Monday, February 28, 2011

Hospitality House

I am very excited to use this post to announce a new development in ministry here in Ukraine-- A ministry to house Adoptive families while they are in Kiev!

In the six years that I've been living in Ukraine, I have been given the amazing privilege to walk alongside countless adoptive families on their journey to bring children home.

Through the relationships developed, I often ended up with a couple spending a night or even a week on my pull out couch in the living room of my last apartment. These couples didn't seem to mind the simple living conditions, but instead were grateful for a free place to stay and some English fellowship.

Hanging out with the Bollingers this past summer
This past summer I developed a dear friendship with Jason and Holly Bollinger, a couple from Texas who had a roller coaster of an adoption ride, and as a result ended up living with me for a week to save on cost.  During this time with the Bollingers, the Lord again reminded me how much I enjoy opening my home to adoptive families and helping them get adapted to their surroundings.  So I started to pray about what this could mean for the future.

I knew I was leaving for England for several months, but I began to put this vision before the Lord and asked that if it was His will, He would open the door for me to find a new place when I returned, one which would allow me to accommodate more people, one that would be in a central location for getting around the city AND that He would provide the financial resources to make it possible.

What followed were a series of amazing open doors and a rallying of support from so many resources!

Upon moving back to Kiev in January, I was able to find an adorable, spacious apartment to rent in Podol (a historic part of the downtown) for a great price! Upon finding the apartment I immediately had ministries wanting to partner in what I was doing. 

I had shared the vision for the hospitality home with the ministry I work for, Orphan's Promise, while I was at our headquarters in Virginia in January. My leadership was very excited about the opportunity to minister to families in this way and gave me a green light to go forward.  Orphan's Promise is standing behind me in this endeavor and graciously providing a portion of the rent.

my friend Mary helps paint!
When I returned to Kiev I learned that my church, International Christian Assembly (ICA) also desired to reach out to adoptive families in Kiev and they too stepped forward to offer financial assistance, for the endeavor, a paint team to get me started, and prayer support for families that will stay with me.   In addition, Grace Place, a church in Colorado (from which many adoptive family friends have come) donated a sum of money to help me purchase the guest bed and needed linens to get started.   To say I am grateful would be an understatement!

newly renovated living room!

I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the support and the people that have come alongside me to make this happen-- front paint crews, to financial support to remodel help- I am feeling VERY blessed.

It is AMAZING to see God's timing in how this has all come together as well.  Within the first week of living in my apartment, I already was able to host 3 separate families.  Graciously they were willing to live amidst the vast number of boxes and some remodel projects that were still going on!  But we had fun and it was wonderful to see how God was already bringing forward families that were in need of housing and knowing that this apartment could meet their needs.
2nd night in my new home with the Roges and the Pecks.
I have just created a new website devoted to this hospitality home and you can visit that here and learn more well as see a repeat of the above post! :)  I look forward to seeing who God brings my way in the coming months!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An answer to prayer- 3 years in the making

Meet Elizabeth (Lizzie) Roge.  

Lizzie is my hero.  

Lizzie is a young girl of great tenacity and of patience.  Lizzie is a girl of prayer and of great faith.  Lizzie is a warrior and a sweet spirit, a princess and a friend.  Through years of great trial, many shed tears and uncertainty Lizzie has retained joy in her heart and has impacted many as a result.   Today I can say that Lizzie is a young girl who has finally seen victory.

I first met Lizzie (then Zina) when she was 11 year's old at a 2 week summer camp we put on in the Kherson region in July of 2007.  I got to know her better during the Christmas season of 2007 when she traveled with our concert group to Virginia and Colorado to perform with a group of 17 orphans in the 'Old Shoemaker' musical.  

In Virginia with Rimma and Zina in December 2007
From the moment I met her I knew she was different then other kids I'd met.   She had a sweetness and a kindness about her that very few children who are raised in institutions possess.  She asked deep questions and had an honest desire to be known, and also had a longing in her heart for a family.  

It was during this trip that Lizzie, along with her friend Rimma, stole the hearts of the Roge family in Longmont, Colorado, and after the girls' departure, the Roges embarked upon a journey to bring the girls home.  They didn't know at the time the kind of journey it would be....or how long it would take.

Since both girls were not registered for international adoption, the outlook of bringing the girls home did not look good for the Roges.  But this did not stop them.   Opposition didn't stop them.  They had heard from the Lord and they were determined to fight all odds to bring these two girls home.  I have the utmost respect for Heidi and Felix Roge, who sacrificed countless resources, time, and so many tears to bring Rimma and Zina home (and in the mean time 3 other kids as well)!  They are on my list of heroes.  They are fighters and people of their word.

Rimma was able to be adopted and go home last year in February (2 years after they met her), and with the future of international-adoption looming uncertain the Roges once again had to say goodbye to Zina- praying that a year later her time on the international adoption database would come up and she'd be available for adoption. 

That year has passed.  Her time has finally come! 3 years of waiting, 3 years of waiting in a bureaucratic system and an institution are finally over. 

with her Daddy holding the 'golden ticket' - the US visa
The little girl that I met nearly 4 years ago is now a 15-year-old beauty full of grace and strength and wisdom beyond her years.  And as of yesterday she is now a US citizen and is sleeping under the roof of the place she belongs, the place she can call home. 

Tears of gratitude fill my eyes as I write this post.  Recognizing that years of prayers have been answered.  I will never understand why it had to take so long for Lizzie, and why 3 precious years of her life had to be spent behind orphanage walls when a family was ready and willing to call her their own.  Her story, unfortunately, is like so many others.  It's just another reminder that this is a battle. This is a war against children.  But there has been victory won today!

As Lizzie slept curled up next to me 2 nights ago, the night before her and her Daddy flew to America, I lay awake with a heart full of gratitude and joy.  We don't always get to tangibly see the answer to our prayers-- but that night the answer was sleeping next to longer an orphan.  Wow.

Thank you Lord for that gift! Thank you for your faithfulness and thank you for answering prayers.  You are mighty to save....and we are forever grateful.

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of JOY.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of JOY, carrying sheaves with him."
  Psalm 126:5-6

What a week!!!

This has been a week for the books!! In the past 5 days I've moved into new apartment, finished a remodel project, hosted 3 adoptive families in this new apartment, seen on of my favorite girls who has waited 3 years for her adoption finally get to go to her forever home, and witness God move the hearts of governmental officials in the US on behalf of a 16-year-old orphan!  Whew!! What a week!  Each story is unique on it's own, so the next posts to follow I'll share more about Zina's (now Lizzie) adoption, the Peck family adventure and my new hospitality home for adoptive families. Stay tuned for more news in the coming days...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

If your Presence does not go with us...

Last week my team and I had a wonderful prayer/planning day out of town.  These two ladies (pictured left with me), Galina and Yuliya have worked under my leadership for 3 years now and enable me to do much of what I do.  I always joke that these two, Galina and Yuliya, are my right and my left hand here in Ukraine. I depend on them for so much!  In addition to all they do for me on a daily basis, they also stepped in and picked up all my responsibilities while I was away in England and the US these past 4 months.  They bless me day in and day out, and it is an honor and a privilege to get to serve the Lord together with these Jesus-loving women. I love praying with them, dreaming with them, crying with them and living life together as we see God do amazing things in our midst.

the view from our 'retreat' spot
While in England I sensed that God was preparing me to enter a new season of life in many aspects. To expect newness.  And more than anything, while I was away, I was praying for the Lord to bring newness and rejuvenation to much of the ministry projects we currently have going on through Orphan's Promise. It is so easy to do things just for the sake of doing them, or because it is the way something always has been done, instead of asking God for what he would have us do and follow him with a deeper level of trust.

So we took a day away from the office last week and spent some good time remembering why we do what we do and prayed about things we'd like to see happen in the future. We also spent some time praying for the many adoptive families that we've seen come and go over the years and for the sweet children we know that still remain in the orphanages-- praying for a revival and a spirit of adoption to fall on this country.

In the morning, prepping for our day away, I was reading in Exodus, and my day's reading had me in Chapter 33.  Moses is speaking to God and is basically saying that he cannot lead the Israelites further if God will not go with them.  v. 14 "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?"

As I read those words, they resonated with something deep within.  It is so easy to spend our days, weeks, months and years doing 'good deeds' for the orphans of Ukraine, and to do so without asking for the presence of God to go with us. I have been guilty of this before.

 Ultimately if God does not go with us, if He is not leading our feet, our work will not produce fruit and will be done in vein.  Above all this year, I am praying for God's leading, for God's sending and for His Holy Spirit to show us where to put our time, money and efforts.

Our prayer this year is the prayer of Moses...that the presence of God will go with us and give us rest and that we will not move forward if we are not moving forward with God in sight.

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
 Isaiah 43: 18-19