This has become the #1 question of the day anywhere I go…and the answer is rich and complicated. Bulgaria was beautiful, it was painful, it was exhilarating, it was vulnerable, it was fun, it was sad, it was heartwarming, it was heart-wrenching, it was full of laughter, it was uneasy, it was delicious, it was contemplative, it was challenging, it was funny, it was energizing. So, how does one even begin to answer?
Beautiful - the touching expressions of joy and love on the face of the beautiful young Bulgarian girl with Down Syndrome as Mary played a game with her…
Painful – the hands outstretched for hope…
Exhilarating – taking pics to share the vision, the need, and the love inspiring our wonderful friends, Mary and Randy, and their love for Bulgaria and their hope for the orphans and their adoptions… (You can read Mary’s latest blog post here:caringforthefatherless.wordpress.com.)
Vulnerable – My desire is to make others feel loved and valued. It felt vulnerable to be in a different culture where I did not know the language and was fearful of doing anything that would be insensitive. It was so wonderful to be with a group of encouragers who helped me along the way….
Fun – The fun of a dear friendship with Mary and the fun of new friendships with others. The shared experiences of likeminded hearts and visions over a cup of coffee or on the walk back to the apartment.
Sad – There was much sadness as we caught a glimpse into the world of orphanages and recognized the bleak outlook of many of them as staff contemplate what’s next for these children. The prominence of sex trafficking could not be ignored…which is huge to hold in our hearts, isn’t it?
Heartwarming – As I sat with a young girl and she so intently colored her page with her sweet little hands, I wondered what her story will look like. She is the hands and face of God…how will her precious life be colored? A little later she skipped over to me to present me with her artwork—an art piece I will treasure to remind me of the dichotomy of the simplicity and complexity of life.
Heart-wrenching – As we saw the need for resources – the things we might take for granted – of transportation for the children to school, to medical appointments, to hospital in moments of need; of food for the orphanages from basic formulas for the infants to daily nutritional needs of the children; of heat – for the buildings that are old and not efficient; of education – for art supplies, for games; and of warmth and shelter – for gloves and hats and hope.
Laughter - Oh my, the laughter was overflowing as we each shared our days and nights together! Of course, as a Laughter Yoga enthusiast, I am a big fan of the health and heart benefits of laughter. And in a safe environment, we can share our own funny stories…like when I was in the Denver airport and mispronounced the airline Lufthansa to the airline attendant. I think it came out of my mouth more like “Luthanasia.” The look on her face was one of pity and wonderment that I was traveling abroad alone as she directed me to the correct terminal for international flights. With instances like this, we laughed a lot – about our tripping on the sidewalks, our lack of a sense of direction, our mispronunciation/understanding of the Bulgarian language. So wonderful to be imperfect people with one another.
Uneasy – I’m not sure this is the best word to describe the feeling in your heart when you are moved by what you see and experience. I think it just begs the question of “What next?” How and what am I called to do? How can my heart, my prayers, my life be a catalyst for change? As I wrote in the original blog about this trip, my personal and spiritual challenge is “to see,” “to listen,” and “to understand” others. The uneasiness is holding this with open hands and an open heart.
Delicious – Ah, the feast of the Bulgarian cuisine! The vast array of the fruits and vegetables available were a delight to the eyes AND to the taste buds. The beauty of the fruit and vegetable stands was a bit intoxicating to me – and maybe my photography of them was a bit obnoxious to my fellow travelers.
Contemplative – To me the joy of photography lies in embracing the essence of what I see or experience by slowing down long enough to take a picture. The appreciation of the beauty—of the architecture, of the landscape, of the experience, of the hands and faces of the Bulgarian people—is truly a rich tapestry that brings joy and exhilaration to my heart. May you be encouraged and experience the depth of the beauty of Bulgaria as you view the photos here.
Challenging – The challenge of not speaking the native language is so fascinating to me. The skill and proficiency of working with the several interpreters that came alongside us was truly remarkable. However, the desire to listen to the story of a little girl’s heart, the curiosity of wanting to know the depth of desires of an orphanage director’s vision, the yearning to listen to an outreached hand’s request…knowing that some of the hurt is lost in translation. I recall when my Grandmother Tinie had lost much of her hearing she shared with me that with loss of hearing, you become more attentive to the non-verbal cues – the expressions and the movements. I thought of her wisdom as I was praying that I was attuned to their hearts.
Funny – As I mentioned in the initial blog, our adult children were a bit concerned about the two of us traveling together. Well, what happens in Bulgaria stays in Bulgaria!
Actually, we were very safe all of the time there. I only had security guards yelling at me twice—not bad for a seven-day stay! Once, as I was standing in the middle of a pedestrian street and innocently snapped a quick picture of a fruit/vegetable stand as the sliding door to the store opened, the store security guard came running out shouting in Bulgarian, “YOU MUST DELETE THAT PICTURE!” Thankfully, my friend was there to calmly assure him I was deleting the picture. Then, as we were told we could take pics with the color guard of an important building, the army official started yelling at me in English, “GET AWAY, GET AWAY!” As you can see, Mary was unfazed. Apparently pictures are normally allowed, but it was time for the changing of the guard and we were interrupting the timing. Who knew?
Energizing – The energy of being around Mary—a woman of huge vision, of un-deterred faith, of warmth and love for so many. The need of hope and healing through love of the outstretched hand is so huge–both in Bulgaria and here. Here being wherever we are. May you be energized as well to reach out and touch another’s heart in love….
Thank you for reading and for sharing the journey with me. May we find beauty in the brokenness of one another (Isaiah 61). May we richly love one another.