Wednesday, December 29, 2010

God in the Small Stuff... Christmas Miracles

I realized the other day that I am always quick to share the stories of how God has moved in big ways while the stories of God working in the small stuff often go untold. I’m quick to tell about how God opened up a way for me to get inside the orphanage after 7 weeks of waiting and praying, or about how God provided a $400 coat and $900 worth of medication all for free but when it comes to the less ‘extraordinary’ stories I hesitate, maybe because I wonder if anyone else will find them as exciting as I do. The truth is, I am often more in awe of the way God works in the simple things than I am of the big things that He does. He is the Almighty God, nothing is too hard for Him and while I marvel at the great displays of His power, what amazes me most is that the God of the Universe even cares about the small, simple details of our lives. That said, I want to share these two stories with you of how I have seen God at work in the small stuff lately…

I've been working on stockings for my groups at the special needs orphanage which I will be giving out in January. Along with some of the fun stuff I’ve been purchasing here (toys, candy, etc.), I’m also planning on including some of the donations I brought from home (toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.). Before I came I sent out a list of items I would be collecting to donate to the orphanages here. One of those items was children’s socks. I received many pairs of children’s socks and also purchased several hundred from a really good sale on at Zellers (6 pairs for $1.50!!!). Unfortunately however, I realized that there was no way any of those socks were going to be big enough for the girls in my "girl's group" (a.k.a. the princesses) who are mostly in their late teens and I was quite sad about that. Well, a couple weeks ago I was going through some of the stuff that I brought from home and found some socks that I had totally forgotten about. They were given to me by one of my supporters and are these long, beautiful, girls’ socks that are just the right size! Here's the best part, there are 13 girls in that group and as I counted the socks... yep, 13 exactly. There are even two pairs that are smaller than the rest which is perfect as there are two girls in that group that are significantly smaller! Wow. I remember when I received the socks I thought, “Hmm, 13, that’s an odd number…” Now I get all teary thinking about how much God cares about these girls that before I even got here He sent someone to buy exactly the right number of socks in just the right size...

A couple months ago I got the idea to take Christmas pictures of all the kids being adopted from my orphanage and I have been looking forward to it ever since. Then, last month we received this huge hockey bag full of donated clothes and as I was sorting through it I found some "Baby's First Christmas" sleepers and I immediately put them aside knowing just what/who I would use them for. You may remember Dasha and Andriy as my two littlest angels from the children’s hospital who will be being adopted together. Recently the two of them have been being kept in an isolation room at the baby orphanage and as a result, I haven’t been able to see them. I was thrilled when the week before Christmas Andriy was moved back to his group and was praying that the staff would allow me to take Dasha's picture (without changing her clothes or anything) even though she was still in isolation. I was also praying that the right workers would be in Andriy's room as some are really nice, friendly, let me do whatever I want with the kids, etc. while others are obviously not too happy about me being there and don't even let me take the kids out of their cribs. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I headed over to the orphanage armed with my camera and Christmas outfits and as I was standing outside the orphanage waiting for Lienna and praying I was reminded of all the other things I'd prayed for while standing in that same spot; that God would open up the doors to get me inside the orphanage, for families for my kids, etc. Praying about a Christmas photo seemed so insignificant compared to all of that but as I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite things about God is how much He cares about the "small" stuff... Well, I walked into Andriy's group and there was Dasha – she had been moved out of the isolation room! Then, in talking to the worker, we discovered that she was a Christian! There are only like 3 Christians that work in the whole orphanage and I know it wasn't a coincidence that one of them was working in their group that day. We explained everything to her and not only did she allow us to take the picture, she really got into it, bringing out a special blanket to lay them on, trying to get them to look at the camera, etc. The whole thing went way better than I could have ever imagined…

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger..."
Luke 2:6-7

Wishing you and your family a beautiful Christmas as you celebrate the One who left His throne to come and dwell among the least of these.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

McJoyful Christmas

As I mentioned earlier this month, being here in Ukraine over the holiday season means that I have the opportunity to be a part of “McJoyful Christmas” where we will be taking approximately 5000 orphans to McDonald’s over the span of just two weeks! From what I’ve heard, it sounds like an absolutely amazing program that not only brings joy to these orphaned children at Christmas time but also provides the opportunity to share the story of Jesus with them. It is a real highlight for the kids and they talk about it all year round.

McJoyful starts tomorrow and will run from 10-6, 6 days a week until around January 8th. I am looking forward to seeing the joy and excitement on the kids faces and am glad for the opportunity to play a small part in putting them there but I also want to ask for your prayers. I have heard from other volunteers that McJoyful can also be long and exhausting. I also know that working with older children is always really difficult for me due to the language barrier (how thankful I am that God has called me to mostly non-verbal children!). Please pray that God would fill me with motivation and enthusiasm and that He would equip me to give my best to each and every group that walk through those golden arches.

Monday, December 20, 2010


For those familiar with the plight of special needs orphans in Eastern Europe, there is one word that never fails to cause one’s heart to sink to one’s stomach – transferred. Last week two of “my angels” at the baby orphanage were transferred. Across Eastern Europe, orphaned infants, abandoned babies, etc. are brought to baby houses where they remain until somewhere between the ages of 4-6 years old, at which point they are transferred to an orphanage for older children. However in many countries, as well as in many regions of this country, children with special needs do not move on to orphanages like the other kids but are instead transferred to mental institutions. Sometimes these institutions are exclusively for children, whereas other times children as young as 4-years-old are placed in adult mental institutions; you can see why such news would make one’s heart sink.

Anyway, back to my boys. We are fortunate enough that in this region children with special needs are not placed in mental institutions until the age of eighteen (what kind of world do we live in where a child placed into a mental institution as soon as they turn 18 is considered fortunate???). Nevertheless, my heart still sunk when I heard the news. My boys, Dima and Igor, transferred… Dima is blind and he becomes quite frightened and withdrawn in new situations. What’s more, there were two different families seriously considering adopting him and now that might not be possible since he is no longer at the baby orphanage. Then there’s Igor, my precious Igor… Igor is autistic and he engages in a lot of self-harming behaviours. The thing is, out of all my kids he is the one I’ve seen the most progress from. He’s become a different kid when he’s with me but whenever I bring him back to his room he reverts back to his old behaviours… I hate to think of how he’s coping in a strange, new place.

Over the past several days I have shed many tears and prayed many prayers for these sweet boys of mine. I worry about how they’re doing being stripped away from everything they’ve ever known, everything and everyone that’s familiar to them. In addition to all that, I miss them like crazy and I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. Most children with special needs are taken to the special needs orphanage once they age out of the baby orphanage but for some reason it seems that my boys have been taken to a different orphanage. I do know which orphanage they’re at however and while it is not one I’m familiar with, I’m hoping to be able to go visit them.

Would you please pray for Dima and Igor? Pray that they would experience God’s presence and know His peace even in this scary and confusing time. Pray that God would soften the workers’ hearts towards these boys and that they would be compassionate with them. Finally, pray that God would open up a way for both of them to be adopted – I don’t know if Igor’s even legally available for adoption but he needs a family so bad!

p.s. The adoption vote was postponed (again!) to this week… keep praying!

Friday, December 17, 2010

This is where my heart is today...

For the past two years I have been involved in West Island Mission’s annual Christmas basket distribution, providing food and gifts to families in need right in my own community. It has been a privilege for me to be a part of this project and I have so enjoyed all the sorting, organizing and gift wrapping, all the planning meetings, frantic e-mails and excited phone calls. In the end, it is such a blessing to be a part of making a families’ Christmas a little brighter and I have been equally blessed by the friendships that have been formed along the way. Well, this weekend West Island Mission will be packing and delivering Christmas baskets to nearly 200 families. I know Ukraine is where I’m supposed to be this Christmas, it’s where I want to be this Christmas but today, this is where my heart is…

Mom, Bonnie, Suzanne, Marlene, Danielle and the rest of the team… I’ve been thinking about you all day!
Miss you, praying for you and wish I was there…   

Monday, December 13, 2010

Adoption Vote

Just a reminder that this is the week that the bill halting international adoptions out of Ukraine is scheduled to be voted on. Please pray that God would be at work in all the details and that things would work in favor of the countless waiting and vulnerable children in this county.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Moved to tears... again

Do you remember Brady???

His picture has been on my sidebar for the past month and a half as my featured “waiting child”. Well, Brady’s not a waiting child anymore… he has a FAMILY!!! Ever since I first read his story, Brady has been weighing heavily on my heart, even more so than the other children I featured before him. When I read the news that his family had found him my eyes immediately welled with tears…. I just can’t help it. The beauty of adoption, it gets me every time.

But there’s another little guy who needs our prayers. Heath is at the same institution as Brady. Yes, it is an institution and it is one of the bad ones. Heath has already been there for several years and his situation is all but hopeless yet if God can raise up a family for Brady (and Tori, and Yulia) then surely he can raise up a family for Heath as well. Please join me in praying that this is the last Christmas that Heath will spend in an institution.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

True Princesses - Daughters of the KING!!!

On Tuesday I introduced my girls at the special needs orphanage to Sasha Svinya (Sasha the Pig)…

Sasha’s father is a king – that makes her a princess! I shared with the girls about how God is a king too, but not just any king, He is The King of the whole universe and since God is their Father, that makes them princesses too!

Intellectually, these girls are at around a 5-year-old level so keeping their attention is difficult (especially with translation) and I never know how much they are retaining. Well, I was delighted today to walk in and the first thing they asked me was, “Where’s Sasha?” Horary, they remembered! Not only did they remember the lesson from Tuesday, they understood it as well. When I asked them what we talked about they said, “God!” and when I asked them what God is they said, “A king!!” “So what does that make you?” I asked. “Princesses!!!” they cheered. “Well,” I said “if you are princesses then you are missing one thing…” And before I even got a chance to ask them what that was, they responded with “Crowns!”.

Well, today the princesses got their crowns…

I wasn’t sure how smoothly today would go but it truly could not have gone any better. The girls were so excited to make their crowns. They shared beautifully, waited patiently when they needed help and worked diligently to make sure each jewel was in just the right spot. As each of them finished, I made a big deal out of crowning them “Princess so-and-so” and some of them were so excited they literally squealed with joy! Tonight was one of the highlights of my time here in Ukraine so far and I pray that it will serve as a reminder to the girls for years to come of just how precious they are to their Heavenly Father.

Without further delay… Da da da dum… Presenting…

Princess Katya!

Princess Yulia!

Princess Michelle!

Princess Nastia!

Princess Yana!

Princess Alina!

Princess Katya!

Princess Natasha!

Princess Nastia!

Princess Violietta!

Princess Alina!

I don't know about you, but I think they're some of the most beautiful princesses I've ever seen...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No Flashing Signs

As many of you know, at the end of January the six months that I committed to being here in Ukraine will be coming to a close. This leaves me with a big decision to make. At this point I don’t feel as though God is calling me to extend my time in Ukraine however I don’t want to close the door on anything. I have also been considering going to another country here in Eastern Europe to volunteer with orphans there. Or there is of course the option to return home as scheduled and take things from there…

Do you ever wish that God would write the answer in the sky or maybe send you some air traffic controllers with orange batons to show you which way to go? There is a verse in Isaiah that says, “and you will hear a voice say, ‘This is the way; turn around and walk here.’” (30:21 NLT) Whenever I read that verse I can’t help but picturing those words written on a bright, neon sign with an arrow flashing underneath… Wouldn’t that be nice? Sometimes God does speak loud and clear like that. I think of the burning bush, the writing on the wall or one of my personal favourites, the talking donkey. I also think of examples in my own life when God’s direction was so clear – Praying for years for an opportunity to minister to orphans in Eastern Europe then out-of-the-blue hearing about a well-established Canadian missionary who was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, e-mailing him to find out whether I might be able to volunteer with his ministry and within just a few hours having him write back and say, “come!”. And how can I ever forget the angel who found me when I was stranded at the border of Congo and Rwanda, God’s way of saying, “Just in case you wondering, you are exactly where I want you.” This time however, God’s direction has not been so clear. I’ve been praying, thinking, weighing and reasoning but ultimately, my desire above all else is to follow God wherever He leads me. This song by Chris Tomlin has been my anthem over the past few weeks:

Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I'll love
How you serve, I'll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you

I would appreciate your prayers for guidance and confirmation as I seek God’s will & direction… whether it comes in the form of a flashing neon sign or a quiet, gentle whisper.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy December 1st!!!

Happy December 1st everybody! The weather here has been incredibly, uncharacteristically warm but this morning I opened my blinds to find that the puddles from Monday’s rain had all frozen over and just like that, winter is upon us…

In my family, December 1st has also always marked the beginning of the Christmas season. It seems like I keep hearing more and more about how people are becoming so tired of the commercialism of Christmas but I believe that Christmas is what you make it. For me, Christmas is a time to celebrate the One who came to bring hope, peace and joy to the world and a time to give to the ones He came to save. Last year I shared with you my own “Grown up Christmas List” and I encourage you to go back and check it out if you’re looking for more ideas to make your giving more meaningful this Christmas. This year however, I want to share with you two ways that you can make a difference in the lives of orphans right here in Ukraine.

1) You’ve heard me mention Reece’s Rainbow before. Reece’s Rainbow is a non-profit organization which promotes the international adoption of children with special needs. Every year Reece’s Rainbow does something called the “Christmas Angel Tree” where they aim to raise $1000 or more for each child with Down syndrome (age 0-5) whom they have listed for adoption. So many families would like to adopt a child with special needs but lack the funds to do so. With an average cost of $25,000 to adopt, this is a very special way to share Christmas with an orphaned child, and to make it possible for other families to afford the high cost of rescuing them from orphanages and mental institutions around the world. If you donate $35 or more (before
December 15th), you will receive a beautiful photo ornament of your sponsored child to hang on your tree. This also makes for a very personal and meaningful gift idea, giving the gift of hope to an orphan on behalf of someone you love. Click here for more info.

2) Over the past 10 years, Ed Dickson (whose ministry I am serving with here in Ukraine) has taken over 20,000 orphaned children to McDonalds at Christmas time for a wild birthday party for Jesus! This year, from December 25 – January 8 we will be taking approximately 5000 orphans to McDonalds to enjoy a happy meal, play some games and hear the true story of Christmas. For just $15 you can make an orphan’s Christmas a whole lot brighter by providing transportation, a happy meal, and a year’s supply of vitamins for one child. A unique gift idea for the kids on your list, to send an orphan to McDonalds (maybe even for the first time!), on their behalf… Click here for more info.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My New Girls' Group :)