Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Burden Shared

With the kids’ arrival looming I am feverishly checking off items on a mental “to do” list: e-mailing Tulsa churches and anyone who has ever expressed even passing interest in the kids, helping anxious host families put the finishing touches on preparations, sending out press releases, trolling for translators, making welcome signs that say “Добро Пожаловать!”, figuring out which true friend to ask for 600 cookies for the evening program the kids present, and testing the limits of human endurance in sleep deprivation. Doubts creep in: Have I done enough? Will people come to meet the kids? Will the host families be glad they signed up? Will the kids find their families? Have I left a stone unturned? In a last-minute eruption of panic, it is tempting to think it all depends on me.

But it doesn’t.

Hope, the director of the Lighthouse Project is wont to tell me, “This is God’s program,” and she’s right. We each have our bit roles to play. While some are more visible and likely lauded than others, it takes far more than a zealous, bleary-eyed coordinator to keep the program rolling. Our Russian coordinator Love spends more time on the train than at home, tirelessly riding twelve hours one way between Moscow and the region, ensuring trip minutiae is attended to. The Moscow translator types the kids’ documents into the language most American host families read. Drivers with death wishes brave Russian roads, bringing cahperones and kids from far-flung orphanages on white-knuckle rides to the regional capital several times in advance of the trip. Hope wades through stacks of documents and e-mail determining which kids most need a trip to America to find a forever family. The Lighthouse translator Faith visits Russia several times annually to interview children; calls the orphanages from her home in the States to ferret out answers to families’ questions; and psyches herself for six annual ten-day trips where she only juggles entertaining the Russian chaperone assigned to the trip, visiting all the host families, cheerleading for the kids and program, playing the piano at the evening program, and keeping the smile and upbeat personality that have made her such an asset to our first forty-one trips. Then there are the hosts: families who obey God’s call to visit orphans in distress by opening their homes to kids who don’t share their language or culture (yet). Hosting is costly; generous haves contribute money to cover hosting fees for have-nots. Bakers hold sales outside Wal-Mart. Some plaster evening program posters around town. Others shamelessly forward e-mail messages on the kids’ need for families to their entire address book. Dentists offer to treat mouths that are new frontiers in dental care. Friends lend extra beds to host families lacking one for their Russian visitor. Crafty folks plan, provide materials for, and praise the kids as they make the VBS handiwork they’ll proudly show their host parents. Russian believers share the Good News with orphans who previously heard precious little good news. Others fill silent roles only Divine eyes see, as prayer warriors storm Heaven on behalf of children on the most momentous search of their young lives.

Even this woefully incomplete list of my Lighthouse team is sufficient exhibit that my eleventh-hour jitters are selfishly unfounded. I do not shoulder the responsibility alone; nobody could. God is using all of us who care, in ways small and large, to assemble a metamorphic experience for the fourteen children whom we welcome Friday. He uses each us together to work His will for His glory. That’s as it should be.

It’s His program, after all.