Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More of Thee

For 2 weeks now I've been here in Farnham at Ellel. I've already been blown away by how BLESSED I am to be in this place in this time.  I have never been immersed in the Word of God as much as I currently am now and I find myself falling in love with scripture for perhaps the first time.

We have this amazing little stream that flows through the lower end of our property and we've been encouraged to seek out the Lord by the river there... I guess it is a place where many have heard that still small voice and have found comfort and even direction.

Last weekend I was by that stream praying and asking the Lord to speak. I'd been praying for quite awhile and just crying out to the Lord and waiting to hear something-- waiting for the still small voice.  Nothing.  I don't know what I wanted to hear but I longed for something more then the sound of my own breath. In that moment I turned my i-pod on shuffle and on came a song I'd never really listened to before. Do you ever have those moments when you feel like a song could not have been written for anyone other then you?  Because the words just speak to the core of what you are feeling.  Anyway, as I began to listen, the words of the song resonated so deeply and directly confirmed a lot of things I had felt the Lord has been speaking to my spirit lately.  Namely about the concept of Jesus increasing in my life and letting myself decrease.  Dealing with my own pride, my own selfishness-- you know, all the fun things I can see in the mirror when I'm being honest.

This thought of needing to die more fully to the things of 'self' has been weighing on my heart for the past several weeks.  As I listened to the words of the song and stared at the river stream gently flowing in front of me, the tears just began to flow from my eyes...

Friend for life
Who took my pain
The cleansing flood
You remain
Wash over me
Till I can't be seen

Living Water swallow me
Deepest river wash me clean
Jesus, Savior more of thee
Jesus, more of thee
Come and ruin me with Your love
So no other is enough
Come and leave Your mark on me
Jesus, more of thee
Jesus, more of thee 

Friend for life
I'll carry on
Through the power
Of this flood
Let it spill over, over
Till I can't be seen

Deep is the stain
Inside of me
But deeper the river
That washes me clean
I've been the one
Who cries in the night
But you've been
The friend of my life

Living Water swallow me
Deepest river wash me clean
Jesus, Savior more of thee
Jesus, more of thee
Come and ruin me with Your love
So no other is enough
Come and leave Your mark on me
Jesus, more of thee

(Friend for Life by Watermark)

So I write all this to say,  I am going to be taking a break from writing on this blog for a little while. As much as I'd love to use this as my processing point and share what God is teaching me here in England as it happens, I just have this conviction and sense that part of the dying to myself involves dying to things that can bring glory to myself.  And this is one of those things.  

"He must become greater; I must become less."  (John 3:30)

So I'm putting down my 'pen' so to say for a season.  I do hope to be back...but for now I just need to be a little nearer to the feet of Jesus and a little further from my computer.   

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Temporarily to be found drinking English Tea...

My English adventure has begun!! I arrived in London on Tuesday and have had a VERY full week prior to arriving at my ministry course today.

I was able to visit our CBN office in Hereford and meet our staff there, spend an afternoon in Oxford and then 2 days in London with my dear friend Jenny. I've been to England a couple of times before, but I just adore this country (apart from the effect it has on my wallet)! I have been enjoying the long walks through the various parts of London, hearing the English language all around me without needing to focus on what is being said, beautiful buildings, Starbucks coffee, shopping, and the multiple tea times per day!  I think I'm going to like it here...

My friend Jenny and I on a walk along the river...

I arrived in Farnham this afternoon, which is where I'll be for the next three months as I take part in stage one of the NETS course offered at Ellel Ministries Pierrepont.   Farnham is a small town about an hour south of London by train.

It is like a breath of fresh air out here in the English countryside and upon pulling up to this beautiful old English manor (pictured here) I felt an overwhelming sense of blessing as I stood back and took in the fact that this will be my home till Christmas time!

The vision of Ellel ministries is to bring healing and discipleship to the body of Christ and to do so through teaching on a wide range of subjects and offering prayer ministry in order to bring people into freedom and wholeness.  The ministry is based on Luke 9:11 in which Jesus welcomed the people, spoke to them about the kingdom of heaven and healed those who needed healing.  I'm not only excited for how this time will be used in my own personal life, but also how God will use it in my ministry with orphans in Ukraine.

There are 58 people in my stage of the course...from 25 different nations.  The age range is amazing too- we have people ranging from 18-65 in the course. I love the fact that I'll be studying among people of all ages and walks of life and it is truly a group full of so much life experience and wisdom.  It was amazing to sit through the introductions this evening and just hear a bit about where people are from and how God brought them to this time of study here at Ellel. I'm sharing a room with 8 women who are from 8 nations! Canada, Australia, Norway, Mexico, USA, Netherlands, Malaysia and Sierra Leone!  I think I'm in for a cultural education! :)

As many staff members and previous students shared tonight, they all said the same thing, "You'll never be the same after taking this course."   I can't say I have come here with a lot of expectations-- and change can always be a little scary-- but that statement which was spoken over and over again has left me very challenged and intrigued. I'm very excited to be here and see what the Lord has to show me and teach me-- and I know that change will ultimately come as I enter into a refining process.

I'm excited for this new journey.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Amidst heroes


My new friend Wendy-- super mom! :)
This week has been FULL and even better than has been FULFILLING!

 I had the joy of meeting with 7 different adoptive families...all in the last 7 days (this explains why my bags still aren't packed to leave on Tuesday)!  From all parts of the US, from all different back grounds, and adopting all different types of kids, I got to hear the hearts of these couples this week and I have been so blessed as a result.
2 threads linked these families together...their love of Christ and their adoption of Ukrainian children.  Some of these families were adopting their first children, others adding to their family, one family adopting HIV+ children and another 2 children with downs syndrome, one family adopting younger children and another adopting teens. All very different callings, and yet with one calling the come to Ukraine to bring their children home forever.

Lewis family with their 4 beauties 
 I had lunch with several of these families today after church and as I sat there amidst the chaos and noise of the restaurant (some of them being our screaming children)... I couldn't help but have this overwhelming sense of peace and excitement.  I was sitting amidst my heroes, and seeing people who get what James 1:27 is all about.  I couldn't think of a place I'd rather be.

I'm getting ready to leave this week for England for 3 months, and yet today as I sat amidst these heroes of the faith I felt more certain then ever of my calling to return to Ukraine.  It is an honor and a blessing to walk with and  encourage families like the ones I met today.  They are walking out their faith in such tangible way and it is chaining lives.

15.  That is the number of children that will be going home to their forever families in the next days and weeks.  15!

That is a pretty good start to denting the statistics I mentioned in my last post.

 There are about to be 15 less orphans in Ukraine...and that is a reason to rejoice today.

Holly and I at the orphanage- with princess Olivia

Holly and Jason with 1 of their 2 princesses- Natalia

Others are still waiting...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Stats on Ukrainian Orphans

Lately I've been reading various blogs and various websites and hear people making different statements about the "orphan situation" in Ukraine. I want to use this post to educate on some current stats and also help eliminate some of the twisted or unclear information that people often state as fact.

I'm not claiming to be an expert on statistics in anyway--but I'm drawing from the most current stats we use in our ministry that were gathered by the ministry of Family Youth and Sport in Ukraine and additionally gathered by some partners of ours in Kiev that did extensive research. The stats were taken in 2008, but are the most current that we have.

The most common statistic that is often quoted is that there are "100,000 orphans in Ukraine."  This statistic alone is quite misleading, as adoptive families come over and are shown very few children at the adoption department and are left thinking, "I thought there were 100,000 children in need of a good home, and now there seems to be hardly any!"

Let's shed some light on that stat of 100,000... 
According to government information there are officially 103,000 orphans and children deprived of parental care.  However this number can be misleading, as this includes the number of children that are in guardianship care, foster families, and living with relatives.  This is not the number of children living in orphanages.

30,000 children are being raised in state institutions for orphans and children deprived of parental care (11% of children are under 7 years old; 89% of children are between 7-18).  This number is also confusing, as this is the number of children living in the orphanages who have orphan status.  This means parental rights have been terminated and they are wards of the state.  In theory this should be the number of children registered and available for adoption. But this number is not a representation of the number of children who are currently living in the orphanage.  As many know, the number of children living in orphanages without official orphan status is very high. Sometimes as high as 50-60% in some orphanages.

The number that is lacking in all stats is the total number of children living in orphanages in Ukraine.  Because not all children who live in orphanage are classified as true orphans, they remain uncounted.  In reality the government should be able to have an accurate account of this number as we know that there are 275 state run orphan institutions in Ukraine (number from 2008)--however the amount of children being raised in those institutions does not seem to be public knowledge.

Clearing up old/wrong information...

I've heard quotes lately that there are 100,000 orphans living in orphanages and another X amount living on the streets because the orphanages are all full. This information is misleading and not correct.  The orphanages are far from over-crowded in Ukraine, if anything they are getting smaller as foster care is increasing and many have been closed as kids have been shifted.  Though there remain street children issues in Ukraine, the problem is much less severe than it was 10 years ago.  Kids on the street have either run away from orphanage situations or from negative home situations-- but it is not because orphanages are full.

Graduated orphans....

5-10 years ago it used to be that at the age of 16, orphans would be finished at the orphanage and turn to life on their own- who knows where,  with no money and no assistance in life. In the recent 3-5 years this situation has drastically changed.  Some orphanages have schooling till grade 9 whereas others have schooling to grade 11 (up to age 18 in some institutions).  Upon completion it is the director's responsibility to see that their graduates are placed in trade schools and technical colleges in the nearest region.  Though they are given almost no choice as to what education they'd like to receive, the cost of this education is covered by the government and they are given housing and a living stipend.  This stipend continues until they are 23 years old, as long as they continue to study.  The stipend varies and depends on the region and what is provided by the trade school.  So some trade schools provide clothing and food and a low stipend, and others provide a higher stipend and no food and clothing. Personally we know of kids getting 550 grivna--2,000grivna a month ($70-$250) depending on the region they live and the basic provisions of the trade school.

However, just because they are no longer "kicked out on the street" the situations surrounding their post orphanage life is not much brighter...

Consequences of being raised in an institution
Only 16% of orphanage graduates have families
Only 25% of orphanage graduates have stable employment
Only 1% of orphanage graduates obtain higher education (University)
Only 44% of orphanage graduates receive some kind of technical training (completion) 

What are children afraid of when they graduate from the orphanage?
76% of children are afraid to leave their institution
70 % believe that they will not be able to get a good education and obtain the profession of their dream
52 % are afraid that they will not have a place to live
54 %  are afraid that they will not have enough money for transport, food, and other necessities.
50% think that they will not be able to find a job
30%  are afraid that they will remain alone and have no support
27% are afraid they will succumb to bad influences
26%  are afraid of the negative attitudes towards themselves in comparison to “home” children 
10% are afraid to live with strangers (even if they are their relatives)
18%  have no clue what it is to live independently

These are all very troubling stats and remind us of the continued need to work with these youth.

In light of what is mentioned above, the statistics that give me hope for the growing orphan care movement in Ukraine are these:

28,500 Christian churches in Ukraine (9,700 of them protestant or evangelical)

Over 280 Christian missions

Over 400 Christian rehabilitation centers

I am very excited to share that there is a new movement among Christians in Ukraine surrounding adoption and orphan care.  My organization is partnering with about 5 other key organizations in Ukraine and Compassion International to host the 1st ever all National conference to launch an Aliance called "Ukraine Without Orphans."  The conference will be in November and we plan on having about 500 leaders, pastors and people passionate about caring for the fatherless in Ukraine.  The goal is to approach these issues before society and government as a united front and see drastic changes in the near future as the body of Christ raises up in Ukraine to protect the rights of the fatherless.

Good things are happening in keep praying!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Remembering Dasha

In the summer of 2003 I made my first trip over-seas, to Russia. It was a mission trip through my University and we spent 6 weeks outside of Moscow and in St. Petersburg working with an orphan ministry.  It was on that trip that I first stepped foot in an orphanage, first held an abandoned baby, first considered adoption and first was given a picture of God's heart for the fatherless.

7 years have passed, and yet there is one face that remains in my heart from that trip. It's a face that continues to look at me everyday, as I have her picture taped to the wall in my office.

It is the face of Dasha.

Dasha was probably about 10 months old when I met her in August of 2003. I only spent 2 weeks with this darling little baby, but her sweet smile took my heart from day one.  She would always be standing in the corner of her crib when we would enter the room (like she is pictured above) and her little face would light up when she saw us.  I would hold her for the afternoon and the second I would put her down she would start to cry.  I clearly remember that first day when we left the baby home and how I was overwhelmed with the emotions I was feeling at leaving little Dasha behind.  I cried a lot in that little room holding those babies.  I was thinking of all the ways I could sneak a child out of the baby home...and then out of the country!  Obviously this plan was never carried out. :)

7 years later I still look at that 10 month old picture of Dasha and I continue to pray for her.  It crosses my mind every once in awhile that she is no longer a baby and instead is now an 8 year-old little girl somewhere. I don't even know what she looks like.  My prayer continues to be that she is in a family and that she is being loved and that she is learning about Jesus.

I've often had this fantasy that maybe someday I would adopt an older child from Russia, and it would end up being Dasha, or that someday I'll be divinely connected with a family that already adopted her.

But until one of those two day-dreams comes true,  I'll keep praying for that sweet little baby I remember from the picture...her little brown eyes will forever be looking into mine, as they were this afternoon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Move over Katie Couric...

Okay- I know I'm not the next Katie Couric....but I did have my first live TV debut this past week- so I guess that is worthy of a blog post! And if one wouldn't be nervous enough to be on LIVE television in any situation, I had the challenge of doing this in Russian.  

My friend took a web-shot while we were live

There is a TV program that films live weekly out of our TV studio at our ministry office here in Kiev, and they were doing a special program that featured several topics focusing on America. Thus they decided they needed an American guest.  Here is where I enter the picture.  

I can't say I was thrilled to speak on behalf of 'America', but they were in a bind and said my level of Russian would suffice for the program.  Okay I thought to myself...why not add a little adventure to my life? Besides, if I make a complete fool of myself, at least it will only be seen by the Russian speaking world.

I was given a list of topics the night before (to be discussed in a format kinda like The View) and spent hours pouring over internet articles trying to obtain an educated opinion on the various themes to be presented...which were as follows:

1.) Where were you on 9/11 and what was your immediate reaction? (this one I found an easy one to sound intelligent on in Russian, as  I was in NY the week leading up to the attack and flew out on one of the last flights on the 10th-- that made for an interesting perspective!)

2.) The proposed building of the mosque near ground zero...and my personal thoughts

3.) The faith of President Obama (what does he really believe?)

4.) The life and beliefs of British Scientist Steven Hawking

5.) Father's Day in the world and the proposed implementation in Ukraine

6.) A group of orphans that climbed Mt. Rainier this summer with the host of the TV program (this was more of just a news piece then an actual discussion)

Ummm yep- talk about a RANDOM smattering of topics to be covered in a 60 minute program.  4 men, and me, the American girl.  :)

I was stressed out all day leading up to the show. First, I was stressed about making a million grammatical mistakes (despite what you may think, I am far from fluent), second about saying something stupid, and third, and most important, about what shoes and dress pants to wear!! I mean, a girl has to look her best on TV, right??  So after careful consideration I picked out a very cute pair of black shoes and my dark pair of 'skinny' jeans-- thinking that this combination with my white shirt and blazer would make for a nice dressy casual look--professional, but relaxed...  

And wouldn't you know it...I sat behind a desk the whole time! :) Vanity...vanity....all is vanity!

All in all the program went great.  I avoided saying something totally stupid, I was understood, and I managed NOT to spill the glass of water that was placed to my left (another fear once the camera started rolling!)  I actually had a bit of fun and forgot about the fact that we were being filmed!

For those of you that will be amused at watching me banter in Russian with 4 Ukrainian can click on the link below.  You will recognize words such as "America," "Papa," and "Obama"  :)

Don't worry...I won't give up my day-job...not just yet anyway! :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Glimpses of answered prayer

Meeting Anya in Dec '09

Last December I met a 14-year-old girl named Anya. From the moment I met her, I couldn't get Anya out of my mind.  

We were visiting her orphanage in Kolininska to put on a Christmas program- but in reality we weren't even supposed to be at her orphanage that day- we were supposed to be at the other one in the same village-- the one that at the last minute decided not to let our team come in!  We were quite upset not getting to visit the kids we knew- but decided since we'd come all that way we might as well put on the planned program at the orphanage down the road.... Anya's orphanage.

Anya was super cheerful and came up to me right after our program finished. She seemed very excited to meet an American, as she really wanted to learn English.  As we talked I learned that her younger brother had been adopted abroad- to where she was not sure. Anya also expressed her desire for a family.  The whole time we were talking I was racing through my mind and trying to think of possible families that I know who would be interested in adopting a girl Anya's age. She had stolen my heart within 10 minutes.  

I quickly took down her birthdate and name and made a mental note that I would have a friend of mine check on her adoption status, to see if she was available.  I came back to Kiev and couldn't get her out of my head! I felt like maybe God had us go to that orphanage so I could meet Anya- so I could tell her story and so that she could have a family. So I prayed for that family- and that they would be found. however, I was hesitant to say anything about Anya, as I was waiting to find out her status and didn't want to get my hopes up- incase she wasn't available.  

Winter and spring passed and I was still not able to obtain the information about Anya's availability and as summer began I learned that I would need to write an official letter and submit it to the adoption department to receive an official letter in response.  I remember thinking, I'll do this when summer is over and I have more time and can find a family to write the letter.

This brings me back to our most recent summer camp. At camp I met a girl named Lena. I wasn't initially drawn to her, but as I watched her hang out on the outside of the group and not really 'fit in' to what was going on, I decided to get to know her a bit. 

With Lena at camp in August
One afternoon we were sitting and talking for awhile and she was sharing about her life and how she ended up in the orphanage. Sadly, yet another story of family alcohol abuse, poverty and broken relationships. She then shared about how God had given her a best friend at the orphanage, and how this friend had been the kind of friend you tell your secrets to, the kind you cry with and that understands you. This friend's name was Anya.

 Lena talked about how things were harder right now for her, because Anya was adopted 3 months ago and now Lena didn't have a close friend. 

Suddenly it hit me that Lena was from the same orphanage as the Anya that I had met in December...suddenly the pieces were falling into place.  I asked her the last name of Anya.....and yes- sure enough, it was the very same Anya I had met and had prayed for- the Anya that I had prayed would be given a family.

I sat there, my eyes welling up with tears, simply overwhelmed with God's goodness in showing me this answer to prayer. He didn't have to show me this. I could have just let my glance pass by Lena when I saw her, and not talk to her at all, as I did with other kids at our camp.  But instead the Lord put Lena in my path, and as a result allowed me to be given a glimpse of how he is faithful to answer prayer!  I am humbled.

I reflected over the course of the last 6 months and how I had never been able to find out about her availability and had never told any potential families about Anya. Instead, God had already been at work and had a family picked out for her!  

The story is even better, as I learned that it wast a solid Christian Ukrainian family that adopted Anya.  Apparently the family had adopted another child already, but then the mother was given a strong impression from the Lord to adopt again, specifically an older girl- and when they saw Anya's picture- they knew immediately it was her!  Wow.

God is so faithful. 
Prayers are heard....and answered!

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

" Psalm 10:14

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Ultimate Gift...the Ultimate Camp

So I’ve been back in Kiev for about a week and have been procrastinating in writing anything about our most recent camp! The reality is that when I come back there are so many thoughts, so many moments, so many stories, that I really don’t even know how to begin to process them all or begin putting them into succinct words.  Instead I just avoid writing anything at all!

I’ll use this post as a general summary of our time and then write some more personal accounts later on--I think the writing process will serve as therapeutic for me!

We had 78 youth between the ages of 15-19 attend the 10-day camp that took place on the Azov Sea.  We had anticipated more of the youth being repeats from last year, but I think there were only about 8 or so that were returners.  On one hand this was disappointing, as we weren't able to follow-up with as many as we had hoped, but the advantage was we were able to recycle more games and activities from last year!

our poster displaying the 9 'gifts' we gave at camp
Using the themes from the movie “The Ultimate Gift” worked out really well and provided us with good subject matter for morning discussions, evening teachings and even helped inspire some of the daily games. 

The kids were in for a real shock on the first morning when we surprised them with the “Gift of Work” by having them get up at 6:45 and do some manual labor on the beach!!  I’m sure they were thinking, ‘how did we end up here??’  However when we showed the corresponding clip from the movie later that day, all ruffled feathers seemed to be gone and they understood the gift they were being given—to value work and to work hard.  

We had an amazing donation made by the website affiliated with the film, which allowed us to present all the youth with a bracelet memento that held charms that represented each of the days’ themes/gifts.  They all were thrilled about getting the bracelet, and loved the practicality of being able to look at the charms and remember what they learned about work, friendship, gratitude, giving, problems, love, and other ‘gifts’ we presented them with throughout the week.

We didn’t do a traditional “alter call” this year, as many of these youth regularly attend events put on by our partner ministry, Agape and almost expected this.  Instead we gave the youth concrete challenges throughout the week and encouraged them to talk to their leader or our main pastor if they were ready to accept Christ and desired for Jesus to direct their lives. As a result of not doing the alter call we didn’t have the ‘masses’ as we did last year flock forward (and then turn away 2 months later), but there were about 7 or 8 teens that took the step in talking to their leader and prayed to accept Christ.  I know many many more were open to hearing about God, and made steps in His direction.
Youth at the evening program 

Any way I look at it, this was a tough group to work with.   If you take a group of  15-19 year olds that grew up in 'normal' families, that would be a challenge in itself….but when you take kids who spent the majority of their lives in an institution,  it is another story all together.  We had girls present who have had multiple abortions,  girls that were pregnant, one with a baby, youth that have been addicted to smoking since the age of 9, youth that were sexually abused by relatives or others in the orphanage, and those that have undergone regular abuse by caregivers.  And our task is to 'reach' them.  To show them that Jesus is relevant in their matter what they have come out of.  It really is a challenge.  The encouraging thing to know is that ultimately it is not up to us or how hard we try.  God is faithful and I saw that even through the transformations that began to take place throughout the camp.

Lena doesn't want to say goodbye!
We always joke that they cry when they come and they cry when they leave.  And that is truly what happened again this year.  We witnessed amazing changes take place in their hearts and in their characters, in just 10 days!  When they all collectively piled off the bus on day 1 there were looks of angst and fear and the desire to flee. However on the last evening, as we were all gathered around the camp fire, person and after person would share about how they came with one expectation (negative) and are now leaving with great appreciation for all  that they learned.  Many were saying that they didn't want to leave at all! They expressed deep love and admiration toward all their leaders and our camp staff.  

When it came time to leave on the last day, the same kids who had been in tears when they arrived were tearful again as they hugged their leaders goodbye.  "You really showed us what true love and care are this week, and I won't ever forget that.  I'm sorry it took me a few days to recognize it for what it was," said one girl on the final evening as the microphone was passed around the camp fire.
enjoying the sunrise on the final morning
These camps are hard. Plain and simple.  As a team we average about 5 hours of sleep each night and are faced with some of the most challenging 'kids' we've ever met and all the issues they bring with them.  But no matter how hard it is, I still see a great need for this specific type of outreach and the follow-up that goes with it.  We are planting seeds and I know that in many of these youth these seeds are taking root.   No not all of them...but then again, we never really know.

 "That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear."  
Matthew 13: 1-9

Let your prayer be that they will not only have listened, but they will have truly heard.

*An extra special thank you to Orphan's Promise, Northshore Baptist Church and all of you individuals who gave to make this camp possible!  

Some photo highlights....

my team of singing boys (after a week of english lessons)!

our amazing team of volunteers!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And one more camp to finish summer!!

I leave tonight on the train for our final summer camp of the season!  I can't believe how fast this summer has flown by. Looking back I had this long list before me of events, places to go and people to connect with and now it's hard to believe that I'm facing the final activity of this very much planned out summer!
We'll be traveling to the Zapporozha region of Ukraine where we will hold a 10 day camp for graduated orphans on the Azovske Sea.  This is the same place where we held this camp last year and we will have many returning campers.  We expect about 70 kids between the ages of 17 and 22!  Yes, I guess we should use the word 'kids' loosely!  The majority of them are all graduates of orphanages in the Kherson region and are now attending trade schools in the region.

last year's group

Please keep our team and these youth in your prayers! It is a fantastic opportunity to get to share with them about the Lord and just love them where they are at in life--and have lots of fun while doing so.  Our theme for the camp will be following the subject matter from the movie "The Ultimate Gift"- which is a movie I'd recommend checking out if you haven't already!!

When I get back from camp I'll have a month to tie up things in Ukraine and put life "in order" (don't know if that every really happens) and then I'll be on my way to England.

Look forward to sharing more when we return....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If it takes my fleeting breath

The friends that are staying with me right now showed me this music video that a friend of there's did as he was waiting to bring his son and daughter home from Haiti. He is the singer and the songwriter. Such a powerful message and speaks to the heart of those waiting to bring their forever children home. Felix and Heidi- I first thought of you when I saw this are fighting the fight...even if takes your fleeting breath and I pray it means you will be bringing Z home very soon!!
Take a few minutes to watch this video and then pray for the waiting families and children in Ukraine and other places around this globe.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New friends...

One of the things I love about living amidst the international community and adoption community in Ukraine is that I continually get to meet new people, and as a result I often make new life long friends! It's a very transient community over here among internationals and it always amazes me how you can develop friendships so quickly--maybe because you have to!   For those of you who have lived any amount of time in a different country, you understand how refreshing it can be to spend time with other people from your home country- and find some bit of normalcy. For me it is a double blessing when these people are also passionate about Jesus and adoption!!

One such couple was recently brought into my life. Jason and Holly have been in Ukraine for the past month pursuing adoption, and our paths crossed through some connections in this ever so entangled blogging world in which I write! :)

I met Jason, Holly and their adorable son Jacob for dinner a little over a week ago, and after spending a couple times hanging out with them, I did what you do with most perfect strangers-- invited them to live with me for awhile!! :)   And they did what you do when an almost stranger offers such a proposal-- they accepted.  So- meet Jason, Holly and Jacob- my new roommates for the week! This couple has been on quite an adoption roller-coaster already and have had to remain in Kiev longer than most--hence their readiness to accept my offer.  To read more about their story you can visit their blog. 

It has been great getting to know them and hearing their story about how the Lord led them to the adoption journey in Ukraine.  We've had several late nights around the dinner table talking about all things Ukraine, adoption, missions, books, the Bible, and following Jesus.  I've also gained a new appreciation for Texas in the meantime! Please keep Holly and Jason in prayer today and tomorrow as they will be having their very important final meeting at the adoption department and are needing the Lord's peace and guidance about the child(ren) they will be adding to their family.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fun at home

In July I was able to make a quick trip home to see my family and friends and participate in my cousin Julie's wedding.  As always my time at home seems to fly by and I never get to see all the people I want to or visit all the places I intend! There is just never enough time to get it all in!! But I count it as a blessing to get to visit once or twice a year- and I am so grateful for that!  Here are some of the fun moments captured while at home....

cutest little nephew ever!  Caleb-28 months

Julie and Lucas Johnson!

It was so fun to be a part of my cousin Julie's wedding-- we've been dear friends since childhood and have really grown up together and walked through life together- even though we've never lived by each other. It was awesome to see God bring this beautiful couple together and just see his faithfulness!  I was very blessed to get to spend this special day with them and all the fun that came in the days leading up to it!


my lovely family at the wedding!
always fun taking a family picture with a 2 year-old!

Amber and I have been friends since 3rd grade and have seen each other through so much of life!  She has two beautiful children and after missing both births, I was able to celebrate her daughter Hallie's first birthday- which was a wonderful day at Green Lake park.  As you see pictured, I like to use Caleb as my loaner kid!  It was fun to have my beautiful sis-in-law and Caleb get to attend the party as well!

Many of you may remember the story of Oskana being adopted in 2009, by the Jones family- from my home church.  I was able to spend a day with them at the zoo- which was very fun! It still amazes me the miracle God did to bring her home and she is turning into such a beautiful girl!  It is always a treat to get to hang out with the Jones when I'm in town and catch up on all things 'Ukraine'! :)
Annamarie and I have been friends since SPU days and she is now the mother of 3 amazingly sweet children.  The 3rd of which was born while I was home. It is always fun to get to time my trips with the birth of new babies.  Audrey Joy is a beautiful addition to the Windham family! 

And yes-- I did manage to take countless pictures of my nephew while I was home!  This is a favorite! :)