We are back in Chapel Hill at last. Our last day of travel somehow ended up being the most eventful, complete with a flight cancellation and a night spent asleep on the floor of JFK airport.
But even after the joy of seeing family and the relief of being in our comfortable home after nearly 40 straight long hours of travel, I feel strange. It’s more like I just left my home rather than returned to it.
I was told multiple times on this trip that I have essentially grown up with the kids in Slobodskoy. The first time I went to Russia, I was 11 years old. Now almost 17, I’ve matured and grown alongside our friends in Slobodskoy. I know the roads of Kirov and Slobodskoy well enough that I could (potentially) find my way around on my own. Our translators have become some of our dearest friends, and I consider my Russian family group at the orphanage true family.
So, sitting in my bed, watching Netflix and fighting jet lag, I feel a little stinging hole in my heart. I miss our friends across the ocean. I miss the countless hugs. I miss Galina’s speeches. I miss hearing the Russian language. I even miss the team members who are technically just down the street from me right now.
However, I am comforted by the fact that our friendship with everyone in Slobodskoy does not end just because we are back in NC. I’m comforted by letters, by Facebook messages, and by the idea that somehow every year my family has been drawn back to what I really do consider my home away from home.
But most of all, I am comforted by the truth of God’s strong mutual presence in Chapel Hill and Slobodskoy. Regardless of the barriers of geography and politics and language, the Lord has fostered true love and community between us and I could not be more thankful.