Their Stories

I’ll never forget the day I met Sasha. I had been invited by a friend to a city in Russia to visit special needs orphanages. As we pulled up in our charter bus the only differentiation between just another old communist building and this one was the color on the windows. The snow blanketed the outside and in my mind beckoned a game of some sort. It was so quiet. Too quiet if you know what I mean. But I have found in many of my travels that these orphanages were often somber and quiet… 

Sasha 1We were escorted in and did the formalities of meeting the director and what not, but my mind kept wondering. Where are all the kids? Soon after what felt like forever, children became hobbling, wheeling, and skateboarding in. Their eyes were curious as to who these new comers were and I’m sure from many of the stories they have heard about American’s had many fancy ideas about who we were. But the truth is, I had my own misconceptions. I had horror stories of old communist times where those children who had special needs were treated even worse than the normal “orphan” child.  They were not only treated like an unwanted dog but if they had some kind of handicap that crippled them enough to keep them from feeding themselves they were moved to the “upstairs” where often the children would be starved to death. Because of stories like these that I had read I was very hesitant to even visit such an orphanage, but as the kids came wheeling in and we began introducing ourselves I discovered the truth that often keeps me coming back to visit… kids are kids. no matter the handicap, no matter if they have parents or not, no matter what… if you can get them playing a game….soon laughter takes over. These little and older ones eyes shown as we balloon sword fought and played racing games in wheel chairs. Quite naturally I began to build relationships but when my friend, the organizer of the times at the orphanages, told me she wanted me to meet someone upstairs…. the knot in my throat was hard to swallow through. 

As I walked the empty silent hallways and climbed the stairs I was shouting in my head at the Lord. Why me? Why do they want me to meet someone so handicap that they can’t come downstairs? What am I supposed to say? do…? Please don’t let me see anything…. At the last stair, I prayed… Lord, I’m here…. scared to death but I’m here, please use me today. Give me words when I have none and prepare my heart for whatever is behind this door. I want to encourage whoever it is but Lord, how can I? 

I turned the corner and noticed the big empty room. A girl lay in the bed, arms, legs, and hands curled up in awkward angles. The music playing in the corner clued me in to her age…she had to be a teenager to be listening to this 🙂 My heart picked up pace as we walked deeper in the room. I couldn’t see her face, because of the people in front of me, but the moment I did a peace that passes understanding spread through my body. I was drawn to her like the ocean breeze on the boardwalk draws me to the waves of the ocean. Her eyes sparkled with untold laughter and before I knew it I was on the side of the bed holding her curled fingers. I asked for her name, “Sasha” she giggled and I felt like we were sisters. So I asked the next thing I thought, “Sasha, you are so full of joy, do you know my Jesus?” Her face got very serious. “Oh yes, I do.” A stillness settled over the room as everyone waited for our next step in conversation. I asked her to tell me her story.

Sasha 2I couldn’t blink as she began. Her father, the man she trusted, had thrown her from a four story building at just four years old. It broke her back and though if she had been put in the hospital in the US she would be walking and playing just fine, due to parental rights being forfeited and becoming a ward of the state, she was not offered such medical services. Up until the most recent year, she had been fine to play in the wheel chair downstairs with her friends, but due to the progression of some unknown muscle reaction the last year, she had literally shriveled up in such a way she couldn’t do anything but lay on the bed, even breathing hurt. Her caretaker had taken good care of her she told me and she told me not to feel sorry for her. She had hope in Jesus.  And as crazy as it sounds something like a miracle happened inside of me, I believed her. She was in an impossible and horrible situation but the joy she held so ready on her face was deep within her soul. She had the joy of her salvation. Her smile was quick to come in conversation between painful breaths, her muscles around her lungs were giving out as well making it painful to even breathe. Despite all circumstance, she had found the joy.  

It reminds me of the Bible story of the women at the well. Do you realize this woman who had been divorced from her husbands… five times…was not just a horrible person? Women did not divorce their husband only a man could divorce a woman in this culture. She had been rejected an unmerciful amount of times… and even by the man using her now… yet, our Savior …the Savior of the world… went out of his way to reveal himself to her. This is the first time we see Jesus say to anyone He is the Messiah. He chose the most unlikely, the most broken and wounded to reveal the most treasured information to. Her response was not to tell Him how awful people were around her but to shout to those very people who held her at such an arms distance about the Savior. People were saved because of her story. I led us all in prayer that day and I prayed for joy to be so present in Sasha that many of her friends would know Jesus. She thanked me and prayed for me. 

No matter your situation, you can still hold onto Jesus.    

Sasha died not long after that and I know I will remember her always. Many people wonder why I go and visit these children. Often times it is not for them, but for me. They hold within their worlds a lot of broken, abandoned, abused lives but when they find Jesus …. their faith moves mountains.  

“It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,”

Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”;

But you will be called, “My delight is in her,

Isaiah 62:4a

Pray for me. Pray for them. 

Sasha 3










James 1:27 
Pure and faultless religion is this: visit the orphans, take care of the widows and don’t be polluted by the world.