Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My New Girls' Group :)










Saturday, November 27, 2010

Adoption Update

Some of you have been asking so I wanted to update you on the international adoption moratorium vote here in Ukraine. The vote has been postponed once again until the week of December 14-17. Good news for families who are here right now, just about ready to bring their children home but for everyone else it just means more agonizing waiting, wondering, worrying. I look at it as God giving us the opportunity to pray even more, storming the gates of heaven on behalf of the orphans in this country. Let us do just that, shall we?
In other news, do you remember Andriy, the sweet little angel featured in the last three photos of my ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post below? Well, he may not know it yet but he is not an orphan anymore! I just found out that Dasha’s family has decided to adopt Andriy as well. Yep, Dasha and Andriy are going to be twins, just two weeks apart! When I saw the news I literally wept with tears of joy. I am so in awe of what God is doing on behalf of the children of Khrivoy Rog and delighted to know that these little ones whom I have come to love so much will never see the inside of a metal institution.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adoption Awareness Month

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. I seem to have settled into a more or less consistent schedule and there just hasn’t been much to update you on. I’m hoping to take a bunch of new pictures next week though so hopefully a couple of photo posts will make up for my lack of blogging lately. In the meantime, I have some great and some not-so-great news to share with you…

You may remember a few weeks ago I did an Orphan Sunday post here where I introduced you to some orphans in need of forever families right here in the orphanages I am working in. Well, since that post two of those kids have found their families! Yes, that’s right, in the past few weeks both “Marlena” and Aleksey have had families step forward to adopt them and I could not be more thrilled. Thank you so much for praying for these little ones whose lives will soon be completely changed by the love of a family and hope for a future filled with potential.

That brings me to the not-so-great news… A couple months ago I posted here about a vote that would be taking place in Ukraine regarding a bill that would ban international adoptions. At that time the bill was postponed indefinitely however, over the past couple of weeks it has come to my attention that earlier this month parliament voted to pass the bill. The bill needs to pass one more time before it is written into law and that vote is supposed to be taking place sometime this week. If the bill passes this week there will be an immediate halt on all international adoptions, regardless of where families are at in the process. That means that unless a family has already been to court and has a document in their hands stating that they are the legal parents of that child (a document which is not issued until 10 days after the court proceedings), they will be prohibited from bringing their child home. There are currently over 100 children in the process of being adopted through Reece’s Rainbow alone. Some whose parents have just begun the seemingly endless paper chase, others whose parents have already held them in their arms, all of whom will remain orphans if this bill is passed. Do to their special needs, these children have no chance of being adopted within their own country and many are facing health problems that make it imperative that they get out of here quickly. There are also countless typical, healthy children in the process of being adopted by foreigners, some of who are older and will soon age out of the system and lose their chance at a family forever.

November is Adoption Awareness Month and I cannot think of a more crucial, more urgent issue than that which is taking place in Ukraine right now. Please be in prayer about this this week; pray for those who will be making this decision, pray for all the children and families already in process and pray for all the children who are still waiting for their families to find them…the lives of so many are at stake.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Putting my jar of clay on display...

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…”
(2 Corinthians 4:7)

I have sensed God prompting me to write this post for a while now. You see, I often hear from people things like, “Wow, you’re amazing”, “It takes a special person to do what you’re doing”, “I could never do that”, etc. The truth is, if I had read a couple of years ago about someone who was doing what I’m doing right now, I would have thought the same thing. Today however, I know differently. And so I sense God telling me that it is time for me to put my jar of clay on display, so to speak. To be transparent with my weaknesses and shortcomings so that you can see that my being here, doing what I’m doing is because of God alone.

As a teenager and into my 20’s I struggled with social anxiety disorder. Going out with a group of friends set my stomach in knots and just the thought of being in a situation where I might have to talk to people I didn’t know would send me into an outright anxiety attack. I refused to share my thoughts in a small group setting let alone stand up and speak in front of a group of people. My comfort zone didn’t extend much further than my front door, definitely no further than my own community, and the idea of traveling alone to a foreign country where I did not know anyone would have been out of the question. You may be thinking that obviously God has healed me from all of that and in many ways He has but I continue to be a homebody at heart and I still feel sick at the thought of meeting new people. It is only because of God that I am able to travel to all these different places, constantly surrounded by new people. It’s not easy for me but I have learned to step out in obedience and trust God to give me all I need.

There is something else I need to tell you… I have never had any desire to work with children with special needs. To be brutally honest, I have always felt extremely awkward and uncomfortable around children and adults with Down syndrome, etc. and would try my best to avoid having to interact with them. It’s not something I’m proud of but it’s a truth I feel I need to share. God began changing my heart the day I discovered Reece’s Rainbow and began learning about the plight of special needs orphans in Eastern Europe. The more I learned, the more my heart broke and I knew I had to do something. I wouldn’t say that I developed a true love for special needs kids but I saw the need and my heart’s cry became, “Here am I. Send me!” Since arriving here in Ukraine, all of that has changed. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the special needs kids here, finally seeing them as the gifts from God that they truly are, and dreaming of the day when I will have a house full of special needs beauties of my own. Nevertheless, I want you to know that this did not come naturally for me and has only been a result of the power of God at work in me.

I hope that helps to set the record straight; I am not someone special. I am just an ordinary person, with plenty of flaws and failings, but I serve a mighty God who chooses to use ordinary people who are willing to step out in obedience and follow Him. So don’t put God in a box and tell Him what you are and are not capable of doing for Him. If He can use me, then He can use you too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Today is the day... Orphan Sunday

What will you do to make a difference?


If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here

Friday, November 5, 2010

Russian Update

You may have noticed I haven’t done a Russian update in a while… that’s because there really hasn’t been much to update you on as I haven’t learned more than a handful of new words/phrases over the past couple of months. I’ve been kind of at a loss as to how to teach myself the language. Add to that a general lack of motivation and I have simply learned to get by without words. One of my roommates recently started taking Russian lessons however and I decided that that might be just the push I need. So, today was my first Russian lesson. My teacher is a lady named Olga. Her English is not the best but she is really nice and a great teacher and I have a feeling this is going to be very good for me. I will go to her home for a one-hour lesson every Wednesday and Friday afternoon and will then have homework to complete in between. Ugh, I hate school but it will be nice to be able to communicate a bit more.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Changes at the Babies' Orphanage

The past week and a half has been quite frustrating as far as the babies’ orphanage is concerned. In order to receive more money from the government (the government pays the orphanages based on how many kids they have), the orphanage has taken in a group of older children who have families who can’t afford to care for them. So, last Monday my group was split in two with half of the kids being moved to another group while the other half stayed behind along with 8 new, older children. I nearly cried as they took my kids out of the room, not sure if I would be able to see them anymore. Since then, things in my original group have been rough. The majority of the new kids are between the ages of 5-7 and the kids that were left in that group were the most severely handicapped ones, several of whom cannot sit up on their own. It was literally impossible for me to do anything with them with half a dozen loud kindergarten-aged kids running wild.

This morning I was finally able to meet with the head supervisor to discuss how I could continue to work with the special needs kids. The supervisor told me I could still spend time with my kids from both groups and that if I didn’t want to stay in their room, I could taken them down to the main hall where the adoptive families visit with their children. Then she asked me if I would be able to work with two deaf boys who just received hearing aids from the government. They are introducing the hearing aids to the kids gradually and wanted me to watch them to make sure they don’t pull them out, etc. Of course I said yes and how delighted I was to discover that there were several kids with Down syndrome and other special needs in their group as well! I had so much for with those little cuties this morning and then this afternoon I got to love on two of my angels who I haven’t seen since last Monday… It was a good day.

So, now I am faced with the challenge of trying to split my time between three groups… One thing I’ve learned is that nothing here stays the same for very long. Who knows how long this new schedule is going to last but, in the meantime, here are a few of my new buddies…


(who I posted about yesterday)


Monday, November 1, 2010

Orphan Sunday

It’s that time a year again. This coming Sunday, November 7th, is Orphan Sunday. I’ve prayed long and hard about this year’s Orphan Sunday post. I could do what I did last year and give you the statistics – 147 million orphans worldwide, 1.5 million children living in public care in Eastern Europe… Yet those are just numbers, overwhelming numbers that are, at the same time, easy to ignore. David Platt says it well: Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” How true that is. I have held countless orphans in my arms and it has changed everything for me. Maybe you have never had the privilege of holding an orphan in your arms but today I would like to introduce you to some of the faces behind the statistics…

"Marlena" (you might recognize her as my little angel from the children's hospital)
Girl, Born August 2, 2010
Marlena is very young sweetie, born with a full AV canal. She needs a family quickly.


"John Mark"
Boy, Born July 13, 2010
John Mark is only 3 months old! He was born with a tetralogy of fallot (heart condition) and needs a family quickly.

Boy, Born January 13, 2009
This sweet monkey is ready to come home! Aleksey does have an ASD and a minor VSD (ventricular septal defect), but is doing well and does not require immediate surgery. He has struggled with some upper respiratory stuff, but hopefully better medical care and prevention will help him fight that off. He is doing very well, starting to crawl and a favorite of the orphanage staff.

Girl, Born July 10, 2009
Awww, peach fuzz! Miss Angie is darling, but was born with many health complications, including HIV+.

Boy, Born March 19, 2009
Neal is diagnosed with HIV. Minor cognitive delays.

Boy, Born January 14, 2009
Benji is diagnosed with HIV. His medical records indicate encephalopathy and motor disorder.

Boy, Born December 28, 2006
Andrey is a tiny little monkey! He has blonde hair and blue eyes. He has also has strabismus, which can be corrected surgically here in the US. Andrey will greatly benefit from early intervention therapy, and will just blossom the way all of our other children have! This little one has an ASD and a PDA, with some impairment of circulation. He will need heart surgery when he gets home. But he is SO young, and will greatly benefit from early intervention therapy here in North America.

Diana (one of "My Angels")
Diana is a beautiful girl with vision impairment as well as CP.
Andriy / Dima (another one of "My Angels")
Boy, Born November 24, 2006
Andriy is an active, happy little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes. He is nearing the age of tranfer and needs a family quickly! He was born prematurely, blind as a result. He is active, able to walk and get around, sociable with his friends and caregivers. He is mildly cognitively delayed due to his prematurity, but has so much potential in a loving family!

Girl, Born November 13, 2005
Victoria is too cute! She has brown hair and blue eyes, and is a smart little girl and very *able*. From her medical records: congenital cataract of both eyes (blind), microphtalm, delay of psychological development. Outgoing, can walk independently, knows her way around in her group, is interested in studies, responds well when adults refer to her.

Girl, Born June 14, 2006
Vika has brown hair and hazel eyes! She is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and she does have some strabismus that could be corrceted with surgery. She is able to walk on her own. She is able to feed herself, sit upright, and engage with the other children. She is doing well and will be so blessed to find a family!

Boy, Born September 15, 2004
Maxim is a precious little boy who has already been sent away to the institution. He needs a family immediately!! He is 6 years old, with blonde hair and blue yes. He struggles with strabismus in both eyes and a significant tongue thrust, but surgery/glasses and OT will help with that! Please give Maxim the chance to grow up in a loving family, so he can realize his full potential!! We have already had a family adopt from this institution, so Maxim still has an opportunity to be saved and to live the life he so richly deserves!

All of these children are currently living within walking distance of where I am right now… All of these children are also currently listed on Reece’s Rainbow. Reece’s Rainbow is a non-profit organization which promotes the international adoption of children with special needs. Here in Eastern Europe, as well as in many other countries around the world, children with special needs are often abandoned by their parents and shutout from society, left to live out their days in an institution. Reece’s Rainbow helps to connect these children with adoptive families who will love and cherish them as they deserve.

The children pictured above are just a handful of the 147 million orphans out there in the world today but now that you have seen their faces and know their names, I want to plead with you not to ignore their plight. Today, I want to challenge each and every one of you reading this post to action. There are three ways that you can make a difference in these children’s lives – GIVE, PRAY or ADOPT.
GIVE – The average international adoption costs upwards of $25,000, a huge amount of money for families to come up with. You can donate to the grant fund of one of the above children by clicking on their picture. Your donation to a child’s grant fund can be the difference between whether a family can adopt or not. $5, $20, $50, $250, $1000… whatever you can give is a huge help.
PRAY – Reece’s Rainbow’s Prayer Warrior Ministry matches individuals/families with a waiting child who they then commit to praying for daily until that child finds a ‘forever family’. To learn more about becoming a prayer warrior for one of the above children, click here.
ADOPT – Maybe God is tugging on your heart, telling you that one of these precious little ones belongs in your family. It may seem scary, overwhelming or even downright crazy but if you take that step of faith, I guarantee you won’t regret it. Click here to find out more about adopting one of these children.
So, dear friends, I leave you with this challenge… GIVE, PRAY or ADOPT. Would you take the week to pray about what God would have you do and then this Sunday, on Orphan Sunday, would you commit to ACT? These children don’t have anyone else to fight for them, they need us to come to their rescue.
"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do.
God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to ACT."
Proverbs 24:12