It was 9pm on Friday night. I hadn’t begun to pack for the trip, and the plane was scheduled to pull out at noon on Saturday. Not sure why I felt so at ease, I dragged out a suitcase and began to search through drawers and the closet for a minimal amount of clothing for the journey. Gifts for our friends in Russia that are our translators and interpreters and helpers, and also for our beautiful Russian children, required the largest rolling bag we owned. I smiled thinking about how our Mission 1:27 family has grown and how many of them call Russia their home, and our desire to give them all a gift to remember us in the busy lull between trips and thank them for their love and friendship. Not any different from what the children must feel in the orphanage when they approach with their contagious smiles and a special present.
I had forgotten my laptop computer from work and decided there must be a reason. It turned out to be a blessing. My previous two trips were filled with computer time at night putting together a slide show or writing some personal insights for the website. I didn’t know at the time, but my purpose on this trip was to live in the moment and learn, to drink in the sights and sounds and expressions, to communicate at a deeper level, and to complete some bridges with a number of children that have been waiting patiently for me but I was blind to their beckoning call.
The physical journey was long but familiar, and a calming spirit steadied us. The sense of purpose was palpable, but the need for recognition was absent. More than ever before, I felt a hand on all of our shoulders that made everything ok, and our collective group that started as eight and grew to eighteen seemed to move and think as one body. The overnight plane ride, the afternoon in Moscow, the overnight train to Kirov, breakfast at Asya’s, the bus ride to Slobodskoy, checking into the quaint hotel on the lumber yard, they all seemed free of pretense and stress, and the hours blurred by.
We were all anxious to see the children, especially our three new travelers. Our arrival at the orphanage was a welcome relief and we drank in the laughter and hugs, from the opening ceremony that has become such a tradition, to the family time we spent before tucking in the children and wishing them “spokey nokey” after reading a bedtime story or hanging out with the older children playing charades. It was so much like home and memories of family gatherings at Thanksgiving came to mind. Everything seemed familiar and comfortable, and I was struck to just listen and observe even while fully engaged in fun and games and conversation. There was something about the lights and colors, the way the noises and voices reverberated, the movements of us and the children as we played and danced and held hands and hugged each other.
It felt so right to be back, like falling back to sleep to visit the same dream again. There is something in His presence that stills our souls and beckons us to be quiet and experience the joy of life. It was there, in their smiles and laughter, in the sounds and sights in the rooms and hallways, catching one of them looking at you and then giggling as they quickly turned away, and finding one of them waiting for you as you returned to the building, the one who you had wondered why they would not let you into their life for the past two years, and then they were telling you about their past and their dreams and their fears and their appreciation for your love.