Friday, February 27, 2009

Michigan, Meet Denis

Michigan, meet Denis.

Newly thirteen, with dreams of being a “train driver” someday, Denis has spent six years in a Russian orphanage. A fifth grader earning mostly A's and B's, math is his favorite subject and Russian language his least. He likes winter and skiing, eats hamburgers and pie, and believes in God since some kind soul has taken him to church.

A world away and with little in common, we have a connection, he and I. That he depends on me without his knowledge is of monumental motivation for me. Denis was in Wisconsin with Lighthouse last year. His host family reported he yearned to help, fished with abandon, and picked peas with more gusto than finesse. Good, “normal” boys don’t stand out, though, and Denis was one of the kids who didn’t find his family.

As I flounder in my quest to locate a dozen host families for the March Michigan trip, wondering how much the recession is impacting my recruiting, I realize no one will miss one older boy if he can’t travel for lack of a host family. The director and I come to the mutual conclusion that there is no choice; Denis is one of the kids who will be left behind. All that remains is to let the coordinator in Russia know that Denis is off the trip, a message sanitized by the miles between the child and we who call the shots. The call is made easily enough, but there’s a glitch when the Russian coordinator tells the director what she’s heard from Denis’s orphanage head. Without fail, Denis comes daily to her office asking when he will be able to go to America and look for his family. The Lighthouse Project director has devoted her life to helping the older orphans of Russia who have no hope of a decent future without a family, so when she hears this anecdote our plan is toast. She cannot follow through with our decision to leave Denis behind; he stays on the trip.

As the director relates the story to me I know Denis must come. I see myself in him: persistent, a never-say-die fighter, expectant of good things in store if only we invest ourselves. I understand that if Denis has the faith to approach his orphanage director daily to make his hope of a family real, I can, must match his faith with my intercession and effort on his behalf. I determine that, God willing, Denis will travel to Michigan, stay with a host family, and meet the special people who will be blessed to become his parents.

God helping them, someone, somewhere, will see beyond dismal economic news to welcome a pea-picking boy who still believes there is a family in America who needs him to be their son.