Last night, when we finally got to our destination (after thirty hours of traveling), I was so exhausted; I got into bed around midnight and instantly fell asleep. I never sleep on my back, but when I woke up at 5:20 in the morning, I realized that not only did I sleep on my back but I hadn’t move at all the entire night.
In the afternoon, after we met our interpreters and got to know them better, we went to our first orphanage. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I was excited for the new experience. When we pulled into the orphanage, we saw kids coming from different areas of the campus to welcome us when we got out of the bus. Victor, who speaks Russian, instantly started talking to one of the boys who was there to greet us. He told two other girls, who were there to say hi to us, but they were too shy so they walked away. As the photographer, I am able to hang back and watch everything rather than have to play the games.
So, while everyone was playing kickball and cheering them on to, “Run run!” (In Russian), one of the little girls from earlier came up and asked me my name. My interpreter was playing kickball so we were unable to get past names until I finally was able to temporarily steal Brianna’s interpreter. Her name was Veronica and she was probably five or six years old.
Olga, Brianna’s interpreter, had to translate for Brianna again and Veronica came over to talk to me. I wanted, so badly, to understand what she was trying to say. I felt like Marlin from “Finding Nemo” when he was talking to Squirt. I managed to show her how to take pictures with my camera without talking.
After that, she was dragging me around everywhere to take pictures of her friends and of the cow they had. I’m pretty sure she took more pictures than I did. We weren’t able to actually talk much, but whenever we would walk anywhere she would grab my arm or hold my hand. I’m never really affectionate with my friends or family because it’s hard for me to be so open and vulnerable. It was kind of weird for me to be so affectionate with a little girl I’ve never met before or to believe that I was making a difference. We were there for two hours max. How could that possibly matter?
Then, I realized when people like us come, we’re reflecting Jesus (or at least we should be). If we are truly loving them like Jesus would love them then we are setting them up for a relationship with God. They might not remember the Bible stories we told them but they’ll remember how we loved them and they’ll remember who we serve and why we were there. Veronica came into the craft room while I was helping with the crafts and made me sit down so she could just sit next to me. When we were outside playing games, she came over and curled into me and just cuddled. We didn’t really talk and I definitely didn’t know her, but I didn’t have to try and love her or have some foundation to love her. I just did (and I could tell she loved me, too).
I know that God has used me before – but this time is different. It’s so simple but it made such a big impact. We’re just playing games with kids and hugging them and trying to say things in Russian (but not exactly succeeding). It’s odd for me to know that these actions are bringing any sort of change while it happens to be so simple. It’s a great reminder that I don’t always need to make some grand gesture or to think through everything for weeks on end before I actually say something. I can just love on people and reflect Jesus. And that’s enough.