Author: Kendall W. is a ninth grade and on her second trip to Slobodskoy, this time traveling with her younger sister and dad.
This week I was lucky enough to be working with the teenagers that are about to graduate. On my previous trip last spring, I worked with the little kids more and it is a totally different relationship. The younger kids are much more affectionate and give you constant hugs and really show you how they feel. The older kids are a different story. They have to prove how tough they are by not showing you physical affection with hugs and sometimes just leave the room when you arrive. They can be found sitting downstairs on the couch or smoking outside. I was apprehensive when I found out what group I was in, but God can work in mysterious ways and it turned out to be a great week.
Monday was the first day that I had with this group. Our task was to create a play, song, or skit for a talent show that we would show to everyone. It started out as a group of nine Americans, four translators, and about five kids. We decided to sing songs in Russian and English and slowly as we practiced, more kids trickled up the stairs to join us. At the end, there were almost triple the kids and the Americans were outnumbered! Our performance was great and everyone had a wonderful time laughing and singing together. We got a score of 20 out of 10! It was great to see that more kids were interested in joining and it was the start to a great relationship.
At night, some travelers tuck in the youngest kids and others play games with the older kids. I came up late from tucking in the littlest kids, and I was shocked at what I walked in on. The room was PACKED with kids laughing and having fun playing board games and listening to American music on an iPad. It was moving to see that even the kids that are “too cool” to be seen with us silly Americans could be found on the couch looking at the songs, playing Jenga, or even playing Headbands (a game meant for little kids). God was helping show them that it is okay not to be tough all the time, and act like little kids.
It is also a different experience to be working with kids that are your own age or even older. I found myself giving people advice to kids who were one or two years older than me. You can get into more in-depth conversations with people when they are more mature. We talked a lot about smoking and how it is bad, since most of the future grads of 2011 do it. Coming from someone their own age who lives in America, I hope that it had a bigger impact than hearing it from adults.
One boy in my group was named Roma. He was quiet and I only saw him at a couple of the family times, but he really stuck out when we made balloon animals. Craig (my dad) was teaching everyone how to make a dog and he was making an extremely complicated two-foot tall hat with ten balloons. It was really neat! Later in the week, our translator Sveta found me and told me that someone wanted to meet me. It turned out to be Roma. He had gotten a letter from me at one of the letter writing events when I wrote to people without sponsors. He had been looking for me all week since I told him I was visiting him in my letter. It just goes to show that even a simple letter can have a profound effect on people. Needless to say, I will be writing him many times in the future!
We were very lucky to be in the orphanage during their 50th anniversary celebration. Some of the past graduates came back for it and even some of the very first caregivers came back. One of those returning graduates was a girl named Sveta. She was very close to my mom, Holly, last spring and I was pleased to see her. You could see that she had changed at first sight. There was a different way that she held herself and she was more mature. She had seen what is out there in the real world and it has changed her. Living in the comfort of an orphanage where there is a caregiver with you in your room 24/7 is very different from living by yourself in Tech School. The only way you could come back to the orphanage was if your grades were good and I am pleased to say that Sveta met the requirements. The teachers in Slobodskoy did a great job preparing her for the schooling. It was wonderful to see someone again after an entire year and be able to say that after knowing them for four and a half days, I can still see the changes in her.
There are so many more stories and so many more places that we saw God this week that they cannot fit in a whole blog post, or even on all of our posts. This trip has been unbelievable and I am proud to be able to tell you about it. It has truly been one of the best trips of my life and a very eye-opening experience. It has brought me closer to God, closer to my family, and closer to my friends. It has changed my life.