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The orphans Christmas miracle (Christmas night in the orphanage #3 of Donetsk)

December 13, 2006, 0:00 4397 Author: Denny Kruse www.deti.zp.ua

As I walked carefully down the icy sidewalk leading back to the apartment, thoughts of the warm Christmas meal I enjoyed that afternoon in the home of Peter and Natasha gave way to feelings of loneliness. It was Christmas Day in Ukraine, January 7, 2001, and I was thinking of home.

I consoled myself with the thought that in a few more weeks my work would be finished and I could fly back to America. But before I could feel too sorry for myself, my thoughts turned to our newfound friends living out in Orphanage #3. "They don't have a home to go back to." I thought.

I wondered what they were doing on this Christmas Day. "Surely someone at the orphanage had arranged something special for them." I guessed. Just to be sure, upon reaching my room, I called Ivan and Dasha and asked them to call the orphanage to find out how the orphans spent the Day.

After several minutes Dasha called back. She said, "I learned that the orphans who have aunts, uncles or grandparents have gone to share Christmas with them, but about 30 who have no relatives are alone in the orphanage." and, she added, "These children will not have any Christmas!"

Excitedly, we hatched a little plan to buy a few presents and make a surprise visit. Fortunately, we found a small kiosk still working, quickly purchased all their stock of colorful fingernail polish for the girls and a few wallets for the boys, put them in a bag, and hailed a passing cab.

As we traveled through the snow to the remote area of the orphanage, we talked about the orphans Stan and I had come to know through frequent visits the past year. We anticipated the spectacle that usually accompanied our arrival. Invariably one child would spot our car and sound the alert. Then in the time it took for us to drive up and get out, the children would already be running toward us. They would go from one to the other, giving and receiving hugs.

As we drove up, the cold stone buildings seemed deserted. No one came running out to meet us…

Galina, the lone caretaker on this holiday, met the three of us, approved our meeting with the children, led us to a room and left to gather the children. Soon we heard the footsteps of children in a hurry. This time the hugs weren't in the parking lot.

The next three hours with them were filled with fun and laughter. They were all ages - boys and girls - six to sixteen. We played. We sang. Dasha and Ivan told stories.

The orphans tried to teach me Christmas songs in Russian and they learned "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." They kept singing it until I was hoarse.

They taught us orphan games, unique games of their own invention. Imaginative games that I guessed could only have been created in the lonely creeping pace of life lived in an orphanage. At times the group would break up into several smaller groups, each doing something of interest to their age.

Suddenly, someone brought a large square pillow and placed it on the floor in the center of the room. She arranged it so that one tip of the pillow pointed upward. "This is our campfire! Gather 'round!" She announced proudly.

It didn't take much imagination since it was a "pink" pillow, so we spent the next hour sitting around the fire, warming ourselves with more songs and stories. We played ring-around-the-rosy and several other games I didn't understand. We must have looked silly as I led them in an Indian snake dance around the imaginary tribal fire.

As with all campfires the mood eventually created is a serious one. So the children sang songs about God and we stood, held hands and prayed. And how they prayed! They prayed for such a long time that my legs became heavy. Each child wanted to tell God something on this special Christmas Day!

For the next thirty minutes my eyes were moist, my heart full, and a lump I couldn't swallow filled my throat. These children, who had so little and lacked so much of everything a child deserves, were praying such earnest prayers of thanksgiving to God. They thanked Him for everything they could think of. They thanked Him for the orphanage, for food and clothes, for those who took care of them and for everything else they didn't have much of, yet for which they were obviously so grateful. I wondered how they could be so full of thanks living in this place.

When I arrived at the orphanage I was feeling sorry for them. Now, hearing their prayers, I felt respect for their deep spiritual insight and indomitable spirits. I found myself feeling sorry about all the children in the world who had a mother and father and everything they needed, and yet might not approach the spirit of gratitude found in the hearts of these needy orphan children.

Each of them prayed for people in Ukraine to repent and come to know God. They prayed for Denny and Stan to be healthy and for their families to be safe while they were away from them. They prayed for those brothers and sisters in America who were providing for them; and they prayed thanks for warm wool pajamas, for heaters, and many other things. They prayed for the success of our mission work! Theirs' were unselfish prayers.

But what awed me most was their deep understanding that God was the one helping them. Though they thanked God for all the people He was using to help them, they credited it all to God! And so they prayed, "Thank you God for everything you are doing for all of us!"

Finally night came and it was time to say goodbye. Nobody in the room was ready for this, and thankfully as we moved to the door of the room, we suddenly remembered the presents stashed in the small bag nearby. So it was there, huddled near the door, that we held up the little brown bag filled with colored fingernail polish and a few wallets.

"Who would like to be first to receive their Christmas present?" we asked. I half expected everyone to say, "Me! Me!" Instead, the silence was broken by the older girls insisting that the younger children should be first. I should have known. Earlier I had watched in wonder as some of the older girls did their best to "mother" the smaller children, holding them in their laps, rocking and stroking them.

So the smallest girl in the room came and stood timidly in front of us and I paused for her to slowly lift her head until ours eyes met. "You are a very beautiful young girl." I said, "I want to tell you that God loves you very much. Merry Christmas to you!" Her eyes sparkled and her face glowed as her heart melted.

"And now, what is your favorite color?" She told us her favorite color, and from the bag was taken a bottle of that color. Then with slow and deliberate ceremony, it was placed into her little hands. Everyone applauded her good fortune.

And so it went, each in turn, the girls receiving nail polish of their favorite color and the boys getting a wallet. As the number of children remaining and the number of bottles of polish grew smaller, I began to doubt the wisdom of asking them about their favorite color. Surely, we wouldn't have all the right ones.

It finally came down to three children with only three bottles left, a red, a yellow and a purple, but we continued as before.

"What is your favorite color?" "Yellow." Came the reply. Only two left now.

"And what is your favorite color?" "purple." She said.

And finally down to one child and only one color left, my voice almost trembled with the question, "And last but not least, what is your favorite color?"

"Red." She answered! It was almost unbelievable!

We had hurriedly purchased what was available and somehow it worked out that we had just the right combination of colors to give each child a bottle of nail polish in their favorite color!

Was this a Christmas miracle, or as some might say, just a Christmas Coincidence?

Perhaps, it was a little Christmas miracle just for them? But regardless, this was not the greatest miracle on that Christmas Night.

As each of the children had come forward to receive a present, a present, as I later learned might have been the only real present they had received since coming to the orphanage, surprisingly, none of the children were looking at the bag.

Each of them had only focused on the face that would speak the love of God to them - individually! What they all were most anxious to receive was not in the bag, but in the individual expression of God's love and attention. They wanted to hear their name called. They wanted to hear, "God loves you very much. Merry Christmas to you!"

Here was the Orphan Christmas Miracle!!!

That these beautiful, lonely, hurting children were blessed by God to understand what they needed most was not in the bag, but rather in - what God knows each of us also need most - a love that reaches out to us in a uniquely individual way.

So one by one, they came to stand in a place where the spotlight of God's Care could shine on them. And for one unforgettable Christmas moment, they basked in the love of God.

Isn't this the true miracle of every Christmas? Christmas is a time when we all learn once more that life is not about what is in the bag. We are reminded that God is reaching out to love each of us uniquely - individually - through the gift of Jesus.

This understanding is the Orphan Christmas Miracle God sent to us through the hearts of the children in Orphanage # 3 on that cold Christmas Night.

POSTSCRIPT: Now, five years later, nearly all of the orphans in the room that night are living in an adoptive home with loving Christian parents. Isn't this one more miracle to be thankful for this Christmas?

Happy Child foundation - effective help to the most needy children of the Zaporozhye region, Ukraine, since 2004

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