Location: Suzdal Orphanage.
Kids: About 20 special needs children, around the ages of 3 and 4.
Monday, June 18, was our first full day of ministry. We were headed to Suzdal. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I have never been to an orphanage. Some people are good at going without expectations, but I'm not. I had thoughts about what it might be like, I had an image in my head, and all that stuff. We drive along in the rain, and actually, the scenery on the way looked like something you'd see in America. We were still getting to know each other and our Russian team. And, I, well, I was still getting used to the time change! I was so tired. We pulled up to this yellow building, got out, went inside, and the first thing I noticed was the smell. It wasn't hold your breath nasty, but it was a bit overwhelming. It was like a mold and musty smell, which the director later did mention. We also got our first taste of how many steps we'd have! Even at some doorways there were dips and steps. Overall, it was so different than I expected. I expected it to be in pretty poor condition, dark, and colorless. But it was bright, cheery, and it looked pretty well taken care of despite its age and smell. We went into the main room where we were to meet the kids. The director gave some information on the orphanage, told us the kids were special needs kids, and then brought the kids in. I wanted to cry, but all I could do was beam. Seriously, I think my face might have been hurting. It was so cute. They all ran in and sat down in their cute little chairs (the style and design were actually common, at least at orphanages, because we saw them at many sites). Two of them were holding hands. They were our first performers. They sang for us and I just about melted. It was adorable! Then Jaye did her magic, which the kids love. We could immediately see the kids personalities, which was great. So they performed for us, some of our team performed for them, then we did some group songs and dancing.
We were standing in a circle, the music was playing, and suddenly I have this thing in my hand and the music stops. Then everyone's like "Sarah, go in the middle and dance!" I had no idea we were even playing a game so I was totally confused, but I went with a little girl in the middle and "danced". Okay, I don't dance, I just "move with style", or maybe not even that! You get the point, I'm bad. But, I couldn't let the kids down, so I went and made a fool of myself. But it was all good. I had to let go of a lot of fear of man over there, and I survived. I am hoping to remember that whenever I'm confronted with it here. There's a lot since coming back that I've noticed I've gotten over. Today, I even left the house without a shower. Sure, I stayed in the car the whole time, but that's just not me. So, that was cool. Back to the kids.
They went and got dressed in play clothes, which was also where we kind of figured out that many of the kids seem to just wear what will go on. It might be a bit small, the shirt might not match the pants, and the shoes might not even be meant for that gender, but they still wore it, and it was okay. I remember thinking, wow, kids here are so happy and they have so little. It's okay that boys shoes are pink. It's okay that those pants would have fit him three years ago. It's okay she's wearing shorts up to her chest, and a shirt that doesn't even come to her belly button. They're happy. Why do Americans have to put the most expensive, new, name brand, coolest clothes on their kids? The prices I see on some baby clothing could probably buy one orphan a whole wardrobe. I mean, I do understand, I am sure if I'm blessed with children I will make sure their clothes fit and match, but it was still an eye opener. We played with the kids outside for I think over an hour. It was so much fun. Some painted faces, Jaye made balloon animals, and the rest of us just played and loved on the kids by pushing them on the swing, giving them rides on their shoulders, or playing catch with a ball. I had this one boy who was particularly attached to me. At one point he told me he was going to lay down and take a nap on me. :) So cute. I'm glad he left me about 10 minutes before we left, because it would have been hard to say bye. I probably would have cried. We then left for lunch and a tour of Suzdal, courtesy of our favorite tour guides.
Andrew and a little boy. I'm not sure what was taking place here. I know I posted this picture already, but so you know, it was taken at this ministry site.
Well, that ends the morning of our first ministry day. In the next post, I'll tell you about the rest of the day. Oh, and pictures to come when I get on the other computer.