Addicted to Ink

Thursday, August 31, 2006

At the window

On a cool spring morning, our bus of a dozen or so Malone College students and several translators pulled through the gate of Yolichka, a Ukrainian orphanage for children aged newborn to three.

As is our custom while visiting orphanages, the majority of the group stayed outside near the van while two students, two leaders, and a translator went to greet the orphanage directors and present them with gifts for themselves and the children.

As we stretched our legs, eager to play with toddlers and hold babies and shower them with gifts and hugs and attention, one student, Ian, noticed a little boy eagerly staring out the window at the van full of people. Ian walked over to the window and rapped on it, startling the child just a bit, but the little one soon smiled and rapped on the window in return.

The two played at opposite sides of the window: Ian making silly faces, the child mimicking him. The tyke was sick, so wouldn't be allowed outside to play with the students and his peers, but after a few minutes he was laughing so hard he could barely stand.

The two were making a connection. At a window. Giving each other glimpses into lives neither had ever seen before.

The child was looking into the eyes of a godly young man (a rare commodity in Ukraine) who loves Jesus with all of his heart, who will and has followed and served Jesus anywhere - by caring for his brothers and sisters in the United States, in Sweden, in Ukraine, in God-only-knows-where-is-next. And because of that love, Ian freely loves others and enjoys making the solemn laugh. The child was seeing love and laughter and acceptance.

Ian, by American standards, was looking through a pane back in time of nearly a hundred years, leaning against the sill of a building that appeared to be centuries old. He was gazing into the eyes of a child who had been rejected by his parents, who was abandoned before he ever learned his own name. Ian was seeing a child who, unless God intervenes, will grow up in poverty and danger and darkness.

But God's mercy is great and He wants our mercy to be great, too. "Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes... .So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing" (Deuteronomy 10: 12-18).

These days, there is a term called the "10/40 window" which describes a region of the world that contains the largest population of non-Christians. The area extends from 10 degrees to 40 degrees North of the equator, and stretches from North Africa across to China, and includes such countries as India and Turkey and Afghanistan. Crimea, Simferopol, is in the southern part of Ukraine, separated from Turkey by the Black Sea.

As Dan Cammack noted in his article "A Window of Opportunity," if you are a 21st century American missionary, you will likely end up in the "10/40 window" or Eastern Europe. I, too, believe that God is calling Christians - from all parts of the globe - to that area of the world.

Three of the participants (new graduates) of our Ukraine service-learning team stayed in Crimea while the rest of us returned to America. They are there for sure for a year, and longer if the Lord directs. They are working with Ukrainians who love Jesus and have committed their lives to making a difference for the Kingdom - and have specific ministries for orphans.

During our service-learning trip in June, most of our time was spent ministering to older children and teenagers. But each year, we visit Yolichka, to see where these children began their lives, to try to gain understanding of what their lives have been like.

Our visit that day lasted several hours - we toured the institution where we were introduced to toddlers with AIDS, we blew soap bubbles through wands with toddlers in the playground, we pushed kids in swings and took their pictures and gave them hugs and prayed God's blessings and promises over them.

And when we went back to the van, the little boy was still waiting at the window, watching for Ian.

This is a piece I wrote for Barclay Press (see link at right)... what do you think? Too sentimental? Too preachy? Too depressing? Will it work without the photos if they are unable to use them? Feedback/suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

a Franciscan benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim can not be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.


Monday, August 28, 2006


it's nice.
to tell the difficult
to someone
and for him to say

'don't sweat it.
that's more like me than you'll
ever realize.'

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

ghosts from summers past

This morning when i got a "news alert" from Springfield News & Sun, i quickly deleted it. It was a busy day.

But then Mom forwarded me the same alert, 21 year old drowns in reservoir and this time with a note - "I think this was Candy's brother."

i clicked on the link, hoping it wasn't true.
It was. 21 years old. Dead. Ouch. Nathan, 21, had drowned sunday in the C.J. Brown Reservoir. They're not sure how or why, just that it happened and now he's gone. The kid who loved to spy on his big sister and her friends and was in our 4-H rabbit club (it's true - my rabbits were Scarlett and Rhett) and stay up as late as he could and sneak Mountain Dew and who loved to laugh and +should+ have had many memories yet to make - gone.

Candy was my best friend from junior high and high school. Our last two years of high school, our lives started going in really different directions, and even though we were "best friends" we could be really mean to each other. But in the next coupla years, we grew up and put that behind us. No longer best friends, but friends who still cared about each other and kept in touch once in a while. And it's rare that we do chat, but sometimes it happens. And the one thing that we've always had in common - is that we both have always been crazy about our siblings.

A really weird thing about my past is that it's almost gone. I know, I know - that's the point, the definition, of the past. But for me, it's a little different because not long after I moved away from my hometown for good, my parents did too. So did almost every single other members of my family - or those family members have either 1. died 2. are really close to dying or 3. don't care enough to keep in touch. There are no real things of "then" that are in any way involved with my life now, it seems. There are still relationships, but for the most part, have either disappeared or evolved. My 10 year high school reunion is coming up, and I'm curious, but my only desire to go would be to see how others have 'turned out' and not neccessarily to rekindle friendships. Is that wrong? It just seems so very long ago.

But... even though I have great memories - especially of family members - I'm not nostalgic for the past. I love my life now. Sure there are the bad days, but I have really wonderful people in my life.

And while there's a lot to be desired... yeah. I'm in a good place.

But anyway... if you think of it, please say a prayer for my friend Candy, who's missing her little brother already.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

unheard music

my friend, she got me this book and it's made me laugh and it's made me think and it's made me cry.

it's simple and sweet and funny and serious. it's called "Mostly True Collected Stories and Drawings" by Brian Andreas and he's got a great website that might make you laugh and think and cry... or just learn how to think a little more simply or a little more deeply or maybe just make you feel a little more like a part of the human race.

here's a lovely one :

Don't you hear it ? she
asked & I shook my head
no & then she started to
dance & suddenly there
was music everywhere &
it went on for a very long
time & when I finally
found words all I could
say was thank you .

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

haunting moments

This is the scene that keeps replaying in my mind today.

I'm standing by the bus, snapping photos of students with orphans at Losovoe, the majority favorite. It's our last trip to this orphanage, and the students are sad... clinging to these last precious moments with our beautiful kids.

The older girls I've been hanging out with have disappeared back into their lives of television and fingernail painting and gossiping about boys - in Russian. Privyet, spaceba, dasvadanya, schtoetah, cakvasavoot are about as far as I can get without a translator, and teenage girls can only stand the awkwardness for so long.

So I'm just kind of standing there, knowing we've only got about 10 minutes left. Should I begin calling the students to the bus now, knowing that it will take at least 20 minutes for every good-bye to be said? Or should I let them have these moments uninterupted, even if we will be a little late for the next thing?

My eyes wander to the grassy hill, where a little boy is drawing intently. I quickly bring my camera to my eyes, wondering if I can capture this scene before he looks up. But just as I'm snapping the photo, his eyes meet mine.

He shyly waves me over, and when I reach the step below him, he puts a few finishing touches on his photo, signs it, and presents it to me, a gift.

"Spaceba bolchoy," I tell him. "Hadaschal." He smiles. I take his picture with his drawing. So that I can remember and so that I can put a face with this sweet little boy who drew me a picture and perhaps so that I can tell you this story.

Just then, his friend meets us on the steps. They put their arms around each other, and bring their thumbs and forefinger to their eyes, making clicking sounds and smiling.

I chuckle at their perfect nonverbal skills. "Ahdeem, devol, trr-ree," I count.

They tug at my sleeves and motion me to follow them to the top of the hill - a dainty, landscaped perch with a circular garden of purple wildflowers. The artist pushes his friend out of the way, taps his chest, and makes the clicking motion again.

I oblige.

Then the boy with the hood pushes his friend out of the way.

We have two joiners, the second boy's sisters, who ham it up for the camera.

The others are taking up too much of my attention, and the first boy has had enough. He goes to the edge of the perch, and begins drawing me another picture - this time of Spiderman. Looking up from his drawing for a second, he motions for me to take another picture.

He finishes quickly, and hands me his masterpiece, complete with webs spinning from Spiderman's fingers. He's written "Spiderman" in Russian, but half of the letters are the same letters of the English alphabet.

I look at my watch. Giving him - and the other three - a big hug, I say, "Dasvadanya." We are now officially late. I grab the boys' hands and the four of them follow me to the bus, and I'm wishing I had more gifts than the ones we've already distributed - personal ones. As I sound out the "time-to-say-goodbye-call," my four new friends chatter away in Russian as I smile and nod and pray blessings on them, and wish I knew exactly what they are saying. I'm wishing I knew their names, and their ages, and their histories, and their futures.

According to statistics as they are now, three of the four of these kids won't make it outside the orphanage for longer than five years when they are turned out at age 15 or 16.

Even if that's only half true - that's still too many. I wonder, of the four of them, which will survive. I wonder if they will beat the statistics. I pray that they will.

I pray - that day and this one - that God will spare them.