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

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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! 

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)

Destination: Ukraine!

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Missions FlierYep! You read that right! I am headed to Ukraine!!! 

Ever since my parents left Ukraine last June, they have been in touch with a missionary who is in the same region as our Sasha.  My dad has gotten very involved with helping them with their mission of reaching the orphans in that part of Ukraine. Missions Flier3 The team of ministers there now not only visit the orphans in the orphanages, they also help adopting families traveling to the region, have a Christian church that is growing quickly, and a trade school for the older orphans. They are doing awesome things and God is blessing their ministry and giving them incredible favor with the children, orphanage directors, and even government officials!

My dad has been very involved in helping the ministry.  For  months now he has been planning to go over there this summer to help remodel a home for orphans who have aged-out of the orphanage.  I have been unsure about my summer plans up to this point, but God made it clear to me this week that he has given me this opportunity just at the right time

Only 10 months ago, my parents left Ukraine without the 16 year old son they had traveled there to adopt and bring home.  My dad & I meeting S for the first time - Dec 2010When they returned, we all wondered what would happen with Sasha alone in Ukraine.  Within a couple months, the missionaries opened their home for the first group of aged-out orphans… an answer to our prayers.  A transition/trade school can literally make the life or death difference for kids when they graduate from the orphanage.  And not just any kids… our Sasha and the friends who have become his family as he has grown up in the orphanage. 

This year has been Sasha’s last year living in the orphanage.  In June, he will graduate, and on August 31st he will be out on his own.  It is our prayer that God will bring him to this trade school.  A place where he can be safe, fed, educated, prepared well for adulthood, mentored by godly men, and learn more about Christ.  

To me, this trip is not just about visiting Ukraine and helping build a building.  It is about investing in lives… prayerfully the life of my long-distance brother. 

There are still spots open on the team! Wherever you are, you can join us!  See the info below. 

Info Sheet

Please be praying for my dad and I
as we prepare for an exciting journey! 
More updates coming soon on how you can help!

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:18 (NIV)

 

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