I think last week marked my 27th trip to Moldova. I don’t even know if I’ve been to the grocery store 27 times. Our team was fabulous and I’m still processing everything God allowed us to experience, collectively and personally. The group is home now and I’m traveling in Africa for more work. With so many trips following Moldova I knew it was possible I wouldn’t have the time to digest what I’d already experienced. However, this morning I’m finding myself with a rare few hours before my next meeting and so I thought I’d take this chance to share a little. Our team worked in a militant-run section of the country called Transnistria and, as you’ve read on the blog, wonderful things happened. However, at some point toward the end of the week I became completely aware that some of my thoughts were of Chisinau and the children at the very first orphanage I ever worked with. In a typical year I’d average 5-6 trips to Moldova. I’ve never been in the country and not at least stopped by the orphanage to see the children–my children. I’ve watched them grow up and have been a part of their lives in countless ways.

I think last week I realized things would be different there this time. For different reasons, two years have passed since I was in Moldova. It’s one thing to watch your sibling’s or friend’s children grow—it’s another thing to watch 300 children grow. The long-time orphanage director retired this Spring, Galina now lives in Nashville with me and my sweet Mihai has graduated from the 9th grade and is no longer living at the orphanage. The list of names of children who are no longer there goes on and on and the thoughts overwhelmed me in ways I didn’t expect. God expanded my heart to hold all the children who would drink in the love I could pour out to them. He has allowed me to hold them, hug them, cheer them on, listen to their hurts and their fears, pray with them—for them, take them to doctors, dentists, optometrists, bury their parents, hold their newborn children and give them loving, healthy places to lay their sweet faces each night and let them drift off to sleep wrapped in the blankets we’d explained to them were like the arms of God.

The orphanage isn’t just home to hundreds of children like Galina, Mihai, Maria, Olga, Viorel, Vasile, Petrica, Denis, Anastasia, Tolea, Viorica, Luminita or Sasha…it was also home to me and the thought of going home and feeling like a stranger was one I ultimately decided not to experience. Not this time. But I will go back, because it is home. I will go back and yes, all the faces I’ve watched grow over the years will be different. There will be new faces to know and pray for. There will be new children to hold and to hug and to experience life with and to lavish with love and to share about the meaning of their beds. There will be new children who long for Hope that we have to share. That’s where you come in.

I’ve other thoughts and hope to share them with you. But, for now, just think about praying for your own heart. Think about praying for God to make your heart big enough to know the face and name of an orphan. Think about praying for God to allow you to have the opportunity to go with Sweet Sleep next year and change the life of a Michlei, or a Ion or a Katerina. Your life will be blessed forever. That, I can promise you. Sweetly,