Thursday, October 28, 2010

Leo Lyagushka


This is Leo Lyagushka (Leo the Frog). Leo is an artist. In fact, Leo is a brilliant artist. Leo has created many beautiful paintings but one day as Leo was finishing one painting in particular, he looked at it and realized that it was his best painting ever – this painting was perfect. Leo decided to give this painting to his friend as a gift. His friend hung the beautiful painting on his wall and every day he would look at it. After a couple weeks, his friend brought the painting back to Leo and said, “This painting is not quite right. The grass is not green enough, the sky is not blue enough, there are not enough flowers in the grass or clouds in the sky… Will you fix it for me?” This made Leo very sad. You see, Leo had worked very hard on this painting. He decided exactly how many clouds and flowers to paint and just what colors to use. Leo knows that he didn’t make any mistakes with this painting, it is perfect just the way it is.

God is also an artist and these children are His masterpieces, made in His image, the crown of His creation. How His heart must break when we miss their beauty and fail to see them the way He does – perfect just the way they are.





Fearfully and wonderfully made…
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Unorphaned

There is one less orphan in the world today!

Liza and her Forever Mama

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, one of the little girls in my group has been in the process of being adopted and today I had the privilege of walking her out of her room in the orphanage for the very last time. Liza may not know it yet, but today is the first day of the rest of her life… No more having to fight for attention as one of a dozen children, no more sharing clothes and being dressed in whatever’s closest, regardless of whether it’s meant for a boy or girl, no more eating the same thing day after day, no more scheduled potty times, no more one minute “showers”, no more being put to bed by a different worker every night. Starting today, Liza is a part of a family where she will surely be the center of attention among her older siblings. She will have toys and countless adorable girly outfits to call her own. She’ll have the opportunity to try different foods and discover what she likes and doesn’t like. She’ll learn that the potty’s not so bad if you don’t have to sit on it for hours a day and that baths are a whole lot of fun. Best of all, Liza now has a Mommy and Daddy to tuck her into bed every night. Liza’s not only been given a family, she’s been given a future. Here in Ukraine, Liza would have lived a life without hope or opportunities. If a family had not come for her, she would have soon been transferred to the special needs orphanage and then, at around 18-years-old, she would have been transferred to the local mental institution where she would have lived out the rest of her days. Now, not only does Liza have a family who will love and accept her for who she is, she will also be given every opportunity for an abundant life, to learn and grown, to serve a purpose, to love and be loved.

In the adoption world, the day you finally get your child is called “Gotcha Day”. Over the past couple of years I have read (with tears of joy streaming down my cheeks) countless “Gotcha Day” blog posts but today was the first time I was ever there to witness it firsthand and what a blessing it was. I know one day I’ll have gotcha days of my own but in the meantime, thank you Rick and Melissa (and Greg and Sarah) for letting me be a part of your special day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Precious Tori

Ten days ago I joyfully announced that little Yulia's forever family had found her. I also let you know about Tori, another little angel who desperately needed of a family of her own. When I first posted about Tori ten days ago she had almost no money in her adoption fund but over the course of the last ten days over $23,000 was raised and as of yesterday, Tori has a family! Have you prayed for Tori? Then know that you have played a part in her miracle. Thank you.

I am overcome with emotion at the realization that God is choosing to use us in His plan to rescue these precious little ones... Let's keep going, shall we? Yesterday I read about Brady and I haven't been able to stop thinking about him since. Once again, Brady's situation is desperate, hopeless by the world's standards but God has already proved that He is more than able to raise up a family in even the most "hopeless" of cases. Let's pray Brady home!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Barrel of Monkeys and The Least of These...

I spent 8 full hours with kids today!!! I can remember the days when that's all the time I would spend with kids in a whole week... God is good.

Anyway, the kids in "Group 5" had a barrel of laughs with the barrel of monkeys today...





On another note, we went back to see Tanya and Marina at the children's hospital. I see Jesus in the eyes of those girls, and I feel like the more time I spend with them, the more I come to know God...

 Marina, 9-years-old

Tanya, 13-years-old


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth...
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
Matthew 5

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Changes

Change #1: Things have been busy lately… wow, I was starting to think I would never type those words! Between spending more time with the kids, a movie night with fellow missionaries, hanging out with adoptive parents, preparing for a team that will be arriving tomorrow, etc. I haven’t had a moment of boredom for days and I’m loving it.

There has also been a change in my schedule. You may remember that I had been spending time at the special needs orphanage every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening… Well, last week the director called to let me know that the kids in both of the groups I work with in the evenings were sick and I wouldn’t be able to go back in until they were feeling better. She said we could still come and visit another group though if we would be willing to come in the mornings. At the same time, we spoke to the director at the children’s hospital and she said we could not come at 1:00 (after the babies’ orphanage) as I had hoped. We know the workers will let us stay as long as we want but we need to get there before 12:00. So, I decided that on Tuesday and Thursday we will go to the special needs orphanage from 10:00-11:00 and then head over to the hospital to cuddle some abandoned babies.

So, yesterday was the first day on this new schedule. We got to work with “Group 5” at the special needs orphanage, another group of mostly older kids with moderate intellectual handicaps and several with physical handicaps as well. Once again, the language barrier was a struggle but I plan on bringing “A Barrel of Monkeys” with me tomorrow… no language needed for that!

At the hospital, the director informed us that the babies were sick and would not be allowed to receive visitors for at least a week but she invited us to visit some disabled kids instead. As it turns out, they were two girls from the special needs orphanage. Once again, my heart broke as we walked into that room. Just as with the babies, these orphaned children are left alone in their crib all day as they do not have enough staff to care for them. When we entered the room one of the little girls, Marina, was just wailing and you could see that she had been crying for quite some time. At 13-years-old, the other girl, Tanya, was completely emaciated, like something one might think only exists in Africa. For the next two hours, Lienna sat by Tanya’s crib stroking her gently while I held Marina and sang to her until she fell asleep in my arms. As heartbreaking as it was, I feel like those two hours were truly priceless and I look forward to spending more time with them tomorrow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Answers...

Not many questions to answer but here goes…

How did you end up in the Ukraine?
I’m going to try to give you the full version without making it too long… I went on my first overseas missions trip to Uganda in 2006 and those three weeks changed me forever. In the weeks, months and years that followed that trip (and my second, longer trip the next year) God broke my heart for the poor and grew in me a deep love for the orphan, specifically the “unwanted and forgotten”. My heart beat for Africa and I longed for the day He would fulfill the promise He had spoken to me and send me back there again (which He did in January of this year). In the meantime, while following the blogs of families that were adopting from the orphanage I had volunteered at in Uganda, I stumbled across Reece's Rainbow and God opened my eyes to the plight of special needs orphans here in Eastern Europe. As I continued to learn more about the conditions over here I knew that these were the “unwanted and forgotten children” that God had called me to. I began praying that God would open up a way for me to come and share His love with these children and about two years later the opportunity just fell into my lap… and here I am!

Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and raised in Montreal and, except for my missions’ excursions, I have lived there my whole life. I went to school at McGill University and graduated with my Bachelors of Social Work in May of 2007. I have been in full-time ministry/missions ever since.

N.B. For those of you who are interested, Yulia’s family now has a blog… you can follow their journey here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sweet Yulia

As you all know, things here have been tough for me lately. In the midst of it all however, God has reminded me of His goodness, His power and His Fatherly love for His children. Yes, God has shone a bright ray of hope into the darkness and despair and her name is Yulia. You may remember me posting about little Yulia a couple weeks ago. Yulia is a little girl with a rare, fatal disease who has spent her entire life lying in a crib, never being taken out except to be fed or bathed. The four walls of that crib would have been all she knew until the day she died but God had other plans for Yulia. People around the world rallied in prayer and financial support and God, in all His glory and might, has raised up a family for this little one. Now, for however long Yulia has left on this earth, she will know what it is to be treasured, what it is to be loved. You can read more about Yulia’s family here.

Surely Yulia’s was a hopeless case but our God is a God of hope, a God of life, a God who makes possible the impossible. What a great reminder. To all of you who prayed or even donated for Yulia, thank you for being a part of the miracle of hope that God is doing in her life.

p.s. You’ll notice I’ve added a new picture to my sidebar… That is Tori, another angel right here in Ukraine who is in desperate need of a family. Let’s continue to pray these little ones home!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Angels

I have been wanting to do this post for over a month now... I can't believe how long it has taken me to get pictures of each of the special needs kids from my group at the babies' orphanage!
Anyway, without any further delay, allow me to introduce you to the ones who have captured my heart:

Liza
(Liza's adoptive parents are actually here right now so she won't be in my group much longer but look how sweet she is... I had to include her!)

Dima

Vika

Bogdan

Igor

Andrey

Liza

Denis

Diana

Paulina

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thankful Thursday... on Monday

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians out there! My fellow Canadians here (Ashley & Ed) are both currently out of the country so it’s really not Thanksgiving for me today but, in attempt to be festive and because it’s been rough morning and I know I need this, I thought today would be a good day for a late (early?) Thankful Thursday post…

I am thankful for our hot water heater as most people around here don’t have one and the hot water has been shut off for weeks now.

I am thankful that the heat came on yesterday for the first time (the heat here is regulated by the government and for the past week or so our apartment has been pretty chilly).

I am thankful that today is warmer and sunnier than it has been in a week.

I am thankful for Ukrainian apples; they’re tart, juicy delicious and cheap – last week I bought five big apples for just 75 cents!

I’m thankful for our new high-speed, wireless internet (my modem was pretty slow) which has meant good quality Skype calls, the ability to download videos and upload pictures with ease, etc.

I am thankful for online Christian radio.

I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to spend time with families who are here adopting from the babies’ orphanage.

I am thankful that this morning I finally got the last picture I needed to be able to introduce to my angels… come back tomorrow to “meet” them!

I am thankful that it looks like sweet Yulia’s family has found her (more details on that soon)!

I am thankful for every moment I get to spend inside the babies’ orphanage – I will forever praise God for doing the “impossible”!

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
(Psalm 100:4-5)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Apathy, numbness... hopelessness

As you know, my desire is to be open, honest and transparent on this blog so, here I go… For the past week or so I’ve been struggling. At first I attributed it to homesickness, cultural frustrations, loneliness, etc. but there’s more to it than just that. I kind of feel like Elijah, after experiencing such a great victory when God broke down the walls and got me inside the orphanage, I soon found myself feeling depressed and ready to throw in the towel. I am so thrilled to finally be spending time inside those four walls but it has not been easy. Compared to countless institutions in this part of the world, the babies’ orphanage is a great place for these kids to be nevertheless, I have seen things there that break my heart, things I cannot talk about on a public blog. Every day I am overwhelmed by the great need I see in that place, 10 special needs kids (plus 2 typical kids) who all need and deserve more love and attention than I can possibly give in a few short hours a day. The highest functioning kids demand my undivided attention and when they don’t get it they resort to aggression, tantrums and at times self-harming behaviours. Others, who should be able to play and interact, have gone so long without adequate stimulation that they’d rather suck their fingers to the point of decay or bang their heads on the side of the crib than play with me. Then there are those who are unable to interact at all yet who still deserve a kind voice and loving touch. These kids need more than I can give. I can love on them for the next few months but then what? At 5-years-old they will be transferred to the special needs orphanage where the higher-functioning kids will end up in pretty good groups while the lower-functioning kids are left in their beds. Then, those who survive the next 15 years will end up in a Soviet-style mental institution where there will “live” out the rest of their days. It feels like such a hopeless situation.

I’m sorry this is such a depressing post but this is where I’m at these days. I’m not giving up. I know that God has brought me here for a reason and that He loves these kids way more than I can even begin to understand. I know that God is Hope for the hopeless, He is Mighty to save but right now I’m just having a hard time feeling it. Praise God that He is who He is, regardless of how I feel.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy… I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope… put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”
(Psalm 130)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Questions???

Sorry I've been pretty quite this week... not too much new to report. Lienna's been sick this week so I've been going to the babies' orphanage on my own which actually went pretty well considering I speak like no Russian. Yesterday I even "translated" (all of like two sentences) for a family that is here adopting... yikes!

Anyway, it's been a while since my first "questions" post so I thought I'd try it again. A lot has happened in the past few weeks which may have been hard to keep up with, or, I know there are some new people out there so now's your chance to get some clarification or background or just ask that question that you keep wondering about. So, ask away... Questions about Ukrainian culture, the kids, etc., the biggest struggle I've ever faced in my life or the make and model of my first car – nothing’s off limits. Just leave your questions in the comments section or e-mail them to me at ambassadoroflove@live.ca and next Friday I will post my answers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Glimpse...

Back in the spring there was a film crew here doing a documentary on Ed's ministry. Here's just a glimpse of the work that's going on here in Khrivoy Rog... in it you'll see Ed, Ira (his colleague here in Khrivoy Rog) and even one of "my kids" from group 9! (Sasha at 0:58-1:01)

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Special Needs Orphanage

This week I was finally able to begin volunteering at the special needs orphanage. As you may remember, the director had been open to us coming but originally asked that we come between 10:00-12:00, the same time that I was allowed to be at the babies’ orphanage. So, we spoke to the director again and she invited us to come in the evenings from 6:00-7:00 to work with a group of older children. Lienna is not available in the evenings but I was able to find another translator to go with me. This is Natasha’s first time translating and her English is not nearly as good as Lienna’s but she is working hard to do the best job she can, grateful for the opportunity to practice her English and very enthusiastic about working with the kids.

I decided that we would go to the special needs orphanage Monday, Wednesday and Friday, leaving Tuesday and Thursday open for spending extended time in the babies’ orphanage. The director had asked us to work with a very specific group of older girls who she had described as very high functioning so when we went for the first time on Monday I told Natasha to tell the receptionist that we were there to visit Group 8. We were ushered in to a group of older children but I was surprised to see that the group was co-ed. Although I would describe some as fairly high functioning, there were others who were more significantly delayed but I’ve learned that things here are often not as you were told they would be so I didn’t say anything. The kids appeared to be between 10-14 years old and had needs ranging from mild to more severe down syndrome, varying degrees of arthrogryposis, and other intellectual handicaps. They were absolutely precious and I couldn’t go more than two minutes without receiving at least a couple hugs. The worker was really nice and very happy to have us there. We spent the hour loving on the kids and discussing things we could do with them during our visits. Then at 7:00 we left, promising that we would be back soon. After we left however, I commented to Natasha that the group wasn’t quite what the director had described and I discovered that something had been lost in translation and that that was actually Group 9, not Group 8. Oops…

So on Wednesday we found Group 8. They are indeed all girls, I’d say between the ages of 12-17, all able-bodied with mild intellectual handicaps. They too are sweethearts but oh my goodness, are they ever chatty! They were all vying for my attention, asking all kinds of questions that I didn’t understand while poor Natasha tried to come up with the right words to translate while at the same time having her own conversations with some of the girls. To be honest, that first night was very overwhelming and a little discouraging. Tonight we regrouped however and sat all the girls down and had a group discussion about Canada, Ukraine, etc. and it went a lot better. We also got a chance to talk to the worker about what we can do with the girls and she was really open to everything we suggested – games, songs, bible stories, crafts, snacks, etc. Now I’m excited… my new “girls’ group” :)

We also talked to the director about visiting with Group 9 since I was feeling really bad about the mix-up (although I don’t really believe in mix-ups… I’m sure it was a God-thing, an opportunity to spend time with those sweet kids too). So, on Mondays we will spend time with Group 9, maybe singing some simple songs, teaching short bible lessons with puppets and giving lots of hugs. Then on Wednesdays & Fridays we will be with Group 8, doing bible study on Wednesdays and games, crafts, etc. on Fridays. Yes, I am excited about this new opportunity God has given me and would be open to any ideas any of you may have for either group.