Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Recent Life Skills training

Last week we held a 4-day training for our life skills curriculum here in Kiev and had 19 volunteers go through the course. This is the training we hold twice a year for people from throughout Ukraine who are already doing work with orphans (or graduated orphans) or who desire to begin work in this area and are looking for more resources and education.

I am always amazed how this course turns out!! Just when we think we don't have enough people signed up to put on the training, the last hour chimes and the phone starts ringing! We had people from 6 different regions of Ukraine in attendance and even one woman from Moldova. As always I was humbled and encouraged by their stories of how timely this training was for their perspective ministries. Several people mentioned how they were getting ready to write such a material and then they learned of our material and training! Such a direct answer to prayer!
Among our group of volunteers we had former drug addicts, those who had served time in prison, foster moms, pastors, and students! Talk about a group with a lot of interesting stories and experiences! It was awesome getting to hear their various stories and hear how they came to know the Lord, how their lives were transformed and how they are now serving others- namely orphans.

This was also the first training where I was able to do some teaching. Usually I'm just in charge of the organizational aspects of these trainings, but this time I was recruited to teach some of the sample lessons. My favorite of course was when I did the lesson on 'bad habits' and was able to demonstrate that smoking a cigarette is like inhaling chemicals for cleaning and finger-nail polish remover! Similar chemicals are used in both. Activities like these are used to give them ideas of creative demonstrations for their youth. They got a kick out of watching me 'smoke'!

We are very excited that 19 more people are now equipped with this training and material to take into the orphanages throughout Ukraine!! To date we have trained nearly 500 people from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Romania, Kazakhstan and Moldova with this curriculum. Our next training will be in Western Ukraine in May.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sweet Reunion

Last weekend I traveled south with 3 friends to reconnect with some of the kids who were at our July camp in the Nikolaev region. The kids we came to visit live in 2 different orphanages in the region. We had promised all fall that we would come...and it always feels great to keep a promise!

The visits were short, but I have to say the 9 hour train ride and 11 hour bus ride home were worth the sweet hugs and smiles we received. I think what will never cease to blow my mind is how much these simple visits mean to them. I use the word kids loosely too, as Lina is already 18. And yet at 18 she still held on tightly to me and cried as we said our goodbyes.
For those of you that remember, Lina
was the girl I wrote about this last August, the girl who I was able to pray with and who I was able to give a Bible to. She has a very sweet and gentle spirit and just a heart to love others- which is so apparent in the way all the little kids in the orphanage come running up to her and throw their arms around her! Please keep Lina in your prayers and that she will continue to seek out a deeper understanding of what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. She has such a tender heart and great dreams for her future, so I am really praying she will be used by God.

And since this is Ukraine, we did manage to add a little bit of drama on our weekend trip as well. We showed up at the second orphanage on Sunday (after riding on a bus 5.5 hours to get to the middle of nowhere location) and were planning on spending the afternoon hanging out with girls that my friend Yulia had gotten to know from her group at the camp. But there was a little bit of a mix-up in the fact that the director wasn't made aware of our arrival and thus after 30 minutes of hanging out with the girls we were kicked out. So sad! I know the directors have the right to decide who does and who doesn't get to be on their territory, but given the fact that we had come all the way from Kiev I thought she might have a little bit of mercy.

But again, this is Ukraine. Mercy not usually given.

But I have to say the 30 minutes we spent with the girls were very precious and so were all the smiles the kids had when they realized how far Yulia had come to see them. So we said our quick goodbyes, handed out a few gifts as the director gazed on with her eyes that seemed to say, 'I told you to leave!' and headed back from whence we came. We trekked back down our deserted road in the middle of nowhere and found a bus to take us to another little town where we could catch another 6 hour bus back to Kiev. All in a day's work I must say!

Anyone considering a visit anytime soon?? I promise there is always some adventure waiting to happen around here! Not to mention some pretty sweet kids who are sure to make you fall in love with them real fast.

Great place to wait for a bus...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

And another goes home...

I first met this spunky, lively little girl named Rimma in 2007 when we brought a group of orphans from Kherson to Virginia and Colorado with the Shoemaker play. She was one of those heart stealing type of girls. She was 11 years old, bounced off the walls and had a smile that melted the hearts of all she met- including me. She had a sassy side too, which kept you on your toes, but I could tell this was a girl determined to find herself a family, along with her friend Zina. So it was no surprise when she won the hearts of Felix and Heidi Roge instantly! Their hearts ached when they learned that Rimma wasn't registered for international adoption...but they didn't let that stop them and they fought the fight that very few are willing to take on-- the Ukrainian 'system'! It has been quite a journey for them to bring her home...over 2 years of waiting to be exact. But with great joy I can now say that Rimma's long wait is finally realized and she has gone home to her forever family in Colorado!! Yesterday Rimma landed on American soil and was officially stamped to become an American citizen!

Felix and Rimma stayed with me in Kiev this past week as they were finishing up everything at the US embassy. It was so special to have that time with them and to reminisce about the past two years and all that has transpired
to get them to this point. I've seen a lot of kids adopted over the years and I have to say I'm really touched and blessed by Rimma's perspective. This week as we were sitting around the kitchen table she shared her heart and said, "you know, I've seen a lot of kids go to America because they think they'll have a better life, more money, and more opportunities. And I know that I'll have those things...but honestly the only reason I ever wanted to go to America was so that I would have a family to love me and to support me....I've never had that. I've never had that kind of love." From the mouth of a 13-year-old. Felix and I told her to remember that perspective when things get hard...because there will be hard moments for sure. Rimma truly see's the Lord's hand in her adoption process even throughout the past two years of waiting. A lot of wisdom for a 13-year-old in my opinion. So proud of you Rimma!

The faith journey continues for the Roge family as they wait out the next year to bring home their second daughter, Zina, who they met along with Rimma in 2007. Zina is still waiting out the 'system' so that she will be available for international adoption. Zina is another young lady wise beyond her years, clinging to faith that yes- this adoption will happen!
Our prayer is that at this time next year (if not before!) there will be one more smiling Roge daughter entering through the immigration line at the Denver airport!

If you want to follow the Roge's journey click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Street dog challenge....

Ahhh how can I live in Ukraine and not give at least one 'shout out' to the street dogs? I have this mixed feeling of hate and pity towards the poor creatures.
Yesterday I was on a walk and came across the sorry pack of dogs pictured above...apparently trying to curl up to get warm. Guess they didn't realize that curling up closer creates warmth!

So here is your street dog many street dogs can you count in this picture? Post your answer in the comment section.