Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ukraine, Here We Come!

I have been absent from the blogging world for a few weeks.  I have been under the weather but also have been very busy getting ready to go to Ukraine.  I will be leaving today along with 2 others: Taryn Kilpatrick, one of our board members, and my daughter, Alexandra, who has been ministering to orphans in Ukraine for as long as I have.  She has, in fact, been to Ukraine more times than me and knows way more Russian than me!  I am so happy that she is joining us this trip! (Jay, of course, will be with us!)

While I have suitcases filled with socks for the children, and the beginnings of camp supplies for this summer, my purpose for this trip is not to carry supplies.  Rather, I feel that it is so important to nurture the relationships we are building with the children as well as their caregivers.  I don't think it is enough to host the children in the summer and then never see them again.  As I have pointed out before, we must build relationships with the children now if we expect to be able to impact them in the future, as they graduate from the orphanage and beyond.  If you read my previous post, Directors are People, Too, you also know that I have some rebuilding to do with the Directors.  I am looking forward to getting to know the adults that are responsible for the care of the children that we love.

So please pray for us this week.  I want the name of Christ to be honored.  I want God to be glorified.  Not us.  Or America.  Or socks and other gifts.  Pray for me personally that I will remember that the Gospel is about people, not projects.  Pray for Taryn and Alexandra, that God would use them to bring love and healing to the broken.  Pray for the children.  The Directors.  Others that we meet along the way.  By praying, you are a necessary part of Grace to Ukraine and become the conduit through which we believe God will move mountains.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Strike Three

I had a revelation at about 1:30 this morning and I couldn’t sleep.  Most often, people think of adoption, especially into an America family, as the best thing that could ever happen to a child.  I have had people (including myself) tell my children how lucky they are, how blessed they are, how appreciative and grateful they must be.  What hit me early this morning was that it is the worst thing that can happen to a child. And then I couldn’t sleep.

Just think.  You lose your parents.  I cannot imagine the pain of that.  Whether the parent died or was neglectful, you lose the one person in the world to whom you had the strongest connection.  The person who was supposed to love you and care for you until adulthood.  Strike one.

Then you are placed into an orphanage.  Your basic physical needs are met.  But there is no mama to tuck you in.  No papa to teach you to ride a bike.  No mama to wipe away your tears.  No papa to teach you to respect the girls.  No mama to tousle your hair and tell you that you  are the most handsome boy she knows.  No papa to set the example of hard work and leadership.  No parents to affirm your worth.  No parents to meet your basic emotional needs.  Strike two.

Then a strange man and woman come.  They are obnoxiously happy.  They bring stuff and make promises.  They speak a different language.  They offer you things you have only dreamed of.  They put you on a plane and take you to country where everything is different.  And expect you to fit in.  You try.  But the language is hard.  The culture is different.  The other children your age seem to understand something you just can’t grasp.  You can’t fit in, no matter how hard you try.  Strike three.

Is the point of all this that we don’t go to a foreign country and adopt?  By no means!  The point is, what are you, as that American parent, going to do after strike three?  When they grieve, will you roll your eyes?  When their work ethic and coping skills are obviously lacking, will you throw up your hands and walk away?  When they cope with their loss in the only ways they have learned, will you threaten and cajole and punish?  When they just can’t seem to fit in, no matter how hard they try, will you reject? 

At one point or another, I have done all these things.  Rolled my eyes.  Thrown up my hands.  Walked away.  Screamed.  Threatened.  Rejected.  But now my heart has seen their reality.  Stripped of parents.  Stripped of dignity.  Stripped of their culture and their language.  How can I now roar “You’re outta here!!!”  I can’t.  Perhaps, instead, I will put the ball on a tee.  Maybe we’ll play soft pitch.  We might even put away the ball and bat and just sit in the dugout together and stare silently at the other players.  You know, the good ones, the star athletes, who have it all together.  Then I will tousle his hair and tell him he is the most handsome boy I know.  I will wipe away his tear.    We will go home, and by God's grace, we will affirm his worth by trying to create a place in which he can fit in.  Without even trying.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Directors are People, Too.

Orphanage directors are people, too.  Perhaps an odd title for a blog, you might say.  But I have to keep reminding myself of this fact.  I tend to see orphanage directors as a means to an end.  They can either be helpful or obstructive to ministries wanting “access” to their children.  I am just trying to be honest, here.  This hit me in a big way after our most recent trip to Ukraine.

I am often a tunnel-visioned person when it comes to projects I am pursuing.  It was no different in October when we went to visit the children we had hosted last summer.  I had clothes to deliver; Bibles to distribute; games to play; children to hug, and well, pity the poor soul who got in my way.  I came home after that trip with a heavy heart for my dictatorial attitude.  The orphanage directors were probably most thankful to see me go.

Don’t think for one minute that I am wallowing in self-imposed guilt.  I don’t feel guilty at all.  What I feel is broken.  God, in His grace and mercy towards me and the directors, broke my heart for them.  He opened my eyes to see them as precious individuals made in His image, as much as the children in their care.  God allowed me to see myself through their eyes.  And at that moment, I could not wait to go back. 

I want to sit down with the adults I encounter.  I want to learn their names.  Their childrens’ names.   Their struggles.  Their hopes and dreams.  I want to see them through eyes of grace, not as a means to an end, but as a fellow pilgrim in this journey called life. 

This conviction was confirmed to me last Sunday when my pastor, David Platt, reminded us at the Church at Brook Hills, that the gospel is about people, not projects.  I am naturally a project-oriented person.  Give me a project and I will get it done.  To be people-oriented takes more time.  More patience.  And more God.  It does not come naturally to me.  I am so thankful to serve a God who tells me in 2 Corinthians 12:9:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  In 4 weeks, I will make another trip to Ukraine.  Pray for me, that God’s power, not my on, will be on display.