Friday, December 26, 2008

Philadelphia and Denver?? And a very WHITE Christmas...

The last 5 days of our Christmas tour had us based out of Philadelphia. We even had a performance in New Jersey-- giving us a grand total of 7 states that we visited. Not bad bragging rights for a group of kids from Ukraine! They loved adding to their "state" count along the way. I managed to get a quick tour of the city

before we flew out on Tuesday night. A nice young man took me on a quick 3 hour blitz tour, showing me the city's highlights- including the steps that "Rocky" ran up (yes, I ran them too) and the Liberty Bell. Then it was off to airport with our group of 20 people and 40 perfectly (so we thought) weighed bags. Over weight bag charges are crazy these we were determined to make every bag weigh in correctly-- and these kids had a lot of stuff! One bag was 3 kilos over and the guy was was going to charge us $150- until we pulled the "orphan" card on him and he finally let it slide (and really, guilt is not one of my favorite tactics...but that is what we did--please forgive us). Thank you kind Lufthansa man for your baggage mercy.
After we went through security I departed from my sweet kids and traveling companions of the last 3 weeks with promises to visit them in Kherson once I get back to Kiev in January.
I then headed to my own gate for my flight bound to Seattle......via Denver. I had been a little worried about getting there with all the bad weather out in Seattle lately- but little did I suspect that it would be a broken lavatory and not snow that would become my problem. The hour and half delay fixing the lavatory caused me to have all of 5 minutes to make my connecting Seattle flight. Of course I'm at the back of a very full plane, making getting out a challenge. I go running to my gate and see my plane---thinking- yeah- I made it! But no, they had shut the door and were letting no more late people on. What?? It's Christmas!! I try and plead with the gate lady to let me on--but this time I don't have the orphan card to pull and there is no mercy to get me on the plane. Bye bye Seattle...hello Denver! :)

This little mishap however turned out to be a BIG blessing. I have a group of friends in the Denver area that have become very dear to me via email- but I had never met them! Kris and Clarke Stoesz are a part of a ministry called Ukraine Orphan Outreach and I have worked with them and others over the last year to bring groups of kids to the US for a hosting/camp program. They are a great couple and I communicate with them a lot-- but had never met them, and my missed flight allowed us to finally meet. They were so sweet picking me up at the airport at 11:00 at night and bringing me to their home and then getting me back at 7:30 the next morning for my flight. Thanks Kris and Clarke!! You guys are wonderful and it was a blessing to finally meet you both!
I made it home Christmas Eve morning to the whitest Seattle I've ever seen. Where my parent's live it is like a mountain pass. We have over 2 feet of snow...and we had even more falling this morning. It is pretty...but it isn't allowing us to go anywhere! So Christmas was a little different today as we weren't able to see my brother's family. I did feel a bit like a kid today though-- my mom and I went sledding and made a snowman!

My mom and I with our Snowman Jose

We had our I'm ready for it to go away!! :)

I pray you had a wonderful Christmas!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Around New York

Well we've been in New York for a week- and praise God all our kids are now healthy! Thanks for your prayers-- all was looking better after we arrived in Rochester last Thursday night and a good night's sleep did everyone good. For the last week we were based out of Rochester, NY and made trips to Syracuse, Utica, Buffalo and Binghamton. If I said we were doing a lot of driving that would be an understatement. We are doing a LOT of driving. Did I mention several of our kids get car sick easily?
After our performance in Buffalo we made a trip to one of the wonders of the world- Niagara Falls. It was pretty spectacular and also pretty darn cold. We lasted for all of 10 minutes enjoying the beauty of the falls before we dashed back to the car to warm up. For many of the kids it was the first time ever seeing a waterfall, let alone one of the wonders of the world! So great.

Tomorrow we head on to our last stop...Philadelphia. 4 more performances and then we fly out on Tuesday- the group back to Kiev, while I'll be heading home for Christmas with my family.

As you can see I've "re-vamped" my blog a bit. I had a few hours on my hands tonight and figured I'd get creative. I've also given my blog a new title- "beauty from the ashes"-- this reference comes from Isaiah 61, and is a passage I memorized with my small group this fall. It reminds me of who Jesus is - how he is actively restoring beauty to the hurt and the dark places in all of our lives. Perhaps I see that hurt and darkness amplified in these children as I hear their stories, and the evil things their eyes have already seen- and the utter abandonment that they feel. So thus I am drawn back to this passage again tonight, reminding myself of the work Jesus has called me to and the promises he has for the least of these. I pray that Jesus not only provides families, but brings healing to their lives...and the others around me.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3

Friday, December 12, 2008

Car Sick...Air Sick...sick more sick!!

So we are currently stuck for awhile in the JFK airport as we await our flight to Rochester NY-- and has it been a day and a half!!!! Praise God we are all still alive and continuing to function...though some of these little ones just barely it seems.
Our day started off at 8am, meeting at the church to load into the cars to make the trip to the airport in Charlotte- a 2 hour drive. When we all met up we saw instantly that little Nika and Oksana were both very sick with high fevers and did not look ready to face the long day before them. Just three of us adults (the women) were flying with the kids, so we divided up all 11 kids into 3 cars to make our way to the airport.

Car #1-- That's the car I'm in with the two fever girls....20 minutes into the trip-- throwing up into plastic bags. Oh Jesus- let this trip be over soon.

Car #2-- This car contains Alla, our little girl prone to motion sickness-- we arrive at the gas station for a potty break...Alla throws up.

Car #3-- This car is being driven by a younger guy who is from the is raining and young guy is driving a little too spins and gets in an accident. Everyone is okay- but two kids hit their heads and 2 are throwing up everywhere...over all their clothes. These kids arrive to the airport in desperate need of a clothing change...but nevertheless in pretty good spirits.

Flight # 1-- Little Alla, again the motion sick one, is sitting by me...and we quickly get moved to the front of the plane when the flight attendant realizes she is about to throw up. Apparently he doesn't want to create the "school bus" effect....I can only imagine what that might mean. No thank you! So I sat by her holding her hair back...getting my first lessons of being mama to a sick child. (Makes me thank my mother for all that hair holding way back when). Two other kids in our group were throwing up on the flight as well...I'm sure we entertained those around us.

So anyway.... not to have a totally gross out of a blog entry...but these are the things I'm thinking about as I'm sitting in the airport surrounded by 11 children...several of which still don't smell too good. We were delayed in getting here so missed our connecting flight- so now we are stuck waiting for almost 5 hours for our next flight...which will be all of 50 min long and will get us into Rochester close to midnight! And to think our day started at 8am!

Please please pray for our little ones...Oksana and Nika really need their fevers to break. These are the moments that make you really remember about why these kids need families. All of them. Kids shouldn't have to be sick, crying and tired without a mama near by. This is what breaks my heart the most. We praise God for His protection today and that all the kids were safe.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A taste of the south...

So the last week has consisted of home stays and performances in the Atlanta area and in Asheville, North Carolina. We are getting our miles in that is for sure. The kids are getting a bit tired though...I think they would rather stay put. We are having lots of fun --even if we've eaten enough pizza to last us the rest of our lives. At first the kids were excited at the sight of they are turning up their noses to it. Pretty funny. Tomorrow we are packing up tomorrow and heading up to Rochester, NY.

In Atlanta I was able to be reunited at one of the performances with a dear family who I helped with an adoption last year and have stayed in contact with. It was so wonderful to see the boys, who are now 17 and 19 and see how great they are doing and how their English is coming along great! It's fun to be traveling to places that allow me to reconnect with people I've met over the years. Even tonight in Asheville, NC- a woman who used to be a missionary in Ukraine and led a small group I was in, came to our performance. I didn't even know she lived here now! Such a small world.

On dasher on dancer on prancer on Vixen....
now on to New York....

Alla, Zina and Oksana

Sasha (R) learning to drive with his new little friend Eduard

with the girls at the "Bethlehem Walk" in Atlanta

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Florida Fun

Our week in Florida went by fast! We began with home stays in Tampa- and a trip south to Sarasota for an afternoon at the beach and a performance in the evening. On Tuesday we headed north to Jacksonville where we were hosted by another large Slavic church. Just one performance in Jacksonville and a free day to explore the city- including St. Augustine- America's oldest, longest inhabited city (apparently I slept through history class, as this was new information for me.) The kids are doing great so far, especially considering all the time on the road and the fact that we have been living in several different families. It obviously helps that we have been staying in the homes of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants, so language has not been an issue.

So far we have had 4 performances of The Old Russian that leaves 16 more to go! Whew!! I'll be singing these songs in my sleep by the time we are done. We made the trek from Jacksonville to Atlanta yesterday-- talk about a temperature difference!! Time to dig out those winter coats we had tucked away. It's Atlanta till Monday and then we pack up again to head to Asheville, NC. I'm beginning to feel like a true roady...just with 11 children in tow! We are continuing to praise God for this opportunity we have been given to share about our ministries and to expose these kids to families and a special holiday experience. We have been so blessed by the people we have met.

These are two of my favorite pictures from our time in Florida. This is the first Santa I've ever seen on the beach- in a Hawaiian shirt at that. And with the sign...I'm still trying to figure out what it means to molest an alligator?

Now on to Atlanta....
With my sweet Oksana on the 6 hour bus journey...

Monday, December 1, 2008

30 suitcases, 11 kids, 9 adults, 7 hour lay-over and a partridge in a pear tree

We made it to sunny Tampa Florida late Friday night and so far we are off to a great start!! The kids did great on all the flights-- despite the every ten minute question of "when are we going to get on the next plane?" And then once on the plane, "how much longer till we get there?"

Before... After....

They slept on the flights which was good and were all eager eyed when we landed in America--and even more excited when they realized we got to ditch the winter coats.

Our first day consisted of a trip to Payless shoes to purchase new shoes for all, a tour through the Botanical gardens, a trip to the beach- and swimming in a pool. Not a bad first day for these kiddos!

Yesterday was our first performance and it went great! We have 2 more Florida peformances before we head up to Atlanta.

Stay tuned....