"All that is here is the best of my life! I'm happy that I have so many friends who love and appreciate me and I them! The Lord does everything for me and I remember that! With God it is easier than in a past life!" -- Marina, age 17
A year ago, those thoughts would have never entered Marina's mind. She was a scared, defiant and self-conscious 16 year old, seeking attention from anyone who would give it. She told me "I really want friends, but I am unable to make any."
Throughout her teen years, I saw how Marina was positioned as an outcast in
As part of our Christian Education program, God has called me to use the connections I’ve made in Ukraine, to link orphans and their families to the local community. So, in addition to our Youth Group for Shpola Orphanage Graduates, I recently invited Sophia Christian School’s theatre group to Shpola Orphanage to get acquainted with the children and staff there. Together, the Shpola kids and Sophia School kids put together a great assembly!
We had a great day today in Ukraine! Last month, I introduced you to a widow named Valeria and her two young daughters who stay at Shpola Orphanage. Today, Inna and I paid another visit to Valeria’s home in Lebedyn.
This time Pastor Sasha from the local church came with us to measure the window that will soon be replaced. Initially, Valeria didn’t want anyone from the church to help her, as she is currently exploring other beliefs, and has gone away from...
About 18 months ago when I was at the orphanage, I was shocked to have a lady greet me and start speaking to me in English… and not just a greeting, either. Valeria was obviously a well-educated lady, who could carry on an intelligent conversation in English!
She told me all about her two children, Hima and Ananda whom she had just enrolled at Shpola. She qualified to have her children stay at the orphanage, because she was recently widowed and had moved back to Ukraine from Moldova.
When we visited Shpola Orphanage last week, I was shocked to discover that 8 children had been sent to the Sanatorium!
In Ukraine, a sanatorium is a bit like a health spa with medical services. Children who live in an orphanage or who are in foster care, generally qualify to spend a month per year at a sanatorium. Even though they have to go to school throughout their stay, during this time, the hope is that their immune system is strengthened by having extra rest, better food, fresh air and a medical check...
On my very first visit to Shpola orphanage, in November 2014, I fell in love with the Pikuyev kids.
That visit was a blur of meeting 170 excited children plus Directors, teachers and caregivers. I didn’t have much time to spend with the children, as I was there to finalize plans for our first summer camp scheduled for the following week. But as I was touring the grounds, I felt hot, sweaty hands gently clutching mine. That’s when I met Dima & Bogdan – two of the Pikuyev brothers – and from then on, they were always at my side...
Imagine being a beautiful, healthy 8-year-old girl with an ugly scar tearing across half of your face. That is our Alina – a lovely and bright girl, who is unable / unwilling to fully smile.
I met Alina at Shpola Orphanage 2 years ago, and have been trying to make her smile ever since. For the past couple of days, she has not stopped! That’s because we have found a plastic surgeon who will perform her facial surgery “completely free of charge.”Even in cases of orphans, there is no such thing as a free lunch, so a donation to the hospital is expected...
This summer, we worked alongside the only Christian school in Cherkassy, the Sophia School, to put on a week-long English Language Camp for their students. Five years ago, this school grew out of a desire for Christian education and it has struggled, met challenges and grown. To be honest, back in March, when the school’s principal Nataliya Yebutushenko met with me, scheduling another week of summer camp was the last thing I wanted to do.
That’s the question I’ve asked myself on and off over the past 2 weeks here in Ukraine. It seems like things have gone from joy to stress to surprise to confusion to irritation and even to peace.
Like today, my coordinator Inna and I simply invited 3 kids to church with us…
This morning, Anya (19 yrs. old) caught the freezing cold 7:20 am bus to Cherkassy from her town 3 hours away, where she is studying to be a Vet Tech and lives in a public dorm.