Stepping onto foreign soil and seeing the eyes of orphans for the first time is a profound experience for those who journey with Orphan Outreach. For many though, the journey doesn’t end there. For Ellie Bach, returning to Russia to care for the children there has become part of her heart’s journey. She’s met children terrified of the new world around them as they are removed from difficult circumstances and placed at the regional intake center to be evaluated and then moved to an orphanage. She’s watched her little friends grow and mature and struggle. And she’s seen the Russian government close orphanage after orphanage, moving children from familiar surroundings and caregivers. Ellie and her team just returned from Russia, and she shares her day with the children she thought she may never see again. “We traveled two hours outside St Petersburg to a camp that housed the children from Orphanages 2, 6, and 10. For those of us who have been here before, we carried quite the excitement to see the kids from 2 again. From the very first year we came, these precious faces have greeted us with smiles. We didn’t know quite what to expect when we arrived there, as this was a location none of us have gone to before. As we walked down the path to where the kids were hanging out, I saw one of the most beautiful moments of the trip. I had bent down to fix my shoe and I heard the sound of quickly increasing footsteps. I looked up just in time to see Arson, the boy of a family of four kids from Orphanage 2, leap into my friend Joel’s arms and wrap his tiny arms around his neck. He may have given him the biggest hug of the week. My heart soared as I was reminded why I like to keep coming back. I love that we are able to do more than tell the kids we love them. They hear the message and seeds are planted. But how much more do they “hear” the message when we return time and time again to show them?"There were many additional moments of quiet recognition as we progressed through the day and kids continued to emerge. As with the other days, we spent most of the time doing crafts, playing sports, and just hanging out and talking with the kids. Though most of us do not speak Russian, there is something sort of divine about sitting next to a child and just being with them. We enjoyed swimming, Frisbee, duct tape wallets and bracelets, do it yourself bags and much more, along with the story of Gideon. We were able to share with the kids how God called Gideon out of hiding, before training, and during fear, to be a mighty warrior and save his people. We told them that God has called them also. Though circumstances and even feelings inside may say something different, God sees in them exactly who He created them to be. Being able to speak these words of hope this week has been a little like the sower we read about in scripture. Though some seeds fall on ground that is rocky or on ground that will be choked out by thorns, some of these truths will take root in the hearts of the kids. And those roots will give way to hope, joy, peace, and a purpose for living. The Spirit is a great gardener; and as we left today, we let go in that knowledge."When we got on the bus, I will admit that today was one of the hardest days for me. In fact, as I sat on the bus and watched Anton (pictured above with Ellie)—a teenager we’ve seen for 4 years that spent a bunch of the day sitting or standing next to me—stand by our translator waiting for us to go, I couldn’t help but quickly get off the bus and run to him for one more hug. I didn’t say anything, but I hope my hug did. He said “goodbye” (in English!) and I smiled and walked back to the bus while I attempted to keep my tears at bay.” Ellie’s words tell the story of the power of returning.“There are people and children in need all over the world–including our own country. And there are things that need to be done; we, the church, are called to do them. We are called to live Christ’s love out loud with the people we meet wherever we are. But one of the reasons that we come all the way over here is because we can. Not everyone can travel, but we can...so we do.“The moment with Arson and Joel reminds me that we are here on purpose. It also reminds me that coming back matters. The work of God must continue, whether through me or through my neighbor. But for as along as I am able, I will continue to come here and show these kids that when we say ‘you are precious or ‘we love you,’ we mean it. It’s not just because we are here for a day. We DO love them, and we’ll show them by coming back over and over and over as The Lord allows.”Join us on an Orphan Outreach mission trip. Then return - again and again. Learn more about upcoming trips and the children you'll meet here. If your life has been transformed through serving the discarded, we want to hear your story! Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.