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TWO IN A MANGER

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian
Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical
principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at
prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large
orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and
left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They
relate the following story in their own words:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  It was nearing the
holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the 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 orphanage staff sat in amazement
as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp
every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small
pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small
paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored
paper was available in the city.  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 we had brought from the United
States.  The orphans 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 little 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 in the
manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed
manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously.  For
such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he
related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary
put the baby 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 laid the baby
in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay.
I told him I have no mamma and I have 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?"  And 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 he told me I could stay with
him---for always."  As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed
full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand
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 nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him-FOR ALWAYS.
I've learned that it's not what you have in your life, but who you have
in your life that counts.