Aging Out Day–2 Years Later

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Two years ago, at the end of August 2011, I read a blog that stuck with me.  It was a blog written by a missionary in Ukraine about his experience with orphans on August 31st.  On this day, he helped to move 13 orphan boys he had gotten to know through his ministry, out of the orphanage and into a local trade school.  This was their age-out day.

I saw the pictures and read his description of what he saw in the dormitory.  And I let the statistics sink in.  [Read the original blog post here]

Statistically speaking, only 4 of these boys will still be enrolled in school in 2 years. 9 will fall victim to drugs, alcohol, and crime. 2 will commit suicide in the next 3 years.

Rather than a day of freedom, excitement, and independence, it was more like these boys – at barely 16/17 years old – were being placed in a battlefield where their odds of victory were surely not on their side.

I prayed. For them and all the children in Eastern Europe who were facing this dismal rite of passage all on the same day.  But little did I know what would become of those prayers…

That missionary who had written the blog was Kyle who led our recent trip to Ukraine.  And the boys he wrote about were the ones I got to meet and get to know.  When I think about how God wrote this whole story I am touched, amazed, and just blown away at how blessed I am.

While on the trip, Kyle reminded me of the blog he had written… I had honestly forgotten about it.  As soon as I got home, I had to look it up.  When I pulled up the page, I remembered the text and the photos.  And when I looked back at the photos this time, I did not have the same feeling of sadness as I did 2 years ago.

I now look back at those photos from 2011 and know several of the boys by name.  I know their voices, interests, personalities, and hopes.  I spent time with them, shared meals with them, talked to them on the phone, and go to know their stories.  I see the dorm rooms and know that those things did not hinder them from what they have become. 

More than anything, these boys give me hope.  They have been out of the orphanage for 2 years and they are making it.  Do they still have struggles? Yes.  But they have not become statistics.  They have stuck to their education for 2 years and have plans to continue.  They are hard workers and are enjoying their lives.  If they had mamas I know they would be so proud of them…  and my heart breaks when I realize each of their families are missing out on having such awesome guys in their lives. 

Please join me in continuing to pray for them.  There are still many challenges ahead of them.  Many of them have made it on their own, but could do so much more if they had faith to keep them going when their own strength wears out.  They are never to grown for Jesus, please pray they meet Him right where they are!

Go back to Kyle’s original blogs and see if you can point out 3 of these 4 guys! 
(They have grown up quite a bit in the past 2 years!)
http://www.kylestef.com/mission-blog.html

Praying Them Home

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I am so blessed to be a volunteer for New Horizons for Children.  Over the past 3 years I have had the great privilege to meet many awesome families and children and help them along their hosting journey.  I believe they have made just as much of an impact on my life as I have on theirs.

I’ve had the joy of getting to know one family from my church who I met when they first hosted a girl through our ministry in December 2012.  They have become great friends and I am constantly encouraged and challenged by their faith.

God led them to host a young girl who is not currently available to be adopted and they did not host her with the intent to adopt.  Over the course of the month that they hosted her, they fell in love with her, and God had a way of changing their minds.    However, she is still not available to be adopted.  One day, the wife was talking about they love her so much and she is still a part of their family, even though she is now living on the other side of the globe. She said that it is still her mission to ‘pray her home’… not necessarily to their home, but to whichever home God has for her, whether it be in the US or in Europe. 

That phrase just hit me so profoundly… praying her home.   It takes a lot of faith and humility to make this your prayer.  She surrendered her own plans and prays that God would give their host girl a home where she can grow up and be safe and loved.

And now I think about these orphans who are soon to be graduating from the orphanages.  Their orphanages have been their homes.  Now where will their homes be?  Just because the government considers you to be an adult, doesn’t mean you don’t need a place to call home anymore. 

Just think of our classes of high school graduates who are entering the real world this year.  They may be growing up and moving on, but their anchors will always be their families.  Their parents’ homes will be the place they celebrate their graduations, the people they count on for assistance to move into a dorm room or apartment, and the place they will always return to for holidays.  You always need a place to call home, no matter how old you are.

The ministry that we will be working with on our missions trip to Ukraine will be doing just that… providing a home for orphans who no longer have a place to call home.  Right now, there are a handful of students who attend our missionary partner’s trade school and also live in a home with house parents.  In this home, the are safe, mentored, and learn life skills to prepare them to have a home of their own someday. 

Watch the video below to hear the students themselves talk about how much these homes mean to them.   Perhaps the most powerful words come from Maxim K., who is interviewed last : “I had not much home ever. And I even couldn’t think that I will have another chance to change my life for better.”

Meet 4 boys who are enjoying the blessing of a home… possibly for the first time in their lives

Please join us in praying even more of these orphans home.  These children may be older, too old to be adopted, but they still need a place to call home.  I can’t think of a better place for  them, than one where they will learn how to take care of a home, care for themselves, learn a trade that will earn them a living, and be disciple by believers who meet them where they are!

I can’t wait to be on the grounds of these homes in less than 2 months! What an opportunity it will be to see these homes, be a part of building a new one, meet the students living there whose lives have been changed, and just see all that God has been doing in the past year!

Also, I please ask that you consider giving financially to support my trip.  My dad and I still have a long way to go and not much time to get there.  Any bit to show your support will help!

You can easily give online at this link – http://fnd.us/c/5W3p3 

Thank you so much for your support and for praying these kids home!

 

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Isaiah 32:18 (NIV)

Everyday Things–St. Pat’s Day-Orphans Don’t Need Luck…

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St. Patrick was a man of God.  He devoted himself to the work of God and made an ageless impact on a nation. 

The details of his ministry have sort of been lost in history, but one thing is clear, luck was not part of it… and orphans can’t depend on luck either.  

Some would say luck has not been on the side of the orphan, others might say they have become orphans because of the fallen world. 

God sees all that has happened and the difficulty they go through.  Yet their only hope is found in Him.  And believers who will be the hands and feet of Jesus to reach out to them and make them orphans no more. 

We must continue to believe that someday their stories will change, and get out and do something to make their ‘luck’ change. We must constantly pray for them and believe that He will not let them down!

But you know all about it—
the contempt, the abuse.
I dare to believe that the luckless
will get lucky someday in you.
You won’t let them down:
orphans won’t be orphans forever.
Psalm 10:14 (The Message) 

Wordless Week–“Kings & Queens”

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Everyday Things–Meaning in the Mailbox

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I’ve been dealing with a problem in my life lately.  I am pretty consistent about getting the mail from my mailbox everyday, but my problem is that it takes me forever to open it.  I usually walk into the door, put the mail in my kitchen… and the mail turns into a pile of mail that sits there for days.  I have many other things I’d rather do than sit and sift through the important and unimportant things that find their way to my mailbox.

What’s the problem? What’s the significance of that?  Well, I didn’t really see one myself until I remembered this quote:

I became a big fan of the United States Postal Service.  Every day I would run down the driveway to get the mail as soon as the mailman delivered it.  I would separate the piles for each household member and would inform them what was in their pile before they even got to it.  It irritated me how indifferent they were to their mail!  The worst was when I would see Jackie throw some into the trash without even opening it – I opened everything addressed to me, even “junk” mail.  When they asked me, after several months, why I was obsessed with the mail, I explained that for eighteen years of my life I had never gotten a personal piece of mail.  An envelope, addressed to me, regardless of content, was an affirmation that I mattered to someone.

         – Alex Krutov in “Infinitely More” (pg 175-176)

Alex was raised in the harsh Russian orphanage system.  He lived his life never knowing if he mattered to anyone.  Once he was given the opportunity to study and live in the US, he found meaning to his life in all different places, including in the mailbox.

It was as if every time he received a piece of mail, it was telling him all kinds of things: Someone knows my name.  Someone knows that I am alive.  Someone knows that I have a home where I can be found. Someone took the time to send something to me.  Someone has something they want to share with me.  Someone has message they want me to hear.  Someone believes that I matter. 

So now, because of Alex’s story, I am reminded that my pile of mail shows me that I matter to someone.  They have a message that they specifically want to share with me.  They had a purpose in sending this to me.

There are so many orphans around the world who wish they mattered to someone.  Even if it is something small, that could affirm that someone knows their name, cares about where they are, is interested in their story, and believes that their lives have meaning. 

Even in the world around us, there are people yearning to believe that they matter.  Maybe even you who are reading this right now.  Your life has meaning, you matter.  God sees, God cares, and God knows. 

 

What is the price of 5 sparrows—2 copper coins?
Yet God does not forget a single one of them.
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God
than a whole flock of sparrows.
Luke 12: 6-7 (NLT)

Reflections from Everyday Things–“Puss in Boots”–Story of a mother’s love

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My career as a school counselor always provides me with a wide variety of responsibilities.  This week’s quarterly responsibility was to chaperone a reward trip to take students to a viewing of the recent movie “Puss in Boots.”  This new spin intertwining the Shrek character and the old tale was quite surprising to me… and right up my alley. Winking smile

This version tells the story about how Puss and Humpty Dumpty became friends after living together in a Spanish orphanage.  They stood by each other in an orphanage where they were singled out, a large egg and a cat sure stand out in a home full of children!

Mama Imelda takes care of the orphans and is particularly loving to Puss.  And all Puss wants to do is make his mama proud.

Puss & Mama Imelda outside orphanage door 

Even when Puss had shamed Imelda,she was still his motivation.  He wanted her to be pleased with him.  He thought about her constantly. And her love for him never wavered.

How many orphans in the world just want a mom to call their own?  Someone who can unconditionally be there for them and keep them going?  Even if they are not a mother by birth, orphans need someone who can be this person in their lives. Someone who will always take them back after they make mistakes and will be their biggest supporter. 

 

Yet Jerusalem says,
“The LORD has deserted us;the Lord has forgotten us.”
“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…
Isaiah 49:14-16a (NLT)

‘Tis the Season– “We love because He first loved us”

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‘Tis the season… for many things!  ‘Tis the season for parties, decorations, gifts, happiness, snow, giving, celebration, family, and fun.  And so much more!  Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who was sent by God for all humankind.  God gave us the greatest gift of all because of his great, never-ending love for us.

Those are my 2 favorite things to see in action at Christmas time – giving & love.  For me, that is the best way to celebrate the season, by following God’s example and sharing those things with others just as He did for us. 

There’s one special way that you can give and show love to an awesome teen this Christmas.  Sasha, my future brother, is spending one last Christmas in a Ukrainian orphanage this year.   The rest of our family is at home preparing for his soon-coming arrival.  And you can help make that arrival Sasha is dreaming of become a reality.

This Christmas, my family is sending out an extra card along with our Christmas cards.  It explains how God has brought this special young man into our lives, the journey we have started to adopt him, the great financial need to make it happen, & an opportunity for you to help. 

Click for full PDF

Click the photo above to see the entire card.

Please take a look at our card and consider if there’s a way you could demonstrate the spirit of the season by giving and loving a Ukrainian orphan this Christmas.

We appreciate all of your prayers, love, and support throughout this journey!

paypal-donate-button

To Donate – Follow this link and click the yellow “Donate” button. 
Once you get to the “Review Your Donation” page,
please click “Add Special Instruction to Seller” and type “¢ozza Family Adoption”.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
   God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:7-19 (NIV)

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