Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Shoes!

09 Jun OP Ukraine- summer shoes 13

When our team of volunteers arrived to put on the camp for the kids in the Kolinenska orphanage, the terrible state of the children’s shoes was hard to overlook. With temperatures around 90 degrees, the children were playing outside in their slippers, worn-out fall shoes, or with no shoes at all.

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Our  team decided that if these kids were going to be able to enjoy running around and participating in the camp activities then they would need something different on their feet.

 09 Jun OP Ukraine- summer shoes  06So after a trip to the nearest city’s market, our van returned with shoes in all colors and sizes- for all the kids.  Instead of just giving the shoes to the kids though- we had them earn tickets to get their own pair (aren’t we crafty!)  We had an afternoon of games in which the kids earned tickets and then at the end of the game they got to “purchase” their sandals (for a fair price :) ).  The kids were quick to line up to buy their new pair!


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It was funny to walk around the playing field after the kids all got their new sandals, as there were abandoned old shoes everywhere!  A site to be seen. 

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gloriously Ruined

IMG_3329 Recently I heard a speaker use this phrase when giving a lecture on the role the global church must play in caring for the 143 million orphans world wide.  We need to go to the last the lost and the least and become gloriously ruined. 

After being in Ukraine for over 4 years, hearing the stories of brokenness and abandonment have become all too common and sometimes numbing.IMG_3724   You ask kids living in an orphanage a few basic questions about themselves and before you know it they are divulging years of pain they have experienced.  Except often they list off such facts as “My mom is an alcoholic and my dad is in prison” with as much ease as if they were telling you that the sky is blue.  Because that is their reality. That is their normal.  That is what breaks my heart.  Sometimes I don’t like to ask the questions- because I don’t want to hear the answers—I don’t want to have to care.  Not knowing and not caring is a much easier place to remain I have to say.  It is safer.

But who ever said that following Jesus was safe?

Through the questions I’ve dared to ask and through hearing their answers, I have become gloriously ruined- completely, utterly and yet gloriously ruined.  I can’t close my eyes to what I have seen. Jesus has ruined me with their stories, he has ruined me with their pain—and strangely it is a glorious place to find myself. It is a reminder that in and of myself I am hopeless and that Jesus is the only one who can bring restoration. 

15-year-old Tanya reminded me of this at the camp we did last week.

I started out asking Tanya the basic questions- “what do you like to study in school?”- “how many siblings do you have?”- and then the bigger question- “What is your biggest dream?”  She answered me quite simply- “ My dream is to have a happy life.” I asked her if she was happy now and through tears she shook her head no—that this isn’t where she wanted to be. She IMG_2994said she would give anything to go home to her alcoholic mother- just so she could help her and help her turn towards the Lord.   Looking at Tanya I could see this deep sorrow in her soul – a sorrow for her lost childhood and for the brokenness of her family, a sorrow for having to be a mother to her 9 year-old brother, when she herself is just 15.   And yet the perplexing thing about Tanya is that she has the most joyful eyes I've ever seen.  Her pain and sorrow are so deep- and yet somehow she keeps on smiling- she keeps hoping that somehow her future can be better than her past.  Tanya gave her life to Jesus a couple years ago after being discipled by a Christian woman, and the faith of this young girl on the verge of adulthood amazed me.  I told Tanya that for being a girl who had lived through so much difficulty in her young life it was amazing to see the resilient and sweet spirit that she had. I told her it was a gift from God. I told her that her smile was a blessing from God—that she should rejoice because of the joy God had given her. I told her she had given me hope.  

IMG_3766I’ve seen people with 10 times the amount of earthly possessions and opportunity, and yet not nearly the joy that Tanya somehow managed to possess.   Tanya taught me something about suffering well.  She is a girl who knows real pain and yet somehow she is choosing joy.  

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5

These kids amaze me.  They break my heart and they amaze me. Their stories have made my life gloriously ruined and I for one am not the same person I was 4 years ago.

camp pictures

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Off to Camp #1

I’m leaving tonight to head to Kherson region where we will be doing a 10 day long camp in the village of Kolinenska for the kids in orphanage #1.  There will be a team of 15 of us working with kids between the ages of 11 and 18!  The camp will be on the grounds of their orphanage and we will be going through our Life Skills curriculum with them as well as incorporating Bible stories into each day’s theme.

Kherson Internat's Oct 08 117We went to this orphanage for the first time in October and are excited for this chance to get to know the kids better and spend time with them each day.

                                                                                        If you can join us in prayer, please lift up the following things…

*Unity as a team—we are coming from all parts of Ukraine and all different ages- pray that Jesus would unite us in spirit and purpose.

*Pray that the youth will be receptive to the program we are bringing and that the Holy Spirit will open doors to conversations about Jesus.

*Pray for the health of our team- as there will be 15 of us living in a small 3 room house and currently I’m coming down with some kind of flu… :(

*Pray we will be flexible and hold our plans loosely—allowing God to direct what we are doing each day.

Will be back in a couple weeks with pictures and stories!!!