Thursday, September 23, 2010

Masha's Been Adopted!



This beautiful girl with Down Syndrome has finally found her forever home! She was officially adopted on Sept. 8, 2010 by an American family. This is such exciting news because we have worked with this little girl two summers in a row, and she is featured in the video on this website from our trip in 2009.

Praise the Lord for such great news!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Faces from Ukraine

Of course, it is these faces - the people we met, lived with, served with, and grew to love that truly marked our experience! Serving in Urkraine is more than going on a mission trip, it is joining into a community of people who love and care for orphans. It's taking Christ's words to heart, and seeking out what pure and genuine religion really means. Thanks to our friend Masha Levchenko taking such beautiful pictures that capture so many precious faces!

The American team and Ukrainian friends!

Places in Ukraine

I was thinking about Ukraine this morning, and looking back through some of my pictures. I want to share a few pics of the places we were ... part of belonging to a community is sharing a sense of place. These places are the backdrop of our stories, and give context to our experience. There are so many images we could share, but these are just a few!

Kiev, Ukraine
Street vendors in Kiev
In Kiev, beautiful buildings in a rainbow of colors
Public transportation, crossing through an open city square

Amazing architectural details
Building 3, Vorzel Orphanage
Inside Building 3 - A little lamb resting on each tiny bed
The sanitorium where we stayed in Vorzel
We walked by this mosaic every day: "Health of nation - Wealth of country"
The Forced Famine Memorial

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Larisa's Story:

One of the reasons why I am writing this is to tell you about my trip back to my homeland Ukraine. Before I talk about that, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My Ukrainian name is Larisa and I am 16 years old. I was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and about 11 years ago I was living in an orphanage “Vorzel” in Ukraine. My biological parents had abandoned me at birth, and had given up their rights as my parents.

I vividly remember when I was 3 years old in my orphanage, and most everything that had happened from then on. I think one of the major reasons I remember so many details of my life in those early years stems from the enormous transition I went through, from living in the Ukraine to moving to the United States of America.

I have gone through quite a lot in my life, having faced many struggles when I was very little. If there is anything in my life that I have learned to value, it would be love. Love to me is like the air I breathe. I can’t live without it. Love is something that makes me feel that I am cared for, and that I will always have that person next to me who will never let me go, whether it be my family, my friends, or someone I will be in a relationship with.

One of my early memories from those days in Ukraine was not knowing what love was, or how it felt to be loved. Being so little and knowing that the only person I had in my life to depend on was myself is something a child should never have to think about. Coming to America and meeting my new family was a dramatic change for me. It took me awhile to understand that I had this wonderful family that was there to love me and support me. As I got older, I began to more deeply appreciate what my adopted parents have given me, how much they have changed my life, and the opportunities they have given me that I would never have been given had I remained in Ukraine.

I am currently in Ukraine as I write this. The first week I arrived here, I took a bus to go to an orphanage where I was once living many years ago. Coming back to my orphanage definitely caused a tremendous amount of emotions for me. It brought back a lot of memories from my childhood, from playing with the little kids outside on the playground, to sitting on the couch watching T.V. all together. The orphanage is separated by buildings in terms of the child’s health (Physically or mentally disabled and healthy kids). The whole reasoning for going there was to spend time with all the children playing with them, reaching to the children, and telling them about God.

I believe that having God in your life makes you realize not only who you are, but who God is. God has opened my life to whole new world having been here. I used to ask myself when I was little, “why is it that all these bad things are happening to me, and I feel like no one’s there to help me?” When in reality God has always been there.

About a week after being in Vorzel, I took a trip to a camp that was about 4 hours away from Kyiv, and that’s when everything hit me all at once, and everything I used to think had completely changed forever. The conditions of this place were mind blowing. Some of us go to sleep in a comfortable big bed, with enough sheets and covers to keep us warm throughout the night, and don’t consider it as the biggest thing in the world to be able to have. I got to sleep in a small single bed, with a mattress that was so thin you could feel the metal wires pressing up against your back, and that was considered to be lucky to have something holding up your mattress. I used the restroom outside, as for so many other people in this world who flush there toilets without even thinking, “what if my toilet didn’t flush”. I had to buy my water because the water there was not healthy to drink, and I drank every last drop of my water, as for most people who fill their cups of water and drink two gulps of it and dump the rest of it in their kitchen sink.

Do we as people take things for granted?

In this camp the age group varies from as young as 1 to 19 years old. You enter this camp thinking that these are just regular kids, some who are just bored, and others who don’t even want to be back at the same camp they were in last year, when in reality each and every one of those kids there has a story you don’t know about. Stories that will bring tears to your eyes, stories that will make you wish you could do something more for them, and most of all stories that will make you realize how lucky and more appreciative we as people should be towards what we have in life.

I woke up one morning and it was about 6 am, and I wasn’t feeling to great, but wasn’t feeling bad either. I guess you could say that’s a pretty typical reaction to have after having 4 hours of sleep, but anyway I walked to meet up with the rest of the group from the church, and had a good 30 minutes worshipping God. While I was listening to everyone’s prayers, something inside me hit that place in my heart and feeling the emotions of what the people around me were having including the ones I was feeling felt as if my chest was about to burst. I have not been able to cry like that in front of anyone in a very long time. I think that goes to show you how much this place changes you and how amazing these people are. That was the day I realized that God really is the bigger person, and that feeling you get when your crying is so strong, and it felt like I had so much inside me that needed to come out, to the point that I couldn’t even stay in that room. That was also the moment I realized that God never puts too much of something on our plates that we cannot handle. I may not always understand why he does what he does, but I know that I can trust him and that I need to hold on to my hope and faith no matter what happens.

I also had the wonderful honor of meeting some very genuinely nice people that I am beyond happy I got to build relationships with for the last two weeks. I wanted to let you guys know that it means a lot to me you all have been supporting me and helping me get through these rough past couple of weeks. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Throughout my whole life I have always tried to understand as much as I could about things that happened, and what I have come to realize is that there are some things in life we won’t ever be able to figure out no matter how hard we try to understand it. I have accepted the negative things in my life, and no longer see my past as something that haunts me, but as something that has only been supporting me all these years. Ever since I can remember, I have always been the person that loved to help in some way or another.

A dream I have is being able to tell teenagers about my story, and give them a different perspective on how I look at life. I want to help them understand from hearing my story that no matter what obstacles they may face in life, and no matter how many hard times they may go through in any given situation, that things always turn around and, in fact, do get better. I believe that life was intended to be imperfect for a reason. We all go through heartache and disappointment and those rough patches in our lives that really hurt. But who would we be if we did not go through these hardships, as well as the feelings they generated? We wouldn’t understand how it feels to lose a loved one, or to appreciate what we all have in our lives.

Life is the most beautiful gift that we were all given. Of course we make mistakes, and yes, we all have our bad days, but the positive and negative things in our lives balance each other out. God knows us more than we know ourselves, and coming here made me understand more of who I am, and where I come from. This has truly been a life changing experience, and is just the beginning to a new journey in my life.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vorzel Team Pic and Continued Prayers

Here is a picture of the team of Americans and Ukrainians working this past week at the Orphanage in Vorzel. What an amazing group of people to share this experience with!


Please continue to pray for our team - Kati, Jeanette, Holly, and our new friend Larissa - who are serving this week with Almaz church at an outreach sports camp at another orphanage. In addition to conducting lessons, crafts, and games for younger kids, they will also have an opportunity to minister to older kids (up to age 18!). The living conditions at this camp are a little more ... rustic. Please pray for good health and safety, the opportunity to connect with the kids, and the opportunity to share the Gospel.

The team will return to Vorzel for a few days before returning home to the States on Saturday.

Vorzel Orphanage 2010, Ukraine


Check out this awesome video put together by one of our friends from Almaz Church! How could you not fall in love with these beautiful faces!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Half the team is safely home!

I am happy to report that four of us (myself, Erin, Michaela and Kerry) have returned to the US safely and WITHOUT incident this time! The trip over was quite an adventure, especially for Michaela and I who got separated from Erin and Kerry in Paris and missed our connection. Let me tell you, I am NOT a fan of Charles de Galle airport!! But God's hand was in it the whole time and He allowed us to have a very uneventful return trip home.

It's good to be home (ice! air conditioning! flushing the toilet paper! ice!) but also hard. I am missing Vorzel a lot, especially these faces!

Above is Yassa whom we worked with last year. It was amazing to see how much she has developed in a year's time!


This is Bagdon who has Down's Syndrome


Here's Sasha and Dima, who are brothers and may be adopted soon along with their older sister:



And this is Vika, who completely stole my heart...

How can you not love that face! I almost put her in my carry-on suitcase to take home with me :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the Kids!

Since Monday morning, we have been spending time with the kids. We have split off into 2 groups and in the morning one group goes to Building 3 and the other to Building 5 and then in the afternoon we switch. We get to spend about 2 to 2 1/2 hours with the kids each time. They get to excited to see us as we walk up the sidewalk to the front porch and when we leave they say "bye bye". It is so cute to hear them speaking English. (Of course, they are teaching us Ukrainian as well.) Much of our time is spent just playing, walking around the yard, looking at books, sliding, and swinging. Today we got out the tatoos which they loved. We have of course had our challenges with the language barrier but at the same time playing with the kids can also cross any language barrier.

We have 3 goals during our time playing with the kids.
1. To share with them about God so that they know even if their parents have left them there ... God will never leave them.
2. To help them get adopted thru praying for them, telling others about them, etc.
3. To help with their physical & mental development so that when meeting prospective adopted families they will be socialized and outgoing towards loving strangers.

The picture above is Lena (Helen) one of our translators and Anya.

Ukraine - We're Loving It!

This post comes in the middle of our trip, but we wanted to share a little of our first few days in Ukraine. As with any international trip, there are always interesting stories to tell of traveling and the culture. These are just a few...

We left DC on Friday, July 17, and it was certainly an adventure. Our original plan was to take a flight to JFK and then a direct flight to Kiev. However, the plane we were supposed to depart on never made it to Dulles due to an "agent hitting the plane" with the skywalk accordian thing. Thankfully our Delta agent was in control, and more importantly God was in control. Our group was divided onto two seperate flights routed through Paris (insert Jeanette screaming "Paris!" in the middle of the airport) on Air France. The first group (Jeanette, Kati, Larissa, and Holly) were even upgraded to business class on their last leg! The second team (Kerry, Erin, Jess, and Michaela) had a little more of a challenge ... due to a very close connection in Paris and a very slow shuttle bus between terminals, the team was seperated and Jess and Michaela didn't make the connection! They made the next flight, however, and everyone was finally in Kiev. Our bags .... were not. Only one of the 16 checked bags arrived. The other bags were eventually located and delivered on Monday at 10:00 pm.

On Sunday we attended Almaz church in Kiev, where we were able to listen to the translated service through a headset. After church (about 2:00 pm) we took the metro into Kiev and ate at a delicious Ukrainian buffet. We then took a scenic boat-ride. Afterwards we stopped at McDonalds for icecream. While most of us avoid eating at McDonalds while in the States, a McDonalds in Ukraine means: a) airconditioning, b) a clean bathroom, c) berry McFlurries, and d) ice in our drinks. You could say we were loving it!

We are living in a sanitorium, or vacation estate in Vorzel that is within walking distance from the Orphanage. It is actually quite nice ... there are suites with several rooms, bathroom with toilet and shower, a working fridge, and 3 meals per day, featuring potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is also a public radio that plays a variety of pop music from 8 am to 10 pm.

We are very much enjoying getting to know our Ukrainian friends and translators and excited to share more with you about our work in the orphanage!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ukraine here we come!

As we finish up our last minute packing, our team would like to say THANKS to our family and friends for your support, donations, encouragement, and prayers! We have been truly overwhelmed and humbled by your generosity in giving. We have maxed out our luggage limit, with bags filled with clothes, toys, books, and supplies for the children and caregivers at the orphanage.

While these items will certainly help meet physical needs, we pray that our time in Ukraine will also meet emotional and spiritual needs of the children and staff. We want to support, love, and encourage them, being examples of God's heart for His people.
  

Please pray for our team's safety, health, and, of course, opportunities to be servants and ministers of God's love.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ukraine Team 2009





Ukraine Team Summer 2009

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6

video















Sunday, June 20, 2010

why I'm going back!

This time next month, I will be back in the Ukraine (yay!) for a 2-week missions trip to love on and play with orphans in Vorzel and Gordnya. As I reflect on my trip last year and look forward to what is to come ... here is my TOP 5 for why I'm returning to the Ukraine!

1. The kids! By far, the faces of the kids is what drives me to go back ... to be able to give these kids some one-on-one attention and love ... to share with them about Jesus' love for His children. My heart is filled with mixed emotions about seeing kids that I spent time with last year. While I'd love so much to see them again, I also hope that I don't because that would mean that they have been adopted.

2. The translators! My Ukrainian friends! So many good conversations, long walks around lakes, laughs over meals, and so much more. Yellow Blue Bus Guys!!

3. All the fresh cucumbers and tomatoes a girl could ask for! :)

4. Living out James 1.27 "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

5. Opening myself up for what God wants for me on this trip.

originally posted on jotsbyjeanette:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gordnya Video

This is where a small group of us will be serving for week 2!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ukraine Kids - Shopping List!

Below is a the list of needed items that we are collecting to deliver to the kids and staff in the Vorzel and Gordnya Orphanages.

If you are a yardsale shopper ... if you find any of these items ... we'd love to bless the Ukraine kids and the orphanage staff with these items! All items except for the underwear can be used. If you have any questions or would like to arrange for pick-up or drop-off, please feel free to contact ukrainekids [at] nlcf [dot] net.
**The last day we will be collecting items is July 11, 2010.**

UKRAINE KIDS List!
- touch books (books that have fur, sandpaper, bumpy pages, smooth pages, etc.)
- music books (books that play music)
- mobiles (to hang above cribs)
- sensory toys (anything that engages any of the 5 senses)
- sound machines
- tights (all sizes up to age 6)
- tank tops (all sizes up to age 6)
- boys and girls underwear (all sizes up to age 6) **these items should be NEW**
- towels
- sports equipment for small kids (small basketball, small soccer ball)

Orphanage Staff List! (it is preferred that these items are new or like new ... the following items are given to the orphanage staff as gifts.)
- scarves
- umbrellas
- jewelry
- make-up & nail polish
- body soaps & lotions

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BENEFIT YARD SALE - THANK YOU!!

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!

Whether you donated items, bought items, or helped us unload (a TON of) items ...
THANK YOU!!

The Yard Sale was a huge success and helped us raise over $650.00!!

THANK YOU!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Souvlaki Fundraiser - THANK YOU!

Thank You to everyone who participated in the Souvlaki Fundraiser for the kids in Ukraine!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why Are There Orphans In Ukraine?

An interesting question with a complicated answer. After all, we don't have orphanages in the US, so why does Ukraine (or any other country)? For Ukraine, there are several reasons:

1. When Ukraine was part of the USSR people were taught not to have children if they could not feed them, dress them properly, and provide them an education. Parents who could not provide these things for their children dropped them off at orphanages.

2. Ukraine has a high level of alcohol and substance abuse which either kills the parents, makes them abandon their children, or their children are taken away from them by the government.

3. The Ukrainian government provides financial support during the first three years of life for every child, totaling about $1500. Some people have children just to get the money, then drop them off at orphanages.

4. Abortions are expensive and raising a child is expensive. It costs about $200 per month to keep a child and the average salary is $100-200 per month. Many women simply abandon their newborn babies at the hospital right after they are born.

And the number of orphans is growing.

Adopting orphans from Ukraine is a difficult and expensive process for foreigners due to government corruption.

This is why we are going: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ~James 1:27

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kids' Night Out Fundraiser - THANK YOU!

THANK YOU to all the parents that dropped off their kids for the evening!! We had a GREAT time getting to know your kids!! We were able to raise $290 and some much needed items! THANK YOU!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dinner Fundraiser - Thank You

THANK YOU to everyone who came out and supported our Borscht Fundraiser!! We hope you enjoyed a little taste of Ukraine. If you want to make this soup at home ... just google "Borscht".

Thanks again!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chick-fil-A Fundraiser in Chantilly, VA

Thank You to everyone who supported the Chick-fil-A Fundraiser and THANK YOU Chick-fil-A in Chantilly, VA for helping to make this event happen!