Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Where did the summer go?

Paradise, Mt. Rainier

September already? I can hardly believe how our summer flew by this year. Today was Sam and Ciara's first day of school(1st and 5th grade, respectively). Seven days ago we told the two Ukranian kids we came to love over the summer до побачення (goodbye) at Seatac airport. So many memories I'll never fit them into one blog post. I will, instead, try to portray what God did in our hearts and home this summer.

When I last blogged about our upcoming orphan hosting adventure, we only knew we were hosting Anya. While preparing and praying for her, God brought a second child to us as well: Tymofiy. I found myself chuckling at the time thinking: "Really, Lord? Two kids added to this family? You know I don't even have our kids' friends over two at a time! I'm not a 'house full of kids' person! But I trust You." I found myself remembering that conversation frequently over the six weeks the kids were here, as they were all piling in and out of our borrowed Durango, following me through stores or taking over the dentists' office. With three kids, people often comment that I have my hands full. With five, two who don't speak English, they ran the other way!

It was crazy, exhausting, beautiful, spiritual, and the hardest ministry we've ever done. And so, so worth it. Let me introduce you to the two precious souls The Lord brought to us.

Anya, age 13

This beautiful girl has captured our hearts.  Her bio from the orphanage said she was shy, but we didn't find that to be true past the first 10 minutes at the airport! She was loving and affectionate with Ciara, Sam, and Asher right from the start with lots of hugs and chocolates. She quickly warmed up to us as well, almost overwhelming us with hugs, calling us Ma and Pa and making herself at home.

She is an artist...she loves to draw, sketch, paint, bead, do origami etc. She loves beauty and creates it in any space. She did amazing braids on Ciara's hair and loved dressing up. She loved to eat, as long as no vegetables were included! She left us a few pounds heavier and was proud of it!  ICE CREAM was her favorite, closely followed by sausage/kielbasa.                                                                                                                                                                  

She loved being outside, riding bikes, swimming, and seemed to come alive surrounded by natural beauty at the ocean and the mountains. When I told her that "God made all this" she wanted to know "then who made God?". We told her as often as we could that He also made her, the best of His creation. That He is crazy about her and has a purpose for her life. We pray this truth sunk into her heart. We do not know if she gave her life to Jesus while she was here, but we pray for the work He is doing in her heart.

As beautiful and amazing as Anya is, things were not always easy between us. She is very emotional and carries wounds we caught only a glimpse of during her time here. She doesn't sleep well at night. She can become physically aggressive in a conflict. She didn't have a lot of self control or maturity when the answer to something she wanted was no. She could be really bossy, something Sam especially didn't appreciate since that's his job in the family! But she had a sweet heart longing to be loved, and we saw her try so so hard to love us and the kids even when they were being difficult towards her. We miss her and the joy and life she added to our home.

Then there was Tymofiy; "Tima", age 10 .

pancakes for lunch!
This boy, in contrast to Anya, was a bit shy for the first week or so and could sleep anywhere, anytime! He was solitary and sensitive, but could be drawn into an intense game of Uno or air hockey and wouldn't want to quit! He loved swimming and bike riding too and being in nature. He would do anything for back scratches! Like Anya, he loved to eat and especially loved helping us cook.

Tima had friends here who had been adopted and loved the time he got to spend with them and their family. He made friends easily with the Slavic families and translators who served us and got several invitations to spend Sunday afternoons with them. He so needs a family and we are praying God will bring him one from his own people and language since he had a much easier time with them. He and Anya got along well and she looked out for him like a big sister.

With us he was challenging...he seemed used to getting his way by pouting and sulking and could carry this on for hours. He craved adult attention but had more difficulty playing with our kids, undoubtedly due in part to the language barrier, though he spoke English better than Anya. So some of it was just maturity level. He could read the Russian Jesus Storybook Bible well during our devotional time, but seemed to have no personal interest in Jesus or the gospel.

гора "hora"; mountain
Tima's last week here he celebrated his 10th birthday and we got to spoil him with breakfast in bed (bacon, eggs, and TOMATOES, his favorite!), an RC monster truck, Pump it Up and pizza. It was sweet to see him get to have a birthday in a family and also how excited Sam and Ciara were to fuss over him since birthdays are a big deal around here.

We miss his silliness and his sense of humor. We miss arm wrestling him. We pray as he grows that he will see the love God has for him and open his heart to his need for Jesus.

In many ways this summer was not unlike a mission trip for our family. We learned to communicate through a language and cultural barrier. We ate a LOT of Russian and Ukranain food at all the churches and picnic we were invited to! We gave more of our energy, time, finances, and love than we thought we had to give. Yet God was faithful to provide and refresh us with what we needed every day. He provided translators and English speaking brothers and sisters to share our load at exactly the time we needed them. He gave us extra love and endurance every time we asked. He bonded us through the adversity and the joy.

At the end of it, we sit back and say "what was that all about?" Was it right to bring these kids out of their life in the orphanages in Ukraine and show them America, only to send them back? Was it right to give them a taste of family and then have to tell them goodbye six weeks later? Did we really do a good thing?

The only answer we have for any of it is the Gospel. These kids, though they have suffered, are not saints. They need Jesus to atone for their sins. He is their only hope, regardless of what else happens to them. We had no other reason for bringing them here than to show and tell them that in every way possible. We planted seeds wherever we could. So now we pray, and we love. And we see what He will do. If He lays it on your heart, will you pray for them too? And if you want to know more about the adventure of hosting orphans from Ukraine for 3 weeks at Christmas, send us a message!

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