Thursday, October 30, 2014

A 14-Year Journey: From Russia to Zambia

Denise Reynolds:

My silly man photo bombing my efforts to capture
Sarah departing home to work in an orphanage in Africa 

Tomorrow my beloved husband's reason for being in Africa will come to an end. Mr. R's mission in Zambia will be complete. He'll watch and wave as a bus carrying Sarah departs the capital of Zambia, for an rural region 17 hours north. He told me today when we talked via Face Time that he knows he will weep as he watches that bus pull away.

Those words are hard for a wife to hear from her big, strong man. And yet, I'm full of peace knowing that his tears will be a salty mixture of grief and joy. Both of us are shedding tears of sorrow this week borne of our deep feelings for Sarah. Of, course we love her...we're her parents and that's what parents do. However, we also really like Sarah. She is a wonderfully giving young woman whose love of Jesus shines from her face day in and day out. We will miss this special light in our home. We're grieving the mere thought of her being nearly 8,000 miles away. We will miss her.

At the same time, we're also weeping tears of joy as we say our good-byes. You see, we've been on a 14-year journey with this precious girl. It was in late 2000 that the Lord began to nudge each of our hearts independently. His prod? Older children in Russian orphanages needed homes.

That nudge took us into an arena we'd never planned to enter ~ the heart-rending theater of the world's neediest. Honestly, we entered the arena of orphan care dragging our feet. We were SCARED. We didn't know anyone who had done something this...radical. We wondered, "Are we crazy? We already have the perfect family." However, we couldn't deny the need. World-wide 143,000,000 children were fatherless.

In the end, we decided to adopt one Russian child between the ages of five and eight. Then we read, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if one of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11) We knew the Lord was leading us to add a brother and sister. But as it turned out, that wasn't His plan either. When we finished the required home study, our adoption agency told us they had the perfect children for us. There was just one catch. There were three of them.

Double our children from three to six? Surely this was just to much for God to ask. We wrestled and prayed and wrestled some more until we turned to looked at the cross. Jesus died for our sins. He gave up His life that we might have eternal life. Could we do less than our Saviour had done? It was time to surrender our plans. It was time to deny self and take up our cross. We told our agency yes, we'd adopt the two sisters and their little brother.

On the first day that international flights returned to service following 9/11, we were in the air. We were about to become parents to three kiddos who didn't speak a word of our language, three children who'd only known abuse and neglect. But God had said feed my lambs. So we went, whispering, "We love you, King Jesus. We'd do anything for You. Even this. Oh, help us pleeeease, God!"

With the thud of a gavel in a Russian court room, Zhenya, Sarah and Matthew, ages eight, seven, and five, became our forever children. And thus began our day in and day out care for Sarah that will culminate tomorrow in her launching out on her own in Africa.

When we came to the conclusion 14 years ago that it was up to us to care for the orphans the Lord would put in front of us, Mr. R and I didn't enter the orphan care arena to simply provide food, clothing and shelter. We chose to adopt because we had a story to tell. We wanted to share the best news in human history ~ Jesus' life and death and resurrection ~ with kids whose life in an orphanage was likely to keep them from ever hearing the great good news of God's gift of redemption and salvation.

We also had a dream. Our hearts' cry was that some day these former orphans would want to tell others about Jesus' love, about His free gift of saving grace. So Sarah's trip to work in an orphanage in Africa didn't really begin last week. It is a journey that began nearly 14 years ago. And we send her off into rural Zambia with tears of joy. Because this former orphan wants to tell orphaned children about Jesus.

Sarah's Russian name (now her middle name) is Svetlana, which means light.

God is so good.


Anonymous said...

WOw! What excitement! I hope she'll have a camera with her through this entire journey because I'm sure there'll be more excitement.

Anonymous said...

Dear Denise,
I hope not to insult anyone with my question, and I have no bad intentions. I was just wondering if Sarah is still in a courtship, since you haven't posted anything on this issue in a long time. Of course I understand if you would rather keep that private and not answer my question! It's just that I love reading about your big family and your adventures (and growing up certainly is a huge adventure!).