Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prayer Request

So, we went back to the hospital this morning to get the results from all my tests. Everything was fine except for the urine test… apparently there was some problem although I don’t know what it was. We go back tomorrow with another sample and then back again on Thursday for the results. If there are no problems great, we meet with the doctor, get the required documents and that should be the end of it. If the results are the same however I’ll have to get more tests done. I’m quite confident there’s nothing wrong with me as I just got a whole battery of tests done when I got back from Africa but nevertheless, please pray that everything goes smoothly tomorrow as I just want to get all this over with and continue moving forward.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One step forward, one step back

We went back to the hospital this morning and got the rest of my tests done. Everything went smoothly and I am happy to have them finished. They told us we could go back and pick up the results tomorrow which is great news! If everything goes well we might even be able to get into the children’s hospital by the end of the week…

On another note, we did not have as much success at the babies’ orphanage. We tried to go inside with them when they brought the kids in at 11:15 (since the head nurse told us we could stay ‘till 12:00) but the workers asked us to leave. When we went back to talk to the head nurse again she said that we should listen to the workers. Then, when we went back for their afternoon outside time they sent Lienna and I out with the five typical kids while they stayed inside with the special needs ones… not exactly what I had in mind. I can’t say I’m surprised. While I am a bit disappointed, I am not discouraged. I know God will get us in in His time. In the meantime, I will continue to work on my patience and do my best to make the most of every opportunity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Moving forward

Today was much easier than I expected. After spending a bit of time going from person to person to get approval for me to get the tests I needed, we walked in and got my chest x-ray without having to wait at all. Yesterday all of us here at the house were placing “bets” on how long I’d be at the hospital today, with guesses ranging from 5-12 hours. As it turns out, we were in and out of there in one hour flat and needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

On Monday we go back to get blood, urine and stool tests done (you should have seen poor Lienna trying to translate that one…) then we should be able to go back and pick up the results in about a week. So, it was another quiet day but I am thrilled to be making such great progress. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Step At A Time

Praise God, we were indeed able to meet with all three directors today. At the special needs orphanage and the children’s hospital the directors were open to me spending time with the kids however they are first requiring me to bring in chest x-rays and some other medical tests to show that I do not have tuberculosis or any other infectious diseases.

At the babies’ orphanage the director had us talk to the head nurse who was actually quite nice. She told us we could come any/every day from 10:00-12:00 and then again from 4:00-6:00. Woo hoo, that’s 4 whole hours! Most of that time is their outdoors time however as time goes on hopefully I will be able to earn the trust of the staff there and be able to spend more time inside with the kids.

So, that’s one step forward. Tomorrow we will go to the hospital and begin the process of getting those tests done (everything here is a process). Once I have the necessary documents we will go back to the special needs orphanage and the children’s hospital to find out when exactly I’m allowed to be there, etc. In the meantime, starting Monday we will be going to the babies’ orphanage every morning and afternoon.

Thank you for your prayers. I am happy with how the day went today and confident that God will continue to work out all the details. Please pray that everything goes smoothly with the medical tests and continue to pray that God would give me favour with the staff at the orphanages/hospital (already today the staff at the babies’ orphanage made us leave once the kids were brought inside at 11:30 so next time we will have to speak to the director again and have her talk to them on our behalf…).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Call Out For Prayer... here we go!

I had a really cute video all ready for Wordless Wednesday today but it’s going to have to wait as I have some very important news to share…

So, I met up with Lienna today, the translator I talked about last week. Let me start off by saying that she is great. She has a huge heart for the orphan and is so passionate about serving God. We walked around for two hours sharing our hearts and our stories of how God brought us to where we are today. We have a lot in common and connected really well… A friend and a translator all rolled into one – what a huge answer to prayer!

Anyway, Lienna tutors in the afternoons but she will be translating for me in the mornings and we are working on getting a girl who recently graduated from one of the orphanages to translate for me in the afternoons. In the meantime, tomorrow Lienna and I will be going to the babies’ orphanage, the special needs orphanage and the children’s hospital to meet with directors and talk to them about how I can be involved. So, just like that, this first phase of waiting is over.

Tomorrow is a big day. Countless times over the past two weeks I have heard that no one ever gets to work inside the babies’ orphanage, they really don’t like you spending long periods of time with the babies at the children’s hospital, etc., etc. but I know that nothing is impossible with God. Last night at church the pastor talked about how Jesus has the victory over every situation and I believe with all my heart that that is true. So, I know that these things take time and I will not be discouraged if the doors are not wide open right from the start but at the same time, I will not put God in a box – I am heading into tomorrow with great expectation because I know that my God is able to do infinitely more than I could ever dare to ask or hope for!

I have been so encouraged these past weeks by the story of Nehemiah. When Nehemiah heard about the hardships his people were facing in Jerusalem his heart was broken. He knew he had to do something and so he fasted and prayed and finally he approached the king for help. The king had already issued a decree that Jerusalem was not to be rebuilt yet Nehemiah approached him with boldness and asked that the king not only allow Jerusalem to be rebuilt but that he give Nehemiah a paid leave of absence, authority among the governors and all the resources (i.e. timber) he needed to rebuild the city. It was an unfathomable request yet the bible says that the king granted his requests because God’s hand was upon him.

That leads me to the point of this post. I am asking you to join me in praying or even fasting if you feel so led, for tomorrow’s meetings with the directors. Pray that God’s hand would be upon Lienna and myself, that He would give us wisdom and discernment in how to approach them in both humility and boldness and that He would give us favour. If you would like to be reminded of the situation at each facility please go back and read this post.

Let us storm the gates of heaven for the next 20 hours or so… we are on the brink of seeing God do something amazing, I can feel it!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

If you had told me at 21...

For those of you coming over from Flight Platform Living, I wrote this post last year but it fits so well with this week's writing prompt,
"Mind the Gap! How is reality different from your dreams?", I thought I'd share...

If you had told me at 21-years-old that in five years I would be living as a missionary overseas, I would have thought you were crazy. At 21-years-old I had no desire to travel or see the world, the most “exotic” place I had ever been was Florida and I was ok with that. At 21-years-old I had a plan for my life; I wanted to graduate university, become a social worker, move out on my own, fall in love with a godly man, get married, have three children, buy a house with a pool and a white picket fence and live happily ever after… I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, involved in my children’s school and active in youth & children’s ministry in my church. Once my kids were grown, I would go back into social work and do my best to make a difference in the lives of hurting children in my community. At 21-years-old, that was my plan.

Today however, I find myself living as a “missionary” overseas. I have never worked a regular job and when I am in Canada, I still live with my mother. I have never been in love, I may never get married, I may never even have children of my own. I definitely don’t see myself ever living the life of three kids, a pool and a white picket fence. My life today looks nothing like I imagined it would back when I was 21 and I am glad. You see, my plan for my life was good and I’m sure I would have been happy living that life but God’s plan for me was better than anything I could have ever imagined myself. Even now, in the midst of this season of waiting, I am ever so certain that I am exactly where God wants me and I am happy – I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.

The moral of this story??? God’s plans are not the same as our plans – they’re better! And so today, as I marvel at all that God has done in my life over the past five years, I would like to encourage you to surrender all of your own plans and dreams to God. Maybe He has something else in mind for you, something even better than you could have ever imagined yourself…

Now all glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or imagine. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Camp Visit

Today I got to do something fun and different which, to my delight, involved spending a full 4 hours with orphans! There is a friend of Ashley and Haylay’s that used to be a translator for Ed but now has his own orphan ministry. He is involved in many orphanages and dorms (where the kids go when the “graduate” from the orphanages) in the area and does a variety of programs with the kids. During the summer, kids from the orphanage spend up to a month out at camp. It’s a nice change of scenery for them and a chance to get out of the city but there is still not much for them to do out there and therefore they get quite bored. One of the things that Max does is go out to the camp and run activities for the kids. A couple of weeks ago he and his team ran a full VBS at the camp and when they were leaving at the end of the week the kids begged them to come back again to visit them while they were still at camp. So, today Max was heading back for a visit and he invited us to go with him. It took us about 2 hours to get out there but it was a great chance to see some of the countryside. When we got there the kids were so excited and we spent the morning with them doing games, crafts and music…

Crafts



Zhenya - this guy became my buddy for the day. I helped him with his craft and after that he stuck to me like glue... he was really sweet.

Games



Music

I was really impressed by how sweet and affectionate the children were, even the older ones. Once again, I wished I could communicate with them but I nevertheless enjoyed the opportunity to give lots of smiles and hugs. I was also really impressed by Max and his team of volunteers. They were amazing with the kids, enthusiastic and affectionate, just pouring out love to those kids. Whether here or in Africa, I am always so encouraged to see local people with a passion for orphans. They are unfortunately not always easy to find but the group of people I had the opportunity to work with today were truly inspiring, their love for God and for the children shining through everything they did. While I am still anxiously awaiting the day I get to begin working with the children that God has put on my heart, today was a good day and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to spend some time with these kids.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Waiting

I just got off the phone with my translator, Lienna. We were supposed to be meeting up tomorrow to start helping with her ministry, discuss where my heart’s at, etc. but she had an opportunity to go to the sea this week and now she won’t be back until Sunday or Monday. I’m happy for her, she’s been working really hard for the last month and deserves a vacation, but for me it means another week of waiting. If I’m going to be honest, I’d have to say that I’m feeling kind of discouraged… On Friday I was so excited as I felt like God had given me a vision for why He brought me here but now I am struggling with sitting still when all I want to do is get started. I know that even once I get started it’s going to be very slow-moving as I work to gain the trust of the staff and directors. Right now I just feel like I’m wasting precious time yet I know that God’s timing is perfect.

If I’m going to be really honest, I have to say that I know I’m not using this time as well as I could. I recognize that I have been given a precious opportunity to spend some real time entering into prayer for all that these upcoming months have in store and the children God has brought me here to love, to consecrate myself before God and allow Him to prepare and equip me. Yet, as I sit around my room in the afternoons, I simply feel lazy.

I believe that God can and will do mighty miracles in these places that He has put on my heart but if I want to be a part of what He’s going to do, I know that I need to be completely dedicated to Him. Please pray that God would work out all the details for me to be able to start in His time but more importantly, please pray that God would give me renewed motivation, discipline and zeal for His Presence so that He can prepare me to be used by Him.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Russian Update

I am happy to report that I have indeed managed to learn all 32 letters of the Russian alphabet (thanks Mike!). I have to say, it really does help a lot. My latest hobby this past week as we’ve been on the bus, walking down the street, etc. has been to try to read all the signs. Granted, it takes me like 5 minutes to sound out one word but it’s still exciting to be able to read what they say and even more exciting when I actually understand what they mean (words like market, tavern, restaurant, pasta, etc. are pretty much the same as in English and therefore very easy to understand once you can read)! At church on Sunday I was even able to sing along to a couple of the choruses and learn a few new words after reading them over and over again. I still have an incredibly long way to go but it’s an encouraging start. Thank you to all of you who have been praying specifically for this. Please pray that I would continue to have the motivation, discipline, resources and ability to learn more and more each day.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Long day, long post

Today was a good, full day. Ed is in town for a couple days so this morning we got a chance to sit down and meet with him and I was able to get some clarification on a few details I had questions about. We then headed off to an anniversary celebration of a local organization that Ed and his ministry support. This is an organization whose mission is to encourage and support local families who choose to keep their special needs children. Here in Ukraine, the majority of children with special needs are abandoned at birth. The few brave and culture-defying families who choose to bring these children home and love them just like they would any other child are left to do so with little to no resources, often facing the scorn of rejection of family and friends. I got to meet several of these families today and their stories are truly incredible. Many of them live with their wheelchair-bound children on the upper floors of apartment buildings, some on as little as $100 a month, with no access to therapy or medication that could greatly benefit their children. Nevertheless there they were with smiles on their faces, love for their children radiating from their whole beings. They are unsung heroes and I was honoured and inspired to spend that time with them. The party was a true celebration with children performing local song and dance. Ukrainians sure do love to dance and at one point we were all invited to join in which was really fun! At the end we handed out candy that Ed had brought along with some of the toothbrushes from my bags (you know, to cancel out the candy) and they were so appreciative… thanks Evange!

After lunch at McDonalds (I seriously can’t believe how much McDonalds we eat over here!) we went to see the special needs orphanage which is home to all the special needs orphans in Khrivoy Rog between the ages of 5-17. We didn’t get to see the kids as it was their nap time but it was nice to check out the compound, etc. Ed has done several projects there, one of which is an outdoors playground for the kids. It is just amazing; fun and colourful with cute murals on the walls – the nicest one I’ve seen in Ukraine. Another project that they’ve done is a balcony off of the second story of the building. When Ed first started visiting the orphanage he realized that all the bedridden children were kept on the second floor and as a result, they were never able to go outside. He tried to convince the director to move the bedridden children to the first floor so that they could be taken outside however she refused. Instead, she agreed to allow him to build a balcony off the second floor so that the children could at least be taken out there in their wheelchairs. It broke my heart to think that that’s as far outside as these kids get but at least with the balcony they have the opportunity to get out of their rooms for a bit.

From there we went to the children’s hospital to visit the abandoned babies. Whenever a baby is found abandoned somewhere the police will bring them to the hospital where they will stay until they are well enough to be transferred to the babies’ orphanage, anywhere from a couple weeks to several months. Often these babies come to the hospital sick and/or abused yet the government only gives the hospital $.50 a day to pay for their food, medication, etc. From what I could see, these babies are more or less left alone in their little rooms and Ed told me they never leave their cribs except to be fed, bathed, changed, etc. There were three babies there yesterday and once again my heart broke at the thought of them spending their entire days alone in those hot, stuffy little rooms.

Over the course of the day Ed and I chatted a bit more about what my role will be while I’m here. I shared with him my desire to spend more time with the kids in the orphanages and he explained to me a little more about how things work over here. Unlike Africa, the help of volunteers is not exactly welcomed here in Ukraine. Over the years Ed has done many practical projects (playgrounds for the orphanages, a new entrance for the hospital, etc.) which have won him the favour of the directors. This then gives him the opportunity to ask if volunteers can come in to play with the kids or whatever. Still, even if the director says yes, the workers are often very resentful of volunteers coming in and getting in their way, acting like their ways are better, etc. I’ve experienced firsthand how frustrating it is to have volunteers come in and mess with the routine and that is the last thing I want to do. I spoke with Ed about the possibility of my doing longer shifts at the orphanages but not just simply playing with the kids but also helping with feeding and bathing as well as the more menial tasks such as cleaning and washing diapers. That way I could actually be a help to the staff and maybe in return I could get some time with the kids. He thought they might be open to that. We were able to talk to the directors of the special needs orphanage and the children’s hospital today and they were both open to me spending time there. From what Ed tells me however, the babies’ orphanage is going to be more of a challenge. The director there is apparently quite difficult to work with. Ed put a playground in and after that she allowed some of his volunteers to come in but then she asked him to pay for her cell phone and other personal things and when he refused she told him that she didn’t need his volunteers anymore…

One of the other tricky things right now is that I need a translator. I’ve been told that it’s hard to find a good translator who also has a heart for orphans (in other words, someone who is not going to just sit around outside while I’m working with the kids). A lot of the translators they have been using are students and therefore they are going back to school soon. Others have their own ministries and are not available full-time. For now I’ll be working with a girl named Lienna. She does bible studies at several of the orphanages so I’ll be following her around doing that and then when we’re not doing that we will go to the babies’ orphanage, special needs orphanage and/or children’s hospital. She seems really nice and her ministry sounds great but it’s not where my heart is and, given the language barrier, I don’t see myself being able to be of much help to her.

I realize it may sound like it’s been a hard, discouraging day but truly, I am feeling hopeful and excited. Ed has stories from orphanages that were at first totally closed to volunteers that later had kids walking and talking who they were told would never walk/talk, as a result of the time that volunteers were able to spend with them. The prayer and persistence of those volunteers paid off and I believe that God is going to do the same thing here. Don’t Stop Praying!!! That said, I’d like to leave you with three very specific prayer requests:

1) Wisdom and Direction in where God wants me – Ed suggested that maybe I should pick one place and then focus all of my time and energy there but right now my heart is so gripped by those three places (the special needs room at the babies’ orphanage, the special needs orphanage and the abandoned babies at the children’s hospital), I have no idea how I would ever choose! Please pray that if God would have me focus on one place that He would release me from the burden I feel for the others and, if not, that He would give me the wisdom I need to balance my time well between the three.

2) Favour with Directors and Staff – please pray that God would grant me favour with the orphanage/hospital directors and staff, that I would be able to come before them in humility and serve them in their needs, that they would see my heart and accept me and that I would receive more and more freedom to minister to the kids.

3) A Translator – pray that God would provide with me a translator who is good at their job and also has a deep love for God and for the orphan, that we would be able to join together in this ministry that God has allowed us to be a part of.

Thank you for standing with me on behalf of these children. Together, I know that God will use us to make a difference in their lives.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pictures from the Babies' Orphanage




This morning we went back to the babies' orphanage and I was happy to see that they had enough staff today to have all the special needs kids outside. I'll have to keep posting pictures gradually as time goes on as we only have 40-60 minutes with the kids and I don't want to waste that time taking pictures. For now, here are a few of the special needs kids. I don't know their names or their stories but this I do know, I am in love...



This little guy especially captured my heart...

I cannot say it enough, please continue to pray that God would provide an opportunity for me to make a real difference in the lives of these precious kids.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunshine Orphanage

As it turns out, the older kids are not at camp this week so this morning we went to the Sunshine Orphanage and spent about an hour playing with the kids while they were outside. The language barrier was tough but I found a ball to toss around and managed to make a couple friends. One of the other girls had her camera with her and let the kids take some pictures so, here’s your first glimpse at our kids here…

I wish I could tell you this little guy's name but I have yet to learn how to ask that question in Russian... nevertheless he was such a sweetheart. He was sitting off by himself so I went and sat beside him and he chatted away to me while I smiled back at him. Maybe one day we'll actually be able to have a bit of a conversation :)

This is Luba. She is a very bossy little girl which actually worked out to my advantage as she used lots of gestures and expression to make sure she was making herself understood. I spent most of our morning there playing ball with her and another little girl named Christina (pictured below)

Playing ball with Christina (you're probably wondering about the lack of clothes... like I've said, it's super-hot outside so really, can you blame them?)

Ok, Luba kind of cut me off a bit in this picture but I still think it's cute...

Myself, Hayley and Ashley along with a couple of the kids

Monday, August 9, 2010

First day holding orphans...

Today was the first chance I’ve had to hold orphans for 13 weeks… ahh, it felt good. Like I said, we went to the babies’ orphanage this morning to spend time with the special needs kids. Unfortunately, some of their staff were on vacation so they only had two of the special needs kids outside this morning – a precious blind little boy named Dima and a sweet little girl with Down Syndrome name Liza. We played with the two of them along with several other adorable typical children but as I spent time with Dima and Liza I realized just how much God has gripped my heart for special needs kids. We played with them for a little under an hour and then it was time for them to go back inside. As we helped bring all the kids in, I caught a glimpse of the rest of the special needs kids just hanging out in their cribs, on the floor, etc. and I didn’t want to leave. At this point, volunteers are only welcome at the orphanage between 10:30-11:30, to play with the kids during their outdoors time. Oh how I long to spend the day in Liza and Dima’s room, helping out however I can and just showering them with love and affection…

Right now the children at the older orphanages are away at camp so it looks like it’s going to be a pretty quiet week. Actually, it seems as though things are pretty slow around here in general as volunteers don’t spend more than an hour or two at any one orphanage on a given day. For this week I plan on tagging along with the other volunteers who are here but on Friday Ed is coming in from Kiev and I’m hoping to meet with him to discuss some other things I could do. Right now what’s on my heart is spending more time in the special needs room at the babies’ orphanage, the special needs orphanage for children over five and the abandoned babies at the local children’s hospital. I would also love to get into a new orphanage that does not receive volunteers yet, where the children are not receiving adequate care and do my best to make a difference in those kids’ lives. Please continue to join me in praying that God would give me favour here and that He would open up the doors to the places where He wants me to be.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My New Home

Here I am in Khrivoy Rog… We boarded the train last night and all I could think was, “oh dear…” The train consisted of an extremely narrow hallway leading to very small, 6x6 cabins with four bunks (two upper, two lower) each. It did not look at all comfortable and I quickly resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be a long night. Much to my surprise however, I had a great night. As far as I’m concerned, we hit the jackpot with our cabin-mates, sharing with a mom and her little girl. Once the train started moving and the air conditioning came on, the movement and the cool breeze created the perfect atmosphere for sleeping and I slept better than I have since I arrived.

Although still very much a town, Khrivoy Rog is much more like the missions’ fields I’m used to. Kiev was very much like any other European city with nice roads, tall buildings, designer clothes and shopping malls. Khrivoy Rog is more like Africa in that it has bumpy dirt roads, dilapidated buildings, mostly smaller stores and a much more visible presence of poverty. I feel more at home here already. Speaking of home, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my new home for the next six months of so… It’s not nearly as cute as Jenny’s South African “Hide-Away Hut” but I like it :)






This morning we went to the church that I’ll be attending while I’m here. Hands raised, flags waving, people dancing in the front… this is my kind of church. I wish I could understand what they were saying but I’m determined to learn the alphabet as quickly as possible so that I can at least sing along. We did sing one song that I knew – Agnus Dei. Some of you may remember this post where I talked about how we sang that same song my first Sunday in Uganda. Well today, as I stood joining my English voice to the Russian voices all around me, remembering that day in Uganda, I was in awe at the amazing opportunity God has given me to worship together with His children all around the world and I was filled with a great anticipation for heaven when a great multitude which no one can number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, will stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

My goal for this week, that I want to share as both a prayer request and a means of being held accountable, is to learn the Russian alphabet. Although I still have a long way to go towards being independent here, being able to read will be a huge step in that direction as well as a big help in learning vocabulary, etc. That said, I’d better get cracking… Tomorrow morning we’re going to the local babies orphanage to love on some special needs kids – can’t wait!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Goodbye Kiev

We're just chilling (or trying to) for a few hours before we met Ed for dinner and then head to the train station but I thought I'd post some of the sights from today...

The Golden Gate

St. Sophia's Cathedral

St. Michael's Cathedral

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Day in Kiev

Thanks for the prayers – I had a really good night’s sleep last night and feel like the jetlag is pretty much gone. The girls arrived this morning and we spent the day going around Kiev to places such as the Great Famine memorial, the World War II museum and the Kiev monastery. I didn’t have my camera with me but I found some pictures online as I figure it’s about time I added some illustration to these posts.





I also had my first Ukrainian meal today – cabbage and perogies… mmm, mmm, good :)

Observation of the day: The escalators here are really fast! It’s kind of scary, I’m not the biggest fan of escalators to begin with, but even with how fast they go it still takes two and a half minutes to get to the bottom (I’m not kidding, I timed it!). The metro has got to be a million miles underground! Apparently it’s the deepest subway system in Europe.

It was nice to see the city today but I’m ready head to where all the orphanages are. We leave tomorrow at 9:30 on the overnight train and should arrive in Khrivoy Rog around 6:30 in the morning. Anyway, that’s it for today but I’ll update again soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Update

Well, I have a bit of a break for the next few hours so I thought it would be a good time for an update… We went to McDonald’s for dinner last night and tonight we’re going to TGI Friday’s. Not exactly the mission’s field I’m used to but I’m not complaining.

I wish I could tell you I’ve learned a bunch of new Russian words but so far not much has been sticking in my brain. I can recognize all the words I learned before I came here as well as a handful of new ones but I can never remember the new ones when I want to use them myself. As for what I learned at home (“Do you speak English?”, “I don’t understand Russian”, etc.), well, as my brother so kindly pointed out, those can easily be substituted by a simple, “huh” and have therefore rendered themselves pretty useless :) Ed’s really good about teaching me simple Russian words as we talk, especially when his daughter’s around (she doesn’t really speak English) and I feel like I could learn a lot from him except that as of Saturday I won’t be seeing that much of him anymore.

As for the heat, it’s still stinking hot and there’s no sign of it letting up. Ed lent me a fan today though and it makes all the difference. Aside from that, I’ll guess I’ll just stick to wearing the few items of cooler clothing that I brought until autumn hits.

In talking with Ed today I got to hear more about the orphanages he’s involved in in Krivoy Rog. It sounds like they’re pretty good orphanages where the children are fairly well cared for, all things considered. I’m really excited about the opportunity I’ll have to work with the abandoned babies at the local children’s hospital. We also talked about my desire to work with neglected babies, etc. He’s not in any orphanages like that right now but he was open to seeing if he could find some contacts for me to go to orphanages no one’s been to yet, places where special needs children are not well cared for. Please continue to pray that God would open up the doors for me to be where He wants me and that I would follow His leading.

Last night was kind of rough. I went to bed at 10:00 and fell right asleep but woke up wide awake just half an hour later and stayed awake for the next four hours! I’m feeling pretty good right now but obviously I won’t be able to do too many nights like that and still expect to function during the day. Please pray that I get a good night’s sleep tonight.

Alright, that’s it for now. Due to language issues I wasn’t able to get into the bathroom after Ed dropped me off last night. It didn’t bother me too much, Congo was a great training ground, but now I’m off to take a much-needed shower. Talk to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Greetings from Ukraine!

So, I made it… At just after 3:00 this afternoon (local time) I landed in Ukraine’s capital city – Kiev. As we were beginning our decent I began to realize that this is nothing like anything I have ever done before. Sure, I’ve traveled by myself before but never to somewhere so unfamiliar. The first time I went to Uganda on my own, I had already been there before and had friends there and although didn’t know anyone in Congo, it was still Africa so I was at least familiar with the culture, customs, etc., it was still within my comfort zone. This is totally different and as we were landing it was like I all of a sudden realized that I don’t know a single person here and I am totally unfamiliar with the culture, the language, etc. It was a little intimidating. As I walked into the airport I was met by a man holding up a sign with my name on it. (As you said Marlene, there were no smiles or niceties, he just demanded my passport and whisked me away.) It was a VIP service that Ed had arranged for me. For just $20 someone from the airport will escort you through customs, etc. As Ed had promised, it was well worth it as we bypassed all lines and questions and were out in front of the airport with all my bags in less than 15 minutes (a little less adventurous than the Congo).

Observations so far:

#1 – I need to learn Russian. Aside from Ed, I’ve yet to see anyone who speaks English, including the guy who met me at the airport. All the signs are also written in Russian, as I knew they would be but again, it’s very different from anything I’ve experienced before. In Uganda and even in Bukavu, Congo almost all the signs are written in English/French and anyone professional will be able to speak to you in either of those languages. So yeah, it’s clear that I am going to need to learn at least some basic Russian before I can feel comfortable here.

#2 – It’s hot! A whopping 37 degrees as I stepped off the plane! Hotter than anything I’ve ever experience in Africa, go figure. Needless to say, those winter clothes are going to say buried in my bag and right now I’m kind of wishing I had brought some more cooler clothing.

I’m sure you have lots of questions about what the next few days are going to look like for me so, here’s what I know so far… For the next few days I’ll be staying in a dorm room at the local seminary. It’s nice and quiet which will give me time to pray and rest and get over jetlag and the best part is, they have wireless :) During the days I’ll be spending time with Ed, finding about more about the ministry here, touring, etc. On Friday, two girls are coming in from Krivoy Rog. They are both Canadian and are currently volunteering in Krivoy Rog, staying at the same mission’s house I’ll be staying in. So there you have it, one prayer request answered already. I’m praying we’ll connect well as there’s the potential for some really good, English-speaking friends. On Saturday night the three of us are going to take the train back to Krivoy Rog, which is when all the real fun of filling my arms with as many orphans as possible begins.

Anyway, that’s all the news I have for now. So far, so good. I’ll be in touch again soon but for now, I’m going to go sit beside the window wearing as little clothing as possible and work on my Russian :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Change of plans

Can anyone say déjà vu??? Ok, it's not quite like when my bus to Congo was cancelled but my flight to London has been delayed 'till 1am meaning that I'm not actually leaving until early tomorrow morning... Seeing as my next flight's not 'till Wednesday it's no big deal but I still find it funny that every time I say, "this is my last post from...", it's not. Let's see, last time there was a change of plans I ended up being left at the border... let's hope this time the 'adventure' stops here (although being left at the border was one of the biggest highlights of my time in Africa...)

I'll keep you posted!

This is it...

Well, the countdown's on and there's just hours to go before I begin my journey to Ukraine. As the hour draws nearer I am feeling a mix of emotions; excitement, joy, awe at God's goodness, a little sadness, apprehension... During my last trip to Africa the rose colored glasses came off and for the first time I feel like I got an honest look at what missions really is - a privilege, an adventure, a joy and yet at the same time a challenge and a sacrifice. Going into this trip I am more aware than ever of the challenges I am about to face, some known, many unknown to me at this time. And yet I find myself being filled to the brim with such great expectation, more so than ever before. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've never felt so certain that this is exactly where God wants me.

Over the past few weeks, the words of this song have been ringing through my heart and I wanted to share them with you as my final post from this side of the world...

Let The Waters Rise - by Mikeschair

...I am willing to go
Where you want me to
God, I trust You

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

I will swim in the deep
'Cuz You'll be next to me
You're in the eye of the storm
And the calm of the sea
You'll never out of reach

God, You know where I've been
You were there with me then
You were faithful before
You'll be faithful again
I'm holding Your hand

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

God Your love is enough
You will pull me through
I'm holding onto You
God Your love is enough
I will follow You
I will follow You
 
There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You