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Day 5

The team has been exercising in the morning at the track--although today the weather turned the track and field into a sea of floating ice.  After two laps we decided to try the gym and ended up running circles, climbing stairs, and performing pull-ups.  During this time we noticed the kids of all family units were outside and being supervised by some of the caregivers.  They were participating in group stretches, performing strength exercises such as dips, pull-ups, and running laps.  It seemed a bit unusual because it was the first time I had seen them in action; however, I was informed that this is this is part of their daily routine and it should be no surprise given their level of fitness.  Obesity does not seem to be a problem for these children.  Joe and Ken have been our group's fitness leader and everyone seems eager to participate and contribute some ideas to our ad hoc routine.  After our shower we met to read our daily devotional at 8.  Gratitude was the word or topic for our devotional today. Kelly and Shannon have been working tirelessly to negotiate the schedule and follow-up on the details--and, of course, leading us in our daily devotional. 

The children are reminding us that it is time to eat--they find us and walk us to our tables.  It may be different than what you'd expect--as two or so children from each of the 7 or 8 family units arrive a different times.  Some of them speak a little English or some Spanish--or use non-verbal communication to get us engaged with the group.  They are persistent--and smiling often--and if you are being called then it's tough not immediately get up and go to the 'canteen' with them.

After eating our team gathered and we continued to develop our planned activities for the children.  There is a good chance that Kat's Easter Egg dyeing activity was part of the agenda today as well.  Certainly, there is always something happening.  Most interested were the youngest children although some of the teen aged kids joined in to show us their artistic abilities--although some of the older kids were persuaded to participate instead of watch from a far.  There were so many eggs--they were decorated with stickers and intricate Russian patterns--and then in some cases set upon on some fake grass.  Each of the kids seemed proud to share their creation with us--it was a standing room only activity. 

Jennifer has been effectively managing the process of developing some of these ideas (skits)--helping them become more of a reality.  I think we were required to practice a traditional Russian folk dance with a mix of participants--before we found ourselves in the gym for some basic martial arts instruction and stretching routines with Joe and his following.  This led to another perpetual 5-on-5 basketball game--that lasted until the Americans were too tired to stand.  The children seem happy playing basketball--they like us to watch them--those that aren't playing want to wrestle (boys) or perform back flips on the soft mats.  Smiles, joy....evidence of God's grace and peace.  Our regular habit of evening prayer and hugs seems more important everyday.  I'm reminded by Mark's conscious effort to include those kids on the edge---reaching-out to let that kid on the edge know they are loved with a hug--and a smile emerges.  I think we are all grateful for the opportunity to share this experience and increase our love for one and other.