Friday, November 7, 2014

Guest Blog: Be Brave

One year ago, I blogged about Vova, an older orphan. Prudence, whom I did not know at the time, read that blog and is now in process to adopt Vova and his sister. I pray at least one person will now read Prudence's blog and be brave enough to follow in her steps.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Harvest time is here.

I face moments every year where I wonder if I can do this again next year.  It’s usually after hosting.  When I am tired.  Or discouraged. Or wallowing in self-pity because something did not go as planned.  This year, when the moment came, my sweet daughter was there to shake me back into reality.  “What?!” she exclaimed.  “Every year, kids you host are adopted!  Every year God brings new people to help you!  You can’t quit!”  And I don’t.   Because, you see, my daughter is right.  I can’t quit.  There is too much at stake.   Now more than ever.  The war in Ukraine brings an urgency to the mission of Grace to Ukraine that must supercede my fragile emotions.  God knew I would face these feelings.  And so He gave me Galatians 6:9:  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  And then, just for good measure, He made sure I saw this video from our friends, the Evans.  They got involved with GtU for the first time this summer. They looked an orphan in the eyes; hugged him; opened their homes and hearts to him.  And their lives will never be the same.  I am not giving up.  Harvest time is here. 

Go here to read more of April and Scott's story.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Last fall, Taryn Kilpatrick and I had the opportunity to meet with the mayor of Krasnadon to discuss our work in his region. This fall, Grace to Ukraine has the opportunity to partner with the Birmingham Sister City - Ukraine Committee in collecting medical and first-aid items for wounded soldiers and civilians in Krasnadon and other areas of Lugansk.   The special needs orphanage that we have supported is located in Krasnadon; we have also hosted from there.  We mourn with them over the loss of lives in their community and cherish this opportunity to minister to those wounded yet alive.

Items that are SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED by the Ukrainian Embassy are
large waterproof pads
large adhesive pads
large sterile non-adhesive gauze bandages
wound care kits
gauze sponges
dressing gauze — “ALL SIZES”.
non-adherent dressing
medical adhesive tape
hemostatic blood coagulant burn ointment
bacitracin (triple antibiotic) ointment - NOTE: only small tubes available for minor/small wounds or burns.
painkillers, such as Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen (ADVIL), Tylenol, and Aspirin.

If you would like to purchase and donate these items, and you live in Alabama, you can drop them off at the following locations:

The Church at Brook Hills
3145 Brook Highland Parkway
Birmingham, Alabama  35242
(far end of the lobby near the modulars; near Room 130)

Ridgecrest Baptist Church
7773 Gadsden Highway
Trussville, Alabama  35173

Northwestern Mutual of Alabama
1901 6th Avenue North
Suite 2800
Birmingham, Alabama  35203

Crestway Baptist Church
6400 Crestwood Blvd
Birmingham, Alabama  35212
(Mondday-Thursday, 9am - 3pm)

Eaglepoint Baptist Church
301 Henry Road SW
Jacksonville, Alabama  36265

International Services Counsel
102 Gates Avenue
Huntsville, Alabama
Monday-Thursday 9am - 5pm)

Billy Barnes Enterprises
1626 Alabama 21
Frisco City, AL 36445

Liquid Life
25741 Perdido Beach Blvd.
Building A
Suite M
Orange Beach, Alabama  36561

If you live out of state, you can send them to Grace to Ukraine at 4006 St. Charles Drive, Birmingham, Alabama 35242. If you would like to make a monetary donation please write a check payable to the Birmingham Sister Cities Committee and in the "FOR LINE" write “Ukraine Humanitarian Relief". You can mail checks to:

Scotty Colson
Honorary Consul for Ukraine to Alabama
P.O. Box 55761
Birmingham, Al. 35255-5761

We will be collecting supplies through October 12th.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Living in Two Worlds

This is our reality this summer:

* a child many of us know (an orphan graduate) was killed by shrapnel as he innocently walked down the street

*we have swam, rode horses, roller coasters and water slides

*one of our guardians (a government official)  has returned to Ukraine; he was shot at and a bullet grazed his head; for the last week, he has been hiding in a bomb shelter as his village was under heavy fire; he is now riding around in a tank surveying the unbelievable damage to his community and asking for humanitarian aide:  medicine, food, clothing.

*we have laughed, loved, and learned of the God who created us

*our hosted children sat at my kitchen table and cried as they watched the video of the damage to their orphanage during battle

*nine of twelve children have a family committed to them as mentors, future host families, or  hopeful adoptive parents

Pray for these children, and for their country.

"I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!"  John 16:33

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Rescue

We began to plan for their summer trip to Alabama even before the protests began at Maidan, in Kyiv, in November.  12 orphaned children.  A peaceful country.   An easy road.  Then I stood at Maidan in December, bringing my own 3 new Ukrainian children home.  Something good was happening.  But there was thunder in the distance.  In February, a government was overthrown.  And then I stood in shock with the rest of the world in March when Russia invaded Crimea.

Immediately, I began communicating with our partners in Lugansk:  what if this happens here?  How will we get the children out?  For 3 months, text after text, email after email, communicating through an intermediary with government officials; talking directly with other humanitarian organizations in Ukraine; calling Embassies and Senators;  coming up with ideas that were impractical or too expensive.  Being told there was nothing we could do.  Being asked to do the impossible.  Praying.  Agonizing. Then in late May, hearing from the kids we planned to host that they were hiding in the basement of the orphanage; that they heard explosions; that they were scared they would never be able to travel to Alabama.  I am a doer by nature.  I fretted because time and time again, I came up with the conclusion:  there is nothing I can do. 

All I wanted was to get the children to safety.  There are 517 children in the state run orphanages in the Lugansk oblast.  This was not about 12 children but 517.  We made the decision that if we had to make the choice, the money we had raised for hosting would go to evacuating the children.  We tentatively made hosting plans even while being warned that all roads leading from the town where our children resided were closed.  No one could get in.  And no one could get out.

On June 2nd, there was a bombing in Lugansk city; at least 5 people were killed.  Things were getting worse.  Then on June 3rd,  I got this message:  we are in contact with the Ukrainian army and the Lugansk People’s Republic as well as the head of the train station; all orphans in the region will be evacuated to Odessa.  “When?” I asked. “Not sure”, was the reply.  This was a massive undertaking.

On June 4th we talked to Luda, one of our hosted kids.  She told us that the director was saying that only kids going to Odessa would be leaving the next day; kids going to America would have to wait.  What?!  I called Anton, our partner in Ukraine; he agreed we had to get our 12 kids out as well; this may be their only chance.  The morning of June 5th was chaotic; our 12 kids were not prepared to leave but were now being told to get on the bus.  There were now too many kids for the bus, according to the rules.  So we broke a few rules and our 12 kids joined the other 118 orphans escaping Severodonetsk.  The police escorted the bus the hour and half drive to Lugansk, through checkpoints, past armed men.  And the LORD our God went before them; mighty in power; with a gentle and fatherly love for the orphan.

Meanwhile, a train was on its way from Odessa to Lugansk to take the children to safety.  Several news sources reported that the train was detained at some point by militants, insisting it return to Odessa.  I do not know the details; but what I do know is that eventually those 118 children plus another 384 orphans got on that train and made it safely to Odessa and our 12 got on a train leading them to Kyiv.

Right now they are staying at a Christian camp out side of Kyiv run by Andrew Kelly and Jeremiah’s Hope.  Their visa appointment is tomorrow, June 10th; they are scheduled to fly to Alabama on June 16th.  I am overwhelmed by what happened.  When I could do nothing, my God did it all.  My new Ukrainian daughter, still struggling with faith, said “I began to believe more in God yesterday when the children got out of Lugansk.”  God was on display for all to see. 

Yesterday at the Church at Brook Hills, the sermon was on Psalm 91.  What perfect timing:

2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.

As our hosting date nears, and I plan for our nightly sabrinya (Russian for "gathering" and when we have our  Bible study), please pray that these children will see that God alone is their Rescuer and that He offers the ultimate rescue through Jesus Christ.  I, personally, am once again humbled by that Truth. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stories from the Spring Trip to Ukraine

Today, Taryn is winding up her last days in Ukraine on behalf of Grace to Ukraine.  She and her small team have visited all the orphanages where we serve.  They have also made time for outreach to individuals and families in a variety of difficult situations.  Every trip to Ukraine brings back hosts of stories of despair as well as encouragement.  Today I  want to share with you one of the more encouraging stories.

For well over a year, Grace to Ukraine has been providing Jesus Storybook Bibles to the orphaned and poor in Ukraine.  When someone purchases an English version of the bible from us for $20, we give  a Russian version  to a child in Ukraine.  One of our partners in Ukraine is a young woman by the name of Lori Jackson.  Lori delivers our diapers each month to the special needs orphanage, among many other things.  She always takes a Jesus Storybook Bible with her. Some would question if the children there understand these stories.  But today, I received this wonderful message from her about her time at the special needs orphanage with Taryn:

 Suzette, let me tell you...we were all in the room there at the special needs orphanage, and you know how chaotic (in a good way) it can get in there, but I'm playing ball with one kid, interpreting across the room for Taryn for another kid, trying to listen to the conversation Terry and Anton are having behind me all at the same time. Next to me on the floor is the Jesus Story Book Bible, and one of the little boys scoots up beside me, opens it, pushes it towards me, points at the picture on the title page of Jesus surrounded by children and says "Jesus." 

I stopped worrying about what Anton and Terry were talking about, I told Taryn what had just happened, I threw the ball to one of the other kids and turned to Danya and said "you want to read about Jesus?" and with the biggest smile on his face he nodded his head and said "DA!"

When I'm there I mostly play. I always take the Bible, and spend maybe five minuets out of my two hours actually sharing it's stories with the kids and even that is a minute here and a minute there with whichever kid has brought it over and sat next to me for as long as their attention will hold them, then it's onto the next thing. 

With Danya today, it was the same, we didn't spend long looking at the pictures or talking about who God is, but what a gift for me to see that He KNOWS what's important. Mostly you just want them to know that they are LOVED, but you wonder how much they understand. Today  I asked Danya who Jesus loves and he said "me." I asked him if Jesus loved me. He said yes. I asked who else He loved and he said "everyone." 

Oh me of little faith.

What a gift today to get a glimpse of what He is doing! So thankful for those who came before me and for every person who has held a child there and told them that they are loved.

Glory to God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No Turning Back

Ukraine.  If you have turned on your TV lately, you have heard about this little country, about the size of Texas, situated between Russia and Europe.  I love Ukraine.  More than half of my family is made up of Ukrainians.  Out of 10 Davie children, 6 of them began their lives in Ukraine.  We have family and friends there.   We travel there several times a year.  In fact, I just returned from there 3 days before Christmas with our three newest children. 

The protests in Kyiv were still in their infancy when were there.  We visited Maidan and I was moved by the peaceful nature of those in attendance; inspired by their patriotism and respect.  All of my children speak Russian as do most people that we know in Ukraine.  In all my visits there, this one included, I never felt any prejudice or ill will toward Russian speakers or even Russians for that matter.  No. The people of Ukraine simply wanted to escape the oppression and corruption of their own government. 

That is why today I shake my head in disbelief that there is a real threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, especially in far east Ukraine on the Russian border, where 5 of my children are from.  Daily we read the news reports and talk to friends and family there.  They are all OK; but some of them believe the Russian propaganda that says the US is to blame for everything.  My children don’t understand the politics of it all; they ask if they will still be Ukrainian if their country is taken over by Russia.  They  wonder if Ukraine will become “a part of Europe” or cease to exist. 

I am very thankful that I got all of my children out of Ukraine before this crisis.  However, my heart breaks for the orphaned children I know that remain there.  I am President of an organization called Grace to Ukraine.  Each summer we bring orphaned Ukrainian children to Alabama to introduce them to a new culture, a new language, a new way of thinking.  We introduce them to hope.  We then visit these children in Ukraine, taking them winter coats, hats and socks.  We also provide a monthly supply of disposable diapers to a special needs orphanage in east Ukraine.  We have been doing this for over a year and the quality of life there has greatly improved just by this simple gesture.    These are innocent children.  Orphaned through no fault of their own.  And now caught up in a political struggle they don’t understand.  One that will either pull them westward toward more help and more hope; or eastward toward a country that has halted adoptions and is renown for its substandard care of the orphaned. 

Often people ask me and my husband, Gabe, why we chose Ukraine. I like to respond to this question by asking “why not Ukraine?”  We are licensed foster care parents.  We have adopted a child domestically.  We have helped build orphanages in Haiti and supported the care of the poor and orphaned in Uganda.  But God, through a series of circumstances,   gave us children from Ukraine.  We would not have rejected them based upon their nationality and we will not now turn our backs on their home country and the people we love that are still there. 

Likewise, Grace to Ukraine, cannot turn back from its mission there.  In fact, our mission there has become all the more urgent.  Ukraine is in financial ruin; robbed by its own elected officials.  Services to the poor, already a low priority, will suffer even more.  As long as we are allowed to do so, we will go; we will help; we will endeavor to bring hope and love to children whom society has ridiculed and shunned.  We plan to bring 10 orphaned children to Alabama the first three weeks of June and we look to our neighbors to help feed them, clothe them, and expose them to Alabama culture.  If God closes that door due to the political situation, we will look for new ways to help. 

We have been blessed in such a way, that the question boils down to one of “why would we not help the children of Ukraine?” And even “why would we not add to our family when we can?”  But in telling our story, I don’t want to bring attention to what we have done.  Rather, I hope to inspire you to begin to look at your world through different eyes.  Perhaps you are not called to go to Ukraine.  But there are 195 other countries in this world.  Many with impoverished and orphaned children. Some estimates say there are as many as 143 million.  You can’t help them all; but maybe you can help one.  Grace to  Ukraine is one avenue.  There are many, many others.  I welcome the opportunity to speak to churches and civic groups about  the various ways to get involved with orphan care and can be reached through our website,