By: Mary Louise Hendley

My first visit to Suzdal, Russia was 15 years ago this summer, and my first thought when we arrived was “What I am doing here?” I had come with my fellow team members and a few translators, all exhausted from a week of camp and wandering the streets as foreign tourists. I never imagined myself running through Suzdal’s ancient streets 15 years later, taking in the same views of onion-domed copulas and white stone fortress with thousands of other Russian marathon participants. The added blessing of being able to run with some of my dearest friends, and working towards a common goal, filled my heart beyond measure.

It was such a blessing to participate and raise awareness about Orphan’s Tree projects dedicated to orphans and orphan graduates in Vladimir, Kostroma, and Ivanovo regions. As I had mentioned in a previous post http://www.orphanstree.org/golden-ring-trail-race-for-orphans-tree/, the longevity and consistency of the programs meet numerous practical and spiritual needs, which is something I want to continue to invest in. The day before the race, I had a wonderful visit at the Vladimir dacha where Andre, Masha and the hard-working graduates eagerly recounted progress in the many projects they have been involved in with more to come. Their enthusiasm and positive outlook is contagious and I could’ve stayed all summer learning from them.

It has been a couple of months since that I returned from that trip, and I’ve had some time to reflect on the goodness of lasting friendships and reconnecting with those whom I’d lost regular contact. If you’re like me, it can be hard to carve out time to stay connected, but knowing that there are ongoing projects and services in place makes a world of difference in so many lives.

As I ran 10 kilometers through Suzdal this summer, the “What am I doing here?” questions I asked myself 15 years ago was replaced with “What else can be done here?” And it’s exciting to think and pray about the possibilities.

And if anyone wants to participate in another run through Suzdal next summer, I’ll be there!

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