Nearly ten months ago, a group of seven youth decided they wanted to go on a mission trip overseas. We searched many options before selecting the destination of Kursk, Russia. We made contact with the Pastor that would be leading our group.
We did endless amounts of fund raising for our trip from putting pink flamingos in yards to serving dinners through our church.I had never flown before so the ten hour flight was quite the experience. I spent much of my time sleeping and listening to music. Before I knew it, I was in Russia.
We stayed in Moscow for a few days where we toured the Kremlin, Christ our Savior Cathedral, and a WWII Museum as well as shopped at the local tourist market. The first cultural difference we noticed was the way the girls dressed. They were all wearing short shorts, mid-drift tops, and high heels.
Most of the girls had dark hair and were very tall and slender. We also noticed the way Russians drive. They can take a four lane street and turn it into an eight lane street.
I feared for my life every time I rode in our tour bus. The food was an adventure every meal, but we managed.After touring Moscow, we boarded the train to our final destination, Kursk. It was also my first train ride.
The conditions were much better than I had expected. Each cabin consisted of four beds, two on each side like bunk beds, and a table in the middle attached to the wall. We were offered tea and coffee every where we went.
We board around 9:30 pm so the train ride was over night. We arrived in Kursk about 7:00 am and were greeted by our interpreters and bus driver. We made our way to the orphanage.I didn’t know what to expect.
The only image I had in my head was from the movie ‘Annie.’ Both of my brothers had come from an orphanage so I knew this experience would be a bit personal. It’s also a place where I could’ve ended up if I hadn’t been adopted. We pulled into the drive way toward a mass of gray buildings and immense gardens.–nextopage–
The structures were a bit run down but nonetheless the home to 120 orphans aged six to 18. As we came closer to the orphanage we saw all of the children waiting for us. They welcomed us with the ‘Bread and Salt Welcome’ which consisted of us taking a piece of bread, dipping it in salt, and eating it to show our appreciation for their hospitality. We then met our Russian roommates who had come to stay with us in the orphanage as interpreters and friends.While in the orphanage, we held a bible study. We taught the orphans about Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, Daniel and the King’s Dream, and many more.
We also did maintenance work. I learned to plaster and wallpaper. We also painted, sewed, and white washed. We spent about four hours a day working and the rest of our day with the children. They taught us new games and dances as did we. It was difficult, but fun working through the language barrier. We could understand what the children were saying through their facial expressions and body language. We also took advantage of our interpreters that loved translating for us.
While at the orphanage, I learned what it was like to be an orphan. I saw what kinds of food they ate and for those few weeks depended on my friends for comfort. Though in the end I knew I had a home to go back to, I could feel what it could’ve been like if I had not been adopted. I realized the things I had taken for granted and found myself leaving almost all of my clothes and shoes behind for the orphans to have.
We made a monetary donation to the orphanage while we were there and we plan to make annual donations now that we are back in the U.S. Russia was a life changing experience that showed me how lucky I am to have a future other than a trade school, and to be able to buy things I want not just the things I need. The experience helped shape my life for the better and has already benefited me greatly as I share my trip with others.
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