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A Small Gift of Affection

By Leigh Myers

I met Borya in my second week during the Buckner summer internship program in St. Petersburg, Russia. My team spent the week at an orphanage camp, doing Bible programs and spending time with the children.

Our second day at the camp, we were playing with the kids around the campground, canoeing, playing games, walking by the lake – just talking to them. I noticed little Borya standing among some of the other boys. Unlike the other children, he hung back and didn’t express much enthusiasm about us or the games and programs we set up. I noticed that he rarely spoke or smiled. I went up to him, asked his name, and invited him to walk to the lake with us and some other kids. Borya may have been 11 years old, but he looked and seemed so much younger.

As I walked with Borya and another child, I put my arm around him, sensing his need to feel comfortable with us. He gently reciprocated, putting his little arm around me too. After that, he stayed close by. When the other children played, he sat next to me, holding his arm around my shoulder or holding my hand. Though most of the children were affectionate, Borya’s efforts to show affection were awkward. They were simply imitations of my affection towards him. I got the sense that Borya had never really been shown affection. He wanted it so desperately, but he didn’t know how to show it or respond to it. Though I could not speak his language, I understood his nervous attempt as a cry for nurture and love. So we would sit, or play, or draw together, quietly, arms around each other. The language barrier faded between us as the silent words of kindness took over.

The more time I spent with Borya, the more he relaxed. I noticed him beginning to smile and play more. By the middle of the week, he was happy, laughing and playing like a little boy should. One night he and his friend brought me and the other girls on my team flowers. We heard them laughing as they repeatedly knocked on our cabin door to leave new bouquets at our doorstep. We eventually had to send them away as it was getting late!

But the next morning, one day before we were scheduled to leave, Borya suddenly changed. He returned to his quiet elusiveness he had shown at first. He withdrew from me and the others on the team. Throughout the day, Borya would approach from a distance, where our team was playing with the other kids, but if we tried to talk to him, he walked away. He wouldn’t respond when we called his name. It broke my heart to see him acting this way. I wondered if he was upset that we were leaving or if he was scared. It seemed that he had finally opened his heart a little bit to love, but the realization of that made him afraid. He knew we were going to leave, just like everyone else in his life.

I prayed throughout the day for Borya and tried to show him I loved him no matter what. I showed him, as best I could without being able to speak his language, that I wanted to be his friend – even if he ran away from me.

Then, later that day, he approached me again. I stood still, waiting, as if trying not to frighten a timid creature. But he came beside me, and quietly slipped his little hand in mine, as if to say, in his sad, serious way, that he was sorry, that he wanted another chance, again, at love.

And then, the next day, I hugged him goodbye…and left.

I remember Olga, one of the Russian Buckner staff, telling me to keep pictures of the kids and pray for them. “No one prays for them,” she told me sadly.

So I hung Borya’s picture on my wall. I tell his story whenever I get the chance. I try to pray for him and the other children. I have written to him and sent him gifts, and I have even prayed about how to help him get adopted. My heart aches when I think about his actions, his situation, his future. And he represents so many millions of other children just like him.

Brooke Fraser sings the words, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead…” I am responsible now. God forbid that I just look at my photographs, think of my memories, and walk away and forget what He showed me there. God forbid that I spend my life any other way besides doing whatever I can – by His strength - to help children just like Borya.

Leigh Myers is a student from Ohio. She served as an intern in Russia in June 2006.
Buckner is now accepting story submissions for Buckner eNews Now and the Buckner Web site from people who have participated on mission trips or local volunteering.

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