Psalm 84:5-7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka(weeping),they make it a place of springs;the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength,till each appears before God in Zion.
It's been just over three weeks since I arrived in Ukraine. First and foremost to complete Anya's adoption, but The Lord has much to teach me here. And since I have a lot of time between orphanage visits and official appointments, I am trying it take in all He has to show me. Here's a sampling so far:
The first week: crazy long flight with husband and toddler, hard goodbye to kids at home, nerves, looking for opportunities even on the plane to share God's love. Our first flight, the short hop from Seattle to Portland, there was a lady openly crying behind us. The flight attendants were comforting her. I am guessing she was facing tragedy. I felt a tugging in my spirit to go speak to her, maybe give her the little gospel of John I was carrying. I didn't. I smiled kindly and she actually smiled back. Then I saw her again at the airport in line for coffee. Still felt the tugging. Still didn't go there and talk to her. I think I missed an opportunity to see God work through me there. I'm sure He comforted her through someone else, but He was offering to use me. I'm sorry I missed out.
Then on to our big flight to Amsterdam. People traveling all over the workd from that flight, which was fun to hear about. A guy sitting near us had business in a Kiev in renewable energy, and was fascinated with our story about Anya. We were able to share quite a bit with him, then actually ran into him in the city that night. I forget his name, but he was in our path for some reason!
The first week was kind of a blur, stressful and jet lagged alternating with adventurous and fun. I honestly don't know what I would have done without Gabe that first week. Between Asher's needs, lost luggage, travel, and just someone to hold me and pray with me, he was the best partner ever. He wasn't feeling well for most of the week with digestive issues and I know he wanted to be "stronger" for me. But I saw the servant heart of Jesus in my husband in a whole new way that week.
I also feel like it was Huge that he got to be there to see Anya and officially tell her we want to adopt her! She has a little idea what Mom is, no clue about Dad. So she got to see a little of how much he loves her. He also had time to play with kids at the orphanage and see her world.
It was hard letting him go back home, but our other kids needed him and classes were resuming. They did great with Grandma, I'm told. I expected to be kind if freaked out and weepy when he left, but I was actually filled with an incredible peace. Praise God! The same was true this last week when my translator/facilitator/friend Julia had to leave me for a few days; I am actually not afraid but totally ok.
That has to be God!
Since then I have moved from the hotel to a 5th floor apartment (no elevator) that is a total blessing. Inexpensive, toys and a playground for Asher, and I can cook! Our taxi driver (also a blessing!) had if a friend not using her apartment for a few months, a single mom who I am glad to help out. She has been wonderful to me so far.
The apartment is in a big gray block building just like the other three buildings encircling our courtyard. Laundry can be hung outside or over the bathtub on a nifty gadget. People plant flowers and there are trees and grass outside. It's a less groomed beauty than the US, but I like it.
I am getting along okay walking around town shopping in local markets. There are little supermarkets, but also lots of little neighborhood stores; some just produce, some meat and dairy, etc. I have a local coffee lady and a few friendly neighbors in the courtyard who attempt English...my Ukranian is really limited to "hello", "goodbye" and "thank you" although I'm trying to pick up a little more.
People are friendly, so I do wish I were conversant! One of the many things God is showing me about cross cultural missions...be diligent to learn the language!
I visit the orphanage every other day. I was a little overwhelmed initially, as was Asher, with all the kids craving attention. But now we just enthusiastically give them the hugs they long for and play with them and love on them. Anya seems okay sharing us with her friends. I have never been around such loving kids as ones who have been deeply wounded, yet still have hearts open enough to offer and receive love from a stranger. It makes them precious and vulnerable. I so want to see them in families before the world hardens them. Not many of them are even available for adoption...but they all need love. There is a wonderful group of young missionaries working with the kids at this orphanage and after they graduate to trade schools called Open Arms Ukraine(openarmsukraine.org). I am so thankful for them and all the love they show these kids who are now in my heart too. Also the charity and hosting organization that first brought Anya to us; Marina's Kids (marinaskids.org). Just in case you are touched by this story and want to find out more, donate, host a child, or come to Ukraine on a mission trip!
I have a lot of time to pray and walk(since that, taxi, or bus are my modes of transportation!) It occurred to me today that there is no gospel-teaching church in this town that I know of. I am one of very few born-again believers in Jesus here, maybe the only one. (Well I think there are some orphanage kids and several teachers who know Him:) ) I've never been in a place where that was the case before. It's kind of a scary thought. Yet what can I do? I am burdened to pray for this little town, that missionaries would come or rise up among them and bring people the truth about freedom in Christ. People live simple, empty lives pursuing possessions, political freedom, careers, and for some, religion. They lack the joy knowing that God created them for a purpose to know Him! They don't know that the emptiness they feel is the separation their sin causes from a holy God. And how He longs to restore them to a loving relationship to Him. I think the orphans get this...they know they don't bring much to the table, so they have to depend on grace and unconditional love. And it makes them beautiful. God sees us the same way.
May you know Him better every day with me!