In the crowd were other friends I joyed to see: a family who’d kindly sacrificed their chance to host last November when a quarantine spared their host child but not another’s; a family who hosted in both November and January, and heard yesterday it’s their turn next to get eleven-year-old Alexei; and a family who realized after reading my blog that God was calling them to adopt nine-year-old Yuri in addition to Denis, 13 (Waiting Heart, Wrong Arms, 5/8/09). It was a great pleasure to finally meet Mikhail and Alli, home July 10. Their sister, Tatyana, was the only child in their sibling group allowed by their orphanage director to come on the November trip, so I’d not previously met the two of them. When Tatyana recognized me, giving me a spontaneous smile and hug, Mikhail followed with a charmingly syllabicated “Hel-lo!” What a delight to see them all together, at home with their family. (Multi-Media, 11/15/08)
Earlier in the day, I’d been fretting about Lori, scrimping for almost 18 months to bring home fourteen-year-old Inna. (Struggling, 2/2/09) Tuesday this week, the call Lori’s faithful heart believed would one day come, did: her court date had been assigned, and she was to leave for Russia Sunday. Only one trouble: this fantastic news left her just six days to find the remaining $4000 for her adoption. Standing at the airport, jostled by euphoric sign wavers, a tear-jerking interruption in the form of a call from friends saying they wanted to help her left me absolutely choked-up and, uncharacteristically, not able to speak.
When I’d arrived at Katya’s party last evening, her mom thanked me for the fifteen-foot “Добро Пожаловать!” banner I’d sent to their home for their arrival, and invited me to come by and see it in her yard. This morning before departing for home, we stopped by, visited over raspberry smoothies, and heard enough anecdotes to choke up the most stone-hearted. After fifteen years in an orphanage, when my friend picked her up in Russia, Katya exclaimed in wonder, “I’m not an orphan girl anymore!” A few days after Katya’s court, she helped another teen-aged girl, Masha, prepare for her own court appearance. Katya, hunched slightly with cerebral palsy, advised shy Masha to stand up straight, pick up her chin, and speak to the judge with conviction. Katya suggested Masha wave her arms when saying she wanted to be adopted, her dramatic demonstration giving her advice a final air of credibility. On the phone, Masha’s new mom told me both Katya and my friend were “angels,” a description as apt as any. When their stay in Russia was over my friend flew home with Jesus’ saying, “I will not leave you as orphans,” resounding in her mind all the way. A call to my friend never ends before she prays for me, and she didn’t deviate during my home visit either, praying before we departed for home for straightened paths for my upcoming Tulsa Lighthouse trip.
I’m not home yet as I write these words, but it’s already abundantly clear the 1800 miles we’ll travel have come with blessing, plus interest, for the effort. It’s no surprise, I guess, since Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I gave a little, then received at every turn on this diminutive journey: devoted company for the drive; a visit with kindred spirits in orphan care; a chance to surprise my angel friend who never cries “Uncle!” if the question’s about giving; the immense satisfaction of an epic airport home coming I had a little role in; a gift of love to help extraordinarily patient Inna get her mom; and a story about an erstwhile orphan, not yet home, already helping another child seize her chance at a family. I know when St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive,” he wasn’t talking about my little excursion. But whizzing by exits and mile markers as the odometer on the van creeps upward, my full heart knows he might just as well have been.