Good morning everyone,
I’m writing you from the deck of the ship as we sail toward Kiev. I didn’t blog late last night as has been my practice so far on this journey. Maybe waiting has given me a chance to take in some of our experiences and give them some perspective.
We docked yesterday in Zapparozhia around 11am, and worked at an orphanage in the afternoon before sailing again at 6pm. We saw about forty children in this group, and I would say that it’s been the youngest group that we’ve had so far. There were children as young as five (although they honestly looked even younger than that). The facilities were also among the poorest we’d seen. The buildings were made of cold grey stone; the metal door handles weather worn and rusted. In the middle of the main cement walking path was a raised manhole missing its cover. Someone simply placed a concrete block across it, although it didn’t cover the hole completely.
We heard several heartbreaking stories from these little ones yesterday, but there is one in particular that I’d like to share with you.
A six year old boy named Stasch quickly found his way to Deneen’s mom, Lee Busch, who was born in Ukraine and speaks Russian fluently. He began to pour out his heart to her, telling her that he missed his mom and his dad, and wanted us to take him home to them. He had been dropped off at that orphanage three days ago by his mother.
We didn’t know why and neither did he.
The boy pleaded with Lee to take him home, to take him back to his mother. She explained to him we couldn’t because we were from America and didn’t have a car. He persisted desperately. Lee lovingly explained again that we couldn’t take him home and that we wouldn’t know where to go.
He begged her to take him to the bus station and said that he would find his own way home.
Imagine being seven. You’re small. You have a limited knowledge of the world, and much of it hinges on the stability of your home life, whatever kind of life that is. And though you are only seven, you definitely know and love your mom and dad. And then one day, your mother walks you down to the orphanage. You see the cold stone buildings. You dodge the manhole cover so you don’t break your leg. You notice the tile is broken and everything is left in disrepair. Your mother kneels to you and tells you that this is where you’re going to live. Maybe she says nothing. Maybe she tells you that she loves you but this sure doesn’t feel like love.
Your world is ripped out from under your little feet. You are cast into a darkness where the only light you can see sounds like an oncoming train. Your little hands are pried from hers. You are led into a room with forty other children where you are suddenly the outsider, the stranger. Your tears go unnoticed. Your cries are ignored.
Because she had to work on printing the children’s photos, Lee asked Andy (who blogged for us two nights ago) if he would stay with Stasch. She introduced them and quickly told Andy the boy’s story. Andy stayed with Stasch the whole time we were there. He walked him from activity to activity– to play ball, to have his face painted. Andy forsook the other 99, so to speak, for the one.
Then we had to leave, and Stasch still hadn’t smiled.
In the interest of transparency, I’ll tell you that it’s hard to find perspective on this one, even a day later.
The only thing that we keep coming back to is that we cannot forget these children– in how we live and how we pray. Andy and Stasch took a picture together that Andy has promised to take home and keep with him. He will pray for Stasch that someone will come into his life who will continue to show him the love we shared with him today, that someone will remind him that there is someone who knows his name, there is someone who sees his tears, and there is someone who hears his cries.
Please join me in praying for all of the children we’ve seen on this trip, those we will see in Kiev, and those who we will not see. They all have stories and they are all important.
We sail all day today, dock tomorrow afternoon and have one more orphanage in Kiev before we come home to all of you.
We miss you so much and can’t wait until you see in our faces what God has done here.
Blessings from the Dnieper, central Ukraine,