If this blog post seems all over the place, I apologize. I’ve seen God working in so many huge ways the past few days that eloquence and organization in my writing are being shafted for the sake of giving an update about our team and what we’ve been learning.
Two days ago we went to an orphanage. Hands down, it was one of the best experiences of my life. People always say the same thing when they meet people less fortunate, “They have so little, but they are so happy!” It’s cliché, but it’s a powerful lesson that I definitely learned for the first time on Tuesday. We pulled up in three cars and in literally a matter of seconds after getting out we had kids begging us to pick them up and play with them. You don’t need to know Bulgarian to understand laughter and smiles. I took out my camera to take pictures and immediately it disappeared into the eager hands of the little ones; I think I have at least 100 pictures that they all took. They were fascinated by the simplest things: a digital watch, a soccer ball, a camera, Nalgene water bottles. They wanted us to share everything.
I thought the orphanage would be heart-wrenching and difficult, but at the end of the day I felt like the Grinch whose heart had grown two sizes. Amy, AmberLynn, and I went back again today and I was so overwhelmed with appreciation for these kids. They know how to laugh and love and watch out for each other. They know how to not be discouraged. They know how to reach out to people and see them as beautiful.
A theme that has come up in our Bible Study and Quiet Times in the past few days has been about God using the weak and the “least of these” to shame the strong. I have been shamed, but in the most loving and joyful way possible. I really don’t believe that Jesus is telling us to pity the orphans or the widows or the prisoners, he’s telling us to learn from them. I have never seen love like I saw in those orphans and I am so encouraged.
I’ll tell you what, as a team, we are tired. We are weary and we are being challenged daily. This mission trip has been far from what most of us expected, but we are continuing to press on. As cheesy as it is, during debriefs at night a song I sang in first grade for our May Day performance keeps popping into my head. “Each of us is a flower, growing in life’s garden. Each of us is a flower, we need the sun and rain.” I look around the room at my teammates and my leaders and I feel like I’m in a garden. Every one of us is growing and though we may have expected a different kind of fertilizer at first, God is pouring out his rain and sunshine. This week especially, we’ve tried to be as intentional as possible about hanging out with all the Bulgarians. We’ve led worship at church, we’ve been to services and prayer meetings, and we meet our friends for coffee (or if you’re me, for ice cream) everyday. But if there’s anything that I’m taking away from this entire experience it is that God has no language barriers and no culture shocks. God is love; he speaks in love; he moves and lives in love. And that is why I can look at the faces of the orphans and see him. It’s why I can listen to our incredible translators and hear him. And it’s why I can live with my teammates and feel him.
Our journey is winding down. God is not.