(If you are just joining our journey you can find the links for parts 1 - 7 in my sidebar.)
The second day with Nastya was less tense both in her interaction with us and in her muscle clenching. I was determined to get to her laugh and had finally done so by doing what we were now calling "upside monkey girl". She loved to be tipped upside down and tickled - it really seemed like her first laugh surprised her because she looked startled at the sound that had come out of her! Nastya was also studying my face so intently and trying to copy my smile. It took many times before she got it right because she kept sticking her lower jaw out and it looked more like she was bearing her teeth than giving us the smile she was working so hard at! I looked around at the workers, but there were no smiles. The only sounds of laughter were coming from us and the other couple that was there with their twins.
She melted my heart by the way that she would lay motionless in my arms, so intently staring at my face while I rocked and hummed to her. She smiled from ear to ear and seemed to barely breathe, as if she didn't want to break the moment. There were many times that I could hardly hum past the giant lump in my throat and the tears dripping down my face. As I looked into her eyes I knew in my heart that no one had ever held her this way before.
“4 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed-
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors-
and they have no comforter.
(2)And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
(3)But better than both
is the one who has not yet been,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.”
The entire time we were there it took a tremendous amount of effort to try to block out the endless crying coming from the baby room that was located right next to us. All of the babies were put in this room each morning. They would end up piled by the door with no care taker all day, in a room by themselves. We could see their little hands stretching under the door, reaching for anything...or maybe for anyone. Baby laying on top of baby. Sometimes one, two or three would get lifted out by an arm and taken to one of the pots to sit on, or to lunch, or maybe outside. They were never held close, always carried by a limb usually three to four babies carried at a time, never smiled at and never nurtured.
We went for a walk one day around the outside of the orphanage and as we walked by the older child section of the building we heard a loud smacking sound coming from inside the building. Like a belt repeatedly striking something and then we heard a child scream. My husband and I looked at each other and my stomach lurched as I realized what we were hearing. I knew that whatever might be wrong with our little girl, I absolutely could not leave her here.
We saw many of the children during the week we were there. You could see in their eyes, that some of children’s spirits had been broken. But some of them had not. We noticed several times that a little boy kept peeking at us through windows and through a door that led into the room we were in with Nastya. We asked our guide about this boy and on our last day we asked to spend some time with him. We brought Valera some gifts and some treats for him to eat. He took the treats from us with a smile, but did not eat them himself. Instead he immediately took them and ran back to the door to share them with his friends. A few of the boys were hiding behind the door trying to peek through and watch us with Valera. This sweet and gentle five year old boy took everything we offered to him and gave it all to his friends.
When we were getting ready to leave Valara cracked open the door and called my husband over... Da Da, Da Da (which means Uncle in Russian)... motioning to him with his hand. Pat went over and knelt in front of him. He reached up and kissed my husband on the cheek. The most beautiful and pure offering of sweetness coming from such an ugly place. My husband’s shoulders shook from the effort of holding back a sob. My control was quickly slipping and I had visions of myself huddled on the floor weak from sobbing. We were told that this child had not been adopted because when he was 2 1/2 they removed his tonsils with no anesthetic. He screamed anytime any one came to visit him after that. Now he was five and too old they said, to be wanted now.
Before we left Russia we signed papers that would allow us to adopt Valera too, if we could not find a family for him on our own. It would not be necessary however, because after we returned home I was shown again how amazing our God is as a family from our church stepped forward to claim this little boy as their son. I was reminded in a very personal way of the great love that our Lord has for each of us, even one little forgotten boy living 5000 miles away in a Siberian orphanage.
To be continued...