Have you ever tried to cut back blackberry brush?
If you have, you are already feeling that sense of dread. If you haven’t, imagine fighting off the huge squid on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
You’ll spend hours fighting a blackberry bush and when you step back it looks like you were sitting on your hands, “Oh, that’s nice Honey. What have you been doing out there all morning?”
Shoulders slumped, you head back out to the fray, hoping to make a dent in the seemingly insurmountable task. Hands bleeding, mud up to your calves, the stench of something that died at the far end of the brambles but you push on.
Though this is a bit of a crass example, there is a similar feeling that must come across the beautiful men and women who faithfully go to Romaniv (an orphanage for boys with special needs) every week. “Am I making any difference?”
I’m just assuming they feel this way some days, cause riding in the van out there yesterday you wouldn’t have known they feel anything but joy. These folks are my heroes.
Kim and I have a favorite place at Romaniv. It’s called the Isolation Room. Most of the boys and men are mobile, though with varying levels of difficulty. I am reticent to show you pictures because it is quite traumatic and I want you to meet them, not just see them.
Let me tell you about Zhenya. If I showed you a picture you would see a quiet boy, drooling and hunched over. With his head down, his eyes would be looking up at you with a precious, but distant smile across his face.
But as the music started to play and I had the honor of cuddling Zhenya, his stiff body softened. As I rubbed his head he leaned into me and fell asleep. He woke up and smiled at me and I looked into his eyes and smiled at him. I prayed Jesus would be near to his heart. That he would feel the love of God. That he would just feel human. I will continue to pray for Zhenya. Will you?
Now I need to tell you about Vova. If you saw him you would see cuts, scrapes and bites all over him. You would see his hands and wrists bleeding and mutilated by years of wounds trying to heal. You would see an old man in a boy-size body. But his scowled face softened as a wonderful nun started to play music. She comes every week. Vova’s posture relaxed, just a little. I crouched next to him and put my arm around him. There was a part of me that felt afraid. I’d like to say I’m in perfect peace at Romaniv, but some moments are harder than others. He got to spend an hour and a half where he didn’t feel the need to self-stim by biting himself.
Our over-the-top “need” for cleanliness and purel puts up a lot of barriers for us folks in the west, but Vova needs to know he is worthy of love and affection. He needs someone brave enough. The amazing people who volunteer weekly to come play with these boys are astounding. Jesus, be near Vova’s heart. Let him feel your love, Father. Holy Spirit bring peace to his mind and body.
Lastly I must tell you about Misha. Last year he was the little boy in the corner who was very closed off, self-stimulated by hiting the bridge of his nose and his temple.
A year later he looked much healthier, though he has the same wounds he was more engaged with people. When Betta, the nun, began to play he immediatly softened. His face relaxed, with the slightest smile. He swayed side to side with his eyes closed and it was beautiful to see the change in him. Jesus, be near Misha. Father, pour out your love onto Misha. Holy Spirit bring your peace.
The consistent faithfullness of Mission to Ukraine and the volunteers who come every week is making a difference in these boys. They are changing, growing, healing. God’s Kingdom is coming and it is beautiful. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Matt. 5:3
It was our absolute honor to come alongside MTU yesterday and love on the boys and men of Romaniv. The mutual love and excitement in the air was almost tangible. We can’t wait to be weekly participants in this mission of love once we move to Zhitomir.
As we rode home, I marveled at Betta’s smile. She didn’t need to know that what she was doing supported brain development and attachment. She just feels God’s pleasure as she loves on His children. Glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven breaking through in the most unlikely of places.