Well, I have made it safely back to the United States. While it is so good to be home, I again did not return whole. Last time I left a piece of my heart in Ukraine; this time I left pieces of it there. Last time I left my heart in the country of Ukraine; this time I left it with the people.
To write about this trip as a whole would take pages and pages. To describe it briefly wouldn’t do it justice.
I wouldn’t say there were any major things that stuck out to me this time. For me, this trip was made up of a lot of little moments- a look, a sentence, a hug, a smile, a tear- those are what stuck out to me the most.
I remember the day the kids arrived. When I realized they were there my heart jumped and my stomach plunged. I was so excited to meet these kids I had been praying for for weeks and a little nervous. It was just a moment, a little one, yet it stands out in my mind. Another such moment was when I realized the full capacity of the language barrier. In Ukraine they speak both Ukrainian and Russian; I had spent all day that first day completely lost yet enjoying listening to them talk. At small group that night was when it hit me. I was the only American that showed up and as I tried to follow along, with the help of Julia (translator and friend) I happened to glance over to the girl next to me. She looked like something was troubling her, like she might cry. That’s when I realized I was helpless to say anything, to reach out, to listen. I could see she was hurting, and I felt as though I could do nothing about it. That broke my heart.
Those are just two moments in a whole week of moments. There were many, like laughing with the three boys at breakfast every morning (and randomly throughout the days). I never did figure out what we were laughing at, but it was so infectious it could not be helped. Or praying with the girls in our room. We did a lot of crafts too. Those kids would do just about anything (and some of them did). I played more futball than I have in a while (soccer by the way). Jumping on the trampoline right after supper, at night…that was fun.
In everything I realized that these kids are just that- kids. They are not just orphans you hear about and feel sorry for; they are kids/teens who, for a week, got to be showered with love and acceptance, forgiveness and God’s truth that He will never leave or forsake them. I would like to say that out of a camp of 40 many of them got saved. I can’t. I can say for sure that there were many good conversations, and one young man did accept Christ as his Savior. Hopefully more did/will. We may never know this side of heaven, but God knows. 1 Cor 3:6, We planted, another will water, but God will give the increase.
Leaving was one of the hardest parts of this trip. Like I said the kids at camp taught me something- thankfulness. One girl I became close with told me she was thankful God had given her a second chance with her biological mother. Another during small group prayed to find her mother so she could began to have a relationship with her. These two girls made me realized just how blessed I am. I have never had to go in search of love and acceptance and neither should they. Jesus loves and accepts them as they are. That was one of the main points of the camp I think- to let them know Jesus loves them no matter what.
I wish I could go on and on but as with all blog posts this one must come to an end. Thank you so much for every prayer you gave. Lives were certainly impacted, both Ukrainian and American.