Friday, July 20, 2007

Maxime’s Cousin

The other day Maxime (pronounced Mahk-seem) showed up at our door and asked if he could come in. Of course we told him he was welcome to come in and play with Legos. When he came in there was a new boy following him. We asked who this new boy was and Maxime said it was his cousin who was visiting. His cousin introduced himself as Vova and told us that he was 8 years old. Like Maxime, he was very polite, but wasted no time in getting down to business with Legos with Joshua and Maxime. We have come to believe that Legos have to be the most universal toy ever invented. (They can also be the most annoying when you step on them with bare feet at night or suck them up in the vacuum.) The most interesting part of seeing these cousins together was that Maxime speaks Ukrainian and Vova speaks Russian. Sometimes they would look at each other funny and have to try different words, but for the most part they had no problem understanding each other. I know most people are bilingual here, but it’s still strange to here conversations in two languages at the same time.

Anyway, the next day Maxime was over and he told us he had to go somewhere with his dad. He wasn’t very happy about it so we were wondering what could be so bad. About a half an hour later we discovered what was so terrible. Maxime returned with a nicely buzzed hair cut. He posed for this picture while he was playing with Edna’s phone.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 4 and 5 of Vacation Bible School

Misha putting some final touches on sour cherries

We finished the last day of the VBS and said good bye to all the boys there. Edna and I were amazed yet saddened to notice that some of the boys there seemed to have few if any problems. I couldn’t help but think how their lives could be so different if they had a family who loved and cared for them rather than an institution. Some of the boys there are orphans, but most were given up to the state because their families couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them. Even normal children would become “disabled” under the conditions of the institution. It makes you wonder what qualifies a person as mentally disabled here. Another disturbing fact is that most medication is given by injection. What’s disturbing about that is that hypodermic needles are in short supply and as a result are often reused. Hepatitis is therefore common among these children. There are so many things that can happen to a child in these institutions, but I’d rather focus on the ways we can bring light into these dark places. Please pray that we can continue to have access to these beautiful children.

Edna watching over the chalk drawings

Saying good bye to Vova

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day 2 and 3 of Vacation Bible School

Yesterday and today went really well at the Boys’ Home. We told the boys about Daniel and the lions’ den yesterday so our theme involved lions. I had a lot of fun helping make lion masks and playing the part of Daniel as I was “thrown” to the lions. Today as we told the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being saved from the furnace, I noticed how the boys are really opening up to us and just being themselves. They were a little shy the first day, but now it blesses me to see how excited they are as they volunteer to sing for us and tell us what they know about the bible. I’m praying that we’ll have more opportunities to visit them in the future. I can see how much our time there means to them. I know the reality is that most of the boys there will spend their entire lives in an institution. If we can share one thing with them, let it be the Hope that we have in Christ.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Day 1 of Vacation Bible School

Today was our first day at the Boys’ Home for the Mentally Disabled doing a week long Vacation Bible School. Today’s theme was Gideon’s Army. We were all surprised at how smooth it went for our first day. Hopefully it will continue that way. This is our second time at the Boys’ Home and it was a little easier on us emotionally. The boys’ ages range from 4 to in their early 20s. The total number of boys living in the facility is about 150. We were a little overwhelmed the first time we met them all. This time we will be working with a much smaller number due to the size of our team. Our VBS team has five people on it including me and Edna. Two people came from California and one from Virginia. Out of the 30 boys who are involved in the VBS, the youngest, Vova, is 5 and the oldest, Misha, is 21. We are all excited to see what this week holds for us at the Boys’ Home.

When we showed Dominic and Joshua some of the pictures from today, Dominic asked me a tough question. He said, “Dad, why did God make those children like that?” I had to pray about that one for awhile. Where is the love in a God who creates children who can never care for themselves? The best answer I could give him was that God made those children the way they are so that His love could be reflected in the people around these children. Without weakness how could we ever be true servants to the weak? How could the love that Christ has poured into us overflow if it had no where to go? In some way or another, we are all weak, but it is that very weakness that allows us to find strength in Christ Jesus.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Franklin Graham Festival

Edna and Maria

We just got back from the Franklin Graham Festival in Kyiv. We’re all a little tired and wet since it rained most of the time, but we were blessed to witness all those who braved the rain to listen to the saving message of forgiveness in Christ. We noticed that many people didn’t have umbrellas or even a good jacket, yet they sat through the entire program. It was just amazing to witness how the simple truth of the Gospel can have such an effect on such a huge scale.

The four of us rode up with Maria, our language teacher, and her mother. Maria’s father, Fedir, was the Master of Ceremonies for the festival so it was kind of strange for us to see him up on the big monitors. Joshua thought that was pretty cool because he only knows Maria’s dad as the guy who is always trying to teach him Ukrainian words. We all like him a lot. He’s a great guy who has raised two wonderful Christian daughters.

Maria's dad

After the festival, we said good bye to our friend David from the Bible College who had met us at the festival before returning to Nizhyn. He introduced us to a girl named Oksana who lives in Kyiv but used to live in Nizhyn. She happens to be working on a project to get a playground built at a special needs center in Nizhyn and we have been following the progress as David relays it to us. It’s awesome to see the things God can do.

An outpouring of people and rain

Friday, July 06, 2007

Beware of Dead Cats

Today as we were having some tea with our friend David Mole who went to the Bible College with us, we noticed a cat outside our window. We all realized that this particular cat had been in the same spot since this morning. We came to the conclusion that it must be dead. Earlier in the morning we had seen the kids feeding the cat and Edna didn’t want them to realize that the cat had died. Joshua heard us talking and was upset to hear that the fluffy little cat had passed on. We elected Edna to go down and discretely dispose of the body before the kids at the playground noticed. We all watched from the kitchen window as she approached the deceased feline. She nudged at it with her foot and we could all see that it was stiff and lifeless. The plan was to bag the cat and drop it in a trash shoot without drawing the attention of the nearby children. Unfortunately this wasn’t in agreement with the cat who had been very soundly sleeping until Edna tried to put a bag over its head. The cat raised up trying to figure out why this crazy woman was bent on bagging it. All of us watching from the window thought it was pretty funny. Edna’s going to have to live with “letting the cat out of the bag” jokes for awhile now.