Katya and Piper LOVE having matching bathing suits. The goggles are actually Sara Maria’s, but Katya really didn’t want to give them back. Thankfully, we found a PINK pair in the “Lost and Found” which we used for the day. Later we bought a PINK pair of goggles for Katya to have as her own. Stay tuned for more of the PINK things which Katya loves!
Zabarol – I visited here when I was in Ukraine in the spring. Zabarol is a women’s institution, a sanitorium, a place where women go who have no other place to go. Here I met an engineer who is suffering with Parkinson’s disease, a young woman who embroiders beautiful linens, a woman who, for lack of medication for her clinical depression, wouldn’t leave the corner of a stairwell, and so many “Tonyas.” I saw women naked and sick, wrapped only in sheets. A lack of femine hygiene items gave the place a distinctive odor, and yet even so, I sensed the fragrance of Christ upon these ones whom He defends. As we went from room to room, I prayed, with the help of a translator, for these women – that they would know the love of God, that they would see themselves as beautiful daughters of the King, made in His image, that their eyes would be lifted beyond their institutional dwelling to the dwelling place being prepared for them even now. They cried and I cried as I, and the other women with our group, moved from room to room. We passed out bags of crackers, lotions, and granola bars. One woman was having a terrible time opening a granola bar. As I went to help her, she glared at me, clutched the bar to her chest, and refused to let me open it for her. She was afraid I was taking it from her.
Now, I am here, in my home with precious Katya. Most of the time she is absolutely delightful, but occasionally I get a glimpse into her inner world and Zabarol looms at me. Polly Pocket is hard to dress. Katya struggles and struggles. Eventually, I coax her to release the doll into my hand so that I can help her. I show her how to dress her, but she has shut down. Her eyes are glazed over and her hands are lax in her lap. When I try to give the doll back to her, she’s not interested. All I can think is that she’s like the woman at Zabarol, but instead of fighting back and holding to the doll, she gives her up and shuts down. What am I to do? Do I let her struggle and struggle? Or do I help, but cause her to retreat? I’m hoping that through these days of love, simplicity, and kindness, hope will be kindled and Katya will be given a future beyond the institution.
Katya’s orphanage houses children from age 6 to about age 15. According the director of the orphanage that we visited in Rivne, they work to prepare the young women and men to enter society. They work to “socialize” them and give them a trade so that they can be productive citizens. Yet, at Zabarol, there were not only the older women, widows who had no one to care for them in their old age, there were also young women in their late teens and twenties. I couldn’t help but wonder if some of these young women came straight from an orphanage and are condemned to spending the next sixty years fighting for granola bars.
My heart aches for the older women who simply need someone to care for them in their remaining years, to honor them, to sit at their feet and learn from them. My heart aches for the young women who never made it into families, who spent years institutionalized and now seem to have no hope and no future. My heart aches for the thousands of Ukrainian orphans who are fed, schooled, have a warm bed, and a clean toilet, but don’t have mothers and fathers. There is no way that I can personally save them all. And yet, as Albina, one of my Ukrainian friends, said to me, “Cindy, we can’t be indifferent.”
So, I’ve opened myself up to care, and it hurts. But beyond the hurt, deeper than the pain, higher than the mountain of despair, is hope. “I know you are coming back, Jesus. Why don’t you come back NOW and make all things right?” I ask, and yet I know the answer. He’s waiting for the “GO!” from the Father, who is waiting for the full measure of His people to come into the Kingdom. THEN, He will not delay. He will return as a victorous Champion and restore the broken walls, dry the teary eyes, annoint the least of these as the greatest in His Kingdom,and make all things RIGHT.
So, for Katya, I pray. I pray that she will receive healing for the hurt that she has faced in life. I pray that I, my husband, my children, and my church will be vehicles for the Lord’s redeeming work in Katya’s heart. And I pray that as we see the desperation and the desolation in our world, our hearts will not be overwhelmed and turn cold. I pray that we would not be indifferent, but rather that our hearts would be tender to be broken for the things that break the heart of the Father.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing. Psalm 68:5-6b
“Aren’t there enough orphans in the U.S.? Why do you need to bring an orphan from Ukraine over here?” This was the comment that was made to our children when they were raising money through a yard sale to fund Katya’s visit. It wasn’t the nicest thing to say to my kids, but it was a valid question. There are plenty of kids who have needs right here in our town. Why do we need to spend all this money and make such an effort to bring a little girl halfway across the world when we can go right up the street and “love our neighbor?”
Bringing Katya over doesn’t exclude our mandate to love our neighbors, so we’re not off the hook on that one. To this woman, I would simply say, “We had to.”
March 26 – April 3, 2008: Bill and I were in Ukraine for 10 days for a ministry trip with another couple from our church (www.evergreenchurch.com). We developed a “Sister Church” relationship with Salvation Church in Rivne, spoke at four marriage conferences, visited an orphanage, and I visited a women’s institution. We returned to the U.S. with a love for the people of Ukraine and a desire to take our whole family back during the summer of 2009.
April: During our personal quiet times with the Lord, Bill and I continued to reflect on what we had seen and experienced in Ukraine and ask God to continue to stir our hearts and use us to advance His kingdom, whatever that would mean.
May 6: While I was at Panera Bread working on a Mother’s Day talk for our church, an email came through Outlook. “Would you pray about this and pass it along to anyone who comes to mind ….” And then, the couple who hosted Katya at Christmas time laid out her story. Katya is a seven year old orphan whose mother abandoned her in the hospital as a 2-pound preemie and whose father contracted TB. Her grandmother raised her until she was six and then placed her in the orphanage. Odessa is allowing her to come to the U.S. one last time and she needs a host family who could possibly be her “forever family.” Without seeing her picture, my heart said “YES!”
May 7: Bill said, “Go for it!” That day we found out lots more information about Katya, spoke to Vinny at Frontier Horizon, talked to our children, and brought this possibility to the people we pray with weekly. One of the guys said, “Cindy, you’ll have to get a new license plate.” My plate says, “6XBLSD.” Well, on the way home from praying, a van passed us with this license plate, “7XBLESD.”
May 8-10: Through a yard sale put on by the kids, donations from friends and family, and our personal contribution ALL the money needed to bring Katya here for the summer trip was raised.
May 12: Check’s in the mail! Katya is coming!!!!
May 12-June 19: Research, finish school, week at the beach, preparing our home, but most importantly preparing our hearts to welcome Katya.
June 19: Katya arrives!
What we’re doing is not noble, or brave, or wonderful. We simply had to. It just was so right. So, why an orphan from Ukraine when there are so many needy children right here? I don’t know. All I know is that God has prepared us, stirred our hearts, paved the way, and He’s giving us more of Him that we could ask or imagine in the midst of it all. I don’t know why an orphan from Ukraine, but God does, and I trust Him.
Katya arrived last night – so tired she couldn’t even walk to the van. But, of course, I didn’t mind carrying her. Within five minutes she had fallen asleep and barely woke up when we arrived back at our house. Miracle of miracles, she and Piper BOTH slept until 8:30 this morning. Finally I heard giggling upstairs and when I opened the door to Piper’s room, I found Piper and Katya snuggling, playing with animals, and hiding under the covers. They’ve been inseparable since. J
Her favorite phrase today seeems to be “Smahta ria,” which sounds remarkably like our oldest daughter’s name. We all thought she was calling Sara Maria as she showed her playdough creations, the Playmobil camel taking a bath, or the watermelon cut for lunch. But this theory went out the window when she began to say this to all the children, particularly girls. “Smahta ria” is not the word for sister, friend, or girl. Finally, I called Dasha, one of the translators who enlightened us. “Smahta ria” means “Look!”
And how appropriate. You see this is my prayer. Even before Katya arrived, I’ve been praying for eyes to see into her heart, ears to hear beyond the language barrier, and arms to give her hugs from Jesus. I’m asking God to bring light to my understanding that I may see into Katya’s heart. I’m asking for awareness to see what she has experienced in life and be clay vessel through which the healing of Jesus can flow to bind up the broken-hearted.
“Smahta ria! Smahta ria!”
Katya, I’m looking. I’m looking ….