Truly, I love all of the children at the orphanage. It is such a joy for me to spend time with them; I just wish I could be there more. Sometimes we sit quietly and read or color or work a puzzle. Sometimes we are loud and rowdy and run and tickle and jump. We sing, tell Bible stories, do crafts, play games, and try to do all we can to share God’s love with each child.
There is one little boy in particular who has just stolen my heart. His name is Valera. I think he is about 7 or 8, and he is all boy. One day I was having a tickle fight with four of the boys (Volva, Tolik, Sasha, and Valera). I was winning, because they would attack me one at a time and I was able to fend them off by tickling them. Then, the boys decided to work together and all tickle me at once. This was very good strategy on their part, but it was bad news for me. The four boys would surround me and then start to count. As soon as someone would say Ras (one), Valera would pounce. He was just so excited that he couldn’t wait until the count of three to start tickling me.
Valera pretends like he doesn’t like to be tickled, but sometimes when we are sitting and doing something else, I will turn to him and make my hand like a claw and ask him if I may tickle him. He always smiles and says I may tickle him big. Sometimes, for no reason, he will turn to me and say that I may tickle him big. It is very fun. Valera likes to tickle other people too. Sometimes we will sit together and plot who should be tickled, and then he will try to sneak up on them to tickle them. It is so fun to point and whisper and try to decide and then try to see him sneak when everyone sees him coming and knows what he is doing. He really likes to tickle Pastor Sasha, but this takes a lot of courage, because Sasha has long arms and it is difficult to escape before Sasha tickles back. When Valera is done with his secret tickle attack, he always comes back to me so that I can hug him and tell him what a good job he has done.
One of the things we take to the orphanage for the kid’s to play with are puzzles. Valera likes puzzles, but he always does the “baby” puzzles with the wooden frame. The other day I was helping another boy with a 24-piece Finding Nemo puzzle. Valera sat beside me and watched. I asked if he wanted to help, but he kept saying no. When the other boy was done I put the finished puzzle in front of Valera and took four of the pieces out of place and helped him to put them back. Then, I took more pieces out and let him put them back. He was so excited every time he put it back together, and I would tell him, “Look how smart Valera is.” We kept taking parts of the puzzle apart until Valera was able to put the whole puzzle together by himself. Then he wanted to move on to a bigger puzzle. We have a tabletop puzzle that has 48 pieces. We tackled it in the same way we tackled the 24-piece Nemo puzzle and, by the end, Valera was able to put that whole puzzle together. As we were finishing I said Valera was smart and he said, “No, I very smart.” Yes, he is. Yesterday he was trying the 48-piece puzzle all by himself.
I don’t know anything about Valera’s background. He has not been at the orphanage long. The first time I saw him was in the middle of November and children are usually only at the first orphanage for about three months. I do not know if he will return home or if he will be placed in a long-term orphanage, but please help me to pray for Valera and the other children at the orphanage. I can’t imagine how confusing and unsettling life seems to them. Pray that they will come to know Jesus and that He will provide comfort and security in their lives.