Thursday, April 23, 2009

Turkish Delight

DSCN8612 Imagine 28 students and 5 adults walking through the streets of Istanbul (or really just imagine 33 people walking together in any major city!)--A situation like this could be either sheer chaos or sheer fun- or perhaps both!  Whether chaos or fun, a group this size without a doubt will draw attention! That is what we were doing last week- drawing attention.

For 5 days I navigated the streets of Istanbul with the junior and seniors from Kiev Christian Academy- along with 4 other brave chaperones. This is the school where all of my cousins attend and where I’ve taught drama part time for the past 4 years.  Each year the juniors and seniors take a class trip and this year I got to come along as a chaperone.  I’m used to traveling either alone or with one to two other people- so walking around a large city with a small army I just had to embrace the fact that I was a tourist! So embrace it we did.

DSCN8368 The sights, sounds and colors of Istanbul are simply amazing.  My senses were overwhelmed as I walked through the Grand Bazaar, surrounded by all the local sellers who were hocking their goods and crafting their charm to draw us into their DSCN8382booths- promising to make  a great deal.  DSCN8369 I’ve never seen so much color in my life.  I decided I’ve fallen in love with all things Turkish (okay- maybe not the men!)

Since I’ve directed many of these students in plays over the years it was a really special time to have with them outside of the school. We were also blessed by a Christian business man in the states who donated his Marriott Hotel points and gave us complimentary hotel rooms in the Istanbul Marriott.  Wow!




My cousin Honnah, who is a senior this year, was also on the trip, so that was fun to have this great time together before she graduates in June.  I’m really going to miss this girl!




While we were there we were able to tour the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia (where Christianity and Islam converge) and the Sultan’s palace.  This was my first experience in an Islamic culture, however secular Istanbul may be, and I found the differences both fascinating and challenging.  How do we as Christians share Christ among people of the Islamic faith? Turkey is the first place Paul traveled in his missionary journeys and Istanbul at one point was the center of Christianity.  This is obviously not the case today.  Amazing what can change from one generation to the next.  Amazing the responsibility of sharing our faith with the next generation!  Take a moment and pray for Istanbul today- pray for Turkey.  Pray today that the few believers there would be encouraged to share their faith amidst a country of persecution and that people will be open to learning more about Jesus.




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Monday, April 20, 2009

Full Apartment and fun times…

Last week the Jones came back to Kiev with their three kids, including the newly adopted Oksana! For night number one in the city I had them crash at my place which was a fun experiment to see how many people we could fit on the floor of my not so big apartment.floor 2 5 actually fit quite nicely! They spent the rest of last week running around Kiev getting medical work done and then were off to the US embassy to get Oksana’s Visa. Since I had to head out of town (more on that fun adventure a bit later)- they moved to be with my friend Allyson and finished up all the final details. After 2 months away from home they were able to fly back to Seattle on Saturday!  Amazing to think that Oksana is now in my home town- and here I am in Ukraine. Floor It was such a blessing to have them here these past 2 months and just seeing Oksana with them reminds me to praise God for all the miracles he orchestrated together for this family. She is my little miracle story and will be a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness for the rest of my life.  Can’t wait to see her at Christmas!DSCN8254

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Caleb!

My nephew Caleb turned the big ONE on Sunday! birthday!Jesus is Risen and Caleb is one!  These are the moments that make living far away from home a bit difficult and make me miss my family more.  Ah such is life.  My parents and my brother and sister-in-law threw a big party for the little guy and apparently he had lots of fun.  Complete with his own personal cake and and quite a bit of frosting for Grandma to wipe up on the floor! Hey that’s what makes those 1st birthday pictures so memorable for the rest of your life.

  Hope you had a great 1st Birthday little one…your Auntie Karen sure misses you!Caleb's 1st BD 089

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Story of Oksana Faith

How to start this story? There in lies the challenge of this entry. I guess it starts with a little girl named Oksana.DSCN8081 A little girl now named Oksana Faith. The second part of her name is a testimony to her story- and a reminder to me of my own faith journey over the last few months. Faith- a word we can claim quite easily- but when tested we discover how strong it really is.

I first met Oksana over a year ago when we brought a group of children to the US. When it came time to plan the next year’s trip I insisted on brining no “repeat” children, but somehow Oksana won favor with someone and was selected to travel with the group yet again. On this trip Oksana became my right hand little girl.  Shoemaker Trip 08 232 She was my constant traveling companion and made a point of conveniently falling asleep on my lap on every long bus trip. On one of these trips, she looked up at me with her sparkling and yet pleading eyes and told me that she wanted me to adopt her- she told me that she wanted a family. I told her to find me a husband and it would be a done deal! 

Shoemaker Trip 08 330Upon returning to the host family that night I couldn’t get Oksana’s words out of my mind. I’ve had lots of orphaned kids tell me before that they want me to find them a family, but for some reason I felt determined that a family had to be found for Oksana specifically- a family that I knew. Then suddenly a family came to my mind…

I met Natasha Jones over a year ago after the production that the orphans did at my home church- Northshore in Bothell, WA. DSCN8017Natasha, who had emigrated from Eastern Ukraine sixteen years prior, approached me with her husband Erik and told me that God had been placing adoption on their hearts. After our initial conversation Natasha and Erik took some time to pray and within a month were on board to pursuing an adoption from Ukraine! By November of 2008 they had a completed dossier of documents submitted to the adoption authority in Kiev and were awaiting an appointment, and waiting to find out who their future child(ren) would be.

As soon as I started pondering possible families for Oksana- the Jones came to mind and within a couple email exchanges Erik and Natasha had confirmed their interest in adopting Oksana! This seemed way too easy! Perhaps I had matching making in my future….


February 25th 2009 Erik and Natasha have now arrived in Kiev and are hopeful about the opportunity to adopt Oksana. Enter road block number one. We receive a letter from the adoption center saying that Oksana is not available for International adoption on the Jones’ date of appointment. What Lord??? Did I speak too quickly? Why did I get this family’s hopes up when Oksana is not even available? Where are you in this? Where is my faith that you are sovereign in this situation?

2 days and a few dozen phone calls later, miracle number one: we are able to confirm that Oksana will be available for international adoption with in 2 weeks—if they can wait! Yes, they can wait! After 2 weeks of waiting, many museums and interesting excursions in Kiev, it is finally time to officially meet Kherson Orphanage- Jones Adoption 065Oksana and start this adoption!  They meet Oksana and I’m beginning to see the realization of the family I had prayed about for her. Oksana is thrilled about the idea of going to America and having Erik and Natasha for parents. This is actually going to happen!

Enter road block number two: Oksana has 4 brothers in foster care- about 3 hours away from the orphanage and all need to give permission for her to be adopted. After a few phone calls it is determined that the oldest brother will not allow his sister to be adopted! A formal council will convene with all the brothers for the situation to be decided. Hope for all at this point seems dwindling. What is happening Lord? Why have they come so far for this? Why did they meet Oksana if this is not going to happen? I know you can change the hearts of Kings but this seems to be impossible? And then a soft whisper… “Where is your faith?”

In moments of desperation like this- prayer seems like the only option—it seemed I had no place but my knees to fall. When I got the news of the impending council meeting that would determine Oksana’s future I was at a conference- so I gathered my two closest friends with me to pray…. “Jesus we ask for your mercy for Oksana, we ask that you will change the hearts of the council, we ask that you will change the hearts of her brothers. Lord, touch the heart of the oldest brother and let him see what is best for his sister. Change his heart Lord. Your will be done.”

More miracles

I waited expectantly by my phone the next day. Apprehensive to hear Natasha’s voice on the other end of the phone- knowing that the tone would give me an indication of the day’s events. Then finally the call…. “We got the letter we needed! They are letting us adopt her!” I hardly had words. “What happened?” Natasha went on to recount the day’s events moment by moment…. “Karen, you aren’t going to believe this, but Vitalik the oldest brother said that he had his mind made up- that he wasn’t going to give his agreement for Oksana to be adopted, but then last night he had a dream. In his dream a vision of Oksana appeared to him and he realized he had to do what would be best for Oksana- that if she wanted to go, he would let her! ”

Hanging up the phone I was left speechless. “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)

Oh the things we learn on this journey of faith! God is still speaking- and he can change the heart of Kings and 17-year-old boys. I stand humbled and amazed.

Which brings me to today…..

Today is a day of celebration because Oksana officially becomes Oksana Faith Jones and will leave her life in the orphanage behind. Today begins a new journey. Not of happily ever after, but of forever…with a family. Today there is one less child orphaned in Ukraine. Today my faith has been multiplied. Thank you Oksana Faith for your story. Oksana’s name means “Praise be to God.” I couldn’t think of a better name!