Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Day of Celebration

So, this morning was the celebration the director had told us about, the one we bought the little girl the dress for which then got us inside the orphanage. Anyway, the celebration was today and we were invited. The whole thing was quite anticlimactic, lasting all of 7 minutes. It reminded me of home videos of my ballet “recital” when I was four-years-old, a bunch of toddlers running around not quite sure what they’re doing while the teachers remind them when to clap, spin around, etc. I tried to take pictures but the lighting wasn’t great and there were a bunch of heads in my way. They were cute though.

I’m still not sure what the whole celebration was about but I can tell you what I’m celebrating today… Today I spent 5.5 hours inside the babies’ orphanage! Yes, you read that right, five and a half hours!!! It was pouring rain all day today so after the celebration Lienna and I went upstairs and played with the kids inside, staying until after lunch. Then I had Lienna ask if I could come back at 4:00 and they said yes so back I went and as 6:00 came and went no one asked me to leave so I stayed. Finally at 7:00 the night worker who speaks a bit of English told me I should leave as she was worried about me getting home in the dark. I wasn’t able to explain to her that I only live 2 minutes from the babies’ orphanage (a big perk to our new apartment) but maybe once I do she’ll let me stay even longer. It’s hard to believe that a week ago today I was lying on my “sick bed” begging God to break down the walls and get me in. Now the workers welcome me with a smile, call me by name and sometimes even ask for my help… Now that is something to celebrate indeed – yea God!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reaching Out...

Wow, what a morning. I woke up this morning and it was raining, again. “Well,” I thought, “this’ll be a good test to see if they’re really going to let me inside. Otherwise, hopefully I can go to the children’s hospital.” So, I prayed and asked God to have His way with this day and then I headed over to the babies’ orphanage. The workers told us that they weren’t bringing the kids outside today so Lienna asked if we could come in and they said yes! I have to tell you, I was shocked (oh, such little faith I have…). We played with the kids inside for half an hour then the sun came out so we took them outside for about an hour, brought them back in and played a bit more before lunch when I was able to feed two of my angels. All in all we spent a full 2 hours and 45 minutes with the kids, nearly two hours of which was inside! I know I shouldn’t be so stunned but I am. Only God… ONLY GOD.

That brings me to my request… I have no idea what I’m doing with these kids! I have never worked with special needs kids before and honestly, I’m just making it up as I go along. Outside it was easy, hold them or push them in the stroller, but inside there is room for more than that. I don’t need any help loving on them but I would love to do more to help them reach more of their potential. So, I’m reaching out for help. I know that there are people out there reading this blog who are parents of special needs children or who have worked with children with special needs. Some of you I know and we have been in touch but I’m sure there are others I don’t know of. There are kids here with Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, blindness and other unspecified mental/developmental handicaps. Some are strictly physical, others simply mental and others a combination of the two. The language barrier adds an extra challenge in assessing and working with these kids but I would be extremely grateful for any advice or resources anyone could offer me. If you have any experience with children with special needs of any kind please contact me at:

Friday, September 24, 2010


I could hardly sleep last night as I just couldn’t stop praying about today and for sweet little Yulia. When I woke up this morning I was so excited there were butterflies in my stomach and I knew, today was going to be the day. We went to the orphanage this morning as usual and when it was time for the kids to go inside we asked, once again, if we could stay and help feed them. The workers told us that no one has ever been allowed to come inside and feed the kids and that just this morning the head supervisor had told them not to let anyone in. Over the past weeks God has given me the opportunity to gain favour with the workers and they said that they weren’t opposed to us coming in, but they needed to hear it from someone in charge. So, we stepped out into the hallway to call Ira (Ed’s colleague) so that she could call the director. Ira wasn’t answering her phone and so I just kept praying; five minutes later we were able to reach her. She spoke to the director and then told us to go downstairs to the director’s office as she wanted to speak with us. When we got there she was waiting with the head supervisor as well as a worker and little girl from another group. She told us that at the end of this month they are going to be having a celebration and this little girl didn’t have anything nice to wear (dressing nicely is very important here). Then she said, “If you want to feed the kids, you need to buy this girl a dress… Will you do it?” I thought about for like half a second and said yes. Then she turned to the head supervisor and said, “Let her in.” Just like that we went back upstairs and I was given one of the special needs girls to feed. Then, about 15-20 minutes later, Lienna, the worker, the little girl and I got into a car and headed downtown to a very posh little children’s clothing store (think Mexx Kids or Baby Gap). Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed this little girl outside before and she is just gorgeous. I’ve often thought to myself that she would make a great Mexx model so I guess it was fitting… Anyway, $25 later we had a very cute outfit. It was more than I would ever spend on my own baby but she did look darling and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a small price to pay to give some extra loving to my angels.

So, all that to say, God did it! Yes, we need to continue to pray that the doors stay open and that my time inside the orphanage would become longer and longer but today was indeed a day of great victory! Thank you so much to all of you who prayed, each one of you are playing an important part in all that God is doing. Borrowing Moses’ song of victory today and praising God in celebration…

"I will sing to the LORD,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him…
Your right hand, O LORD,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, O LORD,
shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty
you overthrew those who opposed you...
Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
performing such wonders?...
In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have ransomed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling....
You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.
The LORD will reign
forever and ever."
Exodus 15

God is indeed at work in this place and these walls are being broken down!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sick Day

Thank you all so much for your prayers last night. I woke up this morning fever-free and feeling much better than yesterday however I still have a pretty bad cold (sneezing, congestion, runny nose, etc.) and I know that if the workers see me sick they are likely to kick me out of the orphanage for weeks and so I decided not to go to the orphanage today. So, I will take today to rest and pray and hopefully tomorrow will be the day.

I have no doubt that God is at work and therefore I am not discouraged. Quite the opposite actually, I continue to feel a greater sense of excitement and anticipation welling up inside of me and I can't wait to see what God is going to do. Here is the passage of Scripture that God gave me last night:

The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
Psalm 97:1-6

So, let's keep praying that tomorrow will be the day we see these mountains melt like wax before our God.

Finally, my heart is burdened today for one particular little girl right here in Ukraine. Please, please click on this link and let's rally together to see God do mighty miracles for this precious princess.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Urgent Prayer Request

As you know, tomorrow is the day I am supposed to go into the babies' orphanage. I have had such an amazing time of prayer over the past couple of days and have been filled with confidence and expectation for how God is going to work tomorrow. The problem is, I'm sick. I've had a cold for the past couple of days, something I got from the kids no doubt, but this afternoon I'm running a fever and obviously, if that persists I will not be going to the babies' orphanage tomorrow. I am so tired of the devil and his schemes. I know that if it doesn't happen tomorrow it will happen sometime soon but I don't want to wait one single day more. Please pray that God will bring healing to my body tonight, that I would wake up feeling better and able to go to the babies' orphanage and that we would get INSIDE!

p.s. I'm sorry, I forgot to update you yesterday on the Parliament vote... The bill to ban international adoptions out of Ukraine has been postponed indefinitely. Praise God! He is indeed answering our prayers and He is at work on behalf of the orphans here in Ukraine.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A treasure hidden in the darkness

When I woke up this morning it was raining so, knowing that the babies’ orphanage would not be bringing the kids outside, I called Lienna to see if we could go to the children’s hospital instead. She spoke to the director and was told that we were welcome to come. We met at the hospital at 10:00 and had to wait two whole hours before the director finally had someone take us to where they keep the abandoned babies. It was so worth it though because for the next 2 hours (an unheard of amount of time) I got to hold this sweet angel.

Doesn’t that precious little face just make your heart melt??? This is Dashsa, she is 6 weeks old and she has Down syndrome. As I held Dasha, I thought about how different these first weeks of her life have been compared to most babies. There would have been no celebration on the day that she was born. Instead, one good look at her would have brought nothing but sorrow. Next, doctors and nurses would have begun telling her parents that the only option was to place her in an institution. I don’t know if the mother was quick to give her up or if it was the hardest decision she’d ever had to make but either way, the decision was made and their tiny baby girl was whisked away, probably never to be spoken of again. Since then Dasha has most likely spent the majority of her time alone in her crib. As I held her today I wondered, has anyone ever rocked her to sleep or sung her a lullaby? Has anyone ever kissed her sweet little forehead or marvelled at her tiny little fingers? Has she ever heard the words, “I love you” or been told how beautiful she is? Has anyone ever dreamed about her future or stood over her crib watching her sleep because they just couldn’t drag themselves away? This precious little angel, the Father’s princess, has become like a treasure hidden in the darkness.

After leaving the hospital Lienna and I went to meet with the director of the special needs orphanage. Out of the three directors, she is by far the most open and worked with us to find a time that would fit both of our schedules. It was decided that I would come in the evenings from 6:00-7:00 to work with a group of girls aged 11 and older who are highly functioning. If it were up to me, I would have chosen to work with the youngest kids (what can I say, I love the little ones) or the severely handicapped children who never leave their beds but Lienna told me that she had the opportunity to work with this group of girls in the summer and that she really felt like God wanted to do something in their lives. Don’t you love the way God works, that out of all the groups the director could have asked us to work with, that’s the one she chose? Unfortunately Lienna is not available to come with me in the evenings but I am meeting tomorrow with someone who is and then hopefully we will start going there on Monday.

So, it looks like things may actually get a little busier for me here. Thank you for your prayers thus far and please continue to remember Thursday, the day we try to get inside the babies’ orphanage, in your prayers.

Praising God for today’s victories and looking forward with anticipation to what He will continue to do.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pressing On

It’s a rainy day today which means not a lot of time with the kids. Once again, we tried to go inside the orphanage and once again, we were denied. After leaving the orphanage we ran into Ira, Ed’s colleague, the “woman in charge” here in Khrivoy Rog. She spoke to me about things that God Himself has been speaking to me over the past few weeks. She said that in the past 4 years that she has been working for Ed here in Khrivoy Rog, I am the first person that has tried to work inside the babies’ orphanage. Unlike other orphanages where the directors are much more open, the babies’ orphanage is much more reluctant to accept volunteers and so people have simply gone and played with the kids while they were outside and left. She also said that even before I arrived, God has been putting this place on her heart more and more and that she has felt a stronger and stronger urge to get in there. She said that she believes that God is doing something in the babies’ orphanage and for whatever reason, He has brought me here to be a part of it. As I have spent time praying over the past few weeks, I have sensed God telling me the same thing. I think of all that has led me to this point, of the past several years where I have been praying for an opportunity to work with orphans in Eastern Europe and how this opportunity just all of a sudden fell into my lap. I realize that out of all the places God could have sent me, He sent me here to Khrivoy Rog. Not last year, not next year but now, at this exact moment in time. I don’t believe it was a coincidence. I believe that God has begun a great work here and that He has invited me to be a part of it. Not because I’m anyone special, I’m just an ordinary person and there are surely countless people more qualified than me, but because God in all His grace chooses to use ordinary people to accomplish His purposes. I am humbled at the thought.

Anyway, Ira encouraged me to persevere in love and boldness, patience and confidence. Then she called the director who said that starting Thursday I will be able to go inside. So far the difficulties have been with the workers and head supervisor, not the director. Nevertheless on Thursday we will try again and, if they say no again Ira will be by the phone ready to speak to the director. This time we will not be so easily turned away. In the meantime, Ira called the director of the special needs orphanage and tomorrow we will meet with her to discuss the possibility of me spending some time there in the afternoons. Please keep both of these events in your prayers.

Finally, one last prayer request… Tomorrow, Parliament here in Ukraine is scheduled to consider a bill that would ban international adoptions. This is not the first time this bill has come up. It failed the last time, but it was not without support (kind of like Quebec separatism in the 90’s). If it passes however, all international adoptions will end. The implications of such a bill would be catastrophic, especially for special needs orphans. Please pray that this bill would again be defeated.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quote of the week...

“In this world nothing gives us eternal happiness, except our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Only during the few years of this life are we given the privilege of serving each other and Christ.
After death, we shall have heaven forever, but only a short time for service here.
Therefore, we must not waste the opportunity.”

~ Member of the persecuted church in India

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Renewed Vision

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about getting into the special needs orphanage and the children’s hospital and I imagine that some of you are wondering what’s going on there. Well, as you may remember, both of those places required me to get certain medical tests done before I could begin volunteering there. I got the results from my tests a couple weeks ago but then we were told that the special needs orphanage was under quarantine and at that point there were no abandoned babies at the children’s hospital (as my friend Darren would say, a good problem to have…). Finally, last Friday we got word that the quarantine had been lifted from the orphanage and the hospital had received one baby that we could come spend time with. The catch? Both places would only allow us to come between the hours of 10:00-12:00 which, incidentally, is the same time I am allowed to be at the baby’s orphanage. To be honest, to me that was the most frustrating news yet and I found myself feeling more discouraged than ever. I had been looking forward to hearing that there was somewhere I could spend some time in the afternoons, not that I could continue to spend only two hours a day with the kids, only now I would have to split my time between three places. Plus, I felt like we were slowly making progress at the babies’ orphanage but I wasn’t sure that would continue to be the case if I was only there a couple times a week.

As I spent the weekend praying about all of it, I was reminded of my prayer from soon after I got here. My heart was gripped by the needs I saw at the babies’ orphanage, special needs orphanage and children’s hospital and my desire was to be able to volunteer in all three. I prayed however, that if God would have me focus on just one place that He would release me from the burden I felt for the others. Well, over the past weeks I have yet to even step foot inside the special needs orphanage or children’s hospital. In the meantime, I have been going to the babies’ orphanage nearly every day, often twice a day and I have fallen in love with the special needs kids there. Although I would still love to be able to spend time with the kids at the hospital and special needs orphanage, I no longer feel the same burden for those places that I once did. So, I have decided that I will continue to go to the babies’ orphanage every morning from 10:00-12:00 and then again at 4:00 in the afternoon, praying that as time goes on that God would open up the door for me to spend more and more time there. As for the other two places, well, if for some reason there is a morning where I am not able to go to the babies’ orphanage then I will try to visit one of the other two. Or, if the opportunity arises I would love to spend some time there in the afternoons. In the meantime however, I feel like God has called me to be at the babies’ orphanage and so I am going to focus the majority of my time, efforts and prayers there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Waging War

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 6:12)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated but for the past several days Lienna and I have been inching closer and closer towards getting inside the babies’ orphanage. Its involved phone calls to the director, meetings with the head supervisor, discussions with the workers and the purchasing of indoor sandals and lab coats but I’ve been hoping and praying that eventually it would lead to us being allowed inside. Anyway, one of the workers who was on today speaks a little bit of English and is always happy to see me because it means she can practice her English. Well, today when they brought the kids inside Lienna asked her if we could stay and help give the kids lunch. She asked if we had slippers & a lab coat and if we had gotten permission from the director and supervisor and when Lienna said yes she broke into a big smile and said “Welcome!”. Ah, it was like music to my ears…

While we were outside one of the little girls threw up and when they brought her in they took her temperature and found that she had a fever so they started taking the temperatures of the other kids as well. Meanwhile, Lienna and I played with the kids. After we had been there about 10 minutes I began to feel really lightheaded. I thought it was just because the room was warm and that it would go away but it just got worse and worse until I realized that if I didn’t sit down I was going to end up on the floor. It was so bad that on my way out of the room everything went black and I had to catch myself on the doorway to keep from falling. I sat in the hallway trying to pull it together but nothing helped. Then, after about two minutes Lienna came out and said that several of the kids had fevers so we had to leave. The whole thing was just weird. No, I do not think I have whatever it is the kids have. As a matter of fact, I felt totally fine as soon as Lienna said we had to go. I can come to no other conclusion except that this is spiritual. One thing I do know, if God’s heart is for the orphan (which it is), then the enemy is set against them.

I feel like God opened my eyes today to the spiritual battle that is going on for these kids and I am grateful. The truth is, I would take spiritual warfare over just plain bureaucracy any day. This is something I know how to deal with. Just yesterday during my quiet time I came across 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds.” This is not a battle that can be won through planning and strategizing or bribery and charm. This is a battle that requires God’s might weapons, namely prayer and fasting. Our God is greater, our God is stronger and our God is higher than any other. Our God is awesome in power and if He is for us, then nothing can stand against us. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record but nevertheless, please continue to pray that God would open up the way for me to get inside the babies’ orphanage and that all of the enemy’s strongholds over that place would be knocked down.

Friday, September 10, 2010


So, I didn’t get many questions last week (thanks Jenny, I knew I could count on you!) but don’t worry if you missed out this time, I’ll do it again. In the meantime, here are my answers to the questions that came in…

Have you been to church in Ukraine? What is it like?
Yes, we go to the same church every Sunday morning as well as Thursday evenings. It’s called “Church of Praise” and although I don’t know what denomination it is, I would describe it as Pentecostal with flags during worship, praying in tongues, etc. I kind of compare it to a cross between Eden Revival church in Uganda and the Metro Ministries church in New York; I love it. The service starts off with a whole hour of worship and prayer which is often the highlight of my week. My reading is slowly improving and I am also beginning to learn some of the songs so I find myself singing along more and more but even when I can’t, it doesn’t really matter because the worship is so powerful you don’t even need words. The second hour of the service is a little more painful at times as the sermons are all in Russian but every once in a while we get translation or there’s an English-speaking guest speaker which is always very exciting.

What is your favorite food there and what food are you missing from home?
My favourite food here is definitely perogies although borscht is a close second, especially on a cool day. As for what food I’m missing from home, I don’t really know. You can get most things here, the problem is actually finding and recognizing it in the stores. Because I’m lazy when it comes to cooking, especially when I’m in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar ingredients, I’ve been eating mostly the same simple meals like grilled cheese, eggs, spaghetti, etc. which I am quickly growing tired of. So, I guess what I miss most is “real food”, having a kitchen stocked with all the basic ingredients and cooking supplies, being able to read the labels and know what I’m buying at the grocery store. But hey, after Congo, I have nothing to complain about.

Are you only staying in one region?
At this point I don’t have plans to go anywhere else however I am open to whatever God may have in store for me. Given how much trouble I am having getting in to the orphanages here even though I am going in under the umbrella of a very respected man who’s been here over 10 years, I have a hard time imagining myself going somewhere where I didn’t have some sort of connection unless God very clearly called me to do so. That said, who knows what God has planned… I’m just taking things one day at a time. (Anonymous – I would however love to hear more about your little girl and any connections you may have in Torez… feel free to e-mail me at

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful Thursday

This week I’ve been feeling rather frustrated and discouraged. As I near the end of my fifth week here, I am tired of waiting. I am tired of seeing the need and feeling the call and not being able to do anything about it. I am tired of going to the babies’ orphanage twice a day yet never being able to spend time with “my kids”, the ones who need it most.
In addition to all of that, tomorrow we are moving from our house to an apartment just off the main road. The apartment is nice and it is closer to everything but I just don’t like change. I like our house. For the past month I have gotten used to having my own room but in the apartment I will have to share. I am also not looking forward to the act of moving itself. I know that once we get settled I’ll be fine but combine that with my frustration over the orphanage situation and today I just feel down.

That said, this morning as I was walking home from the babies’ orphanage I realized that today is the perfect day for Thankful Thursday so,
here it is…

I am thankful for a shower with hot, running water on a brisk morning.

I am thankful for yummy oranges that I discovered at the store – what a great addition to my breakfast!

I am thankful for the cool autumn weather which is so refreshing after weeks of 40 degrees.

I am thankful that as of Saturday I will no longer have to walk to rocky, uneven, often painful road that leads to our house.

I am thankful for my laptop and mobile internet which allow me to stay connected with family and friends all around the world.

I am thankful for our friend Vova who came in all the way from Kiev to help us move.

I am thankful for all the adoptions that are taking place right now; nothing blesses my heart more than seeing precious orphans being found by their forever families.

I am thankful for all the sermons I downloaded before coming here… what a great way to spend my evenings, curled up with my bible and headphones, being challenged and inspired by the Word of God.

I am thankful that tonight I get to go to church and worship in a place where God’s Presence is so tangible, you don’t even need to understand the words.

There, that was just what I needed, I feel better already… What are you thankful for today?

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My heart broke...

Today I find myself in a place of brokenness...

This morning while I was with Lienna we saw a mother caring for her severely handicapped son and Lienna turned to me and said, “What a sorrow to give birth to such a child”. That, after just this morning I was reading about how each one of us has been wonderfully created as God’s image-bearers. My heart broke.

Later while Lienna and I were playing with some of the older kids, one of the little girls’ biological parents came to visit her and as soon as she saw them she started to cry. This happy-go-lucky little girl cries every time her parents come to visit for reasons I can only imagine. My heart broke.

My heart breaks today for this world where children who are different are seen as no more than a burden, this world where, as I was told today, “bad parents are better than no parents”. My heart breaks today for my special needs treasures whom I long to hold yet whom I haven’t seen in over a week because the weather has turned colder and the workers no longer bring them outside.

Yes, today my heart is broken yet I cling to God’s promise that, “To all who mourn… he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. For they will be like strong and graceful oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” (Isaiah 61:3)

Friday, September 3, 2010


I don’t know how many people are reading this but I thought I might see if we can’t make it a little more interactive… As hard as it is to believe, I’ve been here nearly one month now and although I am trying to keep my blog up-to-date, I’m sure that many of you have questions that I have not answered. So, here’s your chance. If you have any questions for me about my life here in Ukraine, the culture, the kids, the orphanages, etc., about my past experiences or how I ended up here, or about anything else for that matter, from my favourite bible verse to how I like my eggs, ask away – nothing’s off limits. Just leave your questions in the comments section (click on “comments” at the end of this post, type your question(s) in the box then, if you don’t have a Google account, etc. just select “Name/URL” in the “Comment as” section and type in your name) or e-mail them to me at and next Friday I will do my best to answer them. This could be fun…

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clean bill of health

I am happy to report that I have finally been given a clean bill of health and am now in possession of that magical document, my golden ticket you might call it, which will allow me to get into the children’s hospital and the special needs orphanage. All that for a simple piece of paper…

We tried to go meet with the director of the children’s hospital this morning but she was busy and told us to call and make an appointment. As for the special needs orphanage, a bunch of the kids there are sick and so they are under quarantine for at least another week. In other news, apparently one of Ed’s colleagues here in Khrivoy Rog spoke to the director of the babies’ orphanage last week and was told that I could go in anytime and help feed the children, bathe the children, etc. As you well know, that has not been the case so she is going to call the director to get clarification and, if I am indeed allowed to go in, ask her to speak to the workers on my behalf.

I find myself growing weary of the long, dull days and all the effort that goes into taking one tiny step forward, only to have to stop and wait once again. Nevertheless, I continue to feel a great sense of expectation for all that God is going to do. Please continue to pray that God’s hand of favour would be upon Lienna and myself and that God would work all things out in His time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010