[Story reblogged from “Unpacking Ideas” by Jeffrey Harlow]
Without words, Kolya pulled an empty chair beside his, patted the chair with his palm, and waved me over to sit beside him. We were in a large room at the Russian orphanage, filled with the noisy chatter of excited children saying things to each other and to us that I could not understand. I had been standing apart from the group listening and watching. I was a bit overwhelmed.
Kolya’s invitation called me out of my quiet separation, toward the activity around the table. He was 11 years old, but his welcoming manner seemed older. I did not understand his words, but I understood him. Traveling in a strange land one learns the universal cues: smiles, hand-shakes, hugs, patting a chair. I joined Kolya and the other boys working at the table near him. I felt comforted and humbled by the invitation from an orphan child.
“Why Were You Standing There All Alone?”
Several minutes later Kolya called to Dema, one of our hired translators. He asked me – through Dema – “Why were you standing there alone? I explained what I felt at that moment – a bit overwhelmed by the language difference, and the sight of all the children having fun. Kolya listened intently to my explanation, then quietly turned back to his activity. We were painting T-shirts. He asked me – again through Dema – “Jeff, what would you like me to paint on my T-shirt?”
I confess I needed a few weeks after this trip to realize that a miracle occurred that day. God was loving me that day through Kolya. This young orphan was already the victim of more suffering and disappointment in his short life than I have known in all of my years. Yet, this young boy who could not speak the words I understood sensed my need and loved me over to the table to include me.
Kolya Was Jesus For Me
Little Kolya was the Church for me that day in Russia. Kolya was Jesus for me. Quite a surprise! Is this backwards? Kolya welcomed meto the other side of incarnation. Kolya taught me what Jesus meant in the parable when they asked him, “When did we see you?” (Matthew 25:37-39, NRSV).
An orphan child who had been tossed aside by others welcomed me to the table. There, at that table in the orphanage in Russia, I found the Spirit of Christ, already present. God incarnate, in disguise. Kolya, the orphan, was Jesus in disguise.