Monday, December 19, 2011

Via Ukraine

Over the years I have read a lot of helpful Ukraine adoption blogs. Of course, you already know about the 573+ blogs of completed adoptions in my links. There is a wealth of information in there for you who are working on or considering an adoption from Ukraine. I always add the date on the link so that you can quickly go into their blog archive and see the posts specifically related to their time in Ukraine.

Last week, I came across what I think is the most helpful blog I've ever seen for Ukraine adoptions. It is anonymous, so this mom isn't afraid to talk about any issue. I've added it to my links, it is called Via Ukraine. Go take a look at it (it has the coolest background ever).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Through It All, Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America, a day that our country sets aside to be thankful for the many blessings we have received. It's an important family day, too. Thanksgiving just isn't the same if you can't spend it with people you care about.

On Thanksgiving Day 3 years ago, we had our SDA appointment in Kyiv for adopting our children Valya and Sergey. You can read about that here. It was a somewhat difficult day in unfamiliar surroundings, not special at all to anyone around us, no different than any other day. Our Thanksgiving "meal" was unrecognizable food in the food court of the Globus mall in Independence Square. But it was very symbolic for us to have the opportunity to increase our family on Thanksgiving Day. We were, truly, thankful.

Three years have passed and now our family has been turned upside down with events that have caused a lot of pain and heartache. I will only share what is public that everyone who knows us already knows. In July, our daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Our granddaughter was put up for adoption and the family took her home from the hospital at birth. The events leading up to that were not good and one of our sons no longer lives with us. He is receiving counseling, and hopefully will get the help he needs. Our daughter is also being counseled, working through many things. The rest of us have gone through counseling too, trying to deal with our emotions. I have told people that I have experienced every emotion possible over the last year. It has not been easy but I think we are beginning to heal.

Valya asked me the other day if I regretted adopting. Truthfully, we did not expect this situation and it has been so difficult. But I told her, no, of course not. We love her no matter what. This is one of the positives of what happened. She has learned about the unfailing love of parents. Something she didn't have in Ukraine. We see our son often, and he still comes over. We also reassure him that we love him as well. We are hoping that someday we will be together again.

Last weekend we were all together and took a family picture. It was like old times again.

For the last three years I have written one of the Advent devotionals for our church. I wrote one this year and the scripture for the day is 1 Thess 5:12-24. I will close by sharing it with you, too.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” If you were to ask me the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, I think these words from today’s scripture would sum it up very well. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well. And it’s easy to be thankful when we have what we want. I saw a t-shirt once that said: I’m easy to get along with… as long as you do things my way! It’s meant to be humorous but, really, there’s a deeper truth here, which is that we are all selfish by nature. When things don’t go our way, we get angry, or anxious, or afraid. Is there anything in your life today that causes you to not be joyful or thankful? Most of us have something. But God’s word for us today is that we are to recognize that He loves us so much that we can give our troubles to Him. There’s a song we sing in church that says in part, “I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my shame, I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” This past year has been a difficult one for our family. I’ve asked so many times, Why did this have to happen? There are no easy answers, and yet, we lay it down and choose to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. May the peace of that starry night in Bethlehem rest on you today and always! Amen.

Last night, someone on FB shared this video from a Ukrainian pastor who passed away only a couple of days ago. It is about being thankful in the midst of suffering. Pastor Peter had been suffering from cancer and was near the end of his life when he preached this to his Odessa church on Oct. 24, 2011. He uses the same verse from Thessolonians that I used in my Advent devotional above. As you hear him speaking of bread, know that he himself wasn't able to eat because of his cancer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hard Times

I haven't been tending to the blog for a long time. Those of you who are Facebook friends of ours know that since April we have been going through a difficult situation in our family. Thanks for all of your support. We are looking for something positive to eventually come of it. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you have just barely entered it. We have often questioned why this has happened. We remain strong supporters of adoption from Ukraine, but we just never dreamed we would be going through this.

We lived out our adoption in this public blog, and we loved having you along on our journey. But this situation just isn't appropriate to talk about here.

You see this often in the adoption blogs and forums and it is worth repeating. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. As difficult as the process is, in many ways the hardest part begins when you get home. You did not have the benefit of teaching them your family values in their formative years. You were not able to protect them from the abuse that some of them suffered before you got them. Unfortunately, once the honeymoon period is over, life can get very difficult. Just go into your adoption with open eyes and a strong support system. You will very likely need it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Farming in Ukraine

Recently, quite by accident I websurfed into a blog of a Canadian family running a dairy farm in Ukraine. Though Nancy and I aren't farmers, we live in ag country here in South Dakota and both Nancy and my families have farming backgrounds. I have really enjoyed reading the posts from Garry & Teresa Verhoog. I added their blog to my Missionaries blogroll way down there on the bottom left. Nowadays with Facebook it seems harder to find good blogs.

The Verhoog's moved to Ukraine with their teenage boys to help the people in that village near Dnipropetrovsk. I think that is very cool.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Forget About All Around Us

When we were in Odessa, we sporadically attended a church that was attended by several young people that were either in Christian ministry, the missions field, or were planning to be. There was a street kid who used to show up at Sunday service once in a while. I remember one time he came and slept and snored through the whole service. Anyway, I met an American man there who ministered to street kids and offered to take me out to see what he does. Unfortunately, he worked during the night from 10pm to 4am and I just couldn't swing that in the midst of our adoption. I regret now that I never wrote down his contact information because I would have liked to have stayed in touch with him. Actually, now that I think about it, I do keep in touch with a missionary there. I think I will ask him if he is still attending there and see if I can get in touch.

The street kid problem in Ukrainian cities is a problem that most people in Ukraine ignore. I was asking that fellow why doesn't the government do something with these kids, provide for them somehow, and he told me that if they ignore it then it is not a problem. In other words, if they were to do something they would have to acknowledge that there is a problem. It is far easier and cheaper to look the other way. In the Odessa Holes video below, you can see the indignation that the woman has toward the kids and the American there.

There is an American pastor ministering to Odessa street kids, named Robert Gamble. He has a website called This Child Here. He produced the Odessa Holes video, below. Another part of Odessa Holes that I thought was interesting occurs at 4:40, where the narrator asks the kids why they are huffing glue:

- Tell me, boys, what for you do it?
What for we do it? To alleviate our souls.
We feel lightened in our hearts.

- And what it means feel lightened in the hearts?
To forget about all around us.

Recently, Michael Novotny published a photo essay of Odessa street kids. I will warn you, if images of children shooting up, huffing glue, and self-mutilating disturb you, then do not look at the images or watch the videos. You have been warned. Sin is not pretty, but this is where the rubber meets the road when you are in the missions field. God bless the people on the frontlines in ministry.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A New Father's Brief Time

Back when I was in college, forever ago, I served as a co-chair for our MDA dance-a-thon. It was very rewarding to help raise money to look for a cure for muscular dystrophy.

It was with sadness that I ran across this story of a young dad named Matt Strzyzewski who passed away from the disease, leaving his wife and baby behind.
"Dear Landon,

By the time you're old enough to read this, you'll probably know all kinds of things about your dad. You've probably heard something about him every day of your life. You've seen the pictures of him holding you and the smiles - lots of his and then yours, too, once you were old enough to start smiling back."
A new father's brief time, recounted for his beloved son
Amy Rabideau Silvers
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Life's Most Expensive If-Only's

I was listening to the radio in my car the other day and this little devotional came on by Ron Hutchcraft. As a parent of 3 teenagers, I found it right-on. Here is a quote from it:
Your son or daughter is feeling feelings now that really need your perspective...They're making choices, they're making friends, they're developing a sense of humor; trying to find out where God fits in everyday life. They need you there. There'll be many things more urgent but none more important. Everyone else will scream for your attention; they'll only whisper.
It is SO easy to get too busy and it's so hard to find a balance in life. I appreciated the reminder. I think you will, too.

You can listen here, or follow this link to read it.

There'll be many things more urgent but none more important. Everyone else will scream for your attention; they'll only whisper.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

He Shows Up Where You Wouldn't Expect

Recently, I completed a long awaited reorganizing of blog links that are not adopting families. I created several new sections way down on the left and one of them is called Ministries / Missionaries / Charities. Tonight, I added a new link in that section to the blog of Andrea Gariepy, a missionary in Ukraine orphanages.

I have recently been posting about how God can use us if only we would say "Here am I". Is the message getting through yet?

I want to post an excerpt from her Feb. newsletter:

"During the past six months I encountered Jesus on a regular basis through His children. I found Jesus in the eyes of the frail, 9-year-old girl lying in a crib who desperately longed for a simple loving touch. I found Jesus in the countless hugs and slobbery kisses of a sweet boy who, although he was rarely shown love, had boundless love to give away to others. I found Jesus in the beautiful face of a tiny baby girl, abandoned simply because she was born with one extra chromosome. I found Jesus in the shouts of a little girl who would run at top speed towards every set of visiting parents, catching a glimpse of what a Daddy is and deeply wanting one of her own.

I went to Ukraine to show love to ‘unwanted’ children and I thank God for the opportunities He gave me to do just that. I cradled abandoned babies in my arms, showered special needs toddlers with the affection they were so desperately missing and told intellectually handicapped teens that God loves them and thinks they’re perfect just the way they are. In the midst of it all I experienced God breaking, molding and transforming my own heart, giving me a love for these kids that is beyond what I can put into words."
Isn't that beautiful? She is encountering the King of the Universe in a little corner of Ukraine. Watch this short video clip then drop by her blog and offer her some encouragement.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ёжик в тумане

This is a post about a Russian and Ukrainian celebrity named Yozhik, or Little Hedgehog. Ёжик в тумане - Little Hedgehog in the Fog - is a short animated film from 1975 by the Russian Yuriy Norshteyn, based on a Russian folktale. Some have called the film the greatest animation of all time. That is quite an achievement.

I really like this story. It is beautiful and thought provoking. While western animators were producing violent drivel, the Russians, albeit Communist, were producing this visual poetry. Like any good poem, it is open to interpretation. These are some of the online comments people wrote about it:
"You need to watch closely to understand the meaning of the story. At the beginning, when the hedgehog is talking to himself, he's predicting what will happen when he gets to the bear's house. This means he has made the same journey enough times to know exactly what will happen. This time is different because he went out of his way, and because of that he lived a small adventure. He experienced fear, kindness and even had a near death experience, all of which has changed the way he sees life."

"I feel that the hedgehog represents all of us. She's going on a journey that she's gone on before, however in this instance there is fog. Her path is not completely clear. She experiences new things. She loses something important to her, only to find it again. She makes friends. She experiences the the fear of mortality before she can go one and continue living to meet the bear and eat her raspberry jam. It's a representation of life in story form. Like any good fairy tale."

"I think this is a story of a compassionate answer to absurdity. The hedgehog finds in the 'unfamiliar' (the absurd) the value of compassion, first in wondering if the horse will die, then from the dog who helps for no reason, and the fish who rescues him from despair. When he returns to his daily life he is now so changed that what once energized him to the point of forgetting fear, now holds no meaning and compassion for a horse means more then counting stars."

"Everyday he meets with the Bear. Very daily. It is so customary that he isnt aware of the owl stalking him. He is more worried about what he will do and say with the bear. Once he gets into the fog (the unfamiliar) he becomes more open-minded to his surroundings. He finds scary things and helpful things. Its kind of saying that 'This is the world. There are good things and bad things will happen, but don't be afraid.'"

"We are insignificant, uncomprehending little creatures in a world of inscrutable mysteries and unapproachable ideals. And we are left to others' goodness to get through our darkest hour. So be good."

"I always thought that barely discernible fish was immensely symbolic. That dark water rippling... gives me the chills every time."

"What is the point of life? The point is the amazing journey that anyone can experience in a seemingly normal setting. Just by the introduction of the fog into the hedgehog's environment, his world for him became mysterious, uncertain, even dangerous. Yet it was still the same place he called home, but through his eyes everything was different."

Like Little Hedgehog, I experienced the way that fog makes the familiar unfamiliar. On Jan. 21, 2009, I had flown into Odessa from Kyiv by myself at 9:00 at night, long after dark, in heavy fog (I blogged about that day here). I didn't want to pay the exhorbitant taxi prices at the airport and the buses had stopped coming to the airport for the day, so I thought that I would just walk to a differenct bus stop, about a mile away. It was very foggy and dark. After about 10 min. of walking I chickened out and went back and got a taxi. It was very creepy walking on dimly lit streets in heavy fog. I did not want to get lost.

Anyway, there is a monument to the Little Hedgehog in Kyiv. According to this story in the Kyiv Post, it was unveiled literally the day before my fog adventure in Odessa. If you are in Kyiv, or going there, make it a point to visit and get your picture taken with a celebrity that almost everyone knows from their childhood. It is next door to the St. Sophia monestary. Fly to 50°27'4.92"N, 30°30'50.15"E in Google Earth or your favorite mapping app to see where it is. If you use Google Earth, you can even view a 360° panorama of the square.

Watch the short film and see what you think. For more information you can read this Wikipedia article and the Internet Movie Database.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Where am I?

The video in my previous post ended with "Here am I".

"Here am I."

"Here am I."

But where am I?

Being the hands and feet of Jesus to this world... making a difference... What more can be said? While we were complaining about the weather, others were pounding on the chests of infants in Africa trying to keep them alive. 147,000,000 orphans. 6,000 AIDS children orphaned daily. There are so many needs. Not just in Africa. Next door. Where am I?

Sometimes when I’m in the valley of the shadow of death, I DO fear. When I got the call that Harrington’s oxygen ran out, I was scared. As I drove to the hospital as fast as possible to pick him up, I was scared. Every time I bolted out of my car, I was terrified. And getting back in was even worse. As I knelt over Harrington and pounded on his chest, begging God to bring him back, I felt as though my own heart was stopping. Many times in the past month, I have asked God “Why? Why me? Why here?” and every time without fail, I hear “Because I chose you.” So with a heavy heart I continue… I continue the work that God has called me to because just that, HE has called me! Even when my heart is breaking...

Rene Bach

Monday, January 31, 2011

Isn't This Your Father's World?!!

Please post this video to your blogs.

This past weekend I went on a little mission trip with Mark and his fellow sophomore class from Mitchell Christian School. We went to Sioux Falls to experience Urban Plunge. The purpose of UP is to expose participants to various Christian ministries that are making a difference in their communities. Mark's class needs to decide on a mission trip for next year and they are trying to discern where they should go and what they should do. We visited six organizations and 2 churches (a biker church and an African-American church) over 3 days.

Saturday night, we watched this powerful video, called A Thousand Questions. It encourages us to get involved to make a difference for Christ in our world. In the adoption world, we often talk about the Starfish story. But really, it applies to any of the needs around us. By ourselves, there is not much we can do. But together, we can make a real difference.

When our adopted kids came into our home, we expected them to participate in the chores, and to clean up after themselves. Likewise, our heavenly Father expects us to do His chores and to clean up the messes we have made of His place. So we better get busy helping to clean up!

By the way, there is a blog that I look at once in awhile called Kisses from Katie. She is a young lady making a difference that you may be inspired by.