the night before we left russia, nellya and angelina were gathering their school books and supplies into cute new backpacks. i've never seen someone so excited about going to school. nellya studies nightly with natasha. the sight of it will bring you to tears. joyful tears of course, but a little heartbreaking as well. a woman who had her own children, and even has grandchildren, continues to play the central role of a mother in the lives of these precious kids. they receive guidance, love, an education, discipline..

i always come back to natasha. while i stress about school, finances, our jobs, future etc. natasha is continually pouring into the lives of these children daily. that whole other side of the world has not stopped just because i'm not there to witness it. vitalik is still dealing with the loss of his mother. some are struggling with drugs. and many will be pregnant again. fortunately, the lord has given me this glimpse into their lives to change mine and give hope to others. our russian family knows we are connected. they know we will snuggle and hold each other when we return, and say the few words we know in the other's language. and that is comforting.

the people in the market will recognize us. the man who sells herbs will throw in some free dill, and the fruit and veggie lady will give us a hug (the extra good stuff from behind the produce stand). others will wonder why we're hugging and smiling. smiling is rare when it comes to customer service in russia.

point is..there are people hurting in russia and there are people hurting next door. there are joyful people in russia and there are joyful people next door. what a blessing to know jesus is going to use you wherever you are.

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