Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the Frozen Tundra

Robert happened to be online at the same time as me this morning and we were able to IM briefly. He said they are FREEZING because they're in a mountainous area now. I think -23 degrees was the last temp I heard. Unfathomable! He said he was wearing two pair of pants, two shirts, his jacket and gloves at all times. I asked him if his thermals were coming in handy. He said, "What thermals!?!?" Obviously he didn't check the front pocket of the suitcase! Hopefully he's a little toastier now.

They were able to spend time with children at the village orphanage in Lutsk yesterday. Most of the children here have been removed from their homes because of neglect. The team attempted to teach the kids how to play football, but Robert said the rules didn't necessarily translate. Robert said he must have thrown the football a thousand times in the last few days as the team and the orphans ran around in the snow. What a wonderful image.

Robert and the team are staying with missionaries in the area and I can't help but be warmed by the generosity of these servants of God to open their apartments to the American team. They have gained us access into orphanages and let us glimpse the ministry they have built for the glory of God. One of the goals of the team was to encourage these missionaries, but I think it's safe to say that THEY have been an encouragement to us.

Wish I had pictures to share with all of you, but Robert said they are on dial up and are lucky to get an email out here and there. I'm sure there will much to say and pictures to post when they get home Thursday morning. until then I'll keep you posted with the latest!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Love Lost for Alaska

Robert was able to send me a short email about their recent activities and new location. They took Erin to beautiful downtown Odessa and to see the Black Sea on their last day there. They also returned to Kristina's old orphanage for more time with the kids. I loaded a backpack full of snacks (beef jerky, Slim Jims, trail mix, granola bars) for Kristina and Robert before leaving because sometimes you don't know when you'll have a chance to stop and eat on these type of trips. Robert took the snacks to the orphanage. He said the meat sticks were a big hit and the kids ate everything he had. :) He briefly mentioned meeting Sasha, and this after I lectured him on wanting details about their first meeting! Leave it to a guy to provide only the basics. He was struck by how tiny Sasha was. And he made sure to give him chocolate. There is something about my husband that makes him want to feed every child he meets! I'm hoping for more details when he comes home.

They have traveled overnight by train to Lutsk to visit some missionaries and orphanages. They are bringing a dozen warm coats they purchased in the market with funds from a donor. And it looks like that may be a valuable commodity in Lutsk. The high temperature today is supposed to be 1 degree. Yeah, 1 degree. No that's not Celsius and no I didn't leave off a digit. Robert said he has never been so cold. He's always talked about wanting to visit Alaska. He has now changed his mind.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Kristina

Okay . . . . so here it goes.

The first thing I want to do and tell is thanks to Mom and Erin and everybody that prayed for me and raised money for me that I could go on this trip to Ukraine.


Mom, I love you and without you and everyone else I could not go to Ukraine with Dad, Karina, and her dad.

Okay . . . so let's get to the flight!!! We flew from Orlando to Atlanta. We got to Atlanta at 10, but our next flight didn't leave until 3:35. So we waited and I didn't complain. I'm so happy for me!!! Karina, her dad, and Erin met us at the Atlanta airport and we flew to Paris. Here is something to make you laugh. You know how when you put all your stuff in the scanner to make sure you don't have weapons? Well you have to take your shoes off too. So I did that and I was watching my stuff and I realized only one of my boots came out and I was like, "Excuse me. I put two boots there and only one came out! Would you check for me and see if you can find it please?" Thank goodness they found it!!!

From Paris we flew to Kiev. It was good except for the part when my ears were popping and I almost started crying. And Karina and I didn't get to sit together except on the last flight from Kiev to Odessa. That plane was really tiny too. We got to eat dinner AND breakfast on the plane! Dad was sleeping the whole time but I only slept on the last flight.

So then we got to Odessa, waited in line, and got the luggage Karina and her Dad brought form their Sunday School to the children. M, V, and S met us at the airport and took us to A's house where we ate Ukrainian pizza (which I like better than American pizza). Then we took showers and rested after a long day.

The next day we were allowed to go to Karina and my old orphanage. We were not allowed to do video but pictures were okay. Since I've left the orphanage two years ago I didn't see a lot of people I knew because many of them have been adopted! I'm so happy for them!!! The children left from my class were Vladik (he missed me so much he gave me a hug!), Edik (he looks the same), Jenya (looks just like I remember), Marat (he is so much taller!), and a new kid named Uri ( him and dad are best friends. He is sooo sweet and very nice to talk to). Uri wanted my dad to make sure he knew what the Bible was so he took his out to show him. He also offered to give his Bible to Dad. Dad showed him the verse John 3:16 and he knew what it was. I also saw Sasha and Andrey. Andrey wasn't in my class but he remembers me. He was a good friend to me and Karina. You heard me mention Erin. Well she prays for many of these children.

I also met new friends like Luba and her sister. Luba liked to talk a lot and her sister was very sweet. The next day when we came to visit her sister gave me a hug. I enjoyed visiting them and sharing my love with them!!! While I was at the orphanage, I translated for my dad, Karina's dad, and Erin. I was happy to be able to do that for them.

I also met with the orphanage director and talked about my new life with my family in America. I also got to see my favorite teacher Svetlana V. She's my favorite because she would take care of me like a mother is supposed to. When I had lice (which I don't anymore), she would help me. When it was my birthday she would come early before class and give me a little present. She called me ponytails because I always wore ponytails. She loved me and I was her favorite! We talked to many people and answered questions about our families. I showed Erin around the orphanage and she met the librarian.

I also got to see my Natalia and Tatiana - my teachers from the orphanage! We talked, took pictures, hugged, and ate dinner. Natalia has a baby and he is so cute! I didn't hold him though. He looks like her. Tatiana gave us the pictures from a long time ago when I was little. I looked so cure! Maybe my mom can post them on the blog when I get back,

The next day we went to the open air market. We bought some warm coats for the kids in the orphanage. I hope the kids like them. We used the money from Karina's church. And a big thanks to Christina Dent for helping out!

After the market, we went to the orphanage where Sasha was moved to. I've taken many pictures so far. Some of you might have heard that we are trying to adopt two little cute boys. I wish my mom was with me, But I will tell her everything that happened and take many pictures of them and the other children. I think I might want to be a photographer. I know I'm not a better photographer than my mom, but I'm learning!!! We did crafts with the kids and spent time talking to them. Then me and my dad went to the cafeteria to meet Sasha. He was getting his food so we waited for him. When he came out, M gave me a present to give to him. It was colored pencils and a coloring book. My dad met him too. I took a picture with him and patted him on the head. We only got to spend 10 minutes together, but I thank God for that! He looks so much cuter in life than in the pictures! He is also very small for his age, but he is so cute! M said he likes to be cuddled and be tickled when he gets to know you. I'm thinking of sending him a package when I get back to America. I don't think we are going to be able to meet Vitalik on this trip. I'm upset, but I hope we can adopt them both. We looked around this orphanage and Erin and I talked with an 8th grade teacher. She was very sweet. I told Erin that if I was an orphan there, I would want this lady for a teacher. Karina's dad played football with the boys and they tackled each other.

We went back to A's house and ate borscht. Woohoo!!! We've also eaten pelmeni and shishkabobs. We went ice skating with Tatiana and I fell once. I also made Karina fall! We couldn't stop laughing. Dad and Karina's dad didn't want to skate, so dad took pictures of us.

Tomorrow we are going to downtown Odessa and back to my old orphanage. Then we are leaving Odessa to go to Luks to visit more orphanages. It is a 12 hour train ride. We're staying in a 2nd class car which is a small room with a door that can close and lock. We don't know if we will have internet, but I will try and write again soon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Milkman Returneth

One of my favorite memories of our adoption trip was the day that Robert wiped out almost an entire milk section at the local "Kopeka" to bring back to the orphanage. So it came as no surprise to receive this as the opening in Robert's email this afternoon:

We went to the orphanage yesterday and I bought all of the milk in the store and brought it to them. I brought crab, ham, and caviar flavored chips and candy bars for them too.

He kills me! Robert said Matthew brought footballs to play with the kids during their visit. This was Robert's highlight of the time:

One of the boys, about fourteen or fifteen who had early on in life been badly burned and lost a few fingers, made friends with me. At first he was shy but we threw Matthew's football back and forth in the room and he opened up. I doubt that anybody has ever played catch with him before. He really enjoyed it.

I had the misfortune of being at my desk when I read that and it took a good deal to maintain my composure. I ached for this boy. Not necessarily because he carries the scars from a traumatic physical experience, but because he carries unseen scars that can be healed by the love and touch of another human being.

According to Robert's report, they returned to the orphanage today to play with and love on the children some more. He tells of Matthew getting on the floor and wrestling with the boys. They had dinner with Kristina's orphanage caregivers and a girl who was in Karina & Kristina's class. She has since run away from the orphanage because of circumstances that are beyond her control. Robert was troubled to hear her talk about her situation.

Kristina is obviously taking tons of photos that I can't wait to see. Robert reports she and Karina are sisters reunited and are having a wonderful time. He said she's not spending much time with him because she's so excited to see everyone. He understands though and is giving her space to reconnect. They plan on visiting another orphanage tomorrow and may get the chance to meet one of the boys. They're also taking the train to visit some of the more remote orphanages later in the week. I'll update you when I hear something again. You can also visit the Naseoks's blog and get a first hand update of what is happening on the trip!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Short & Sweet

Matthew's wife Sheila was good enough to call yesterday and confirm that Robert & Kristina are alive and well in Ukraine. Although I stalked their flights online, it was good to hear another person confirm what the monitor was telling me. I breathed a little easier knowing they were okay, but I still would like to hear their voices.

Just before midnight last night, my cell phone chimed to let me know a comment had been posted on the last blog entry. I was tickled to see that it was from Kristina who was wide awake and apparently looking for an nontraditional breakfast by both Ukrainian and American standards:

Mom we travelled safe and we have Internet access - I might write on the family blog soon. We are going to the orphanage today and I am so excited!
We are going to see Alyona today! It is 6:30AM here and Karina and I might go eat some ice cream!!! Karina is hungry and won't let me sleep!! Karina had to take a freezing cold shower because I used all the hot water up. I cut my finger and it bled for a while but it is fine now. Karina and I talked to one of our supervisors and we hope to see them.
Bye, Mom! I love you!

This is the first time she and I have been separated since she came home two years ago and it's strange. We're so much alike that some days I long for a little distance, but after only 2 days apart I am really missing her.

You know what struck me about the comment she left? The part where she says how excited she is to go to the orphanage. Understandably the orphanage holds a lifetime of memories for her, many bad. The fact that she is excited about returning confirms that she has claimed her place in our family and can face her past with new strength and even hope. Now for all I know, she may have had a meltdown when she got there today! I haven't received an update as of yet. But I think she will be fine. She knows that this trip wasn't really about her. It was about the orphans left behind. It was about bringing hope to those left behind.

Robert was able to send me an email early this morning, and in a fashion matching his daughter's short and sweet update he wrote:

When we found out that Matthew and Karina were delayed in Jackson due to weather, Kristina got worried and asked me if the planes would fly in the rain. On our fourth flight from Paris to Kiev we began to get a little excited. On our approach to Kiev we could see that the landscape was snow covered. When we landed we put on our coats and headed for the stairs. In an instant our faces were pelted by the snow flurries and our breath was as visible as smoke. It was freezing! The contrast was that we went from literally sweating in the Atlanta airport to stinging hands and faces. We love Odessa! Today we're go to the orphanage to visit the children.

Hopefully the two of them can manage to scratch together more than a few sentences on the next update. And hopefully they'll be able to access the blog and post some pics. Some of you have asked how short we were on having the funds for the trip. We were about $500 short of having what we needed and the team is helping to cover some of their costs, but some of the costs are a bit higher than they anticipated. So please pray that we can still find the funds to cover the deficit. And keep praying for all of them!

Monday, January 18, 2010

In Ukraine

Sorry for the delay in posting, but it's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Robert AND Kristina are both in Ukraine this morning. They flew out yesterday and met up with the team in Atlanta where they caught their connecting flight. I am anxiously awaiting word that they are safe (and warm!) in Kiev and praying they had a uneventful crossing. Some of you may remember how much Robert loathes flying. Kristina was a bundle of energy on the way to the airport and I can only hope she calmed down a bit before being strapped in next to Robert for the twelve hour flight.

We didn't know if this trip was actually going to happen, but last Monday we were only a few hundred short of having the funds necessary for both of them to go. Granted, we didn't even have a US passport for Kristina. When we made the leap of faith to move forward, I scheduled an appointment with the passport office in Miami to apply for the expedited passport. On Wednesday of last week, we made the four hour trip south and sat in a government building for most of the day waiting on clearance and for her passport to be printed. Add the influx of rescue and recovery workers applying for expedited passports to get into Haiti, and we were a little nervous about it happening. But happen it did and Wednesday night we headed back to Orlando with passport in hand.

Please join me in praying for Robert, Kristina, and the rest of the mission team for the next 10 days. Pray for safety, wisdom, and favor with God and man. I'm not sure if they will have Internet access, but if they do you will likely see updates from them posted here soon enough. Check back!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bok Gardens

This weekend we visited Bok Tower Gardens and wandered the estate to look at blooming flowers and listen to the bells ringing from the Singing Tower. The property offered stunning views from an elevation that I didn't know existed in mostly flat Florida. We even made a friend along the path as a squirrel ate right out of our hands!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Orphan Mission Trip Update!

We have received $400 towards Robert's trip!!! We are so excited and so blessed to have you partnering with us! Thank you Stephanee and family! Thank you Lynn & Carmen! Robert spoke with a couple this morning that will match funds for him up to half the cost of the trip. So technically, he has $800 at this point!!! Praise God!!!

Matthew called yesterday to let us know that he has already purchased his and Karina's ticket. Kristina decided that she needed to escort Robert on this trip since her best friend Karina was going with her dad Matthew. I would love for her to go back to Ukraine with Robert. She is as much a part of this vision of orphan ministry as any other part of our family, but of course she has been there and can minister in a poignant way. She wants to go and asked if we would pray with her. We agreed to do that. It will be another $1500, but if it is God's will it will come to pass. So please add that to the prayer requests we've asked of you already. We'll keep you posted!