Destination Ukraine–Week 1 Update


Saturday July 13
We had a fairly smooth travel. Took one flight to Chicago, then to Dusseldorf, Germany.  I packed all my clothes in my roll-aboard carry-on, with the express purpose of knowing my checked luggage could get lost, so at least I would have my clothes in my carry on. But no. They had to take my carry on from me in Chicago, which then got lost, and I didn’t see my clothes again till Tuesday! We also sat on the runway in Chicago for almost 2 hours which put us way behind for the next flight.

Sunday July 14
We got to Germany much later than expected and just missed our connecting flight to Kiev.  It was the only flight going to Ukraine that day, so they rebooked us to fly to Munich, and then to Kiev from there. It ended up being a good detour because once we got to Munich we ended up meeting and being on the same flight with Tim and Evan, another father and son who are on our team.  Thank goodness we were told to wear our team shirts, or we might not have even known it was them! (My dad and I have never met any of the 6 other people who are on our missions team.)
From there we met the rest of our team in Kiev… after 30 minutes of trying to find my lost luggage. It was great to finally meet everyone. From there we took a bus ride for about 30 minutes to the train station. It was so good to be in Ukraine! I love this country! We got to the train station and grabbed some McDonald’s before we had to get our overnight train to the region.  We totally looked like Americans…dragging our 15 suitcases around the brick streets and into McDonald’s.  When we got there, Kyle, our leader, ordered cheeseburgers for everyone… but there was some miscommunication and we ended up with wayyyy more than we wanted.  It was hilarious and a great way to break the ice with our team that had just met.
Tim & 23 cheeseburgers
After our last “American” meal, we headed to the train station and jumped on the awesomely but not intentionally historic Soviet slow train.  I’ve heard horror stories about these stifling, uncomfortable train cars… thankfully our experience was great.  For a little while, all 8 of us piled into one room for our first team meeting, then we split up into our 2 separate rooms to be rocked to sleep by the clicking of railroad tracks. I was loving this experience already!

Monday July 15
The sun set and then rose again and we were still on the train.  After about 10 hours total, we made it to the city where we would be staying.  Pastor John, missionary at New Hope, was there to pick us up. It was so great to finally meet him after communicating via Facebook and email for over a year.  He’s an incredible man with a passion for God and the people and orphans of Ukraine.  We loaded up his van with all our stuff, went out for breakfast, and grocery shopping for the team.  I loved being in the city that I was only able to visit for half-a-day in 2011 and where my parents stayed during the adoption trip. My dad definitely remembered his way around and pointed out where they stayed and ate and hung out with Sasha. 
After about a 45 minute drive, we made it to village where we would be staying.  The small village has the New Hope farm and trade school as well as 2 group homes for orphans studying there.  Our job for 2 weeks was to work on construction in the new bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen that are being added to the boy’s house.  Within a few hours of arriving and getting settled, materials were delivered, moved, and the team got to work… and dad sliced open his finger!

Tuesday July 16
Such a fun day.  I had to go back into the city with Kyle because I needed to be there to receive my lost luggage. We took the public bus into the city, which is over an hour ride with frequent stops. It is so cool to really live the way people do in this part of the country.  Then we traveled the city on foot, making a couple stops, and visiting the New Hope Center in the city.  This is the original center of the ministry, a drop-in center for older orphans who attend the local public trade schools and other ministry.  This was where my luggage would be delivered and where Kyle arranged to meet up with some of the boys he taught and ministered to when he lived in Ukraine 2 years ago.  It was so cool to be along for the ride and see him reunite with so many boys he had gotten to know.  He had helped them move into their trade school when they first left the orphanage 2 years ago and it was truly one of the highlights of my trip to see how well they are doing…working, taking care of family, and taking final exams to continue on in their education.  While we hung around the center waiting for my luggage, I got to play ping-pong and foosball with some of the guys and met Max who is the director of New Hope trade school.  After my luggage came (praise the Lord!) Kyle and I took 6 of the boys out around the city to do some errands and treat them to ice cream.  It was hilarious to be walking with them through the sidewalks and streets as they kicked and tossed a soccer ball together.  They tried to teach me how to spin it on my finger, so in the process, I was guilty of having to chase after it a few times too. 
One really cool moment was when we were at McDonald’s sitting outside eating ice cream, and an elderly lady came by with a cup asking for money.  In all honesty, I tried to ignore her, but it was difficult with her right on my shoulder.  The guys tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t leave.  Then one of the boys reached for his wallet and gave her some money.  He didn’t seem to think much of it, but to Kyle and I it was a powerful moment.  The orphan giving to the widow… it could be a post all on its own.
As we were walking through the city, I couldn’t help but think of how these guys are 17, 18, 19 years old… they’ve already been out on their own for 2 years… and they are still kids!   They are managing fairly well, but it hurt to think they are doing it without any parents to check in on them, help them buy books, make sure they studied for their tests, take them out to eat at the end of the school year, help them move into a new dorm in the fall…none of that.  We only spent part of the day together, but I was so blessed by our time together and couldn’t wait until they would come to work with us in the village on Thursday!

Kyle reuniting with one of the guysNew Hope Center  Yeah I love them already

Wednesday July 17
Not a whole lot happening on Wednesday.  The guys worked on drywall and I had no womanly tasks to do yet besides taking pictures… the perks of being the only girl on the team. Winking smile 

But I did take a trip to the sunflower field at the edge of the town, they go on and on as far as your eye can see.  Just another thing I love about Ukraine!
A little droopy but still beautiful!

Thursday July 18
On Thursday, John brought 6 of the boys we met on Tuesday from the city out to the village to work with us!  They all went to the orphanage where Kyle served 2 years ago and are now in the government trade school, not New Hope, so this was a cool opportunity to keep them connected with the ministry even when they aren’t a part of the academic program.  We had so much fun with them and they worked very hard.  We spent a lot of time together in the big garden behind the house. We would weed, rake, take a break.  One of the boys ran out to the sunflower field behind the garden, plucked a huge flower off the stalk, cut it up into quarters, and we ate the seeds right off the flower! I couldn’t resist anything they offered to me… tiny unripe apples and apricots off the tree, or tomatoes from off the ground…. and they weren’t that bad!

At lunch time, we were all eating together, and I looked around the huge table and realized something big time.  There were 7 other guys from our team, 3 Ukrainian men who led the construction project, 6 boys from the trade school, and me. The only girl. I must say, I was completely in my element and loved every moment.

One of these things is not like the other
After lunch we worked some more, took the boys to the village store for the daily afternoon ice cream break, watched them play soccer with the local kids.  Two of the boys weren’t able to spend the night, but the other 4 did.  After dinner, we hung out and played Uno. It was such a great day of having them with us and including them as part of our team!
Dad made stilts, we had fun trying them out

Video from Thursday–get a tour around the home, garden, and meet some of the guys.

Friday July 19
Friday, I volunteered to help Kyle with breakfast, so we woke up early before everyone else.  I must say, I felt somewhat motherly that morning, especially after seeing the guys still soundly sleeping in their beds around the house.  It was fun to help make breakfast for everyone.  Since I was feeling especially motherly, I made sure fruit was included in our meal, which had not been very common when traveling with 7 men.  It was a cool pre-motherhood moment when the boys got up, enjoyed their breakfast, and even ate all the apples I had cut up. Winking smile
We spent more time working in the garden in the morning.  We were kind of done weeding potatoes, so before I got out there, the trade school guys started on the corn.  When I got out to the garden, our favorite neighbor lady was there telling the boys that the corn was not worth weeding because it was pretty much already ruined.  (The garden hadn’t been kept well at all this spring.) Before it could even be discussed, one of the guys left and came back with the tiller and started chopping down all the corn.  We had intended to try and save it, but by the time Kyle saw, it was too late and most of the corn was gone.  It became another joke of the trip…not so funny at first, now I look back and laugh.
Before we knew it, it was time for the boys to go back to the city.  It was hard to say goodbye.  They made working so much more fun.  I really hoped we’d see them again.

It was sad and quiet after the guys left.  But our work continued and I spent even more time in the potato field… which will be a new blog post in itself! 
That evening, I called one of Sasha’s best friends, Y, who was hosted with him and graduated one year ago.    Y and I chat pretty regularly online and once he knew we were coming to Ukraine, he really wanted to meet up with us.  He’s currently working pretty far from where we were, but he said he wanted to meet with us anyways and he would come to us.  I really hoped he would! 
Meanwhile, I had been trying to call Sasha too… however the number I had wasn’t working for him.  However, on Thursday night, I got another number for him and it worked!  We sent a couple texts, then I couldn’t help myself and had to just call him.  It was so great to hear his voice.  It was the first time I talked to him on the phone in over a year! (In the past year we have only been in contact on Facebook, and sending letters and messages through friends.) He sounded so great, was very glad to hear from dad and I. He really wanted to see us. Made my heart happy to hear him say he misses us, "I love you" in English, and said he always smiles when he’s with us – which is a new one!  We didn’t have exact plans yet to see him, but we had already come so far, we had to figure out a way to see him one way or another!

Saturday July 20
Saturday was a break from working day.  We got to explore the city all on our own.  Some of us went to a market where they sell absolutely everything….hardware, clothes, kitchen gadgets, food… you name it, you could find it there.  It was huge, we could have spent hours there…and we kinda did.  We stopped at a stand on the street to get a shawarma roll for lunch.  They looked awesome, and mine was pretty good.  We later found out that they are not know for being the best food out there, there are jokes about them being made of cats, dogs, and pigeons… think the US equivalent of a street vendor’s hot dogs.  But hey, we did it, we enjoyed it, and we survived to tell about it! 

That night, Vitaly, the contractor who was leading our contruction project, and his wife Vika, invited us over for banya and shashlik – aka sauna and shishkabobs.  It’s a big part of the Slavic culture and I was so excited for this special evening.  I didn’t last long in the banya, one quick trip was enough for me… but my dad loved it! And the dinner was wonderful.  It’s been so cool to be so welcomed by everyone we meet.  Thank you God for the relationships and partnerships that are being built in our midst!
Vitaliy cooking up some sashlikDad's ready for another go at the banya

Thank you so much to everyone for your support and prayers! We have another week of work ahead of us. Stay tuned for more updates!

Check out my Facebook page for more photos and videos!

Ukraine 2013 Photo Album –

Videos –


Destination Ukraine–What will you be doing?–video

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“What will you be doing there?” is the question I answer almost every time I tell someone I’m going on a mission trip to Ukraine.  The short answer – we will be working with New Hope Center, a Christian ministry to graduated orphans in the region where Sasha is from.  We will be doing construction on one of the group homes where their Trade School students live.  The realistic answer – none of us will know until we get there. Winking smile

I’m so excited to be partnering with this ministry that I started praying for… before I even knew it existed.  It’s so awesome to have learned about this ministry that God has been developing for years before I even knew about this region. 

New Hope Center’s trade school just finished it’s very first year of educating and training orphans for a practical career in dairy farming.  One thing that I don’t think we have emphasized enough when sharing about our trip is that this is the very first trade school of its kind in Ukraine.  It is the only accredited non-government trade school in the whole country.  This is huge.  It’s a huge miracle that they have received all the approvals and favor from government officials which makes everything possible… because there are innumerable barriers – foreseen and unforeseen – that could have prevented this from happening.

I think this video is the best way to get a glimpse at what we will be doing.  It’s awesome to see the land we will be exploring, the buildings we will be visiting, the people we will be working with, and the orphans who will be touched by our work! 

Thank you so much for your prayers and support! My dad and I leave TODAY and will arrive in Ukraine tomorrow afternoon! Stay tuned for more updates! 

Sale–Everything Must Go!

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Ok, so this may be a rare thing for me, but I mean what I say in this title… it’s not some symbol / metaphor / analogy to some deep spiritual concept… I’m really having a sale and everything really must go! 

Back in April, I went on a crafting kick to sell some items at my church’s Spring Market at a women’s event.  It was a great event, but I nearly brought home everything I had taken with me. 

After that, I started an online auction with the items to help fundraise our way to Ukraine.  In the past few weeks, I was able to sell a few more items, but not nearly everything that I have ‘in stock’. 

And now, I am just ready to share it with whoever wants it at whatever price!  In the terms of eBay – the last few weeks you could only get items through ‘bidding’ but starting today all items are ‘buy it now’ and you name your price! 

Like I mentioned in a past post, I didn’t make these just for the sake of making money.  I wanted to make things that people would connect with, that would inspire them, that would cause their spirits to have compassion compassion for the people and children from other parts of the globe.   So, it is still my prayer that people would see an item, and be connected with it or it remind them of someone they know who is from that place, longs to travel to that place, has left a piece of their heart in that part of the world, or brought a piece of their heart home from that part of the world.  Some of the places featured are Africa, India, Springfield MO, Seattle, Minneapolis/St Paul, Philadelphia, Portland, coastal North Carolina, New York City, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and coastal Florida!

Also, if you did not see, we were given a $500 matching donation for our missions trip!  That means every dollar that is given towards the trip will be matched, up to $500… and anything you purchase from here will be matched as well!  Here’s how:

  1. Just click the photo below to go to the Facebook album
  2. Find the item(s) you want
  3. Name your price in a comment or private message
  4. Just name your price & the donation will be matched by our donor
  5. Give donation and shipping charges
  6. Enjoy your item or share it with someone special!
  7. Your donation will help us get to Ukraine to minister to orphans who have aged-out of the orphanages!


Thank you for your support and prayers!

Double Your Donation!

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I am so excited to share a big announcement! We have been given a BIG matching donation for our missions trip to Ukraine!

A great friend that my dad and I met through hosting from New Horizons for Children has offered a $500 matching donation.  That means beginning on June 9th, they will match every donation that is given to our trip! So if you give $20, they will give $20. If you give $100, they give another $100. 

So if you ever were afraid to give because you thought your donation was not significant, you can now donate knowing that your seed of faith is actually being doubled for our cause! 

Our donor felt led to give a matching donation because they have adopted children from Ukraine, have a heart for the aging-out orphans that we will be serving on our trip, and want to encourage others to give to our cause!

All donations given online or by check beginning June 9th will be doubled! 

To give online, visit

To give by check, read the details in our support letter

Thank you so much for your donations and joining in with our donor to support our mission to extend a hand to the aging-out teens in Ukraine!

Date                 Donation                 Matched                  Running Total

6/9                         $25                                +$25                          $50
6/9                         $100                             +$100                       $250
6/10                      $25                                +$25                           $300
6/10                      $10                                +$10                           $320
6/12                      $50                                +$50                           $420
6/12                      $20                                +$20                           $460
6/12                      $30                                +$30                           $520
6/12                      $40                                +$40                           $600
6/12                      $40                                 +$40                          $680
6/13                      $25                                 +$25                          $730
6/14                     $25                                  +$25                         $780
6/14                     $20                                 +$20                          $820
6/15                     $30                                  +$30                         $880
6/16                    $20                                   +$20                         $920
6/17                    $20                                  +$20                         $960
6/17                    $25                                  +$25                          $1010


Thank you so much to everyone
who made this blessing possible!

We are still in need of $2,000 more to cover both trip expenses for Jim & Jenelle, so please don’t stop giving if you feel led to help us help them!

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:

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!

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 – 

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!

Ukraine Missions Trip Prayer Requests!


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 –

    -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 –

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)

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