Thursday, December 29, 2011

A little bit of Christmas

It has been a very FULL last week of life!  A whirl wind of activity with work in Kiev and traveling to Kherson to visit our kiddos then I quickly packed up and flew home to celebrate Christmas with my family in Seattle.  Hard to believe 2011 is drawing to a close. But what a GREAT year it has been!

I wanted to share a bit about our time in Kherson with the kids-- where we brought loads of 'all things Christmas' to 2 different orphanages and the transition home that Agape (a partner ministry) runs in Kherson. It was a bit of a ministry blitz to say the least as we didn't get nearly enough time in each location-- but it was the nature of the time we had and so we had to work with it.

Most of the kids we met with had been a part of our 2011 summer camps, so the trip allowed us to not only celebrate Christmas with the youth but also reconnect with all the kids we had built relationships with this summer.

Our celebrations also included bringing Christmas trees to the orphanages, decorations, Christmas crafts and to wrap up our visit, time decorating cookies!  It was a sweet and very sticky time indeed-- Though perhaps not very clean! (what was I thinking to have over 100 kids use sprinkles and frosting?)

The kids were thrilled when our team arrived, huddling around us as we passed out the pictures we had printed from our time together at camp.  Now bundled up in their winter gear, our recent summer fun running around in the sweltering heat suddenly felt like a distant past. But at we reminisced about our time at camp and flipped through the photos together, the memories quickly came back as we asked the kids their favorite summer highlights....and believe me-- they had many!

The kids seemed excited about their gifts (but really-who doesn't like to unwrap a present AND get chocolate!?). We are praying the Bibles we gave out will be read and absorbed.  If you think of it- be praying for these sweet faces and that the words of LIFE will breath life into their precious hearts as they read the story of Jesus.
I was quite taken away with these sweet girls...

One teen,  Sasha shared how he had given his heart to Jesus at the camp this summer and was doing his best to live for God and tell other kids about his new life with Jesus.  The joy as he spoke was undeniable.  Hearing this was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend!  It is encouraging to know that the seeds we planted this summer have not died out but are truly growing.

I also got to reconnect with two of my 'favorites' (i know that isn't supposed to be allowed!) at the Kolinenska orphanage. Natasha and Tanya regularly call me throughout the week- so that has given us a special relationship. I adore these girls so much and am sad I live so far from them--as they need much encouragement and support. I brought them a bunch of good books, so I'm hoping that will keep them occupied for awhile and their minds active.  As always it was sad to say goodbye..

So that's the Ukrainian Christmas report! (Though the 'real' Christmas celebrations in Ukraine take place on January 7th- when the Orthodox calendar recognizes Christmas).  And you thought Christmas was over?  Think again!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa's Little Helpers...

Tomorrow we are off to the Kherson region to bring some Christmas cheer from our Orphan's Promise team of volunteers!

We are going to be bringing Christmas celebrations to two orphanages we work with in the region and the boys house that Agape runs.  We will be bringing Christmas trees, decorations, Christmas cookies and gifts!!  We will be visiting mainly all the kids that were at our summer camps the last two summers and spending time getting all caught up.

 We are very excited about the gift we have for the kids 12 and under- The Jesus Story Book Bible!  This is a children's Bible that was published by Zondervan in the US, and a Christian publisher in Ukraine, In Lumine, has now made it available in Russian.  What's even better is if you are giving it away to orphans, you can get the Bibles for just $5! This is a steal of a deal.  If you get a chance to check out this Bible in English you should-- it has beautiful illustrations and the story telling is brilliant as it weaves the promise of Jesus, the Lamb of God into the pages of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation!  We hope the kids like it as much as we do!

And in addition to gifts-- we are bringing cookies and cookie decorating supplies (thanks to some awesome donations we got from Ukraine Orphan Outreach).  So since we are bringing cookies- that means I spent all of today baking up a TON of sugar cookies!  Thankfully I had some helpers.  My friend Kelly came over to lend me hand, plus Rhya and Natalie who are staying with me right now (with their parents who are adopting) jumped in to roll out some dough.  We were a good team and I think I have well over 100 little snowmen and gingerbread men packed up and ready to go!

We'll be in Kherson till Monday- so please keep our team in your prayers and for the kids we will be spending time with!  I'm eager to see many of 'my girls' who keep my cell phone ringing most of the week!

Christmas In Flight

Life has been rather full lately-- Hence the lack of blogging this month!

I just finished producing a Christmas play at my church- International Christian Assembly in Kiev (an English speaking- international church).  And this time I decided to not only direct but ACT as well! I had to dust myself off a bit- as it had been awhile since my college days! For those of you that follow along and didn't know- I studied Theatre at Seattle Pacific University- and really saw my life on the stage....until God brought me to Ukraine!

So it is really a gift when I get to pull out my old theatrical skills and put them to use. I had the honor of using the script that a friend (also an SPU grad) had written. It was fun because the show took place in the 'Seattle Airport' and was about a couple 'running away' from their family at Christmas, hence the title- Christmas In Flight.  It was a delightful show that presented a heart-warming message of forgiveness and second chances and reminded us of the God who never stops pursuing us! It was a privilege to get to produce my friend's show and see it touch the hearts of many. We did it as a dessert theatre in the round-- and we performed 4 times to sold-out crowds!

I got pretty sick after the show, so I've been spending this week trying to recover...and counting the days till I board my own flight bound for Seattle (8 more days!)