Grandma Lela loves her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren very much and she tells them, "You have a mommy and a daddy, family, friends and a lot to be thankful for in the States but I cannot be with you very much because there are children in Ukraine that do not have a mommy, daddy, family or much at all and I am called by God to be with them for now."
At 82, Grandma Lela, who lives outside of Odessa, travels almost every day to the orphanage to spend time with the orphans and tell them about Jesus. She is a widow (she told me - with her arms raised into the air and a big smile on her face - that her husband is in heaven cheering her on until she joins him) sent to care for the fatherless...and she does it very well...
"...to care for widows and orphans in their distress."
She has a big house way out in the country and sometimes the children get to come stay with her and play in her yard.
When we entered the side door of the orphanage, we turned left and walked down a hallway to the last door on the left: the sixth grade "play room". This is where the orphans in Karina's class can be from after lunch (they eat around 2PM) until 5PM. Karina was not there (she was eating her lunch) but sitting on the couch in the play room was an elderly lady. Sheila and I introduced ourselves and she began to shed tears. She wanted us to help her stand up so we did and as she stood her arms wrapped around us, she covered us in kisses and began this story:
"One of the first orphans I met when I came to this orphanage was Karina. I saw her, by herself, trying to read a book holding it all the way up to her face. I asked her if she could read and she told me that she could not see the words. After much discussion with the orphanage director I was able to take her to an eye doctor and got some glasses for her. I told her about Jesus and how much he did for her and how much he loves her. I fell in love with her and began praying that God would provide a Christian family for her...a family to tell her more about Jesus. I have prayed every day for years for Karina and now I am holding in my arms the family that I spent years praying for. Thank you for coming to be her family. You know, she is a sweet girl and she can see the words in books now. Sometimes when I come to see her she is reading without having to hold the book all the way up to her face...and you know what book she is reading when I come? She is reading the Bible."
Grandma Lela kissed us over and over and kept telling us how much she had prayed for the day Karina had a family...how often she had prayed for the couple she know held and kissed.
We sat on the couch...Sheila on one side of Grandma and I on the other, holding her hands...hands that reached out for every orphan that walked into the room...hands that rubbed heads...hands that had seen years of serving others.
Karina walked into the room and came over to Grandma giving her a big hug and kiss. Grandma Lela said, "Karina, does Grandma Lela love you little?"
Karina answered, "No! Grandma Lela loves me BIG!"
Karina stayed by Lela's side as other children came into the room...each one giving her a hug. One of the supervisors made tea, Sheila and I had brought cookies and candy to give to the children and the orphans all sat at Grandma Lela's feet. Tea, cookies, candy and Grandma...it felt like home...to the children, it was home. Lela told each of them how much she loved them and how much Jesus loved them and every eye was on Grandma...every face looked up to her face...she only let go of my hand to hug another orphan that walked into the room.
As the children ate the same type of food I use to eat with my grandma, she leaned over to me and said, "I am praying that my job will soon be over...I am praying that there will be no more orphans here...I am praying that I will no longer have to ask God to give families to these children that I love...and then I will no longer have to come here. Please pray that this will happen soon."
Join Grandma Lela and pray that these orphans will be looked after in their distress...that these orphans will have a loving family...and Grandma Lela's job will soon be done.