Archive for category Ukraine

One Year Ago~Audrey

 

About this time last year, I made my first visit overseas. I joined my coworkers in a mission trip toIMG_9465 change the lives of the 1000,000 plus orphans in Ukraine, I had never been overseas. In fact, I had only flown one time. A few years ago I made a trip to DC. But that was nothing like the 12 plus hour trip I would make over the Atlantic Ocean. I was slightly nervosa as one might imagine.

 

Funnily enough, issues with planes and getting on were one of the only two things I was worried about. I had heard to many horror stories about people missing their flights or not being able to get on the plane. After a momentary issue when we got there and a potential panic attack, I was fine. I was able to move when I needed to (that was concern number 2; how I would manage my illnesses) and was perfectly comfortable and entrained during my travel.

 

I took this all as a good sign: a great start to a productive trip. I was excited to see a new culture, to work on the actual soil the orphans I had met with came from. I was excited for my experiences. But I never expected to be as moved or to be as comfortable as I was when I arrived in Ukraine.

 

We stayed at a transitional care facility in Korosten. A kind of foster home in case where kids were taken care of during the scary time of transition with great care and love, the children here were between IMG_9840.JPGfamilies and orphanages here. This was one of the nicer places BOF had been stationed, and I was very thankful because it was easier for me, a chronic illness warrior, to do my job with some comforts. I had respect for all those that came before and after who made do with a lot less and never stopped them.

 

We met the children briefly before everyone headed to a local park. Everyone but me. I stayed to rest. I was an exhausted from travel and wanted to be able to give the kids my all the first day of programming. I was resting up to deal with the life changing overview I was acquired.

 

The first day, we started by playing with the kids with our VBS programming planned for that night. We walked with them to their dance lessons, something rare for these kids and were touched by how art can make a difference. As a ex marching band member and music lover, I knew that music could change lives, but when you saw these kids come alive to dance to the music it took on a new depth. They escaped their pain and shook it off. It was amazing.IMG_9543

 

 In fact, these children came alive whenever they got some affection. I sat next to one child while they crafted and for the rest of the trip he was especially attached to me. I let one child wear my sunglasses and then we were best friends. Even just pushing a toy truck across the floor made me popular with the kids. Sure, they had great caregivers that worked with them, but new friends meant the world to them.

 

Our VBS program was filled with music and dancing and crafts and fun. We shared stories of Jesus and the bible. Each team member shared testimonies of their life. I, of course, shared my story of chronic illness and how I was on broken but that God gave me strength to persevere and gave me doctors and medicines to make me better. This was especially important to me because I had made friends with a young girl with brittle bone disease. When we went outside to play, she had to be extra careful and didn’t get to do as much as the other kids. I hung out with her and helped kept her occupied. I hope one day she remembers that story. When the word seems hard and you can’t do everything you want because of your body, I hope she remembers she met someone who had hope: in herself, in medicine, and in God.

 

IMG_9615The week was amazing and on the last day with the child, I went with them one walk around the neighborhood. Just me, the kids, and their caregivers. No other team member or translator. And I was perfectly comfortable with this. I had no problem walking around an area I didn’t know with people who didn’t know my language. In fact, I had been comfortable the entire time. When I arrived, I was tired not afraid. I was never afraid. Was I frustrated that I couldn’t communicate like I wanted? Sure, but that nevermore I feel like I didn’t belong. On that walk, I had fun with the kids. We had made up a fake language that had crossed barriers and broke the ice. And on this particular walk, a few of eh kids and I practiced our skills of English and Russian, teaching each other new words in both languages by what we saw around us. I will always remember learning the word for fish at the market that day. Thanks Daniel!

 

But that walk brought more to my attention than just a few words. I really got to see the big picture. Walking around this town in Ukraine, I notice the differences but I also noticed the similarities. Housing was different but I could see the tell tale signs of those with not enough money. I saw people just trying to survive. The trapping may have been different but the people were the same. Working to support their families. Here they had markets on the street and back home they are cashiers at Walmart. I looked into the faces of these children and saw the same kind of spirit I saw in the kids I grew up with: dreams and aspirations trying to overcome what life threw at them. I saw souls light up: I saw God.

 

One of the criticisms of our work is that we work with children in a different county and don’t focus on IMG_9762.JPGkids in Alabama. As someone who worked in Alabama improving the lives of those with children and adults with disabilities for ten years, I can tell you I’ve done that and I can assure you there are big hearted, god driven people already doing that.  But the thing is, God’s people aren’t limited to Alabama–they aren’t even limited to the United States. That I day I truly saw what He was trying to show me! I felt so comfortable because I was among his people! My brothers and sister may have spoken a different language but that didn’t change what we had in common. God was in Ukraine and He loved his children there. He has called me to be part of a team of American and Ukraine who wanted to change these kids life for the better!

 

I am truly honored. I always wanted to make a difference and never though He’d called me for something as big as international missionary work.  I remember their faces so clearly and it’s almost like they haunt me.  These children, along with the ones that come to camp, are my touch stone. They remind me that love their neighbor doesn’t mean the person next to you or the person next door; it means that we you love each of your brothers and sister regardless of distance.

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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Kirill~Audrey

This is the first of a set of three stories about specific children that touched my heart during my mission trip.

 

On our first full day at the orphanage, I sat down at the craft table with the children. I sat next to a cute little boy who was so excited to show me his art work. They were using IMG_9499punch outs to create a cute little basket of flowers. As he glued his flowers to his sheet, he would peak at me and see if I was watching. Then he proudly displayed to me his finished art. I was lovely and I told him so.

I didn’t think much of the exchange. I went about the rest of my day. I went out side with
the kids and enjoyed being with them. He and several other children wanted to hold my hand as we walked to a nearby playground. Once again, I didn’t think much of it; there were new people and all the kids want to be around them. We were a novelty, and I didn’t think much about interacting with certain children or forming a particular bond (except one kid; but that’s another story). But that day meant a lot to Kirill.

That afternoon, after nap time, when I walked into the room, he came flying into my arms. This happened every time I came in. He would sit with me often and join groups I was playing in. I was so surprised by him. I hadn’t done anything special: I hadn’t made an inside joke with him and I hadn’t gone out of my way to do anything special for him.

But I think that is the point. Children just want someone in their life who is attentive and will give love. I didn’t do anything other than be part of his life and give him positive encouragement. This something the orphans don’t get. And they aren’t the only ones. This small story is just a big reminder that everything we do affects those around us. We have to remember to be good to one another; one small gesture can change someone’s life or change their perspective.

In the case of Kirill, he just needed someone to sit beside him and encourage him. I am so blessed to be have been one of the team members on this mission trip and to be able to do this for him.  Not only did he need it, but I did too.

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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Mission Trip: A Retrospective ~Audrey

I really expected that when I stepped off the plan in Kiev, I would feel like a stranger in a strange land, that my I would feel like a totally different person.

I am, of course, referring to my trip to Ukraine earlier this month as a missionary working

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The view out my plan window on the way to Amsterdam. with young children in an orphanage.

I had envisioned being overwhelmed and scared in a place where I didn’t know the customs or the language. I wasn’t too concerned with these feeling as I prepped; I had to worry about my health more and reserved any nervousness for the airport for my first international flight. I had visions of security hell and bureaucratic red tape (every story ever told me magnified by ten). While there was an issue in Atlanta, that was cleared up after ten minutes, and I never had another spot of trouble even when I flew home all by myself 9 days later.

Many will give a variety of reasons: I was at least familiar with the sounds of the language, I was with a group of people I knew and trusted, the landscape was somewhat similar to what I was used to. But I stand by this: I felt at home because I was where God was calling me to be. The first day was tough health wise, but I quickly learned from my own mistakes and made it through the week (I did suffer when I got home; my body was ready to shut down for a day to catch up lol).I was in Ukraine for a purpose, to reach out to his children who had been left frightened and alone. Because I stepped out in faith, he kept me safe and eased my path. In fact, I am still reaping benefits and rewards from him for stepping out in faith.

Getting on this trip was pure faith. I had to raise funds and didn’t quite reach my goal. My job graciously made it so I could go, and I will continue to pay them back with money and hard work. Getting my passport proved challenging but then it came back quickly and with no issues (two weeks!!). Everything started rough but easily smoothed out.

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In Ukraine with old friends and New

I will admit that while I was there was some struggle. I felt like I wasn’t spending enough time with the children and that I wasn’t being helpful enough. I was frustrated with my illness and how it limited me. But about half way through, I understood: God has sent me on the easy trip because he knew I needed it. He made sure I was on the trip that was the least taxing to my body. I had heard stories about lack of sleep and comfortable beds and even bathrooms. So I stopped complaining in my journal and in my head.

When I came back everyone wanted to know what my favorite part was. This is the most difficult question: I didn’t know. I loved the food, the orphanage, the city, the people, the kids, the culture. But in the end it was the passion for my work that was my favorite part. God used the trip to solidify the thoughts I have always had about my talents and he rekindled my passion for children. The normalness and the use of my gifts was the best part. It was like home away from home and I loved it.

Stay tuned for my next entries cataloging events within my trip and stories about the children.

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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