Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hopelessness & HOPE

I love encouraging stories. 
Stories that leave you with hope. 
Stories that show your work really does make a difference.
Who doesn't enjoy these kind of stories?

Working with orphans, namely older orphans in Ukraine, doesn't always lend to having uplifting stories to tell. I could probably write a book on the sad stories I've heard-- anyone who has spent more than a day in an orphanage probably could as well.

I have two stories to tell...one that leaves me with an empty feeling inside and tempted to give into hopelessness, and the second that reminds me of how God is at work, a story that allows me to not let hopelessness prevail but to cling tightly to the opposite.

I think this is the balance that I need to remind myself of, hopelessness in this world that propels us into the arms of God. A God who gives us Hope.

"That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe."  1 Timothy 4:10

One evening I was sitting in the meeting hall where we gathered for our nightly meetings during our recent 10-day camp.  I had my computer open and a small group of kids were surrounding me, kids who had attended a camp we had put on about 4 years ago in Kherson. I opened up the picture file from that camp and started to scroll through the pictures, bringing back all the fun memories. I was amazed at how the 3 kids sitting by my side had changed in the last 4 years. Sweet Tanya had gone from a 12-year-old tomboy without too many cares, to a 16-year-old young woman, scared to face the world beyond the orphanage walls.

As I scrolled through the pictures with the few kids by my side, the happy memories seemed to quickly fade.  With each face that would pop up on my computer screen, Tanya had a comment to go with each one....

She just had a baby

She just had an abortion

Oh that girl....she was murdered

Had a baby


He's gone



Had a baby

Had an abortion


With each picture that passed, pictures containing happy smiling faces, my heart began to break as I learned the reality of their stories only 4 years later.  Either taken into a family (praise the Lord) or a tragic story.  This encounter left me asking a lot of questions. 

Is what we are doing making a difference?
How do we protect these kids?
How can we help them in a way that will last?
God, how will you save these kids???
Is there any sense to continue???

I know I can ask questions till I turn blue in the face. The reality is that these questions won't get me too far.  I know that Jesus was willing to go for the one--To leave the 99 to find the 1.   I have to be willing to do the same.

"Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."  Romans 8:24-26
3 faces gave me hope while we were in Odessa.

The faces of Yasha, Nadia and Sergei.

These 3 young people were at our camp last year and/or the year before.  These were 3 very tough individuals.  All 3 grew up in the orphanage, all 3 have difficult stories to tell, and yet thanks to the grace of God, all 3 are currently walking out their own process of redemption.

After our camp last year, these three were connected with a local partner ministry of ours, who started to pour into the lives of these young people and show them what it looks like to walk out a relationship with Jesus.  They are currently living in a transition home for aged out orphans and are being discipled by mature believers.  I was overwhelmed to see the transformation that is taking place. The difference that a year can make.

I say is taking place, because it has become so apparent to me that it's a process.  There is a reason that Paul says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philipians 2:12).  He understood that sanctification is a process.  That is what these youth are learning as well. 

They came to our camp this year as 'helpers'-- perhaps not quite ready to be launched into full leadership, yet were given responsibility far above what they'd been given before. It was amazing to watch them shine in these new roles- to see them getting excited about being in charge of things, helping create games and knowing that we were depending on them-- that we were letting them spread out their wings a bit. 

During one of the sessions, with tears in his eyes, Yasha shared a piece of his testimony to a room full of captive listeners.  He shared about how Jesus was changing him.  Choking back tears he shared about who he would have become- about who he was on the road to becoming if he had not met Christians who had come along side him and introduced him to his Heavenly Father.  His own father had left him, but he had learned of a Father that would never leave him, and never forsake him. Through his relationship with Jesus he was given hope that he could change.  That he wouldn't have to end up like his parents or his brother.

There weren't many dry eyes in the room when Yasha had finished speaking.

"The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him." Lamentations 3:25

Like I said...there are plenty of reasons to give into hopelessness around here.  I could dwell on the stories that Tanya shared as we looked at the photographs and I could throw my hands up in the air and be done-- because really, what's the point?

OR..... I can choose to remember the stories like that of Yasha, Nadia and Sergei. I can choose to focus on what God IS doing in this nation, how he is speaking to the hearts of his children and how he is using those who are willing to follow him.

I think I'm going to go with the second option.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  
Hebrews 10:23

1 comment:

Chris and Monique... said...

Karen, you are a blessing and a shinning example of Gods love and faithfulness. We all want to see hearts changed in great numbers but often the change is seen in one who reaches two that reaches four that reaches sixteen. Even thow in your story I see only three lives changed, it is God who sees their childrens children's children growing up in godly homes. Or maybe they reach a couple who reaches another and another and another. I don't see three, I see hundreds possibly thousands changed or affected because you and others were willing to hope. We will probably never know how far the seeds you have planted will grow but God does. May God richly bless you, as you continue to pursue God and walk in obedience. Thank you for the love you showed us and our new kids. It will never be forgotten. Blessings, Chris Green