Last week, we had the pleasure of taking a bunch of kids from a nearby orphanage to the zoo. After seeing all the animals, we had a few hours to kill. Instead of chilling in the shade, I ended up playing soccer tennis with some of the kids. I don’t remember the boy’s name but the two girls I played with were Amalia and Andrea. 

     I grew up playing soccer but I quit recently because it wasn’t fun anymore; it got too competitive. Playing with these kids was so much fun. When one of us messed up, we laughed and teased each other but there were no hard feelings. The atmosphere was so much more chill than I was used to and I really began to enjoy it. Eventually, we got yelled at by an employee for playing on the sidewalk but we didn’t let that ruin our fun. 

    As a group, we headed to a giant playground outside the zoo. This playground was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. It had everything from ziplines to ping-pong tables. I played with a lot of the kids but I spent most of the afternoon with Amalia and Andrea. We spent our time trying to out-do each other, taking pictures and getting in tickle fights. My favorite part was watching Amalia break dance; she was a beast. I quickly forgot that these girls were only thirteen because I got along with them just like I would with my friends at home. 

     My high from the afternoon ended when we got on the bus to take them home because the fact that they were orphans really hit me then. At home I have two parents and an easy life. I basically have everything handed to me on a silver platter yet they still have so much more joy than I do. When we dropped them off at the orphanage, I figured we would never see them again, but it turns out that, though Amalia lives at the orphanage, her mom lives in Viile Tecii, the village we’re staying in. I’ve been lucky enough to see her almost everyday since. Our conversations are limited but now she feels comfortable enough to let me buy her coke and ice cream from the store down the street. We even have a secret handshake.

    One thing I’ve learned since we’ve been here is that the success of a mission trip isn’t measured by the amount of people who come to know Christ through our influence or the number of churches we build. In fact, there’s no way to measure success. All we can do is love on the people here. If that means building a pig pen, so be it. If that means playing goose (tag) with kids for hours on end, so be it. The fact is that God brought us here for a reason. It’s clear to all of us that that reason was to love the people here. I don’t know where Amalia is at in her relationship with God or if she even believes in him. What I do know though, is that simply being her friend and loving her for who she is what God brought me here to do. If he has chosen her to be his child, he will pursue her in a way that I, as a human, can not.

     In Him,

(In the picture, Amalia is on the left and Andrea is on the right)