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.