This is part of our team in the Detroit airport on our way to Ukraine. We had a team of 9 Ukrainians and 7 Americans planned. The morning of our flight, one American team member was so sick she couldn't fly with us so we were down to 6. Then when we were in Ukraine, an emergency popped up for another team member and he had to head back to the states-so that left us with 5. Needless to say that posed some challenges from the start, but God was very faithful in providing all we needed (including a very solid, helpful Ukrainian team).
When we arrived in Ukraine, we headed to the grocery store to pick up food for dinner and the next day's lunch. It was a bit confusing to manuever through the store with everything in Russian and being in odd spots, but we did ok. Note: chips are down the aisle with the alcohol...not the cookies and snacks aisle.
Although it was late in the evening and we had been travelling for over 24 hours, we knew we needed to adjust our lessons due to our team size shrinking. Very thankful for flexible, willing team members!
Instead of a hotel this year, we decided to stay with a family who has a guest house for missionaries. This was a GREAT choice. The family was so kind and hospitable, and being in a house made our team feel like a family!
There were plenty of bunkbeds/twin beds to house our large team.
This is Varia and I cutting bread and meat for lunch in our cozy kitchen on our first full day. Later we found out they sold both these items already cut...
Everyday we had quite a load to carry with lesson supplies. My grandma's old floral luggage did lots of "off-roading" on the long road to the orphanage. I'm shocked a wheel didn't pop off with all of the bumps she's encountered!
One of the HUGE blessings this year was to spend the whole week with 2 orphans I met at Jonkoi and have known for 4 years. Because it was their Spring Break, their orphanage directors were willing to let them spend the week with us. This is one of them, Radion. He's 16 and AMAZING. He's so responsible, funny, loving, helpful....he was a great team member! He also was a great pack mule who carried all of our things! (note: he and his brother have been invited for a hosting program in the US this summer for 6 weeks-we're looking to help find them a family-let me know if you know anyone interested! you can see a video interview of him here: http://vimeo.com/39584228)
This is the other orphan who got to spend the week with us, Anya. She has the biggest smile that lights up any room. You could tell this week with us was a huge boost to her self-esteem. To have people encourage her and give her attention was wonderful for her. For both Radion and Anya, the ability to take daily showers, choose their food, and have the opportunity to help lead was a welcomed change of pace. On the last day, Radion thanked our team for getting to spend the week with us. He said he rememberd when our team came to teach him about God and he would ask questions. Now he said kids were asking him questions. He said "I'm no longer an orphan, I'm a leader".
This is Lozovoyeh orphanage.
This is what most of the kids bedrooms look like-about 14-16 beds per room.
This is one of their bathrooms.
And one of their "living rooms."
To start off everyday we would worship together. Nothing beats hearing these kids sing to God.
I love this picture! It's during worship. The little boy to the left, Andrei, brought a puppet we gave him and his puppet was praising God too:)
Bible lessons were in the morning. We were teaching about grace for the whole week and Ephesians 4:8 was our memory verse. "For it is by grace that you have been saved, this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God."
I got the opportunity to explain salvation and to teach about the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (Luke 2). Some of our "bottom lines" were: Jesus came to rescue us, everyone needs to be rescued, God loves us more than we can imagine, we are valuable to God, etc
To help the kids understand grace, we had a silly character, Mr. Candyman, come do fun activites with them during our lesson. The kids would get so excited when he came to visit!
To reinforce our lessons, we would break into small groups to teach application activities, work on our memory verse, pray together and do a craft. This was the yellow small group.
And the red small group.
Then there was the best small group, the blue group:)
I had a wonderful group!
We also had the opportunity to teach lessons in the afternoon. They varied in material. This was a skit we were doing to teach about good character.
We got to split into girls and boys groups to teach a lesson. For the girls we spoke about how God looks at what's on the inside, not the outside. One of our team members made this wonderful image of words God uses in the Bible to describe us. The girls took their favorite word and wrote it on a mirror we gave them. Prayerfuly they'll always remember how special they are in God's sight.
We also had the opportunity during girl time to paint nails!
There were plenty of ridiculous colors and glitter!
One teacher decide to join us for the lesson and she jumped right into painting nails.
Sweetly, Oksana wanted to return the favor and paint the teacher's nails:)
Natasha liked her results!
So did Tanya!
In the afternoons we would go outside to play if it was not too cold or rainy.
I brought many games from KidCity that didn't involve language and the kids loved them!
We also got creative with group games like this one!
An intense game of checkers:)
This is Sasha. He was an excellent frisbee thrower...a ridiculously accurate throw!
If I was anywhere other than Ukraine, I feel like I might think this child climbing to the top of this metal structure was unsafe...but these kids have crazy climbing abilities hidden in them!
Great card game!
When it was cold or rainy outside, we brought our party inside. The kids had never seen Connect 4 before, and they loved it.
Over the years of working with orphans, I've mastered the art of playing hand games that don't require supplies or talking (which is good because the need arises often). This is a game of "slaps". Radion was too much of a gentleman to play though, he was worried he'd hurt me.
This is Leeza and me playing Blink. I met Leeza last year and was excited to see her again. I could tell she had met a new friend, over the year I was gone, who didn't really think coming to lessons and hanging out with Americans was too cool, so she didn't spend as much time with us. But I was thankful she enjoyed playing games because she would ditch her friend to come play and it allowed us a little time together.
We also got to take several children to a cafe most nights. These were great times to get to know the kids a little better as well as to let them experience something special. Several said they'd never been to a cafe before. This is Oksana, she's studied the menu very carefully:) She wants to be a missionary and says her favorite story in the Bible is Jesus' crucifixition even though it's sad. She's very special!
Brother and sister, Kolya (8 y/o) and Natasha (10 y/o) also joined us at the cafe. They have a really special relationship. When asked if they get along, they said "we used to argue a lot but we're better now." (they've obvioulsy matured:)) Natasha was always offering suggestions to her brother-how to open his napkin, how to eat his icecream, etc. Also, when asked about her hair being short, Natasha said a girl in her room had lice so "those idiots cut my hair." Haha! She's spunky! Prayerfully both of them will be able to join us for our hosting program this summer if we can find a family to host them.
This is Vladic-he also joined us at the cafe and is also set to come on our hosting program. He has an ADORABLE smile. He was very excited about his dinner and finished a huge plate of dumplings in record setting time! Literally I think it might have taken him under 2 minutes.
He was SUPER excited about the dessert as well!
Sophia is another great girl we got to invite to the cafe (and who is set to come for the hosting program). While she was very shy, she became more comfortable over the week and smiles were more frequent! She's a very kind girl.
Another great part of this trip was catching up with familiar faces. There are a few kids we met from this past year's hosting program that we were able to see again. This is Vitalik-he found an adoptive family and should be adopted soon!
This is Rostik and Dima-both of them joined our 2011 Hosting Program and still are up for adoption.
Finally this is silly boy, Vova. He is set to join us for a second Hosting Program this year since he didn't find a family last year.
In addition to reconnecting with Hosting Program kids, reuniting with kids from Jonkoi was a HUGE highlight of this trip. Like I mentioned before we got to spend the week with Anya and Radion (2 kids from Jonkoi). This is Radion and I in 2010.
Then this is us in 2012. He grew taller than me!
On our second day at the orphanage, we were walking up to the door when it opened and out came Dima! (another boy I had met at Jonkoi!). He was visiting a friend and didn't know we were spending the week at Lozovoyeh! It was a WONDERFUL surprise!
This is Dima and I in 2010.
This is us in 2012. After we saw him the first time, he had to leave. But he came back and joined us for dinner one of our last nights there. (he took an hour and a half bus ride just to see us!). It was great catching up with him-he's a great kid!
On the far left is Kristina and the girl in the red is Natasha. This was in 2009. I met these girls and wrote them many letters over the years.
I had a special lunch with them on this trip (look how much they've grown! Kristina is in the navy blue and Natasha is in the pink striped shirt) We also had Anya and Sveta (another Jonkoi girl who I knew) join us! This lunch was so great. Many times I just sat back and thanked God for reuniting us. We were having girl talk and icecream-it was really special. My prayer for these girls is that they would find their worth in Christ and not the attention of boys-please pray with me for this!
This is Ira and me in 2009. She was supposed to join us for our girls' lunch on Sunday but she was in Strogonovka (a psychiatric hospital where they send kids who get in trouble).
Fortunately I was able to visit her at the hospital. A nurse had to monitor our visit and we only got 20 minutes together, but it was a good visit. She was very surprised and happy to see me.
This is Ira and me with Anya in 2009. Anya and Ira are best friends.
Here's us in 2010.
And now 2012. Ira is definitely headed down a more destructive path than Anya, so it's become a struggle in their relationship. Since leaving Jonkoi, they are both in a new orphanage in Simferopol. One of the new girls Ira met has been a negative influence on her (and she already had tendancy to flock to trouble). I was talking to the girls about joining a youth group at the church of a friend of mine in their city. Both of them seemed interested...prayerfully they'll commit to this and they will benefit from that time.
Then of course there's Andrei. He was my first orphan I ever met in Ukraine...my first friend. Here we are in 2009.
We wrote letters over the years and this is us in 2010. Andrei has never been a "good" child. He has always got in trouble, his teachers don't like him (they even warned me to stay away from him and that he wasn't worth the investment), but God has always put on my heart to stick beside him. Unfortunately in Dec 2010 he ran away from the orphanage and I lost complete contact with him. I prayed (along with many others) often over the last year and a half to find him, then finally....
I found him! He's now 17, much taller and has a much deeper voice. The way I found him was completely ordained by God! Remember when I said I visited Ira in Strogonvka. Well that was Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday night I got a phone call from Andrei! Turns out he was also in Strogonovka (one floor...one flight of stairs...from where I was that day). He had spoke to Ira and found out I was in town. He asked if I could come see him. We scheduled a meeting for the next day. When we spoke, I found out a lot of negative news. He was in Strogonovka for punishment for running away. He had been in trouble with the police for stealing, he had gotten beaten up on NYE and had broken ribs. He was very honest but very ambivelent to the things that were happening in his life. He had an answer for everything...he said he would get revenge on those who had beaten him up, he would stop stealing once he got through technical school and got a job-he said everything would be alright. I challenged him with UNICEF's statistics for Ukrainian orphan boys...that 70% of them would end up in prison. He said he knew this statistic and hope it doesn't happen to him. I tried to explain how his behavior and actions were directing him straight to jail. I asked him to do an experiment....to not retaliate against the boys who beat him up. I explained that his actions thus far in life have led him to the court house and a psychiatric hospital-so maybe trying something different than his usual ways would lead to different results. He consented..."maybe." I also told him how I had been praying for him for the last 2 years, to find him, and that my powerful God answered my prayers. I told him I was also praying for God to work in his life and I asked if he believed those prayers could work. He said yes. He said he still had the Bible I gave him 2 years ago and that he's opened in 3 or 4 times. I asked him to open it again-to read John. Our time was cut short by the nurse-I gave him some numbers to help him keep in touch, so hopefully he uses them. Join me in prayer for his life, I don't believe he's hopeless.
The next few photos are our team spending time with kids. I love how God used each team member in different ways to connect with different kids. Prayerfully he'll continue to use those relationships in the future to bring himself glory.
Illya loved Tiff, he always had his arm around her or hooked with hers!
Sabrina also was a big source of encouragement for the kids.
Anya (a Ukrainian friend/translator) with Natasha and Idair.
LOVE this photo. There is a HUGE need for the boys in orphanages (and outside of the orphanage) to have godly male examples! The boys flocked to Scott and loved spending time with him. Suscpiously, Scott's small group increased with boys daily!
Natalya (a Ukrainian friend/translator/Redline United staff member) and Sasha showing the results of their blue lollipops!
This is most of our team with the orphanage team who visits Lozovoyeh weekly and who helps us keep in contact with the kids. It was awesome to be able to meet and pray with one another. God connected our hearts for orphans all the way from across the sea.
This is the weekly orphanage team (minus a few people who couldn't make it). Pray for them as they are on the front lines of making a difference in these kids lives!
The Faces of Lozovoyeh
And remember to pray for these kids. These are just a few of the precious faces of kids who live in an orphanage, in a country across the ocean, who matter a TON to God! Thanks for partnering and caring about these kids!