As visitors to Post Cold War Soviet orphanages, we fought not to see the conditions as despairing, for after all we were there as Ambassadors of Hope.
We laughed, we smiled, we sang, we played games, and we told stories. We hugged, we held hands, and we walked through the hallways with our miniature escorts who had lived lives far more than their age should bear.
And when the day was done, we would board our bus, wave goodbye, and hold back the tears in our eyes until we were well out of sight.
I watched a documentary entitled "Alone in Four Walls." It tells the story of young boys in Russia who commit crimes (some petty some serious)and are put into what would be known here as "Juvie Halls." Except the more I watched, the more I realized they were in facilities exactly like the hundreds of orphanages I have been in. The hallways were the same, the curtains were the same, the uniforms were the same, the playgrounds were the same, and the gate that closed them in at night were all the same.
When the end credits rolled, I was not the same.
After months of compiling the stories of mission adventures, crying at the weight of all the experiences and tragedy I have seen in the field, finally the book is finished.
Writing "A Good Reason to Go" proved to be the hardest, greatest, most painful and most rewarding thing I have ever done. It is solid evidence to my soul of why I have made the choices, traveled the miles, and cried the tears.
Today, the first published edition of the finished work sat on my coffee table while "Alone in Four Walls" held my attention. I knew of all the things I have seen: poverty, leprosy, AIDs babies, children digging through dump sites, orphans crying at another goodbye, village women marveling at touching a cold soda can for the first time, there is so very much I didn't see at all.
again - or still, I just can't say.
In all the times I have shared the love of Christ, in all the days, over all the years I "saw" more today in 93 minutes of brutal honest documentation. The young boys told their stories for the cameras with flat affectation. "I got two years and three months for stealing pickles and jam." "I got three years for hooliganism and murder." "I am here because I kept running away after my mother's boyfriend beat me when he was drinking. I murdered three people." The interviewer paused to ask the boy to state his name and age. "I am Vitoly, I am thirteen years old."
There is a book now, a record of many things I have seen. It is a book that relates my obedience and call to the ends of the earth. I wrote the stories along the way to bare witness to an audience of willing listeners.
But there is so much I have yet to see.
There are many stories, yet to be told.
There are still many lives, many lost, many hurting, and many crying.