Posts Tagged orphans

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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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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Whadda You Want From Me~Audrey

When I was little, I wanted a family. I played with baby dolls and imagined playing house as a child. As a teen, I had all the names of my children picked out (and their celebrity fathers). I had a idea of a great family, not one marred by illness and strife. God has put this desire in me, or so I thought.
After my diagnosis of CVID, I prayed and mulled and cried and felt sorry for myself. I came thisclose to deciding not to deciding not to have children. I didn’t want the child to be neglected. I didn’t want my child to grove up resentful that she came second to my disease. I didn’t want to not be able to give them my all. Then I met Vadim.
As I have mentioned before, I work at Bridges of Faith a ministry and non-profit in Alabama who care for Ukrainian Orphans (you can learn more here: http://www.bridgesoffaith.com). The latest group arrived on Christmas Day and left us on January 20. As always, they stole my heart but one child in this group changed my mind about everything I thought about my life with chronic illness. Smart and charming Vadim snuck into my life. While I had my hands full with two younger children, it was hard not to see the things we had in common: big hearts, a love of conversations and a devoted following to comics. I enjoyed spending time with him and his friend Kolya, another preteen who was more mature than his years suggested.
The first Wednesday night after they arrived, we went to a church for dinner. Some of the kids were still jet lagged and were still adjusting to their busy schedule. On the way home, I sat in the back of the van with the kids. Vadim crawled next to me and laid his head in my lag and fell asleep. I had one arm around him happy as a clam. The ride was only 15 minutes but in those 15 minutes my life changed.12507163_10153883964392171_3694499617450025000_n
In that moment I felt such another love for another human being that I couldn’t contain. My desire to be a mom blossomed. And some how how that feeling overcome every feeling of doubt or frustration I had developed since I became sick. Here was a clear sign that God would still work it out for me.
This is what I was meant to do; illness will not stop me. Until it is time to have my own family, I will devote my love and passion to these children-those who need love the most. Sometime, we clearly tells us what he wants from us.

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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When You Tell God No~Audrey

I have been pretty obedient to God as of late. I followed him into domestic ministry at Bridges of Faith. Living off the support of those with generous hearts to put food on the table and paying the car payment is scary! But I tell myself if He brought me to it, He’ll bring me through it!

I have had a wonderful time with the Ukrainian Orphans we bring to Alabama for cultural exchange and family networking. Our first group was a great group of young children. I have always loved young children and those with disabilities. But what I never liked as teenagers. I couldn’t deal with their attitude and sass.  I’ve said this for years. Nothing was going to change that. So when I learned our second group included eight teenagers, I freaked out. I told God I couldn’t do this. I wouldn’t be able to bond. I wouldn’t be able to deal with their attitudes in a Christian manner.

God does not accept “no”. He just doesn’t. He brought over eight beautiful teens and one younger child to enjoy the month of August at our camp called BridgeStone. There were three girls, and I was dreading them the most. They’d freak out about getting dirty and a variety of other issues.  I didn’t want any part of it.

But from the moment they stepped into the airport, these children were nothing like the American teenagers I have worked with. They weren’t yelling or screaming, (to be fair they didn’t know a lot of our language). In the van ride home, they didn’t fight among themselves. They had their snacks and took nap. Even though, this would be the most composed t2015-08-30 06.51.19-1hey will be for the e entire month, they never reached the hectic, loud, negative brouhaha that I was used to. Most of them were well behaved (but as allays with the boys, you had to keep an eye on a couple of them).

But they were so much fun. They participated in a variety of activities from actively learning English to trying new food to getting dirty with horses. No one whined or complained that they didn’t want to do something. They weren’t “too good” for anything. These children had seen the bad side of life and instead of lashing out at those around them, they had pulled inside themselves. So our job was to bring them out if their shells. Some came out quickly, embracing all the adventures in front of them. Some of them were slower, wondering if they could really trust US. But eventually they saw that and reached out to US.

Though I bonded with all the teen and learned about them, there are two that really taught me something about life. The first was a boy with the sweetest smile. He had been through a lot in his life: he had been abused as a child; he had been shuffled off to an orphanage because his mother couldn’t take care of him; and he had grown up with only the bare minimum of everything in life.  But he always gave you a smile and loved to give hugs. He hadn’t given up looking for someone to trust, someone to take care of him. My heart broke to realize that he made the best of a bad situation, and when I let the dumbest things get to me. He inspired me to smile more, to be happy more.

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.

You have to give love to get love. Isn’t that just a profound thought. We can’t be loved by someone unless we have an open giving heart. Sure we can be grumpy and need help, but we have to be willing to get out there, to put our hearts on the line. These children did nothing but that.

The day they left, I cried. Heck, I cried the night before when we were all together. I cried more than I had even cried for the first group! I had such bonds with this children-one boy even told me “I love you” and told me not to cry! Each child was so dear to me: they had each changed my life is some monumental way. They didn’t even know it.

I had told God no, and he threw back in my face 9 instruments of growth and love. He proved to me that he was right and I was wrong. I am humble before him, honored to help these orphans. I must always remember not to tell God no, because he will always show me a yes!

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, Billinngsley, AL 36006. Thank you for your support!

 

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