I love train rides. I can't remember ever traveling by one in the United States, but on the other side of the world they add an extra dimension to the adventure. We chose to take the First Class train to Voronezh which would ensure a few critical things for two women who don't speak much of the language:
1. There would only be two beds in the compartment, and they would be occupied by us
2. There would be no smoke in the compartment, because neither of us smoke
3. All our items would be safe and secure because we would be sleeping on top of them!
The gentle rocking motion of the train rolling down the tracks usually makes for a pleasant night's sleep. Alas, that was a train I remember from a distant journey or downright fantasy land. This train with all of its above mentioned bonus options through first class turned into a bucking bronco at a rodeo around midnight.
Did my one year in age shrink these compartment beds, they sure seem a lot smaller than I remember? Stopping every thirty minutes (make that lurching and screeching to a dead halt) wasn't in the recesses of my romaniticized form of travel either. As I "rode the rails" through the Russian night, needless to say I wasn't sleeping.
By the time our alarm woke B and irritatingly reminded me of my state of consciousness, we were more than ready to get off. While the wild bronco ride had me awake, it made my companion nauseous. Not a fun way to start the day - until the final stop, and I looked out to see bright orange signs, and long-stemmed roses greeting us with our friends enthusiastically waving the Happy Birthday greetings!
It was so worth it. Our ordinary birthdays laid down and shared in extraordinary ways.
We arrived at the Hope House just as the guys were coming down to say a quick hello and goodbye before they were off for their first day of school (university, trade school or other institute of learning). I made all the arriving barely awake guys sing a chorus of "Happy Birthday." They laughed, familiar with the tune, but the English...?
All day we shared with different guys who would come in. B had a chance to meet them and interact as they made their way back out into the world that once rejected them.
In our conversations with A and R we heard a common thread, their taking of the "everyday, ordinary, things of their life" and laying them down as sacrifices before God in a faraway and unfamiliar land. Celebrating and investing in the lives of the young men here at Hope House as if they were their own flesh-born children. In many ways they are so much more than that. They are the Spirit-born gifts of the Father of the fatherless who has provided the strength and grace for them to do so.
"He that believes in Me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water." John 7:38
We are privileged to watch the flowing river of their love, run up and down the stairs; come in and grab a boiled egg to go, after A. reminds them they "need to eat something" before starting their day. We admired the overflow of that flood of rushing water looking at the new shoe rack designed for the entry hall, and built by R and V on a cloudy afternoon. We sat with Z, who probably understood 90% of what was being said, but spoke not a word, he just sat, enjoying the warmth of being included as "family."
"Be good friends who love deeply..." Romans 12:10 The Message
Loving, learning and letting the rivers flow!
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