When I grow up I want to be a little kid…

When I grow up I want to be a little kid…

I want to look at my mom and Dad and see my whole wonderful world.

I want to fall down while riding my bike and have my mom blow on my cut and fix everything.

I want to know my dad is Superman.

I want to play and run and have the ground not seem so far away when I fall.

I want to laugh.

I want my worst fear to be being tickled by someone who I know loves me.

I want my big problems to be a spelling test.

I want to cry and not care who sees me.

I want to feel sun on my skin and not think about sunscreen.

I want to see snow and be excited, not worry about how to get to work.

I want to smell rain and not worry about drought or floods.

I want to never wonder about paying bills or for buying food.

I want to have loving touch be my normal daily experience with my family.

I want to love people simply because they love me.

I want to have big hugs from big people (aka adults) and not wonder about their motives.

I want to feel the grass and gravel under my bare feet and not worry about stickers or sharp rocks.

I want to swim in the ocean and enjoy the salt on my lips.

I want to play in the woods and not think about snakes, bears, or danger.

I want to have a vocabulary free of words like hate and war.

I want a world free of worry and full of love…

and more than anything else I want these childhood memories for the PHA Family of kids in Ukraine…

 

-Christy

Advertisements

Judge a tree by its fruit

Judge a tree by its fruit.  It’s something I think about a lot.  It’s a simple but powerful way to judge viability and even worth at times.  Sometimes when we apply that very standard to ourselves it can be downright scary.

Christy and I have been involved with PHA’s ministry in Ukraine for about 5 years now.  Beginning as volunteers and winding up being directors for the work.  During that time a lot has changed.  We’ve grown.  We’ve adapted.  We’ve strived.  And we’ve been at it long enough that we should be looking at the fruit of this ministry.  Are we producing good fruit consistent with our goals?

In June we had our third Summer Bible Camp where 96 kids from our ongoing orphan and at-risk youth programs came for 10 days.  For the first time we had orphanage graduates serve as junior counselors.  After summer camp, there was a Christian seminar held at the same facility where two of our orphanage graduates participated and we’re baptized.  Two more graduates were baptized outside of the seminar at their request.  We have kids who are getting close to finishing their trade schools and are preparing for further education and for jobs when just a short time ago it seemed they had almost no direction.  We are seeing our older kids being positive influences on the younger kids.  We are seeing kids who have a positive futures and paths to get to them.

Over the last several years we have seen lots of good fruit from this ministry.   We see baptisms of our older kids on a regular basis now.  Along with these baptisms we are seeing deepening relationships between the churches and our kids.  We see them maturing in their service as well as their personal lives.  This may surprise you but we haven’t seen any of our kids turn in to perfect people, but we do see growing relationships with Christ and that’s pretty sweet fruit.

-Chris

Love

It seems lessons about love have been coming to me frequently and in a variety of forms lately. It’s humbling when you learn lessons you didn’t realize you needed.

To start, and this is not a new lesson just an observation, there are a few love relationships that have certain necessary components.

First and foremost, as a Christian I love God. To love God means I accept His love, I worship Him, I spend time in His word and I apply His teachings to my life here on earth.

Second I love my husband.  Where loving Chris is easy, love isn’t the only reason I married him.  When looking at the qualities of a spouse one should consider them carefully.  Are they a good person? Do their values and goals compliment yours? And then of course… are they good lookin’ to you? Do you like them as well as love them? Do you respect them? With Chris I found all these qualities and more.

Third is parents. The Bible tells us to love and honor our parents. We should also respect them.  I have always been blessed by my parents and loving them has never been a challenge.  They have always treated me with love and I value them greatly but really I should love them no matter what.

Then there are all the other people in our lives. It’s love for these other people where I have been learning lessons.

1Corinthains says: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

For me, it’s easy to apply these verses to Chris (well at least it’s easy to try to). It’s even easy to apply these verses to my parents and of course most easily is to God.

But what about all the other people in life? We are called to “Love our neighbor”. So here’s what I’ve been thinking about love and neighbors. First when I say neighbor I’m basically talking about everyone other than my husband, my parents and God.

It’s very cool to me that God made us have a need for relationship.  That He also provides people in my life, some friends and some family, that meet this need.  I am blessed to have people I love and also love being around.  With these people I have many, many pleasant memories.  Not everyone in our lives though is someone we “just can’t help but love”.

To love my neighbor, I don’t have to compare them to the same criteria or components as I do God, Chris and my parents.  I don’t have to agree with who they vote for, what they spend their free time doing or even which church they attend (or don’t attend) on Sunday morning.   I don’t have to respect someone to love them.  I don’t even really have to like them. I don’t have to enjoy spending time with them, like the way they look, like the same foods as them, have the same hobbies, love the same things they do or agree with them to love them.

In our lives, we get to have friends and family that compliment us, that we enjoy spending time with, that we care for deeply and of course love. But to love someone we don’t have to have all of that.

I don’t know why but when I think of love for my neighbor as “criteria free” I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to analyze.  I. Can. Just. Love.  Thank you to the people in my life who have shown me how to love this way. I am trying daily to heed your lessons…

-Christy

 

Things I never thought I’d do…

2016-06-09-10-23-26

So I had plans for things I thought I would do in my life.  Things that sounded enjoyable and comfortable.  But more than that I had plans for things I wouldn’t do in my life.  Here is a short list in no particular order that you might find entertaining of where I was wrong about those plans.

Ask for money- I loathe it, but I value the work that is happening every day in Ukraine.  If we could make it happen on our own we would, but we need your help as well as God’s to make it happen. So we ask and we ask often.  It has become one of the main roles we fill but it is a role in the bigger picture of PHA’s ministry and the bottom line is it takes funds to do this valuable work.

This many crafts- This may come as a surprise but I’m not usually very crafty.  I don’t really know how to make things from popsicle sticks and my paper roses look about as much like a rose as they smell like one.  I never took art in high school and I think I now know why but crafts give me the chance to relate to kids.  A place to start building trust and relationships.

Dance in a tutu- Nobody wants to see this….except a bunch of laughing Ukrainian orphans.  Anything for the children right?  I don’t mind being a laughing stock.

Preach- I stand by my long time claim to not be a preacher.  I don’t even like public speaking but I find myself on a regular basis doing what many might claim to be preaching.  It goes in the same category as asking for money.  It’s just part of it.  We should all be prepared to give an account and that includes me.  And shouldn’t our faith push us out of our comfort zone?

These are just a few of the many things I never planned on doing but have and will continue to do.  I’ve often heard that God has a sense of humor and I tend to believe it so make your plans and prepare to have them changed.  We can’t wait to see what’s next!

-Chris

The stuff you can’t deal with in Ukraine.

Capture

Our trips to Ukraine are blessed, exciting, rewarding, and most of all busy…

We stay up late, have Bible camps, attend meetings, plan, spend time with our Ukrainian family, with our PHA family of kids, orphanage directors, refugee centers, local churches, local Christians, random Americans we have connected with who happen to be there when we are, cook American (by that we mean Mexican) food, pray, love, go over financials, hear needs and get up to speed on the ministry.

All that to say time flies by often too fast and so many things come at you in one day it’s hard to stop and think. Actually stopping and thinking about all you hear, see, and experience is the absolute last thing you feel you have time for.  One, just one of the many things/ situations is enough to drive you to your knees, make you fight through tears and pray for days without ceasing.  And each trip it seems we are met with a countless number of these “situations,” these “stories”. You want to tell others. You want them to know “what our kids go through”, “what our Ukrainian family has to help with daily”.   But you can’t. You can’t show the emotion. Take the time. You can’t stop leading the team or being the face of personal relations for PHA or the shoulder for the PHA Family.

You want to explain all the “behind scenes” stuff to the rest of group but you can’t. You can’t stop, you can’t take the time to process you can’t.  You want to take more time.  You want to actually sit and visit with the elderly refugee lady at church longer, the kid who just graduated from the orphanage longer, your Ukrainian family longer.  But the day fills and fills…

And then you get home.  And all of a sudden it hits you…

The kid who gets abused (you know the name and have hugged them). It’s one thing to know the theory, it’s quite another to have it confirmed. The kid who made more bad decisions.  The same kid you thought had come through the flames.  The kid who you know got beat when they returned “home” from summer camp.  The unkind words spoken to those you love. The misunderstandings you wish you had taken more time to explain.

How to share the story, how to keep it confidential, how to use it for Gods glory….?

You hear- “I’m glad you are home.”  Where “So am I” would be the appropriate response it’s not the one you can honestly give.  “I’m glad you are home” comes with love but even though it’s nice to be home your heart is still there. Still needing to hold and pray and love.  To sit and listen and try to help those who help daily.  But your job, your real mission is here.  Sharing with others what goes on there.

So you share the stories and you pray.  You plan to go back… And it all starts over again.

-Christy

What all does it mean to “Be Family”?

DSCN1246

What does it mean to be family to you?

At PHA we often say that through our Transition Program we strive to “Be Family” for the kids in our ministry.  Sometimes that means a hug and a shoulder to lean on.  Sometimes it means food, clothes, and a roof over their head.  Sometimes it’s offering guidance and encouragement through the trials of life and there are certainly many for orphans in Ukraine.  All these things we foresaw when we started this program and we planned to deal with them as best we could.  What has been truly amazing is all of the unforeseen parts of being a family and these are the things that really make you look in the mirror and hit your knees.  These are the things that test our young family bonds.

We need to “Be Family” when our orphan kids go to jail for terrible decisions.  Teens are teens in all countries and just like in America, Ukrainian teenagers are not known for their decision making skills.  They often lack maturity and forethought.  This is amplified when children grow up in situations where all decisions are made for them.   Where they rarely learn responsibility.

We need to “Be Family” when they show up at our doorstep with nothing in tote but their new baby.   When they don’t know how to cook or clean a home they certainly don’t know how to raise a child.  When they are overwhelmed and not even able to care for themselves let alone a child.  Trying to help them make the best decisions to move forward after many bad decisions is a huge part of this work.

We need to “Be Family” when we often play catch up with medical care that has been neglected for years due to the lack of resources.  Orphanage funding for dental work, broken bones and other health items are often in a great shortfall.

We need to “Be Family” when we find ourselves paying to bury birth parents because there is just no one else to do it.  No child should have to think that their parents were just discarded like an animal.  So we make sure that the one person who should have made certain that this precious child of God never had to see the inside of an orphanage gets a proper burial.

But is that truly any different from your family?  You stand in the gap during their time of need and you sacrifice so they don’t have to.  Thank you for “Being Family” to these children through all of your prayers and financial support.  We thank God that He gives us the opportunity to show His love and share His word.

-Chris

Roller Coasters

post-18260-0-53747800-1374793092

Roller Coasters…

Their ups and downs.  Their hills and valleys.  The climb to the top that ends the last few feet before the fall with the “Tic, Tic, Tic” of the cars making the most difficult part of the climb.  Excitement, fear, and anxiety are all followed by fun, amazement and a sense of release and freedom.  And of course this process just repeats itself until the ride is over.

The journey of this ministry often makes us feel as if we are on an emotional a roller coaster.    Ups, downs, hills, valleys, good things, praise then the “Tic, Tic, Tic” gets into your head again.

Here comes a problem.  We can do it.  God we trust you.  Oh no it’s getting steeper, the hill is getting harder to climb…“Tic, Tic, Tic”.  Wow! We made it! God you are amazing!  You always prevail! Thank you!  And then another hill.

Another “issue”.  We are half way up this time.  It almost seems as if God is pushing us up the hill.  He’s providing.  But what if… “Tic, Tic, Tic”.  And then…Blessings!  An amazing story from the field.  A picture of a smiling orphan child we love reading her Bible.  A life forever changed.  A check arrives in the mail from a supporter.  A church calls to say we can talk to their missions committee or tell their congregation all about what it is that PHA does in Ukraine.

We are coasting!  This is great! But what about…“Tic, Tic, Tic”.  What do we do? What’s our plan?  What’s God’s plan?  What is HE saying? We aren’t sure…“Tic, Tic, Tic”. And then like the brightest light in the darkest dark we see it.  His hand.  His way. His will.

And so the emotional roller coaster of this journey continues.  Ups and downs.  Hills and valleys.  Worry and praise behind every door and around every corner. Every day.

And through it all faith grows.

Well it’s a new year.  On one hand it’s been 16 years since PHA was granted official nonprofit status.  On the other hand it’s the 2nd year since PHA made some big additions.  Domik, our day center, has been open for over a year now.  Our Family House has been open since last summer and is providing a Christian home for some great kids in their time of need.

God’s blessings have been overly abundant during the last two years.  He has taken the dreams He gave us and turned them into a reality.  A reality where children’s lives are being changed.  A reality where they have a real chance to come to know Christ.

And now, that reality will begin to include two new cities.  As of January 16th PHA is officially serving in Poltava and Kharkov.  In Poltava an energetic young preacher named Fedya Chernichkin is joining the PHA Family.  He has already demonstrated a love for the Lord and a passion for serving children in need.  Tanya Belokonnaya, who has served with us since Donetsk, is now living in Kharkov with her new husband, Vanya and is beginning to serve at orphanages there.  We stand amazed that God has not only blessed the work of the last year but is giving us more opportunities to serve as well as the resources to do so.

Through all of the blessings over the past year the emotional rollercoaster continues to be a part of our work.  Daily there are challenges.  Daily there are blessings.  God provides.  Faith grows.  Without the up hills and battles it seems the downhills would not be as sweet.  We need Him.  It is His work.  It is His will.  He chose us to be along for the ride and we are humbled.

We hate the “Tic, Tic, Tic” that the devil wants us to hear.  So we cover it in prayer and we draw closer to Him.

-Chris and Christy

Aggie Spirit Stuff

2015-09-30 17.54.51

One of my favorite Aggie sayings is about the Aggie Spirit. “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it.  From the inside looking out you can’t explain it.”  As our ministry in Ukraine grows, I find myself thinking of this saying often.

Ukraine is a place I love. I love the country, it’s people, their culture, their Borsch:)  In a few days we return to Ukraine. We get to see our Ukrainian family and friends. We get to attend our church there.  We also get to see the kids served by PHA that are so dear to our hearts. I smile just thinking about all of these people.  They are more than acquaintances. They are family.  Our family across the sea but always in our hearts. This will be a relatively short trip.  3 weeks. We will be “home” in time for Thanksgiving and will spend the holiday season with our American family and friends. I’m already dreading saying goodbye to Ukraine and we haven’t even left yet.  Tanya tells me that I miss the food from whatever country I’m not in and I laugh because that’s true. When in Ukraine we miss our American family and friends but when we are here we miss our Ukrainian family and friends.  Sometimes it’s hard.  It’s hard when your life is split between 2 worlds, 2 cultures, 2 families. “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it.  From the inside looking out you can’t explain it.”

At times this way of life feels like the greatest adventure ever. Sometimes it feels like the coolest job in the world. And other times we feel tired, sad, and torn between two worlds. It’s hard to explain to our friends and family here that we have great friends and people we love like family in Ukraine that they have never met.  It’s sometimes odd when Chris and I are around others and we talk about people in Ukraine like we would our blood family.  2 worlds. One heart. Loving in both at the same time but never beating in both countries at the same time.  “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it.  From the inside looking out you can’t explain it.”

At least once a day I feel terrified.  It’s terrifying to know that you have a job you can never quit.  Knowing that the job ends only if you fail.  And if you fail and you have to go get a “normal job” that you aren’t the one who suffers. It’s the ones in Ukraine, the ones you are trying to help. Those are the ones who suffer if you fail. The orphans who have been let down and not followed through with by everyone in their lives.  The ones who have heard a million empty promises. You say you love them. You want to help. You want them to have a better future.  Then you fail to raise funds, show up, help like you said you would.  And you become a detriment to them instead of a blessing.  Not to mention that you are saying that you do this in the name of Christ. If you fail them as a Christian… How’s that gonna look? Will they only see you as a hypocrite?

I love this ministry. I love serving. I love Ukraine. Yet at least once a day I’m terrified.  “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it.  From the inside looking out you can’t explain it.”

-Christy

When the Statistics Hit Your Kids

One of the things that first got Christy and I’s attention about the plight of orphans in Ukraine were the statistics we heard.  The numbers we heard were horrific.   As we began to meet kids we knew that their futures were statistically likely to contain suicide, homicide, crime, drugs, alcohol abuse, and prostitution.  When you look into the faces of a group of children it is hard not to do the math.  When you hear things like 75% of them will never see their 25th birthday, you look at a group of kids and instantly think… “Who will survive?”

DSCN2603

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of growth, a test or a trail, but PHA has now met the sad milestone in Zaporizhia where we are seeing our kids running head first into the statistics.   An unsuccessful suicide attempt, a 3.5 year prison sentence, and young pregnancy are now part of our family business.

These kids that participate in our work, are showing a genuine change in character, and are growing in faith.  Yet they still run into statistics like a brick wall.  Sometimes it’s decisions from their past catching up to them.  Sometimes it’s a system and society that is stacked against them.  And sometimes they are just teenage kids who don’t make good decisions.  Surprise.  Surprise.

That’s not to say that God is not working through this ministry.  That’s not to say that God is not changing their lives, but life is hard in Ukraine.  Especially for orphans.   We fight deeply engrained hurt and emotional damage.  This damage affects every part of the psyche of the young adults that PHA loves as family.

We continue to see positive changes in their perceptions of themselves.  We continue to see improvements in the way they view their futures.  We continue to see the impact God is having on their lives.  They are being shown that they are precious children of God through the work of PHA.

In a countless number of ways Christy and I have seen that the statistics facing orphans in Ukraine are very real.  However, seeing kids we love meet these statistics is definitely the hardest.  It is a kick in the gut by the reality our kids face.

-Chris

American vs. Ukrainian Self

The more time I spend in Ukraine the more I find myself thinking that my Ukraine self is very different than my American self.  In America I am more on guard.  I am more self-conscious.  I am more concerned with other’s perceptions of me.  In America I think about germs and smells a lot.  I know that seems a funny thing to say but sadly it’s true.  In America I worry about silly stuff and get caught up in first world problems.

I think I like my Ukraine self better.  In Ukraine I love to make a fool of myself as I dance with the kids at Disco time.  In Ukraine I drink tea out of cups at camp that I know have only been sort of rinsed with water and no soap.  In Ukraine I constantly get hugs from “stinky” kids and I love it.  In Ukraine I eat liver and beets for breakfast and don’t complain (well not too much at least).

Capture2 Capture3

Ukraine is a culture where it matters more that you sat and visited with a friend than how you dressed to do it.  The more time I spend in this country the more I fall in love with the people here.  Their ways, their expressions, and their hearts hold secrets that I feel I can learn from.

I am however still a silly American, but I enjoy my Ukrainian self.

-Christy