Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This is Natasha. I met Natasha at the 2nd camp we had in Nikolaev at the end of July. We were only there for 6 full days, and so I didn't anticipate developing too deep of relationships with the kids and in some ways I think I had set my expectations rather low for what we could accomplish in such a short amount of time. Well it turned out I was in for a surprise! With my friend Zhenya and two American friends, Mary Lynn and Amanda, I had the privilege of teaching life skills lessons each day to youth about 14-16 years old. We mostly had girls in our groups and to say that they were thrilled to come to the lessons each day would be an understatement. Especially Natasha.
Each day Natasha would arrive to our "gazebo" where the lessons took place and she would sit there wide eyed, half staring at her 3 new American friends- so eager to soak up all of the information. We gave out workbooks on the first day which contained the weeks lessons and worksheets, and on the second day of class Natasha came back and said, "this is all so interesting, I read the whole book already!" With her angelic and sweet nature I could tell that we would be friends soon. During our lesson on friendship each of the kids had to interview someone else and work on their listening and question asking skills. Natasha decided she would be my partner and her eyes lit up when I agreed. I enjoyed my conversation with Natasha, and asked her questions about her dreams, her hobbies, her family and the things she'd like to learn (like English!) Natasha is almost 14 years old and wants to be a teacher someday, she has a dysfunctional family situation, and spends most of the year in the orphanage, except for the times when her grandparents come and get her. I think what amazes me most about Natasha, and many other youth like her, is the dreams she has for herself, dreams to live a different life than that of her parents- and believing she an. After the day of friendship we had a time of crafts with the kids in which they could make greeting cards for a special friend. After the craft was over Natasha handed me the card she had made, "It's for you, she said." Inside she had written, "After today's conversation, you have become my best friend. You are a miracle, miracle, miracle. With love, Natasha"

Now don't worry, I know I am far from a miracle (God's got a lot of work to do on me yet)- and I know Natasha didn't have a full understanding of what she was saying-- but these words that she wrote gave me a deeper understanding of how much these kids need relationship, how much they need true friendship, people who care...just a listening ear! Part of me was sad that after a 10 minute conversation, Natasha could say I was her best friend--because I know I am far from that. Sometimes it breaks my heart to realize how much these kids have to learn--even what it means to be a real friend. But for this 14 year-old little girl, a listening ear, and a loving hug brought friendship- a friendship that surprised and blessed me as well...and I hope our friendship will continue on.
When we left the camp in Nikolaev I wasn't prepared for the streaming tears of a dozen 14-16 year-old girls that flowed as we said our goodbyes. I've gotten used to saying goodbye to kids over the years with all the camps and visits we do-- but this time seemed different for some reason. In those six short days the Lord used our team to build some amazing relationships and lay the foundation of trust and friendship with young people who have such deep emotional scars that I cannot even begin to grasp. I was blessed just to be a small part of that. More than anything, through those 6 short days I was reminded of the importance of listening and loving...not always speaking, but just being present. Natasha helped me to do that. Thank you my sweet sweet friend.

Lord Jesus, continue to send your workers into the fields of the Fatherless....may more and more Ukrainian believers be challenged to enter the walls of the orphanages and begin relationships with these youth who so desperately need a healthy adult in their life, a listening ear, and love. Amen


SET said...

Again, Karen, these stories are so moving! It took your comment on my blog post to remind me to check my SPU account, which goes pretty unchecked these days. I have a gmail account I use more frequently, it's I'm going to give you a call tonight... Hopefully you'll be free.

Annie said...

I am so glad I found your blog - though it makes me sad, too. I wish I could take all these sweet children into my home and heart. How wonderful that you can make such a difference.