Monday, April 30, 2012

Till We Meet Again...

Today is our last day here.  Late tonight, actually reeeeeeally early tomorrow morning, we'll take a bus back to the capital and fly out at 6:00am tomorrow morning.  We spent yesterday at the Vineyard National Conference and will be there again today.  What a great time worshiping and spending time with the believers.  We have fallen in love with these people.  They have taken us in and loved on us, prayed with us and for us.  It has been great!  We are sad to leave them, but very very very ready to see these faces:

Grammy sent us this picture on Sunday.  I love them!!!!
 We've been talking a lot the last couple days about what to do when we get home.  We haven't felt that God has shown us our definite next step yet.  I'm praying He continues to speak today at the Conference and answers some of my questions.  :)  Whatever He asks of us, we know we have to leave space for action when we get home.  We can't just get back into the groove of things and forget what God did and spoke here.  He will be requiring something of us and if we don't leave space for that it will be a very sad thing and something we will always regret.  So, I guess we will have some decisions to make when we get home about what things are our priorities, and what things in our lives need to go- simplifying to make room for the new.  

Jed and I have had a great time together on this trip.  What an adventure!  We keep hearing from local people how brave and adventurous we fact, we've heard it so many times it makes me wonder if we've been a little "too" adventurous!  Ha!  Oh well, God has guided us and protected us and we never got too incredibly lost.  :)  It has been such a blessing to be able to spend this time together exploring and traveling.  What a fun way to celebrate our upcoming 10th anniversary!!!  (yep, 10 years this June...time flies when you're havin' fun)

Squinty coffee date
Here's some last pictures of a few of the wonderful people we've met here.  
Ukraine Vineyard, we love you guys and will miss you so much!!!!!!

Exploring Kiev with Daria, Ann, Elijah, and Tanya

METRO!!!!  With the girls and Alex

The metro was so crowded we were holding each other up...we tried to get a good group shot.  Dasha's sleepy in this one...I'm the opposite

Ummm nope

Jed looks surprised and Dasha's sleeping again!  :)  Ah well

Sergei and Alyona, pastors of Kiev Vineyard

Worship at the Conference yesterday

On the banks of the Dnepr

Jed and Elvin...yes blurry, but Jed looked so angry in the next one! 

The girls

Andreas and Jed, two Swedes with their coffee.  Pinkies up!  Andreas let us stay at his apartment with him.  What a guy!
Time to go pack the bags....Addy, Ezra, Havalah, and Seth....see you very soon!!!!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Tonight we head out to another town, a new adventure.  What an absolutely fantastic time we have had here.  We had high hopes for this city and God went above and beyond what we expected.  Yay!  All along we've had anticipation and higher expectations for this portion of out trip...I think many things factor into this.  First of all, our sweet little love that first turned our hearts to this country was from here.  Second of all, the Lost Boys are in this region, so we knew if we were going to meet them it would have to happen this week.  Thirdly, we were super excited to meet Slavik and Alyona.  Everything we had read about them and what they do for the Lord really hit us in the guts (in a good way!).  We couldn't wait to meet face to face.  God did something in our hearts while we were here.  He confirmed, encouraged, broke our hearts in a new way, and connected our hearts to the people here.  It has been awesome, and as much as I miss everyone at home...specifically the 4 cutest kiddos on the face of the planet...I am very sad to leave this place.  That's how great our time has been!!!

Here's some snippets from the week. 

Friday afternoon after we saw the Boys (still freaking out about that miracle) we met Slavik for lunch and had our first taste of Chinese food here.  It was surprisingly good!  Then we headed down to see the Black Sea.  It feels like summer has come early here.  It has been pretty warm the past couple days and all the elderly people decided it was time to head down to the beach in their string bikinis.  Lucky us!  Ooooooooh my word, we had some big laughs together about that.  I mean, it was either laugh or cry, right?

Alyona and Mark....don't look too closely at the background.  Oops!  Ha!

After the beach we said goodbye to Slavik and Alyona.  Booohoooooo.  We'll see them again.  I'm not sure how I'll make it till Wednesday though without some baby thighs to squish.  Their baby Maria is seriously Havalah's Eastern European twin- so soft, so squishy.   :)

Mark, loving Maria TO DEATH.  Ha!  Sibling love is the same all over the world...

A little taste of home....they are such sweet kiddos.  We loved them.
 Yesterday we spent the morning exploring the city, then in the afternoon we met Michelle, the American missionary we talked about before.  She took us to meet some other American missionaries here in the city.  One couple we met has been here for a little less than a year and they have 3 small children.  It was cool to hear their perspective and what God is doing through them.  Then we met a couple older ladies at McDonalds.  One of them, Darlene, has been here with her husband for 15 years and they raised all their children here.  It was great to talk with them too.  We just wanted to meet as many people as we could and hear their stories.  

After our meetings we went to the Opera!  It was kind of funny, actually.  Our seats were pretty bad.  Like, laughable bad.  We could only really see if we stood, and seeing how the Operas are like 3 hours long, that was kind of a bummer.  We left at intermission...I mean, it's not like we understood what was going on anyway.  It was still a great adventure and the opera house was GORGEOUS!  The sound was great, the tickets were cheap, it was definitely not a waste.  

View from our seats...standing up :)
The ceiling

 Another great time we didn't get a chance to write about was about Thursday when we got to go with Nastya to an orphanage nearby our apartment.  She goes there weekly to spend time with the children, do some songs and a craft, basically to be a presence in their lives.  She really desires to build relationships and love on them.  The Director there is very cooperative and open to help, so that is great!  We had just a great time with those kids.  This is a nice orphanage where the kids get a fairly good education and we could tell their teacher really loved them.  What cuties!!!  Here some of their sweet faces...

Listening closely

This little guy...oh my word is he not the ultimate in squeezability?  He is absolutely adorable and so funny.  He was playing soldiers and was definitely the leader. 

So proud of her work.  She was a hoot too.  What a cutie!
Ultimate poser :)
Alright, time to get out of my jammies and start packing for our trip tonight.  Off to meet new people and have new adventures! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Day We've Been Waiting For

Today was huge.  Today will stand out as one of the most memorable days of my life.  That may sound dramatic, but it's so true!  Today was a day when God brought us full circle- from beginnings, ideas, and hopes, to reality.  Today I made a friend for life.  Today God showed that He is the biggest and the strongest.  

We met Alyona at her house at 8:00, drank some coffee, and hit the road.  Slavik's brother drove Alyona, Jed, Mark (Alyona's almost 3-year old), and me to the town.  Yesterday Slavik used money we had brought, given by all of you, to buy a trunk full of diapers and some soda.  I am sooooooo sorry to say we forgot to take pictures of the gifts!!!  :(  We were so excited and emotional that it didn't occur to us till we had already left to go home that we hadn't taken pictures.  Sorry!  Slavik called the Director about 30 minutes before we arrived to say we were coming.  Ha!  While she said that was fine, we weren't sure if we would be allowed to see any boys.  We hoped and prayed we would see them. 

We had a great time in the car on the way.  I love Alyona.  I really love her so much.  We connect.  We "get" each other.  I know if we lived near each other we would be good friends.  It's not every day you meet a couple with your same heartbeat, dreaming the dreams we dream, doing the things we long to do.  Alyona is my kind of gal and she and Slavik are quite the team.  They are dreamers who get it done.  I love that.  Anyway, we laughed and chatted all the way there.  It was fun.

I was fine, and then I saw the sign for the village.  My word, my hands were sweating, my heart was beating so fast.  It was crazy.  We pulled into the gates of the orphanage and it was unreal.  I don't really know how to describe all the feelings.  We've been praying for this place, reading about this place, loving this place from afar for 18 months or so.  Fundraising, dreaming, looking at those pictures were reality!  I saw the shed where the boys eat, the gazebo where I've seen pictures of visits, and the tulips.  Oh Melanie, I had tears for you when I saw all the beautiful tulips.  I told Jed "Look!  Melanie's tulips!!!"  They were lovely today my friend.  :)  

We parked the car and unloaded the diapers and the soda....while not taking pictures.  Sorry again!  We weren't able to take any pictures inside the orphanage.  We didn't want to do anything to jeopardize our presence there.  I pray I never forget the pictures in my mind.  Alyona asked, and we were told we could visit with some of the boys!!!!!  PRAISE GOD!  They set up several benches in the courtyard near the eating sheds and the boys began to come.  Oh the precious, beloved children of the Father.  If only they knew how much they are treasured- not just by Him, but by so many of us from near and far away.  I recognized many of the faces from photos of previous visits.  Some faces I had never seen. They sat on the benches with shining eyes, clapping their hands with excitement.  Then a couple other boys in wheelchairs were brought over.  Oh my word, the cuteness was unbelievable!!!!!  These boys are hidden jewels.  One "boy", who is really a man, could hardly contain his excitement.  He bounced up and down on the bench, laughing, eyes lit up with glee.  I will never forget that face. 

We greeted the boys and then sang a song with some motions.  Most of the boys participated, some watched, some tried to get their hands to move in the right way but couldn't quite manage it.  Oh, but they tried!  One sweet little boy looked to be about 5 or 6 years old and was in a wheelchair.  You could see he was paying very close attention.  The wheels were definitely turning.  He is a beautiful little boy.  Alyona told them the story of Easter with some plastic eggs with little symbols inside of them.  They ate it up.  They couldn't get enough of the pats, hand-holding, squeezes.  They loved Alyona and she is very good with them.  I pray that God reaches beyond their natural understanding and draws each of them to Himself.  They heard truth today and no one can take that away from them.  

We only had about a half hour with the boys and then it was time for them to go to lunch.  We were a little disappointed it was such a short time, but then we got a present we weren't expecting.  Since we were outside and the boys were to eat outside in the shed we got to see all the mobile boys walk by.  Many, many boys walked by us!!!!  That may not seem like a big deal, but you should have seen Alyona's face light up.  "Look at all these capable boys!  So many of them I have never seen!  This is so great!!!"  We greeted them as they walked by.  Some looked away, some clapped their hands with excitement of seeing strangers, some yelled "Privyet!!!" (hi) as loud as they could.  Ha!  It was awesome.  It was so precious to see the older boys leading the little ones by the hand down the sidewalk.  Men and boys together, all in need of love, all deserving of that and more.  Next to the eating shed there is a building with a flight of stairs leading down.  One young man with down syndrome who we had seen walking around doing chores carried a little one down the stairs to a wheelchair.  Alyona pointed "Look at how they care for each other...such treasures."
Our visit was brief, but truly amazing.  At the beginning of this week we thought we would not be able to go.  Then we found out we would go, but still doubted we would see any boys.  Then we not only got to see boys, but we got to spend some great time with some, and see MANY!  God did a miracle.  I will never discount that time.  We truly believe that God is at work behind the scenes.  God has put this remote place on so many people's radars.  Why?  So many people from so many parts of the world love these boys they have never met.  Why?  Slavik and Alyona are so persistent and determined to not let these boys be forgotten.  Why?  There is also much resistance to any help in that place.  Why?  I don't know the details, but I firmly and absolutely believe that God has a big plan in place.  The enemy would love to keep those boys hidden forever, but God is not in agreement with that.  He has brought them to light for a purpose.  Again, why?  Because they are His children.  The gleam in their eyes makes His heart swell.  He sees in each of them the man that He has created them to be.  They are His precious creations and we believe He has a very big plan for them.  
Outside the gates...
As we sat in the car outside the gates and Alyona prayed my heart swelled with faith in God.  HE is doing it folks!  He is bringing light into dark places.  He set Slavik and Alyona loose on this place and they are not going to back down!  They are fighters.  I am so proud of them and so humbled by them.  They are giving their lives for children all over this region.  They have a map of their region in the entry hall of their house.  The map is covered with little flags- one color for orphanages that have people ministering there, and one color for orphanages that are yet to be reached.  Slavik and Alyona are the real deal. 
I wish so much I could sit down with each of you and share face to face what we have experienced here.  There is so much in our hearts, so much God is speaking, so much He is working in this place.  I've said it before, and I'll keep on saying it: He WILL win the day.  
Praise God for His victory today!!!
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of the shadow of death 
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Havin' a Blast in Another Oblast...cheesy. Sorry.

Yesterday Nastya, one of the pastors of the Vineyard here, showed us around town.  It's very different than Kiev.  As Nastya put it, "No one is in a hurry here."  It does have more of a relaxed atmosphere, even though it's a big city.  We walked through downtown to the Black Sea.  We walked past the Opera House and decided to peek inside.  We found out that tickets to see a show are less than $20, so we bought a couple tickets to see a ballet on Saturday night.  Woohoo!  That should be a blast.  I mean, when do you have the chance to see a ballet in a fancy Opera House for a total of $35?  We just had to do it.  :)  Jed's excited because Rachmaninoff conducted on it's stage.


Umm...I guess I was excited??


The Opera House where we'll go on Saturday!!!

Which way is home?

Nastya and me by the Black Sea

On this bridge couples put their name on a lock, attach it to the bridge and throw away the key :)

This one's for you Alexis!!!  I thought of you and had to take a picture of the glory

Today we met with an American missionary named Michelle.  It was AWESOME.  Michelle has lived here for the past 6 years working with orphans.  She has built great relationships with kids and has watched them grow up.  When they get transferred to other facilities she follows them and visits them at their new home.  She is a consistent presence in their lives.  Michelle came here on a two-week missions trip when she was a sophomore in college.  When she got home from her trip she kept pictures of the kids in her Bible and started praying for their salvation.  One night after praying for a bit God asked her "Michelle, how are these children going to come to know me if no one tells them?"  Soon after that she knew God was telling her she was the one to go.  She answered the call, and here she remains!  Cool.  We had a great time talking about visions, ideas, passions, and obedience.  Michelle is here doin' the stuff.  It was an honor to meet her.

Tonight we will share at the Vineyard small group.  Tomorrow we are hoping to go with Nastia to an orphanage that she visits weekly.  
My brain is spinning- in a good way!  Ideas are brewing, faith is rising; this city has been great so far.  The more we talk with people, the more we realize that the dreams God has given us are truly impossible without Him.  There are many people doing great orphan care, of course many more are needed, but there are some amazing people doing great stuff.  So far though, we have not heard of anyone addressing the specific need we are burdened with.  No one is allowed to see these "laying down children".  They are hidden from the world.  Today Jed and I were talking about how big our God is.  Governments, authorities, directors- none of them are above Him.  These are HIS children.  He created them for a purpose and He is not surprised or overwhelmed by their circumstances.  Our God IS mighty to save.  He is not sitting up in heaven wishing He could do something about this problem.  He does need people who are willing to step out and say "God, we are willing.  If you want to use us to tackle this problem, here we are.  We know it is not by our might or strength, but in yours alone.  Let your kingdom come and your will be done."  While we risk sounding naive, I say we are full of faith.  :)  

Those are where our thoughts are headed.  We don't know timelines, we don't know logistics, we don't know details.  We just know we are willing.  I guess we'll see what God has to say about that! 

Listen to this and let your faith be built. 
Thank you for your prayers.  We are so encouraged by the support of the church.  You are a part of this love story.  We feel very loved and supported and it means the world to us.  
Go God Go!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's Ukrainian Tradition!!!

(Jedge here).... after 4 rounds of Konjac and toasting to who-knows-what, my name affectionately sounds more like "Jedge", in the mouths of Ukrainians on a midnight train to Odessa.
We arrived in Odessa at 5:30am and we fell out of our train in a haze, like Odysseus' sea weary, road warriors.

Apparently getting foreigners drunk is the real Ukrainian tradition.  We found this out from Nastia, a beautiful, young pastor at the Odessa Vineyard.  Nastia and her fiancé, Andreas (a fellow Swede), have just started to pastor the church in Odessa.  Oh, in case you are worried, we didn’t get drunk.  Casey Jones watched his Konjac and we learned 30 different ways to say no thanks in Russian, Ukrainian and German.

Jedge!  It's Ukrainian tradition!

The spread
 There is nothing like being rocked to sleep on a train, only to be woken at 3am by the extreme heat and stuffy air of a soviet era train ride across Ukraine.  

We arrived in Odessa, dropped our bags off at Andrea’s Apartment and then we took a taxi across Odessa to meet Alyona at a bus stop.  From there we traveled outside of town, on a Marshutka (little bus), to an orphanage for girls with special needs.

It was a nice facility, with flowers and beautiful shrubs and trees landscaping the grounds.  We walked into a small performance hall/theater where the girls started to make their way in to meet us.  We got to give hugs, learn names and see their beautiful jewelry.  They are so proud of their bracelets, necklaces, earrings.  

The girls.  Precious creations of the Father
 We got to sing songs, do hand motions, laugh a lot, exercise, hear a story and do a craft.  Alyona weekly spends time with these girls.  She is such an amazing servant to these lovely children of God.  As we left the orphanage I felt happy, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about the children that stay in beds most of the day, if not all day.  So far, Odessa has clarified the need God has laid on our hearts.  

Alyona, a true servant
 Kim and I dream of a home for these children to get physically healthy, identify their delays, develop therapeutic treatment plans for them, held by loving arms everyday… as much as they want.  Our dream starts with one home with 4-5 of these precious children and it builds.


This is a God-size dream, because right now these children are hidden.  No one gets to visit them. This dream is not about warm-fuzzy, good-feeling ideas.  Our dream, our hope is not in ourselves, not in man, not in goodwill, not in the social-gospel… Our hope is in Christ alone. 

The same power that conquered the grave is at work here.  His Kingdom is breaking into the present.  He has moved thousands of his children, across the world, to make wrong things right in this situation. 

He moved on Andrea Roberts to advocate for special-needs adoption; 500 children in the last 5 years.  He met Alyona when she was 11-years old at a Sunday school.  God has gripped Julia Nalle’s heart to let no child move out of the reach of adoption.  She finds children who are about to age-out or go to an institution and she intercedes until they are adopted.  He awoke our hearts to His children who are wasting away on beds, 18 months ago.  Kim was doing the same thing you are doing right now; reading a blog about God’s children.   You are one of us.  How will you join in God’s expanding Kingdom?  Are you supposed to pray?  Yes, if nothing else you pray.  Each of you will be a part of this great story of God’s love.  

We also know that there is injustice wherever you focus your attention around the world.  Each one of us is called to say yes to Father God.  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21   If your hearts are not burning for this issue, just ask God for your mission - if you don’t already know.

Well, we have 6 more days in Odessa Oblast to see what the Father is doing and bless it and be blessed by it too.  Keep praying for the director of the “Lost Boys” orphanage.  Pray that fear will go away and that she will experience the love of God in her heart.  Because we know that “perfect love drives out fear.” 1John 4:18a

We are now heading out to buy our train tickets for the trip to Kremenchug on April 29 and  to tour the ancient city of Одесса (Odessa).   



Monday, April 23, 2012

We are Sleepy. We are Happy. Life is Good.

In the morning Jed will write a post about our day today.  I think you'll enjoy it.  :)  We are in Odessa and everything is great.  We spent the day with Alyona and she is fabulous.  What a wonderful woman with such a huge, obedient heart.  It was great to finally meet her.  

I must sleep.  Again, Jed is already snoring.  Are you seeing a trend here?  :) 
Please pray.  Pray that hearts here would be softened and that God would have His way in every situation.  Pray that our steps are ordered and that we wouldn't miss any thing that He has for us to see or do here.  We have absolutely no idea what this week holds, but if today is any indication it's going to be pretty amazing.  

Thank you all of our praying friends and family.  Your prayer and support on this journey means the world to us.  

Good night!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Full Bellies

Today we spent the day doing what we do best in Kiev: walking and eating.  Oh yes, our talents in those areas grow daily.  Let's talk food!

Today we found a cool indoor market.  We'd been searching and searching for it, only to realize we'd walked by it several times and just didn't realize.  Woops!

Inside the Market

I guess we don't run in the right circles in the US because it seems caviar is pretty popular with other visitors in Ukraine.  :)  Everyone selling caviar was determined to sell us some.  All I could think of was what it would be like if a jar of caviar exploded in my backpack.  Ugh.  No thanks!  

Fish for sale!
 As most of you know, Jed and I love our coffee.  We may be known at home as coffee snobs, that may or may not be true.  :)  After much research, cost analysis, and taste testing, we found the coffee with the best cheap-to-taste-ratio to be the coffee sold from the little cars.  These little beauties are parked all up and down the streets here in Kiev.  They're like little lighthouses beckoning us...come, drink, be cozy...I can rarely say no.   

Lovin the coffee car!
 Our other great food find here in Kiev has been "Puzata Hata".  Translated it means something like "House of full bellies".  To us it means "cheap food, and lots of it".  Puzata Hata is a Ukrainian fast food chain that is cafeteria style.  We walk down the line and point at what we want.  It works out just beautifully!
Below is a picture of my lunch.  Cucumber and tomato salad up top, then borscht down in the corner.  We totally love the borscht!!!  We found out from Alex and Dariya that you're supposed to eat special garlic bread with the borscht, so now we do that.  :)  It's like dinner rolls with fresh garlic and oil over them.  Yum!
The yummiest part of the meal are those little treasures down in the left corner.  Jed and I share that case you're wondering!  Those are dumplings filled with cherries and covered with sour cream and sugar.  Holy tastiness.


Jed's lunch.  Full belly house is the bomb.

 We were walking downtown and all of a sudden we came up on some sort of festival thing.  We had no idea what they were celebrating, but it was fun to watch.  I think it was some sort of race...

We walked back to see St. Andrews again.  It's so beautiful.
 Oh, did we mention our hotel is a boat?  Ha!  We could see when we booked it that is was near the water, but nowhere did anything mention it was really ON the water.  It's pretty sweet.  We got a great deal on it and are happy to have wifi in our room.  Thank you Lord!

Jed's ready to board the Love Boat!  
Thanks everyone for praying for health.  We have felt great.  Jed has been eating anything and everything and he is feeling fantastic!  That is such a miracle.  We are very thankful.
Alright, speaking of food, time to go meet some Vineyard folk for dinner.  
Bye for now!