It’s early Monday afternoon in the US and almost 10:30 pm in Slobodskoy, Russia. Which means another day is finished at the orphanage for Mission 1:27. There were so many new experiences encountered today. We heard heart-wrenching stories of love and hope. And we created a lifetime of memories over the last twelve hours.
We are tired and yet energized at the same time. We gather for our final devotional of the day, thankful for all God is doing THROUGH us and TO us as we prepare for more unforeseen blessings in less than 12 hours. I can’t wait to hop on the bus again in the morning…
Sounds like the great start to a blog post from one of our Russia travelers, right? Well, it is…only the Russia traveler who wrote that is sitting in his office in Chapel Hill, NC.
As we all wait for word from our on site travelers in Russia, I have found myself reflecting on the day they must have just had at the orphanage and was struck with an overwhelming sense of having experienced it myself.
There are so many of us in Russia this week – not just the seven who are physically on site at the orphanage. Each of us who has been to Russia before is experiencing our own version of this Russia trip, complete with vivid memories, stories and intense feelings that continue to shape us and drive us.
This has been a different experience for me personally, having traveled to Russia on each of the last five trips with Mission 1:27. And yet rather than feeling a deep sense of sadness for not being in Russia, I have found myself full of joy over the last few days while I vicariously take every step of the journey with the team, especially the five first-time travelers who are experiencing the orphanage and Russia for the very first time.
I feel childlike in my joy – like I am standing at a window, looking at all that is happening with great wonderment and awe.
The experience is so fresh and real for me. I think about…
- How much fun it must have been to arrive at Red Square and take in the majesty of St. Basil’s Cathedral for the first time.
- That first evening on the train – the tiredness, the laughter, the anticipation of what lies ahead.
- The delicious first breakfast at Asya’s restaurant upon arrival in Kirov.
- The grand entrance of our dear friends, the translators – and the overwhelming sense of joy as each hug and smile are received.
- That first hug and hello from Galina.
- The initial welcoming ceremony at the orphanage, full of Russian pageantry and tradition – and 90+ special orphans smiling and welcoming family home.
- The first time one of the kids grabs your hand unexpectedly, squeezing it tightly and looking up at you with joyful eyes and an enormous smile as if this is the happiest moment of their life.
And that’s just day one!!
There’s so much left that we will experience together. Things like…
- The intimate relationships that are already forming with children you did not know just 72 hours ago.
- Realizing the passion and commitment you share with the staff at the orphanage – and the incredible sacrifices they have made to serve these children.
- The immediate, lifelong and transformative friendships with the translators.
- The joy of the final slide show, where laughter reigns and silly pictures are king!
- The inevitable streaming of tears as you say goodbye, perhaps not knowing when you will be back.
But that’s the secret that no one tells you: Once you go to Slobodskoy, you never leave. You’re back on every trip, in every way, no matter whether you make the physical journey or not. I’ve learned that this week…and could not be any more excited!
But now I have to get some rest. You see, we have a busy day at the orphanage tomorrow…