We’re not doing very well keeping our conversations reasonably quiet, and the woman in charge of our sleeper car is agitated. She looks down the hallway every few minutes and tries to hush us. We are momentarily less noisy, but quickly our talk and laughter rise to the same unacceptable level. We are spilling out into the hallway and changing rooms often to join other groups. We are not trying to be disrespectful and we’re not sure if anyone else is within earshot of our joyous ruckus anyway. Many things in Russian culture are new to us, including customs and behavior on passenger trains.
A short six hours ago we left the orphanage. This is the surreal part of the journey. Until we begin the final walk down the hallway to the series of heavily dented thick metal doors that serve as the main entrance to the large institutional building that can house more than 100 orphans, life during this week in our Russian home consists of a nonstop series of activities and assemblies and performances and quiet times with the children. We are a window into a part of life that they need to know, one in which they were created, each with their unique talents and personalities perfectly fit for a purpose that they must find. We are not here to give them answers because we do not have them. It is pure coincidence that they are who they are, shaped by a hand far beyond our understanding.
Love comes in many forms. Our basic instincts equip us to survive, but love is not necessary to survive. Love brings happiness and comfort, hope and joy, dreams and confidence. Without love, life is mechanical. For some of us, it has taken our entire lives to learn how to begin to love selflessly. No amount of time will bring us the answers to what has just happened over the past seven days. Witnessing love in its rawest form is more than anyone will ever be able to comprehend, but we try to recall events and occurrences that happened with improbable regularity. We continue making our way to the yet unseen children and caregivers lining our way from outside the front door, down the long icy walkway to our waiting bus. And then we are out into the snowy cold and gray day. Our weary team of travelers and interpreters makes slow progress as we speak with each and every person, adult and child, caregiver and student, each and every one now part of our large family. We notice no one missing this time, even the older ones are celebrating the time we shared with them and the dramatic changes in all of our lives over the relatively short time together. Handshakes are no longer desired, but heartfelt hugs and heartfelt words. There is no doubt about the intersection in our lives now, not by any of us present in our Slobodskoy home.
Language and nationality have no hold on a person’s soul. Our spirit to go out into the world and live our lives is undeniable. Our choice to travel halfway around the world to Slobodskoy is a testament to free will. It is our way of telling the children and their caregivers and our interpreters and translators and the charities that support this whole journey that without all of our conscious decisions to do something, there might be nothing. Not that nothing would happen, but the chance for the thing to happen that needs to happen cannot occur because we did not allow it to happen. All of us are making this decision, not just the ones traveling from America to Slobodskoy, but everyone involved, even the children themselves.
4 thoughts on “The Intersection of Free Will and Circumstance – by Robert N.”
An answer to prayer! John 17: 20-26
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Thank you for sharing the many faces of love. Praising God for your loving, caring, and self-less witness at the orphanage. The community of believers is a powerful force! How your passage relating the joyful train reunion made me smile! – “It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor. 13:7
Every testimony I’ve heard or read from folks who have made the Slobodskoy trip echoes the thought that traveling there was absolutely something they were supposed to do, but you’ve captured the point that we have to act to put ourselves in those places where God wants to teach us and form us. Thanks for painting the picture so eloquently. I can see that very moving line of Russian friends saying goodbye and also the boisterous train ride where you’re all still so filled with the joy you’ve experienced again.
See you soon. Love,
This is the part of the journey that I find so hard. The difference between those children and the travelers is exactly what you are saying Robert, circumstance. There is no doubt though that God fills that orphanage. I still cry when I think about how overpowering it is there. You can feel Him everywhere.
The line that they formed so that each person could say goodbye was no doubt hard. But really it is not goodbye, but so long for now. Those children and caregivers are never far from our hearts.
Thanks for capturing the moment so well.