Monday, March 30, 2009

Two Months: More Laughs, More Tears and a Baptism

Today marks two months since Karina landed with us in Jackson, MS.
This journey continues to be full of laughs and tears.  It is one of the most joyous and one of the toughest things we have ever done.

Everyday Karina learns about living with her new family... 
and about living with silly boys that like to pretend that they are the green Incredible Hulk...

And like to get real muddy.

Everyday there is something we just do not understand...

Her English comprehension continues to improve with each passing day but there are still plenty of times when we do not know what the other is saying.
A few days ago Karina was told not to do something... but she did it anyway... there was a confrontation... there was confusion... there was frustration... there was tears...
"Mamma... I not understand what you say.  I not want to disobey... sometimes I not understand what you say... I sorry mamma."
"I'm sorry too, Karina.  Sometimes I do not understand what you are saying either."
I pulled out the Russian/English dictionary and we learned the word patience... much about this journey involves patience with one another.

Everyday there is something new to do...

Storey Grace needed a bath... she really needed a bath.  I turned the water on, she got in the tub and in walked Karina.  I turned to Karina and said,
"Oh, thank you Karina for bathing Storey Grace for me.  Thank you so much!"
"Daddy", replied Karina, "I cannot bathe her.  I never do that... I do not know how to do that... I have never done that."
"Do you bathe yourself?" I asked.
"Then you know how to bathe your sister."
She looked at Storey Grace, who was so excited that her sister was going to bathe her, and started the process of cleaning a very dirty little sister.
The two had a great time... Karina helping and caring for her little sister... and Storey Grace looking up to her big sister.  
There was lots of bubbles and giggles and splashing.
After the bath, Storey Grace looked up and said,
"See Karina, you can do it!"

Everyday we learn more about life in the orphanage...

"In orphanage, they use us to learn how to do things."
"They practice on you?"
"What do they do?"
"Well, people that want to cut hair will come to orphanage and practice on the orphans."
"Did you like that?"
"No, daddy!  They always mess our hair up!"

Everyday people embrace Karina...

We continue to be humbled and amazed at how so many people have reached out to welcome Karina.  Thank you for your emails and notes and gifts and food and clothes and parties!  Karina is out right now with her mom getting some much needed items with those gift cards.
One thing Karina misses is her friends from Ukraine.  Thank you for embracing her in friendship.
Parker, thanks for wanting to be a friend to Karina.
SaraCaroline, thanks for the emails... she will write you soon... she can speak easier than she can write.

Everyday we grow in grace...

Karina loves Jesus and it becomes more evident to us every day that she is growing in God's grace.  She was interviewed last week by an elder and pastor of our church and shared her testimony of faith in Jesus and her desire to join the church.
This Sunday, April 5, at the 5:50PM service at First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Karina will make a public profession of faith and be baptized!  We welcome anyone that wants to witness her baptism to join us at First Pres. Sunday night.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We Will Not Forget Them

do not forget us!
If you were following our blog while we were in Ukraine, you may remember the cry of the orphans that did not have families adopting them... "Please do not forget me!"

They said this over and over.
We cannot forget these precious children and God has provided a way for us and you to continue ministering to the orphans.
While in Ukraine, we prayed that God would open up doors of ministry and he has. We are thankful for what he has provided.

Christian Missionary Society is the mission organization that Sheila and I serve with. CMS was founded by men who wanted to facilitate bringing the Gospel of Christ to foreign soil. The hope of CMS is to have numerous missions throughout the globe that are reaching people for Christ by building a relational and diaconal ministry backed with solid doctrinal teaching (

Most of the work done by CMS missionaries has been in Peru with Peru Mission ( Peru Mission proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ and reaches out in mercy.

We have now expanded to Ukraine with our Ukraine Mission. The goal is the same: proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and reach out in mercy.

We have begun in the city Karina grew up in: Odessa, Ukraine.
God has blessed Odessa with some good churches that are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and some of these churches have asked us to come alongside them and help them reach out in mercy... so we are starting with orphan ministry and camp ministry.

The first thing I want to do is tell why all of us should be involved in orphan ministry. In another post I will describe what the orphan ministry in Ukraine looks like and how you can be involved. Then, at some later point, I will describe the camp ministry.

Why should all of us be involved in orphan ministry?

What God expects from his people regarding orphans.

Job 1: 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job 1:8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Job 31:16-23 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty.”

Study notes on the above section of Scripture from the ESV Study Bible read:

Care for the poor, widow (v. 16), fatherless (v. 17), needy (v. 19), and sojourner (see vv. 31–32) is prescribed in the Pentateuch (see Ex. 22:21–27; Lev. 19:33; Deut. 24:17–18). Such action shows that someone understands that he or she lives with others before God and is called to fear him alone (Job 31:23). Job lived this way because he believed God weighed his actions, and he understood that calamity was the consequence for the unrighteous (see vv. 2–4).”

Job, a man considered by God to be blameless and upright, cared for orphans. He fed them, clothed them and was as a father to them.

The Commands and Warnings of God to His People

Exodus 22:22-24 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Study notes on the above section of Scripture from the ESV Study Bible read:

Ex. 22:22 Through his prophets, the Lord will repeatedly denounce the mistreatment of the widow and the fatherless child in Israel and Judah (e.g., Isa. 1:17, 23; Jer. 5:28; 7:5–7; 22:3; Zech. 7:10).

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

Study notes on the above section of Scripture from the ESV Study Bible read:

Deut. 24:17–18 sojourner . . . fatherless . . . widow's garment. These three groups, as landless people, represented the most vulnerable in the land (see 10:18–19 and note). Israel's own time spent in Egypt as slaves was to motivate their proper treatment of landless people. See also v. 22.

When God brought his people out of slavery and gave them a land of their own, he commanded them to care for the orphan and gave them warnings if they did not care for the orphan. When God pronounces judgment on his people, some of the reasons for judgment are because, [Jeremiah 5:28] “…they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the cause of the needy” and, Ezekial 22:7 lists as one of Israel’s abominations, “…the fatherless and widow are wronged in you.”

James 1:27

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Study notes on the above section of Scripture from the ESV Study Bible read:

James 1:26–27 True, Practical Religion. This section on obedience (vv. 19–27) concludes with three characteristics of the one whose religion is pure and undefiled, that is, one who “does” the word. First, he refuses self-deception and bridles his tongue, which means he keeps a tight rein on his speech like a bridle controlling a horse. Second, he shows mercy and love to the oppressed. Orphans and widows were frequent OT examples of this (see Deut. 10:18; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:5–7) because of their particularly helpless state (on widows in NT times, see note on 1 Tim. 5:3–16). Third, he remains unstained from the world; James uses the sacrificial language of “the lamb without blemish” (Ex. 12:5; 1 Pet. 1:19) to describe the pure religious person.

The notes in the Reformation Study Bible state that “James stresses concern for widows and orphans as a true measure of obedience that is pleasing to God. It reflects the concerns of God Himself. Israel was given this responsibility in the Old Testament.”

The example given to us by Job, a man God calls blameless and upright, the commands and warnings God gives his people and James 1:27 all point to the fact that God calls his people to care for those in need: in particular, orphans and widows.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One of Life's Greatest Journeys

What if the only family you knew… abused you?

What if the only time an adult talked to you was to discipline you?

What if no one had ever told you that you were important?

What if no one ever said, “I love you”?

What if the only interaction you had was with peers?

What if there was no one to teach you how to live… how to love… how to talk… how to handle life?

What if you were never taught how to handle your emotions and feelings?

What if you had nightmares every night?

What if you were afraid every time you lay down to sleep?

What if every gift you were given was stolen?

What if there was nothing that was yours?

What if you had to fight every day to defend the weak?

What if you were hated by those you lived with because you would not go along with their plans?

What if one day you were taken from everything you knew and understood?

What if one day you were taken to a different country to live?

What if everyone around you spoke another language?

What if you now had to live completely different than you have ever lived?

How would you respond?

How would you do it?

How would you handle it?

“It is hard.”  Karina has told us this several times.

 “I love you.  I love my brothers and sister.  I love living in America.  I am thankful for all that God has done for me.  I am thankful for all that you are doing for me.  But it is hard.  Be patient with me, I am learning how to be a daughter.  I would not change anything… I just need your prayers… and love.”

We know many orphans. 

What do they need?  They need Jesus.  They need people to minister to them in the orphanages.  They need parents.

We have many friends that are adopting or have adopted.

What do they need?  They need prayers as they adjust… as the children adjust to everything new and the parents need prayer as they learn to love a child that has been neglected their entire life.

It is a great journey… I imagine it is one of the greatest journeys life on this earth can hold for us… because it is exactly what God has done for us… adopted us.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Word from the Mamma.

   I haven't blogged since our return over a month ago.  Sorry for that.  I am thankful that my husband has kept you updated on our silly family.
   The time since our return has flown.  I can't believe that we have been home over a month, but then again it seems like we have had Karina forever.  She has meshed so well into our family.  That is not to say that we have not had bumps in the road, but they have been small and we both have learned so much from them.  
    For example, one day we were both in the kitchen and I had been showing Karina how to cook.  I was busy running around and she was asking questions every few minutes "Mommy, how do you do this?", "Mommy, how do you do that?".  I answered them and kept on moving around doing my tasks.  Then she said, " I am asking because you know, I have never had a mommy before."  I quickly stopped what I was doing and said "Yes, I know."  Yes, she did have a mother, but she did not have a mommy.  A woman to teach her, rebuke her, love her, hold her, inquire about her, etc.  That one statement gave me a perspective check.  Am I more worried about my agenda, or am I concerned with what God would have me be concerned relationship with my daughter and the rest of my family.  This adoption journey does change the child, but it also changes the parent.  I am so thankful to be on this journey.  Thankful that God is still seeking to sanctify this wretched sinner into His image.  Thankful that He is using my 13 year old daughter to do it.  What a is so much more than I deserve. 

Friday, the Federal Building & Our Great Big Adopted Family

After our fourth visit to the federal building, Karina has her "second name" as she calls it.  She kept asking why she needed a SS # and what it was for and after the explanation she began calling it her second name.
Why four visits?  Because we did not know everything we needed... and no employee at the federal building could tell us what we needed... they just knew that what we had was not enough and they were not sure how we could get what we really needed unless we paid them lots of money.
So, we asked our great big adopted family out there - those of you reading this blog who have adopted or are adopting - and you came through for us.  We received comments and emails outlining everything we needed.  Thanks so much for all the help.  
This is what happened on Friday at the Federal Building:
Sheila said it was my turn to go so Karina and I took off for downtown and entered the parking garage at 1:14PM, walked down stairs, crossed street, entered building....
Karina sets off metal detector - it was her belt.
Went up to the second floor and...
there was hardly any one in the room!  
If you need to go work with the government, go on a Friday afternoon, just before Spring break, when it is pouring down rain outside.
We took a number and sat down in the empty room for...
less than one minute!
We were called to window A and I handed the lady these items:
1.  Karina's birth certificate
2.  Adoption court decree
3.  Karina's passport with visa and stamp from Homeland Security
4.  Certificate of Citizenship
5.  Letter of school enrollment from our home school
6.  SS # Application
7.  My driver's license
Within just a few minutes she said, "Sign this."
We were done... so we walked out of the room, out of the building, crossed the street and exited the parking garage about 30 minutes after we had arrived.
Sheila tells me, because of her experience earlier this week, that she is more sanctified than I am because of what she had to go through.
So, thanks to all of you who have done this before, for those of you that will need a SS# in the future, the above list is what you need.  Your local SS office may or may not know what you need, as in our case.

On another note, today, as I was going through some of the paperwork from the adoption I came across some papers that I could not recognize.  I handed them to Karina and asked what they were.  Her eyes got real big...
"This is my biological mom and dad's birth certificate... my dad born in Russia... I know that... but my mom... I never know this... she born in Russia too!  And my dad has no citizenship record."
There were some other things she learned about them and she told me,
"My mom did not tell me this... my life has been crazy... my name is Greek, my parents are Russian, I was born in Ukraine and now I live in America!"

I could tell that she was disturbed by some of the things she learned and she was quiet for a while...
she seemed to be processing  a lot after looking at this paperwork...
this evening she still seemed to be thinking through all this and I asked her if she was ok.
She said she was, gave us a kiss and told us, "I love you."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Five Kids in the Federal Building

Too much fun to keep to ourselves... a story about Sheila's day.

It all began when I (Matthew) asked,
"Would you like me to go back to the Social Security office or do you want to go?"
Sheila responds with something like,
"You have already been twice... with no results... I will go... you just stay at work and I will take the kids and get this taken care of!"
OK... go ahead and start laughing... one woman... five kids... one of those from Ukraine... heading to deal with the federal government...

"How do you get into this parking garage?"
Circled federal building twice.
Finally get into parking garage... circling around and around to the fifth level.  
Remember folks... we are from the country... all these one way streets, tall buildings and parking garages can seem a little foreign.  We are used to dirt roads that you can drive any thing on in any direction you want... you park in the grass... or in the middle of the road because no one else is going to drive past for the next hour and if they do, they know to go around, honk their horn and say, "How ya'll doin' tonight?"

Park the van.
Unload six people and it begins:
"Let's take the stairs!"
"NO!  Let's take the elevator!"
Sheila:  "This is not a democracy.  We are taking the elevator."

Get almost to elevator and realize.... we have no papers.
Go back to van.
Get papers.
Go back to elevator.
Go down five floors.
Cross road and prepare to enter federal building.

"Let's go in revolving door!"
"No!  Let's go in regular door!"
"No!  Let's go in revolving door!"
Sheila:  "We are going through the regular door so no one gets stuck in the revolving door."

Walk up to metal detector.
Storey Grace is clear.
Harrison is clear.
Isaac is clear.
Noah is clear.
Karina is clear.
Security guard then asks Sheila,
"So, are you babysitting today... or are they...."
"Yes.  They are all mine."  Sheila says with a grin...
as she sets off the alarm... not cleared....
now Sheila is clear.

Ask security guard what floor Social Security office is on.
Second floor.

Walk in office... now... which of the two lines to get in?
Karina has done this before so she points to the long line... and the people already sitting have nothing to do but sit and so they begin staring at the woman with five kids in the long line.

Finally, arriving at the counter Sheila says,
"I need to get a social security number for an adopted child."
"For all these kids?"  comes the response.
"No.  Just one."
"Oh... take this number and have a seat."

The number is E75.
Sit down.
The next number called is E64.
Not too bad... only 11 people are in front of us.
Hahaha... just kidding... not only are there numbers with an E in front of them  but there are also numbers with a S in front of them that are called periodically... and then there are names that are called with no numbers associated with them... and then there are... well, you get the picture.

It is immediately apparent that the choice of location of seating was bad... for the people directly behind the Nasekos crew were having a fight... and using every profane word imaginable... Sheila is praying that the children's vocabulary is not expanded on this trip to the federal building.

Storey Grace:  "Mommy... I need to go to the bathroom."
Another child:  "Me too!"
OK... just hold it for a few minutes... they will call us soon... don't see a bathroom in this office.
"I have to go, too!"
Everyone has to go.

"E75 come to window 23."
Six people come sit in front of a woman sitting at a computer.
"Hi... hello... oh hi... how many are out there?"
Sheila tells her what she needs and hands over paperwork.
Overwhelmed look is returned... "I am a trainee.  I am not trained to handle this.  They sent you to the wrong window but we will help you today.  Let me go talk to someone and I will be right back."

"E75 go to window 17."
Ummm... should we go to window 17 or do we stay here at window 23 where all our paperwork is?
Sheila leans over to security guard about 10 feet away,
"All of our paperwork is right here... do I really leave it and go to window 17?"
"No... you stay here and send one of your kids to tell window 17 that mommy is already at a window."
Harrison volunteers for the job and the security guard puts him on the security monitor to make sure he gets from 23 to 17 and back to 23 without any problems... remember the people fighting and cursing?
Harrison, on camera, makes it there and back again.

All settle down in corner cubicle waiting... Sheila passes out bank suckers and gum to entertain the kids.
Lady returns to window, returns paperwork and sends them back to the lobby...
"Wait for your name to be called."

Find place in lobby with no one else around fighting or cursing.

"Mommy... I need to go to the bathroom."
"OK, honey... just a few more minutes."

Man across room begins causing a scene...
the lobby is getting loud...
people are getting concerned...
security guard comes in...
man escorted out of lobby...
kids exclaim how cool it is that the security guard with a gun just took out the man causing a scene.

Security guard returns and closes doors to lobby... no one is coming in or going out... no chance of going to the bathroom now.

"Sheila Nasekos, please come to window A."
Paperwork handed over... situation explained... man at computer begins typing.
Ten minutes later man says,
"I think we have a problem... in order to get social security number she needs proof of citizenship."
"What about this stamped document from the Department of Homeland Security with her photo ID and this permanent residence immigrant visa?"
"Well, the problem is that in our system she is listed not as a permanent resident but as a US citizen."
"So... she is listed in the Social Security System as a US citizen?"
"And because of that she cannot get a social security number?"
"Correct.  If she was listed as just a resident, I could issue the number but since she is listed as a citizen I have to have proof that she is a citizen in order to issue the number."
"Oh... so you have her listed in the social security administration system as a US citizen but you need proof that she is a US citizen?"
"Exactly.... you need a passport to prove she is a citizen of the US."
Very confused look comes across Sheila's face... you cannot get a passport without a social security number.
Storey Grace has to go to the bathroom... right this second... Karina takes Storey Grace out the door while Sheila wraps the conversation up at window A.

"You can go to the USCIS website for more info."
Yep... that is the website we went to before the first trip to this office.

Sheila and boys leave office and go down to the first floor.  The boys go into the men's room and Sheila goes into the ladies room... but Karina and Storey Grace are no where to be seen.

Sheila begins to panic... her four year old and her Ukrainian daughter are somewhere in the federal building... but no one knows where.

In the meantime, Karina and Storey Grace somehow got on an elevator that did not go down but only up.  They made it to the fifth floor where a nice woman got them to a bathroom.  Then they got on an elevator that went down and arrived at the second floor but... no mamma... and no brothers...
Sheila gets back on the elevator... finds her girls anxiously waiting for her... 
Harrison, in the meantime, has come out of the bathroom to find no mom or sisters...
but he is cool with that because he finds the FBI's Most Wanted List hanging on a wall.
He begins to study it and realizes that he knows one of the guys on the list.  He thinks the guy lives near his grandparents... at least the guy "looks just like the guy on the FBI list".

In a few moments, all are reunited and they head back to the van.  Leaving the garage, Sheila hands the ticket to the parking attendant and realizes she has been here for over 2.5 hours.
"That will be $5."
Sheila has $3.
Sheila writes a check to get out of parking garage...
heads over to the Rankin County Enrollment Office to fill out some paperwork for home schooling...
goes to Wal Mart to pick up food for her family...
comes home and prepares supper...
and then says, "I need to go to bed... my throat hurts... I think I may be coming down with something... Matthew remember at the missions conference this weekend when Elliott said that missional people do not mind inconvenience?"
"I think we got to practice that today."
"Thanks, Sheila, for going today...
I'll go tomorrow."

Need Help From You Who Have Adopted

We need help from those of you who have adopted in the past.
We are trying to get a social security number for Karina.  We need this number to be able to do our taxes... get her a passport... well, for just about everything.
We checked the social security administration website regarding the required documents needed to apply for a social security number for an adopted child and we brought all of those documents.
We went to the SS office in downtown Jackson with the documents listed on the website and they told us we needed something else...
So two days later we returned with that document and they told us we needed something else...
So two days later we returned with that document and now they tell us that we have to have proof of US citizenship (they said the immigrant visa with the Department of Homeland Security stamp on it, her Ukrainian passport, birth certificate with us as the parents, adoption court decree and school enrollment decree were not enough)...
We can use a US passport to prove citizenship...
The only way to get a US passport is to have a social security number...
We found that we could apply for a proof of citizenship certificate for $420...
is this there any other way to get a SS number or do we have to pay this $420 for a proof of citizenship certificate?
Does anyone have any advice or help?
Thanks.  You can email me directly at or post in the comments section.

One Month and One Week

Karina has lived with us in the States for one month and one week and both Sheila and I are still overwhelmed at how blessed we are to have Karina as part of our family.  We are so thankful for her.
So many of you have been so kind and giving since we returned.  Thanks for the clothes, the purse, the money, the Target gift card, the parties... thanks for all you have done to welcome Karina and to help provide for her.  We are grateful for you and Karina is so thankful for every thing she is given.
As a family we have been doing some traveling and a lot of speaking regarding our ministry and Karina has been a huge help with this and an encouragement to us.  She wants to serve and minister to others and we thank God for her servant's heart.
Many of you prayed for us while in Peru - in between two Ukraine trips.  Thanks for those prayers.  Last week our Peru Mission Team published the following and I just wanted to share it with you.  Karina is excited about helping with these camps:

Twin Lakes Camp Reaches Children, Reaches Families
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14

For the second year in a row, a very talented and enthusiastic group from Twin Lakes Camp came to Trujillo to provide a summer camp for the youth in our churches and community. Twin Lakes, which is a ministry of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, brought twenty-six team members from the states who worked alongside dozens of Peruvian volunteers to host 165 kids for the week-long camp.

The kids were surrounded by camp leaders who were able to share the love of Christ with them as they sang songs, played games, and learned biblical stories. For these kids this week is a very special time. For some it is the reward for faithful church attendance and participation throughout the year; for others it may be their first encounter with a body of believers.

The purpose of the Twin Lakes camp goes well beyond the fun and games. As missionary Allen Smith explains, “God uses this camp to reach children and families with the Gospel.  In a week full of fun and worship, many children for the first time hear the gospel proclaimed and see the gospel portrayed through the godly character of the counselors. One pastor told me that several of the children who went to camp last year are now members of the church along with their families.”

The church in Peru not only realizes the importance of this camp in the lives of the youth, but also its importance in the life of the church. The camp has been invited to return to Trujillo and has also been asked to start a summer camp in Cajamarca. The summer camp that Twin Lakes provides helps to better integrate these young students into the churches they attend, and we pray that God develops these children into a new generation of leaders in the Peruvian church.

In His Grace,

The Peru Mission Team

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm Thankful For My Family

Karina has now been home for one month.
The time has flown.
Tonight after supper we had our family devotions and then I asked everyone to say what they are thankful for.
Storey Grace:  "That we can go to the beach."
Noah:  "Karina."
Isaac:  "Thanksgiving."
Harrison:  "Karina."
Karina:  "I'm thankful for my family!"