Friday, November 29, 2013

I can only do so much

One of the down sides of ministry is that you have to accept that you can only do so much.  I mean like when 2 other women and I take a trip to Ukraine for 10 days, we simply cannot talk to every individual child in each orphanage that we visit.  I wish we could but it is simply impossible.

Having said that, however, I do believe that God places certain people before you whom he has planned that you touch.  God did that with Vova.  You see, I had visited the orphanage in Shotova twice.  I had hosted groups of children from there twice.  And I had never noticed Vova.  I met him briefly last summer when I visited the camp where he was spending the summer.  I knew that I wanted to host him because he was a friend of our son-to-be but we didn’t really talk or establish a repoire, he was just "there". 

Then one day in early October, I really noticed him.  My husband and I had gone to initiate the adoption of Lewis, Bella and Sam.  We were at Vova’s orphanage.  He was quiet, kept to himself;  he certainly did not talk to me.  And so I didn’t notice his smile.  Or his beautiful eyes.  Or his sense of humor.  But what I did notice one day was his feet.  It was cold.  Snowing.  And Vova was wearing flip flops.  With no socks.  And so I simply asked him, “If I buy you some shoes, will you wear them?  Its cold.”  Yes, he replied.

The next day I took him some shoes.  He quietly took them from me and said thank you.  And that was that.  Or so I thought.

The next day, I arrived at the orphanage to visit.  And a 14 year old boy ran, smiling and laughing, into my arms.  He told me hi and showed me his shoes.  He was dressed in blue jeans and a nice shirt instead of the shorts he had been wearing.  His eyes were no longer downcast and I noticed how beautiful they were.  Could this be Vova?  Suffice it to say, he was not the same child as the day before.

What had happened to Vova?  Here is what I think.  Somebody loved Vova.  He was not changed because he now had new shoes.  He wasn’t hoping for more stuff.  No, Vova suddenly knew that someone cared about him.  Someone cared that his feet were cold.  Someone took the time to notice.  Someone brought him shoes.  And so he opened the door of his heart and invited me to come in.     

After that, Vova became my constant companion at the orphanage.  We played battleship and he taught me the Russian words for hit and miss.  He hugged me when I arrived and held the door open for me. And he has been my constant companion since we arrived to complete our adoption.  I told him yesterday that he was such a good boy.  He said "no, I am not."  Yes, you are Vova.  Maybe no one has ever told you that.  But you are.  And you are beautiful.  Created in the image of a beautiful God.

There are so many other “Vovas” in the orphanage.  Children for whom no one has ever cared.  Children who have never heard, “you are such a good boy”.  Children whose expressions and downcast eyes simply reflect the shoes that they are wearing, or the lack thereof.

I cannot reach them all.  Grace to Ukraine cannot reach them all.  But we can reach Vova.  Grace to Ukraine will host Vova in Alabama in the summer of 2014.  He has a 16 year old sister who lives at another orphanage and I am going to try to bring her too.  They will hear the gospel.  They will learn many new and wonderful things about life.  And I want Vova and his sister to find a family.  I say over and over that adoption is not the point of Grace to Ukraine.  But I want Vova and his sister to find a family. 

The happiness I am relishing in at the moment, taking my kids away from the orphanage in 6 days, is infused with a deep sadness  for those that must be left behind.  There are others who have touched me deeply.  Some we have already hosted and who still have not been adopted.  Some we plan to host next summer.  I long for each of them to find families as well.  I will pray and ask God to rescue them as he rescued Lewis, Bella and Sam Davie.  It is overwhelming at times.  I start to cry but then I decide it is better to blog.  Better to visit.  Better to buy candy and shoes.   Anything but cry.  

I can only do so much.  But what I can do, I WILL.  Will you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

So Very Close

It is National Adoption Awareness Month.  So I want to talk about adoption.  Specifically today about a 14 year old girl named Liza whom I have never met.  Here is her story, with names changed, because of the delicate situation:

Liza came to America once with another hosting program.  Her host family loved her.   The mom, Ann, said:, “she was the best kid I ever met. She's quiet, unassuming, she tends to stay close to the family when in party type circumstances, she's willing to bond; she really watches what you do and then anticipates your needs, she's great with little ones, idolizes teenagers, is kind, not selfish, likes poetry and mermaids;  she has learned quite a good bit of English in her desire to communicate with us, shows willingness to go to school and learn; can phonetically sound out our alphabet; she is willing to please and be happy, isn't into boys; she's bright, honest, intelligent, helps with chores, isn't a smart alek kind of kid.”

Sounds like a child a family would love to adopt right?  The host family thought so, too, and began the process to bring Liza home.  Their dossier was approved by the SDA in Ukraine and they traveled to Ukraine to adopt her.  They had a successful SDA appointment; they got their referral and traveled to her region and reunited with her. She has a brother who has already aged out and he wrote his consent to her being adopted.   All the paperwork in the region was accomplished and sent back to the SDA in Kyiv for approval before court.  The girl was ecstatic.  She wrote Ann: " thank u for saving me, can u believe the people who give me life do not care if I live or die".

But then the unthinkable happened.  The SDA said no.  The family was not allowed to go forward with the adoption.  This had nothing to do with Liza.  There was an issue with the family’s paperwork.   The assistant director was given the task of informing Liza why her new family would not be back.  Apparently she blamed Liza for it and now Liza is blaming herself.  Ann talked to Liza; she is depressed and is desperate to get out. 

The family’s initial reaction was not uncommon.  “Maybe someone will adopt her and bring her home to us.”  But they knew this was not the right thing to do.  Home now for several weeks, Ann said to me “We are all still standing here like someone died of a sudden heart attack.”  Yet, even in her pain, this mom knows what is best for this child:  “I would love it if another family adopted her; anything, just that she's out of there.  Its like she’s drowning.  I don’t care WHO saves her.”

And so I pose this question to you, reader:  Could you be the one called to save Liza?  Will you pray and ask God if he would want to use you to help bind up the wounds inflicted upon this 14 year old girl?  She was so close to being rescued.  So. Very.  Close.  I pray that she will get another chance. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

God is at Work Part 2

 I want to give you an update on some of the children we hosted last year.  As many of you know, my family met Lena when we hosted her in 2012.  We hosted her brother, Sasha, in 2013, and later met their older brother, Alosha.  We have court on November 28th and will make these 3 a permanent part of the Davie family.  But there are others as well.

The Laws are a family from Colorado.  They were working with Lifeline, an agency here in Birmingham to adopt from Ukraine.  Lifeline suggested they come down to visit during our hosting program in July.  They did and felt drawn to 2 children in particular.  They returned home in September with Sergey and Kristina. Thank you, Lord, for leading the Laws to these 2 precious children.

While the children were passing through Kyiv on their way to Alabama last summer they stayed at the home of the Malones, missionaries to Ukraine, and adoptive parents themselves.  A family was staying with the Malones in October who was about to go the SDA for a blind referral.  The Malones remembered Tanya and Yura, whom we had hosted,  and told the Higbies about them.  This family also “happened” to be friends with the Laws.  (see paragraph number one).  The Higbies just had court this week, giving Tanya and Yura a Mama and Papa.  Are you loving how God weaves His way in and through His people?  Well, there’s more.

In March, I met Kostya; about to turn 16.  I decided to add him to our hosting list at the last minute and blogged about it.  The Torvinens read the blog.  And they recognized him.  In fact, Brandy had Kostya’s picture taped to her computer so she could be reminded to pray for him.  She had first read about him through another hosting organization.  The Torvinens came to Alabama and met Kostya.  They filed their paperwork before his 16th birthday, as is required.  And they have an appointment  November 26th to begin the adoption process of Kostya in Ukraine. 

God is at work.  He uses hosting programs, blogs, facebook, random meetings, and He glorifies Himself in them.  He has a special love for the orphan.  He gives us, His Bride, the amazing opportunity to be a vessel of that love.  Sometimes I feel  like a spectator; or, at best, a participant carried along on a wave over which I have no control.  I would encourage every reader of this blog, every supporter of GtU, every follower of Christ, to open your eyes.  Behold your God at work around you.  As my pastor, David Platt, often says, give God a blank check with no strings attached and see what He leads you to do.  Whatever it is, you can be assured, that it is God Himself who goes before you and He will accomplish all that He purposes to accomplish.  God is at work.  Won't you join him?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Due Season

Thursday, Anton took me and Taryn to the original Camp Druzhba (Druzhba is the Russian word for Friendship).  Right now we are having camp at the orphanage because the scope of having it at the official camp was larger than GtU can manage at the moment.  Having gone there yesterday, however, I am so motivated to move the camp back to its original location. We are putting together a video about camp and its importance to this region.  We interviewed Anton while at the camp site and toured the new dorms.  Many improvements have been made.  What was sad, however, was that when the last missionary who was leading camp left Ukraine, the coal mine, who owns the camp site, took down all signs of previous Christian influence.  The stage painting of Jesus welcoming little children had been replaced with a painting of a lion and a turtle.  The sign outside the gate touting Camp Druzhba as a Christian camp for children had been taken down. 

Fortunately, however, Christianity is not about signs and paintings.  The evidences of Christian influence at Camp Druzhba continue in more profound and meaningful ways.  Anton, himself, attended camp there; became a Christ follower through translating and is now the camp organizer.  Many of our interpreters here now attended Camp Druzhba over the years; learned English; heard the gospel and are now following Christ and sharing the gospel with the next generation of children.  Many of our campers are here because they have attended previously or they heard about us over the years.  Since 1998, seeds of the gospel have been planted at Camp Druzhba and we are privileged to see the fruit.  This encourages me greatly and I can tell you that GtU is not about to leave this place.  Certainly, if God were to call us to go elsewhere, we would be obedient.  But right now, we are firmly planted here and will do all we can, by God’s grace, to continue to water the seeds planted over the years.

God continues to move here.  Children are hungry to know the Word.  Relationships have been built over the years that we must continue to nourish.  We see kids everyday that we met 6, 7, or 8 years ago.  The community benefits financially as well as spiritually from our presence here.  We have been on TV, and we try to take advantage of that notoriety, all for the glory of God.  The people here are entrenched in legalism and superstition.  Most cannot begin to comprehend the grace of God that saves them and keeps them.  But then again, neither did I for many years.  Please pray for these people.  These children.  For GtU and its team to have wisdom, discernment and perseverance.  We hear stories daily from orphans and other children that are gut wrenching.  The weight of it all can be staggering as we try to accept that we cannot fix every problem or save every child.  We must simply be obedient to God’s call to be here; to share the Gospel, and trust that He is doing things we cannot yet see.  Just like those before us.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

God is at Work

We are only in the third day of the second Bible camp, but already we see God at work.  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  But in this instance, the pictures cannot begin to convey what is going on in the hearts of our campers and workers. 

This morning, the older girls’ 45 minute Bible Study, last over an hour.  The girl’s were asking questions about sin, the Holy Spirit, how to hear from God.  Yesterday these same girls listened intently as Alexandra told them they were made in the image of God and they explored ways in which that should effect how they live.  Alexandra said it was obvious they had not heard these things before.

Each night, the Bible study leaders go to the children’s dorms right before bedtime, to pray and have a short devotional.  Last night, the older boys were still talking after an hour.  They, too, had serious spiritual questions.  One wanted to know why our beliefs were so different from the beliefs of many professing Christians in their village and why our beliefs seemed “better”.  Kyle and Blaine patiently shared with them into the night, opening the Scriptures and praying for wisdom and discernment.

One 14 year old boy who goes to school in Lugansk explained to me that he got many invitations to summer camps but he chooses to come this camp.  He and his twin brother started attending when the camp was lead by Shane and Marilyn Duke.  He has a hunger for the word and is eager to share it with others.

Dorm parents are asking questions, moving from skepticism to real interest.  Team members and interpreters sit in the hallway of our dorm at all hours of the day and night, reading the Word and sharing their testimonies.  Prayer requests are moving from the simple “pray that I play soccer better” to the more serious “pray that I can share my faith in school”. 

Each of us on this team has come to Ukraine believing this is where God called us to be this summer.  Our team members are young adults, 19-21, except for me and Taryn.  We each raised our own support to get here.  We are from different churches, different cities and states; no one church or organization has sent us.  We are doing nothing grand; nothing fancy.  We are simply here, the Body of Christ, brought together by a common desire to share the Gospel in a place that is “white for harvest”.  God is doing a work, often times in spite of us.  Please pray with us and for us, that the Gospel seeds that we are planting will bear fruit and that the Glory of our God will spread though the village of Belaroschenska, Ukraine and beyond.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bible Camp in Ukraine

The first Bible camp ended 4 days ago and the second camp will start 4 days from today.  Words just cannot do justice to the blessings we have experienced while serving here in far east Ukraine.  

This camp is not specifically for orphans.  Children from this village and surrounding villages are invited to come.  Many of these children are impoverished; many live in difficult situations; some are children of local taxi drivers or businessmen. All of them need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is why we come. 

The last night of camp we asked the children to tell their Bible study leaders what they believed about Jesus Christ.  Some said he was the Healer.  Some said he was God.  Many said “He is my Deliverer”.  These words were sweet to our ears.  One older girl said the one thing that she remembered most from our Bible studies was the Jesus could calm the storm simply by speaking.  I am thankful to our team who conveyed these precious truths and thankful to In Lumine Media for the Russian translation of the Jesus Storybook Bible.  It was exciting to see kids sitting around in the afternoon reading their Bibles.  Encouraging when, after reading the next to last story in small group, an older girl asked if they could read the last story so they could know what happens next. 

When I first met with our worship leader for camp, I was not sure we were going to work smoothly together.  He conveyed to me that the songs I had chosen for the children to learn were too deep; he thought the children would not understand the meaning of the lyrics.  How precious to watch the children’s faces as they sang “I’m running to your arms, the riches of your love will always be enough, nothing compares to your embrace…..”; but also to see Maxim’s excitement grow daily as he taught them about worship.  Maxim turned out to be one of the strongest leaders at camp and he and I were always on the same page as we lead the children deeper into the word.

I am honored to serve alongside all these believers, both American and Ukrainian.  But I cannot end this blog without mentioning my friend and partner, Taryn Kilpatrick.  Taryn sees a need and with a fierce determination, seeks to meet that need.  She saw that we had food leftover after each meal; so she began taking food to the handicapped, the poor, even the intoxicated.  She serves the Lord with reckless abandon in this and so many ways and I love her.

Please like our facebook page and check out all the pictures if you have not already.  You will be blessed.  Thank you to all who give to make our ministry to the orphaned and poor of Ukraine possible.  Hosting, Bible camp, special needs ministry, bibles; we could do none of this without your prayers and financial support.  God is certainly being glorified through it all. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Another hosting program comes to an end.  The pool towels are folded and stored away.  Beds are stripped and sheets are being washed.  The kitchen is clean.  And yet the quiet is deafening.  The emptiness is strange and uncomfortable.  The memories, sweet and yet raw.  I will attempt to share a few random memories that I hope capture the spirit of our annual hosting of Ukrainian children, orphaned and alone, through no fault of their own.   

The first few days the children were here, they were quiet during sabraniye; staring at me with unfamiliar eyes.  (Sabraniye is Russian for “gathering” and is what we call our nightly Bible study time.  The photo above is of our last sabraniye).  It did not take long before the children began interacting: sharing prayer requests, asking questions, joking, speaking longingly of their hopes and dreams. At one point my heart overflowed with joy when one boy, who had previously said he did not believe in God, asked for a Bible to read along during the lesson.  I delighted in their retention of what was begin taught; and I laughed on the last night when a previously shy boy sat in my chair and began conducting his own sabraniye, complete with my usual comments and questions.

One night we talked about treasures here on earth and how they did not compare to the treasure of Christ.  I started this discussion by asking what they longed for in this world more than anything.  None of these impoverished children said money, cars, or fame.  They wished only for a family.  My husband and I are blessed financially.  If money could make them happy; satisfy their deepest desire, then I could, and would, give it.  But I can’t provide them all a family.  Only God can do that.  And only God can reveal to them that even a family will not ultimately satisfy.  They need Christ. And yet my heart aches that they must return to a place where there is no one to lead them there. 

One of our translators who lives here in America is an orphan who has a student visa and is in college in the US.  After spending a few days around me and Jay, she remarked “I wish I could be a kid again (pause).  A kid with a family.  It must be so nice just to say ‘Mom, I need something’ and you are right there.”  We take for granted all the many blessings we have.  A home. A family.  I was asking one of our boys about his life.  He focused in on how long he had been in the orphanage.  He is 15.  He has been in the orphanage for 9 years.  “longer than anyone else” he pointed out.  He told me how long each of the other kids had been there; repeated he had been there the longest, and then he laid his head on the table, covering his face with his arms.

One Sunday,  a young man adopted from Ukraine about 6 years ago, shared his testimony with the kids.  There was not a dry eye among the Americans or the Ukrainian children as he shared about his life in Ukraine; his problems after adoption; and his recent transformation by Christ.  The children hung on his every word and in the end, I pray, found hope. 

I don’t do statistics.  But right here in our little group, whether it be with the kids themselves or their friends and extended families back in Ukraine, we see teen pregnancy, cutting, abuse, prison.  Sin has ruined our world.  It has ruined the lives of these 19 children.   In Ukraine, America, Africa, Haiti, the harvest is plentiful.  I thank God for the few harvesters He has sent into my home these last 21 days.  These children have experienced love.  And each of them has heard the gospel.  They have been hugged, fed,  pampered.  I am thankful for visitors from Iowa, Mississippi, and Colorado.  I appreciate the churches and businesses who have sponsored meals and activities.  And yet sometimes I cry because of the greatness of the harvest and the scarcity of workers.  And yet in all these things, I know that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. 

In 2 days, a team of 13 of us, most of whom just spent the last 21 days with GtU, will board a plane to spend a month in Ukraine.  While there, we will share the love of Christ with impoverished village children.  We will once again play, hug, laugh and share what it means to follow Christ.  And then, as is always the case, we will tearfully say goodbye,  longing in our hearts for the day when sadness, poverty, alcoholism, and orphanages will all cease.  Lord Jesus, come quickly. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Blog of Two Worlds

This world. Sitting in the dugout at a tee ball game amongst irrelevance. One mom screaming at her 5 year old to get his hand out of his mouth and pay attention. One dad continuously making trips into the dugout to scold his 6 year old son for running too slow.

The other world. Children living in a government orphanage. Either abused or abandoned by their parents or without living parents. Unwanted.

I straddle the two worlds. Watching the game while chatting on my phone with a family seeking to obey God's command to care for orphans. They share that they are going to pursue the adoption of 2 children I know.

I stare out into left field and cry. Tears of joy because 2 more children in that other world are wanted.  Yet gripped with a sort of surreal sadness in the midst of people blind to what is truly relevant.

Two worlds. Distant and yet I exist in both. Unable to reconcile them, but thankful when they collide.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Searching for Peace

I correspond regularly with one of my Ukrainian son's brother.  He was too old to be adopted when we adopted our son.  I spend time with him every time I go to Ukraine.  I grieve for him because I know he wishes he could be here with us.  He has no one.  No parents.  No grandparents.  No siblings other than my son.  His eyes are always so sad and it breaks my heart.  I can't even try to bring him here on any sort of visa due to paperwork issues that won't get resolved for a few more years. Today he told me about a nice girl he had met.  I told him how much I wanted the best for him and I prayed he would find love and happiness.  He thanked me but explained there were just so few "good people" in his world.  He asked me to write him more often because it makes him feel more peaceful.  He calls me Mommy.  I call him son.

He does not want to become a statistic.  He is only 23.  He works.  He has a roof over his head.  He is not an alcoholic.  But his life is empty and he is alone.  I know that I am not the answer.  I know I cannot fill the void in his heart.  I can continue to love him.  Share Christ with him.  And do what I can to prevent others from sharing his fate.