Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Sit-Down Comedian


My family and I recently went on our first family vacation as a family of fourteen. One of our regular traditions on our regular vacations to the North Shore of Lake Superior is to eat at a specific restaurant in Duluth on the way to our condos. On this most recent vacation, I enjoyed eating at this restaurant for the first time with the new members of our family. It felt like an important ceremony to incorporate them into this tradition.
I sat next to my new brother Alexander during the meal. As we waited for our food, we examined an activity on his children’s menu together. The goal was to find an object in the picture for every letter of the English alphabet. Alexander found several objects for which he knew the English names. He also spoke and wrote out the Russian names for the objects when I asked him to (which was very patient of him, since there were 26 items!)

Alexander prayed for the meal at my table. He asked if he could do it in Russian, and I understood just enough Russian to enjoy the hilarity of his prayer. It boiled down to this: “Dear God, thank You that yesterday we could come to Minnesota. I don’t understand why it took so long to get here. But thank You for everything. Amen.”

When we had been waiting for our food, Alexander drew a small cartoon devil figure as though it were sitting in a rocket on his children’s menu. He looked at me, pointed down, and said “Downstairs,” with a big grin, to indicate that his cartoon figure came from Hell. Then he drew a pitchfork for his guy, made an upward stabbing motion, and said “Upstairs,” with another big grin, to indicate that the cartoon devil’s enemies would be sent shooting toward the sky by this pitchfork he’d drawn.

I laughed at my brother’s jokes in his prayer and with his drawings, but it does amaze and humble me that he’s still able to laugh. He spent six years in a Russian foster home with a woman he called “Mama”, but she sent him back to the orphanage. After this and many other experiences of hardship, I am delighted to see that God is giving my new brother a spirit of resiliency, and I hope that in the long run our family will be a place of true joy for him.

More than that, though, I hope that my brother gets a wish he has expressed more than once to me. He joked about "Downstairs" and "Upstairs" once, but on more than one occasion, he earnestly told me he wanted to go "Upstairs" (Heaven) and was afraid of going "Downstairs". Alexander said he thought all the children in the orphanage went "Downstairs". He also asked me where I thought I was going. I tried to tell him about what Jesus did, and that Jesus wanted to bring him "Upstairs" instead of "Downstairs", but it's a bit difficult with my limited Russian. I hope God will use this open door in my brother's heart and mind to not only give Alexander a ticket for going "Upstairs", but also a bit of "Upstairs" here on earth through a friendship with the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.


Our Family said...

My beloved Joe,

If anyone can break through the language barrier and reach his little brother, it is you. But it's not about language in words... it's about the language you live as you live the gospel before Him. We love you!


Hannah said...

If this was facebook, I would totally "like" this! Great post!

I'm praying...