The first day at the orphanage flew by – so much activity and so much emotion. For some of us, it was the sense of returning home and reuniting with old friends. Yet for others, the day marked the arrival in a foreign country filled with new experiences, different food and strangers. The recap of the first day depends on whose eyes you viewed the day through.
And yet, there was one common thread that was woven throughout the first day…and a thread that will likely last throughout the week. That thread is around ENCOUNTER: encounter with our Russian friends, encounter with the other travelers and encounter with God. The first visit was filled with encounters that helped shaped the day and will certainly help shape the entire week here.
We gathered last night after our session to recap the day and we heard stories of encounters:
- Meeting a young man, the brother of an orphan who graduated last year, who has had his own encounter with God and now tries to live out James 1:27 in his own country by serving orphans.
- Visiting with old friends we haven’t seen in months, picking up with stories and jokes that we have carried over from our last few visits.
- Watching a young orphan – one that has not been here for any our previous visits – latching onto one of our new travelers as if God had selected her as her guardian angel for the week.
- Breaking bread with Galina and the staff, who have become more than just friends but truly family – sharing laughter, serious conversation and an intense feeling of love and care for each other and the children.
- Being in awe of our interpreters, including some new faces, who continue to remind us of God’s love for us through the caring and passionate translation of our words.
Throughout the week, our blog posts will focus on these encounters; you will hear different perspectives, different stories and different ways that God is shaping our lives through the unique encounter with his children in Slobodskoy.
For those looking at a recap of the day, we’ll highlight things quickly here:
Monday was the arrival in Kirov and our regular gathering at Asya’s cafe restaurant for breakfast. For those who have been before, As has opened ANOTHER restaurant in Kirov and we will dine there for dinner on Saturday night before heading back. We are trying to talk her into opening a Slobodskoy eatery…but she is saving her money for a car first. She is an amazing woman who can successfully runs three entities (two restaurants and a bakery) and continues to welcome us to the country with great food served with love.
After a warm shower at the hotel, we went to the orphanage for our initial visit. Galina had orchestrated her usual opening ceremony, complete with a group of kids speaking and singing in English! They continue to grow in their interest in learning English and their pronunciation is getting so good! We then had a delicious opening meal (Russian cole slaw, chicken noodle soup and chicken and mashed potatoes) followed by making name tags as a group. The name tag time was followed by the Indian Path – a little outdoor activity organized by Galina to emphasize exercise and nature (gotta love that woman!).
That was followed by the unveiling of the Tree of Friendship, an homage to our growing relationship with the children and staff – which accompany the Tree of Wisdom and Trees for each age group of student. We will post pictures later today, but it was a moving tribute to how Galina and the staff view our role in their lives. That was culminated by five different slide shows (yep – you read that right – 5!!) highlighting our past visit, the past school year and a variety of topics that everyone, especially the kids, found interesting.
After a quick dinner of cottage cheesecake with sweet condensed milk, we then went to our family groups for our first time together. More on those encounters too. The famed “second dinner” included potato rolls in the library with Galina and staff as we counted the day together, laughing and talking as we shared stories from the day.
Candidly, it’s tough to share the details of the day without thinking, “We have to mention this” or “They should know about that.” Not everything can be captured in this short forum. But more than that, words can’t always express what God is doing. But that’s part of the beauty of God – some things that He does just need to be encountered. And these encounters don’t just happen in Russia. They happen in Chapel Hill, NC – in Brosville, VA – in Bruce, FL – and all over the US today. And thanks be to God, these encounters are happening in Slobodskoy, Russia, too.
With more to share as time allows,