Looking Back…and Looking Ahead

There are many people who are skilled at keeping a journal. I am not one of them. I marvel at those who regularly capture their private thoughts in a format that memorializes those emotions. What an amazing experience it must be to look back through your journal and reflect and remember certain moments and how you were feeling at that time.

For most people, their journal stays a personal reflection, allowing for introspection but shared with no one. That’s really what journaling is all about (so I am told!). But once in a while, we are given a tiny peek into someone’s life when they choose to share their journal entry with a friend or loved one.

Today at church, we were afforded such a sneak peek. During a “Mission Moment” during our service, Patsy S. opened her journal – and her life – to the hundreds of folks in attendance to talk about what Mission 1:27 and Russia has meant to her. It was a deep and personal look into the feelings of a caring and loving mother and friend to many of us. Here is her reflection:

How Was Your Trip? by Patsy S.

A simple enough question, but one I often find I struggle with upon my return from Russia.  I traveled to Slobodskoy in March with my daughter Maddie for our second trip to the orphanage  and even having been there twice now this question is still difficult to answer. I find my response changes depending on who is asking and how much I want to share at that particular moment.  Today, the answer to the question, “how was your trip” is found in my journal, from the entry titled, Day Five.

“By far the most emotional day. Not that all our days have not been filled with emotions, strong and unexplainable, but for me, nothing is harder than saying good-bye, not just to the children but to the experience. Mission 1:27 is a part of me, a part I never knew existed within me before last year, but a piece of my life so scared and powerful that it changes me from within without me knowing. It has changed my relationship with Maddie and opened up a space in my heart I never knew needed opening.

The simple idea that we have within us the never-ending power to love can bring tears to my eyes if I think too much about it. That in a minute, when I finally get the courage to open the door in front of me, the same door we have entered for the past five days to exit one final time, I can barely bring myself to do it. I stand and wait with Maddie and Kendall and I breathe deep, I know what is ahead of me. The walk to the bus. Our walk will be lined with about 80 kids and caregivers who will hug me, say good-bye and watch as we pull away once more.  I take one more deep breath and say to myself, “just do it”.

Suddenly I am struck by the cold on my face and the warmth in my heart. With each embrace I feel more connected and more blessed than the one before. Each child and caregiver says good-bye and hugs me, some longer than others but not a single one is missed. Some of the kids are crying and I touch their face and say, “we will be back”, and even though they do not understand my words I know they can feel the love in my heart.  I mean these words and I feel their love and suddenly I realize I am in the presence of God, because this is nothing I have ever known or felt or experienced. Only HE can provide me with the emotions and feelings that are a part of me in this very moment and in this very place.

Then, just like that, I am back, walking toward Galina, thanking her for her hospitality and for her heart that cares for these children. I try to move quickly to the bus so the children do not sense my sadness or see my tears and then right before me is Andrey. He is telling me to write him and to have “Papa Tony” write as well. I hug him again and look into those beautiful eyes once more, I will remember those eyes and his smile forever. As I get on the bus, he fills my heart.

I take my usual spot next to Rush and watch as the others walk the same walk. The kids slowly get out of line and inch toward the bus and I decide it will take a while to complete all the goodbyes so I get off.

I see Maddie with Ruslan who is crying very hard, I know she wants to say good-bye to the others but she will not leave his side, so I take him in my arms and hold him. I hold his face in my hands and tell him I love him and that I will be back. I wipe away his tears and with each tear I wipe, I know I will be back here to do exactly what I have done on both trips to Slobodskoy. I will come and give all that I have to give to these children who have shown me that even with so little they can give so much.

Each of us comes to this orphanage to give ourselves to these children for the week and each of us leaves with a gift we never expected to receive, the gift of unconditional love. I am forever grateful for this gift and this time and this place, it lives within me and is a part of who I am now and I thank God for this gift that is the capacity to love so easily.”

What beautiful and poignant words – eloquently written at the time as a personal reflection but passionately shared today with so many others. Thank you, Patsy, for this window into your heart and sharing your love for God and His children in such a powerful way.

There are many, many other stories from Slobodskoy. So many, as a matter of fact, that we are hosting a “Stories from Slobodskoy” event next Sunday, May 15.  The event is in Ascension Hall at Christ United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill from 12:15 – 1:30 p.m. You will learn more about the kids that we sponsor and see pictures of how much they have grown up. Plus, we will be serving a typical orphanage lunch for you to enjoy. You don’t need to be a sponsor to attend this event – just have to love a good story, have a passion for God’s children and an empty stomach for lunch! We hope to see you there.

For the Fatherless,

Mission 1:27

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3 thoughts on “Looking Back…and Looking Ahead

  1. What a beautiful post, Patsy – you are a wonderful writer. You brought tears to my eyes with your exquisite description of your experience. Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us and helping us understand why these trips are so meaningful for those who make the journey.

  2. Patsy – I echo my daughter Allison’s words, written above. The gifts of Slobodskoy keep coming as those of us, who have never been there, are allowed to embrace and vicariously experience feelings transmitted to us through the words and intense feelings of the Mission 1:27 travelers. Thanks for sharing…..

  3. Patsy,
    Your post was wonderful. Thank you for sharing and being a strong and caring role model.

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