Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
In July 2007, I had the privilege to go to a Ukrainian orphanage for 2 weeks. I fell in love with a little girl named Ira. She was 12 years old and the sweetest person I have ever encountered. I left my part of my heart at that orphanage and especially with that little girl. For two years now I have longed to go back to Ukraine. This was the summer God called me to go. I hesitated at first, "It's too much money; I can't take off that much time from work; There's not enough time to plan for this trip" are all the things I said to try and convince myself that I couldn't possibly go. I had just talked to our team leader Mrs. Copeland and told her that there was no way I could go. While I was driving in my car though, I was overcome by a strange feeling, and called her back, and said that I had to go, and that God would work out the details. Sure enough, God did work out the details, every last one! Before I knew it I was on a plane landing in Ukraine - my heart overfilled with joy. This camp was different from my first camp. Poor children from the village were there along with the orphans. It was encouraging to see that every day more kids were coming to our Bible studies and evening concerts. It had to be the fastest 5 days of my life because before I knew it we were already saying goodbye.
I believe that everyone on this trip has a story to tell about the last day at the orphanage, and I think that everyone's stories are bittersweet. I know that mine is. To make it short, I'll skip to the part where we were loading up the van. My favorite boy, Jenya, was an 11 year old who was in my group. With tears in his eyes, he was the first to say goodbye. As I said goodbye, I was reminded of the little boy I got to know that week. He showed up in our Bible study group on the first day and was hooked after that! He listened to the messages, memorized his Bible verses, and helped me with crafts. He even made up a secret handshake that incorporated the words "God Loves You". And now it was already time to say goodbye to him. Another little boy, Sergei, clung to my side for an hour the night before and the whole morning before I left. I stepped on the bus and took a seat on the left side of the van next to the window. I looked out at all of their little faces and suddenly saw Sergei running up to my window. The bus started up, and Sergei put his hand up against the window yelling my name. I put my hand up against his hand through the window and began to cry. The van began to move and I watched out the window as his little crying face got farther and farther away.
Why did we do that to ourselves? Why did we spend all of this money and fly across the world only to leave those kids crying? But we can't look at it that way. Our Lord has a much bigger plan. We showed those kids His powerful love, and that is what is most important!
And here's a little bit more praise to God:
The little girl that I left in Ukraine two years ago is now being adopted. I can barely write this without tearing up! I can't believe that after praying for two long years for her to be adopted by someone, and taken out of that orphanage, that God answered my prayers. And not only did He answer my prayers; He surpassed them. He is putting Ira in the Bell family who lives here in Orlando and goes to Northland.
A big thank you goes out to my team, and especially my team leader, Mrs. Copeland. You are a great leader, second mom, and best friend. Also, thanks to Matt Snyder for putting together all of the technical stuff, including this blog, and also for playing a great Jesus character in the skits! Jessica, thank you for your prayer on Friday night around the bonfire; it changed my life. Pauline and Kristi, thanks for helping me with crafts, and for being such great sports throughout the trip! Mrs. Snyder, thank you for smiling…ALL THE TIME. (= Matt and Danny, thanks for being so funny during all of the skits; I believe you made such a positive impression on the kids as well as the team (A special thanks to Matt for putting on one of the "All-Star Cheerlear" outfits.) Anthony, thanks for carrying all my drinks and stuff in your backpack back from the store! Chris, thanks for being understanding and caring on the last night we were there when I was crying. Thanks too for sarcastically calling my Sunshine in the morning. Susanne, thanks for being so sweet and funny on the whole trip, and always having a good, team-player attitude (and also for letting my use your phone). And of course, thanks to Jenya Ivashko, Patti Harshey, Marc McMurrin, and everyone else behind this trip. But most of all, Thank you, Almighty God, for a successful trip and showing us your mercy and love every day. Praise be to our Awesome God.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
But that first glance of the country outside the airport is but a mere shadow of the brilliance that surrounded us as we stepped into camp after the two-hour drive from Kyiv. Camp glows a bright green as it is towered over by mignificant trees. Everything is green and growing and beautiful. Flowers bloom. The air smells sweet and cool like a sip of fruit tea in the summer time.
As we settled into camp we were delighted to find beautiful buildings that we are staying in inside of which lie RUNNING WATER and PORCELIN TOILETS. I could hardly believe my eyes - especially after my last two mission's trips in which "roughing it" would be putting it delicately. Our first meal was not only edible but actually quite enjoyable as all the rest have been since.
But if you can believe it, none of what I have described so far has come anywhere near to touching the best parts of being here. How do you even describe the joy that bubbles over and overflows when meeting your long lost brothers and sisters in the Lord and the experience of the fact that you don't even speak the same language does not put a dent in the beautiful friendships that are beginning to emerge as we bridge the divides of language and culture with smiles, hugs, service, and the love of Christ. We are very fortunate to have not only our own personal translator but also a team of college-aged students who were born in Ukraine and moved to California when they were young - completely bilingual people who understand English and Ukrainian language and culture and are some of the most beautiful, helpful, and kind people I have ever met in my life. A passion for Christ pours out of their spirits and reaches out to everyone that they are around.
The 180 children we have been ministering to are a mix of orphans and children from poor families from the neighboring villages. They range in age from 4 to about 16. As I look into some of their eyes I can almost feel God's heart break as He longs for them to be a part of his family and know the hope and purpose that only He can bring to their lives. I can also feel His joy for the innocence of the children that He loves as they run and play and wrap their tiny, dirty hands around my neck - or in Katya's case around my waist to tickle me and watch me squeal and then begin to beam. For this 12-year-old girl, age, race, language, and culture bear no weight. All that matters is laughter and love. She plays this game with almost our whole team and never seems to tire at all. It is looking like all the clothing and gifts are about perfect in size for what we need, and all of the supplies we brought seem to be a very big blessing for the camp.
Our days are filled helping with skits, songs, crafts, and sports and mainly just hanging out with the kids. Please continue to pray for our team as we continue to adjust to culture shock and jet lag. Pauline did have some travel sickness yesterday but not as bad as usual, and praise the Lord as she is feeling much, much better today. The rest of us have been tired, but no other sickness for us to report, thankfully.
A few important shout-outs: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BREANNE!!! All of our team members say hello and we love and miss you to all of our supportive families and supporters back home. We could not be here today if not for your love, support, and most importantly prayer. Please keep it coming! And to all of you who will be seeing my darling angel Rebecca, kiss her for me, tell her I love her, and I miss her and pray for her every day. Thanks for reading!
Sharing in the joy of Christ,
-Jessica for the Ukraine Team