One of my favorite parts of my job is taking teams to meet the children I’ve grown to love in children’s homes around the world. Each team is unique in its composition, as God blends personalities, backgrounds and gifts to accomplish His purposes. I relish hearing these team members debrief their experiences, unpacking all God has taught them throughout their time with orphans.
Today I have the absolute joy of sharing one of those debriefs with you. It was written by a young woman named Caitlin Staples ( who has now happily taken the married name “Nunery”). Following her short term mission trip with The Boaz Project through Taylor University, she eloquently put to paper what so many of us wrestle to express.
Believing in miracles,
We were enjoying stringing beads together to make a necklace. One might have thought the plastic beads were diamonds by how fascinated his wide brown eyes looked upon his creation. He laughed at me sounding like a broken record, repeating, “haroshaya, horoshaya”(that is, “good, good!”), one of the few phrases in my Russian vocabulary.
I offered him a pink bead, telling him it was my favorite color. I asked my interpreter, Lena, to ask him what HIS favorite color was. Sasha turned to me, quizzically, as if he didn’t understand my question. I repeated it more slowly to Lena. She replied, “He doesn’t understand this word you use, ‘favorite.’ He says he loves them all. Very much.”
I’ve known my favorite color since probably age three. Sasha, at seven, had no notion of a favorite color.
That is, he had no notion of being able to make a choice of his favorite color. For his whole life, he’d had his choices made for him. He’d always taken what he’d been given, no questions asked. The idea that he could choose something (anything!) for himself, was perplexing and unrealistic, for he has always been at the mercy of the world.
Though at first this story may seem insignificant, it illustrates the everyday hope that most of us have. Hope to make decisions. Most of chose where to go to school, chose our majors, chose our classes… all in hopes of attaining future goals.
But 16 of us were confronted with a ruthless hopelessness in Russia. Children left abandoned, teenagers with nowhere to go, babies that have unlearned crying as they know crying will not get them anywhere with no one to hold them.
This broken and cold plight of orphans is heart wrenching and cruel. To see it first hand is almost indescribable. To attempt to put the emotion it derived from our team into words would be a defeat… for no words suffice.
Speaking of which, many of us have been in circumstances where words don’t suffice. Language barriers aside, the desperate plea of hopelessness cannot be answered with Sunday school answers. How impossible it was to tell little Nastia that “Jesus will take care of you!” and expect her to believe it full heartedly after she’s gone through only God knows what.
These Bible stories, these verses, these words… they were not going to cut it. I couldn’t bear to look at these sweet children in the eye and feed them only words. No, these situations demand truth communicated by action: actions of love.
By way of playing cards, by holding a tugging hand, or by reading a book in Russian to a little boy that only wants to be read to because he wants to be cuddled. These actions became the words in which we communicated love to the orphans.
And we prayed that God would take our small offerings of love to instill a glimpse of hope. Just a glimpse in order to make it tangible for them… tangible enough for them to maybe grasp that love IS real, that it CAN exist, and most of all, it’s love that they could have forever, in Heaven, a place without brokenness, a place always hopeful. I’ve never longed for Heaven as much as I do now… This orphan’s world, void of justice, will come to a close only when these orphans can be reunited with their Heavenly Father.
This past Spring break we were given, as our leader so appropriately put it, “50 yard line seats” to God’s handiwork. The teeter-totter of trying to balance joy and suffering settled at equilibrium as we saw orphans catch glimpses of hope.
Sasha eventually told me he liked the blue bead best. He made a choice. He felt loved. He saw hope. I’m confident that hundreds of other kids saw little pieces of hope, too. And our team, in turn, experienced a rich, difficult, stretching, humbling, dizzying, heartbreaking, and altogether phenomenal week.