As I was getting my family ready to leave for the beach today, I couldn’t help but think we were headed in the wrong direction. This was never our plan. Over the past year, Maddie, Max and I had been saving, planning and getting excited for a trip that was going to bring us back together with our family and friends in Russia. It was going to be Max’s first trip to the orphanage, he has been quietly and eagerly waiting “his turn” to visit the orphanage. He had been so looking forward to meeting Ruslan (who will be graduating this spring). He has been waiting a long time, ever since we first started to write, five years ago and this was finally going to be his time. For Maddie, it would be the last trip for a while, she is a senior and she was ready to say,”good-bye for now” to Ruslan, share her experiences with her brother and spend one more week in a place she lovingly calls home. All of our stories from past visits would come alive for Max when he finally got to step into the orphanage for the first time. I couldn’t wait to share this time with both Maddie and Max. But, we had a change in direction.
As hard as the words are to write they are even harder for us to process, we would not travel to Slobodskoy this year. It was with heavy hearts and prayerful consideration that the spring travel team made the decision that “now” was not the right time for us to travel back to Russia. It hurts. Deep down in my heart, I feel the sadness that is our reality, this has been a painful process for myself, my kids and my fellow travelers. It is not easy to let those beautiful kids and their caregivers down, but it was the right decision for our travel team. I know this because I trust that God is with all of us this week, those of us here in Chapel Hill and with our family in Slobodskoy. A wise youth pastor once told me to “trust the process” and that I am doing.
I know that God is good. How do I know this? Well on Tuesday, Maddie, Max and I sat down together and had a Skype session with Ruslan. I was terrified of seeing him because I knew that just a few days earlier the kids had been told that there American friends would not be visiting this spring. How could I look this sweet boy in the eyes and know that I was letting him down? I didn’t want to cry but I was prepared to do so. You see Ruslan doesn’t say much when we Skype, he tends to just sit and listen to me talk, he never leaves and usually doesn’t want others around but he doesn’t talk. It is as if he wants to know we are there, to just meet eyes and smile every so often as we tease him and try to make him laugh and it is the same every time. Occasionally, if my kids join me he talks a bit with them, so I had them stay home, to protect me from my own emotions. It was a terrible connection on Tuesday but we had the best time ever, Ruslan told us he was staying at the orphanage for one more year! He was suppose to graduate this spring, but he decided to stay, with those words I knew God was working in all our lives. He would stay one more year which is great for him and for us, we were all just given one more year. One more year to write letters, to Skype and one more year to get back to Slobodskoy and to that chance for Max to meet Rulsan.
I don’t know what will happen over the next year, but I will let God lead me and my family in this new direction. I will pray every day for the kids and caregivers. I will write and I will continue to Skype with Ruslan, even if it is me doing all of the talking. I will follow God. Today, as he leads me to the beach with my family and every day, even if my direction is changed and I feel off course, I will follow.