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.

1 comment:

SuzanneCarson said...

Andrea, your blog is amazing, I wept at the photos of these children, and the stories break my heart. I just thank God that they have you there to fight for them. They NEED the love and hugs and attention you have for them and I am praying you will get to lavish them.

Thank you for being there for them. I am praying for you, I pray you will find your niche and feel certain your feet and hands are doing the work God has brought you all the way out there to do.

You rock. Love Suzanne xoxoxo