Friends, this is an email I received earlier this week from Mr. Tom. Benz (he is the one I was working with in trying to work out a day that some of us could go up there to visit with these beloved. I just wanted to share it with ya’ll so you all could hear their heart and what they did with these children and share in the joy of these children finding their forever families. There pictures after the email that he sent me. Also, if there is any way we can help them financially that would be amazing. They are a small ministry and in need of churches and groups of people to join with them and partner with them in bringing these orphans over to help them find forever families. To bring this last group of 10 orphans from the Ukraine was about $40,000 (rounded).This last group that came was greatly impacted, found forever families, and the staff was forever changed. As we help them, we help more children like these to find their forever families. They are already in the process of bringing another group of ukrainian orphans here to Bridges of Faith. They are to arrive on or about May 15!! So, keep on the look out for more information concerning that! :)
I have worked in the garbage dumps of Mexico City where an estimated million souls lived in virtual slavery, never in their short lives leaving the mountains of rotting food and trash. I have worked in the Philippine and Guatemalan jungles. I’ve smelled death and utter despair after the devastating Haitian earthquake. I sat with an orphan dying of leukemia in Ukraine and shared Jesus with prisoners in Kentucky. But I have never been part of something more profound or noble as bringing incredible Ukrainian orphans to BridgeStone, Alabama, to share faith and life, and to help them find adoptive homes.
We have wrapped up three weeks with ten incredible Ukrainian orphans here in BridgeStone, Alabama. These children viscerally shook us. They needed so much, but gave even more. We needed so little, but learned how much we need. None of us will ever be the same. Truly we saw the face of God.
Through dangers, toils, and snares, the ten gorgeous orphans arrived at BridgeStone Christmas Eve. Scheduled to fly five days earlier, my lovely wife Larissa and Valery Dashevsky (the Ukrainian adoption facilitator) cared for these kids in airports, buses, hotels, planes, etc., since that time. Snow wreaked havoc on European air travel causing a 24 hour trip to spiral to almost five days. Larissa and Valery, along with an amazing family in Kiev, merit hero status. They entertained kids through difficult circumstances, even including an ambulance trip for suspected appendicitis in one of the children! Travel-worn and weary, all arrived at BridgeStone at five AM Christmas Eve.
Ages 6 – 15, most people have forgotten these kids. Most frequently, adoptive families desire younger children. But, every time I am in Ukraine, I see kids who just need a chance. They may have rough edges, but they are not bad kids. They just have the wrong information about life. Once in a strong home, these children usually blossom into wonderful young people.
As Larissa unpacked her carry-on bag, I saw these small, simple toys. ‘Honey, why are you bringing toys back from Ukraine?’ After all, we take as many toys as we can to Ukraine for use in orphanages.
Strong emotion filled her eyes and voice. ‘The children gave these gifts to me while we traveled.’
Tears began leaking from my eyes. I saw the kids coming through baggage claim. They didn’t have two checked bags each. They didn’t have one checked bag each. Not one of the children had a checked bag at all. Each child held only a small, tattered back pack or a plastic grocery bag with everything they had for a month-long trip. The humble toys they gave to Larissa were prized possessions, things to play with and to make them feel comfortable away from home. From this ‘abundance’ they gave all they had to Larissa because she cared for them, fed them, stroked them, and helped them have this trip to BridgeStone.
As I sat in the new Centerpoint building at BridgeStone that morning, Melinda Lanier, our program director for this initiative, began showing me a handmade bracelet, then another gift, and then another. These orphans, the ones we planned to teach about God’s love, had completed trumped us. They gave from their ‘abundance’ – an abundance that most of us would despise. But they gave all that they had, and overwhelmed us with their love and appreciation.
Day after day, we shared our lives with these children. The first time I led the devotional time, I told that the kids that I liked stories. I told them that God likes stories, that we are created in His image and that each of our lives is a story, just like a book in a library. Like any story, our lives have good times and bad times, happy times and sad times. But one theme always runs through each of our stories – that, no matter how things appear, He loves us more than we can imagine.
I invited the children to be special guinea pigs with special radar in a laboratory experiment. We spent a few minutes simply thanking God. Then we stopped and tuned on our radar to see if God were with us. One teenager, tears filling her eyes, said ‘Yes, He is!’ Other kids needed some help processing this, so I asked if any of them felt an unusual peace or warmth in their hearts. ‘Yes! We do!’ I asked if they thought that was God with us and they absolutely knew it was Him! One young man told me that he felt relaxed – way down deep – and he knew that was the Lord!
We experience so much together. We visited the zoo, the 4H camp, and the Tallassee airport. We went to the Shakespeare Festival and to local churches. We rode horses at Storybook Farm in Auburn. We experienced the Sports Academy in Auburn where Gene Chizik told our kids to never let anyone tell them they couldn’t achieve what they dreamt. We heard powerful testimony from Mark Fuller and we bought new jeans and new sneakers. We had crafts and bicycles and presents under the tree.
And – best of all – every one of these children went back to Ukraine knowing that a family was working to adopt them! If these kids age out of the orphanage system, 10% will commit suicide. More than that number will go to prison. And only 10% will make any kind of meaningful life for themselves. The girls have only a 40% chance of NOT becoming a prostitute. Each adoption snatches a child from that pool of statistics. And that’s exactly what we have just seen in this Ukrainian Orphan Project.
I count this an overwhelming success, as one the greatest initiatives I have ever participated in. Larissa is in Ukraine right now, arranging for the next group of kids to come in May.
We stand at the door of pulling life after life out of the statistical abyss that awaits them. I want to spend the next chapter of my life doing exactly this.
But I need your help. We finished this initiative about eight thousand dollars short in the hole. We need to quickly make up this lack so that we can begin putting together the partnership that will underwrite the next round of kids. If each person receiving this news just takes a just small portion, we will make the goal quickly. Some can take a larger piece.
Will you help today? We need your help get past this bump in the road to position ourselves to continue pulling kids from the fire and seeing them redeemed into His wonderful purpose for their lives. Thank you so much for your generosity. May God bless you as you bless the least of these of Eastern Europe. Don’t forget that you can make your gift electronically through the button below or you can mail your tax-deductible gift to POB 733, Millbrook, AL 36054.
For these beautiful children,