Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baby Savannah

I have much on my mind as a result of our camp in the village last week- and I will make some space here to process that soon....but in the mean time I need to brag on my baby niece who decided to make her appearance into the world 3 weeks early (of course while I was away from all forms of communication in a village and had no idea-- I came home to the exciting news!)

This is the first baby girl in our family so it was very exciting to anticipate her arrival.  While I was home  I got to attend 3 baby showers for my sis-in-law-- one of which my mom and I threw together. And since this baby has to know where her Auntie spends most of her time-- I decided that the theme should be no other than Matryoshka dolls! Yep-- it was a down right matryoshka doll fest--complete with a take a way doll for everyone! It was a lovely afternoon of celebrating my beautiful sis-in-love, Heather :)

 I was also able to take some maternity shots for them to capture their last few weeks as a family of three and their anticipation of meeting baby girl.  I'm trying to work on my photography skills lately- so they were willing to be my subjects!

And here is how she looks on the outside....when she made her appearance on August 24th! Welcome to the world Savannah are already so loved!  It's moments like these that make it hard being so far away from home...

Savannah and Nana 

the proud Auntie,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On the road again...

There isn't much rest around here!  We made it safely back to Ukraine and the kids arrived back to their orphanage and then after a couple days rest, were headed out to a camp on the sea where they will finish up their summer.

I too am off for our final camp of the summer!  I leave in the morning for the Kalinensko orphanage in the Kherson region.  This will be my 3rd summer with this group of children, so I'm excited to see them all again and reconnect with the girls who I began relationships with last year.   I have to say I'm still a bit exhausted from the trip to the US- so please pray I have the energy needed to pour more into these sweet kids.

2010 camp in Kalinensko

We've already had a lot of changes with our team who will be serving at this camp- so please keep us in your prayers as we sort through the various responsibilities of who will be doing what and ultimately that we will be effective in our ministry with the kids.  Also pray for unity and understanding among us- as there will be 15 of us living in a two room house! If that doesn't say community living....I don't know what does! :)

I will look forward to sharing more when I return at the end of the month!

Hard to believe that this is the summer wrap up. Amazing how time always seems to go by so fast...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Goodbyes & Thank You's

It is so so so hard to believe that this hosting trip is coming to an end and we fly back to Ukraine tomorrow! (Still dreading the goodbyes at the airport tomorrow morning!)  It has been a very full, very blessed 3 weeks with the kids in my home state of Washington!  The sun may have not shown its face much while we were here-- but our kids were smiling.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who gave of their time and energy and finances to make this trip possible! It really was the fulfillment of a big dream of mine and a LOT of prayer. Above all thank you to the host families who received these kids with open hearts and open arms-- you have given these kids one unforgettable summer.

Please keep us in your prayers as we fly back to Kiev-- let's pray it is a little less dramatic than our entry in to the USA!!

For those of you who gave to make this trip possible-- see the smiling faces of gratitude below...

As they said above...THANK YOU!

** For those that have inquired about availability of these kids- please email me directly.  It looks like several of these kids may be adopted into families as a result of this hosting program, but I will not post details about that at this time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mountain Tops & Meltdowns

We have been wrapping up our activities here in Washington with a very full calendar! Last week we had a game night/gospel presentation at our church, a hike through the mountains and a BBQ in the park!  It is hard to believe that our time here is winding down and we will be saying our 'dasvidanyas' on Thursday!   Tonight will be our farewell dinner along with making photo/memory albums.

Last Friday our families and kids met at Tiger Mountain, a great day excursion here in the Pacific Northwest. After a walk about through the woods on a fairly easy trail, we all settled down for our picnic lunches.  It is always fun to see the kids switching snacks and comparing family meals!  After lunch most of the families decided it was time to head home, but a few of us 'braver souls' decided we would take a more challenging treck up one of the trails that actually had an incline!  So our little group of about 10 set out bound for the trail.  Well, we started to anyway.

About 2 minutes into our hiking adventure, one of our 'angel girls' (as I will refer to her in this post) started to bemoan her aching legs, saying she couldn't walk any farther.  I knew she was tired, but I also knew she had more energy in her than she thought, and this little miss is a queen of whining. No ifs ands or buts about it...we had to keep up with the group.  I march along ahead and then look back to find angel girl lying on the dirt, refusing to go any farther.  It looked like a classic toddler meltdown...and she is going on 12!

A determination rose up within me.  She was not going to win this one...we were going up the mountain!

The group went on up ahead and I said I'd deal with angel girl. By this point she had dusted the dirt off of her and was heading back down the hill in the wrong direction.  I grabbed her, picked her up and started carrying her up the hill (I was determined).  Telling her that she had to keep going - trying to distract her and encouraging her that she could do this.  We were a team and she couldn't give up.

It didn't work.

I tried distraction, and humor, everything. Her 'net' only grew louder.  This little girl was getting angrier and more upset by the moment as she stiffened her body, starting throwing off items of clothing and running down the hill to where we had begun.  Screaming insults and hurtful words all the way down.

It is difficult to describe the hardness I have witnessed in this little girl. Beyond this temper tantrum of control and determination to get her way, is a girl with very deep wounds.  By the time she had reached her landing point at the bottom of the hill she had thrown off her sneakers and was seated on a bench with mixes of cries and screams. I tried to speak truth to her and love to her, but with her hands she would shut my mouth.  Tears now began to flow from my eyes as I tried to communicate love and try to get to the heart of what was going on. 

It didn't work.

The afternoon ended with the host mom coming back to the car and angel girl crawling in the trunk of the van, still angrier than all get out-- but she had won the battle she wanted-- she was in the car and not on the mountain.

I on the other hand fell into the passenger seat of my car (my dad was driving) and just began to weep.  I hadn't cried tears like that in a long time.  Through tears I tried to explain to my dad that I wasn't upset because this one little girl had a temper tantrum and shut me out.  I was grieved because I was once again reminded of the depth of the pain and the depth of the wounding these kids possess.  I was reminded that one hosting trip isn't going to 'fix' them.  I was reminded of the depth of ministry needed in the lives of these kids.  I was reminded of the need for prayer.

When I looked into her eyes, and saw the coldness and the anger, I was wrecked.  I had tried to pray and she had silenced me. I was reminded yet again of the battle being waged against these kids.

And just like I expected, the next day at the picnic event, we were once again best friends.  No acknowledgement of the crazy meltdown... just back to normal, as if nothing had ever happened. 

I was reading today in the book of Habakkuk. The prayer that the prophet Habakkuk prays in the opening of the book resonates with where my heart was in that moment on Friday. It's called Habakkuk's complaint.

 How long, LORD, must I call for help,
   but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
   but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
 Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
 there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
 and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
 so that justice is perverted.

This 'complaint' sums up so much of the injustice I have witnessed in the orphanages of Ukraine.  The generational sin.  The violence.  The abuse.  The perversion of the law. 

Like Habakkuk, I ask a lot of questions. And like Habakkuk I don't always get the answers I'm looking for.  His prayer comforts me though.  Something is comforting about seeing a prophet ask these kinds of questions too, to see his frustration and the weight he carried on his heart.

I don't doubt that God is working.  I know in my heart that he is using this trip in the lives of these kids and I know these are his babies.  But I am once again reminded of the work that is left to be done.  The walls that need to be torn down and rebuilt.

Habakkuk ends with a thought provoking prayer-- a challenging prayer....

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails 
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,  I will be joyful in God my Savior.   
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)        

The words of the prophet remind me that ultimately, no matter what I see around me- God is still God.  I will choose to rejoice because he is my savior- and my strength to keep fighting this fight ultimately comes from Him.  Through the difficult moments on the mountain-- he alone enables me to tread on the heights.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monkeys at the Zoo

We took our 13 little monkeys kiddos to the zoo this week!  The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle was generous to let all 13 of our kids get into the zoo for free and the rest of our host families and kids all received a group discount!  And let me tell you-- it was a ZOO!

Keeping track of all our crew proved challenging and I spent more time watching after our roaming creatures dart to and fro than I did seeing the creatures behind the glass and fences.  I didn't manage to snap nearly as many photos as normal as I was too busy holding onto kids-- but here are a few from our crazy day yesterday.

The kids LOVED it!  For most it was their first trip ever to a zoo.

let me tell you....staging this picture took EFFORT!

Thursday evening we will be having a gospel presentation night and are partnering with some local Russian speakers to put on a program for the kids-- so you can be praying for our team and for the hearts of all these kids.  It has been a great time doing all things 'American'--but ultimately we want them to see and experience the love of Jesus while they are here and for themselves personally.  Please be praying for a meaningful evening.

Just about a week to go! Wow-- the time has gone by fast!