Friday, July 02, 1999

VOLUME 6 - Summer 1999

Yellow Blue Bus

(Russian for I Love You)

To see children suffering always takes an emotional toll. Americans are blessed with so much in material wealth when faced with the poverty and suffering in other nations, remorse and a fair share of guilt is experienced. Seeing little ones without parents also brings an indescribable sadness, and a sense of helplessness at our efforts to change their situation, trying to bring a small bit of sunshine amidst a hopeless future.

On the second day of our journey, we visited a deski-dome*. Our interpreters explained children of this age have the most difficult emotional time understanding their situation. Unable to grasp why they don’t have parents; why doesn’t someone want them?

Each day in the mission field, the children’s excitement to see the visitors brings encouragement. The smiles on their faces make the trip and the temporary hardships of travel, jet lag, planes, trains and buses worth it.

Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for MeDuring our visit to a local deski-dome* the team split into two groups, “picture takers” and “hug-givers”. The caregivers are eager to tell outsiders the children available for adoption to America; which child’s parents are dead, and sadly, which child's parents are in prison.

As we took Polaroid photos, occasionally the teachers would ask for an extra shot to be taken to be sent to an incarcerated parent, or for the adoption agency that was waiting for a photo to be sent. The orphanage resources were so low they could not afford the film to take a picture of an available child.

We took the pictures.

A picture, something so minor in our western disposable camera world, and so major in a society that has lost its resources, its hope, and its grand dream of a perfect society.

As the day progresses, the smiles hold back the tears. Yet, as always, when the smiles become difficult I am reminded of Matthew 25:40. I can then picture myself with an opportunity to hug and hold Jesus one more time, to take my picture with Him, and my enthusiasm returns. How could I not smile when I am holding Him? So as I grab each child and place them on my lap, I just say “I love you Jesus, oh, I love you”. Strength returns, enthusiasm and smiles spill forth.

As I walked in the last classroom a child began shouting and screaming “CLOWNSKI, CLOWNSKI!” All I could think of was “oh, great Lord, now I have scared a poor child to death, it’s the end of the day, I really didn’t need this” .

To my surprise and delight, it was not fear that had the child screaming but surprise and joy! As she broke away from the teacher she ran to grab my legs shouting and screaming all the more. Then in excitement she would run back to the teacher, taking delighted pauses to share with her friends her elation at the day’s visitor. We all laughed, and I inwardly smiled at this treat from the Lord, and such generous sharing of His joy.

The last picture developed and the last stickers were placed on frames that said “God thinks I am special”.

The strangers bringing joy slowly left and began to make their way down the dark hallway. We were stopped by the enthusiastic little girl shouting “yellow blue bus” (ya low-blue vas transliteration - in Russian). I turned to the interpreters repeating “yellow blue bus”? They laughed and quickly informed me “Ya low-blue vas” means I love you in Russian.

As I went down the hallway I smiled and said “yellow blue bus” back to the little girl - having just heard from the King with a big grin on His face “I love you too”.

*Orphanages housing children 3 to 6 years old

Thursday, July 01, 1999

This Little Light O' Mine...

Then the Lord said "let there be light" Genesis 1:3

The darkness came suddenly. The laughter that moments before filled the room faded into quiet murmuring. What happened? In an instant, the party-like atmosphere of the short-term missionaries of the JAF Camp changed to expressions of concern. Who needed help? Which families would be most effected by this loss of electricity? Teams were quickly organized to fan out across the Camp Allen compound to inquire and assist the families in need.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Psalm 27:1

The dark is disabling. Movement is tenuous, and furniture becomes a challenging obstacle course. But for those who live in a world limited by disability, necessity turns quickly into opportunity. Within our gathered group, amidst voices of prayerful concern querying who came equipped with flashlights – a light appeared.

The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death upon them, a light dawned. Matthew 4:16

Surprised, we all let out a gleeful chuckle, for the darkness was broken by a headlight on the mobile wheelchair of Amy Valigura, leader of the singles ministry, restricted to moving through the world on our current source of light by arthritis.

On that last evening of the camp, as the short-term missionaries gathered to share stories of meaning and inspiration, a greater insight was given. We all had experiences and moments to treasure for a lifetime. But we are not called to the “short-term”.

As believers, we have signed up for the long haul, for the race set before us. Each of us faces fears of incompetence, inadequacy and ability for the task. But during our week at Camp Allen, we witnessed individuals facing far greater limitations than we could ever imagine.

As we looked outside into the darkness, the points of light shining going door to door was striking. Here in the dark we saw a vivid representation of our real long-term responsibility.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house

Matthew 5:14-16

In the hour when the power of man failed, we saw the first light come from a most unlikely source. We laid aside our plans for the evening, and prayed for those in need. We approached the throne boldly and lifted our petitions to the Father, knowing darkness and light are the same to Him (Psalm 139:12). In a world filled with darkness, as we live our lives in servitude we forge a path, carrying a light - looking out for the interests of others in need.

Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1

This little light o’ mine – I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

He's Keeping Track

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.. John 14:18

Working around the globe with a variety of children definitely presents a fair share of challenges. Working through translators, struggling to bring relevant messages as well as keeping up the smiles and entertainment value is a daunting task.

The last day of a mission, the last story told, the last children seen, always takes on significant meaning. In Kirov, the last group turned out to be the 14-16 year olds that would soon be facing “graduation” (what amounts to release onto the streets without resources or shelter.)

What could be said to make these teenagers remember the funny Americans had come to tell them about an awesome God who loves them and will not forgot them? The lesson for the day was the story of the three trees and their special dreams. But as the children walked in the room, stories of big dreams seemed inappropriate.

I prayed and began asking them questions on why they thought the Americans were there. They had many answers, most of them related to God and love. Thankfully, the message had not been lost among the jokes and game playing. Then I asked what their definition of faith was. As to be expected from any group of teenagers - no one gave a quick answer.

I used the analogy of how much faith it takes to get on an airplane that weighs thousands of pounds and to let a total stranger fly you halfway around the world. They laughed. Then we talked about God’s love, if they believed that God loved them. Most answered “yes”. I asked why? They responded “because He was the creator that made them”.

We talked about if they believed the Bible was true. Most replied “yes”. When I told them the Bible says the Lord has counted all the hairs on their head they laughed again.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid… Luke 12:7

One young man, proud to give a good answer - said God knew how many hairs he had on his head because He created him. The class laughed when I asked if he had the same number of hairs on his head today as the day he was born!

Now there’s a thought…

I pointed out if God knew how many hairs were on their head at any given time - then He was keeping a very close watch on them. They had to agree.

And I found myself learning and believing all over again. The God who loved these children, who counted all the hairs on their head, knew their situation, and was keeping up with them from the day they were born.

In my comfort zone of faith - I find it no large leap to think and recite, “He has known all of my days before one of them came to be” Psalm 139:16. But in the world of orphanages with no money and no resources, children with no future and no hope, how far does my faith carry me?

I found out that day that it carried me far enough to believe and speak with conviction. The Lord of twenty-seven Americans on a foreign mission field, far out of their comfort zone, knows each day of these children as well – and He is watching.

For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father… Matthew 18:10