Monday, September 26, 2011

The Face of Tanya

With every orphanage that we go to and return to visit time and time again, I always seem to see that God puts one or two specific girls on my heart.  I think it’s all I can really handle.  When I look at the masses it is hard to connect. It is easy to just see them as a group of orphans and their needs can seem overwhelming. It seems easier not to get involved. 

But then God manages to take one face and have it stand out amidst the masses.  One story becomes a bit more personal.  One individual suddenly has entered your life and suddenly what you are doing seems to matter more.

At the Kalinenska orphanage that face is Tanya.  For three years now we have been visiting Kalinenska and putting on summer camps and then returning in the fall for fellowship.  For three years now Tanya's smile has greeted me each time I have crossed through those dreaded orphanage gates.  Tanya has an unspeakable joy that exudes out of her.  She has a laugh that is contagious.  She has eyes that speak life. Tanya knows Jesus, and it is evident.  Her larger than life smile and radiant joy are a stark contrast to the life she has lived.

She fantasizes about what home would be like if her mother didn't drink and wouldn't beat her and her younger brother.  The brother she has practically raised herself. A brother who carries visible signs of physical abuse he must have endured.  She knows home isn't a safe place, and yet she still dreams it would be better there- that perhaps her mother could know God, that things could change.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how wretched home life was for these kids, it still remains 'home.'   It remains the place where so many dream to return.  It might have not been good, but it was their normal.   Mama was mama, no matter what she did.   It isn't this way for all kids, but I have heard this story repeated too many times over the years.... wanting to return, despite the circumstances.

For at least 6 years Tanya and her younger brother have been in an orphanage, and it was at this orphanage in Kalinenska that she came to know Jesus.  Because our friends Anya and Boguslava regularly visited the kids and taught them about the Bible and Jesus, Tanya began to understand what it means to have a relationship with her Heavenly Father- a daddy she can trust.  She loves to read her Bible and could recite me long parables from memory.

Life for Tanya is not easy. She told me about how hard it is being one of the only 'serious' Christians in the orphanage.  She went on to say how much our time with her during the camp encouraged her faith and allowed her to trust Jesus more and want to grow.  She said it was nice to have people to talk through things with and get advice from-- to see people with a passion for God.

I told Tanya that she was my encouragement; she was my hero.  I told her that her faith was teaching me about true joy.  It is easy to smile when life seems easy, but to wake up in a village orphanage each day and to choose joy is a real testimony to Jesus living in her. 

I don't always wake up and choose joy. In fact there have been many days lately when I've had to give myself a real attitude adjustment.  So I try to remember Tanya, to pray for Tanya, and remind myself like the apostle Paul did, that joy is an overflow of what is inside.   There is a reason that Paul was able to say  "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).    He was drawing his water supply from a living source, he was full of a joy that only Jesus can give.

Where is your joy coming from these days?  Is it harder to muster up because of your circumstances?

Go back to the source.  Pursue the giver of indescribable JOY. Perhaps your face may shine a little brighter.... a little like the face of Tanya.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 15:13


K. Davis said...

what a sweet sweet smile :)

Jo said...

Great was really the encouragement/inspiration I needed this week!

Tara G. said...

She is beautiful. Ps. 84:11 came to mind- prayed for her. Will miss you Thurs. night!

MamaPoRuski said...

Praying that God will continue to strengthen her "inner man" and give her peace. But also praying that God would pour out his Holy Spirit on the staff and children of the orphanage,that Tanya will see a harvest in her life time of her witness!

Wife Goes On said...

She is gorgeous, and you are right - her light shines! Praying for her, her brother, that her mom will know Jesus, and for you as you minister to them all.