Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Sometimes I wonder how Karina views God as her heavenly Father considering the abuse her biological earthly father gave her.  
God continues to allow us to see his grace in her life.
A few days ago Karina and I prayed for Sheila while she spoke at a women's brunch and  after the prayer Karina said, "Daddy, I do not know how to pray."
We talked for a little while about what prayer is, that God wants us to pray to him and that she can talk to him as her heavenly daddy.
She let out a big sigh and said, "It is so good to finally have a daddy."
"I pray that God will help me be a good earthly daddy to you."
"You are a good daddy" she whispered.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear Aly

What a joy it was to be at your church last week and then to come over to your house and visit.  Thank you for being so sweet and kind to us and especially to Karina.  Thank you for the booklet, the pictures, the crafts, the welcome sign, the flowers, the food and the fun.  Thank you for welcoming our whole family and for showing love toward Karina.  God has blessed you with a great gift of hospitality and making people feel welcome and comfortable.  May God continue to use you to reach out to people and minister to them.  

You ministered to Karina by showing so much interest in her life.  After spending the day with your parents, we know where your gift comes from.  Thank you, Aly (and the rest of the family), for being so warm toward us on our short visit to Alabama.  May God bless you.

Traveling in the van - Storey Grace in her spy glasses.

Karina has been a real trooper.  In the two and a half months that we have been home, she has traveled with us to nine different churches to share our mission and give the vision to others for our work with Christian Missionary Society, Peru Mission and Orphan Ministry in both Peru and Ukraine.

Karina has met many people that have been praying for her - how encouraging it has been for us to hear that so many people care about her and have lifted her up in prayer.

It is also interesting to see the different responses churches have toward "missionaries" coming to speak... one day I may blog about those responses.

God used nine year old Aly... a girl that we met when we spoke at a church in Alabama... to teach me a few things about hospitality.  She was so thoughtful and caring and loving and open and encouraging to us (her parents were the same way) that it really made me examine the way I treat others... especially those I have never met.
Thanks, Aly, for helping me understand, a little better, how God wants us to reach out to others.

We had a great time in AL and stayed with a wonderful family... thanks Scott and Jan!!  Thanks for sheltering us and feeding us and talking with us and loving us and hiking with us!  You are such a blessing to us.  Nathan - thanks for the delicious breakfasts!
Karina went on her first hiking trip in the States.  We hiked for about four miles, climbed over,

under, around and in rocks, forded a river, climbed in small caves, stood under behind and above waterfalls and learned about a few plants...

including poison ivy.  After learning about poison ivy Karina wanted to know if she was allergic to it so she proceeded to wipe the back of her right hand all in poison ivy... she just had to know... and a week later... nothing.  She told me,  "Daddy, I not allergic!  I so glad."
Me too, Karina.
Isaac, on the other hand, is very allergic.  He stayed as far away as he could from any visible poison ivy... and still got it.  He asked me why God made poison ivy.

We are grateful for these times as a family that we are able to travel together, spend time with other believers and share with them the ministry God allows us to be involved with.  God has led us to places spiritually that we never imagined going.  He is molding us and stretching us and teaching us.  He is weaning us off of this world and preparing us for the one to come... at times it is scary... but it is also very exciting.

We are learning a lot.  Karina is learning a lot.  She is becoming more concerned with other orphans... it saddens her to think of those still in the orphanage that she came from... those that do not have parents coming for them... she prays for them... she asks others to pray for them... she thinks of them often... she sees what she has been given... and what they are without... and over the past several weeks, through all the churches we have visited, she has seen thousands of Christians... and the questions are brought up... these Christians... God adopted them... will they do the same for others....?

Please Pray for Grandma Lela

Grandma Lela is in her 80's and spends her days showing love to orphans.  When many people her age just want to relax, Lela moved to Ukraine and pours herself out for those in need of mercy.  She is such a blessing to the children.
Last week she fell and broke her hip.  Karina loves her and is so thankful for her.  When Karina found out what happened to Lela she began weeping.  Karina has said about Lela, "The orphans need someone like Lela.  For some orphans Lela is the only one that has ever told them 'I love you!'"
Please pray for her.  

Here are the latest two updates on her situation:
Our wonderful Bahbushka Lela fell in her house of Friday (April 17) evening and is in the hospital in Odessa. She broke her left hip and is required to have a surgery. We have contacted her family in the US right away and they arranged the aircraft. We are expecting the Air Ambulance to come tomorrow and take her on Thursday early morning to America for the surgery. 
PLease, PLease, Please, keep Lela in your hourly prayers for she is in a very bad and painful condition. The pain killer medicine seems to be not helpful to her anymore since she has been taking them for 5 days already and she is in a very bad pain now. She is well taken care but ...in much pain.
Let's all join in prayer for our Bahbushka Lela right now and the days ahead!!!!!

Dear Folks and faithful prayer partners!

Bahbushka Lela got on a special Air craft Ambulance this early morning by Odessa time. Praise the Lord her son Ron was with her. It was a great support for her. The doctor on the aircraft spoke perfect Russian which was a great help in many medical issues. His nurse was the kindest person that was very gentle with Lela. Praise the Lord Lela wasn't in much pain when she was leaving. She was smiling very big as usually and that was the greatest incouragement to us. 
Please, continue to keep our Lelchik in your hourly prayers that the surgery on Friday would go very well and she would be able to walk as soon as possible.

Many thanks to all that are lifting up our Lelchik to the Lord and He is very quick to answer!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Join Us For A Short Term Trip to Peru!

We are currently taking applications from anyone that would like to join us for a short term mission trip to Peru January 1-9, 2010. We will be running two summer day camps for children in Trujillo and Cajamarca.

If interested in applying, please send me an email: Matthew@twinlakescamp.org.

For more details, please see older posts where I described the camp.

Come join us!! It will be an unforgettable time and you will be a blessing to many people both from the churches we work with in Peru and to the orphans that come to camp.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Big Easter Weekend

Two girls grew up 20 minutes from each other on either side of the Mississippi/Louisiana State line.

Two orphan girls became best friends in an orphanage on the other side of the world.

About a year and four months ago, one of the best friends was adopted by the girl that grew up on the LA side.

A year later, the other one was adopted by the girl that grew up on the MS side.

This Easter weekend, the girls were reunited, the two families that adopted them met for the first time, and the two best friends/former orphans sat side by side in worship on this day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. 

Only God can work out the details to make that happen.  We rejoice as we continually see God's mighty and glorious hand at work.

This was also a weekend of firsts:

Karina's first bike ride.

Karina's first injury in the States.

Yes, the first bike ride and the first injury do go together.

First Easter with her new family and with Granny and Papa.

First time to celebrate a birthday of one of her new siblings.

It was a big weekend.  Karina and Storey Grace slept on the way back home.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Daddy, Help Me Study the Bible

Karina has enjoyed making new friends and she has been thankful for those who have reached out to her in love (and her parents are thankful too!).
Thank you to the girls at Trinity that spent time with her while we were at the missions conference.  Karina really enjoyed going out with you.  
Wednesday night, after the service, a group of girls came up to me and asked if Karina could go with them for some ice cream.
This had never happened to Sheila and I before... our younger children do not have friends ask if they can go out...
I quickly looked over the group... yes, there was some older, responsible people here that I trust... and I handed over a cell phone and twenty dollars... and prayed.
After a while, Karina returned, handed me the phone and the twenty dollars.
Wow!  I was not expecting to get the money back... or at least not all of it.
The ice cream shop was closed so they went to a coffee shop.
"Karina, you did not want to get anything?"
"No, daddy.  It is too late to get coffee.  I want to go to sleep."
I thought to myself, "Now that is a great girl."

Friday evening we spent time with a wonderful family that has shown much love toward Karina.  Karina has enjoyed getting to know Parker and of course the boys love playing with Jeffrey.  

Sunday we spoke in Sunday School for Trinity's Missions Conference - it was so wonderful and a blessing to be with these people for a week.  This is the church Sheila and I were married in, where I served as an officer and as an intern while in seminary.  It was a joy to be back.

Sunday night, Karina was baptized at our church.  She was so nervous leading up to the service.  I must share a story with you about how our pastor's daughter showed love to Karina.  I am the son of a pastor (a PK) and now my children are missionary kids (MK's) and I understand how sometimes these children (and their parents) can be ruthlessly examined, criticized and "talked" about by the Christian community.  So here is a story of how a pastor's child took the lead in reaching out and showing selfless love toward a former orphan:
Before the service, all the new members (including Karina) met at the church for pictures and then went to a chapel to be examined by the elders and answer the five questions of church membership that our denomination asks.
Karina was told to sit in one of the chairs up front that was facing the pews (which were packed with parents and elders).  She was the first young person to sit in the stage area (all the adults were sitting in chairs on the floor).  Karina sat on the front row by herself.  

The other young girls began coming in and, one by one, walked past Karina to sit on another row of chairs.  As each one passed by Karina, her face became more and more red.  She felt embarrassed and felt like no one wanted to be near her.

And then in walked the pastor's daughter who is about Karina's age.  She walked up to the chairs and glanced at Karina, then to her friends in the back, then back to Karina.  She went to the back for a moment, and then walked back up and sat beside Karina.  Once the other girls saw her beside Karina, others joined her in sitting beside Karina.

The redness left Karina’s cheeks and a smile began to appear on her face as she talked with these girls.

It brought tears to my eyes to see how our pastor's daughter took the lead in ministry to my daughter by the simple action of sitting beside her in a room full of strangers.

I am sure it was a big deal for her to not sit beside her friends and sit beside a girl she does not know and who is still learning English but it meant so much to Karina and it meant a lot to me.  Karina and I are very thankful for her.

I thank my pastor for raising children that care for others and think about what others need and I thank him for being  a great example to us and to his congregation.

It was beautiful to see Karina make a public profession of faith in Jesus and then to be baptized by one of our pastor's that has made a point to talk with Karina and reach out to her when he sees her around the church.

After the service, Karina was excited and ready to talk.  We live at least 30 minutes from our church and she talked the entire way home.

She talked about how much God has done for her and how he orchestrated the events of her life to bring her to us.

She told about the day she signed papers saying that she wanted to be adopted.  It was just after her eleventh birthday when her biological mom and dad came to visit her in the orphanage.  Her dad came and told her that he did not want Karina to be his daughter.  Her mom told her that she wanted to start visiting her and that she would come back tomorrow.  Tomorrow came but her mom never did.  Karina waited and waited... but she never came back.  So, Karina finally lost hope of her biological parents bringing her back home.  She asked if she could fill out papers for another family to adopt her and then began her wait for us.

She told of the year she lived outside.

I asked, "Outside?  Like in the grass?"

"Yes, daddy.  Before I go to orphanage my mom disappear and I live outside with my grandmother."

"Wasn't it cold?"

"Yes... but sometimes we find building to sleep in."

"A building?  A house?"

"No.  An old building... you know... not fixed but..."


"Yes.  Broken.  We get in through broken window and sleep on floor."

"How did you eat?"

"We ate whatever we find.  Sometimes grandmother have money and we buy food."

"How long did you do this?"

"I think one year... and then my mom came back and I lived with her... for a little while... until I ran away to be safe at the orphanage."

See how far God brings his children...

From living and eating on the streets...

From abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to love...

From broken promises and rejection...

To a family that loves her...

To a church family that loves her...

To God's family...

The other night she said, "Daddy, help me study the Bible."

It would bring me such joy, Karina, to help you study God's Word.