Tuesday, December 22, 2009

While I'm waiting...

So I didn't fly home early as I had hoped. But I have been enjoying the snow while I've been waiting. This weekend we had an amazing snow fall. The kind that children dream of! So my cousins and I had a little photo session in true Ukrainian style....

"Baby it's cold outside!!"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Adventures in Kherson

Why is it then when we plan a trip to the orphanages in the Kherson region it seems to never go according to the plan? I've decided we should just stop planning anything as it never will turn out that way in the end! :) Last weekend we took the long 8 hour trek down to Kherson with the plan of visiting 4 orphanages and 2 trade schools that we have worked with over the years through summer camps and trips to the states.
We pulled in Friday night and immediately got in the Christmas spirit as we began wrapping the 120 children's Bibles and chocolates we had brought as gifts for 2 of the orphanages. Then the next morning we drove another 2 hours, to the village of Kolinenska where we had one of our camps this summer. I was really looking forward to this trip, specifically because one of the girls from that orphanage calls me at least 4 times a week, wondering WHEN we are coming for a visit?
However, upon arrival into our familiar little village, our hopes were quickly dashed when the director announced that a new H1N1 quarantine had begun and they could receive NO visitors!
Ummm not a part of the plan!! It didn't matter that we'd driven the 8 hours from Kiev or the extra 2 hours from Kherson, and it didn't matter that we came bearing gifts and a Christmas program...no, it didn't matter. The door was shut to us!!

Sometimes I have a hard time understanding why this stuff has to happen...especially when you know how sad the kids are as a result. For me it is just another reminder about what we are up against....sometimes it is just masked as the swine flu!

So after a few tears on behalf of our team (okay- mostly me)- we put smiles on our faces (and masks too) and went to the orphanage down the street instead- where we happen to know kids from a previous summer camp. Ironic that this director was willing to receive us despite the quarantine. We just had to adorn some cute masks first. So we did our Christmas program at this orphanage instead and picked up a few boxes of cookies on the way to help celebrate (we left the Bibles with our friend in the village to deliver to the first orphanage at a later date.) So we met some new sweet children and did the Christmas program for them. It still amazes me and breaks my heart that there are 2 orphanages in this small village of less then 2,000 people. Sadly, most of these kids are not registered to be adopted from what I understand because parental rights have not been removed. Oh this system!

The next day we were reunited with our kids in Stari Zburivka, another village in Kherson region. We did the same program for these kids and this time were able to distribute the gifts we had brought. They were very excited to unwrap their gifts and seemed excited to be given these beautiful Bibles and of course the chocolate too!

We've known the kids here for a little over 2 years, so it is amazing to see how some of them have grown and changed so much- while others seem about the same size. We talked to the director while we were there and it looks like we are going to be able to bring a group of 10 of these kids to Kiev for the Christmas holiday to stay with families from a church here, so we are very excited about this opportunity. Some of these kids have never even left the region of Kherson before! We are blessed to have a great relationship with the director there.

The rest of our reunion trip united us with the kids from our graduate orphan camp we had this past August. These kids are now studying in the trade schools in the region. We also saw some of the graduated kids who were in America with us two years ago. On one hand it was so good to see them all and get an opportunity to hang out with them and encourage them, but at the same time it is so hard to see the reality of their lives in these small villages and living in the dormitories. They are living in a true war zone for their very souls.

Our reunion meeting with the youth from camp

We were able to meet up with a pastor that is doing a weekly youth club in one of these trade schools (that we were able to attend) and I was so blessed to see his heart of service for these youth and his persistence in reaching out to them through bringing light into a very dark place. It is humbling to see his life in this village and his desire to remain for the very purpose of reaching these young people who are at a pivotal place in life and in need of so much guidance.

The youth group gathering at the dormitory in Lipitikha

Reunited with Yulia, Sasha and Igor, who were on our Christmas trip to the US in 2007.

We are planning another camp for the coming summer for graduated orphans in this region, so we pray that we can continue to encourage these young people and help them turn their hearts to the father of the fatherless. He is what gives me hope for them- the system here certainly does not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tis the Season...

So I decided that after 3 years of living in my apartment and not decorating for Christmas, it was high time I started! In reality this is the longest into December I've been here, which has made me a little stir crazy and ready to go home...but also more ready to embrace the Christmas season here!
So I decided to host a little Christmas party last weekend for some of my girlfriends here in Kiev. It was a fun time of baking and cooking and decorating to get my little place a little more Christmasy! And it turned out GREAT! Playing hostess is a new favorite pastime.
I am heading home to Seattle for Christmas celebrations soon! You can be praying I get on a flight on the 19th- which is what I've been trying to change my ticket to. Otherwise I'll be flying in on the 23rd. Either way...I'll be home for Christmas :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Deep Thoughts from Babushka...

Awhile back I was traveling in Eastern Ukraine with our concert team. One afternoon while I was sitting on an old log, enjoying the scenery around me, I see this little babushka come walking by. She sets herself down on the log next to me and I'm thinking to myself, oh, how sweet, the babushka wants to talk to me! So she sits, and I say hello and I'm prepared for some nice friendly Russian conversation with the sweet old woman.
She starts looking at me up and down, and then proclaims, "why, you have really big feet!"

Gee..thanks! And here I was thinking we would exchange our opinions about the weather! Glad this woman felt inclined to share with me what she was really thinking instead.

She got up a few minutes later and started hitting some dogs with a stick and yelling at them to get away.

Guess I'm lucky she just commented on my feet.

one of my friends captured the moment as it was happening!