About the Garrett family

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Longmont, Colorado, United States
Matt and Aimee have been married for 9 years now. We have 5 daughters between the two of us. Three who are still living at home. Jasmine is 17, in her junior year of high school. Haley is 14 in her freshman year of high school. Anya is 18 in her junior year of high school. Anya was adopted from Ukraine in 2008. Taylor 18 is a senior in high School living in Thornton, Heather 20 Married living with husband Chad and thier baby Ezrah, he was born in Feb 2011. We are in process of adopting siblings Oksana 13, and Vladik 10 whom we met on a hosting program this past summer.

Friday, April 8, 2011

America!

We're home. It was great at the airport. All the right people, some not there, but that's life. To all who were there-thank you so much, even if I didn't get to interact much or spend the time talking to all those I wanted to. I had been up almost 40 hours and had not slept one bit. This morning, Vlad & Oksana woke up early. Bikes, new cell phones, trampoline, Wii, park...it's like Vlad's trying to get in a life time of fun in one day. I've explained that he's here, it's OK to slow down-no luck. It's all about fun and games. New bedrooms are a huge hit, not overwhelming and today is a good day. To be sure there will be challenges ahead, I know that, but like always, God directs events and paths and knows we need some time before real life kicks in. The first picture is looking back at the plane that brought them home. This will always be the first shot of my new Ukrainians in America, for good, as Garrett's. We've spent the morning setting up new cell phones, eating leftover pizza, taking pictures of Anya in her Skyline soccer uniform, Vlad took Haley to the park to roller blade, ride bikes, run around, etc. All the girls stayed home from school today and I'm glad. Last night, my 20 year old came over with her husband and my grandson. It was absolute chaos with all my kids there(except my lovely 18 year old, Taylor,who was working). Ezrah, my new grandson was wonderful, Poe, the bunny was running around in ultra high fast mode-it was moment to be cherished. I'm no fool-those kind of moments need to happen so that when the meltdowns occur I will be reminded of why all this is happening. One day ago I was in Ukraine. Today, I'm back home. I left a lot of kids back at the orphanage wondering why they weren't chosen. Wondering if someone would pursue them and pay the price in so many ways they aren't even aware of. This is one small blog among tens of thousands and I don't know the reach or impact it has, but I do know that taking care of the defenseless and those who find themselves in places and situations outside of their control is NOT a calling it has the tone and tenor of a command. Anyone who thinks that we, as Christians are called to affluent lifestyles and that God simply wouldn't want that for them is a fool. Those who feel the least qualified(me)need to do this. Don't be a member of the "Pansy Christian" crew. God has no use for those who cloak themselves in comfort and buy in to the notion, "You're Best Life Now". That view of the Christian life is nothing short of a load of false teaching crap! What about the best life now for those who are in the greatest need? Trust me; if you're one of those who have the lifestyle of home ownership, good job, great kids, way to many gadgets, comfort beyond description, routines that cannot be altered and are making you feel safe-you ARE thee very ones who need to get out of the rut, take a chance, walk in faith and make a difference. Don't be the servant who buried the talent. Again, God has NO USE for inaction, none!!!!!! It's NOT a ticket to heaven, it's a ticket to a deeper, closer relationship and understanding of Gods will.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Visas in hand, Headed home.....

Emails and photos from Matt confirm that it is finally done. They leave for the airport 3am tomorrow morning (Thursday) Kiev to Frankfurt, a few hours lay over and then direct to DIA. Scheduled to arrive at 4pm on Lufthansa. We are meeting them at International Arrivals after they navigate through customs. (most of you know this info already, thanks to Kari who is always so on top of sending out notices of all the homecoming parties. Thank you Kari!) At that point I have promised Matt, he can hand over the baton, this man has had a rough go of things, primarily Oksana and trying to care for this 13 year old young lady, who is going through many emotions and for Matt doing this alone is not normal we do team work parenting through out our days with all the girls. I have been the email/Skype mom/wife for the past few weeks, and supported them as much as I could from here in Colorado. It could not possibly be enough. Vlad is OK very happy as a matter of fact, he seems to always be OK for the most part, non-dairy food, video games, chocolate, bike ride, a little wrestle time with dad, super hero shirts, music videos with dance moves to mimic,that's all he needs, except maybe his hugs from mom, but not much else. Please pray for Matt's endurance and Patience to hold up for another day through the stress of travel. Hope to see many of you at the airport. Love, Aimee

"NO PHOTOS FOR AMERICANS"

After we walked out of the US Embassy, through the little turn-stile and out onto the street. I turned and took a picture of the kids holding their new visa's when a guy the size of an NFL linebacker approached me and tried to grab my camera saying, "No photos...no photos for
Americans."!!! "What! They're my kids. Don't tell me I can't take a picture. I'm outside the Embassy. Get out of the way or smile". Got my picture. He then turned away and started yelling something at the guards who just ignored him. We then walked all the way from the US Embassy to St. Michael's and St. Sophia's. Took a turn to the north and west, walked between two huge government buildings and headed to St. Andrew's and the SDA. We then walked down the long, windy street with all the tourist booths and did some gift shopping. Ended up eating, stopping by the supermarket for food and snacks for the trip home and then all the way to Karen Spring's apartment. This took about 3 hours. The walk from the US Embassy is not that long and takes only about 20 minutes. I've finally gotten my bearings in Kyiv and have figured out
how to get places without getting lost...finally! I'm telling you, if you can at least read cyrillic, the trip and process are a LOT less stressful and fun. We ended the evening with a meltdown from the always lovely Oksana. Won't go in to details, but o
ne very small misunderstanding about phone calls that were allowed to be made on her last night here ended up ruining the evening for her and disappointing for all of who were here. Vlad, well, he's 10, male and acting tonight like a kid on Christmas Eve. I so very much love this young girl and will do everything to make sure she's OK. Oh, we watched stupid, "Mega Mind" for the 5th time in 48 hours, in Russian. We were in and out of the Embassy in less than an hour. We've had so much fun the last three days and Karen's been so incredible...her and Julia Sergenko, who made dinner tonight for all of us, well, all of us at the table. Another little something to put on your, "to do" list; after you get your visa's and all is well, call your facilitator as a cour
tesy. I forgot to do this. After all the hard work and effort Valentine put in, you would think it would occur to me to let him know that everything went well and that I didn't get arrested for taking a picture OUTSIDE the gates where there are NO SIGNS, NO NOTHING!!!! At the Embassy, there was a couple who had issues with all the finger-printing. Don't know the details, but they were denied proceeding and were told they would have to go back to the states to have them redone. They didn't have any kids with them so I don't know what was going on, but I do know they were mad as hell! This is the last post. I'm done. Off to the shower to finally shave. The last thing I need is to have my beautiful, wonderful wife not want to get close because of that. I'm also looking forward to seeing my girls at home. I know I'm not the cool dad and I'm not as exciting as I think I am, in fact, I think I'm borderline annoying, but I love all of them anyway and do miss them. I guess with the US Government shut down on the horizon, it's a good thing I'm getting out of here today. I'll get processed in the states right before this happens. At the Embassy today, they mentioned that the Embassy would actually be shut down indefinitely if this happens. One more day and I could have had a problem. I think God knows I may be at the end of my rope. See some of you soon. For those who are doing this or thinking about doing it: think of it like this; when God says to do this, He says it with the same force as when He says to be loving, be patient, be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, etc. He NEVER says to do those things IF you feel "called" to do them. Quit making lame excuses, quit justifying in-action...it's LAME!! God has no use for LAME! Why? Because it's lame! Can you imagine someone saying, "Oh, you know, that's a great thing you're doing, being(patient, loving, kind, forgiving, adopting, etc.) but you know, I just don't feel "called" to that right now." Shut the hell up! Talk about twisting religion and theology in to self-made religion cloaked in comfort and safety...I'm pretty sure that's referred to as false teaching! Satan doesn't want us to recognize it as that, that's why he's so subtle and cunning at disguising it. If he can get us to talk our selves out of actually following God's will by saying clever, religious sounding things like, "I just don't feel called...", then he has us chasing our tails. Time to stop-really, it is.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Love and Hate

This is a shot of Vlad praying for our passports and visa's at the War Memorial Park. It never ceases to amaze me how wrong I can be about things I think I have such a clear understanding of. As I spend more and more time with Oksana, I'm beginning to realize that this girl really has a heart of gold. She goes to a LOT of effort to keep it hidden. While she may do things and say things to Vlad that appear hurtful or harsh, she goes way out of her way to make sure he is completely cared for, safe, well fed, etc. I think at times that I'm seeing one version of her and she'll do stuff that is genuine that makes my analysis nothing but guess work and foolish. Perhaps I need to just sit back, provide for her like I do my other girls, make sure she's safe, secure and confident and get out of the way of her development. I really hate that about myself...when what I think, literally, can be opposite of reality. What I love??? I am completely convinced that there are times when the Lord empowers you to behave, react & process situations in such a way that you do the right thing, despite your normal patterns. I have been able to do things in the past and here, that are completely contrary to who I am. The best part is that they come so easily(and not always)that in hind-sight, it can only be that God reached down and inserted Himself not only for the person or situation to be blessed, but to almost save you from yourself. It has been rather easy to not over-react, not be bossy, not be irritated, not be grouchy, boring or insensitive over the last week that I have had them all to myself. To be sure, I'm not up for, "Dad of the year", but I'm SO thankful that God helps me, albeit subtly, to be who He needs me to be for these two during this time. Under normal circumstances, there have been things that have happened that were I to react as usual, would have been very bad for the situation. I'm having deep thoughts today because I have my super-cool, super-sexy, super-scratchy, somewhat gray, adoption beard going. Makes me feel wise...sort of. Medicals all done today. Tomorrow we pick up visa's then taking a tram to St. Andrews to do some gift shopping in the area. It's tourist hell up and down the streets in this area. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be asked to watch, "Mega Mind" again, tonight. My single biggest concern at this point is whether or not the 11 hour flight from Frankfurt to Denver will have in-flight entertainment. Please, God, just one more request...The picture above is Oksana and a monument to survivors of famines in Ukraine. If you saw the size of the portions and all the different items Oksana orders, you'd feel confident, as do I, this girl will never starve. Here's a tip: I have cut my food expenses by 1/3, no kidding. I DO NOT order anything when I eat with these two. First-the portions that are served are ridiculous. "Super Size Me" takes on a whole new meaning here. Second-they eat less than 1/2 of what they order-I get all the leftovers and it's more than I can eat. Also, I dare you to try and communicate that you would like a, "to -go" bag or box for what you don't eat, so don't order your own plate of food. Wait for it to find it's way to your side of the table. Something else; the bathrooms, at times, can be confusing. I've posted a picture of the letter that indicates the womans bathroom. It is an "X", with a line through the middle. I know that the word, "Zhena" is wife and it starts with this letter and has the feminine gender behind it. The men's is simply, "M", but that is often no where to be found. Finally, one more video from yesterday. This is at the War Memorial Park. You walk underground and pass by a series of gigantic statues depicting different aspects of the affects of the war on the country. It's very impressive. video

Monday, April 4, 2011

Random fun.

Tonight at Karen's apar videotment, about 8:45PM, fireworks started going off outside her window for absolutely no reason. It lasted about a 90 seconds. What the....? Some of you will recognize the sign outside the window. That's about as random as it gets. Today was almost as random as I found myself navigating the METRO, and not just in a straight shot. We changed stations and stops and went in diverging directions and still got to where we wanted to go. You know you've been somewhere to long when you start understanding the names of the stations, can read the maps, understand the announcements and laugh at things at the same time as the kids on TV or DVD's. It's actually kind of weird. I have a slight understanding of how the language develops. Watching all these shows in Russian, especially cartoons actually starts making sense, although very little. We went to the War Memorial Park. I've posted a lot of pictures on FaceBook. It was a blast, most of the time. Mood swings are amazing. There were about 3o of them. Guess which one? The other one chased the pigeons, mostly to impress mom back home that he was fast. He was flexing in the mirror this morning with his new hat and coat(along with some dance moves). It was classic subliminal,"I'm having so much fun I forgot how much I want to play video games". Not wanting to admit it, they both were somewhat in awe. If you learn to ignore the words and watch the body language, it almost d videooesn't matter if you can't speak Russian. Looks and movements say a lot more. This actually applies to life in general, not just international adoption. My first good decision was making all of us walk back to the apartment and change in to something warmer. Oksana left dressed in pink mini-skirt, high socks, small t-shirt and light jacket...sort of like "Cindy Lauper meets Catholic school uniform". We dressed for the conditions. Vlad LOVED his new hat and coat, "...me cool...". Oksana thanked me later as we froze walking home. On our way to the War Memorial Park, we passed the largest Monastery in Kyiv. We then walked through a park that contained some war references and a monument to survivors of famines, all kinds of things. We hit the Monastery on the way back. You've got to see this place it is amazing and absolutely huge. It even had the bonus merchant and religious gift tents set up on the outside and inside as well...didn't Jesus have something to say about that when He got to the temple? Just wondering? I realized today that what is so difficult for me here is what I call, "Architectural awareness". In the states, we recognize places, stores, facilities because the architecture is recognizable. We all know what McDonald's looks like, or: Home Depot, Taco Bell, a grocery store strip mall, government offices, etc. Here, everything could be anything. It's all in buildings that look primarily the same. A pharmacist looks like an attorneys office or a shoe store or a small grocers. No wonder we struggle. Our minds are telling us to look for those familiar American structures and then, oh yeah, "I'm in Kyiv, or Kharkiv, or Mariupol, or Ismail, Kherson, Crimea, or wherever." Also, seriously; learn the alphabet and the sounds. Put a little effort in to it so you're not a pathetic, helpless, moron. Some words and letters are similar to, or exactly like English. Of course conversational Russian won't happen, but simple words and sounds can make the difference between complete ineptness and less anxiety. Places like: banks(BAHK), pharmacy(AHTEKA), attorney(HOTAREYC), groceries(PRODUKTEE), etc. The "H" is the "N" sound and I don't have cyrillic on my laptop, but because you don't even know the alphabet, I don't even have to explain-just do it. The picture above demonstrates just how huge Vlad feels since leaving the orphanage. The War Memorial Park is amazing. Ukraine schools teach the kids that WWII was won by Ukrainians and there resistance. We may question that until you realize just what this country went through during that time. Vlad asked for $.50 to sit in the seat of a Russian MIG. He loved it and came out wanting to kill something. :) He also got to go into a Russian transport aircraft and watch a short video. On the way back to the METRO, we went through as much of the "Lavre"as we could-its massive and spread out over a large, large area. The church grounds are crawling with activity and people going everywhere. We arrived too late to go in to the underground caves(4PM), but the rest of it was worth it. On our way home, received a call from Valentine, our facilitator(who, by the w ay, is the best)that passports arrive tomorrow. We sent a last second E-mail to the US Embassy requesting our intake appointment be tomorrow and it was granted. This means we should receive Visa's on Wednesday. We purchased return flight tickets for Thursday to arrive DIA at 4PM on Thursday. Non-stop from Frankfurt will make immigration and customs a non-issue. This process, for the second time, has changed me for life. Aimee's vision and determination are second to none. It's not easy and you are a fool to romanticize this process. I commented on a blog once that, "...this is not resort adoption...", it's front line warfare. I've also commented that Satan throws everything he has at this process because it takes souls he thought he had and helps redirect them upwards. I stated, "...thought he was dragging them to hell on the rope of circumstance...". I also said, "...you do not let go of that rope now that you have taken hold-YOU DO NOT LET GO!". Life would be so boring without doing things that matter. Home soon....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday is "Funday"

If it wasn't for all the disapproving stares and glares I got from just about everyone today, it would have been the perfect day. Apparently I won't be up for any, "Dad of the Year" awards here as I clearly had my kids under-dressed for the conditions and I was in my cargo shorts and sandals. The picture to the left is from a monument on Independence Square where the direction and distance radiate out in the direction of major points of interest. Oksana & Vlad are standing on the one for Odessa. The main street here is shut down on Sunday's and people can walk up and down this usually jam-packed street and feel safe. We went to church this morning for two hours. We rode the "METRO" all the way there by ourselves. When I reached in my pocket and pulled out the card for the church, two young men sitting across from us smiled and said, "Where are you from and are you going to ISA?" I answered, "Colorado and yes, we are." They were on their way to the same church. As we talked on the METRO, all the eyes on the train went right to us and just watched us using English. That's also when all the disapproving stares started. The little guy next to the guitar was at church. He sat next to me. When the offering was taken and he saw me put some in, he said, "You have money? I want money!" I don't know if it was habit from being here but when he asked, I opened up the wallet and gave it to him. He ran after the offering bag and stuck it in there! He then sat real close and spent the better part of the hour asking me for more. He also asked me for my phone. Didn't happen.The service was great. After the service, we got on the METRO with Karen Springs who took us to the center of the city, "Maidon", or Freedom Square. when you get off the METRO, you take an escalator that is ridiculously long. I could not believe how deep the train system must be and from what I understand there are even more levels below this one. We are going to try and take the same route tomorrow except this time we will make a switch to the line that runs East and West. Hopefully Oksana will help with this. The picture of Oksana and I was actually staged and taken by her. This was unusual as she continues to demonstrate a clear distrust in me. Nothing gives her more satisfaction than exercising some sort of control or subordinating of me. I've addressed this earlier and I'm playing alone. Can any of us even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to completely leave behind everything we have ever known to go to a completely different place that will take away our niche's that have been so carefully and meticulously carved out? What must Abram have felt like, or even Jesus when He gave up Heaven for 30 years of hell on earth. This is also one of the few shots I have of her showing teeth, which she refers to as, "Big American Teeth Smile", and then scoffs at. She also loves to point out men who are wearing what she has decided are women's jeans, laughing at and mocking them-sometimes intentionally loud enough for them to hear. She's also the master at creating scenarios where she has to get on the computer, or comes up with some scheme that allows her to get her little fingers back on her Ukrainian FaceBook. She is pulling out all the stops in trying to maintain contact with a world that is slowly getting further and further away. Every time I turn my back my peripheral vision allows me to completely see what she's up to. She lost computer time yesterday because the night before she recognized that I was involved in a conversation that distracted my attention. She jumped on the opportunity to get on FB and do some more connecting. What I do like is when confronted, she doesn't cover-she concedes and accepts. Vlad spends most of his time just trying to squeeze the most fun out of every opportunity and is mostly interested in stuff when it involves some sort of video or arcade game. When walking through Independence Square, there are these aggressive street vendors or performers who literally thrust themselves on you in an attempt to get you to take a picture of them with your kids. One such young man had a pigeon that he put right on Vlad's arm as we walked by. I didn't know what was happening so I took a shot and video with my Blackberry. When I tried to walk away, still not knowing, him and his friend surrounded me and started yelling at me in Russian. I did hear the word, "photo" and a few other words like, "dienge"(money) and, "seh-chass"(right now). They became incredibly angry, demanding and hostile. When one grabbed my arm, still yelling, that was when it ended abruptly with some very loud yelling and unmistakable body language on my part. There was also a living statue. He would only move when given money. One woman approached, gave money and he reached down and grabbed her hand and would not let go! She smiled, then became nervous. Vlad approached put in grivnha and he let go. I took a quick picture and he bailed. Tried taking a picture of Oksana near a statue and this guy dressed up as an American Indian literally threw himself on her. He tried again and she had to run away. We ate at a nice cafeteria that was really good. Oksana ate more food than all the rest of us put together. It had this fresh orange juice machine that peeled and squeezed the orange right in front of your eyes and dropped the next one into place. We then walked to get ice cream and then went back to the apartment for some DVD's and dinner made by Karen, Oksana and Vlad. I did nothing. Every day I realize how different this is going to be for me with these two. It's going to require very careful interaction with Oksana and learning how to survive the energy of a 10 year old boy. I have to keep reminding myself he's 10, not a grown man. We did watch "Mega Mind" again, today. It's a new favorite and really, what a great story! I can do the laugh just like the main character and now, Vlad thinks he can so that's all we've heard all night long. The night ended with Oksana reading a Russian adoption story about a cat to Karen and Vlad. It was amazing, touching and, for whatever reason, I was proud. I sat behind them for most of it and was pleasantly surprised that, although I comprehend very little, I could totally follow along, word-by-word. Then Oksana tried to get on FaceBook one more time. She's relentless. This will be my greatest test, yet!!!! BWOOOHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA......!!!!
video video

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I like it the way I like it!

We slept until almost noon today. I think the last three days caught up with us, finally. We went for a walk to what we thought was the closest supermarket, turns out there's a huge one about five blocks to the east of Karen's apartment down Yarisovskyia. Again, I found myself defaulting to the always controlling Oksana when it came to the purchase of food. She did good! At the apartment, she set off on a mission of preparing late lunch. Mashed potatoes, bread with butter, mayonnaise and what WAS a sort of Ukrainian Spam, but what looked exactly like cat food. As I watch this young thirteen year old girl, it is becoming obvious that she thinks she is in control-of everything-probably because she has been for several years, especially when it comes to Vlad. I have taken the approach of stepping back and not over-doing the parent thing at this point. We're not even out of the country and have only been out of Izmail three days. I'm trying very hard to follow the words I once heard: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Once we land in Munich or Frankfurt, the language power-trip she's on will disappear. I have light at the end of the tunnel, this Thursday or Friday. For her, it is a light that is dimming. I've decided with the support of Aimee to just relax. She probably knows it's quickly coming to an end. Nothing demonstrated that better than the walk to the larger supermarket when I took a totally different way for almost 10 blocks in completely unfamiliar territory and not only Vlad, but Oksana drew very close to me, holding my hand at times. She has refused to do this while here. I want her to know how much I care to at least form some sense of trust and bond before I start waving the sword of parenting-at least a little. We also SKYPE'd with mom, Haley and Anya today. Oksana already started placing clothing and room arrangement orders. If she grabs the keys, phone or wallet out my hand one more time, I'm going to, well, do nothing! It's not hard understanding her, at all. Survival! That's it. The picture above is the Wi-Fi connection window you get when at Karen's place. Is that just about perfect, or what?! Because you really are! Church tomorrow then Independence Square for the day. In an attempt to make the days go by, I'm pacing the activities as well as giving each kid 6 Benadryl tablets in there juice or late night drinks so they don't wake up until at least noon every day. By the time you shower, eat, dress, watch a show, sit around, it's 3PM, or so, not a lot of time to kill. Once again, that's my "inside parenting skills" coming out, what I meant to say was, "I can't wait until these bundles of joy and appreciation wake up each morning so I can spend all day paying twice for hair pieces because we sat on the first one; pay twice for eye drops because we lost the plastic dispensing cap; be told I don't know where I'm going because THEY don't know where we're going; have eyes rolled at me when I make a comment about how some kitchen utensil works and it turns out I'm right; pay for ice cream only to watch it hit the ground because we're too busy trying to push Vlad off the sidewalk in to on-coming traffic; wash table cloths full of orange juice because it seemed so right to hand joust next to the laptop over some kind of candy; burn hands lighting the gas stove because, once again, dad doesn't know-"I know!!"; place food and clothing requests because the 9 outfits we have in the suitcase just isn't enough for 6 days and the $50.00 in food in the kitchen isn't exactly what was wanted at 9:35PM". Yes, that's what I meant to say! I could have sworn the adoption manual said something about worshiping the ground I walk on. Beautiful!! Now that I've been all sarcastic and Vlad has downed four eggs, Oksana just presented me with a wonderful egg omelette with sausage...and it's only 9:45PM! OK! Now, after watching "Mega Mind", it's 11:45PM. They are the masters and time-warping. They literally have no concept of bed time. Vlad goes to bed when Oksana tells him to and she is NOT about to be told that midnight is too late for her. Aimee's favorite movie contains the phrase, "I like it the way I like it!" This is not only the gospel according to Oksana, but she adds in, "I'll get it the way I want it!". Did I mention that the Ukrainian culture is VERY matriarchal? We're taking the "Metro" all the way to Karen's church tomorrow morning. It is underground the whole way and only costs a little more than a quarter. I hope when we get off and exit onto the street we're not somewhere in Crimea. The video is a portion of late lunch/early dinner that took place. video

Friday, April 1, 2011

Closer to home!

In Kyiv @ Karen's apartment. Train sucked! Above is Oksana & Vlad in the train. I think we got put in the extra wobbly, bumpy car. I mean, why not just make an amusement park ride out of it while you're at it. So this is how it goes boarding the train. We arrive 1/2 an hour early and we walk to the beginning of the train, 1st car. Hand the woman the tickets, she looks at them and says something to Oksana(on a side note: it is so nice having your own, personal, 13 year old translator...most of the time!). We haul three large, heavy suitcases all the way to our cabin. Put the luggage on the upper bunks. Lay out the bedding. Get all our stuff out and situated-DONE! Oh, not really! "Please, may I see ticket"-in broken English. Says something to Oksana who rattles off something as only an angry, 13 year old, female Ukrainian can....we have the wrong car....we have to move! Packed up, out the small hallway, back down the steps, out into the cold, dark night & off to the correct car, which is close to 200 yards away. Not good. I should mention here that at 11:25PM, I wasn't feeling really, "Christian", or bubbly-all-over considering the cost, aggravation & chaos of the last three days. When I finally got all of our stuff out I looked at the smug woman in her uniform who just glared at me, I asked her a very polite, simple question about the misunderstanding, wondering what had happened. She just shrugged her shoulders and slowly turned away with a slight smirk on her face(you know that look: the one that, in your deepest thoughts, makes you want to do a spinning side kick to the chest, but at this age you'd hurt yourself more than the other person-yeah, that one-don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about). It was at that moment that I learned that certain vulgarity is universally offensive! No, I don't recommend it & I regretted it later, but I got to tell ya, when I realized she understood it and my point was made, I had about 30 seconds of euphoria and satisfaction that only Satan could appreciate. It's what I refer to as, "An apostle Peter moment". I've got more to write and I'll have time later. We're going to go for a walk and get some real food. I'll end right now by mentioning that Oksana took the lead at the store in Odessa the other night for food and made us all breakfast yesterday morning. It was good, but I didn't know you could use that much cooking oil for eggs and sausage. And yes, I know I said "Kyiv". It was Odessa! Please, I really just don't need to be corrected right now! video

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What are the chances?

I'm NOT kidding! We are siting in the McDonald's across the street from the train station in Odessa. We've been here for about 2 hours. With no warning, no information or anything else...in walks the birth mom for Oksana and Vlad. Literally, as I sit here, she is sitting across the table from me talking mostly with Oksana-VERY STRANGE! I have a lot to say about this, but not right now. I mean..........REALLY? Oh, & now, I get to buy her dinner here. Seriously, they are standing in line ordering. Am I even really here right now? What the hell........so, if you have ever doubted that God isn't real, or doesn't like to screw with your head and present you with odd situations just to see how you will react, well, think again.

Moving on to Kiev (update from Matt posted by Aimee)

Just talked to Matt and they will be on the overnight train to Kiev at 10pm. Everything has been done to receive the passports. They took pictures and signed all the forms and gave power of Attorney for Yuri to receive them when they are finished. Matt and the kids will spend the waiting time in Kiev staying with Karen and letting the kids do some sight seeing for the last few days. Matt really want to take Vlad to the WWII museum. They are hoping to get the passports back by Tuesday. If that happens they will do the medicals on Wednesday and Embassy for Visa Thursday and be flying home either Friday or Saturday. We are surprised and thankful at the speed of which this has moved forward, as we had originally been told that Matt should expect to be here for 3 weeks this second trip. Yuri has friends in all the right places. According to Matt the person at the passport office, whom they met today, is a friend that Yuri has known since childhood. He allowed Matt & the kids to bypass long lines and go right in to get the photos done. It did make many people angry who had been waiting in line, I feel badly for them, but what else could you do, when they tell you to come in, say no and go to the end of the line, that would not go over well with Yuri, I am sure. Matt has been without Internet since they arrived in Odessa. His blackberry is not working. I tried to get it fixed by talking to T-mobile and Blackberry yesterday, but it can't be done until he is back home. If anyone has been emailing or writing to him on face book, he has not and will not get messages until they are back in Kiev and then only when he is on the computer. He is going through withdrawals at the moment, frantic because he can't get an update or email the instant it comes through. It is amazing how dependent we all become on our cell phones! Oksana is trying to contact her birth mom by phone now to arrange to visit her before they leave for the train tonight. She lives there in Odessa, and the kids had asked to see her before they leave for America. I am praying that the mother responds and follows through this time, as she had also told us and Oksana she would come to Izmail while we were there the first trip, she never showed. I really think it is important for them to be able to have the opportunity for some type of closure in this area, and to know that Mom wants the best for them in their new life, I think she does, but is just still a mess and is unable to keep her commitments. That is all we know for now. Stay tuned. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matt's updates ( from Aimee at home)

Matt emailed this photo to me a few hours ago. They stoped at the orphanage to pick up old birth certificate before driving to Tarutina to pick up the new ones. He ran into these two, all dressed up for the big day! Matt says they are both so excited and ready even Oksana, who we thought may be sad and depressed on this day. Thank you God she is doing so well.
Yuri has been testing Matt since he showed up an hour late at the train station to pick him up, and did not call. Matt said it was raining and he stood there forever getting soaked waiting. Yuri showed up in a taxi, had car trouble, and they took the taxi back to his house. Turns out his "Magic" car strikes again, the self installed locking/alarm system now has stopped working and he was unable to get into the car. He finally was able to break into his own car and pull open the old manual locks. So they got a very late start to Izmail to begin the paper chase.
Turns out Vlad's REAL birthday is March 28th not February 28th as we have always known. So all documents are having to be redone!! How do they miss this for so long? How do they issue the child a travel document to come to the US this past summer and never notice? How do they terminate parental right, register him as an orphan, have an adoption hearing, and fail to notice this until now??
So Yuri left Matt at the orphanage and never told him he was leaving, returned an hour and a half later. Then spent another 30 minutes in the office with director, not telling Matt why.
They finally go to race to Tarutina, and Matt said he began doing that obnoxious slow driving in the city, and to top it off he stops at the big supermarket at the end of town to eat in the cafe. Matt thinks there is no way they will get back in time to take the kids out of the orphanage today, they are very mad. That is the last I heard from him, I will let you know after he emails me, how this day turns out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Here we (I) go again!

Going to have to be quick. Back in Kyiv today. At Karen Springs place for a few hours before heading to the train station for overnight train to Odessa, then on to Izmail, back to Tyrutine and back again to Izmail. Going to be a very long, tiring, emotional next two days. Talked to Oksana tonight, briefly...she's ready! By myself this time-no Aimee-no "Rec Room" :( Aimee and I do everything together so this is strange for both of us-she's my best friend in the whole world. Honestly, though, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much easier traveling alone!! When she's with me I spend almost all my time trying to make sure her every need is met-it's exhausting. I think what I'm trying to say is that it's so much easier being completely self-absorbed and selfish. I'm looking at 3 more weeks. If things go well, maybe 16-18 days. We'll see what magic Yuri can perform. He may not know much English, but he's really good at what he does. Next entry in about two days unless Aimee posts from home. Later.....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wide awake at 240AM, this after being sick with fever and coughing all day yesterday. Already starting to repack. Going even lighter this time as I'll be by myself. This will be the longest time Aimee and I have ever been apart. Good to be home. I asked for the entire can of Sprite on the flight from Frankfurt to Chicago just because I could! It was so empowering to actually say something and not have to perform verbal and hand-gesture gymnastics to get my point across! We had a one hour and twenty minute lay-over in Chicago. This gave us 80 minutes to make connecting flight. We were 10 minutes late-70 minutes. Took 20 minutes for the plane to get to the terminal and for us to get off the plane-50 minutes. Took 20 minutes to get through customs, get our bags and wheel them to the drop off point for the connecting flight(this was actually easier than I thought as United had it set-up easy and quick)-30 minutes. 10 minutes to run up the stairs, wait for the tram and get to Terminal 1-20 minutes. 5 minutes to get new boarding passes, get through one layer of some sort of security stop that I don't even know what for-15 minutes. Took 10 minutes to get all the way up, down and through that ridiculously long walk all the way to another security stop on our way to Gate C21.-5 minutes. Took all 5 minutes(thank God) to get through security and get to the gate at exactly 315PM. They had the plane 90% boarded and we were almost the last ones on the plane. Aimee and I had been losing layers of clothing along the way because we were sweating trying to get to the plane. I boarded with nothing but my sandals on, carrying two strategically placed laptops and one carry on bag. I was immediately offered about a hundred of those burning hot towelettes, which I promptly used to take a, "seat-shower". The captain put on the seat belt light, I put a plane pillow in my lap and strapped the seat belt on just as the plane angled upward and we were off to DIA. When we reached altitude; I stood up, wrapped the airplane blanket around my waist and used the super-useful bungee cord lashed to my carry on to secure the pillow and the blanket for full, "360 coverage". I may have set the travelling fashion trend as we know it! It only became awkward when I was told I couldn't leave the plane with the pillow and blanket...bungee cords DO NOT make for good covering! I cannot believe I have to go back in 6 days for three more weeks. For those wanting a "reality check" on costs, I submit the following(& I do this in no way to discourage, just to inform). We went in to this 6 months ago with approximately $35,000.00. Because of the trip in January to Kyiv and back ($3800.00); two weeks in delays that added almost $2700.00 in unforeseen expenses; 4 weeks of missed work on FMLA for me and 3 weeks of missed work for Aimee(whose employer has been absolutely wonderful) a combined $5300.00 in non-compensated income; by the time we are done, we will have spent nearly $8300.00 just on plane tickets; and I won't go into all the other stuff that has happened...we will have spent nearly $40,000.00 on this process. Thank God, seriously, that we have had people we know, close friends and family step up in ways that we CANNOT begin to say thank you enough for. Much of this, because of the new tax laws, will be reimbursed, about $28,000.00 of it and some from my employer. Thats the reality of this process. It's the game we have to play. I don't mind being open about the personal financial aspect-it's what it is. I'm certain that there will be some who will gasp and wonder why or how I could give such information or details. Some will get irritated or even angry that I've posted this. Sometimes I wonder why the Lord doesn't perform some sort of miracle to change the process. Can you believe Butler over Pitt in the NCAA Tourney last night?? I REALLY struggle with scripture that nearly demands we step out in faith while simultaneously encouraging us to discern whether or not we can win the battle before we enter in to it. Which is it? If we over-think it, we can excuse or talk our way out of anything; if we dive in to it, we're rash or careless. Anyway, off to church in a few hours then I get to see my 5 week old grandson since he was 2 days old. The picture at the top of this post is why. Maybe someday she'll appreciate it.......maybe some day I will do the same. Can any of us really grasp the frustration the Lord must have, at times, with us?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home tomorrow.

Flying out at 535AM to come home for a about 8 days and then I will return for three more weeks of fun and games. Haven't had internet access for about 36 hours. Here at Karen Springs place for one day. The picture to the left is of the holding cell in Karen's front room of the hospitality house she has put into service recently. It's where she likes you to keep your shoes upon entering! It's just a minor inconvenience and we were in and out in no time. Not really, I'm lying, it's the holding cell in the court room for the hearing yesterday morning in Izmail-really. We sat 15 feet from it for the entire 10 minute hearing. I've included a video showing what you May see out the window of a train ride. Thought some would enjoy, or at least be interested in what that may look like. I've also put up a shot of us outside court right after it ended. I sent at least three FaceBook postings with pictures and apparently it did not work. Late here and have to be up in 3 hours to leave for KBP. See all soon. Thanks to the Roge's who posted on our blog for us yesterday. video

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Success!!

Court was a success! We're on the train to Kiev and will post more when we can. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"...down by the river..."!

Every time I say I have to do something quick, I can't or don't, so, I'm going to make this as long, obnoxious and drawn out as possible! We spent today going to the Fortress of Izmail. It is approximately 600 years old and has only one small building left and the outline of the wall that surrounded the entire complex. It was amazing-at least to me to know I was walking on small hills and grounds where, literally, Knights fought with swords! We also spent several hours down on the beaches of the Danube River having an open fire picnic. Little windy, little cold, but the best thing for Aimee as this is her last full day in Izmail before we leave after court tomorrow. I decided yesterday morning to fly us home and come back to Izmail to get the kids on the 28th, or 29th-depending on whether or not some stupid office is closed for another ridiculous holiday or, "...they don't do that on Monday's"! I cannot begin to categorize how deep, how wide and how large is the depth at which this place goes to slow down the paperwork process by being closed, having a holiday, computer is down, someone's sick or out of the office, this person's stamp expired, need to go to this city for this and have it certified twice, once somewhere else, 2 day delays, one moment please, sit here, stand there, get up, please come back tomorrow, stay off the streets, stay off the sidewalk, get in taxi, get out of taxi-enough already! A culture of paperwork would be a huge understatement. Anyway, Aimee needs to get home for several reasons and I get to come back and get stuck here like 3 or 4 of my other close friends who are dad's. This is assuming all goes well tomorrow at court. Our taxi driver took us to the river, built a fire and cooked smoked pork on steel skewers and they were amazing! It was perfect for Aimee as she got to spend this day doing what may be her favorite thing-family fires/picnic's/days at the river. Several barges went by, crane ships, a motor boat and a Ukrainian cruise ship. We also got to see two guys dressed up as Knights practicing "sword sport", really! The sunset was spectacular, the food was wonderful and we topped it off by making a mad dash to several shoe stores to get, "Princess Perma-Pout" high heeled shoes for her dress...thank God they were all closed! She's going with some boots that toned down the look that most dad's heads explode when they see. We've had a, "...come to Jesus..." meeting with the teacher who has let us take Vlad for however long we wanted the last three days. It's been nice. Remember(and if I'm repeating myself, its because I cannot stress it enough), "Weakness is provocation". We will be in Odessa late tomorrow afternoon after a side-trip to some small city to start the application process for some crazy tax ID number that is required in some regions. There are at least two new requirements or enhancements that are causing about 7 days in extra delays: 1. We have to get the blue passports with the chip. This will take approximately four extra days and 2. This tax ID number will add approximately three days. This is morphing into more than 7 weeks and that means nearly a month from today-not gonna do it! By the time I get back I'm sure their will be new legislation that requires birth certificates to be delivered by donkey to Kyiv and only those who have been certified by the local authorities-a whole other stamp! We leave for Kyiv on overnight train; one night in Kyiv and then on to Frankfurt, then Chicago(where we get to go through customs and make our flight in less than an hour), then on to Denver-where the streets are paved with, well, anything will do at this point. When I read here, I'm totally confusing my "B's", "P's" and "H's", when I see English on something. If you can read Cyrillic, you know what I mean and I would highly recommend that you at least learn the alphabet. We spent one day outside for three hours in the playground area. Sad! If you thrive on sad, watch these kids begging you to play with them, touch them, give them any sort of snack, push them on the swing or just acknowledge that they exist. That day was the beginning of the end for Aimee staying here-it's crushing at the deepest level. Vlad and I got to stand on what remains of the walled fortress right on the hill that leads down a steep embankment to the river. When the ship with the crane went by, Vlad just stared with his mouth open. When it passed, he went right for my "Twix" bar, if that keeps up, he's gonna need more than that sword shown in the another picture. You know, nothing makes you feel more manly than prying YOUR "Twix" bar out of the hands of a 1o year old who has to go back to the orphanage that night. When we dropped them off tonight, it became very obvious, very quickly, that tomorrow is going to be very hard on the kids when we leave. Both are very tight with Aimee. It's going to be a long 3 1/2 weeks for all of them. I'll survive, I'm simple. When I discussed with Aimee that I was taking her home this week, let's just say that it was emotional for both of us as she collapsed on my lap, sobbing, heart-broken, scared that something could go wrong. This woman is all female, all heart and EVERYTHING God had in mind when he fashioned them as He did. Those who know us well know that it has not been easy for us in the almost 10 years we've been married-but we are still there and in our most tender, quietest of moments when our foreheads touch and we exhale together....there is no need for words.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's true, mom, the teacher IS out to get me!

We are having, or had problem's with Vlad's teacher at the orphanage. She's a 21 year old who has, for whatever reason, decided to assert her limited authority. We have been told we can no longer take the kids out of the orphanage because last Friday we took them without being able to locate this particular teacher(Oksana's teacher approved it and is very nice)and was only able to tell her when we left the orphanage grounds and found her hanging out with some older kids at a bus stop. Two days ago it got a little ugly in the lunchroom when she told us he couldn't go, couldn't tell us why and went back on her initial approval and against the directors position of saying we could. It was a one way conversation: Me: finger pointed at myself; "Menyah (me)! Finger pointed at her snotty, arrogant face, "Twee (you)"! "Zaftra (tomorrow)! "Dina Markhova (director)!!! "Have a nice day"! (in English). She hasn't screwed with us at all the last two days. Haven't been able to see the director because she's been sick...but we will. Being my third trip here, I have absolutely no patience for the "language barrier sword" some swing when it suits them. To be fair, the vast majority of the people here are very nice and helpful, but there are just enough that aren't that suck the tolerance right out of you.
So, back this morning to finish this post and I'm watching the earthquake report about Japan on BBC News. I don't have the words to describe what's going on as I watch in horror, disbelief, sorrow and sadness.
We're also trying to navigate through a situation that has developed regarding medication that Aimee has to have and only has 7 days of it left. We have our good friends, the Roge's and Green's working on this to assist. Thanks to all of you. We'll see..
Here' a suggestion: in addition to travel mugs, zip-off pants, bungee cords, zip lock bags and comfortable shoes; get your doctor to write a prescription for a weeks worth of antibiotics. Aimee has used hers and I'm likely going to end up giving mine to an American couple here. The wife is very sick and getting worse. Oh, bring, or buy, balloons!!! Talk about being able to kill lots of time with one simple item. The kids love them and the boys of course, turn them in to weapons and beat the living hell out of each other with them...kind of makes you proud to be an American-it's very uplifting and inspiring.
We have court in three days and really need to prepare Oksana. That "perma-pout" look that seems to be pervasive here in Ukraine with attractive young women is not very conducive to a positive court appearance. It sends the wrong message on many levels.
Started reading "Mere Christianity", again (4th time). No wonder I'm all ADHD with my thought process and writing style.
We've decided that when we get home that one of the things we want to do is have a REAL, Ukrainian adoption experience dinner. It will be bags of any and every thing you can heat up with hot water AND, that really cool hot water pot as the center piece on the table. I've also considered submitting a game to the makers of "Wii", called, "Eastern Europe Sidewalk". The calories you could burn, the, "eye-hand coordination" you could develop and the nimbleness you would have to have could allow for hours of family fun and exercise.
The picture at the top of the post is a monument to what is left of the largest church that at one time was at that very spot. It was destroyed, completely by the Soviet Union, along with
most of the other churches. There are a few that survived, like the large, blue, orthodox church we've shown pictures of. The picture to the right seems routine. The story is that all the trees in the park are from all over the world. When the church was rebuilt, the general in charge ordered the soldiers to bring back trees from every continent that had trees, in order to plant them in front of the church in a park that was dedicated to it. There are hundreds of them and in the spring, supposedly, it is fantastic. Below is a picture of some students at a university we were asked to talk with/teach/lead. We spent almost two hours talking with and discussing numerous subjects. They are all wanting to come to America at some point for opportunities most of us take for granted.
Yesterday, we walked about 6 miles up to to, "Taviyar". It's
their Walmart or Target. It's our safe
zone. During the walk, we saw so many different things that, for me, did nothing more than constantly remind me how lucky we are to be Americans. I believe Aimee may expand on this further, later. She stopped and took lots of pictures and was in deep thought the whole time.
Under normal circumstances, I post not only to inform and update, but to vent, make points that are drawn from this experience and incorporate them in to my faith &, to be sure, add as much sarcasm as possible because I feel out of place in this world and expressing it in that way helps me cope. Humor is, after all, only funny when it has the underlying element of truth behind it. Odd thing is, this morning, I wake up to a world that is watching in horror and sadness at the situation in Japan. It is destroying untold thousands of lives and I'm hurting for them. It reminds me of just how bad some things are for people. Just not in the mood.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Return of, "The Rec Room"!!!

In a moment of self-righteousness & mis-guided religious awareness, (a.k.a. Aimee was angry with me) she inadvertently removed the first edition of this picture and corresponding blog post. I categorized it as intentionally violating the words found in "2nd Testoserone's"'concerning the husbands desire and pride in having the beauty to pursue (trophy wife). These passages can be found right after 1st & 2nd Opinions and right before 1st, 2nd & 3rd Traditions. These are writings that can be very useful and can be misconstrued-which is very self-serving and convenient. Anyway, to be sure, there are those who will get their brains all twisted up in knots, self-appointed standard setters...whatever! She's my wife. She's nothing short of ridiculously stunning. I stare at her sometimes when she's sleeping and absolutely cannot believe she's laying there. Some could say that this is inappropriate or, "Adoption Blog Soft Porn"....Bwhahhahahahhahahahaahaha...Let's see; I believe the Lord made a point of highlighting in Genesis that Rebecca was, "...beautiful in form and figure". I'm fairly certain that Isaac didn't work 14 years because he wanted to get to know Rebecca's thoughts on the political state of affairs in the land of Ur. Esther was specifically singled out by the Lord to save the Hebrew nation precisely because she was beautiful-because that got her in to the inner circle. In fact, she was so stunning it allowed her to approach without being summoned; an action that could have ended her life. The king threw out all protocol and standards because the Lord saw fit to fashion her as He did. Sarah was so beautiful, Abraham lied about his relationship to her so he wouldn't be killed for her. Ruth is a story of a woman who used her femininity to her advantage and let's not leave out the obvious: Song Of Solomon-talk about tossing out a "stumbling block" for all those reading it. I can assure you that each man, or boy, reading it draws from it his own mental image of the babe in that story. The first time I saw Aimee, I can tell you that my first thoughts were NOT, "Wow, I wonder what her position on instrumental music in the service is?", or, "I wonder what she thinks of, '...the abomination that causes desolation...'!".(For those of you who are simultaneously passing judgment and wondering what on earth I'm talking about, read scripture-it may help you not only know what I'm referring to, but may assist you in navigating this entire discussion). There's plenty more examples. Who among us wouldn't want to know what Eve looked like? Who among us doesn't post pictures of our husbands or wives-most of those in flattering formats? Are we to jump to the conclusion that they're doing so with bad intent. While the case could be made that it's throwing up a "stumbling block"; that's taking the intent and the context and torturing it. One could argue that titling it, "The Rec Room" is intentionally drawing attention to the obvious. Is it obvious? Does this say less about me and more about you? To take that position, one would have to question why the Lord chose physical attributes to highlight and not some other. One could say that by distinguishing those attributes, the Lord drew attention to this aspect and left it up to the imagination as to just what kind of stunning beauties these were. Could one, at that point, then say the Lord has thrown up a stumbling block; right there in the scripture, knowing that mens imaginations would run wild-may it never be! :) They were points of fact; a part of the story-an important and critical dynamic because (this is shocking), in certain instances, physical appearance does matter. Some may think that's a leap, but it's my leap. Writing is, at times, therapy for me. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head to read this or look at it. Get a hold of yourself, or, as Jesus may say, "Why look at the speck in your brother's eye, when you have a plank in your own...". Every man wants a woman he's proud of, loves and can display. Every woman, or most, want to be the woman on the pool table, or at least want to know that their husbands would be proud to present them as I have done with mine, were they given the opportunity to do so. Consider this an opportunity to exercise some wisdom, discretion and spiritual growth and less as an opportunity to display a level of ignorance, piousness & an inability to distinguish between the intent of a person & how one CHOOSES to receive it. Maybe later I'll actually post something about the adoption process, or could it be that spiritual growth IS a part of the adoption process? Jesus looked right at the Pharisees and told them they demonstrated an amazing lack of wisdom, maturity and understanding, not because they didn't know, but because they twisted meaning, distorted intent & were dull to who the Lord is & what He's all about. I wonder what He would say to us?

People in Izmail who have Blessed us

Valentina- We met her the day we had to have our petition notarized, she was hired to read us the document in English before we signed. After this we ended up moving into the hotel Seaman's Club where she works. Valentina and the entire staff here have been so kind and helpful for us, doing all they can to ensure we have a good stay in their city. Valentina is a very special lady.
Anytime we need any help with speaking to people she goes out of her way to help. Last week she had the driver from the hotel take us in the van for a tour around the city. She showed us many historical sites, places to eat, things to do, and a much nicer area of Izmail.
Sunday we went to church with her. She is a member of a Christian Church here in Izmail, similar to services we would attend at home. Worship music then a message and announcements plus a time of sharing testimonies from the week past, more teaching, more music. Very similar to our churches, but much longer services, it was from 10am-1pm. On the Sunday that we were there they were celebrating the children. All the young children from the church came up front and the congregation prayed over them. Also the youth choir lead some songs. Valentina's 18 year old daughter Katya sang with the group. She was in town visiting from Odessa where she goes to university studying English and German language. Valentina sat with Matt and I translated for us the messages that were being spoken. It was so wonderful to be there with other sisters and brothers who love the Lord as we do. I felt the spirit in that place, even when I could not understand the words the Lord still spoke to me through the people. We plan to go back this Sunday and for as many weeks that we are in town.
During this time of testimony sharing many people came up and talked about what the Lord was doing in their lives and in the lives of others they had been with that week. Their were stories of the youth going out and ministering to other young people in the city, stories shared by a man who teaches the Word in a local prison, and two men repenting and accepting the word during his last visit, a woman and her husband who shared about their falling away and returning to the Lord and His healing of her cancer. I felt the spirit asking me share our testimony too. I asked Valentina if she would come up with Matt and I and translate, she was happy to do so. So we went forward and spoke to the people. It gave us a chance to share about the Father's heart for orphans, and to thank these people for all they have done for us by welcoming us into their little family. There were many tears and many praises from us all. It gave these people an opportunity to also pray for Oksana, Vlad and the other children who will remain in the orphanage, and for other couples who would come and welcome them into their families just as God had welcomed all of us.
After the service Valentina introduced us to her daughter Katya.
This photo is of Katya(left) and her friend Lina during our visit on Monday at the Seaman's Club. We spent 3 hours talking getting to know each other and having coffee & Desert.
Katya has also been a person who has blessed Matt and I very much. Katya speaks very good English. She was happy to have some time to practice her English with native speakers. She invited us to come back later in the evening for the youth service and to bring the children. We did decide to go back and bring both children even though it was a little older group. The kids in service were 16-20 years old. We ran into Roma (Oksana's boyfriend) on the street walking home from the church. Roma is 17 and attending a trade school having aged out of the orphanage last year. He is not very friendly to us, especially after Oksana told him she was going to be adopted and come to America. He continues to pursue her and try to get her to change her mind. We invited Roma to come to the youth service with us. He declined. I called Oksana, who really wanted to go, and she also asked Roma to go with her. He declined and Oksana told me he said he does not like the church or baptism. Oksana loves our church and was baptized there by Matt during her visit this past summer. We attended the service without Roma, Oksana was not happy that he did not come. Katya sat with us and translated the message. The youth pastor shared a message from Proverbs chapter 7 The warning about the adulterous women who lure men into their beds. The pastor noted that today mostly roles have reversed and that the men now pursue the women and lure them into unholy relationships, preying on them. He spoke about young people being bold and standing up against the pressure of the sexual culture they are living in. This message was something the Lord orchestrated for Oksana to hear. At one point the pastor said You should not be in relations with a person so much older than you(common here in Ukraine for teenage girls to be hooked up with men in their 20's or older) and that you should not get into relationships with these persons who are not Christians and do not share your beliefs and moral convictions. Oksana heard the message. all though it was painful I am sure and she did not want to discuss it, she heard the message. These words spoken to her from her savior telling her Roma is much too old for her, he is not a Christian and is opposed to her faith and baptism. Katya prayed for Oksana and Vlad and later she gave them both bracelets with Jesus is my Savior on them.
Monday we met with Katya and she had invited a friend Lina whom she met last year at the summer English camp in Kiev. Katya had went and purchased many cakes, fruit, teas & coffee for this meeting. Ukrainians are all about food in abundance, and hospitality to guests, they want to make sure you are well feed and cared for. We had wonderful conversations with both these young ladies about America, Christian faith, Marriage, choosing the right person to marry, the differences in our cultures, what is like to grow up here and be a Christian. Time flew by before we knew it was after 9pm. Katya and Lina both became friends on facebook with Matt and we exchanged emails so we will stay in contact. She returned to Odessa Tuesday, but will come again in two weeks so we can have more time together.
Xhenia- Here Xhenia is in his car with Matt. He is a taxi driver that showed up one day to pick us up at the hotel and drive us to the orphanage. We got his cell number and he now is "Our Driver" when ever we need to be somewhere he comes to drive us. He is a great kid with a good heart and a happy spirit. He is 24 years old. Xhenia has limited English, studied in school, but he improves every day. The more we communicate the more he remembers. Xhenia is so helpful and kind. He went way out of his way to call and ask around town to find Matt a place to play basketball, drove us there and spoke to the director of the club and found out when and where Matt can play. Xhenia loves Oksana & Vlad and jokes around with both of them every time we are with him. He even drove the kids back the internot one evening so Matt and I did not have to go and pay the extra fee. He took great care of them and walked them into the internot making sure they were safe for us. Xhenia is the one who took us to visit the group of people who jumped the fires Sunday evening which was the last day of winter here in Ukraine. He explained to us this Ukrainian tradition, as we saw so many fires burning that evening on every street groups of people gathered around the fires. They jump over the fire each year on this night to celebrate the end of winter. They also drink and eat, what we were not expecting was the shots of Ukrainian wine that these people insisted we drink with them, not once but twice toasting to their great country and also to friends from America. We were also given food Salo (raw pigfat) on bread which I refused to accept, Matt tried it almost throwing up and "accidentally" dropping it on the group for the dog Rex to enjoy, the rest he held onto and disposed of at the hotel. I ate the Blinchki (Ukrainian stuffed rolled pancakes) and it was very good. And of course all of us had to jump the fire, Xhenia and Matt did fine. I tried to refuse this as well, but they would have none of it. I jumped the fire and landed in a big muddy mess almost loosing my shoe. Not so much fun but these people were loving it, only in Ukraine!
Just got our call from Valentin Court will be on Tuesday the 15th at 9am. He said that we should not brag about this around town because somehow they got a head judge to step in during the absence of the regular judge and hear our case on this date. There are several other families here in Izmail that submitted the documents before us and they have been given the court date of 25th! So Thanks be to God we are not waiting another 10 days. Just the rest of this week plus Monday. The ten day wait after court and then traveling to Odessa for passports and then on to Kiev to finish immigration paperwork should have us home on about March 31st.