Hello, my name is Mariya G. A little bit of information about myself: I am 24 years old, married, and have a three year old son.
Every time our youth group would get ready to leave on a missionary trip, I’d find myself longing to go with them… and because I am a mom, I thought that this was just wishful thinking.
But with God, all things are possible.
Last year, I realized that my little son was growing up, just as my desire to go on a mission trip had also grown. I decided to pray and ask God if it were in His will for me to travel to Belarus.
Time passed, and in the beginning of 2012 God answered my prayer: not only did my husband consent to let me go, but God also sent adequate finances to pay for my trip. Our parents agreed to help care for my son, and so we moved forward and purchased my ticket.
It wasn’t hard to leave my family, because my husband helped me by reminding me that I was not to worry; because everything was in God’s hands, and if it was His will, then I would be home in three short weeks. It wasn’t hard because I knew that I was loved and my return would be eagerly awaited; because I knew that my son would be cared for by my husband and our parents.
And so I left home with the thought that my son would be in good hands, while the children I was to encounter were orphaned or abandoned. Perhaps some of them had been abused by their parents, while my own son had a mother and a father; a loving family. Before arriving in Belarus, I came to the conclusion that to give all of myself for three short weeks to children who had no one and nothing was no real sacrifice.
I was a part of the group led by Fedor P. This group would work in several different locations throughout the duration of our trip. One of the orphanages was located in Olcy, Belarus, and was a home for handicapped children.
It took us 47 hours to reach Olcy from our home church back in America. There were roughly 70 children there, all with very different levels of mental and physical handicaps. Some of the children had Down syndrome, while others had psychological issues. But there were also children who had no physical or mental setbacks. We spent ten days working in this orphanage.
During our stay in this orphanage we were given the medical offices of the orphanage to stay in. We had two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom at our disposal. Our team consisted of nine people—six from the States, and three local volunteers.
Our day would begin with morning exercises that we organized for the children. We would have breakfast, and then the children would have to return to their rooms to clean up. While they did this, we would ready our crafts, games, Bible stories, and sports for the day. Afterwards we would join the children in cleaning up their property, or work in their gardens. Then we would have our Bible lesson, followed by sport time, music, crafts, lunch, and the quiet hour in which everyone was expected to rest. After quiet hour we would organize a large camp game or activity, and then it would be time for dinner, the evening service, and only then would it be time to sleep.
We spent the first few days just getting to know the children, memorizing their names, and adjusting to their orphanage’s rules and schedule. If you’ve never worked with children with setbacks, then at times their behavior can frighten you. When we would get together with the children in the evenings to sing, show plays, etc., many of the children would rock back and forth in order to self-soothe. We discovered that one of the reasons they did this was because many of them had never been soothed by their parents when they had been babies. Instead of being picked up, rocked back to sleep, or kissed, they had been left alone, and so many of them had learned how to self-soothe in this way.
As a mother, I found myself looking at my trip through different eyes.
Some of the children would show their love during game and sport time by hitting us repeatedly on our backs. Still others remained apart from everyone, trapped in their own private world.
It was especially hard to witness how some of the care-givers would ridicule the children. A few of them wouldn’t even let the children they cared for join us for game time or sing-along-songs. Thankfully, there were some kind hearted caregivers who not only helped us, but more importantly, gave their love and attention to the children.
I realized what an important role sin had played, and continued to play, in the lives of these innocent children. A life without God can only turn to sin, and sin leads to suffering and pain. These children, who needed the love and kindness of a mother, were destined to live a life of pain. Many of them, having been abandoned by their own parents, would follow the same path in life simply because they had never known love within the walls of a family home.
I found myself worrying often about the teenagers who would soon be out on their own. At least in then orphanage they were fed, had a roof over their heads, and clothes to wear, but upon graduation, it would be up to them to take care of themselves. And while it is hard for any graduate of an orphanage to make a life for him or herself, it is even more difficult for these children, due to their disabilities.
As a mother, it was hard to dole out special attention to one child over another, especially when I remember that the fate of each child is precious in the eyes of God. I realized that these children were like blind little kittens, unsure of where to go or how to make their way in life. And that is why people go on missionary trips. That is why some people give their time, their money, and others pray (this being the most important!): to show the blind, the lost, and those in need the path to Christ.
And so I ask you today to not be indifferent to the lives of these children. Take an active role in their lives, laboring for God’s glory. Because they need us, but importantly, they need Him.
Thank you for your prayers and your support. May God bless you.
[This orphanage is lacking in many items, with a serious shortage in girl’s undergarments. If you would like to donate such items, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org]