In 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principals) in the public schools. They were also invited to teach in prisons, businesses and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused and left in the care of government-run programs were in the orphanage. They related the following story in their own words: It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, and it was time for our orphans to hear, for the very first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn the couple went to a stable where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story the children and the orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edge of their stools trying to grasp every word.
Completing the story we gave the children pieces of cardboard and paper to make a crude manger. Following instructions the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt that we had brought from the United States. The orphan's were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project.
As I looked at the boy's manger I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at his completed manger scene, the boy began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the story once, he related the happenings accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger.
Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Maria put the baby in the manger Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him that I have no Mamma and no Papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did."
"But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?' Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.' So I got into the manger and then Jesus looked at me and told me that I could stay with him forever."
As little Misha finished his story his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hands over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him forever. I learned that it's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.
Submitted by: Mazina Nisbett