Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fun with Jay and Martha

In earlier posts you have met Jay and Martha. Sheila and I thank God for them. We thank God that he allowed us to spend our three weeks in Ukraine with this godly, caring and fun couple. We do miss them and pray for them daily. Please continue praying for them as they remain in Ukraine and will be there when we return later in January. They do not have a blog so please pass it on to your friends and family to keep them in prayer.
Below is from an email that Martha sent out. This will give you a taste of life with Jay and Martha:

Okay, people, here is the evidence we were able to obtain today during yet another trip to Balta to return Vova following his long weekend with us in Odessa. Picture #1 - Oles is driving THE WRONG WAY on a one way street. Yes, I know... he's following another car which is doing the same maneuver, but it doesn't make it right, right? Remember your mother telling you, "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would YOU jump off a cliff?" Maybe it was just my mother...

Anyway, not only is Oles driving the wrong way, he's talking on his cell phone and yelling at all the other drivers who are driving towards us! He's actually telling them (I think) "GO AROUND US," at least that's what his gestures implied. Although Oles had his window part way down, not one driver told him, "You, young man, are dangerously driving the wrong way on a one way street!" Not one! Of course, I tried to be helpful by pointing to the DO NOT ENTER - ONE WAY sign, but Oles brushed me off.
Picture #2 - horse and buggy driving along very icy/snowy roads. Picture #3 - a BAbushka (grandma) walking towards town [far left] while a large truck barrels past her heading in our general direction. Once again, notice the roads. We passed people going approx 60 MPH on those roads. There are people on both sides of the road walking, but they're walking right on the edge of the road. Picture BAbushka, truck, car, and other pedestrians all at the same place in the road and it's a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, Oles tried to reassure me about his driving by pointing out that he's only been in SIX accidents - at least those are the ones he can remember. He's only 30... Clearly, he says, he was not at fault for "most" of the accidents. Oh, I shouldn't neglect to mention that he was stopped three times - not one, not two, but three times - for speeding today. Lucky for Oles, he "bribed" all the police officers (for about 400 grivnas - exchange rate of 7.5 grivnas for one US dollar) and got no tickets. Three tickets in Ukraine and you lose your license for a year and have to pay a mega fine. After the second stop, I once again tried to be helpful as I shrieked, I mean, commented that "maybe God is trying to tell you to SLOW DOWN!" So then we got an insightful lesson on my psychotic fear of driving too fast and smashing my brains into a tree or rolling down a steep, snowy ravine into an ice covered lake. Silly me, Martha, you just need to face these irrational fears! Oles has an interesting philosophy about life and death: When God says our time is up, it doesn't matter if we're sleeping in our beds or racing along at 100 MPH on an icy road... driving on the spare tire... with only high beams... while talking on a cell phone. He FINALLY admitted, after six long hours of driving on treacherous roads, that it was the "bad vibrations" emanating from MY body towards the police officers that caused them to pull him over! Hahahahahahahahaha... (punk). He suggested that maybe Jay should ride in the front seat from now on since he has not yet been pulled over whenever Jay is in front - he must have forgotten that I practically begged Jay to ride up front on our return trip from Balta. But no, Jay was safely in the back seat with a smug look on his face while I faced mortal danger in the front seat. Jay actually believes Oles is a "pretty good" driver. Maybe it really is an irrational psychotic fear I have: Olesdriveaphobia.

On the bright side, Oles was in a very good mood when we returned to Odessa and decided God was just trying to teach him about obedience (See Romans 13). He didn't even run any red lights tonight as he has done before, Praise God! It was all I could do to keep from throwing myself on the ground and kissing the dirt when we arrived back at our apt. Hey, maybe we won't need to go to Balta anymore... Maybe we'll have our court date soon... Maybe I'll die in my sleep... Once again, pray for us! All kidding aside, Oles has been a great facilitator and he has made this journey lots of fun. I'll tell you some other time his philosophy about women. Love to you all, Martha

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hold Me, Daddy!

Last night Storey Grace woke up crying.  She ran to our bed and snuggled up as close as she could get to me.  I wrapped my arms around her, covered her with blankets and held her until she fell back asleep.  Within a few minutes she was breathing hard and then began to laugh in her sleep. 

I held her and watched her sleep…happy to be able to comfort her when she needed her daddy…and wondering…

What happens to the orphan when he or she wakes up in the middle of the night crying from a bad dream? 

What has Karina done all these years when she woke up scared?

What about Tanya, Sasha, Alonya, Andrei?

What about Grisha, Sergey, Dasha, Lena, Luba, Jenya, Marat, Edic, Vladik, Kristina?

I know they have had moments when they were scared, confused needed help…needed a daddy to hold them and tell them everything was going to be ok.  But they have not had that.  What did they do?  Although they are older now...there are still times when they are scared...what do they do?  Who do they go to?

 After a while I moved away from where Storey Grace was sleeping and she immediately scooted her tiny body as close as she could get to me.  I was her shelter…her safety…her daddy. 

But the children in the orphanage do not have a daddy.  What do they do?

We are home.  Christmas night we arrived at the Jackson airport where Harrison, Isaac, Noah and Storey Grace along with Grand Mommy and Grand Father were waiting.

As we came through security, our children ran to us…the boys each had a football that they threw to me and then they threw themselves at us…lots of hugs and kisses and praises to God for bringing us together Christmas day.  Storey Grace ran back and forth between Sheila and I…a kiss for Sheila…a kiss for me…a kiss for Sheila…a kiss for me...back and forth.  It was a joyous reunion to be together again after three weeks of separation.

Grand Mommy and Grand Father looked great!  We praise God for giving them strength and endurance to care for four children for three weeks.  Thanks mom and dad…not many grandparents would do what you just did!  And thanks again to all of you who prayed for them and brought them food and helped with the kids.

In an earlier post I mentioned that there is nothing easy about leaving the children in Mississippi while we were in Ukraine.  Now I will tell you that there is nothing easy about leaving Karina in Ukraine while we are in the States.  For her to be declared Karina Ann Nasekos and then to see her taken back to the orphanage was enough to tear our hearts up and cause the tears to flow…but her words continue to ring in our ears…”Soon, mom and dad.”

 It is a joy to be with four and it is painful to be away from one.

 On the way home from the airport, Storey Grace let out a loud sigh.

“What is the matter?” I asked.

“I just want my Karina.”

Today Sheila told the kids that they needed to get in the van – so they could go to the grocery store – Storey Grace excitedly asked, “Are we going to get Karina?”

She is so ready for her big sister to come home.

God has used our children to teach us many lessons.   Over the past months they have been steadfast in their focus to bring Karina home.  They have willingly and happily gone without certain things, they have helped with adoption fundraisers and several adoption related causes, they have prayed for this and have done what needed to be done to make sure Karina felt loved.  They know that God loves orphans and they do too. 

They have asked for stories from Ukraine.  After describing some of what we saw, Harrison said, "Dad, can we go with you next time?  I want to help the orphans, too.  I want to give all the orphans a home.  I want to build homes for them and let them come stay with me so I can play with them and take care of them.  Will a million dollars be enough to d0 that?"

"Probably so."  I told him.  Our children told us that they did not want Christmas presents or anymore gifts this year...just money to help the orphans...or gifts to send to the orphans.  I thank God for his grace in their open their eyes to things more important than getting a present on Christmas.

If we could afford it, we would take them back with us to get Karina to let them meet, play with, pray for, get to know and see the need of the orphans.  While we were in Ukraine two other families did have their kids with them on their adoption journey.  I want to encourage them and others that can do it.  We saw those kids gain an understanding of how blessed they are and begin to think of ways they could minister.  To see teenagers thinking about how they can serve and minister...truly a blessing from God.

"...The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."  Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Teach them diligently to your children.

We have learned that when we include our children in service to others...the commands of the LORD are on their heart...not just in their mind...they love the LORD their God with their actions...not just in their words.  We have been blessed to be able to include our children in caring for and housing the homeless, ministering to widows, short term mission trips, helping orphans...each time they are actively involved we see them grow spiritually (and in many other ways)...we see their faith grow.

I was visiting a missions committee at a church one time and mentioned my desire to see children go on mission trips with their parents when appropriate.  One of the committee members said that children have no place on mission trips.  With respect, I disagree.  With sadness I believe that kind of thinking is helping to harm our children.  Our children need to understand that they are not created to be entertained...they are created to serve and worship God...they learn that from their parents...they learn it by serving and worshipping alongside their parents.

I pray that more parents will include their children in serving others...and watch their children grow.  As a Camp Director, I hire hundreds of college age students that have been raised in the church their entire life.  Many of them have told me (while in tears) that they never understood the gospel of Jesus Christ until they poured themselves out...until they served others.  Serving others at camp...putting other first helped them understand what God calls his church to.

What a joy it was to be in worship at First Pres. on Sunday.  I could not help but cry as we sang...

"To God be the Glory, great things He has done; So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life and atonement for sin, And opened the life gate that we may go in."

Through this adoption journey we have seen many great things that he has done...we understand more what He did in adopting giving His giving His giving us life.  To God be the glory.

We also sang...

"From depths of woe I raise to Thee the voice of lamentation;  Lord turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication...therefore my trust is in the Lord, and not in mine own merit; on Him my soul shall rest, His Word upholds my fainting spirit;  His promised mercy is my fort, my comfort, and my sweet support; I wait for it with patience.  What though I wait the livelong night, and till the dawn appeareth, my heart still trusteth in His might; it doubteth not nor feareth...thou great our sins and sore our woes, His grace much more aboundeth; His helping love no limit knows, our utmost need it soundeth.  Our Shepherd good and true is He, who will at last His Israel free.  From all their sin and sorrow."

As I sang I could not help but think of an orphan singing this song out of their depths of woe with a voice of lamentation...crying to their Heavenly Father who turns a gracious ear to them and hears them...they trust him and he upholds them...they wait on him and in his abounding grace and love without limit he meets their needs...he frees them from their sin and sorrow...he frees us from our sin and sorrow.

The sermon was also a gift from God.  Dr. Duncan preached from Luke 1:39-45...Mary and Elizabeth...near the end of the sermon he touched on the faith of Mary...she believed God's word.  Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary, "Blessed is she who believed..."

Believing God's word brings blessing...believing God's word brings joy...believing God's word brings life.

As Storey Grace cried out to me, "Hold me, daddy!"  and then fell sound asleep trusting that all would be ok...we cry out to our Heavenly Father, "Hold the orphans, daddy!"  "Hold our children, daddy!"  We trust you and we believe that your redeeming plan is at work and cannot be thwarted...we wait for you with patience for, "Our Shepherd good and true is He, who will at last His Israel free, from all their sin and sorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Karina Ann Nasekos

We received another call...
Facilitator:  "Matthew, um...yes...the judge says the electricity in the courthouse will be cut off from 1-4PM today.  There will be no court, again.  He will not promise court today or tomorrow.  He has too many cases tomorrow...and is not sure when he can reschedule your court.  I do not know what to do."

Matthew:  "Can we go ahead to the courthouse and wait to see if the electricity actually gets cut off?"

Electricity...maybe yes...maybe comes and it goes...where it goes and when it returns nobody knows.

Facilitator:  "Yes, we can do that.  I will wait until after 1PM.  If it stays on, I will come get you.  Maybe it will stay on."

Matthew, Sheila, Jay, Martha and all of you out there spend time praying.

We spend 96 minutes and 49 seconds on the phone looking for a way home...praying that we will have court and praying that we can see Harrison, Isaac, Noah and Storey Grace for Christmas...praying that we can find a flight and that it will not be too expensive...

First flight flights from Ukraine to Jackson until Saturday..."we can get you home Saturday with overnight stay in New York"...transferred to someone else..."let me see if I can get you home"...listened to groovy telephone music..."ok, thanks for your patience"...(she did not understand what we have already been through - we thought she was fast)..."I have found a Ukrainian airline that flies from Kyiv to Paris, Air France from Paris to Atlanta, Delta from Atlanta to leaves Kyiv at 6:30AM December 25."

"Wow", I say.  "One problem...the overnight train does not arrive until 6:12AM...flight leaves at 6:30AM.  Let me call you back."

Talk with Sheila, Jay and Martha...hmmm...if we have court early enough we can run from the courthouse and catch the one flight from Odessa to leaves at 6:10PM Christmas Eve.  

Call Delta - "We would like to book the 6:30AM out of Kyiv to Paris, Atlanta, Jackson."

(Still praying because we do not know if we will even have court today to be able to go to Kyiv to catch this flight home.)

Delta - "Sure, that will be the change fee plus seven dollars."

(We have expected the change fee from cancelling our earlier flight...and as we have been checking on flights home, the least expensive new flight we had found flying out around Christmas was $3,000.)

Matthew - A little confused but very pleasantly surprised..."Seven thousand?  Seven hundred? Could you please say that again?"

Delta - "Seven dollars."

Matthew - "One more time...I think we have a bad connection."

Delta - "Seven dollars plus the change fee will be charged to your credit card." 
(Can you hear me now?)

Matthew - "Yes.  We would like to book that flight!"

So...we have the flight we are praying for court so we can take that flight home.

Phone rings..."Matthew, the electricity is still on in the courthouse...there is a red taxi waiting for you outside."

Sheila has been packing while I am on the phone, so we get our luggage...tell Jay and Martha goodbye (we will miss them so much...they are dear friends and we thank God that He allowed us to spend this time together...Jay and Martha, you are in our prayers!  Thanks for everything!  Keep your eyes open - you never know when your "gangsta bus daddy" will step onto the bus you are trying to "blend in" on.)  Keep praying for Jay and Martha...they received more good news today...things are moving...keep praying...they are so appreciative of your prayers.

We arrive at the courthouse and Karina is there waiting on us along with our facilitator, lawyer, social worker and inspector.  (Thanks Alonya for getting everyone to the courthouse when we did not even know if it would happen!  You have been incredible!)
Now we wait and we pray.

Here comes the judge...maybe....YES!  Let's hold court!

Pre hearing: do we want the court to consider?

Leave court room.  Pray for hearing...pray that electricity stays on.
Enter court room.
Hearing:  Answer many questions...
"What is your work?"
"Where do you live?"
"Why do you want to adopt Karina?"
"What is your religion?"
(Praying that electricity stays on.)
"How will you educate her?"
"What does her future look like with you?"
"Did you make this decision as a family?"
"What do your biological children think of this adoption?"
Many more of the questions the judge asked Sheila was:
"You already have four children, do you think you can handle one more?"

I will never forget her response...I could feel the mother in her rising up and filling the court room...she said, "Da"...but I could tell that she really meant, "DA!!!!!!!!!  Yes, I can take care of my children.  What kind of question is that?  Do you think I would have spent the last three weeks in this country if I did not think I could take care of my children?"
We know we can only do it by God's grace - he is the one that allows us to take care of these was just fun to see the mother in Sheila stepping up to take care of the blessings God has given us.

(Praying that electricity stays on.)

Karina had to stand up - she was so nervous - and answer questions.
"Do you understand that this family wants to adopt you?"
"Do you understand that they already have four biological children?"
"Do you have a good relationship with them?"
"Do you understand that you will live in a different country?"
"Do you understand that they do not speak your language?"
"Do you want Matthew and Sheila to be your parents?"

Hearing concludes.  Debate period begins.
"What do you want from the court?"
"It is our desire that this court accept our application to adopt Karina and that her name be changed to Karina Ann Nasekos."
The lawyer, inspector and social worker give their approval.
Leave courtroom.  Pray for decision...pray that electricity stays on.
Re enter court room again.

"It is the pleasure of this court in the region of Odessa, Ukraine to accept the application of Matthew and Sheila Nasekos to adopt Karina.  Her name is now Karina Ann Nasekos.  Her birth certificate will be changed to read Karina Ann Nasekos, daughter of Matthew and Sheila Nasekos."

Thank you, Holy Father in Heaven for this blessing...thank you for allowing Karina to be ours.  Give us the grace we need to raise Karina in the way of the LORD.

When we left the court room Karina said, "FINALLY!"
Karina is no longer an orphan.  She has a family...a mother...a father...three brothers and a sister.

We asked her how she was doing.
"I am so happy!"

We held her for a few minutes, prayed for her, told her we loved her and then she was taken from us...
in Ukraine there is a ten day waiting period between the court ruling and when the ruling takes effect.

Ten days, Karina...she told us, "Soon."
Ukraine's holiday season is approaching when not much work is done through January 15.
So, we have the ten day waiting period and then the offices that we need to get the last paperwork will be closed until mid January...she must stay in Ukraine until then.

After Karina left we jumped in a taxi and sped off to the airport...without tickets...not knowing if there was space on the one flight out of Odessa....but God provides...we are there in time and there is space on the plane...and the electricity is still on.......we buy tickets, leave Odessa and are now sitting in a restaurant that has electricity, great food and internet access in snow covered Kyiv.

Sheila and I leave Kyiv at 6:30AM headed home...God is so good...on Christmas Eve he gives us Karina Ann Nasekos and on Christmas Day he will let us be with Harrison, Isaac, Noah and Storey Grace.  To be honest, it is hard to leave Karina but we know that the time will be short and as she always says....soon.

After the court ruling Karina, Sheila and I held each other in the court.  The judge, who had not broken a smile through the entire proceeding looked at us and smiled.  We told everyone thank you.
Dear Heavenly Father we thank you for giving us Karina.  Thank you for all of our children.  Thank you for your provision.  Thank you for your timing.  Thank you for how you have led us and how you have changed us.  Thank you for causing us to rely fully on you.  Thank you for all the prayer warriors back home.  Thank you for the prayer warriors in Ukraine.  Thank you for our parents who kept our children in Mississippi.  Thank you for all our friends that brought food for our children.  Thank you for those who spent time with our kids and gave our parents a break.  Thank you for Jay and Martha.  Thank you for those who supported us financially.  Thank you for those who supported us through emails and comments and in many other ways.  Thank you for this journey.  We look forward to taking the final steps in this journey and bringing Karina home...soon.  Thank you for adopting us as your children.  Thank you that Karina is no longer an orphan.
Thank you, LORD.

Merry Christmas!  This is a picture of our Christmas tree in Kyiv.
For those of you that want to see Karina...we will keep the blog updated and let you know when she will be arriving in the States.  She looks forward to seeing you!

Maybe 12...Maybe 2

Received another call...court will not be at noon....maybe at 2PM Odessa time...6AM Central.

Please pray that we can find a flight is a tough season to book a last minute flight.

The girl in the above picture is Karina's good friend...Karina asks you to please pray for her.  Karina will miss her friend and her friend is struggling with the fact that she is about to lose Karina.  Also, from what we understand right now, this girl is not available for adoption.  Please pray for her.
Thanks for all your prayers and support.
Jay and Martha thank you, also.  They received great news this morning...things are moving...continue praying.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maybe Yes...Maybe No

Maybe yes...maybe no...this is what we say in Ukraine.

Will we have a meeting?  Maybe yes...maybe no.
When will it be?  Maybe today...maybe tomorrow.

Will we get the paperwork?  Maybe yes...maybe no.
When will we get it?  Maybe today...maybe tomorrow.

Will we have court?  Maybe yes...maybe no.
When will it be?  Maybe today...maybe tomorrow.

Received a call this morning...court was cancelled...maybe tomorrow.

So...court has been rescheduled for Christmas Eve...4AM Central Time.

God's timing is perfect.  Since we did not have court we were able to spend time with the orphans again...this is sweet time.  We have become good friends with the children in Karina's class.  We want to bring them all home.  Please pray and ask God if he would have you blessed to make an orphan your own.  We tossed the football, wrestled, talked, played...these children love for someone to spend time with them and love on them.

Thanks for your continued prayers.  Jay and Martha seem to be having some good news and some progress with their paperwork.  They have an important appointment at 1AM Central Time - please pray that it goes well and they are so thankful for your prayers.

We appreciate your prayers regarding court tomorrow.  Today we asked Karina if she was ready for court and she said she was but she is a little nervous.  She said she hopes she does what she needs to do.  
We encouraged her and then I asked her, "When they ask if you want us to be your parents, what will you say?"
"Of course I do!!!  Yes, yes, yes!!"

We look forward to court.

We ask you to pray about our return trip home...we have had to cancel our first flights and now it is looking difficult finding a way home at a decent price...God always provides and we know he will bring us home when he wants us to be home.

Dear Harrison, Isaac, Noah and Storey Grace,
We are trying to come be with you by Christmas but if not we know you will be blessed to be with grandmommy and grandfather.  We love you!  We are coming home soon.  If God does not bring us home to be with you by Christmas, we want you to know that we will have Christmas with children who do not have a mom, dad, grand mommy or grand father.  We thank you for how excited you have been to share your parents with kids that have none.
Mom and Dad

Thanks so much, Dorothy, for loving on our kids and sending pictures!

Will we know more tomorrow?
Maybe yes...maybe no.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Newsletter Page 1

Click on the above image for a large version to read.

Above is our December Newsletter that was sent out just before we left for Ukraine.  In case you are not on our mailing list, you can see what else is going on in our life by reading this newsletter.  You will notice on page two (next post) the section titled Orphan Ministry in Ukraine.  We were praying that God would open doors and he has provided some incredible opportunities.  We are in the process of finalizing the details of one of these opportunities.   We promise to share as soon as these details are finalized.  We would appreciate your prayers as we help establish this ministry and prepare to switch gears to head to Peru January 2.  You can read more about that in this newsletter.  

Thanks for your prayers!

Court is about 8AM Mississippi time on Tuesday.

Newsletter Page 2

Click on the image above for a large version.

We Have a Court Date!

We received a phone call a little while ago.  Court is tomorrow!  Please pray that all goes well.  If it does, we might be home by Christmas!

Please continue to pray for Jay and Martha.  There has been no progress on their paperwork.  Please pray that their adoption can move to the next stage.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday at #88

   I have not blogged in a while, Matthew has done too good of a job expressing what I am thinking.  I told him yesterday "You are writing everything I am thinking."....finally after 11 years we are getting better at ESP. :)  He is a great writer and he can process this experience quicker than I can.  

    Today Matthew and I  had a GREAT experience.  We went with Michelle to orphanage #88, another orphange that she works with in the suburbs of Odessa.  She goes there on Sunday mornings to spend time with a group of 20 or so orphans.  We met the children walking down the street.  As soon as they saw Michelle, they were all a buzz talking.  It was evident that they were excited to see her and Vica, a friend of Michelle's who helps her at #88.  We walked with them to their building and as soon as we joined them a sweet girl (above)  grabbed my hand and began to talk to me. She latched on to me and it was such a sweet walk.  Once we got to the orphanage we helped Michelle do some crafts with the children.  These children were so warm and loving.  These children range in age from 15-6.  The atmosphere here was warm and more like a family atmosphere.  The teacher there was kind and caring and very helpful.  We got to spend time in a small room with all of the orphans and we really got to see their personalities come out.  It was fun to see these little boys act like our boys.

     Somethings don't change no matter where you live.  
      I must say that these children pulled my heartstrings.  They are so loving and warm.  They adored the attention we gave them.  They longed to use their limited vocabulary of English.  They just wanted someone to listen and to see them as valuable.  They wanted someone to view them the way God views them.  I must say that it was hard for me to leave.  My heart was heavy as I stepped  on to the bus to go back to "my world " in Odessa's center.  Oh, how I long to see these children have a home.  Here are a few of the faces we saw...please pray for them.  Praying for specific children is the first step toward their adoption, maybe not by you, but by someone who God uses to answer your prayers.  Here are a few faces to add to your prayer list:

If you want to know the names of these children or of any others, please let me know via email.
     Thank you for praying for these children.  May the Lord answer these prayers for the fatherless.

     I must say that this experience has been such a blessing to us.  The Lord has grown me and stretched me in ways that I could have never imagined.  We are so thankful for the way the Lord has blessed this trip and has blessed us to see these children and spend even a short time in their world.  
      We look forward to our return when we can share even more of our experience and the ways the Lord has blessed and grown us.  Please continue to pray for us and for a court date this week.                                                                               
     You all are such a blessing to us with your comments on the blog and via email.  You are an instrument that the Lord has used in our lives.   

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When Orphans Cry

Today I played football with a boy that has HIV.  He spends a lot of time in the hospital but today he laughed, ran - we had a great time tackling, kicking, throwing the football - it was a joyful time.  I wonder what will become of him in the future.

Last night we asked questions of a missionary who works with orphans.  One of the questions we asked was how well churches accept her to come tell the stories of these orphans.  Her response saddened me.  She said it is actually hard to get into churches - many will not let her come tell the stories of these orphans.  One church told her, "No one in this church is interested in orphans.  You cannot come."

What have we become when we are not interested in the things that God is interested in?

Of course we have the well known James passage regarding orphans but throughout all of Scripture we see that God cares for orphans.

When God rescued his people from Egypt and gave them the second set of stone tablets with the ten commandments written on them he tells his people who he is and what he requires of them...

"...but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul...

...He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing."  Deut. 10:12-18

In Deut. 14:29 his people are commanded to feed the fatherless.

And in Ezekiel 22 God declares the abominations of his people.  In verse 7 the abomination listed is, "...the fatherless and widow are wronged in you."

Dear God, help us to love those you care for those you care for.

 We found out that there is another program on Monday that Karina is singing in so today she had to practice for several hours.  Sheila and I are so thankful that God has allowed us to see and hear her sing these last few times in Ukraine.  It is good to be here with our daughter and catch a small glimpse of what life has been like for her here.  During our time at the orphanage over the past week and a half we have seen her happy, laughing, frustrated, embarrassed, upset and express a few other emotions.  We have been here to see this and we have been able to enjoy the happy times, correct her when needed, encourage her, help her, comfort her, hold her and give her hope.  We thank God for this time with her.


 Today several orphans are sitting alone in their playroom.  They watch a movie more fit for adults than children but no parent was there to guard them.  Others lay on the couch with nothing to do.

What happens when there is no family to give direction and protection?  Who is there to say, “This is not good for you?”  Who is there to spend time with them?  Who is there to raise them in the way of the Lord?

The kids on the floor are engrossed in the movie.  The kids on the couch look bored.


Today a child laughed and smiled at the orphanage and there was no mom or dad to enjoy the smile and no parent to hear the laughter.  It was a sweet smile and it was a wonderful laugh.

What happens when there is no family to see their smiles and hear their laughter year after year after year?  Do the teenagers living on the streets because they have “graduated” from the orphanages or the ones keeping warm in the sewers continue to smile and laugh?

 Several days ago a little girl and yesterday a little boy were beat up in the orphanage and there was no father and no mother to protect them.  She has a black eye.  He is holding his ribs in pain.

 What happens when the children are beat up in the orphanage?  Who is there to protect them?  Who is there to hold them when they are hurt?  Who is there to bandage their wounds?  Who is there to teach them how to protect themselves?

Who is there to shelter them?

The girl with the black eye hides her face.  The boy lies on the floor.


Today a little girl was crying in the orphanage and there was no mother and no father to comfort her.

What happens when the orphans cry?  Who is there to hold them?  Who is there to help them?  Who is there to find out what is wrong and lend a listening ear?  Who is there to make things better?  Who is there to wipe away the tears?

She wiped her own tears and buried her face in her own hands.

A little while later she began singing to herself.  Her voice was sweet and beautiful but there is no mom and dad to hear her voice.

What happens when an orphan cries year after year after year...alone?

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”  Psalm 68:5

Even if no one else is with them...God knows when orphans cry.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fighting for Karina

Today Karina starred in the St. Nicholas performance at the orphanage along with children from Karina's class and the fifth grade.  Two boys played the accordian, several children recited Ukranian verses, some danced and Karina sang two songs.  One of the songs Karina sang is about Ukraine - in the chorus she sings "Ukraine" but to me it sounds like "O Karina" - Sheila laughs when I say this and tells me, "She already has you wrapped around her finger."  Of course she does...she is my daughter...why else would I learn to knit and watch part of High School Musical?  Yes, it is her favorite movie so I watched it with her a few days ago.  I am definitely learning what it is like for fathers of teenage daughters.

Karina's songs were beautiful.  To me, she has the most wonderful singing voice I have ever heard.  

And today, December 19, 2008, after 13 years, Karina's mom and dad (Sheila and I) were at her was the first time her parents had seen one of her musicals...I look forward to many more.

We had a bunch of roses waiting for her at the end.

A few of these children have parents coming to adopt them but most of the children in these pictures are waiting for someone to be their mom and dad.

They are all precious children and it has been great to spend time with them...they long for families.  When they see us with Karina their eyes gaze at us as if begging us to help them.  A couple of the girls watch every move Sheila makes and they follow her wherever she goes around the orphanage...watching Sheila and Karina...some of them have never known the love a mother has for a daughter.  


Sheila and I brought flowers for all of the girls and candy for all the boys in the performance.  Their reaction to the flowers was unbelief at first (that someone would give them flowers), excitement second and then many, many thank you's!

Grandma Lela told us more about Karina today.  She said, "When I first met Karina, she was sad, quiet and afraid.  No one had spent much time with her.  No one had cared for her.  And no one had loved her.  I told her that I loved her and I saw life in her eyes so I decided to fight for Karina."

From that moment on it was Grandma Lela who gave Karina hugs, kisses and love.

It was Grandma Lela who would not take no for an answer and when Karina needed to see a doctor...she made sure that Karina saw a doctor.

It was Grandma Lela who shared Jesus with Karina and discipled her as much as she could.

It was Grandma Lela who prayed day after day after day that Karina would not only have a family but that she would have a Christian family.

"God sent me to fight for Karina."  Grandma Lela said.  "When no one cared about her, God sent me to love on her and pray for her.  But it is not me.  God did all the work.  He changed Karina.  God made Karina into a girl that is no longer sad, quiet or afraid.  God gets all the glory for that and for bringing you here to be her family."


Lela said she could not sleep much last night so she spent the night on her knees praying that God would provide Christian families for "her kids".

God does get the glory and we praise him  for his mighty work.  We also thank you, Lela, for being willing to be the instrument he used to change a little orphan girl and bring glory to himself.  Thank you for fighting for Karina.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Really Cold Water, Prayer Requests and Taxis

This morning I found out that when the electricity in our building goes out, so does the hot water...very, very quickly...and when it goes out, the water is cold...not Mississippi cold water cold...Ukraine cold...real cold.  I grew up in the Carolinas and mom and dad occasionally took us to a place in the North Carolina mountains called Sliding Rock.  Sliding Rock is a large rock in a river in (or near...not sure) the Pisgah National Forest that forms a 60 foot natural water slide.  As children, my siblings and I would sit on the rock, enjoy the fun 60' slide and then splash into the pool...the shock of a North Carolina mountain was amazing how fast we could exit that was the kind of cold that causes children to gasp, cry as they attempt to catch their breath, shiver, say you will never do it again...and then get right back on the rock for another slide.

What you see above is a jar of compote.  This compote is fruit juice that comes in a liter jar with various fruits floating in it...yep, that is an apple in that jar.  It is also full of stawberries...absolutely delicious.  The menu says that a liter of compote a day will increase your energy 15.5%...I drink it every day now.  I had some compote this morning as I met with a pastor and other church leaders regarding children's ministry in Ukraine...God continues to open doors to minister here while we wait on adoption proceedings.

We were able to see Karina today.  We have missed her so it was such a joy to be able to go to the  orphanage.  When we arrived we had to hunt her down because she was practicing for her musical production that is Friday.  Although she was practicing, when she saw us enter the practice room she jumped off the stage, ran to us and gave us both great big hugs and told us she had missed us.  Then, she got back on the stage to sing her songs while the other children, danced, clapped and spoke Ukrainian.

After practice we all went to the sixth grade play room where many children played games, put puzzles together, read books, ate snacks that had been brought by parents that are adopting and visited with future parents.

We want to thank all of you that are supporting us through your prayers, comments and emails.  You are such an encouragement to us.
For those of you that have called my parents to bring food and take the kids for a few hours, thank you.  You are such a huge blessing - the kids have loved spending time with you, eating the food you sent and my parents have enjoyed the break.  Thank you!  Thank you for helping make this adoption possible.
For those of you that have supported this adoption financially, thank you!
We could not have done any of this on our own.  God has used so many people to help each step of the way.  Thank you for being part of this story!

We have some prayer requests:

This family left Odessa and is on the way to Kyiv right now.  They have adopted the two children in this picture and have been in Ukraine for 10 weeks.  They just want to go home!!!  A government office in the States is actually what is delaying them right now.  Please pray that they will get the paperwork needed and can go home by Sunday.

This family has court tomorrow - Thursday.  Please pray that all goes smoothly and that this girl is declared to be their daughter.

This family is adopting the boy in green and a child from another orphanage.  This is the boy that wants us to help find a family for "Ed".  They are waiting on some paperwork and for an issue to be resolved.

This is our good friends Jay and Martha.  We have grown to love them as we are able to spend time with them and learn more about their life, their love for Jesus and what they are doing here in Ukraine.  Jay and Martha have been a huge blessing to us by taking us into their apartment - they had a two bedroom apartment and are letting us live in one of the bedrooms!  Thank you Jay and Martha!
Please pray for them.
They are adopting two boys and there have been some complications.  They ask you to pray that God would give them wisdom and discernment.  They may be facing some very tough decisions that will be very hard to make.  Sheila and I beg you to pray to the God of the Universe to help them through the next several days and give them peace regarding the decisions they must make.

Our family:
1.  Strength for Matthew's parents as they continue to care for our four children.  
2.  Today marks two full weeks that we have been away from our children.  Pray for continued patience and safety for our kids.  They know why we are apart from one another and when we ask them if they need anything they always say, "All we need is Karina."  I am thankful to God for their attitudes through this process.  A friend saw Noah recently and asked him how long we were going to be away.  His response was, "I do not know but I think for about a year!"
It will not be that long, Noah - but I am sure for a six year old that this seems like a long time.
3.  A court date very soon would be nice.  We had hoped for this Friday but have been told that it may be next Tuesday or even next Thursday...yes, Christmas day.  God's timing is perfect so we trust his plan.
Thanks for your prayers!  Your prayers are a blessing to us.

Funny story about Jay and Martha...
Taxis do not look any different than any other car in Ukraine.  
Jay and Martha needed to go to a government office but did not know how far away it was and could not tell the taxi driver where they needed to go so they called their interpreter who told them to get into a taxi and call him once they were in the car and he would give directions to the driver.  Once in the taxi, their interpreter could not be reached so the driver stared at them, they stared at the driver, the driver said some things in Russian and they said some things in English...and then the driver kicked them out of the taxi.
Jay finally reached the interpreter again who said to get into another taxi and he would make sure he could be reached.
Jay holds out his arm...a car pulls right up to him and Jay opens the door to get in...from the looks on the faces of the couple in the car and the string of Russian words flying at Jay, it quickly becomes apparent that this particular car is not a taxi but a man and woman that did not appreciate strangers getting into their car.  
They wait for a taxi, get in, call interpreter who gives directions to driver, the taxi drives two blocks and lets them out.  
"We could have walked."  Jay and Martha exclaim.
Another day in Ukraine.