Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ukrainian Christmas in Texas

What an incredible joy it is to have these precious children here!!!! Before Christmas we had a big party complete with lots of food, outdoor fun, games, gingerbread house decorating (although most were too busy to get to that) and of course Santa. Thanks Kyle family for organizing this!! It was a blast for all of us!

Sweet little Bogdan meeting Santa and learning to ride a bike.
And here is my Katya - Santa must have told her something good was coming!!!Allee, Liza, and Nastya getting a quick hug from Santa. Liza is part of the host group and such a cutie :)

Here's Anna!

Katya enjoyed spending time with her friend Sveta - they had not seen each other in 13 months!!

Tanya lovin on little Madeline

The kids were mesmermized by Santa reading a book. I think he really might be the real deal... real beard, white bushy eyebrows, a bag full of goodies... I don't know - if kids can come from Ukraine then maybe this Santa really came from the North Pole. Our translator had a few requests for Santa - an iPhone, a Surburban, and world peace :-)

What a cutie! This is Kolya - and cute yes but see that glint of mischief in his eyes... He'll steal hearts for sure :) Well for that matter - won't they all?!?

Yes in fact they have...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ukrainians to Texas - MIRACULOUS JOURNEY

I have always wondered what it would be like to be a character in the show 24. Zach and I got a little addicted to 24 while in Ukraine. But the last four days, I feel like I have been in one of the episodes with a new and difficult encounter every few hours. It has been intense folks!!

To begin I will tell you the happy ending of the story! - Between last night and today 16 Ukrainian orphans landed in Texas and joined their host families for what should be three joy filled weeks. And I am telling you - God must have some super big plans for this trip because Satan was all over trying to stop it from happening.

So backing up to last Wednesday, we found out that our main chaperon in charge of bringing all the host children was in a car accident and was not going to be able to travel. She is doing fine now from what we hear but was not up to traveling after her accident. So, the scramble began to find a new escort who met the criteria of someone we knew or had excellent references, had an open visa already, and was able to take off work and leave with only a few days notice. Incredibly, God provided the perfect person for the job - we would find out later just how much this specific person was truly needed for the trip. You can imagine the craziness of contacting people in Ukraine about this, changing airfare tickets, letting our host families know of the situation, etc, etc. It seemed pretty dramatic but was nothing to what the next few days had in store!

Sunday at 5:30 am Ukrainian time (9:30 pm TX time) 16 children and four adults boarded a plane in Kiev. They then arrived in Frankfurt where one precious little boy had some type of allergic reaction or asthma attack or something and suddenly couldn't breathe very well. It got worse and the German airport medics came running. They pulled down the poor child's pants and gave him an epinephrine shot and a suppository in the middle of the German airport. Bogdan does not improve and enter the ambulance. The boy, along with our new replacement escort, who just "happened" to be a doctor, were whisked away to the German hospital in Frankfurt. The rest of the group (including Bogdan's terrified brother Andriy) was left with no way to contact them or know what the situation was due to the communication problems. My friend was calling me through this giving me the frightening updates. Another grave dilemma was that Ukrainians are required to have a visa to enter Germany and it was uncertain whether they would be allowed back in to the airport when Bogdan recovered.

I, on the other side of the world, was shaking and crying out to the Lord on Bogdan's behalf and that of the rest of our group for over two hours not knowing what the situation was. This was from 1:30 am to 3:30 am TX time. I suddenly knew that Bogdan was okay as clearly as if the Lord had whispered it in my ear. I had heard nothing but began praising God for his healing and for putting him and the escort back on that plane with the group. Not 15 minutes later my phone rang and I heard that he was indeed breathing normally and was boarding the plane!!!

Miraculously Bogdan seemed to be healed quickly of whatever it was that was causing him to be unable to breathe and they quickly allowed him and the escort to return the airport and board the plane. One of the main reasons this was allowed was because the escort was a doctor!! Who but God knew that we needed to have a doctor escorting the children!! Can you imagine the drama that was in the airport for all the kids including the boy's big brother!?!

So at this point our group was split into two groups - half coming to Denver and half to Chicago and then all ending up in TX. Great plan except that mother nature intervened. The flight that Bogdan and the Ukrainian escorts were on was stuck on the runway for three hours before takeoff. Needless to say they missed their flight and any others that might have gotten them to TX that night from Denver.

We had 8 hours or so to figure out what to do when the plane landed. I spent countless hours trying to find flights for them and calling airports but things were beyond crazy due to the winter storm on the east coast. Nobody would help me even when I occasionally reached an actual person at the airport.

As I was praying for intervention and I remembered that there was this awesome group of people somewhere around Denver who had adopted from Ukraine. I follow their blogs and had become friends with Kari over the past year. They also bring groups of children for hosting in the summer. I thought that perhaps they might be able and willing to help with our group. I don't know them well so I just emailed Kari and hoped that maybe she would get the message and call back. Within 30 minutes my phone rang and she immediately offered to house them, feed them, meet them at the airport, whatever!!! Wow!!! I was so overwhelmed and grateful. Then a short time later she put me in touch with Felix Roge. Be SURE to read his side of the story - you will cry and laugh at the same time!! He just 'happened' to be heading up to the airport anyways around the same time our group was landing. He got there earlier and started working with the ticket desk on their behalf and was able to work a miracle to get them ALL on a direct flight to Austin the next morning. If he had not been there it would have been a mess beyond my imagination, and two Ukrainian men caring for 10 exhausted children would have had to try to figure this out on their own in a foreign country. It would not have been good. But again, God already knew and provided. THEN, Felix drove them in his 15 passenger van to hotel (which we found at an incredibly low rate and was perfect for them with a very helpful staff), got them settled and headed home. In the morning he headed back to the hotel, fed them all breakfast, and maneuvered his way with this large group through the packed, crazy airport. It was quite the adventure and MANY disastrous situations were avoided. He got them ALL on the plane and off to TX.

Thank you doesn't even begin to cover it Felix, Heidi, Nadia, Julia, Kolya, Kari, and everyone else in CO who stopped your busy lives in the middle of Christmas season to help out people you have never met. We are so grateful!! And most of all, thank you Lord for making all those connections and going before us to prepare for the needs of our group.

And so it was much rejoicing this morning when we met the group (who all had a good night's sleep in the hotel) at the airport in Austin. It was an amazing thing to see the children join their host families and the joy on both sides.

At the same time we had our other group coming in from Chicago. They too missed their flight due to weather but since there were already American adults in the group, it was not as critical of a situation. They were exhausted beyond comprehension when we welcomed them last night at midnight to Austin. It was filled with joy though as my girls welcomed two of their best friends, Tanya and Galina. They had not seen Tanya since we left Ukraine and it was a beautiful, emotional reunion. So awesome. Galina was here this summer but it was amazing to see her back. We LOVE those girls and so excited to see them with their host families!!

We have had wonderful reports of their first day here and all of them are doing very well. More updates will be coming as we have lots of Ukrainian Christmas fun coming up!

There has been MUCH more drama on top of all the travel issues - yes it is true. Some of it we just can't share on a public blog but it has been a crazy and very emotional week. The incredible thing has been that as the pressure has increased, God's grace and strength has increased tenfold. I have barely slept since Wednesday night (remember I have also been at dance rehearsals every night until 11), but God has given me and Becca and Camille and our husbands and children just incredible grace and provided people at every turn to love these children. It is not about us and we give all the glory to Him. Thank you Jesus.

Pictures coming...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kateryna Ballerina

Katya has been preparing to perform in The Nutcracker. She auditioned in August and got the part!! She is truly gifted at dancing, but we were uncertain how she would do because she really only had training in jazz type dance and not really in ballet. She was given two parts (a mouse and a polichinelle) and she has risen to the challenge! We love her dance studio and she has been SO blessed by the friendships that she has made as well as the excellent but gracious teaching of her instructors! Thank you Ballet New Braunfels and all of you families who have encouraged her in dance!

So this week she has had practices every night until around 11:00. It is pretty intense but the final productions this weekend were worth every bit of the effort. It was a beautiful and very professional performance and I was just overjoyed to watch my little dancer just shine up there. And just filled with joy and loving every minute. On the way home last night she started crying and said that she was so happy that God let her do this and made her able to dance and just how much she loves to dance. What a wonderful thing that Katya has been a part of all this. We have seen her grow in her confidence, socially, emotionally, and physically through this semester of dance.