"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

14 - Final Day in Smolensk


14.

That is how many orphanages the Central Baptist Church visits and helps. They play games with the kids. They help the kids with clothes and the basic amenities that kids need. They pray with and for the children.  

I don't have the space on this blog or complete knowledge to explain orphanages in Russia. Suffice to say that there are many different types of orphans here.

There are orphans here who would fit our classical understanding of orphans. There are children who would be more like foster kids. And finally, there is a group of kids they refer to as "social orphans" -- children whose parents are very impoverished; children who live at the orphanages Monday to Friday and go home on the weekends.

We visited two different orphanages on our last day. One was for k 8 to 18 with respiratory illnesses. Think: asthma or chronic bronchitis. This orphanage is in the forest by design so that the children will get as much fresh air as possible. The kids go to school here, live here, play here. They move in groups around the campus very quickly, whispering as they go. They have Physical Education, Home Economics, and weekly breathing treatments. It is school, camp, clinic -- all in one.


(Here 12-13 year old girls share with us about the cherry tree they planted. Olga -pronounced Olya- translates. The orphans planted 71 trees. One for each year of the orphanage's existence. In 3-4 years the apples, cherries, and pears they planted will start to supplement their diets.)

(One of the gyms on site. Note the play ground in the foreground.)

Their dormitories are meager. Clean, yes. Warm, yes (Russians know to heat space). But they were very, very, very meager. The church built the kids new closets several years ago, but there was not much in them. Closets are mostly empty.

(Leonid, Pastor Victor's brother shows us the closets he built in one of the dormitories. Thanks to the churches the children have decent bathrooms and closets.)

( Harriet explains the rules of balloon relay to the kids.)

(We played balloon games with the kids. I think we had as much fun as they did.)

All the buildings we saw were built in the 1950's. Small and cramped. But the children seem well. It is not luxurious. But considering where some of them come from it likely seems like a safe haven. 

(One of the teachers. She was really kind and spoke good English.  Have met many teachers. They are all the same. Love children. Love to watch Indus grow. Love to watch students make discoveries and improve. The calling to teach and teaching ministries is not exclusive. It is on every shore and in every time zone.)

The children were beautiful. They are just like children all over the world. At one point my friend Judy sat next to a child. The child was alone. I asked the teacher if she was OK. "She's just shy," the teacher said. 


No sooner did I notice the shy kid when I heard a girl screaming "Pravda! Pravda! Pravda!" Translation: "rules, rules, rules."  They were playing balloon pop relay. And someone was cheating the game to get ahead. 

Here they were. Two girls. One shy and the other the kid who makes sure everyone is following the rules. 

My eyes welled with tears. 

Children are the same all over the world. Haiti. Russia. Honduras. Scotland. North Carolina.  I wonder about you when you were young. Which one were you: the shy kid? The everybody follow the rules kid? Which one were you. 

No wonder Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to the children. They are hard wired for joy and love. Trust and wonder. But somehow we forget all that. And emnity grows between us. Conflict is a learned and adult behavior.

Kids are the same the world over. They need the same things: support. Love. Safety. Lessons in faith and character. 

14. In addition to raising their own kids, the folks in Smolensk are reaching 14 different orphanages. 

14. 

Yes. There are hundred of orphanages in Russia. Far more in the world. In one light this may see like a thimble full of water in the desert. 

But in truth 14 is incredible. Jesus is concerned about the one. And here we have 14!

What if every person who reads my blog or who goes to our church or who knows me helped14 lost kids, 14 schools, or 14 people in need? 

Then 14 might be the biggest number of all.

If Russian friends can do so very much with limited resources and access, then what is stopping those of us with many resources from offering at least as much?

14.

It grabbed my attention. 

Smolensk is beautiful. 





But most lovely of all is the faith of a few friends. Friends who, 14 orphanages at a time, are serving those who Jesus called the least of these.  










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