Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nice to Meet You

We have been learning some common greetings for when you go to Ukraine or meet a Ukrainian child.  Hello.  How are you?  What is your name?  And now we have to learn to say "nice to meet you."  The easy and informal way is "Очень приятно" (o-chen pree-yat-nah).  Or the more formal, which I practiced and practiced before I went to Ukraine the first time, is "Приятно познакомиться (Pree-yatnah poz-nah-ko-meet'sa).  ("Очень" by the way means "very" and is often used like our own adverb: very hungry, very cold, I miss you very much.  It sounds kind of like ocean but with a "ch" instead of "sh".)   It definitely helps to listen to the words, not just read them!  A free downloadable resource is "Before You Know It". Yes, it is free.  No excuse not to download it and practice a little Russian daily.  You won't regret it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Jesus Storybook Bible

We will be using the Jesus Storybook Bible to share the Gospel during hosting as well as at Camp Friendship.  I have been reading it.  Writing a curriculum based on it.  And I have been blessed.  I like the Jesus Storybook Bible.  I like it for children, teens, adults. Orphans, adopted children.  Biological children. Parents.  Yeah, I pretty much like it for everyone.  Anyone.  Why?  Especially since its a "storybook", not a word for word translation by any means.  There are a lot of reasons why I like it.  I will give one, based upon my personal experience.

When my older children were little, I took the whole character training route.  Not that there is anything wrong with character training.  UNLESS, they pick up along the way that good character earns them favor with you.  And with God.  At some point, by God’s grace, I learned that character could not be taught apart from the Gospel.  One might as well teach a blind man to see. Not that I don’t struggle with this still.  But that’s why I like the Jesus Storybook Bible. Everyone, anyone, will see the precious Gospel woven throughout; they will see God, Christ, in every story, not the dreaded to do list.  

A beautiful example from the story of the Ten commandments:  "God promises to look after you," Moses said.  "Will you love him and keep these rules?"  "We can do it! Yes! We promise!"  But they were wrong.  They couldn't do it.  no matter how hard they tried, they could never keep God's rules all the time.  God knew they couldn't.  And He wanted them to know it, too.  Only One Person could keep all the rules.  And many years later God would send Him - to stand in their place and be perfect for them.  Because the rules couldn't save them.  Only God could save them.  

Like many, I taught my children when they were young about  the rules they had to follow in order to escape my wrath and God's.  I taught them about the characters in the Bible, more than about the God of the Bible.  I taught them that Noah was the only “good” man in the world, and thus he was saved from the flood.  I taught them about Joseph’s bad brothers selling him into slavery; I told them they could be Davids slaying their Goliaths. I tried to teach them to be good….or else. 

Our dialogues went something like this:
Me:  why can’t you just obey me?
Child: I don’t know.
Me:  Well, you better figure out why because the Bible says you are to obey your parents.  Yada-yada-yada.

Today, my dialogue with my youngest goes something like this:
Child:  I can’t obey.  Its too hard.
Me:  I know.  That is why Jesus came.  He knew you could not obey on your own.
Child: Will he help me obey?
Me:  Of course, he will. 

The Jesus Storybook Bible won’t teach your kids to be like Noah, or David, or even Christ for that matter.  It won’t give you a list of character traits that your child must master.  What it will teach you, and help you to teach your kids, is that God's love is unmerited and unrestrained; and that He is a Faithful and Sovereign Creator, King and Deliverer; and that faith in Him is the only way to Him.    It will help you and your child go back to your real, non-storybook Bible, and more clearly see Christ in every story.   And I like that.  


Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Fine, thank you" and other common phrases

So, we all know the answer to "how are you?" right?  At least in English.  "Fine, thank you."  You give the same answer in Russian.  It goes like this: "хорошо,Спасибо." ( kha-rah-sho, spah-see-bah).  These two words are words that you hear very frequently and should learn.  Хорошо (kha-rah-sho) also means "OK" and is used as often as our "OK" and Спасибо!  (spah-see-bah) means thank you.  Say it often.  And speaking of thank you, the word that you say in response (equivalent to our 'you're welcome') is Пожалуйста! (pa-zhal-sta).  This word also means "please".

Here is another good site for learning the basic phrases you will need to know when you go to Ukraine.

Speaking of which, we are taking a small team over the first week of March.  If you would like to send a card or other small item to any of the children we are hosting or have hosted, contact me and let me know.  They love to know that you are thinking of them!  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beads and Change

We are interrupting our regularly scheduled beginner Russian lessons, to bring you this important announcement about some easy but significant ways you can support Grace to Ukraine.  First, we have issued a "change challenge".  We are asking everyone to begin to collect their spare change and give it toward sponsoring a child for hosting this summer.  Could you and your family round up $10 worth of change lying around your house?  $20?  Whatever you can give, remember that your change can bring change for an impoverished or orphaned child in Ukraine.  If you are a business owner and can put a change collector in your place of business, let me know and I will provide you with a custom container that shows what the change goes will go toward.

Secondly, as we prepare to lead a team to Camp Friendship this summer to conduct a Bible camp, we are finding that we could use some simple items that you could help us with.  For example, Mardi Gras beads.  One day at camp we will be acting out the exodus.  We need "gold and silver" thrown at us as we leave Egypt!  Mardi Gras beads work perfect for this! I took beads another year and had the Ukrainian camp workers begging for some to take home to mothers, sisters, daughters, etc.  So to all you Mardi Gras participants out there, we need your beads!  Let me know if you can help!  As I complete the curriculum that we will be using at camp, I will post a list of needed items on our website. The money we save on supplies means more money toward helping local village children come to Camp Friendship.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

How are you?

Just like in America, when people greet each other in Ukraine,  they will ask “how are you?”  If you have been paying attention, you know the Russian word for “how” is  “Как”.  The “a” in Russian sounds like the short  “o” in English and the “K” sounds just like our K, so you have just read your first Russian word!  Congratulations!  The most common expression that you will hear for “how are you?” is the informal “Как дела??”  (kak de-lah?)  In a formal situation, you would ask “Как у Вас дела?” (kak oo vas de-lah), which frankly I have never used; for if I am in a formal situation, I have a translator, and don’t have to  try to remember all the Russian formalities.   Below, there’s a link for you to listen to these expressions as well as to jump ahead and  see how Ukrainians handle the standard “fine, how are you?” response.  But first I will tell you a story about my first formal encounter in Ukraine.

The very first time I went to Ukraine, I was visiting my son’s orphanage and was summoned to the Director’s office.  Our translator had taken the other team members, except for me and my daughter,  to lunch.  Alexandra and I were not about to waste a second of our time in Ukraine eating, when we could be visiting the orphanage.  Anyway, I had practiced and practiced,  “Здравствуйте!”, (zdras-tvooy-tyeh) the formal “hello” but  after that, I  was clueless.  This particular Director was a very formal and respected woman whose respect I was hoping to earn, so this was not the ideal situation to say the least.  So Alexandra and I go into  her office, give our best “Здравствуйте!”, and sit down.  Somehow we managed to say yes to the offer of tea, which also came with  lots of candy; and we managed to explain that our translator was at lunch.  Other than that, we politely sat and nodded our heads “yes” for about half an hour until our translator came running in.  There is no telling what we agreed to!  Five years later, I had another Director visiting in my home and knew enough Russian that we were able to sit for hours and chat about all manner of things.  So be encouraged!  Whether you know a lot or a little Russian, smiles, nods, good manners, respect and a good faith attempt at learning the language will go a long way!   Happy learning!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Introductions in Russian

Privyet!  So now that we can say hello in Russian, both formally and informally, lets learn how to ask someone their name.  This is a good question to know how to ask when you are visiting an orphanage or a group of hosted children.  The informal way is by asking “Как тебя зовут?”  pronounced kak te-BYA za-VOOT.  Literally this means “how you they call” but is equivalent to “what is your name” in English.  In a formal situation, you would “Как вас зовут? ?” pronounced kak vas za-VOOT?  The person will respond with their name.  To introduce yourself simply say “Меня зовут...  Suzette” , pronounced “men-YA za-VOOT  Suzette”.  Literally this means “Me they call Suzette.”  Here is a link for listening to introductions:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Surprises in Adoption

Let me start this post by saying I am an adoption advocate.  We have adopted 4 times.  It is a beautiful thing.  I love each of my children dearly and would not choose any other way than adopting them into our family.  But whenever I talk to anyone considering adoption, I do my best to be honest about the difficulties that can also accompany that process. I once had a friend tell me that from the outside looking in, adoption was such a romantic notion.  And it certainly is the "in" thing to do right now among celebrities, and even among Christians.  But I have heard stories over the years, and even during the last week, that lead me to believe that many people are jumping into the adoption process without adequate preparation.  So I write this blog post to anyone considering adoption, encouraging you to count the cost before you allow your heart leeway to rule over your actions.

In a very simple sense, my advise to all considering adoption is to investigate and educate thoroughly before you jump in there.  Talk to other adoptive families; both in person and online.  Understand that from the standpoint of some, adoption is a business and you cannot trust everything everyone says.  I never want to discourage people from adopting.   But what I want to encourage and see more hosting programs encourage is education and transparency.   I have known of children getting hosted without anyone ever mentioning to the family such issues as:  "there is an older sibling who will also have to be adopted";  "grandmother or aunt visits frequently and the child would not want to leave them"; or "this child has x behavior problems in the orphanage which most likely will continue if you adopt them."  This bothers me.

I have heard of hosting programs "guaranteeing" you a child.  But you need to know that the child you feel 100% God has called you to adopt, might get adopted by another family before you get there.  Some hosting or adoption programs will tell you that every orphan is longing for a family to come and whisk them away.  I will tell you from experience that you should give up 5-8 weeks of your life, knowing that, while in Ukraine, this child you have loved and worked for, might say to you, "no, I don't want a family." People (perhaps even you) will think your children are going to be so thankful that you came for them.  I say, fork out all that money knowing that your new child may never appreciate that you redeemed him.    Sometimes I think adoptive parents have even greater expectations for a child because of this notion that they should be "grateful".  I have, and still, fight this tendency, even while I, personally, am lacking in gratitude toward my heavenly Father.

 Please recognize that your family will have to make sacrifices for this new family member.  Be prepared for the fact that this child might have deep rooted psychological issues that need counseling or medication.  I mean he was orphaned through either death, abuse, neglect or abandonment. And he is leaving behind friends and the only culture he has ever known.  As some have said before, adoption, from the child's point of view, begins with trauma.  We are home, preparing our hearts for this child, missing them, loving them, anticipating their arrival.  They are  surviving day by day in an orphanage.  Don't be surprised when their love for you is not yet as strong as your love for them.  We sometimes go into adoption thinking we are "rescuing" a child.  More than likely, they are not feeling as if they need rescuing.  Will they say they want  a room and bed to call their own?  Yes.  Toys or a computer?  Certainly.  An education and other opportunity?  Probably.  A family?  Maybe.  But if you expect them to be overflowing with gratitude because you came and rescued them, you need to rethink why you are doing it.  Remember, this is a trauma for them, not a rescue.

Not only should you educate yourself on adoption in general, but if you meet a particular child and fall in love with him or her, find out as much as you can about them before you begin the adoption process.  If a facilitator gives you only positive information, you might need to look elsewhere.  Does she have siblings?  What ages?  Ask about his family; do they visit; does he visit them?  Has he ever run away?  Does he smoke?  Drink?  Is she promiscuous?  Don't make a decision based entirely on the answers to these questions.  Remember, you are educating yourself.  I, personally, adopted a child I was advised not to.  But I knew going in what to expect. If you, like me, feel called to adopt a certain child, no matter the issues he or she has, then, by all means, go for it.  In fact, in my position, the calling was so great that it was more of question of how could I not?  But, once again, don't expect a great earthly reward.  Sometimes, those dreams of sweet, cozy holidays holding hands around the table don't come true.  Sometimes, no matter how much you love, no matter what you give, you will be rejected.

Once again, I do not say this to discourage adoption.  I have had my own share of difficulties with all my children.    There have been times, when one or more of my children, both biological and adopted,  have been estranged and not communicating.  Even so, I will never say to anyone, "based on my experience and the experience of others, you should never adopt."  Just like I will never say "based on my experience with my biological children, you should never give birth!"  But just as young parents read books about a child's first few years, and consult pediatricians, and listen to advise from older parents, potential adoptive parents should educate themselves on issues related to bringing a new child into the family through adoption.  This especially applies to the adoption of older children.  As a disclaimer, I know children who have had few, if any problems, beyond normal childhood stuff.  I am writing this not to paint a bleak picture for every child and every family, but so that you can pray and act with wisdom and foresight.

If any of this surprises you, ponder for a moment your own redemption. Have you always appreciated Christ's redemption of you?  Did you, like me, ever say "no, I don't want you" or " I want you but only on my terms"? We might not say we would rather stay in bondage to our sins but do our actions show it?  How many times have you preferred bondage in Egypt over the Promised Land?  And yet Christ left His home in glory to be born in a stinky manger so that we would have the opportunity to become part of His family.  He lived among sinful people, was rejected and murdered by them, and never once backed down from what He was called to do.  Look at Jesus Christ and know that redemption is not easy.  Adoption is not easy.  Set your face toward Ukraine, or whatever country God might be calling you to adopt from, and be willing to suffer for someone else for no other reason than God is calling you to do so.  If you do it for any other reason, because its the "in" thing to do right now; because you feel "sorry" for a particular child; because you want to "rescue" him or her; because it makes you feel all warm and tingly on the inside, then STOP!  You don't lay down your life for those reasons.  God enables you to do what He calls you to do.  And, often, what He calls you to do is lay down your life for someone else.  Often, he calls us to suffer.    So make sure he is calling you to adopt before you do it.  Educate yourself as to what adoption might mean for you and your family.  Make sure you understand grace; both as it is received, and as it is given (Freely, you have received.  Freely give.)  And, finally, "beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4: 12-13) 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Saying hello in Russian

There are 2 different ways to greet someone in Russian, formally or informally.  I had not been told this when we got involved with our first hosting program 5 years ago.  As a result, I greeted the Director of an orphanage with “pree-vyet”, the way one is to greet a child or close friend.  I had no idea how rude I was being!  So here’s the difference.  You have been forewarned!  When you greet a Director of an orphanage  or if you are in other formal situations, or if you don’t know someone well you say эдравстуйте (zdrast-vu-eetyeh). To family or close friends, you say Привет! (pree-vyet).  The former is much more difficult to say but if you are going to Ukraine, you have to learn to say it.  Here is a link to my favorite lesson on how to say Здравствуйте!  (zdrast-vu-eetyeh).  Gotta have fun with it!