By Elizabeth Paige
On June 2, 2003, my beautiful nine-year-old daughter, Snezhana, stepped back into the same orphanage God had called her out of more than one year before. We were very clearly on assignment from God; yet as her parents, we were somewhat full of trepidation, knowing that this visit may open old wounds that the Lord had healed, or create a longing in her to go back and pull away from not only us, but Him as well. Nevertheless, in obedience to His plan, we had left Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and the son we were adopting, to pay several thousand dollars additional, travel two hours by plane and an additional two hours by car, stay five days in a hotel there, to spend a few hours back at her orphanage in Kamensk-Uralskiy, Russia to see God's plan unfold.
Her orphanage was located along back streets in a very poor village on the western edge of Siberia, in the Ural Mountain region. Driving down the streets again was difficult. The people were so poor and conditions were so hard, it was hard for us in our blessed American lives to even fathom such poverty and destruction. Having been away for over a year, somehow the severity of it had softened in my memory. I had forgotten that it looked like flashes you see on the news of Bosnia or war-savaged nations of the Middle East. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
We knew of very tender situations and information that caused us concern in going back, yet Snezhana was not privy to any of it. She was filled with excitement to see the children that she had diligently prayed for for so long. All she wanted to do was show them the love of Christ and share with them the Gospel so she could see them again in Heaven. This was indeed the reason for our trip--to share her new beginning and the reason for her miraculous transformation with the greatest friends of her life and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were in God's hands. She didn't want us to adopt them. She didn't even need them to come to America. She knew that she never had to see them again on this earth, as long as she knew she would see them in eternal glory.
We saw the director of the orphanage walking to work as our car pulled up. Snezhana and Liubov Ivanovna ran to each other and hugged each other with tears of joy. As our daughter entered the old building that had been her home for eight years, every woman that worked there was lined up to greet her, all with tears in their eyes. They took turns picking her up, hugging her, stroking her hair, and exclaiming how tall and beautiful she had become.
A life changed speaks louder than any language barrier. A year earlier, she had left there a stubborn, feisty, cross-eyed brawler, and returned a beautiful straight-eyed lady full of demeanor, poise, peace, and character. She carried herself with humility, confidence, and joy that they had never seen in her. She looked like an angel and they knew it.
Next, we ran upstairs and saw the children, many that she remembered, along with some new faces. They treated her like a celebrity, as her successful adoption story and pictures of her in her new home and family were posted all over the walls of the orphanage. She was not only the oldest child adopted from this orphanage, she was also the first international adoption-and what a success story she was!
The children all ran up to her and hugged her. They couldn't take their hands off of her and kept asking, "Snezhana, do you love me? Snezhana, do you love me?" She told me beforehand that she wanted only two things, to show them her love, and to show them the love of Jesus. She was clearly doing both, as she beamed in His love and purpose.
The children were also hugging us and begging to be picked up, as they mimicked her, calling us Mama and Papa. We swung them around, gave them pony rides on our backs and had a wonderful time showering them with our love and affection.
We sat the children down in a group as I tried to present the Gospel to them in a way that would touch their hearts. I tried to tell them about how, just like we had done to bring Snezhana home, Jesus left His wonderful home in Heaven to travel a long way to make us His children. I tried to tell them that they are all so precious to the Lord and that we always prayed for them to have families, but even now they could know that precious love of a family with God as their "Big Papa", yet with an unenthusiastic interpreter and an audience with almost no attention span, my message of life and love and joy and peace seemed to fall on deaf ears. It was disappointing, but I knew that I had at least put forth the effort to try and the rest was out of my hands. We then opted to lay hands on each and every child and pray for them as we hugged and kissed them goodbye.
We gave them gifts of food, toys, and new shoes, each of which we had laid hands on and prayed very specifically over, as God had led us. Then, with our task seemingly done, we said goodbye, and headed back to our hotel.
We relaxed in our room that evening as we awaited our flight back to Krasnoyarsk the next day. Paul and I snuggled on the bed, watching Christian television, and Snezhana went into the bathroom to rinse out her clothes in the sink to be ready for the next day's activities. The day was good. We had seen all of her friends, met some new children, distributed the gifts we prayed over, and had blessed them with new shoes. It seemed to be a lot of money, risk, and time away from our son just to say hi to our daughter's friends, but we felt peace that whatever we were supposed to do had been done, so with that we were pleased. We didn't need to question God. His plan had somehow been accomplished, so we rested in peace, totally unaware of what was going on in the other room.
In that hotel bathroom, while washing out her dirty laundry, the Holy Spirit poured out the most amazing blessing on my daughter as His glory filled that room. As she was washing out her pink panties, He began to direct her and teach her a very specific manner in which to wash them, saying, "As you wash your panties, so will I clean the hearts of the children [in your orphanage]." After she washed them, they were so clean and spotless. Then the Lord said, "I am washing their hearts to look clean and perfect just like your panties, but not pink!"
He continued, "I heard your prayers and I am answering every prayer you prayed over the children's shoes. I have a plan for the children and every one of them will know Me." To that, Snezhana inquired of the Lord, "What about Elena and Sasha? They have new families in Russia and maybe their families are not Christian." The Lord replied, "Them, too." Snezhana argued back, "But Elena is too young to understand." The Lord said, "No, she is not too young."
As Snezhana was standing in the hotel bathroom with her pink stockings to wash, she had a vision of Jesus coming down from heaven to earth in bright, shining white robes. When the vision passed, He said to her, "As you wash the bottoms of the feet of your stockings, so will I wash the feet of the children." She was overwhelmed with awe and scrubbed and scrubbed at her soiled laundry, "Wow! You did that for me?!"
God said to her, "Tell your Mama and Papa everything." She replied, "How will I ever remember? Please tell them Yourself." "No, you need to tell them," God said, "I will put the words in your mouth."
Just then, I unknowingly came into the bathroom and told her I would help her with her stockings so that she could finish faster and get ready for bed. I took the stockings and washed them for her and then had her come sit with us in the other room. She acted a little strange and then told us all of the events that had taken place. In absolute amazement and awe, I quickly apologized and excused her. She ran back into the bathroom and started re-washing her stockings. She scrubbed and scrubbed to get off all of the dirt, knowing that it wasn't just about her stockings this time. She washed them as well as she could and asked God, "Do I have to wash them better?" The Lord replied, "It is good enough." Then, as she was squeezing the water out of her stockings He said, "Just like how you are squeezing out your stockings, that is how I am squeezing out the mud and filth from their [the children's] hearts."
After they were well wrung out, she tried to throw her stockings up on the much-too-high towel bar to dry, yet they kept falling back down. She said, "God, can't you help me?!" He said, "I have My angel standing over you right now." Then she had a vision of the angel. He was very big and very tall and very strong and very, very bright and standing on the side of her left shoulder. She kept trying to throw the stockings over the towel bar and they kept falling off. She was a little surprised that the angel just stood there looking at her and didn't help her with her stockings. Just then, she threw them up again and the stockings stuck. When the vision of the angel passed, the heaviness of the presence of His Spirit began to lift. She was sad for Him to go, yet He comforted her and the power and joy of the encounter remained. She ran out and told us everything.
God had poured out something in that place far greater than I could have ever imagined. Yes, His children in the orphanage were shown love, yes, they were given new shoes, and yes, our daughter got to see her friends, but never would we have imagined His promise of salvation for them all, to answer our prayers for them to be mountain-climbers of faith, prophets, evangelists, and mighty apostles to the nations, to be loved and cherished in Christian families, and for every one to be a mighty warrior of His Kingdom and His power with signs and wonders following them. Nor would we have imagined His date with our daughter for a mighty outpouring of His Spirit and fire.
How easy it would have been not to obey, to not go that extra mile, to not take on such a risk. But in missing the opportunity to be a living witness to the fatherless and those who care for them, we would have missed far more than a side trip to a small orphanage in a poor region; we would have missed the outpouring of His glory and His eternal promise for the good of His Kingdom. We would have missed the very thing we cry out for night and day - to be enraptured in the very presence and perfect will of the Most High, and to be cradled in that place that can only be found in a child-like heart.
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