Thursday, May 26, 2011

While I was out...

So if you've noticed I never posted the follow-up to my last post...that is because I just 'stepped out' for a couple weeks! (I promise I'll post it soon!)

I headed off to Athens and the Greek Isles for 9 days with my meet my Greek roots and take a little 'time out' :)  (my great-grandfather immigrated from Greece).

This has been one of my 'dream trips' for quite some time, so it was very exciting to take this adventure and to do so with two of my most favorite and dad.

we explored Athens

ate a Greek salad just about everyday!

Enjoyed the sites of Mykinos
amazing sunsets!

beautiful churches

wonderful parents

volcano views!

And just plain relaxed!
I read 4 books! Don't remember the last time I read even one!  It was a great break...but I've returned to a bit of 'crazy' here in Kiev!  Lots going on as the summer season begins and we prepare for a conference, two camps, two hosting programs brining 23 kids to the US and many adoptive families traveling over to Kiev!  Alright, enough play...time to get back to work.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Adoption Summit

Last weekend I had the privilege of being a part of the organizational team behind a national adoption summit through the Alliance, "Ukraine without Orphans."  This is a new national movement that is gaining momentum as Christian organizations, churches and individuals partner together for a common goal---a Ukraine without orphans.  The goal of our adoption summit last weekend was to gather key individuals from every region of Ukraine and come together to strategize about the work that needs to be done at the local and national level to ensure that waiting children are placed in homes and that the church is being encouraged, mobilized and equipped to adopt Ukrainian children.  

We had about 60 people in attendance, representing over half of the regions of Ukraine.  Many of the people attending were either adoptive parents themselves, Christian social workers, or adoption advocates in their perspective regions.

  On the last day, the group stood in a circle and shared what had been meaningful about the weekend-- and I wish I could better describe the gratitude that was expressed. It was clear that this is a dynamic group of passionate individuals and that this summit helped bring them the encouragement and strategy they needed to keep running the race.  

When it came to my turn to share, I told the group that I was honored to be apart of the summit, and that I could say with joy that 'I am not needed here.'  This doesn't mean that I have plans to pack up my bags and leave Ukraine, but there was something very humbling about being the only 'foreigner' amidst a group of nationals and to see them praying, planning and dreaming about what God has next for Ukraine in the realm of adoption and orphan care. I've truly seen Christians come a long way in the last 6 years in their relationship towards adoption.  What an answer to prayer!

I have a bunch of new adoption statistics (domestic and foreign) for Ukraine from 2010 and I will do my best to post those soon, as I know they will be interesting to the international adoption community--just need to translate them first.

Stay tuned...

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Picture of Restoration

Ever since I moved into my new apartment, this ugly piece of furniture has been staring at me in my bedroom.  I had goals of doing something to it-- but didn't quite know what...or how to begin!  Well, my best-friend in Seattle has been blogging lately about all her 'restoration' projects-- where she finds seemingly useless or ugly stuff and revitalizes it into works of art.  She was the beginning of my inspiration. 

 I too love the idea of taking something meant for the good-will (which by the way doesn't exist here) and seeing it repurposed with beauty....  

On Easter morning I had new house guests arrive to my hospitality house (aka my apartment!).  Rhonda and her newly adopted 16-year-old daughter Kasey, arrived at my home a little weathered from their lack of sleep on the over night train. It was clear from the moment Kasey walked in that she was a girl in grief. Though excited to be adopted to America (where she had been hosted 3 times) there was a deep sadness in saying goodbye to her homeland and her friends--everything that was familiar.  We sat through a silent breakfast of sorts, Kasey doing all she could to hold back her tears...which ended up flowing by the end of the meal.  Her mother also struggled, not knowing what to do to comfort her daughter, who so clearly was struggling with a variety of emotions.   I told Kasey that what she was feeling was normal and in reality really healthy, as it means she had real relationships-- and that was a gift.  I told her she could cry as much as she wanted....and she took me seriously.  We got through the day and by the end of it things were looking a little brighter than they had in the morning.

The next day I had off work, and decided it was time to tackle the 'restoration' project.  I hadn't anticipated having help, but before I knew it, mother and daughter were by my side helping me sand down the wood and then begin painting.  

Something amazing happened as we began to strip away the layers of the old shelf.  Kasey began to relax and talk. Before I knew it, we were laughing and joking and she was asking me questions about my life and sharing a bit about hers.  As we worked together throughout the morning I began to see life being restored to the sad girl who had entered my apartment the day before--it seemed a full transformation.  With paint brushes in our hands I saw an old Ukrainian bookcase being transformed into something lovely and I saw a glimpse of what God intends for an orphaned Ukrainian girl-- full restoration.

Restoration is an interesting process-- it isn't just one quick paint job to fix something.  After we had finished the coat of paint and let it dry, we pulled out the sand paper and then sanded it again. The second time that we sanded allowed us to strip the bookcase again, to give it an antique look, and to make it porous to absorb the final gloss I would then apply to give it the final finish.  And when we added the gloss it filled in the gaps beautifully. The roughed up parts that remain have this unique quality- giving the whole piece character.

With adoption, I think sometimes we see the restoration part as taking the kids out of the orphanage. But in reality that is just the first coat of paint.  You can fool a lot of people from the outside with new clothes and a happy family photo-- but it is the deeper sanding, or refining that needs to take place-- the layers that must be stripped away so that restoration can take place.  And sandpaper really doesn't sound very good when it is in your fact it really hurts my ears. But it is amazing the difference it makes.

I love that the Lord allowed me to work on this project with Kasey. I didn't know she would be with me that day, and yet it worked out that she was.   As we painted, it was as if God was giving me a picture of what adoption is about....what it means to see beauty from the ashes. And it really does take work- and time.  I only wish it could be as quick as restoring  an old bookcase.

As I walk into my bedroom now, the first thing I see is this  beautiful piece of furniture.  A piece of furniture that many would have discarded. But I am glad I gave it a chance. It will forever be a visual reminder of one girl, on her path to restoration.

The LORD will guide you always; 
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land 
and will strengthen your frame. 
You will be like a well-watered garden, 
like a spring whose waters never fail. 
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins 
and will raise up the age-old foundations; 
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.