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 lives...to 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 us...in giving His Son...in giving His life...in 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.


  1. Beautifully written. All I can say is Amen.

  2. If this post doesn't pull at the heart strings, I don't know what will. Thanks for writing this.

    Gabriel (who is Storey Grace's age) also asks all the time if we are going to get Grisha. It doesn't matter if we are going to the store, when he wakes up in the morning, he talks about it every single day.

    I also wish I could bring my children. Samuel keeps begging to go and I know it would be so good for him. He is 10 years old and I believe he needs to see and minister to orphans. But, I think Gabriel would have too much of a hard time without his brother. I do believe if you can, it is important to bring children on mission trips. We may not be able to bring ours on the adoption trip, but we are planning to go many, many days to downtown Jackson to the Lancaster's and also do many things here where they can serve other people and show them the love of Christ. I would love to bring them to UA one day. :) Thanks for this encouragement. I know many people disagree and it is nice to see someone else that feels this way.

  3. Forgot to say - these pictures of Storey Grace looks exactly like you, Matt!

  4. I know it must be so hard to leave the Ukraine. I know it's not just hard to leave Karina but it's also hard to leave Vladik, Grisha, and all the other precious kids (by the way...I loved seeing the pictures because I know those kids!!!). It is so hard for me to leave them every summer.
    I agree SO MUCH in what you are saying about kids/teens going and ministering and pouring themselves out. Actually, dare I add that we adults go through the exact same realization as the teens do! Never do we grow so much in the Lord as we do when we completely pour outselves out for Him and have to completely depend on Him. Two of my teenagers have gone on the mission trips to the Ukraine and have also worked at Christian camps. It is life changing and they love it so much. In fact, it is my oldest child who got me going to the Ukraine in the first place!
    My oldest, Mike (Karina knows him) is in Peru right now. Pretty cool considering he's there doing the same thing as your ministery is doing! He works for a Christian camp (T Bar M Camp) here in San Antonio every summer. He is in Peru to help train for their first week of camp. He wll get to help open their first week, which begins next week, I believe. God is obviously doing a great work there!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. It's their Christmas today and I am so sad that I am not there celebrating with them. But I'll be there next June!