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What breaks your heart?

An orphan in a Ukrainian orphanage breaks my heart. I don’t know her, but I can’t shake her story. Something must be done. Rachel Hartman shared the story with me:   I walked into the room with a pounding heart. Would I be able to connect to these special needs child…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

An orphan in a Ukrainian orphanage breaks my heart. I don’t know her, but I can’t shake her story. Something must be done. Rachel Hartman shared the story with me:
I walked into the room with a pounding heart. Would I be able to connect to these special needs children?
One of the workers carried a young girl to me to hold. They told me she was about eleven years old, but she looked to me to be about five. Whatever the physical problem was, her body was stiff as a board.
When she smiled something lit up in my heart.
Her laugh was sweet and innocent. The only thing she had.

I sat and held her. Her body was stiff for some reason, I don’t know her condition. But I held her close.


I hugged and prayed for her. She held me tight and I fell in love with her.

After a while, I could hear her whisper and feel her breath on my neck. She was saying something over and over and over and over.

I didn’t understand, so I asked an interpreter to come over and translate her words.
She was saying, “You are my momma, don’t go anywhere. You are my momma. You are my momma.”

It BROKE my heart.
She had no mother. Her real mom couldn’t cope with her disability, so she gave her to an institution where the workers are overwhelmed and don’t have time for hugs. So she’d lived her life without hugs, without affection.
And when a stranger came in, after eleven years of isolation and gave her just a little attention, it was enough. If I hadn’t come to adopt her, she was going to adopt me.
What do you do when a child adopts you? How do you walk away from that? How do you cope? 
Her words haunt me still. I wondered as I held her, Is it better that she feels this, that I hold her and memories come back of her having a mother and being held? Or would it be better she doesn’t feel this and forget? To not dredge up feelings and a sense of loss, missing something she doesn’t have.
“You are my momma. You are my momma.”
I put those thoughts aside, and decided to just hold her. She needed to be loved, to be shown she is special and wanted. 
After a while I asked the nurse, “What is her name?”
The nurse’s reply stunned me: She doesn’t have one.
What? How can an 11 year-old girl not have a name? Everyone needs a name. To not give a child a name is obscene!
The nurse must have read my thoughts, adding, “It doesn’t matter; she doesn’t understand it anyway.”
It killed me. It was so wrong. This little girl not only had no momma, she didn’t even have a name!
I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to cry. I just wanted her to
feel love. The whole thing left me reeling and numb.
I will never understand so much about how God works. I can’t explain why things like this happen. But I do know this.
God loves that little girl and he used her powerfully in my life. He used her to show me his heart. I could feel his heart beating for her, beating in me, calling me to love her.
This girl pulled the love of God out of me.
Lord, thank you for that day with your daughter. Father I love you so much and I send my prayers, and thoughts to the little girl, that lays in the same bed day after day. I ask that you continue to give her joy and send more people there to hold her. Father I pray that touch is not a distant thing from her. That there are many more mother’s that come in to hold her and to show her how lovely she is. I know you have named her… I know her name is in the Lamb’s book and I thank you for that.
Jesus. Lay next to her in her bed, send angels to dance around her, Holy Spirit give her shows of fireworks and Your colorful personality. Lord, my good and gracious God, THANK YOU. I pray I see her again. In Your Name Jesus… I pray this for her…. AMEN.
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Since returning home, Rachel has committed herself to raising resources for that Ukrainian orphanage. She’s committed to making a difference in that little girl’s life. She’s written a book and is becoming a speaker. Rachel’s life has changed and she’s never going back.

Comments (12)

  • My heart is broken… I just want to reach into that picture and pull her out and into my arms… thank you, Rachel, for being there… thank you, Seth, for sharing… thank You, God, that You fill our hearts to overflowing and that the loves spills out onto these precious ones… and, yes, thank You, God, that You’re preparing the way for my brother to go back, too.

  • I’m just in tears. I’m so moved and touched by the love of God and how he can use anything to remind us. I want to pray hugs all over this girl!

  • st.mark of the Cross

    This reminds me of my prodigal son Donnie… he also was an orphan of the American system of foster care… he never had a true mother & father affection so it turned him to drugs, alcohol, and sex to find love. He was with me for four years, and is still fighting his way back home… It breaks my heart because he calls me dad, but fights father God’s love & my love because he never had the love of a parent the right way. So, it may not sound the same, but it breaks my heart…the first day he came he was 13, he cried and I hugged him. Now I am adopting his little brother 2 yr old Joseph, and Stacie 8 yr old little sister. We many times forget that eve though it is USA…we have many orphans here, even rebellious teenagers like my son Donnie..who are handicapped & paralyzed by poor parenting and a system that is motivated by money lack, and book learned social workers, of which I used to be one for 20 years. Thanks I stand with Kutless song “What Faith Can Do.”

  • The loneliness, sorrow and desperation that drive people to make choices that are incomprehensible to those who live in perfect world, perfect lives, comfortably complacent, are what break my heart. The opportunity for compassion is everywhere. Do you see those opportunities? Hear God calling. Many do…as the story and comments attest to. My prayer is that whatever it takes, my heart be broken beyond inertia or paralysis and compell action.


  • Stories like this, reading more and more accounts of children without names, just needing touch, needing someone to advocate on their behalf. These things all break my heart.
    Knowing that 40.6% of the earth’s people groups are considered unreached (>2% is Christian) and some of those are unengaged (no known Christians or Christian workers).
    THAT breaks and stops my heart, and makes me wonder what the is the point of sitting at this desk?

  • Once again, I find my eyes in a tear state crying out “OH GOD, THIS IS NOT FAIR… HOW CAN THIS BE… WHERE ARE YOU OH LORD…?”

    Thank you Rachel. May God continue to break your heart with things that break his. I have hope when I hear of people like you young lady. Bless you.

  • This story and countless others like it break my heart. The 16 year old girl I met in Haiti, who has physical and mental disabilities – can not speak or walk upright, who spends her days sitting by the side of the road twirling a paper clip between her fingers…the orphans in Morocco, whose only real disability is that of being an orphan…The staggering statistic that as many as 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries have little or NO access to education…these things I’ve seen make me want to say,”God, do something, it’s not right!” then I hear that familiar whisper in the depths of my heart say,”You have my Spirit in you, YOU do something.”

  • @ Kyle – That there that you said in the last line of your comment… THAT was powerful! Would you mind if I copy/pasted it as a quote from you on my fb page? I already posted the story. Showers of blessings to you today and …. THANK YOU!

  • We have named this precious child Hope, as evidenced by her hope for a Mama, her hope to be loved. She is loved this night, and prayed for by name.

    Our Papa knows this child intimately and has given her to each of us to be His heart for and to her. He has given us this opportunity to be stretched, pulled, molded into His image, to have our hearts broken and re-formed so it becomes what He has always wanted it to become: like His.

    With all that I am, I believe our prayers matter in the life and heart of this child. While I may never meet her this side of Heaven, I surely do look forward to that day when we are both whole, and able to dance the dance of joy together in His perfect Kingdom!

    Until then, I lift up Hope!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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