“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Windows of the Ukraine

Photos should tell a story and that is what I wanted to do when I finally had time to show you our stories from the Ukraine.  I love color (as you know) and windows always catch my eye, especially in the Slavic nations.  When God created man and said "Let us make mankind in OUR IMAGE, in OUR LIKENESS", He formed His creation...to be creative. He then gave Adam the creative task of naming the animals (Genesis 1 and 2) and taking care of His garden.  Although he didn't do such a great job in the garden and succumbed to the lies of the serpent, He still remains to this day, the image of God and creativity.  In the midst of an ungodly government and regime during the 70 years of communism (and even before that!), the Slavic peoples continue - and always will be - creative in bringing out the beauty of who they are.

Even in the rural areas where homes are behind fences,
the beauty is captured...

(I confess....I could have climbed up on the fence to get a full view, but
somehow the grandmother working in her garden on the other side
kind of scared me off :)

I love the lace in the windows of their homes :)

The brick work really allows the color to stand out...

Notice the cross above the window

This one below was on a side street in the city of Kiev...

Each home is different; and I am sure they tell a story of their own
of the occupants inside...

They love flowers and use every inch of window sill to display
and get light...

Again, in the city...

And the windows of the city dwellers take on a whole new 
task of being the add-on laundry room...you see this everywhere
in the towns where apartment buildings abound...but again they find ways of bringing beauty and creativity out in who God made them to be and for some this will be indoors...I still like seeing the laundry when the bright colors of a fabric stand out against the old buildings...

And a window yet to be finished....in a transition home set up
for orphans which will be filled with the blessings and
creativity of God their Father :)

And not to leave out the beauty of the windows of the churches...

Windows of a nation...only a glimpse...the word "window" means...an opening in the wall of a building to let in light and air; and a moment period of time especially favorable for a certain occurrence.  Since the "fall of the wall", these nations have had that "window" for "light" to enter.  Many eternal works of God are taking place in the Ukraine today.  Please pray for the beauty and creativity of the Ukrainian people to overcome the darkness that threatens this land to close this window.  Pray for God to continue to move in the hearts of the people - this can only happen through the work of the Holy Spirit of God.  When you see a window, think opening...think opportunity...think beauty and pray into that window :)

P.S....I hope to do a bit of photoblogging (is that a word?) and share unusual and fun photos in the days to come of our trip.  Hope you enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fatherless and Motherless Nation

We just returned from 3 weeks in the Ukraine and Moldova. My husband spent the last week in Central Asia, without me, and that in itself is another story :)  How do you even begin to share moments that shape a heart and worldview?  This blog today won't even begin to cover what took place these last weeks, but perhaps it will tug at your heart strings and allow you to see through God's eyes the children of our world.  

We were privileged to begin our journey with a team of incredible friends attending a conference in the Ukraine on Human Trafficking.  There is so much to tell - I am overwhelmed with information and at another time will share more on this event that told me more than perhaps my heart could handle. In Ukraine alone 440,000 girls were abducted and trafficked (in sex trade and labor) since 1991.  Of those only 1% are rescued and 80% of those get retrafficked.  Generally, there is no support for these girls.  They carry a stigma and are easy prey.  Thankfully, there are those rising up and taking notice and helping these girls get into transition homes once they are rescued.  They are provided with health care (many have been beat up repeatedly), food, clothing, life skill training, job training and after an appropriate and realistic amount of time, able to resettle back into society.  The ministries helping these women need prayer and wisdom.  Again, more on that later...

The highlight for us was then driving throughout the breadth and length of the tiny nation of Moldova just south of Ukraine.  This tiny nation is the poorest of Western Europe.  In the last decade alone, 25% of the population has left to work abroad.  Our purpose was to travel with a friend who is working extensively throughout the nation amongst orphans, trafficked boys and girls and churches helping reach out to the desolate and needy.  Oleg was a wealth of experience and wisdom in showing us a broad and comprensive picture of the condition of the nation's children and what is happening there.  We visited the site of a transition home (a home where orphans leaving the orphanages about age 15 have an opportunity to live, become adjusted to life outside the orphanage in a family setting and given life skills and job training to survive.) When boys and girls are released from the orphanage, they are given some money and a few essentials and left on the street.  They have no place to go and become easy prey for human trafficking.  These transition homes set up by Christian ministries, of which there are not enough, provide a healthy setting spiritually and emotionally for the children to make the adjustment.

This home is currently being finished and will house around nine or ten young girls who are leaving the orphanage.  There is a married couple already being trained to live, minister to and train the girls. 

Alex, one of our team members who is skilled in woodworking, is showing some of the workers the idea of a bed, desk and drawer unit in one, to put in the bedrooms.  He is already at work designing them to construct here in the States and ship over to Moldova.

These women on our team all participated in our "Run Walk for Freedom" we held last July which raised $25,000 to help with the transition homes, sewing centers and orphanages in this part of the world.

The sewing centers are being set up to train young girls to sew and earn a living.  They have already been sewing T-shirts to sell and a young professional woman out of Seattle whom we are partnering with is heading up the effort of cottage industries to train and see these girls have a productive and fulfilling life providing them with the alternative to rescue them from the streets.

The first sewing center being finished and due to open soon.

These two (actually three) awesome women played a key role in this industrial sewing machine being provided for the center.  Kelly, on left, was Alisa's home economics teacher in high school and is blessing us with
her skills and ministry to these girls.

Oleg showing the machine Kelly and Alisa bought and delivered to the center.

And the privilege of Oleg, Al and Carolyn (our leaders) cutting the ribbon of the pre-opening of the sewing center for orphaned girls.  An awesome and eternal moment !

Two last areas I have to share with you....we were humbled to put it mildly to visit a transition house for boys and girls where the pastor shared his heart and vision to help the children in his town.

Young boys and girls are housed here with the hope of separating them as a facility becomes available (they are in separate dorms now).  The staff selflessly serve these young people. The pastor shared his vision of wanting to set up a chicken farm and vegetable green house to self-support the ministry and home.  He expressed not so much his need of money, but the experience of others to come and show them how to set up the chicken and vegetable farm.  They do need funds, as he doesn't have the money to pay staff, but you could feel his heart was to provide a home for boys and girls and teach them to be self-supporting with life skills. He is asking for teams to come and help.

He went on to tell us, and this was shocking, is that they have no water (indoor plumbing) in this town.  The pump at this home was broken and we helped to get him a pump (Praise God!), but the town has no water!  They have the community wells, which the people come and gather the water.  This may seem "normal" in some rural places, but this was a town.  They have 5 or 6 story apartment buildings that were built and people moved in before the plumbing was put in.  They must walk down 6 flights of stairs to the community wells to gather water, and the same routine for carrying their "waste" each day.
We are praying for a ministry to come and help get water to this town.  The basics of life......how we take what we have for granted and normal, these people live a life of just surviving while trying to help others in need.

We were able to take this food to help feed the boys and girls.

Lastly, we visited an orphanage and to say it changed us dramatically is an understatement.  

Bubble play with the children...

We took bananas and juice...

They won our hearts :)

Two sisters...

Al and Carolyn w/Anya a girl they met on their last trip to the orphanage. She remembered them :)

And this made me cry...this sweet boy did not want to let go of my husband...I think if we could have, we would have brought him home!

There was so much this trip covered but the stories were what made it all real. When you hear the statistics of a country's population diminishing because mothers AND fathers are leaving their families to find work outside it becomes real when you realize that leaves parentless children.  Just while we were there, we heard of 3 children committing suicide because their parents hadn't returned and they were alone with no hope.  Two of these were a brother and sister ten and nine years of age who jumped to their deaths.  Even as I write this, I am overwhelmed with grief over a motherless and fatherless nation.  

Lastly (again) we visited with a lady who had been trafficked...no photos and little detail, but she had been deceived by a friend to go to work in Moscow in a market. She was poor and had been promised work to help support her family.  She ended up being shipped to another part of the nation and locked up in a hospital where she was abused physically and sexually, one of over 200 girls.  Some of the women were there for prostitution and others for bearing children for organ transplants.  She gave birth to two children who were taken from her after birth.  Babies were brought back into the women to nurse them, not knowing if it was their child or not.  When she was rescued, she insisted on taking her children with her.  Not knowing for sure, but in her heart she feels she has her biological children, she brought them back to her village. She has the heart of a MOM!  Her village and family rejected her, her father the only one who accepted her back.  They felt she had been at fault.  She is now endeavoring after being captive for over 5 years, to rebuild her life and the life of her children.  She is connected with others who are helping her and her family to survive and be self-supporting.

My mother's heart and understanding of the love of the Father have been deeply affected.  Remember the ending of the "The Grinch" where his heart swells much larger nearly bursting out of his body?  That is what I feel like.  What I sensed from the Lord during this time was...."this is microcosm of what is out there....there are orphanages all over this part of the world, girls and boys being trafficked all over the world.  Children desperately in need of fathering and mothering, families, crying out and waiting to be rescued.  I was reminded of the Scripture in Acts where it talks about "being led as a sheep towards slaughter" and in the Gospels where Jesus says "anyone who offends these little ones would be better to have a millstone hung around their neck and thrown into the sea."  God's heart is broken over His little ones being rejected and abused.  He needs us to be a father and mother to the motherless and fatherless.  His heart is to reveal HIS heart and love to a generation worldwide lost and floundering without parents.

 And yes....we will go back!

Ironic in that we have only been home a few days and already heard a story of the brother of a friend in our church who had run away and then ended up being trafficked into labour here in our own state.  Praise God he was found and rescued.  It is happening in our own backyard.

This blog ended up being longer than I'd planned....I feel like reciting Hebrews 11 which is the "hall of fame" of the saints...by faith Abraham...by faith Noah...there are so many "saints" in Moldova and Ukraine who today by faith are making a difference.  What I have shared is a small portion of what God is doing and what the situation is like.  More to come from the heart in future weeks.  In case you were wondering why I am in so few pictures...

In closing, here is the most photographed girl on the trip....she was a JOY and a trooper - we all wanted to keep her, but we let her go home with momma :)