Author: David P. just returned from his third trip to Russia and the second with his teenage daughter, Carrie. David served as the trip leader for this latest adventure…and did an amazing job leading the 21 travelers during our journey!
I think I’m over my jet lag; at least I keep telling myself this throughout the day and even on Saturday at 4:45 am. For some odd reason, I awoke thinking of School Road #3 Slobodskoy and 84 Charing Cross Road. Yes, I had a restless night sleep! 84 Charing Cross Road is the title of a book recommended to me by a dear friend, Barbara Macauley. Its characters, a young woman in NYC and employees in a beloved antique book store in London, communicate via postal letters and over time, an endearing long distance friendship evolves. Barbara, age 85, died during the time I went to Russia in March 2010. Barbara loved to read but more than this she loved people and to write letters, and I loved to receive her letters as did my family.
As I recollect the first three years of Mission 1:27, Letters, Prayers and Sponsorship have been and still serve as its foundation; they are critical to the success of the mission trips. Each of these trips intentionally builds on past trips and brings home ideas and needs for future trips. Mission trips are really neat as oftentimes God’s purpose in each of us can be revealed either during or following the trip. In November 2007, I was fortunate to find myself on a Children’s Hope Chest visioning trip with 21 persons from different groups around the USA. We visited 12 orphanages; half of the orphanages had sponsors and the other half were desperately seeking sponsorship. In one of the sponsored orphanages, I noticed a young boy retrieving a letter from underneath his small mattress; he shared the letter with our group….it was from his sponsor and it was obvious that the letter was read frequently. The letter was affirming that this child had a purpose and that he was on purpose. For each person involved in Mission 1:27, including sponsors, friends and family and the Chapel Hill community, your letters and prayers have and are making a difference! I firmly believe that your faithfulness and inspiration contained in your letters is critical in growing our relationship and broadening the family. Your letters affirm that these children and orphanage staff have a purpose, and in doing so maybe you and I will understand our purpose.
The second travel team to Russia came back in October 2010 with great news: Galina, the Orphanage Director, was making letter writing a component of the children’s curriculum! She understands that letters help us stay connected and are so important for the children and their sponsors and the Orphanage staff. During our visits, we have “Family Time” which is a time when the travel team members meet with groups of similar aged children. During the recent mission trip, Galina set aside one of the “Family Times” for the children to write letters to their sponsors with the help of care givers and your travel team; this reinforces that letter writing is a way for families to stay connected. One such letter was from a non-sponsored first-grade boy to an older adult member of Christ Church who had written him during one of our letter writing events. What floored me was the greeting he used: “Dear Vivian Momma.” Another letter was hand-given to me by Elvina, the orphanage Librarian, beautifully describing her view of the impact of our letters, prayers and travel teams: “these are helping to save us during the year.” Letter writing connects us to a deeper understanding of family!
Each Mission 1:27 sponsor either asks or thinks about this question: when will my child write to me? The consistency of letter writing by many sponsors has resulted in trust being developed with the children and orphanage staff and has led to significant breakthroughs in letter writing and our developing friendship.
In closing, one of the most challenging aspects of a mission trip is to find a way to adequately express the emotions and experiences of the trip in a way that is meaningful. I am still processing events of the recent mission trip and as a result, how my life will be different in Chapel Hill. What is very clear to me is that letter writing has been and remains a key component of developing relationships and inspiring hope and purpose in the lives of these children in Slobodskoy. The children want to know about you and your family because you are a part of their family. Your letters help comfort the children especially at bedtime when the letter is read and as they sleep knowing the letter is safe and sound beneath their mattress.