit taller – there was something in their faces, in the way they carried themselves. It’s hard to describe with words but I’ll try. They seemed to have a confidence that I hadn’t seen before, an assurance that they are precious, they are loved. They were joyful, they walked differently, they smiled more often, and they laughed (not nervous laughter, but real laughter). The faces of the caregivers were softer, more at ease, filled with joy and contentment. I don’t think it was just because we were there. There is a lot more to this. The letters that you write are making a huge difference in how the children feel about themselves. Obviously the caregivers love them, and Galina loves them, but they are also feeling the love from someone very far away, someone who takes the time to write to them even though they may not get a letter back. That is a very selfless act – to give and not expect anything in return. That is loving others as God loves us. The children are being shown the love of God through you – because you write, because you pray, because you care. My heart is filled with gratitude and joy, for God and for you.