Sunday, March 22, 2009

Workers in the Harvest Fields

Razdolnye Camp 08-Day One 021 

“Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”  Habakkuk 1: 5




Last week I had the privilege of being among the 200 people attending a summit for those working with orphans and children at risk in Eastern Europe.  The conference was primarily attended by Ukrainian & Russian nationals who are working in various spheres of influence in the Church and ministries.  It was a blessing to be at a conference where there were more nationals than “foreigners” (like me) who have caught a vision for the orphans; for truly it is when nationals catch a vision that change can really begin to happen.  Speaker after speaker gave words of encouragement and challenges about getting involved on behalf of the orphan, through both friendship and adoption.  We were reminded of our Biblical mandate to care for the orphans and the widows in this world as a true expression of our faith.

Visions were spoken about a Ukraine without orphanages as Christians rise up and take ownership of this problem.  A vision was also shared about seeing each orphan in Ukraine have a personal friend from the local church- and to see this happen in the next 5 years.  Such a big vision that it can sound pretty impossible!  Especially in a corrupt and bureaucracy laden country like Ukraine. 

And then I found the above verse from Habakkuk and I was reminded of the God we serve. A God that can move the mountains, a God that can bring families to the orphaned and healing to the broken. A God that still makes beauty from the ashes.  He only asks that we join with him in participation. He asks us to be his hands and feet. I am reminded of the famous words spoken to Esther when she was contemplating her role in the deliverance of her people. “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews [orphans] will arise from another place……and who knows but that you have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4: 14

The reality was that Esther didn’t have to participate- because God could accomplish his purpose without her. But he gave her an opportunity- and opportunity to take part in a bigger plan and to be used by God  to effect the lives of thousands—to change their destinies!  When I hear this story I am reminded that yes, I can stay silent, and God will continue to use others to fight on behalf of the fatherless—because it’s not dependent on me.  But I would hate to think what I would have missed if I stayed silent.

Monday, March 16, 2009

More kid fun…

This past weekend I got to play “mama” again to 3 sweet kiddos! My good friends Tyler and Kelly went on a little getaway and I stayed with their kids- ages  6, 3 and 18 months!   Spring 09 011

I always gain a lot of respect for parents through experiences like this…and find them as good parenting boot camp!  It is fun to see life through the eyes of a 3 and 6 year-old, it helps keeps things light, especially when other parts of life are stressful. 

As I was pouring a glass of orange juice for myself, little 3-year-old Joshua quickly exclaimed, “Be careful Miss Karen, there is flakes in there!” “Those flakes can hurt!”  Ahh to be 3 again, and have our concerns be as simple as the annoying pulp in orange juice!Spring 09 001


Monday, March 9, 2009

International Women’s Day Weekend

 DSCN7816Hard to believe it but this is my 5th Women’s Day in Ukraine. I truly love this holiday—perhaps that is why I’ve stayed this long. What woman wouldn’t love a holiday that means flowers, chocolate, celebrations and a day off of work?!  Apparently International Women's Day began in 1910 by the German socialist leader Clara Zetkin, who organized a large conference for European women in Copenhagen which marked the fight of women for equal rights.  In the 1970’s it became an official holiday recognized on March 8th each year- but today it is only a national holiday in post-soviet block countries--- like my beautiful Ukraine!  Which makes the fact that it is called “International Women’s Day” even more amusing!DSCN7820                         Flowers were everywhere this weekend!

My friends from my home church are staying with me right now as they await their SDA (adoption) appointment this week—so this means I have had an extra fun weekend full of meals out, late nights and touristy stuff that I haven’t done in awhile—thanks Erik and Natasha!! DSCN7814Yesterday we went to a yummy new Italian place I discovered and had some great Tiramisu and today we froze to death but enjoyed the beauty of the Pechersk Lavra. 



    Natasha and Erik were both a little creeped out by the dead monks that are mummified and deep in the caves of the monastery- I think I’ve seen them so many times now that it doesn’t phase me as much.  I just don’t like how everyone kisses the glass that they are held in.DSCN7825

Erik and Natasha have their appointment on Wednesday, so we still have a couple more days of fun before they head out. Please be praying for them and their future kiddos!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Innocence Lost

Last weekend I found myself surrounded by a group of children that are very close to my heart. These children live in Kherson, Ukraine in an orphanage of 220 children. Through summer camps and trips to the United States the last two years, I’ve gotten to know a group of these kids in a unique way and see how they, like all children, are in the process of growing up- right before my eyes.
Upon entering the room where the kids hang-out and play on the weekends, I saw the favored "babysitter" hard at work---otherwise known as the television. Every time I see this influential babysitter keeping the kids entertained I cringe. The kids flip from channel to channel with complete freedom, and the uneasiness grows inside as I see what is shown on regular television in Ukraine. Of course the kids are excited when I come in, as I’m a change to their regular routine. I distract the younger ones, but the older ones are quickly drawn back to the babysitter.

On this trip I’m with my friends Natasha and Erik, who are here pursuing an adoption, and they quickly become new best friends with all my 10-year-old angels who are jabbering away with questions and their fond remembrances of the time recently spent in America.
As always the “foto-operat” or digital camera is a hit and the kids are all begging to take pictures with our cameras and pose as best they can. A couple of these little girls were very excited about being little photographers and asked for permission to take Natasha and Erik’s camera into the other room to have a photo session.

Now anyone who has ever been in Ukraine or Russia will know that Slavic women know how to pose for a picture! If a camera is pulled out, suddenly women will strike a pose quite un-like their everyday posture for the picture about to be taken. Sometimes this can be humorous to watch.
So after the girls came back from their photo session I went through the camera to glance at what they had taken. I guess it didn’t surprise me what I saw, but it truly grieved my heart. The girls had taken the camera into their rooms and posed in a variety of “model” like poses, but very much in a sexualized nature which doesn’t need to be described or shown here. Little girls that can appear so innocent and unaware of the world around them have in reality been influenced by the “babysitter” and the print advertising that bombards this culture. They have been shown what the world deems beautiful and they are trying to imitate it. These are the women they are trying to emulate and it simply breaks my heart and causes me to ask the question: what can I do to make a difference?

If you are reading this I simply ask that you pause for a moment and pray for these kids. Pray for these children who have been subject to images and experiences that would make most parents cringe. Pray that they will be surrounded by positive mentors, and if at all possible, parents who will instill them with values and Truth. Pray for those that have experienced sexual abuse and that they will experience healing through Christ. Pray for Ukraine; pray that the Christians here will remain pure and healthy in a country that is so full of sexual images and pornography and pray that laws will be created to restrict what currently is freely accessible.

This is a war. A war that is leaving in its wake the innocence of orphaned children.

Weekend in Kherson

We had quite a bit of fun Saturday and Sunday with the kids in the Kherson Internat. These are all kids we've come to know and love through our camp ministries and our trips with the Shoemaker play to the US each Christmas. The kids were very excited to see me and my friend Yulia and also to meet my friends Erik and Natasha. I hope to get back again soon- as I just love these kids!