March 19, 2013

Visiting Orphans

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Ukraine at 5:38 am by catsinboxes

To adequately describe yesterday’s events, I’m going to rewind in time to something I wrote yesterday afternoon.

If my trip had a soundtrack, I know what one of the songs would be, While I’m Waiting by John Waller.  There’s a lot of waiting here in Ukraine.  Waiting for documents, waiting for buses, waiting for appointments, waiting for phone calls . . .                

This morning, I read this verse in 1 Corinthians:

“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

I pray that I can become all things to all people; I will rejoice with those who rejoice, I will weep with those who weep, AND I will wait with those who wait.

Waiting isn’t easy, I don’t think I realized how much I like doing something, especially when in my head I have a list of all the things that I could be doing, that I should be doing, if I wasn’t waiting!  But God has been teaching me to be patient, to wait, and to trust and rely upon His plan and timing, not on my planning!

I wrote that while I was waiting, waiting to see if we could visit an orphanage.  I was learning, I was waiting, but it wasn’t easy at all.  It seemed like we had to wait so long.  But then it was time.  Was I ready?  Ready???  I’d had my bags packed all afternoon!

So we set off to visit the local rehab center.  Yes, it is an orphanage, but it is specifically for children who have gotten into trouble, who have been living on the streets, who for whatever reason are problem cases.  The age range is 5-18.

We took a marshrutka, and then, getting off, walked down an empty lane that curved off the main road.  It was later, I think after 5 o’clock.  After a short walk, we were at the orphanage.

We walked in through a gate, around the building, and then inside into a long hallway.  It was so quiet, eerily quiet.  That’s one thing I’ve noticed about the two orphanages I have visited, when you step inside, it is quiet, far too quiet for a building that is filled with children!

In the hall we stopped by the director’s office, but the director was not there.  Valeriy, our local Ukrainian contact who was coordinating the whole visit, pulled out his phone and called one of the teachers who he had already spoken with about visiting that afternoon.  Within a few minutes, she had arrived in the hall to greet us, beaming and saying “Zdrastvuitye!” and then talking rapidly to Valeriy in Russian.  I listened, rather anxiously.  We had come so far, the children were here, would we be able to see them?  I kept hearing the word, “kharoshov” which means good.  So far so good!  Then the teacher turned and led the way: up the stairs, down a hall, into a room, and there were some children.  The room had shelves on either side, and desks along each wall.  Spread out through the room were older children, lots of boys, most of them looking like they were 12 and up.  We started putting our bags down and taking off our coats.  We were watched with guarded curiosity, you could tell they were interested but didn’t want to show it!  As I looked around at all the boys, many nearing my own height (and I’m not short!) I felt a sinking feeling.  What would they think of what I had, beanie babies?  Still, I remembered what I had heard before, these children would appreciate things that to us seem far past their age.

Then there came noise, an excited babble, footsteps in the hall, and in galloped the younger children.  Valeriy has worked with the children here before, and oh could you tell!  He was mobbed by little boys, the younger ones giving him hugs, talking excitedly in Russian, the older ones hanging back, eyes shining, waiting to shake his hand.  Then all of the children were told to sit down, and three chairs were pulled up to the front of the room.  We sat down, and with Valeriy as a translator, Amanda and I shared a little bit about ourselves.  As we talked, telling about our families, our homes, and our pets, the questions started to fly.  Was I married?  Was Amanda married?  Why was Amanda in Ukraine?  Why did she want to adopt two little girls who couldn’t see?  How could the girls learn to read?  How could they type if they couldn’t see?  Where was Wisconsin?  (Thank goodness for Chicago as a geographical point of reference!)  What could you do in Wisconsin?  Could you go fishing? What do the cows in Wisconsin do in the winter if it’s so cold?  Did I have any children?  How old was my youngest brother?  What kind of a lizard did Amanda have?  How big was it?  What did it eat?  On and on the questions flew!

The interesting thing is that while we talked, the group on the ground was shifting.  At first the children were sitting in groups, the little ones in the front near us, the bigger ones hanging back, ranging all the way to the back of the room, some still sitting at tables.  But, the longer we talked, the more the group moved, shifting, moving closer and closer.  By the time we were finished talking, most of the children were sitting in tight rows, as close to us as possible.  I wanted to sit down in the middle of them, I wanted to be able to understand Russian and be able to speak it as I answered their questions!  But I couldn’t, and I realized that by sitting on a chair, I could see all of them, so I just kept looking, across the faces, making eye contact, smiling, acknowledging questions, answering them, using “Da” and “Nyet” once I’d understood a question.

At one point, I realized that one of the little girls in the front was asking if Amanda had a Yorkshire Terrier.  I nodded to show I understood and mimed that they were little.  She smiled and nodded.  I can’t remember what was said next, but the little girl pointed to herself and said her name.  Then the girl next to her introduced herself in flawless English!   A little boy to the right pointed to himself and said his name, behind him another piped up.  Suddenly there was a murmur of introductions as child after child told me their name.  It was only for a few moments, and then the questions swept back and it was gone, but I won’t forget it.  They each have a name, a story, they are fearfully and wonderfully made, they just want to be known.

“I have called you by name, you are mine.”  Oh, I want to say that someday to a child like one of these!

Then it was time to finish, to pass out the candy and gifts.  For the boys still sitting at tables in the back, I made it a game.  I’d wait for eye contact and then mime throwing.  That caught their attention, and small candy bars were thrown and caught across the room.  It also brought smiles as at times my throws would go awry, or spectacular catches would be made!

Then there was the backpack full of toys and beanie babies.  I was surround by children, it wasn’t chaos, but oh there was excitement!  One by children took toys, pulling back afterward to let others in.  They were polite, they didn’t try to get everything, I would take something out and there would be an excited murmur and then hands would be raised of children who’d like something.  One little boy got a multi-colored highlighter, a bigger boy got an American flag.
(Thank you, God, for the drawer of gifts that I’ve kept in my room, just waiting for an occasion.  They were perfect for yesterday!)  After the big toys were gone, I pulled out a package of bandz.  You should have heard the excited buzz!  I really was surrounded then, not jostled, but surrounded as eager hands reached in, voices asked for certain colors both in Russian and English.  “Black!  Black!  -the older boys liked that color!- Red! Yellow!  Green!  After those were gone, I pulled out the next pack, this one in brighter colors with pinks.  The girls had been excited before, but now they were oohing, reaching in for the pinks, yellows and purples.  The boys weren’t deterred either, and there were still takers until all the bandz were gone.  At the end, a little boy came up to me.  Somehow, he hadn’t received anything, and he didn’t want a bandz.  (I’d say there were a few conscientious objectors among some boys at the idea of a bracelet, and he was one of them!)  I look in my backpack, nothing.  I looked around the children, hoping.  And then I saw one of the older boys, holding two beanie babies.  I didn’t have to say anything because he took matters into his own hands, instantly passing one of them to the little boy.  It might have been a purple bear, but it was accepted instantly.

Passing out bandz


Yes, the older boys were happy with their beanie babies!

Then it was time for them to go to dinner.  All this time there had been excitement and scattered thanks.  Now there was a wave of “spacebas” and thank yous.”  Then came the children, slipping closer, a small arm around my waist, giving a hug.  It wasn’t just the girls, there were a lot of little boys.  I gave hug after hug, so thankful I could give them and wishing I could do more!

Then, at the teacher’s prompting all of them chorused SPACEBA!!!  And off went the younger ones.  We picked up our things, waved goodbye, and went out into the hallway.  The teacher was so sweet, so effusive in her thanks.  She told Valerhiy to tell us thank you, thank you so much for the stuffed animals.  The children would love them, would sleep with them . . . Thank you, thank you!  She said if we could, it would be great for us to come back so we could play outside with the children during one of their outside activity times.

We responded that we’d love to, but we were leaving on Wednesday evening, so it would have to be in the next two days.  There was a pause, as the teacher began explaining something to Valerhiy.  It turns out that there are 6 children at the rehab center who are in the hospital right now, sick with something that isn’t too serious (sounds like a cold/cough), but anyway, it has the director worried.  Apparently, she’s afraid that the children might catch something from foreigners, so she wouldn’t sanction as visit.

Do you realize what that means?  If we hadn’t been waiting, and waiting.  If we hadn’t arrived until after 5.  If we had come earlier.  If the director had been there . . . We probably wouldn’t have seen the children.  God has been teaching me to be patient, to wait, and to trust and rely upon His plan and timing, not on my planning!  How little did I know, as I wrote those words yesterday afternoon, just how God would use His timing to orchestrate our visit!

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