Saturday, June 20, 2009


A big part of our responsibilities as parents is to teach our kids our faith. While we were finishing up the adoption process in Odessa, I was able to learn a little bit about their spiritual backgrounds.

I was talking with some people who had just returned from a trip overseas
and they could not stop talking about the people that they met -
people that we would describe you know, as "poor"
and yet they were struck with how filled with joy and peace
these people were
They said, "You know, at first we felt uncomfortable, you know, we have so much and they have so little"
but after awhile they started to wonder if in fact
they weren't the ones who were actually poor
and so they said "We went to do a good work for them and yet we returned realizing that
we received more than we ever gave."

Both of the kids had been baptized into the Christian faith several years ago. Valya had a grandmother that had her baptized when she was little, and Sergey was baptized along with several other kids who were in a shelter before he arrived at Orphanage #4.

Success can be dangerous, can't it?
We get everything we wanted, only to discover that we're missing something that we had before.

After we came to America, I had asked Sergey about his faith, and did he trust Jesus as his Savior? He said yes, and I asked him how he came to receive Christ, since I have been to Orphanage #4 and I know it is anything but spiritual.

When we extend grace to others in their oppression whatever that may look like
we find out about the grace that God has extended to us.
So when Jesus talks about taking water to those who are thirsty
it isn't just about the necessity of getting water to those who need it,
it's about us being constantly reminded of the gift of water we've had all along.

He told me that Dana Defrees had prayed with him last summer when he was at camp. Wow! Dana is a teenager, and Pam is her mom. Pam has commented on our blog before, and has emailed me privately from time to time. They were on a short-term mission trip to Odessa last summer where they spent time with the kids, along with Grandma Lela.

This is ultimately about the far larger truth that if we each don't find some suffering
and do something about it, we may become miserable -
Our achievement, our education, our wealth, our time and our money -
they'll turn on us if we don't spread them around.

They have a blog called Passion for Ukraine, and it just so happens that the team is in Ukraine again right now! There are some pictures on their blog of Sergey and several of his classmates that I spent time with last winter.

Our lives are either more and more about us -
more stuff, more unsatisfying consumption,
or we're on a different path
and this is why Jesus talked so much about serving.

I am glad that the kids and adults are serving in this way. I am sure that in some cases, this will be the only opportunity that some of them will have to hear about the love of Christ.

May you find somebody who needs what you have
only to discover that they had what you needed all along.

There is a NOOMA video that talks about serving others. It just so happens that I got the link today in an email through Compassion International. I have interleaved quotes from this video by Rob Bell with mine because they go hand-in-hand. This is a powerful video! Will you choose to hang on to that which ultimately makes you miserable, or will you offer yourself to Him and be liberated?

Watch the video to see where the title to this post comes from.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"You Saved My Life"

When we were in Odessa, we visited a church attended by several college students and missionaries in Odessa. One of the American gentlemen I talked to was in Odessa specifically to minister to street kids. He told me that there are about 800 street kids in Odessa and the authorities mostly ignore them. That way they can sweep them under the rug and not have to admit the problem they have. He and a couple other people go out every evening at 10:00 PM and are out all night. I asked if I could go along sometime, but really, in the midst of our adoption process that really wasn't practical to be out all night. I regret not having the chance to do that, though. One of the times that Nancy, Mark, and I attended the church, one of the street kids actually attended the service. Unfortunately, he slept through much of the service. We were told he comes somewhat regularly.

Another reason I am interested in the street kids is because there was a boy in Sergey's class at #4 who was a former street kid and was severely injured in a tragic fire. He was sleeping in some kind of enclosure one night and some other street kids set his coat on fire as he slept. When he woke he had trouble getting out and was burning as he struggled. Somehow he survived and is now in the orphanage, getting treatment for his burns. We got to know him a little bit and noted his deformed hands and scars. He was always friendly to us.

I surfed into a blog of an American Presbyterian pastor named Robert Gamble, living in Odessa, Ukraine, who also has a ministry that reaches out to street kids called This Child Here. You may be interested in this ministry that is on the front lines in the battle for the Kingdom.

A couple of weeks ago, we were on a road trip out to the Black Hills to visit my mother who was visiting. We were talking with Sergey about his adoption and life back in Odessa, and he told Nancy and I that we saved his life. After looking at Pastor Gamble's blog, it is no wonder he feels that way.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Romaniv Boys Orphanage

Recently, Valya asked me if we could adopt her siblings. I was wondering when this day would come. She has four siblings back in Ukraine still. Two are already adults, but the other two are in two different special needs orphanages. They are twins, older than her. This situation was very difficult for us as we never felt like we could make them part of our family. In the end, the officials agreed, but the situation was very sad.

The other day, the Cornishes posted a link to this article about Ukraine's Romaniv orphanage. The article hits close to home for me.

Romaniv Boys Orphanage
by Barry Rodriguez
World Next Door

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Answer to Prayer

Very good news today regarding Ukraine's possible moratorium on international adoptions. For "some reason", the vote just didn't show up on the parliament's calendar. We are thankful that Ukrainian children will still have another way to get families. I do not exagerate, I am sure there were thousands of faithful people around the world praying that this would not pass!