Archive for category Bridges of Faith

Hope~Audrey

Over the weekend, Hurrian Nate hit the Gulf Coast. Ahead of that, thunder storms roared into Central Alabama. At about 8 p.m., my phone alerted me to a tornado warming. When I looked into it further, I learned that there was rotation in my area. I sat by the table watching a movie on my lap top in case I needed to duck under it with my cats. By 8:30 all was clear and I was back in my bed. I thanked God for safety and didn’t think much more about it.
The next t day, I saw that there was so much more than my little house out there. The nonprofit I live and work at was building a brand new gymatorium. The tornadic winds lifted the pots out of the ground and then plopped it back down, leaving the supports shattered and a tree through the roof.
But the building was so much more than a gymatorium; it is also a memorial. Sasha came to Bridges of Faith as part of the August 2016 group of orphans. He arrived as a fifteen-year-old, shy young man. As time progressed, Sasha emerged from his shell. Several families expressed interest in adopting Sasha, but nothing ever worked out. Four months later, while visiting his biological mother, Sasha was killed when alcohol and anger made a deadly combination. Sasha is why Bridges of Faith exists–to help the 100,000 orphans in Ukraine whose life consists of violence, crime and sexual trafficking. By giving them a chance to net worked with families and experience a new culture, BOF gives hope to these poor souls. The gymatorium will stand as a reembrace of Sasha and an icon of the work the organization does.
I was devastated. I couldn’t save the boy and now his building was in shambles. I thought it was a horrible omen; I thought all was lost. I felt the same guilt that I first felt when Sasha was killed.
But there is so much hope. This is a building. We can and will rebuild. Sasha’s memory will live on. We can’t give up. We don’t stop brining children because we lost one and we won’t stop with the building.
Thanks to volunteers from the area (especially those in Birmingham), we have already begun cleaning up. In fact, cleanup is going faster than we could ever imagine. The response of hope and love has overwhelmed us.
I am no longer devastated. I am centered and focused. I won’t back down.

 

If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/
And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

 

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Baptism~Audrey

As I think back on my two years at Bridges of Faith, I often think of specific children and how they changed my heart. The second group of orphans I worked with was special; it was mostly teenagers and God showed me that, despite my misgivings, I can work with teenagers. But I wasn’t the only one changed that month. In July I was honored to be part of a milestone in on of these orphans life; I saw one of the girls become baptized
This is what I said about her two years ago:
“The second teen’s effect on me was more subtle. She did have a drama streak, but she wanted so much to connect with people, to be included and loved. She would help me up and down stars. If she missed helping me, she would be sad and apologize. She loved freely and laughed often. She wasn’t afraid of tears. She totally changed my mind that all teens were all self-centered. She realized to be loved, she had to give love.”
Since then, she has been adopted and is living a very American life in Tennessee. She speaks English very well and has even been back to volunteer with the orphans. In July, Lena was baptized by BOF founder Rev. Tom Benz in our pool at Bridgestone.
I talked to her before her baptism and she confided in me that she was nervous. When I inquired why she told me she was scared that she would break her promise and she would sin. I told her baptism was a promise that we believe that Jesus was our Savior. Jesus knows we will sin. It is our job to try not to and when we fail ask forgiveness. She would not fail her savior just because she would sin at some point.
I was one of just a few people there to watch her make her commitment to Jesus. It brought tears to my eyes. I had seen her mature and grow into a Christian and I thanked God for allowing me to be able to be a part of this.

 

If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/
And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

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Send Me

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

I graduated in 2005 with a degree in psychology and a desire to help children. One of my biggest interests in school was developmental psychology and helping children grow up well-adjusted so they need less help as an adult. I believe in the cliché that children are our future and if we can get them on even footing as they grow up, they can be happy, stable adults. IMG_2405
That same year I was introduced to therapeutic horseback riding. Using horses, I could help those with physical and emotional disabilities thrive in a world that doesn’t take the time to get to know them. I helped one be able to walk across the stage at graduation as well as helped those with Asperger’s find confidence and self-esteem. My niche was those with low functioning autism and developmental delays and helping them blossom. I’ve heard first words, seen first steps, and had first hugs. And I LOVED it!
Then I started getting really unwell. I’ve had health issues and reoccurring infections my entire life. But then abscessed tooth pushed my body over its limit. Struggling to find help and a diagnosis, my whole life changed. I couldn’t live my life as I had. I was stuck. But then Bridges of Faith happened.
My history has been really helpful especially when we have children from special needs orphanages like we did this time. Their chaperon and Alona worked really hard with two of the kids to help them transition to another culture and have a great time. No one asked me in particular to do this. I saw that these kids needed some who knew how to work with their special needs and stepped up to the plate.
The Lord sent me here once I was open with him about needing a change in my life and wanting to follow his ways. He has rewarded me not just in my health but by allowing me to work with these sweet precious children. The orphanages are bleak places. One in ten will commit suicide before they hit 21, one will be in jail and three in five girls are sexually traffic. Since the program began, we have seen 110 orphans be adopted. Being part of that has been magical and amazing. I said send me and he showed me what I could do!
In the Mary Poppins picture are Ilona and Bogdon. Bogdon falls in the developmental delay category but if it’s because of abuse and neglect or other issues, I could not tell you. What I can tell you is he wants someone to love and to love him. He needed someone who could love him but discipline him as well. Bogdon doesn’t respond to yelling and running after him. This makes him happy; he has your attention and he loves that you are paying attention. I pulled out some Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy tricks that helped him see he could get love and attention without acting out. Was it easy? Not at all. Was it worth it? Yes; to see that smile on his face and have him hug me knowing he felt safe loved meant everything to me.
IMG_1898Another young girl named Luyba (Russian for love) had some similar issues. While she didn’t run off, she would hug you too tightly or squeeze too hard. She had so much love inside she didn’t know how to express it at all. She and I spent a lot of time together. She saw she was loved but I didn’t fool around with unwanted behavior. The last day, while they waited at the airport for them to go home, she gripped my hand hard. She didn’t want to leave someone who didn’t just yell at her like they are prone to in orphaned (if they get any attention at all);she wanted someone who loved her for who she was, who she knew loved her even as she corrected the behavior.
God knew where I was needed, where my gift would fit perfectly. Because I let him send me so many people are happy and have had their lives changed. It’s more than just about me. It’s about our world, or brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/

And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

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Link in the Chain~Audrey

 

Author’s Note: This was written in January but other pressing concerns caused this blog to be posted out of order.

 

 

 

I sit here, a week after the kids have left. A lot has happened since they left. We got a new president, the world came together to march for the rights of women. And I learned a new lesson.

 

I have a habit of being a rescuer. I want to help other get better and meet their potential. I want to be the one that helps them rise up and be the personal God meant them to be. This is all well and good. It’s noble and it gives me self-satisfaction. But I have to remember I am just a cog in the huge wheel. While the kids were here, I realized I couldn’t be everything someone needed.

 

img_8853We had 10 kids in our December group. This was a pretty good group and they had the youth exsuburance that comes with a group of kids. I noticed one girl who didn’t flock to this energy. She instead liked to chill and would often sit off by herself just watching everything. As someone who needs some time to sit and rest, I would sit next to her and talk to her. This was all she needed: someone to come up to her, to care for her.  It was just a simple action, sitting next to her, but it meant the world to her.

 

It was easy to connect with Sasha. I’m an introvert.  I like to chill. We used Google Translate and talked about our lives. If we had brothers and sisters. What we like to do. Who our favorite authors were. We spent a lot of time together but I was happy when she went off with her friends or other volunteers. In fact, about a week before she left, she told me I was her only true friend. It brought tears to my eyes.

 

This was a huge reveal that was supposed to make me happy. And in some way it did, but it made me sad. I wanted her to have many friends and, loved ones. So I went about getting her to talk to other and expanding friends while still being a stable pat of her life. I wasn’t going to disappear and she seemed afraid of hat when making new friends. I had to explain we can share friendship.

 

The day Sasha left hurt. She was very calm and handled everything maturely like she did the entire img_8177month. I only saw her cry once. We had made boxes as a craft and I gave her mine I made with our picture in it. Even then she didn’t want me to see her cry.

 

I talk to her some on Facebook but it is hard connect. I have told her that I miss her and still love her even though she was far away. She shared a picture on Facebook of us and I know that she still loves me.

 

My job is full of these moments. Where I get to share with the kids and help them understand they are loved. I miss Sasha so much. I have been praying for people to step up in her life. She needs more than just me to become the woman I know she can be. But at least I could plant a seed and be part of a chain that will help her potential.

 

 

 

If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/

 

And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

 

 

 

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Loss~Audrey

Author’s Note: This post was begun during the beginning of January to focus on the idea that it’s ok to mourn celebrities but before I could finish it, my whole world change and the post took on a new light.

Maybe Death Gives Me One of Those Fresh New Starts


2017 was rough for many. It saw a lot of deaths for people they personally knew and for a variety of celebrities. I (and others) were heartbroken for the loss of Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin and David Bowie. There were other people who would make fun of people who were saddened about the lose of these icons. As if not knowing they personally made the loss unpainful. These people were actors and singers who played character or sang songs that we could relate to. Some of these characters and songs we grew up with and some whose lives were cut short.

In December, quietly, M. Lawrence Abrams passed away. You may not have heard of him. He had a prolific career and worked with the likes of Tina Turner. In his last years he was involved with one of my favorite bands: 100 Monkeys. Fans of the band are loyal and had more access to the members than any other band I have ever followed. I have met them on numerous occasions and was very fond of the man dubbed Uncle Larry. He was polite, respectful and deep. He had no qualms being in a band with four younger fellows; he could hang with the best.

He played a variety of instruments and only fronted a few songs for the band. “Invisible Monster” remains a 100 Monkeys classic and only Uncle Larry could give the soul the song needed. The band had some issues disbanding a few years ago due to the band members other projects. But in the last year, they had released new music together. Fans had hope of the revival of the good old days. But then Uncle Larry succumbed to cancer and that hope was shattered. 100 Moneys can go on but it will not be the same.

I cried and I shared the story with my family and friends who knew of him and his music. But I didn’t have too long to grieve; the next group of orphans were coming and I was busy for their arrival. I put away this blog post to post when they were gone once I had time to really give it the thought and emotion it deserved. But what I didn’t expect was that I would be dealing with an even bigger loss: the loss of one of my orphans.

 

It Only Matters if We Care Now

Last June, we brought our first group of summer Ukrainian orphans to Bridgestone. We had siblings, girls and boys of a variety of ages. There were two particular teen boys who liked to push the boundaries and they had to go head to head with me. But a mutual respect grew between us. They understood they were loved even though they had to be told no. When they left we were all in tears and hugging one another. I knew that all these boys needed was to someone to help them get on the right path; they were not lost for good.

A few of the kids were pursued for adoption but these boys weren’t. Sadly, not every child gets adopted but all we can do at Bridges of Faith is try.

Flash forward to this past Tuesday, I am going about my day writing grants and filing, typical things I do when the kids aren’t here. I came across a post by one of my friends that an orphan had asked for her prayers because his friend has died. My heated plummeted. We are connected by the same orphans. I immediately went into research mode to seek out the story. Sadly, I found that I did knew the boy who died: he was the quiet one of the teen duo mentioned above.

Finding out what happened was hampered by language and time barriers. But I knew this much, he was stabbed and fled for help but bled out. His friends are devastated. I connected with the other pair of the above duo; it was true. I found an article written up out the even and sent it to one of the translators know for details.

Sasha. He was quiet and wanted love but was scared because he had been hurt. His best friend was a leader who helped protect both of them. Their rebellion was protection against the harsh realities of their world. At Bridgestone they felt safe. I saw them both smile. These were rare and beautiful gifts which I treasured. This boy had potential and could live a productive life.

I think this is where I was the most heart broken. He was gone at 16. He was killed brutally in what turned out to be a triple homicide. Alcohol played a major factor in the incident. He was gone stupidly. His potential gone. His sweet inner heart gone. And I couldn’t help him. I could not save him from this fate.

I know, I know. We can’t save them all. Days later, I am finally starting to look at this with a clear head. I did help him. I showed him love. I didn’t just talk Jesus to him, I showed him the love of Christ through action. I got to be a ledge for a month when he lived in avalanche.

This is why I do what I do. Just because I can’t save them all doesn’t mean I can’t try.

Loss comes in all forms. Each death of a precious life affects the world and the souls on it. Whether you have lost a sibling,a friend, a member of your favorite band, a student you taught; it’s the same pain. I pray for release of your heart break and a positive outlook for the memories of your loved ones.

 

If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/

And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

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Just Like Fire~Audrey

 

Each group sheds new light on something. Every time I am humbled by their desire for affection and love, and I am tremendously aware that they are without it. This group was no except but this group also reminded me that these orphans are in the poorest country in Europe which can barely provide enough to keep these children healthy.

13892204_10154336190833903_7887065398347037877_nWhen you first see M you can tell that not only is undernourished but he was born in a failure to thrive environment. He physically manifests the abuse, neglect, drug addiction and alcoholism that puts so many children in the orphanages. But he also manifested something else: spirit. The child was fearless (scarily so) and didn’t let his size or circumstances get him down. Can’t swim? Fine, he would learn. By the end of the month he was fine in the shallow end on his own without his life vest. He did that from pure stubbornness and determination. He didn’t let the other kids push him around. What he lacked in size he made up in bravado and they often left him to do his thing instead of teasing him. But he was loving and talkative. It didn’t matter if you didn’t speak the language; he would talk to you a thousand miles a minute and give you hugs every time you turned around.

A teenage girl was another reminder. I will never forget her lying in my lap during church 14034946_10154362202793903_7341478872838185382_nafter leaving Bridgestone at 5:30 in the morning. Her sister sat next to her, and I watched the sister walk her fingers across O’s ribs. I could see what she was thinking in her eyes; it was the same thing I was thinking. We both felt responsible for making sure she had enough to eat, to flourish. The sister has it the hardest as it’s her job in the orphan; I was just one of many that would help for a short time. Like M, O was determined to enjoy life. At fourteen she was a woman who had to learn to deal with her body and hormones as well as the difficulties of living in the orphanage. There were days where she was downright difficult but we could all see what she had inside her: a desire to love, to connect with others, especially female role models.

We took a trip to Virginia, and I rode with the children in the van with these kids were seating on the bench seat behind me. I would entertain us by singing and dancing along to songs on the radio. Our favorite was “Just like Fire” by Pink and we belted it out and laughed. It was a moment of pure happiness something I take for granted but huge experiences for these orphans.

Putting them on the plan this time was hard. Every time I turned around someone wanted a hug or to play a game. I have lots of selfies and even a loom band ring from one of the boys. They had beautiful souls like, just like fire, couldn’t be buried. I miss them so much.

I am in a gap of months where no children will be here. The next group will be here in December. Until then I have work to do and grants to write. I’m still busy and have to support myself. But I still feel their love and that is what keeps me going.

If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/

And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

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The Salvation Bracelet~Audrey

IMG_2878The latest group of children came last month. I found myself doing a craft with the kids that I had done as a child. And not only was it the same craft, I was doing it in the same church I grew up in. This was a very special moment for me.

One Wednesday we went with the Ukrainian orphans to Holtville Riverside. I had spent many years of my youth in this church. I spent many hours sitting my grandmother through sermons and spent many summers in VBS playing cartoon freeze tag and learning about Jesus.

That night we made Salvation Bracelets something I had done there as a child. I sat next to them, one of the few adults do in the craft. We practiced our colors (them in English, me in Russian). The church staff shared with them the meaning of each bead.  I beamed; we were sharing the story of God with the next generation.

This is what really got me with this group: I was helping shape the next generation. Not only was I helping them try to get their lives back on track, I was helping them to shape the future of our world. God has tasked me with something way bigger than myself and with something way bigger than each child I work with. I am blessed to be changing the world, hoping to leave it better than how I found it.

Bridges of Faith is a miracle for these children and a miracle for me. Each group changes me in ways I never expected. I just hope that I have helped them see they are loved.

Salvation Bracelet Meaning

Black

Represents the belief that everyone sins and that sin makes it impossible to have a relationship with God.

RedIMG_3639

Symbolizes the blood of Jesus and the belief that faith in Jesus and his sacrificial death are necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

White

Stands for purity and the Christian teaching that once you put your faith in Jesus, your sins are forgiven and you are made pure. 1 John 3:5 is the verse used alongside this bead, and it says, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”

Blue

Represents water baptism, which is a way of outwardly expressing the inward change that has happened.

Green

Teaches the need for continued growth in the faith.

Gold or Yellow

This bead represents the streets of heaven lined with gold. Believers look to the day where Jesus will return to earth to take his followers to heaven with him.

IMG_2887If you would like to find out more about Bridges of Faith please visits: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com/

And if you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to BOF in my name to continue my domestic ministry work , please contact audrey@bridgesoffaith.com, donate on-line (mention my name) or send checks to 302 County Road 383, Billingsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

 

 

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