At the same time, God has provided multiple encounters that can be considered nothing less than divine appointments. It began before I left the US when sitting next to a man who asked about my Kindle. I guess I really was supposed to buy the Kindle, if for no other reason than the conversation that ensued ;). He was from the US Department of State and the head of humanitarian aid. Wow, what a conversation we had! One more person in an authoritative position who knows the plight of special needs orphans abroad.
There have been many since then which I won't go into details about, but in general, the person that is helping us with Aleksa's adoption, Yana, was divinely planted for this time and purpose. No question that she and I needed to connect on a personal level- and no question that she is the right person to interact with the director and get things done for us.
In being here early, God used me to help two adoptive families through things before Michael arrived. One family's child had a seizure and though I did nothing, I was able to sit and be with mom and baby (I say baby, but she was 7 and just the SIZE of a baby...) at the hospital while everyone ran around in a tizzy. Mom needed nothing more than to hear that everything will be ok-- and I could handle that part ;).
Yesterday Michael and I wandered out to find Hillsong Kiev church. We knew it was one metro stop north of where we would get on and that it was near an Ashan (grocery store- looks like AWAH if you're looking at it in cryllic writing- W is an "sh" sound and H is the "N" sound.). We got off the metro and walked, and walked, and walked... and finally we heard music... and we saw the 'tent'. It is a semi-permanent structure, but it sure is a tent! We went inside and asked if they translated to English. A young man standing at a counter (not working it) translated for us and the girl working the counter went to get someone else. They seated us near the back of the HUGE auditorium (which, remember, is a tent..) and said they'd be back.
With that, a woman came up and introduced herself, she and some friends were already seated in the row behind us. We found out that the two woman run a street kids' ministry in Kiev, and through just a bit of conversation, we arranged to have lunch together after church. They were both Americans and have been living and working in UA for a long time. One since 1991 (the fall of the communist regime) and one since 1998.
Worship began and I've never experienced anything like it. A huge auditorium packed full of people, a stage with lights and three gigantic screens and a sound system that makes your chair rumble on the temporary plywood floor... but it wasn't the atmosphere that was amazing. It was the worship. The lyrics came up on the screen, and these songs, originally written in English, were translated into Russian with the SAME SYLLABLE PHRASING as the English songs. Both English and Russian words showed on the screen, all the people called out to the very same God in worship, and right next to them I could sing the English words to the same song. I'm pretty sure I could never really explain it, so here's a video. Many of you will recognize the song, and be able to sing along easily-- yet, the leader is singing in Russian :) And YES, this video was taken inside the 'tent'
God brought the people who were sitting behind us into our lives for a purpose! There's no question there, because they opened our eyes to some things that we didn't know were happening within things that we are directly related to... and they really were not-so-good things that we couldn't have known about without being on the ground here in Ukraine and talking to people "outside our circles." Now we know- from multiple sources. Yeah, not really saying much detail there, because now there's more to 'figure out' since our eyes have been opened.
We had lunch at McDonald's, and as we were leaving (with an invitation to meet the children the ladies we met minister to and see their facility while we're here)... a man approached us. I recognized him immediately and he pointed across the outdoor eating area to his 4 yr old daughter with Down syndrome. He's one of the dads from the parent meeting that we'd attended on Saturday at the Down Syndrome Center in Kiev. We went over and met his beautiful little pig tailed princess and she continued to eat her french fries and chicken nuggets, used to being the star of the show :). They were having a "father day" while her mom worked that Sunday afternoon. Through some gestures, some English, some Russian, and some guesses, we learned that they'd watched TV, worked in the garden, then gone for lunch since he was home for the day with her. He lives just a block or two away from there and was very sweet with his daughter-- VERY proud of her!
Today I have such a mixture of thoughts and emotions going through my heart and mind. Not about our adoption or family at all, but rather about the other things happening while I'm here in Ukraine. About the details of things going on here and what different things are involved-- in so many different levels.
Michael and I came on this trip knowing that God is stirring our hearts not only for our children who we hope to bring home (though that's certainly enough of a reason to be here!!!) but in other areas as well. God is calling us to KNOW what happens on the ground here and to align ourselves with people of influence who are not working with the basis of a title, but rather by knowing WHO they are, and WHO they belong to. To finding CHRISTIANS who are making a difference here in Ukraine, and seeing things as they really are. We may find some changes in who we 'align' ourselves with in the coming months as Christ calls us to action with those that represent Him in every word and action.
When we attended Hillsong Kiev church, the preacher was visiting from Austrailia, so he actually preached in English and it was translated into Russian. He spoke a very simple message, but a powerful one with a few different key points. One was to know WHO you are. The idea of an inheritance-- that if a father dies, the son is offered an inheritance. Before he can accept it, the son must first prove who he is. In doing that, he must also prove whose he is, and who his father is. The speaker referenced some time he spent with the royal family of England and that even from a young age, Prince Charles had the knowledge that his actions would reflect either positively or poorly on his family and on his country. He made his decisions based on who he is, and whose he is, to bring his family joy and honor and not disgrace. So must we, as Christians know WHO we are, and whose we are, and that our actions, if we call ourselves Christians, WILL reflect either positively or poorly on Christ. They will bring God joy and honor, or disgrace.
Calling oneself a Christian but aligning with the world does NOT bring Glory to God. God calls us to be set apart, to "be Holy as I am Holy." To do each action as Christ would do it, to represent Him in our actions.
Will we fail? Most likely so, most likely often, and most likely hard.
In talking to David and Laura Lutz last night, we debated (our way of conversation with David LOL) through many different Christian topics and points of conflict within the church and society. We thoroughly enjoyed it and I believe they did as well ;). It wasn't a matter of right or wrong that we debated, but rather principles of application of the Word of God (for the most part). Anyway, that aside, we talked a bit about how Christians often "hole up" and don't go out into the world to FIND those who need Christ, but rather internalize and feed themselves and close their eyes to the needs around them. We also spoke of what forgiveness and grace are. The main 'point' that came out of that one is that when a person truly asks FORGIVENESS, there must also be REPENTANCE.
deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin,wrongdoing, or the like.
regret for any past action.
Now we're seeking out God's will in so many areas, and recognizing things that God is teaching us to look for in who WE as CHRISTIANS align ourselves with. What and who we put our names on, and what they stand for. Because as Christians we represent Christ, and others who we align with- those who we allow to represent us with their deeds or reputation- will either make us and our God credible and reflect positively, or will bring disgrace and reflect poorly on us and on Christ.
Go ahead, read that one more time. I had to in order to realize what God was saying to me!
The night before I'd had a long chat with one of our hosts here in Kiev about ways in which the "influential and respected"Christian community that is involved in the rights of the child here in Ukraine interact. This group has a conference each year to discuss ways to put feet on them (meaning, to walk out their ideas) and get things moving, rather than to just like the 'idea' of caring for the children and orphans. I've been invited to return to be a part of that if it's possible. We will be praying to see where God leads with that and with our family between now and then. It was of his opinion that though Ukraine has been called by many in the political circles to be a Christian nation, it is a nation where the children on the streets, the orphans, the disabled... they're not cared for by the church.
Another woman I spoke with while here said that society tends to view the disabled here like they do the animals. They don't take care of the stray dogs who wander the streets looking for food and huddled together in the cold to stay warm. Disabled people are seen the same way- as less than human and not 'worthy' of a second glance.
We are but two people, but... OUR GOD IS OMNIPOTENT, OMNISCIENT, and OMNIPRESENT and HE can do great things. HE can turn a society's blind eye to recognize a need. HE can bring to light the needs and bring the CHURCH back to those needs. HE can bring a nation that cries out in their worship tent and sings "bring yourself upon our nation, I want your will to be done here!"
And HE can use anyone, anything, and maybe even us... Though we have no idea how or what He might do. God's given us these divine appointments. These opportunities so far outside the 'norm' of adoption contacts. These glimpses into His Kingdom and into the areas which things are going GOOD, very good and the heartbreaking truths of how things are going BAD, very bad.
Now we have to reconcile the truth that we knew when our feet left American soil with the knowledge that God's given us here on the ground in Ukraine and determine what paths HE has for us as we move forward in this life and calling that God has for us. We know God's placed disabled orphans on our heart for life. And we know it's not just so that they can all become a part of our family :). So, now we look for what paths God is prompting us to. God brought me out of the ministry He had me in for the last 2 years-- now He has other plans. Of this I'm sure. Just not so sure what they are yet :)