Our first day at the center was an emotional roller-coaster. We were excited because of all the planning and efforts put into the skit, games and crafts. The anticipation was palpable. There were many unknowns going into this week (How many kids will be there? What will be their ages?), but we thought we had all our bases covered…Boy were we wrong. This day was not going to follow a simple schedule on an excel spreadsheet. We were going to have to think on our (very jet-lagged) toes!
Upon meeting all 23 of the kids, we quickly realized our anxieties surrounding the language barrier. How were we going to communicate and bond with them if we couldn’t speak with them? Working with translators put a whole new twist on relationship building. This required patience and persistence from all of us.
We split the kids into 2 groups (3-10 year olds and 10+ year olds), but because it’s hard to come up with activities that both a 3 and 10 year old both would enjoy, we found ourselves with even more course correcting. The younger group played games, sang songs and played with A LOT of balloons. All of which were unplanned, but all of which brought huge smiles to the kids’ faces. The older group was comprised of all boys this time. Of course, many of them refused to participate in the crafts at first, but with a little nudging, they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves. This group ended the day in a rousing game of soccer. If you ask any of them (our team included), they’d all tell you this was the highlight of their day. A rematch has already been called for tomorrow!
In the end, the crafts, games, or speaking perfect Russian was really not what mattered. It was our connections with the kids that were the most important. We learned to be flexible, to adjust on a whim and to just have fun! We all know that we are here for a purpose and that God has strengthened and prepared us for this work. He has transformed our fear into confident trust.
The Russia GO! Team. (Written by Tammy and Julie)
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-5