Guest Post–“Vacation?” The story behind orphanage visits

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It’s been a couple weeks since the NHFC missions team has returned from their trip to Latvia and Ukraine to interview orphans for the Summer 2012 host program.  I want to thank you for praying for them, their trip was very cold but safe and successful!

One of my regional volunteer partners was a part of the missions trip for the first time.  She wrote very eloquently and candidly about the trip and I am sharing her words in a guest post for this week:

Vacation?
Since returning home from my trip, I’ve had a lot of people ask me how it went.
I’ve found some of their phrasing a little strange.

It may not really be indicative of anything, but I’ve found it interesting nonetheless.
“Did you have fun?” and “Did you have a good time?” are the ones I find the most thought provoking.

Maybe that’s just what people ask when they know you’ve been away…. maybe that’s just what they think they’re supposed to say…. or what they ask when they think they’re expected to comment, but don’t really care about the answer.
Maybe I’m being completely unreasonable and  reading WAY too much into the words people use and need to instead, be glad they asked and thankful for the opportunity to share about New Horizons. (Yeah, that’s probably it.)

For the record, I DID have fun, and I DID have a good time…. but this wasn’t a vacation.
This wasn’t a trip to the Bahamas.

On this trip I visited orphanages that smelled like 3 week old boiled cabbage and unwashed bodies.
I slept in a hotel that smelled like dead, decaying rats complete with faded leopard print sheets and bed bugs.
I met children who, upon turning 16, will “graduate” from their orphanage with little chance of living past their next birthday.
I spent a week in a van that didn’t have any heat in the 2nd and 3rd rows, in a country that was experiencing record breaking cold.
I met children under the age of 12, who had already started smoking.
I wore the same jeans for 6 days in a row and washed my socks and underwear in the sink.
I met girls, who upon “graduating”, will turn to prostitution as a way to stay alive.
I tried squid flavored potato chips. And yes, they are as NASTY as they sound.
I played UNO with kids who have NEVER known the love of a mother.
I met an orphanage director who didn’t want anything to do with our program because there was a chance “her” kids might be adopted.
I showered in bathrooms that smelled like a sewer.
I met children who had been abandoned by a parent because they were seen as an inconvenience.

But I also met a boy in Latvia who had such a great sense of humor, I nearly wet my pants from laughing.
I met orphanage directors who loved their kids and were eager to hear about New Horizons.
I met kids who practically begged to come to America.
I got to surprise Mareks with my visit to Riga. (It took nearly 10 minutes on the phone to convince him that I was actually there.)
I met an orphanage director who is actively pursuing educational/job training opportunities for his “graduates.”
I visited orphanages that had medical and nutritional personnel on staff…. a speech therapist… an area for physical therapy… laptops… exercise equipment.
I met a brother/sister duo who were so personable and quite frankly, blew me away…. I wanted to hide them in my suitcase and smuggle them home.
I saw AMAZING artwork, needlework, paper crafting, beadwork, woodwork, sewing projects– all done by the kids we were interviewing.
I got to see parts of the world that I never would have seen otherwise.
I met a boy with spina bifida and other medical issues, who’s very life may depend on him being adopted.
I tried Borsch… and I liked it!
I spoke with kids who wanted to know about me, and my life, and life in America.
I met a girl who intervened for another who was being picked on, standing up to a “popular girl” at her orphanage.
I met a boy who wanted to “friend me” on Facebook.
I met children who wanted to be teachers…. an engineer…. an architect…. a doctor…. a dancer….
I met kids who were proud of their accomplishments.
I drank enough tea in which I could sink the Titanic.
I played games with kids who wanted to hold my hand– even though they didn’t know me.
I spoke with 16 year olds who are too old to be adopted- and they know it— and it breaks my heart.
I met kids who when hypothetically given 3 wishes… time and time again, their 1st wish was to have a family.

No, this wasn’t a vacation.

But it beats Disney any day.

 

You may visit the original post on her blog here! http://backyard-blessings.blogspot.com/2012/02/vacation.html

Ukraine Orphan Ministry–Update!

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IMG_0128It’s about time for me to bring you an update about the ministry I spoke about in my blog post about the interview trip to Ukraine!

There is now a full blog site up to share all about the programs and Viktor & Tanya’s ministry – TheWayOfGodsGrace.blogspot.com 

Our Mission Is To Spread The Gospel Of Jesus Christ To Reach Orphans In Ukraine That Are "Timing Out" That Have No Home Or Family To Turn To Once They Leave The Orphanages. Our Objective Is To Provide Housing, Teach Them The Love Their Lord & Savior Has For Them In Hopes They Will Develop Self Worth. To Teach Them Life Skills, Job Training, Social Skills & Teach Them To Assist In The Christian Camps To Serve Others.

To Hold Christian Camps During The Year For Children That Are Currently Living In Orphanages In Hopes To Reach Them At A Younger Age & Spread The Word Of Jesus Christ Into These Children’s Lives.

Lastly To Work Directly With Ukraine Orphanages To Introduce Them To US Hosting Programs In Hopes Of Finding These Children Forever Families.

I am so excited about what God is going to do through this partnership.  There are big dreams about how we can work together to reach orphans in Ukraine through summer camp ministry, transition programs for orphans aging-out of the orphanage, continued favor and growth of orphan hosting in this area, & short-term missions opportunities for teams to come and help.

Finally, please keep Tanya, the Ukrainian pastor’s wife, in your prayers.  The last I have heard, she had surgery for several new brain tumors that were found, and when the surgery was over, she could not walk. “The doctor told her she should be walking in 2 weeks. Unfortunately her cancerous tumor cannot be removed surgically so she will have to continue to have radiation for the treatment once she is healed from this surgery.” Please pray for her healing.  Satan is trying to stop this ministry in a serious way, but we know he will not win!

Stay tuned for more updates!

Reflections from Ukraine–Awesome Kids, Divine Appointments, & A New Brother!

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12,000 miles flying roundtrip
14 days
3,000 kilometers driving
12 orphanages
TONS of unforgettable kids
154 orphans in need of host families!

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That’s the trip by the numbers… now let me tell you about it in words!  The trip was incredible and I am so blessed to have been a part of the team.  One week prior to our arrival, half of the team spent a week in Latvia; there they did the same crazy amount of travel and found 116 kids for hosting – that makes 270 total! 

Awesome Kids
For us, pretty much everyday was a new city, a new orphanage, a new apartment or hotel room, and another long day of driving.  At each orphanage we would first meet with the directors or other administrators and tell them about the program, often get a tour of the orphanage campus, be treated to some tea and snacks or a meal, and then spend time interviewing the kids that the orphanage thought we should consider for Christmas hosting.  The children or siblings talked with 3 team members – an interviewer, a writer, and an interpreter, and before or after their interview, they would spend time with the other team members in some kind of group activity. 

I got to be there for 9 of the orphanage visits, and I must say that every visit was different.  They ranged from a small, poor orphanage in the country where the kids seemed to be lacking the care they needed all the way to an orphanage that doubled as a college-prep institution that all of the team wanted to send their own kids to!  It was so fun to meet the kids and learn about their stories. 

There were many children that I fell in love with after spending some time with them or learning about their stories – you can see their faces down the right side of this page.  Something special about each of them struck a chord with me and I am going to do all that I can to advocate for them to find host homes for this Christmas.  From today until the deadline to sign-up (November 1st) I will feature a post about each of them, with extra pictures and stories and updates on when they do find host families! Please begin praying for these kids now!

Divine Appointments
On the very last day of interviews, we met with a pastor and his wife who work in orphanages in a new region that NHFC has not hosted from before.  It seemed great to make a connection to some new places, but little did we know, that God was about to grow it into something much bigger.

One of our team members, Nicole, and her husband have recently been led to wanting to start long-term ministry in Ukraine to orphans, specifically in summer camps and transition homes for those who age-out of the orphanage.  Over lunch, we learned that Pastor Viktor and his wife recently had to make cutbacks in their ministry due to the financial hardship they have endured since his wife Tanya is being treated for an inoperable brain tumor.  God has given them big dreams to reach orphans in their region, but they seemed to be facing even bigger obstacles.  He shared that if they were unable to give their bank the money they owed in 2 days, their church and home were going to be taken from them. 

He took us to see the property and it was beautiful!  It gave me goosebumps to see how seamlessly it fit with Nicole’s vision for her own ministry.  The land was a little less than 2 acres with a small church building and a separate building for living quarters.  There was still lots of space to keep building – along with the blueprints and permits already in place for a new building!  To top it all of, the land borders a beautiful little lake.  Honestly, we could not have dreamed up a more perfect fit. 

By the time we left for the airport the following day, lots of faith and obedience to follow through some open doors, Pastor’s Viktor and Tanya’s burdens have been lifted.  Contributions from some great saints has allowed them to keep their land and church from being taken by the bank.  And we are now praying that Nicole and her husband along with some other couples will be able to partner with this Ukrainian couple in continuing to grow their ministry to orphans. 

Please pray for this precious couple!  …for Tanya’s healing, financial provision, direction in working with local orphanages, and God’s incredible providence to continue in their lives!

 Pastor Viktor & Tanya (2nd & 3rd from left) with 4 of us from the team

I’m Gonna Have A New Brother!!!
Ok, I know the title totally gives this one away, but I gotta share the details!

The still small voice of the Holy Spirit started to speak to my family after Sasha, the then 14 year old boy our family hosted for Christmas, was hosted by a different family this summer.  After some long talks, written letters, and prayers… my parents started to consider adopting him.  The final step of confirmation they needed to go ahead with it was to make sure that Sasha wanted it… and that just so happens to be something that the New Horizons team covers on the interview trip!  Who would have guessed a year ago that I would be headed to Ukraine on this awesome mission and get to be there in person ask Sasha if he would like to be a part of my family???

I tried to call Sasha once before the trip to let him know that I would be coming, but I couldn’t get ahold of him.  I was kind of happy to leave it that way… so then I would really get to experience his honest reaction when he first sees me!

We visited his boarding school on Monday Sept 5th … I was filled with a mix of emotions. I was excited, nervous, and almost felt like I was in the middle of a dream.  We pulled up to 2 huge, plain, old brick buildings that were surrounded by gardens and enclosed with a small gate.  As we pulled in, I saw someone in one of the gardens who was wearing the hoodie that our grandma gave Sasha for Christmas.  I knew right away that it wasn’t him, but it was a big hint that I was getting closer to him!!!

They ended up taking us to ‘set up shop’ in one of the classrooms and when the door was opened, I saw a very familiar face!  Sasha saw me in the doorway and had a look of shock and confusion on his face – we were both surprised!  They were in the middle of a lesson and none of us budged for a while.  LeAnn said, “You’re the big sister! Go over there and embarrass your brother!” so I went over to him with a big smile and we hugged.

  His inital reaction! ...after the confusion and surprise! 

It was so great to be reunited with him!  He was all smiles and asked where my family was and if they were working.  (Funny that he remembered that one of the reasons we couldn’t rehost him this summer was because everyone had to work.)   We hung out in the yard of the orphanage for a while with some of his friends.  He asked me if he could come back with our family for this winter. Oh my I could hardly contain myself!!!! Smile I told him that we would get to talk about it with the interpreter a little later.  He said this is to teach their dogs tricks... I thought it would be fun to climb on anyways.

Interviews with new kids finally wrapped up and the team met with some of the kids who had just been hosted this summer.  Now it was my turn to talk to Sasha.  I expected our facilitator to do most of the talking, but when we sat down with her, she had me do the talking. I had no idea what to say!!  It was short and sweet and when he was asked if he would like to be a part of our family, he said “Yes!” (more like a speechless nod) with a huge smile across his face.  It was such a great moment and I am so blessed to have been a part of it!He said Yes!

Our goodbye came very quickly, I was not ready to leave.  I would have much rather stayed with Sasha or snuck him in the van with me… but that wasn’t really an option.  He walked me to the van, and as we walked, I told him in Russian “The next time I see you will be in America… and it will be forever!” 

Our goodbye walking to the van

… and now I can’t wait for that day.

Consider Hosting!
You, yes you.  I can totally see you having your own story of hosting very soon.  There are over 200 kids waiting to be matched with loving host families for this Christmas.  Could it be you that they are waiting for?

You do not need to be considering adoption in order to host an orphan.  Actually, you’re in luck, because New Horizons isn’t an adoption agency it’s a HOST only organization… adoption is just an added outside benefit. Winking smile 

It takes all kinds of families to make a host program successful. Here’s the wide variety of host families we are looking for:

  • Interest to adopt – many host kids are available for adoption
  • Last chance – these kids need families who are ‘paper ready’ if the adoption process does not get started before hosting, the kids will lose their chance at getting adopted because of their age
  • Sibling groups – for those brave parents who are willing to invite 2, 3, 4, or even 5 siblings into their home!
  • Host only – kids who are not available for adoption because of their age or other circumstance but could still greatly benefit from the experience
  • Special needs – this time around we have several kids who need special families to individually care for them in a way that orphanage workers cannot
  • Medical mission – there are several kids who are in great need of medical attention for their teeth or eyes, hosting could make a lifelong difference for them
  • Scholarship sponsors – you may not be able to host, but you could help sponsor a child, this is a great help to encourage families who would love to host but may need some help raising the funds

Please check out the NHFC photolisting to see these available children and begin praying that their host family finds them.  There are many “Sashas” out there waiting!

Sign up to see photolisting!

Thank you so much for your prayers!
I don’t know where we would have been without them!

Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Luke 9:48

He said yes!

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Monday was a very special day for our family! I got to visit Sasha at his boarding school and spend a very special few hours with him. More details and pictures to come!
Love from Ukraine!

Hi from Ukraine!

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Did ya think I would miss a saturdaily post?! Things are going well in Ukraine. Interviewed at my first orphanage today. Lots of super sweet kids who need families! Check out the updated photolisting, the pics were just posted on smugmug! =)

Ukraine Missions Trip Prayer Requests!

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As I mentioned in a previous post – I am getting ready to embark on a great New Horizons interview trip to Ukraine.  I am so excited to be a part of this special team!  My favorite places in the world!We will visit many orphanages throughout the country to meet and interview potential host children for Christmas 2011 hosting.  (For more info about Christmas hosting, see this link!)  I am very very honored to be a part of this team & cannot wait to see what God does through our 2 weeks in Ukraine. 

The first half of our team will leave August 23rd for the first week of the trip in Latvia.  Then the rest of us will meet up with them in Kiev, Ukraine on September 1st.  I have heard many great & difficult things about this trip.  So, I am asking for specific prayer requests for our entire team this week.

  1. Please pray that God goes before us and opens doors.  That he may grant us favor and bless all of our efforts for the hosting program, and most importantly, for the children.
  2. Please pray that everyone makes it to their destinations safely.  Our first 3 depart for Latvia this week, and the other 3 of us to Ukraine the following week.  The second shift of us are all flying separately, so please pray that we make all of our connecting flights so that we all meet up in Ukraine at the planned time. 
  3. Please pray for each of the foster parents and orphanage directors that we are going to meet in our time there.  They are given the great duty to care for many precious orphans.  Pray that we will be able to be encouragers and partners with them, to work together for the good of the most children in their care possible. 
  4. Please pray that we have positive interactions with and are Jesus to each of the orphans we meet.  May we bring a special time of joy and fun to their homes.  May we share love with them, even if just for a short time.
  5. Please pray for each of the previous host children, to whom we will deliver gifts from their host families.  May they remember that they are not forgotten and are very loved.  And for those who are going to be offered adoption, may each of those children have clarity of thought and wisdom to be able to answer to that offer. 
  6. Please pray for all of the children, previous and new, who will be interviewed and selected to possibly be hosted for the Christmas season.  May God give us wisdom and discernment to decide which of the children are prepared for the program.  It can mean unmatchable life-change for each of the ones who are chosen. 
  7. Finally, please pray for all of the financing for the team to come together.  I pray that you would consider giving (even the smallest amount) for the orphans we will ‘find’ on this trip, who’s lives will be changed and could soon be found by a forever family as a result of our time there. 
    – For myself, I still have a measly $120 dollars to raise towards my personal expenses.  This will go towards my personal expenses, such as food.  If you are willing to contribute – as little as $5 – you may do so online, securely through my PayPal link – http://goo.gl/3nMDm

    -There also still remains a need for the organization’s trip financing as a whole.  The need is large, but we trust in our God who is bigger.  You may also see how to give a tax-deductible donation online at this link – http://www.active.com/donate/Christmas2011/wintertrip

A word from New Horizons for Children:

Our interview trips aren’t simply about interviews; we have the opportunity to minister to many more children than will ever be able to come on the host trip. We take toys for ALL the orphans we come into contact with, as well as some thoughtful gifts for orphanage workers along the way. By the end of the interview trip, we will have visited dozens of orphanages and LOVED on hundreds of orphans and caregivers. In addition, we are able to learn about real needs inside the orphanages and, in the past, have been able to fund special projects that we learned about while on the trip and in the orphanages. Just as a few examples, we’ve helped repair hot water heaters so children would have access to hot water, assisted with equipment costs to set up sewing rooms for older girls to learn a trade and donated towards the care of specific special needs children we meet along the way who will likely never have a life outside of institutionalized care. There is much taking place on these trips and we covet your prayers and support so we are able to minister beyond simply interviews. (Click this link to see pictures of what we do!)

Thank you for your prayers & help! They are making a difference!

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

I’m going to Ukraine!–Orphanage Visits & Interviews

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Yep, yep, it’s true!  August 31st, I will be leaving to join a team of 5 others from New Horizons for Children for the Fall 2011 Interview trip.  Half of the team will haveMy favorite places in the world! spent the week prior meeting & interviewing potential host kids in Latvia, then the rest of us will join up for the following 2 weeks in Ukraine.

When LeAnn, the hosting director of New Horizons, sent out an email saying they needed one more person for the trip, I couldn’t resist the invitation.  My calendar is wide-open now, since I haven’t gotten a permanent full-time job.  I do believe God can withhold things from you for a reason… Winking smile If I was in my first year of school counseling right now, there I no way I could be going on this trip. And the pieces just keep falling together. 

LeAnn has told us “We will start out Sept 2 to drive several hours before we begin interviews and meet a record number of children for any trip.  We have been told to expect more than 400 in one new "eager" region alone!” 

I’m so looking forward to this great opportunity!  I have heard it can be a very difficult, but also very rewarding trip.  We will be traveling all around the country to visit orphanages and interview/screen kids for the Christmas 2011 host program.  …and delivering gifts to this summer’s host kids too! And I really hope I get to see my Sasha, what an amazing experience it will be to visit him in his home!

I ask each of you to pray without ceasing and enlist your best prayer warrior friends to pray for the team (LeAnn, Jim, Stephanie, Nicole, April, & myself) and trips, orphanages, kids and also those that have to give permissions to allow hosting in both Ukraine and Latvia.  God is already going before us and I pray that He will continue to work many miracles!

I am also raising support online for some of my personal expenses for the trip.  I’m not doing anything big like sending letters or public speaking, just posting this link for people to give online.  Anything you would like to give would be a great help!

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27 (NLT)

 

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