On Monday, August 16th we traveled (by bus) about an hour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Zelenogorsk, along the Gulf of Finland. It was a beautiful drive to the northwest. The winding road took us through the forests bordering St. Petersburg. It reminded me a lot of home — green pine trees, along the calm waters of the Gulf.
We arrived at our hotel at around noon. We got unpacked and made our way down to lunch, which consisted of the same thing we had everywhere else. Fish in white sauce, pork in white sauce/cheese, cucumbers, cabbage salad, and similar foods. It was good. What I need to do is pick one thing — eat that for that meal, and then eat something else for the next meal. I guess I like variety in every meal. I keep eating a little of everything.
After lunch, we traveled just a few minutes to the first camp. It was just off the main road, but deep into the woods. The camp is a former Communist Summer Youth Camp, where young people during the days of the Soviet Union were trained in the Soviet system. Many of these camps have been converted into new types of summer camps. Some have because Christian camps, others have been converted into summer camps for orphans.
This camp was the summer home of Orphanage #2 and #16. Monday’s visit was focused on just play. So we did. We just played all afternoon with the kids. I was so frustrated with my physical situation. I wasn’t able to play soccer, volleyball or basketball. For the first time EVER — I felt old. Many of the team were able to reach out to these kids. Some of the team stayed on the soccer field showing the kids their best moves (some were awesome, too – watch the video). Others made balloon animals (like me) for the littler kids. While others went back to the main building and did face painting and did the girls nails.
One of the little girls took a liking to me. Her name is Lulya. She’s a eight year old who just wants to feel loved. I told her (in the little Russian I
know) that she was pretty, to which she infaticly denied. She obviously has a very low self esteem. However, I was able to spend a little bit of time with her — carrying her on my shoulders, spinning her around, tickling her and just trying to talk with her. By the end of the afternoon she was holding my hand, as if we were good buddies and as we parted she told me she loved me.
A few of the other teammates had similar experiences.
Tuesday, we’re heading back. We’ll spend time sharing Bible stories with the little kids in the morning. Then in the afternoon, we’ll tackle a harder issue — teenagers. They weren’t very warm to us when we arrived — typical teens. We’re praying God will do a work in their hearts as we head back.
Thanks for praying and continue to pray for health issues. Everyone’s doing pretty well. I’ve been struck with a cough that’s dropped into my lungs. It’s not TOO bad yet, but I don’t want it to get worse.