Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Starbucks...Ukrainian style

Just another friendly barista ready to make you a cup of coffee on your way to work! Nice and hot...but be careful or the cup will burn your hand.


The 10 kids that will be traveling with us to the US this week arrived in Kiev yesterday and got straight to work practicing the Shoemaker play. We divided the kids among our staff for "homestays" while they are in Kiev, and my dear sweet Zina, who I've known for quite some time, got to stay with me. We had a fun night of cooking dinner, making a cake, and watching a movie.

It was so sweet to see Zina as she watched me cook. She had never seen packaged chicken before, nor many of the things I used to cook and bake with. Just another reminder that though these kids are provided for in the orphanage, they aren't given the opportunity to experience simple things such as helping out in the kitchen. She was excited, though a little nervous when I let her crack the eggs for the cake!

The Roges

I always love being involved in the adoption process, and when the family becomes dear friends I count it as a double blessing. I got to have my friends Heidi and Felix stay with me for their first week in Ukraine as they began the journey to adopt three children. Well they ended up adopting from the Kiev region so they got to stay with me a little longer than planned- which made for a fun week of dinner guests and late nights! Thanks for the fun guys! Heidi and Felix are adopting three kids from Boiarka- about an hour from where I live. And that's not all...they'll be back in prayerfully the near future for 2 more beauties they met on a hosting trip last year- once the girls are registered. This is one family you won't want to mess with-- they are raising up a small Ukrainian army!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The numbers

Yesterday my team in Kiev had a very encouraging meeting with some of the key leaders in Ukraine who are working in the realm of orphan rights, foster care and adoption promotion. There were 12 of us meeting and we are praying about the ways that God will unite our efforts to bring the highest impact to reforming the system in Ukraine and bringing families to children.

Here are some interesting statistics and numbers that were shared yesterday--

*30,000 official orphans in Ukraine (these are kids with orphan status)

*Over 70,000 children who are in orphanages or on the streets and without official orphan status (meaning no potential for adoption)

*29,000 registered churches in Ukraine

*2,750 official orphans in the city of Kiev

*Out of the 2,750 orphans in Kiev- only 470 are in orphanages-- the rest are in foster care or are living with guardians.

*There are 1,500 people who have jobs because of these 470 orphans in Kiev (teachers, directors, admin, etc)- which totals 5 million dollars of expense per year.

*In the city of Kiev there were 100 abandoned babies last year. Only 23 of those went into the official system. The others were adopted by Ukrainian families. Of the 23 that were not adopted half were HIV + and half had downs syndrome.

These statistics are sobering to some degree. Especially the fact that there are practically as many registered churches as there are registered orphans. It seems only a little too obvious about how those numbers could work together. The statistics for Kiev are obviously not reflective of the rest of the country- I did find them interesting though. Kiev has the goal of having no orphanages within 5 years- which is very possible, given the fact that there are only 470 in the system now. But the ministry of education here is also resistant to this plan- as you can see by the 1,500 people that are employed. They are fearful of losing jobs. Numerous jobs have been created to perpetuate the orphanage system in Ukraine, and many do not want to see the end of this system. The idea of foster care and adoption is still foreign to many.

Ukraine still has a long way to go- but be encouraged that there are some passionate nationals here that have a heart for the fatherless and vision to see change. I was in their midst on Friday and was very humbled to be dreaming along with them. God will bring justice to His children. He is raising up an army.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So this past weekend I had the unique opportunity to travel to Venice, Italy and spend some time with some now dear friends! I knew Kristina in college through another friend, but hadn't been in touch with her in years. Well turns out Kristina and her husband Chris are in the process of preparing for an adoption from Ukraine, so when they heard about me living over here and my involvement in adoptions, they invited me to come spend the weekend with them in Venice--where they are stationed with the military- so that they could learn more about Ukraine and the process.

Kristina and I on the Morano island

It was an amazing weekend! I was so blessed by Chris and Kristina and their hospitality, their hearts for the Lord, for adoption, and Ukraine. It was so awesome to spend the weekend talking about all my favorite things with people who were really interested in it all! We spent a day in Venice walking around and weaving through the canals-- so cool. I also got to attend their church with them and meet some other friends interested in adoption! Needless to say, I left refreshed, encouraged and blessed by some new friendships. I can't wait for them to come and visit me in Ukraine-- please pray for them and that this will be soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One Door Closes...Another Opens

While we were in Kherson region 2 weeks ago, we had planned to visit both of the orphanages we worked with at summer camp. We had the afternoon on Friday in Stari Zburivka (see post below) and then the next day planned to drive to an orphanage in Kalinenska. Well after a 2 hour drive on a road to what seemed like nowhere (I seriously wish I'd taken pictures of this road) we arrived at our we thought. After an 8 hour drive from Kiev to Kherson and then the 2 hour drive to the orphanage we were more than ready to see these kids.

We show up. Door Closes. The director apparently never got the message that we were supposed to come (gotta love the power they like to use) and said the children could not have visitors--they had other things to be doing. There was lots of begging (and praying), even telling her about the gifts we brought. Nope. Still wouldn't budge. This was one of those "this isn't fair" moments that seem to happen too often in life...sometimes even more it seems like in Ukraine.
So here we were, 9 of us from Kiev, wondering what we should do. Drive back to Kiev after all this time and money spent getting here? This was not the plan!! Then through two missionary girls we met in the village (serving with a partner ministry of ours) we learned of another orphanage in this same village. One small village- 2 big orphanages--again-- something else that just isn't right. Now honestly, at this point we were all still pretty disappointed, as we wanted to see OUR kids-- not drive all this way to just "show up" and be with kids we'd never met.
But that in the end is what we did. We showed up- pulled out some basketballs and soccer balls and just started playing. The kids loved it! We were quickly their new best friends. We played for about an hour or two with the kids and then it was time to get back on the road to Kiev, as we wanted to head out while there was still some light. Anya and Boguslava, the two missionary girls begged us to stay the night with them in their little home (remember there are 9 of us). The new kids we befriended at this orphanage were begging us to stay as well. But common sense was telling us to get on the road (and my mind was thinking of my comfortable bed back in Kiev!). So that was that, we said our goodbyes and all piled back into the van.

As we were driving down the road away from the village of Kalinenska, I couldn't help but think deep down- why did we come? What was the purpose of this trip? Maybe we missed something. Maybe we were supposed to spend time with the missionary girls- or more time with the kids. I turned to my friend Galina, "were we supposed to stay?" I whisper. She looks at me, a smile widdening on her face. "I think so." "Well is it too late to turn around?" We tell the driver to stop driving and then turn to our other friends in the van-- "guys, I think the Holy Spirit is whispering something right now...I think we are supposed to go back." (This is the best part)-- my friend Anton smiles and says, "you know, I was thinking the same thing-- I was just thinking of my warm bed back in Kiev and how I wanted to be comfortable-- but I think we are supposed to stay too." "Okay Kolya, turn this car around- we are going back." We called our missionary friends and said to set the table-- we were staying after all. Squeels of joy came echoing out of the phone. To say they were excited would be an understatement. Turns out there aren't any Christians in this village- so these girls really don't ever have a chance to fellowship with other belivers.

So we stayed. We headed back to the orphanage just in time to watch their fall festival and competition for "Miss Autumn"..too bad it wasn't "Miss Spring"- maybe then I could have won! (I know- bad joke.) Anyway, we had a wonderful evening with Anya and Boguslava and were so blessed by them and their ministry. They live in this middle of nowhere town to minister to the needs of the orphans and are doing so with such joy! I was really encouraged by their faith and their hearts.

I slept really good that night too--probably better than I would have in my "comfortable" bed in Kiev!

Enjoying a meal at the home of Anya and Boguslava

Our team with Anya and Boguslava