I just returned from eastern Europe having spent about a month in the country of Romania. I wasn’t there as a tourist yet I was able to see a lot. I wasn’t there as an employee yet I did a lot of work. I wasn’t there to visit friends yet I came away with many.
I was on a mission trip in a country that was unfamiliar to me, yet one I hold close to my heart. Our two daughters were born in Romania and through the path of adoption joined our family when they were little. It’s a country I know so little about but one that has played such a huge role in my life. So foreign…and so familiar…at the same time.
I have been home now for a few days. Physically my body is still recovering. Part of that likely comes from jet lag, but more so the walking, walking and more walking to get where we needed to be each day. All the time seemingly going uphill. So I admit I am weary, and yet totally rejuvenated at the same time. I had a chance to immerse myself in new experiences, a change of context, and opportunities that I cherish. It excited and energized me in many ways. And it left me with much to reflect on.
I worked alongside those who don’t have very much but are pouring all they have into those who have less. I watched a team of deaf missionaries bring smiles to a group of children who have little to smile about. I shared conversations with people whose life experience is so vastly different from mine. I talked with some who see a future outside of their city and even their country, while others knew little of what was beyond their neighborhood.
I had moments when my heart soared and times when it simply broke. So many stories. So many experiences. Yet I am reluctant to share much--yet. I need time to think. Time to be still and reflect. Time to try and make sense of what I experienced without trying to make it fit into a cultural perspective it isn’t meant to.
So right now I find myself pondering a small event. One of the least significant encounters of all. One that didn’t even happen in Romania, yet it is sitting with me.
On the flight home my daughter and I were stretching our legs and standing in an area of the plane next to the bathrooms. A mom carrying an infant handed her baby to my daughter and asked if she would hold him while she used the washroom. What an act of trust. Of course there was no place my daughter could have gone with that child since we were contained within the confines of the plane, in addition to the fact that many eyes with little else to look at would be watching for potential problems. Many people could have taken action if need be.
My daughter happily held and rocked the infant for the few minutes until it was back in its mother’s arms. It caused me to think about some of the children I had just spent time with. Some were abandoned. Many neglected. Children whose well-being is in jeopardy but who have few eyes on them today. Yet change is possible. The handful of those who are trying to look out for them don’t do so with blinders, goggles or even rose-colored glasses. They are looking at the child and their situation realistically. But running parallel with that realism is respect, affection and…hope. Let me correct that; they aren’t running exactly parallel, but coming alongside, and slightly ahead, leading with an unmistakable sense of optimism and dignity.
There are children where I was, where I returned to and in places I’ve never been who are in need; in need of food, clothing, shelter, education, and something as simple as a hug. Every child needs to hear they are loved. That they matter. That someone cares.
Yes, it is an uphill battle, a steep climb to be sure, but it is a climb we are called to take. We can take action. One of these children may never be put in our arms, but their future can most certainly be placed in our hands. That’s my outlook.