Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
We pulled in Friday night and immediately got in the Christmas spirit as we began wrapping the 120 children's Bibles and chocolates we had brought as gifts for 2 of the orphanages. Then the next morning we drove another 2 hours, to the village of Kolinenska where we had one of our camps this summer. I was really looking forward to this trip, specifically because one of the girls from that orphanage calls me at least 4 times a week, wondering WHEN we are coming for a visit?
The next day we were reunited with our kids in Stari Zburivka, another village in Kherson region. We did the same program for these kids and this time were able to distribute the gifts we had brought. They were very excited to unwrap their gifts and seemed excited to be given these beautiful Bibles and of course the chocolate too!
We've known the kids here for a little over 2 years, so it is amazing to see how some of them have grown and changed so much- while others seem about the same size. We talked to the director while we were there and it looks like we are going to be able to bring a group of 10 of these kids to Kiev for the Christmas holiday to stay with families from a church here, so we are very excited about this opportunity. Some of these kids have never even left the region of Kherson before! We are blessed to have a great relationship with the director there.
The rest of our reunion trip united us with the kids from our graduate orphan camp we had this past August. These kids are now studying in the trade schools in the region. We also saw some of the graduated kids who were in America with us two years ago. On one hand it was so good to see them all and get an opportunity to hang out with them and encourage them, but at the same time it is so hard to see the reality of their lives in these small villages and living in the dormitories. They are living in a true war zone for their very souls.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I am heading home to Seattle for Christmas celebrations soon! You can be praying I get on a flight on the 19th- which is what I've been trying to change my ticket to. Otherwise I'll be flying in on the 23rd. Either way...I'll be home for Christmas :)
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Then today I was able to meet up with the Houghton family, who is another part of my Colorado crew of friends who are taking the adoption world of Ukraine by storm. Such a sweet couple! It was fun spending the day with them and hearing their story. We also met up with my friend Yulia and our friend Bruce, who is here finishing up the adoption of two more of our kiddos from Kherson!
Friday, November 20, 2009
3 years ago I was able to help the Amend family with the adoption of their 3rd daughter, Aly. It was an amazing journey to be on with this family for many reasons! I've been blessed to stay in touch with the Amends over the years and stay up to date with the various surgeries Aly has had to undergo. Just yesterday, CBN aired a wonderful story featuring the Amend family! It was awesome to see their story shared with the world- as they truly are living out the spirit of adoption and have a heart for the Lord. It was fun to take a look through my photos when the Amends were here adopting Aly, as she isn't smiling in almost any of them. Now this little girl is ALL smiles and a bundle of energy and joy. Take a moment to watch and enjoy! :)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I have decided recently that fall is my favorite season. There are things I love about spring and summer- but the fall season, with the vibrant colors changing all around, and the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas --that there is something about that I just really enjoy. I could go on about things I don't like about the fall...like the dark evenings, the cold temperatures, and the rain we are now having....but to keep myself from getting depressed-I'll just focus on the things I love- which are the colors, the cups of coffee & tea with my family and friends and the walks through the leaves- as is captured here on a recent weekend walk with my cousins Gabrielle and Victoria.
Fall also reminds me of the end of things..or in reality- the death of things....as the leaves are drying up and the trees are left barren and we realize another year is coming to an end. We could be depressed- thinking- this is it?! It’s over! But praise God -we know that as we welcome winter, we know that it will give way to spring! And renewal will happen yet again-- just as it always has. Maybe it is a good reminder that the Lord gave me spring in my name....it’s a reminder that he isn't done with me yet-- that there are still parts left to bloom. So even though I am enjoying the fall color around me and the blessings it contains (even when it feels like they are buried under a pile of leaves)- I too am awaiting the newness of spring! Sometimes I just wish we didn’t have to go through the winter to get there.
So in the mean time…I’ll just enjoy the fall! :)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
A couple weeks back I traveled to Kherson, as I was invited to attend the 50th Anniversary celebration of one of the orphanages that we’ve worked with over the last couple years. When I first got the invitation I did find it a little ironic—celebrating 50 years of an institution that was created for housing orphaned children. Now, I understand that in fact it is a good thing to have a state facility that can house children who do not have a safe home or who have lost their parents. I guess in my opinion I just don’t think any such place should be seen as a long-term solution.
Something seemed a little ‘off’ in the celebration. It was as if they were celebrating the fact that this was the best place for the children- and glorifying the institution itself. No consideration seems to be taken into account for what these kids have lost- and what they continue to miss out on by not being in families. Instead institutionalized life is painted as normal, kids grow up in a controlled -yet out of control environment and then are sent into the world, left to fall through the cracks of the same system that placed them in the orphanage to begin with. In my opinion we were celebrating 50 years of broken families in Ukraine.
What if instead of putting so much focus into having better and ‘prettier’ orphanages, the government refocused their efforts and aimed at raising up a better system for placing children in families and equipping families with the skills they need to raise these kids?
Actually, the question should be re-phrased. In reality, the question should be pointed back at the body of Christ—specifically the body of Christ here in Ukraine. What is the church doing to see that these kids are in homes, being taught what it actually means to be in a family? Not just visiting orphans for the occasional holiday celebration and dropping off gifts- perpetuating the orphan mentality of ‘the world owes me’—but instead embracing the spirit of adoption. How is the Church reflecting Jesus' act of adopting us?
Again…these are the questions I continue to ask as I pray for the Holy Spirit to place a growing burden on his people (myself included)– that we would go beyond what is comfortable and open not just our hearts, but our homes to the orphaned.
Maybe then we won’t need to ‘celebrate’ another 50 years of institutionalized living.
Hanging out with the girls on the lovely fall afternoon and having a little photo shoot. Also spent time with the De Young family- new friends, who were in Kherson to adopt two kiddos.
What are the chances
Of ever knowing You
Oh God of creation
What would have happened
If I never followed You
Oh Lord of salvation
But this is how it turned out
This is how it turned out
Everyday you greet me
With the beauty of the dawn
My faithful Companion
Your mercy is the morning
Your glory is in the sun
My Father in heaven
You knew how it would turn out
You knew how it would turn out
You're the hope of my life
You're the God of my peace
You're the light of my soul the very reason I breathe
I will walk in Your love
I will run in Your grace
I live to worship You
~Song by Phil Wickham that I’ve just come to love.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
This past week marked my 5 year anniversary of the day I first arrived in Ukraine. October 6, 2004. I think the fact that it has been a full five years has caused me to be a little more reflective lately than normal. I look back at these past five years in awe of the blessings that the Lord has poured out in my life and also in awe of the fact that I’m still here!! That was definitely not a part of my plan!
I recently found the original email I sent to family and friends when I was first preparing to leave and laughed to myself as I read the so called “plans” I had:
….. “I am so excited for what this next year has in store in all aspects. I really feel that this is the perfect time in my life to explore overseas, and to see how the Lord will use this year of my life to teach me new things and grow me into the woman he desires me to be.”
I guess that growing into the woman the Lord desires me to be meant staying a little longer than I anticipated! And I have to say that I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. In some ways, I can’t believe how fast the time has flown, but in other ways, I realize my life prior to Ukraine seems like another life time, and like I was a different person.
These photos were taken in November 2004, when the Lord first captured my heart for the orphan- in a group of 12 year-old girls. Ira, (below left) was the first girl who won me over when she took my hand, and who I had the honor and privilege of seeing adopted into an awesome Christian family, one year later- a family who has now become dear friends.
These are two of the current princesses that have captured my heart and who have been waiting for almost 2 years for their adoption to be a reality. Please pray for Zina (L) and Rima that their soon to be family- and pray that soon will be just that- soon! I look forward to the day I’ll get to wave them goodbye!
25 Things living in Ukraine has taught me…
*Goodbye’s get a little easier every time you say them…just a little.
*Distance causes you to lose some friendships completely- and others become surprisingly closer.
*Kindred spirits are found all over the world.
*The bus or metro is NEVER too full for one more person….or perhaps 10.
*It can be very freeing not to own a car and have the ability to get everywhere on public transportation- it also doubles for a good work-out plan!
*It requires humbling one’s self to learn another language and at times sounding flat out stupid.
*Dress warmly and do not wear flip-flops after September 1st if you do not want to be scolded by a babushka.
*Standing in line and waiting is an art form in Ukraine that I’m finally getting a hang of.
*What women wear (or don’t wear) in public never ceases to shock me.
*Never expect for your entire group’s meals to arrive at once when in a restaurant—just be happy if they get the orders right and your food is hot.
*Never buy more than (or something heavier than) you are willing to carry home with your own two hands- especially when you live on the 5th floor with no elevator.
*Approach all cashiers/clerks with the expectation of being yelled at or ignored. If they treat you kindly or heaven forbid- smile, you will leave pleasantly surprised and perhaps even shed a tear of pure joy.
*One can never drink too much tea or eat too much chocolate when in the company of Ukrainian friends.
*When you realize that you’ve come to enjoy the taste of instant coffee…perhaps it means you’ve lived here to long.
*It is possible to overcome the fear of “scary” toilets…at least most of the time.
*Letters, emails and phone calls from friends at home are always a sweet surprise and openly welcomed.
*28 seems a heck of a lot younger than it did 5 years ago!
*One can live quite happily without a dryer- clothes just take a lot longer to dry in the winter…and sometimes freeze if left out too long.
*Kiev is a BEAUTIFUL city…especially in the Fall and Spring.
*Going out of your comfort zone is a hard thing…and also where we tend to learn the most about ourselves and God.
*Sometimes a girl just needs her Mama.
*Seeing a child adopted into a family never gets less exciting.
*Seeing teenaged kids living in an orphanage never gets less heart breaking.
*Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your plans in order to be a part of something greater than you could have ever imagined.
*When you let Jesus guide your life, it is never boring, never easy and always the most exciting place to be!
Thank you Jesus for the time you’ve had me in Ukraine…and thank you Ukraine for being a place where I continue to learn so much!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
So if I play Barbie too many more times I may start getting a complex! Our concert team was in need of an actress at the last moment again to play “Barbie” in their children’s musical- and since I’ve done the role a couple times now, I was the one subjected to putting on the floral pink dress- remnant of the 1980’s and playing the life size doll.
I had to share this picture, as there is something quite amusing about having a doll wearing the same dress as you! The play starts out with the Barbie doll on the shelf and then when the music starts and the smoke appears Barbie comes to life—meaning I walk out on the stage!
Now if I could only sing “My Heart Will Go On” while playing Barbie—then I’d really be living out my actress fantasy! :) (See several posts back if that doesn’t make sense!)
Sunday, September 27, 2009
So I’m a little behind in blogging about the end of the summer and our final camp in August! I’ve been wanting to post pictures and say something—I guess I’ve just not known what exactly to write about!
All I can say is that generally I am a pretty planned out person…and this camp did not go as I planned. Living in Ukraine I’ve gotten used to things not going as I plan…and each time we do a camp it is another reminder that the ‘type A’ in me has to die more and more and I need to learn to let Jesus guide and sometimes even change my “plans.” Because he always does!
This camp was unique in that we had 50 orphanage graduates. This was a first for our team. This means that these were youth that have already aged out of the “system” and are now studying in local trade and technical schools. We had planned for about 75 youth- so I was a little disappointed that the numbers were down—especially since we had 24 leaders serving! This is one of the things that didn’t go according to my plan! :) But you know what, it was so awesome to see how the Lord used the fact that we had an abundance of volunteers. In fact, very quickly we came to feel that we did not have an abundance…as each of us was stretched to our max! 50 youth between the ages of 17-21 is a LOT of relational energy and it became very clear that we had all the extra help for a reason—these “kids” were SO hungry for relationships and for listening ears.
We had the privilege to give each person attending the camp their very own Bible. For some of these youth it was their first time holding a Bible in their hands! And they were FULL of questions- which was awesome.
The theme of the camp was “Am I the Center of the Universe?” We focused on asking the bigger questions in life- “What am I here for?” - “Is there evidence that points to God?” “If there is a God, what is his purpose for my life?”—These are the questions we started with and throughout the week we discussed various attributes of God’s character and shared with them about reconciliation to God through Jesus. This of course is the very brief summary of a 10-day program! :) By the end of the camp about 90% of the kids make decisions to accept Christ!!! It was TRULY AMAZING. On the first day, the kids barely moved their mouths when we would sing worship songs in the evening. But by the last night, there was truly a SPIRIT of WORSHIP in the room as these youth sang to the Lord. I had to just stop and watch them- it was truly humbling and inspiring to see how the Lord was moving in the hearts of these young people.
To tell you the truth—I can’t even remember now what half of the things were that didn’t go according to how I had planned that week. Obviously they weren’t that important! :)
These youth come from very dark and broken pasts and have lived through things that most of us wouldn’t even want to imagine. So please pray for them. Pray for those that accepted Christ this summer and pray that the seeds that were planted will continue to take root in their lives. They have already gone back to their “normal” lives in the dormitories and the temptation to fall back into old patterns is so real. Pray for strength, pray for boldness, pray for a passion for Jesus to be etched in their hearts.