Greetings from Sevastopol! We spent yesterday in Odessa recouping from two very long days of travel.
Today was another long day as we departed the ship around 9am in the direction of Yalta where we met our first group of orphans. This facility was actually a place where all of the children were sick in varying degrees. We were told they all had some form of bone disease. Many were not able to walk and had to be carried to the outdoor facility by our team members. We spent some precious time singing with them, playing, painting faces, and taking photos of each of them to keep for themselves – a luxury ot offorded an orphan.
Several of the children who couldn’t walk were taken back inside the main building and put back down in bed. I was so proud of our team who remembered them and went indoors to spend time with them.
It was in one of these rooms that I met Igor. He was maybe six or seven years old, and had actually been tied to the bed so that he wouldn’t try to escape and get hurt. At the time I came in, there were only 2 children inside among the 30 or so empty beds, and one of our other team members was spending time with the boy at the other end of the room. So I parked by Igor and began talking with him as best I could with my limited Russian. I quickly learned that he derived great joy from simply hitting me over the head with the balloon sword one of our multi-talented clowns had blown up for him. I can’t adequately describe the innocent and overwhelming joy of this boy, in spite of the fact that he was tied to a bed because of illness.
When I handed him the gift bag that our group assembled for each child, he went through each item with great deliberation and much amazement. He immediately put on his winter hat, even though it was probably close to 100 degrees in that room. After opening his new toothbrush and toothpaste, he asked me if I could bring him a bowl of water so that he could brush his teeth. (We’ve been told it is typical in some orphanages that 14 kids share one toothbrush)…
Even though I introduced myself and gave him my name, Igor preferred to call me “uncle”, and towards the end of our time at this orphanage, asked me repeatedly if I would be able to come back and see him tomorrow. . .
What can you say to that?
I had to tell him that I was just visiting but did tell him I would be praying for him and that he was very precious. I explained that others from the local ministries would come and visit him when we were gone. (Follow-up outreach to orphans by local church ministries is very important to HopeHouse International).
Our work for the day was not done. We visited another orphanage, this one in Simferopol. Again, our group did an amazing job. There was a time that a little boy attached himself to Laura and took her away from her station, and Charles seamlessly stepped in and filled in for her. Especially for a group on their first day, their awareness and sensitivity to the moment and to these children was amazing.
Among some other small stops, we also got to meet a HopeHouse father, Misha, who spoke at the February “An Evening of Hope” in Franklin, TN a few months ago. We also met 3 of his 10 children. I was really struck, again, by his heart, and the fact that when he and his wife were looking to adopt their first orphaned child (after having 4 biological children), he continually thought of all the scriptures that tell us that we have been adopted into God’s family. He said that if this was true, then he MUST adopt the hurting and the lonely into his family, as well. They now have 5 biological children and have adopted 5 as well.
This was an incredibly successful and yet draining day, but one we will never forget. As I’m sitting on the deck of the Dneiper Princess writing this, docked in Sevastopol, a fire work show just erupted in the air and lasted for about 15 minutes. For some reason, that seems like an appropriate way to end today.
We are all healthy and in great spirits. We appreciate your prayers and miss you all very much. Thank you for being a part of this adventure alongside us.
PS I will try to have some members of our group blog over the next few days so that you can hear some different perspectives!