Sunday, September 27, 2009

Letting go of the plan

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!IMG_6725

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.IMG_5767   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!!! IMG_6713It 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.


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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Humanitarian Aid gone Bad

Just a friendly note telling you to be careful of what you donate to the local- well- meaning group collecting clothes for a humanitarian shipment to some country far-far away.  Read what the article of clothing says prior to donating. Then ask yourself the question- ‘Could this cause embarrassment if given to the wrong age or gender?’ If the answer is yes- do not send this item. 

Otherwise one of the following exhibits may be a reality in some foreign country, where the people wearing the said item, will have no clue that they are providing internal laughter for some English speaker who happens to see them.

Exhibit #1

IMG_3739 Look how happy he looks? 

Exhibit #2

IMG_2774 oh the unsuspecting boy has no idea that he is advertising himself as a male-cheerleader!

Exhibit #3

Banquet 09 001One must examine this picture closely. But this Babushka is wearing a hat that says “Limp Bizkit”—maybe she is a fan- I don’t know…but this has “Humanitarian Aid gone Bad”- written all over it! :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Heart Will Go On….and on and on and on…

titanic_ver3 So I have a confession to make.  When I was 16 years-old I saw the movie Titanic 6.5 times in the movie theatre.  (The other half of the confession is that the .5 time is because I snuck in to watch the second half after having watched another movie).  I don’t know why I was so obsessed with Titanic at that time- but I was. I remember sobbing each time I watched it, and even told one of my friends that I kept watching with the hopes that it was going to end differently!! But wouldn’t you know- the boat still sank and Kate still let Jack go…and I gave the movie theatre way too much of my money.

So why am I now thinking of this film, more than 10 years later?  Because the theme song has come to haunt my life in Ukraine. I’ll let you in on a secret…Ukrainians LOVE the song My Heart Will Go On and consider it a classic American ballad. I too loved the song, when I was 16, and over-played it soooo much then, that I got sick of it! So when I came to Ukraine I was shocked by how much they love this song.

Confession number two: I have performed this song  in public on more than one occasion in Ukraine.  At our office in Kiev we have birthday celebrations once a month and one time they asked me to sing “the song”, to one of those really cheesy back ground tracks.  There was part of me that was cringing inside as I sang this “ballad”- knowing that my American friends would be dying in laughter- but the other part of me secretly enjoyed it- I mean, who doesn’t want the chance to pretend to be Celine Dion for a few moments in a foreign country without your American friends ever knowing?! 

This summer at one of our summer camps, I was playing the guitar and singing with some of our girls when they all eagerly asked, - “ohhh can you sing the Titanic song?”

- “Really?” I asked, “that song, you really want me to sing that song?”

- “YES!!!! It is our favorite,” they all chant. 

-“Oh boy…” I think, “here we go again!”

So on multiple ocassions this summer I was found singing the “Titanic song” to a crowd of adoring teenage girls. The best was when they said I sounded better than Celine Dion! (Don’t worry, I won’t let my adoring teenage Ukrainian fans go to my head—I know I’m a far cry from Celine :).)

That brings me today…a girl I work with comes into my office and says, “Karen, there is a song I really want to sing and I really would like your help with the pronunciation.” 

- “Okay” I respond, “What is it?”

I really shouldn’t have even asked… 

Maybe I had this coming to me…after all I did see the movie 6.5 times in the movie theatre! So I guess this will keep going on…and on…and on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Waiting for a Sunrise

IMG_6648 Have you ever gotten up to wait for the sunrise?  Not just happened upon it, but actually gotten up extra early with the intention of seeing the first glimpse of the sun peak up from the horizon?

At our final camp this summer, on the last morning, we decided it would be “fun” to get everyone up at the crack of dawn (literally) and experience the beauty of the first sun break.  Well, none of us knew exactly when the sun would rise so we decided we better get up earlier than we thought- just to be sure not to miss it.

IMG_6659 When my alarm went off at 4:45am I jolted out of my bed—and feeling the effects of having gone to bed after midnight, I questioned how badly I really wanted to witness this crack of dawn experience.  But I said I’d go- so I dressed warmly and joined the group outside.  And waited. And waited….and waited.

So apparently by the end of August the sun is not really rising at 4:45 am…and by 5:45 we were all still waiting…cold…and really ready to see the stupid sun!   Some kids actually got too cold, too tired, and they gave up. They said they didn’t want to wait any more- that they were going back to bed.  IMG_6662  I know they didn’t doubt that the sun would actually rise- but they couldn’t stand the wait to see it- they didn’t like feeling uncomfortable and tired and decided it would be better to go back to their warm beds.                                                

But the rest of us kept waiting.  And wouldn’t you know….the sun did rise (around 6:10 to be exact). And it was beautiful.  It was breathtaking. In the hour we had spent waiting we could see signs that the sun would rise as the sky got bluer and lighter, but the sun still wasn’t visible—we knew it was coming but we couldn’t actually see it. IMG_6677Then suddenly it appeared and the process of it rising happened so fast that if you turned away for a few moments you would have missed it.  The kids that gave up and left early had missed it.  But those of us that had remained were able to witness the beauty- and suddenly that waiting didn’t seem all too bad.  The perspective had shifted when we witnessed what we had been waiting for.

Lately my life and walk with the Lord can feel a little like that sunrise.  Some days I’m tempted to just crawl back into bed like some of our kids did because I’m just tired of waiting- I’m tired and cold and would rather go some place more comfortable and  go to sleep.  Sure, you say that the sunrise is going to happen- but I’ll just take your word on it.  I’m too tired to care.

But something about seeing the sun at high noon isn’t quite as glorious as when it is viewed at the first break of day.  There is something marvelous in witnessing it rise- in not only seeing the realization of what you had been waiting for, but getting to take part in it. And if we don’t take part in the waiting, and in the trusting- then we might actually miss out on the blessing. We actually could miss it!  But when we wait…and when it does rise-- suddenly the waiting will have seemed like no time at all.  We will instead be captivated by the light revealed in that first glimpse we catch of the Son.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-2

IMG_6682those of us that made it! :)