Saturday, October 24, 2009

Celebrating 50 years?


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.

IMG_7872With Vica, Zina and Rimma (after their performance), 3 girls that came with our group to America- 3 girls I just adore! 

kherson for picasa









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.

How it Turned Out

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

You are the reason
For every breathe I take
The strength in my weakness
You have forgiven every one of my mistakes
Power in meakness
This is how it turned out
This is how it turned out

~Song by Phil Wickham that I’ve just come to love.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reflections on 5 years

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.


new pictures 070These 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 pictures 157


IMG_7888 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!IMG_7886

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

Every girl’s dream

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.Banquet 09 008

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!)