Monday, September 27, 2010

In which Perry announces his return

We had the pleasure this morning to receive a visit from our wonderful facilitator, Luda, who helped us navigate the deep waters of our adoption process.  She brought Aaron some gifts.  It touched us deeply.  He was most pleased with the Matryoshka doll she gave him.






Yesterday was a day of firsts for Aaron: he saw his first live soccer game, he ate his first ice cream cone, he got to pet a sweet kitty and a puppy in a baby carriage, he watched a street dancer and he had dinner at TGIF with a whole host of Reece's Rainbow families. Of course our camera battery died, so we were unable to capture any of those sweet moments!

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For those eager readers who have been awaiting the return of Perry Mason, that celebrated and heroic defense attorney and rescuer of foreign orphans, we have good news! While we’re traveling over the next few days, we will be re-introducing the four-part Perry series, one episode at a time. This will give us a few days to rest and recuperate without disappointing Perry’s numerous news-starved fans.

We’ll roll Perry out just as soon as our plane takes to the air and we’re sure the goons can’t drag us back here. Until then, our readers will have to be satisfied with the drivel that follows, a rather rambling and preachy post from Rob.

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(Rob writing)

The Church of Ananiev


Our little village of Ananiev doesn’t have much, but one thing it does have is a two-domed church with a shiny golden roof. This church boasts the village’s finest architecture, its highest and smoothest walls, and its most elegant interior. Nothing else comes close. We visited a school, a museum, a courthouse and several administrative offices, but in none of these did the level of craftsmanship even approach that of the church. Like most of the churches we’ve seen here, this church is undergoing extensive and expensive renovations after decades of neglect under communism.


Our hostess Miss Valla took us inside the church one Sunday morning. We weren’t sure if we were welcome there, but Valla calmly issued Julia a head covering and led us down the wide, smooth walkway and up the stairs. We walked through an entry hall and into the front room, which is roofed by one of the domes. We were completely unprepared for what we saw there: Every single surface of its large interior was lavishly and impeccably decorated with icons, dozens of icons. Painted portraits and scenes of every size lined the walls and the arched ceilings. There were icons on stands, enclosed in glass cases for worshippers to kiss. There were icons surrounded by burning candles lit by worshippers. There were no chairs or benches, no liturgy and no sermon during the time we were there; there were only silent prayers, candles and incense before the icons. We knew that the Eastern Orthodox Church loves its icons, but we had never witnessed just how central to their worship the icons had become.


This church is not a museum, and its icons are not labeled. Some are Biblical figures, but many more are famous missionaries and saints of the early church. A curious worshipper could spend years learning the lore behind each icon: what figure it represents, what story it tells. I suppose that the collected stories of so many icons might fill a book as long as the Bible, if they were all collected. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the icons, but I can think of worse ways to learn church history.


All of those icons made me think about the many missionaries and church founders who’ve spread the gospel around the world over the twenty centuries since Jesus came. Based on the icons, I would guess that the average Orthodox believer knows more about his historical missionaries than the average Protestant does. I am not suggesting that we Protestants should hang our missionaries’ pictures in our sanctuaries and homes and reverence them, but I do think that we could be edified and inspired by their stories.


This trip has given me a small insight into just how difficult a foreign missionary’s life could be, especially before the telecommunication age. The welcome one receives in a foreign land is sometimes far from warm. The differences in language and culture, which are linked in confusing ways, can seem insurmountable. It can be hard to feed, shelter and support oneself comfortably in unfamiliar surroundings. Against all of this, the missionary can set only his or her faith and reliance on the Holy Spirit. How easy it would be to simply give up, to find a reason why the mission had become impossible and pack everything in. I’m sure plenty of them did. The ones who never gave up have great stories to tell about the work and ways of the Lord, and I know that I could learn from them.


Fortunately, modern missionaries aren’t quite as cut off from the people they know and love. Our own small mission has been much easier because of our ability to communicate with home. It’s made a tremendous difference. For our first few days here back in July, we were without telephone and internet. When we finally got a chance to complain to our facilitation team about it, they accused us of being too worried about the “social” end of things. They didn’t understand how cut off we felt-- from our children, from our home, from anyone who could understand a single word we uttered. In the weeks since then, we’ve spent more hours trying to communicate effectively than in any other thing, except maybe visiting Aaron. I can honor those foreign missionaries of old better now, because I know how quickly we would have dried up over here without the many encouraging words from home.

9 comments:

  1. We are so excited for all of you, and especially for Aaron. I had seen his picture on Reece's Rainbow before, and thought..."why?" Why did he not have a family. :(
    And, NOW HE DOES! :)
    About the isolation. We totally get that isolation feeling. We had to leave our little girls for 5 weeks when we went to get Erika. Sarah had been home less than a year, and Anna just 2 years, but was very anxious. We left them with our 2nd son and his wife. They did a really great job with them, but one time we called and our sweet Anna was crying, at night, and it tore my heart out. I felt so conflicted inside. God had led us to do this, yet, our sweet baby was suffering at home. We were comforted by those phone calls. I had wished my daughter had not told us about the crying, because there was nothing we could do.
    When we got home, our sweetie let us know, PLEASE don't make us go there again! Not even for babysitting! LOL
    Our absence solidified her standing in our family forever. So God knew, a little absence was actually good for her.:)
    We look forward to hearing all about Aaron's antics when he discovers the CHIP aisle at Walmart. LOL

    We waited 2 weeks to take Erika out to a store, for fear she would freak out. She loved chips and all we could find in Ukraine was Mushroom or Tomato. BLEK!
    She finally asked for chips, so I took her to Walmart. Oh how I wish I had brought my camera.
    We got to the chip aisle and her face was hilarious. She couldn't stop laughing. Nor could she make a choice... and in all those bags of chips, NO MUSHROOM flavor! LOL

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  2. Hey guys,
    So glad you are coming home tomorrow. I bet Aaron is going to love the plane-he may not have seen one before. I hope everything goes smoothly from here on out!
    Love,
    Sam

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  3. Welcome back, Perry! Just a quick note about missionaries. The Sonlight curriculum, you no doubt know, uses missionary stories as part of their history and geography teachings. The stories are fascinating, though some of them somewhat dry for kids. But they describe, as you aptly noted, the sometimes seemingly insurmountable odds not only to survive but to succeed. We have several here you may borrow if you like. One of my great-uncles and great-aunts were missionaries to India in the late 1800's/early 1900's - over 40 years of his life, up until his death. He wrote a fabulous book called _Jungle Tales_ about some of his time there, though never got around to doing his autobiography as he had hoped. He worked with the Bhils, spreading the gospel and nursing lepers. He raised his three children there. When he first arrived in India, he describes going "out by tonga (which he later describes as "a little cart with no springs and the bamboo top covering it, too low for a man of my height to sit up straight in. With my head bent underneath the top and my feet hanging down behind, I would jolt alon...at the rate of 5 1/2 miles an hour") the 58 miles to Sirdarpur and the rest of the way by saddle, taking our horses from the tonga and going 25 miles further into the rough hilly Bhil country." During this journey, he encountered his first Bhil patient, a man suffering from guinea worm. This was 1889. There are amazing tales to be told and amazing history to be learned. As difficult as this time has been for you, praise God for internet, airplanes, automobiles, Skype, and long distance telephone communications! You'll be home in hours rather than weeks. :) Enjoy your travels home, be safe, and Godspeed. I can't wait to hear of Aaron's fascination at the airport! When do you board your first flight?

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  4. Safe travels home! It has been such a long journey! Praying that God continues to be glorified through it all and everyone you meet will see God working in you and through you!

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  5. YAY!!! Almost home!!!! Praying for a smooth trip and easy transistion!!

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  6. Wow! You nailed it on mission life. I spent three years in Pakistan and this proved very true. However, each year gets better and after a few years you feel that you have two homes, both of which you love deeply. You also find that your emotional family has grown and people whose language and customs you never knew before have become very much your family and you know that your lives will be intertwined for the rest of your life. I have been following your adoption and admire the way you stuck it out. You have a wonderful little boy there and I know you will treasure him.
    Sophie

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  7. Ah, that's Cheburashka Aaron is playing with! Is that a part of his nesting doll set? If so, are the other dolls the other caracters, like the crocodile and the lady in black? My children love that tv-series, though it's rather old now!

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  8. Hopefully, this is what is happening to you RIGHT NOW! :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzYSSmERylI

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  9. By the time you read this, you'll either be stopped off in Germany, or HOME!!!!!!! Like those thousand other bowed heads, I'm just praying you home safely tonight. What a joyful reunion with your boys you will have. What a lovely homecoming for Aaron. Life is grand, and it is just beginning!!!!! Love you guys.

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Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!

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