Saturday, June 23, 2007

Getting Water

This evening Edna and I were sitting in our living room when we heard a familiar voice outside our balcony window say “Babusya, mozhna?” (Grandma, can I?) We went to the window to see what was going on and there was Joshua carrying an empty water jug and bucket with a little old woman. We watched as they walked down the street to go get water from a well. I ran and grabbed the camera as Joshua helped her fill up her jug and bucket. Once they were full she insisted that they were too heavy for him to carry, so he walked back with her and offered to help her clean up some trash across from her garden.

Later, we asked Joshua how he knew this woman. He told us that he has been helping Babusya Natalia water her garden in the evenings. He said he wanted to see what was in her garden so one day he asked her if he could help her. Through gestures she let Joshua know that when her vegetables were ready, he was welcome to have some. Edna and I were shocked to see that not only had Joshua started a friendship with a little old woman who doesn’t speak a word of English, he had also left his friends on the playground to do so.

As parents we sometimes look at our kids who wear their muddy shoes through the house for the fifth time of the day, refuse to pick up their toys off the floor yet pick up every dirty discarded object they see off the street, insist on touching everything in the house with their dirty hands except a bar of soap, and we say, “What have I done wrong that my child won’t listen to anything I tell them?” Then there are moments when we simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Joshua and Dominic have several friends that come over to play from time to time, but one little boy has really touched our hearts. His name is Maxime and although he’s 10 years old, he’s much smaller than any of the other kids. We’ve noticed that he’s one of the first kids out on the playground in the morning and one of the last to leave well after it gets dark. Most of the kids go in and out of the little store around the corner throughout the day and usually come out with ice cream or some other sweets. We’ve seen that little Maxime goes in with the other kids, but he never has money to buy anything. Sometimes Maxime goes three or four days in the same clothes and is usually covered in dirt from being outside all day.

One day we saw Maxime going into the house where he lives. We could see that it was small and unkept compared to most other homes and had no running water. We watched as little Maxime slipped inside and waved to us as he always does when he sees us. We felt so sorry for him because we recognized his house as the one we sometimes hear yelling come from late at night. Several times we’ve noticed that Maxime smells like alcohol. We suspect that his parents are probably alcoholics, which isn’t uncommon here.

Maxime likes to hang out at our house and play with Legos. He doesn’t speak any English and only speaks Ukrainian to us, but Edna makes sure he always has something to drink and she tries to get him to stay for at least one meal. He is always very polite and speaks with a tiny little voice compared to the other kids. Today he picked up Edna’s bible and was looking at it. She told him it was a bible and showed him a Ukrainian one. He nodded his head as he looked through it. At that point we said the only thing we could think to say in Ukrainian, “Jesus loves you.” He smiled and said, “Yes.”

This evening Maxime had dinner with us. I don’t think he quite understood why he couldn’t eat at first. He isn’t use to praying before he eats, but I hope he understood that we were thanking God for having little Maxime at our table. Please keep him in your prayers.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Blessings of Rain

Yesterday and today we were blessed with much needed rains. The warm weather had dried out the soil and withered some of the crops here. The recent rain has been a welcomed answer to prayer for many people.

Joshua was down at the river with our neighbors when the first rains hit yesterday afternoon. He said that nobody seemed to mind the rain and it didn’t stop them from cooking shashlyk (like shish kabob) over an open fire. The family that lives below us has a one year old girl named Natasha and an eleven year old girl named Oksana who speaks some English. They invited Joshua to spend the afternoon with them at the river and barbeque. Joshua assures us that he only swam in the “clean” part of the river.

When they got back from the river, they invited us over to their place for tea and cake. We were surprised to find out that they not only knew about God’s Hidden Treasures, but had been to their annual summer picnic for the disabled. A friend of Svitlana’s (Oksana’s mother), who was also visiting, said that her invalid brother had received a walker from GHT as well. How interesting that God would place these people in our path. We are hoping to continue to build relationships with our neighbors and are encouraged more than ever to learn Ukrainian.

Today, Edna taught a bible study at the GHT office. She was a little nervous at first, but she was encouraged by the response she got from two of the women who aren’t saved. She said they were eager to read more from their bibles and one of them started to cry towards the end. Please pray for Edna as she resumes her study next week.

I hung out with the guys down stairs in the wheelchair shop and Vadim, who handles the vehicles, talked a little about how the things of the world are nothing compared to having Jesus in your heart. He explained that God won’t judge us according to what we had in this world, but according to how we lived our life for Him. I didn’t have a translator, but I was able to understand about 75% of what he was saying. Next week, I’ll be using a translator to do a study with the guys in the wheelchair shop so prayers would be appreciated.

Tonight was the second night in a row that Nazar, one of Joshua’s friends, has had dinner with us. I think he likes Edna’s cooking. He usually brings over some candy or snacks to share with us and is always so polite. He makes it a point to shake all of our hands and say “hello” when he comes over. Tonight he even told Joshua that it was time to be quiet so we could pray before we ate. We are looking forward to getting some children’s bible stories in Ukrainian so we can share them with the kids that come over to visit. Thank you for all of your prayers in these areas.


Friday, June 08, 2007

The Baby House and Boys' Home

Wednesday, was a rough day, at least emotionally. We visited a baby house for new born to three year old orphans and then the boys’ home for mentally retarded children from three to twenty years old. We are looking into doing bible classes at the baby house and we will be doing a Vacation Bible School at the boys’ home in July. The baby house had fifty-four children and the boys’ home had one hundred and fifty.

The director of the baby house said some things that really disturbed me. She said that they had room for sixty children, but that they had “lost” some to adoption. Then she said that it was fortunate that they passed a law that limits the number of foster children a family can have at one time. She explained that if people are allowed to care for all of these children in their homes, then the staff at the baby house would loose their jobs. When she told us that, Edna leaned over and said to me that the director should pray for the day when they all loose their jobs because there aren’t anymore orphans.

It was extremely difficult to walk into rooms with giant cribs in the middle filled with little undersized children who would reach out to you and cry, “Mama! Papa!” Some had physical or mental disabilities while others were just a product of their environment. One room had only children with AIDS who were basically given no hope of any kind of future.

There was one little boy who was all smiles and his eyes lit up when he saw us. All I could do was smile at him and hold his hand. His legs were twisted up behind him and he basically had no use of his arms and only limited use of one hand. All he could do was to roll from side to side and lift up his head to flash a bright smile. I was totally unprepared for what I saw. I’m still having a hard time processing some of the images I was confronted with. I can understand why people wouldn’t want to visit there. The rewards can be great, but at the same time it’s a painful situation to witness. I pray that God will give me the strength to be able to take light to dark places.

I was glad that we went and were able to at least show some small bit of kindness, but what we saw and felt left us broken and drained. It was painfully clear to me that the needs we saw can’t be met by us alone. I left feeling completely helpless and overwhelmed with the thought of how those children have suffered and will continue to suffer.


It was so hard to take in all that I saw in both places on Wednesday. I saw things I wish never existed. I had to fight back my emotions several times and force myself not to cry. But I cried inside for each one of those precious children. Those babies were so tiny and underfed. And so many problems existed with them. I wondered, “What’s going on here in Ukraine? Is it the darkness over this country?” I don’t understand it. Maybe I never will. But, I was holding all of these babies and loving them and wishing I could just take them home to love them. I wish things were that simple, but they aren’t. I couldn’t help but think that there’s nothing I can do to make a difference here. It’s too much. All I can do is pray. I am praying for a way that the Lord will use me in their lives. I am just relying on Him to lead me in His direction.

It seemed to me that the conditions in The Boys’ Home were worse. The conditions were bad and the way they lived made me so sad. I am looking forward to doing the VBS at the Boys’ Home in July. The Baby House is closed, but because God’s Hidden Treasure gives money there monthly, we can go in there. I plan on meeting with the Director again so that I can make regular visits there. Please pray for God’s hand to be in it all and to use me in whatever way He sees fit.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Settling In

We have been in Ukraine for almost three weeks now and things are starting to feel normal. We have all the basic furniture and appliances we need plus dial-up internet so our home feels comfortable. All of us seem to have adjusted to everyday life here, especially the boys.

The view from our bedroom of the Ros river.

Our biggest worry was that Dominic and Joshua wouldn’t make friends and would feel isolated. Until a few days ago, we had a hard time getting the boys to even go outside. That all changed once we met our next door neighbor Olya. She speaks Russian, but she understood the little Ukrainian we spoke to her. Before we knew it she was introducing the boys to her grand daughter and all the kids at the playground. The boys quickly found themselves surrounded by Ukrainian children eager to play with the two American boys. As I write this our home is filled with the voices of ten Ukrainian children along with Dominic and Joshua. They have spent most of the day here playing various games and correcting our attempts at speaking Ukrainian. The sound of our house right now is a strange mix of Ukrainian and English sprinkled with some Russian for good measure. We wouldn’t have it any other way. God has truly blessed us.

When the boys are outside, they don’t want to come in anymore. We have to just about drag them in at night. They end up eating at other kids’ homes and avoid even coming home to eat sometimes. Joshua learned how to say he wants water in Ukrainian and so the other kids showed him where to get water when he was thirsty. They took him next door to a little old lady’s house where she has a well that she lets the kids use. They drop a bucket down and bring up cold refreshing water. It’s safer than tap water, I think.

The constant stream of kids has been a big help to our language studies. I’m sure we’ve been a help to their English studies as well. We’re hoping that through the children we will also be able to establish relationships with their parents. So far, everyone we’ve met has been very friendly and helpful. Most people realize right away that we don’t speak very much Ukrainian or Russian, but they are always happy that we try.

Edna getting some Ukrainian lessons.

The biggest surprise for me is how Dominic and Joshua have embraced Ukrainian foods and drinks. Edna and I love Ukrainian food, but the boys have always been picky eaters. Now the boys drink kvas (a wheat flavored drink sold from wheeled tanks during the summer) and eat vareneky (kind of like ravioli but it can be stuffed with anything from meat and cabbage to cherries and cheese) almost everyday. Dominic even had a salo (smoked pork fat) sandwich at a friend’s house. Joshua told us how good shrimp is when you fry it up with the heads still on them. So much for picky eaters.

Dominic surrounded by his new Ukrainian friends.