Saturday, February 26, 2011

My littlest angels

She was my first angel. Before I was even able to go inside the baby orphanage, I walked into the abandoned babies ward at the hospital and there she was – beautiful, tiny, perfect. It was love at first sight for me and by the time I placed her back in her crib two hours later, I knew that she would hold a piece of my heart forever.

Dasha and I on the first day I got to hold her in my arms
Just a few days later, God opened up the doors for me to volunteer inside the baby orphanage and I began spending more time with the rest of “my angels”. Still, Dasha retained a special place in my heart as “my littlest angel”. Over the next few weeks I spent several mornings at the hospital holding that sweet little angel until one day I was told that she had been transferred back to the baby orphanage. A few weeks after that I was asked to help out in a different group at the baby orphanage and lo and behold, there she was! I could not have been more thrilled and snatched up every opportunity I had to cuddle her in my arms.


For whatever reason, when it comes to orphans I have always fallen hardest for boys.
With Dasha however it was different. She was my tiny little princess.


This past Wednesday Dasha, “my littlest angel”, went to be with Jesus, joining the hosts of angels that make up the heavenly realms. I knew she was a very sick little girl but I was hoping and praying that she would hold on long enough for her family to bring her home and get her the medical care she needed. I take some comfort in knowing that this little baby who so rarely received a loving touch here on this earth is now forever nestled in the arms of her Heavenly Father. Still, my heart breaks that she never got the chance to know the love of her forever family. I wasn’t able to see Dasha during my last month in Ukraine. I was so looking forward to getting updates and seeing pictures, maybe even video, once her parents got to her. I grieve now for her family who will never got to hold their baby girl in their arms. I grieve also that I never got a chance to say goodbye.


The last time I saw Dasha was on Christmas Eve. For several weeks before that Dasha had been being kept in an isolation room so I wasn’t able to see her. It was a real miracle that she was back in her group that morning, just in time for our Christmas photo shoot. I thought the miracle was for her parents, and it might have been, but it was also for me. Seeing her, holding her made my day and now I realize it was God’s Christmas gift to me, getting to hold my sweet little angel one last time.


The next time I went to the baby orphanage Dasha had been transferred back to the hospital which was under quarantine and would remain that way for the duration of my time in Ukraine. I realize now that that Christmas Eve morning was most likely the last time that anyone held Dasha close or kissed her sweet face. It was almost certainly the last time anyone prayed over her or told her they loved her. As much as my heart aches today, I am thankful for the privilege God gave me to love this precious daughter of His. During her short life, Dasha experienced love. She knew what it was to be covered in kisses, to fall asleep in loving arms to the voice of someone signing softly of God’s love for her. She had a Mommy and Daddy on the other side of the world who were fighting with everything they had to bring her home. She is being mourned and she will be remembered. The sad truth is, there are far too many for whom none of that is true.

Dasha
August 2, 2010 – February 23, 2011
Precious angel who will never again be sick, lonely or afraid


Unfortunately the sad news does not end there. I also found out this week that Andriy, who was to be adopted with Dasha, has become unadoptable at the request of his parents. My sweet, smiley little angel boy. The last time I held Andriy there were things going on in his room that I could hardly bear to watch. All I could do was hold him close and whisper, “Hang on sweet boy, your Mommy and Daddy are coming for you, your Mommy and Daddy are coming…” Everything in me wanted to slip him under my lab coat, run out the gates of the orphanage and never turn back. Now I can’t help but wish that I had. I have seen Andriy’s parents. His mother comes to visit him every week and it is clear that she loves him very much. My heart breaks for them and the choice their society forces them to make. Yet I have seen the life he is living now and the future that lies ahead of him if he is not adopted and that knowledge leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that will not go away.

Please pray for Dasha & Andriy’s parents who just lost two children in one day… a loss I cannot even imagine. Please pray for Andriy’s biological parents, that God would either open up a way for them to take him home or that He would open their eyes to the bleak future that lies ahead of their beloved son and that they would make the selfless sacrifice of love in allowing him to be adopted. Finally, please pray for the rest of “my angels”, that they would be listed for adoption before it’s too late.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Introducing...



I’m sure by now you all remember Dima… I was worried you might be getting tired of seeing this picture but who could get tired of looking at this sweet, smiley face??? Anyway, today it is my privilege to introduce you to Dima’s forever family.


David & Amanda Burlingham. They already have three beautiful biological children and now, adding Dima to the mix, they have an even two girls and two boys. As I mentioned earlier, Amanda was raised by a blind father and as they started considering adoption, she was often drawn to children with visual impairment as she knew her life experience would assist her in helping such a child reach their full potential. Amanda mentioned once in an e-mail that they had a quiet girl, a loud boy and a loud girl but they were missing a quiet boy… I believe that Dima is the perfect fit for their family.

With total costs averaging $25,000, adoption is not cheap. Finances are tight for the Burlingham’s but they have stepped out in faith, believing that the money will come in. That’s where you and I have the opportunity to step in and help bring this sweet boy home. What a blessing and a privilege to know that we played a part in rescuing a child from life in a mental institution. $5, $50, $500… every little bit makes a difference. Amanda and David are having a neat fundraiser on their blog right now where everyone who donates $10 or more will have their name written on the back of a piece of a puzzle which will hang on the wall for Dima to feel as a tangible reminder of all the people who helped bring him home… Will you consider adding your name to that puzzle? You can also donate through their family sponsorship page (tax-receiptable for US donors through Reece’s Rainbow).

I can tell you from many, many e-mails with this family that Amanda and David are already very much in love with Dima, as are their children. They are committed to doing everything they can to bring him home, to love him unconditionally and to encourage him to reach his fullest potential. I encourage you to hop over to their blog so that you can “meet” them for yourself and to keep Dima and his family in your prayers. Finally, I can’t end this post without asking you to continue to pray for families for the rest of my kids as well… I continue to pray that Dima would be the first of many, many of “my angels” to be adopted.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Highlights

Over the past six months I have seen many things that broke my heart, haunting images that are never far from my mind. Trying to process it all has not been easy. I want to share my experiences, I need to share what I saw for the sake of these children but right now, I am still trying to find the words. In the meantime, I  want to share my highlights from the past six months because as I try to make sense of all that I left behind, I know that I also need to remember the good moments and all the ways in which I saw God's hand at work. So here they are, my highlights...

The first day that God got me inside the orphanage!



Experiencing the presence of Jesus like never before as I loved on
His special needs angels at the children's hospital

 
Precious 9-year-old Marina
Sweet 13-year-old Tanya


























Liza's "Gotcha Day"



Every single moment spent with Group 9



Snuggling with my two "littlest angels"...
(Dasha and Andriy)


























Watching 4-year-old Andriy (blind) take his first steps unassisted

video


Crowning my princesses at the special needs orphanage



Christmas photo shoots with "my" babies whose families are in the process of bringing them home

Andriy and Dasha
 
Artem

Aloysha (soon to be Lucas)


McJoyful with intellectual handicapped adults from the local mental institution



Christmas parties at the special needs orphanage



Seeing Dima's sweet face on Reece's Rainbow's "My Family Found Me" page

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today marks one week since I arrived back home and I thought it might be a good time for a Thankful Thursday post…

I am thankful for jetlag-induced still, quiet early morning hours just me and God in the days after I got home.

I am thankful that this morning I slept past 5 a.m. for the first time since coming come.

I am thankful for easy, reliable access to fresh produce and all the cooking/baking ingredients I could ever need.

I am thankful for meals with my family.

I am thankful for couches to relax on.

I am thankful for my car, safely stored and waiting for me at my dad’s house in Ontario.

I am thankful for a mild Ukrainian winter which was nothing like the cold, snowy Montreal weather I’ve been experiencing since I got home.

I am thankful for my family who, as hard as it is to have me away so often, traipsing all over the world, support me in every way possible – I am so blessed.

I am thankful that precious Tori finally knows the love of a forever family (click here to see pictures of her in the arms of her mother).

I am thankful that, even though he doesn’t know it yet, sweet Dima is no longer an orphan.

I am thankful that "my" little Artem will never again spend the night alone in an orphanage.

I am thankful for others just like these who have seen what I’ve seen, who are crying out on behalf of these kids and who remind me that I am not alone.

I am thankful for everything about these past six months, for every sorrow and every victory and for the way that God is using it all to shape me into more of who He created me to be.

“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)

Monday, February 7, 2011

HUGE Answer To Prayer...

Nearly six months ago, I met and fell in love with a precious group of children who soon became known as “my angels”. Since then I have spent countless hours praying for these little ones… I prayed that God would get me into their orphanage so that I could be a tangible expression of God’s love to them, I prayed that they would experience God’s peace, His presence and His comfort and more than anything else, I prayed that God would bring forth families to rescue these children from the circumstances they are currently living in and the despairing futures that lie ahead of them. As time went on it became more and more apparent that this was a difficult request. Most of my kids were not even listed for adoption and all of my efforts to get them listed seemed to be in vain. Weeks and months went by, my discouragement grew as my faith diminished yet I kept praying because deep down I know that with God all things are possible. Today I want to tell you the story of how God was working behind the scenes on behalf of one of those sweet angels of mine…

Back in November, I received an e-mail from a mother interested in adopting a certain child in Ukraine. She was under the impression that that child was in Khrivoy Rog, where I was, and was hoping that I might be able to give her some more information on him. We quickly figured out however that that child was not in Khrivoy Rog but another city in that region. As such, I had no other information to give her and that was the end of our e-mail exchanges. Then, a couple of weeks later, I noticed that that child’s picture had been moved to the “My Family Found Me” page on Reece’s Rainbow and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same family I had been communicating with so I e-mailed her to find out. She said no, that while they were waiting for more information another family had committed to him. Out of curiosity, I asked if they were now looking to adopt another child. That’s when I got this response: “We will be adopting another child...just not sure when… I am guessing you have a couple great kids in mind?” Really, my intention had not been to suggest a child, like I said, I was just curious but since she asked, I couldn’t pass up to opportunity to advocate for my kids. They were looking for a boy so I sent her the profiles of the only two boys from my orphanage listed on Reece’s Rainbow. I didn’t think much else of it but now it is clear that God was at work the whole time. Unbeknownst to me, the woman I was communicating with was raised by a blind father and ever since they first started considering adoption they felt that a blind child might be just the right fit for their family. Do you see where this is going??? I had sent her the profiles of two kids, one of whom was Dima… It seemed as though she started falling in love with him right away and that was the start of many, many e-mails back and forth between us. That same week Dima was transferred and we were no longer sure whether or not he would still be available for adoption. While we waited to find out, we continued to exchange e-mails with more details about Dima. By the time I was finally able to visit Dima during my last week in Ukraine and confirm that he was still available for adoption I was pretty sure that this family would be committing to him but I have nevertheless been on pins and needles waiting for the day it would be official. Well, today is that day! Look whose sweet face appeared on Reece’s Rainbow’s “My Family Found Me” page today…


I took this picture nearly six months ago, hoping and praying that it would help him find a family and to see it now on that wonderful page… it’s surreal. God’s hand has been so clear in all of this, I am in awe. Dima's new family sent in their papers to officially commit to Dima on February 1st, my last day in Khrivoy Rog, and I can't help but feel that the timing of it all was God’s special gift to me. For nearly six months I had been praying that God would allow me to see at least one of “my angels” committed to before I left and He did, just in the nick of time.

I can’t tell you any more about who will be adopting Dima just yet but stay tuned to “meet” Dima’s new family and for the opportunity to be a part of paying his ransom. In the meantime, please pray for Dima’s family as they embark on this crazy, life-changing adventure. Also, please continue to pray for families for the rest of my kids as well… May Dima be the first of many, many of “my angels” to find their forever family!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Back again

Well, I made it home safe and sound… thank you for your prayers. My “cabin mates” on the train were perfect (quiet, kept to themselves, slept pretty much the whole time) and all in all, the whole trip was not as long and drawn out as I thought it would be.

Many, many of you have been asking what I have planned next. God has definitely been whispering to my heart over the past months but I still need some time to pray through all that He has been showing me. In the meantime, my plan is simply to rest, eat home food and spend time with my family. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support thus far and please continue praying for my kids, I am praying that they will be listed for adoption very soon.