I just came back from Ukraine after spending a week at an orphanage. I felt so broken-hearted and fulfilled all at the same time! The kids, so beautiful, loving, and cuddly, despite having been abandoned by the very ones who should have protected them. They loved us as if we were their parents. Little girls and boys cuddled and held our hands, leaned on our shoulders or nestled in our necks during movie times. They always wanted to play UNO or Twister, as long as we played with them. They lovingly gave single bracelet and card they hand-crafted and carefully decorated as a gift to us. Every time, I was both blessed and humbled by their gift. Precious and heart wrenching, their love and affection, stored up for so long, spilled over us.
V. has no living parents. His mother died in a car crash when he was just a year old and his father became an alcoholic and died. He prayed for 6 years to be adopted. Still alone in the orphanage, he gave up on God. At 16 he lost hope.
Initially, V. didn’t want to talk about God at all. It took a few conversations for him to not joke around and to become comfortable with opening his heart. Finally, he told me that he really wanted to share his story. After asking how he felt about God, I asked V if he would mind my praying for him even after I left the orphanage. Though his head was facing the table, he nodded and gently said “spaceeba”, or thank you.
I bonded with V. that week and really learned about him. He considered himself a sort of father figure to the younger ones. He was always full of energy and desiring attention. Trying to be a man, he was still very much a boy at heart; hyper, but with a good heart. God opened doors to share the gospel with him through sharing stories. At the beginning of the week, he had no desire to talk about God except to say he had no feelings about it. He refused to hold hands during prayer. By midweek, his heart began to open when he realized someone really cared about him. He started by willingly holding hands during prayer. It was baby steps, but it was such a big deal for him!
He eventually came to small group and received a Bible with the other young boys. They all shared their stories of how they came to the orphanage. Social orphans, they speak stoically, but the impact is deep.
On our last night at the orphanage, V. thanked me from his heart for helping him become open to God. WOW. How humbling…needless to say I haven’t stopped praying or thinking of V. since leaving the orphanage.
All the orphans gripped my heart. I don’t have enough arms to hold all the children that my heart longs to love and hug. Working with orphans has broken my heart in such a profound way. It produces a love that demands a response to their tragedy. I didn’t know this love or passion before, but never have I felt so blessed to have experienced such brokenness.