Saturday, April 4, 2009

Reflecting on the week....

It is Saturday evening and we are relaxing and reflecting at home after an incredibly busy week. It has been a week to see and feel things that have left us wondering – what can we do?
On Wednesday afternoon, we went to the local park, built by “Kids Across the World Playgrounds.” It was a time to treat the little ones from one of the local orphanages to fun, food, and most importantly – ice cream and lots of it.
Lynn and a little one from a local orphanage.These little ones captured Jessica's fact that happens a lot with her!

A surpise evening meal....

After the social work team from Ohio played in the park, we ushered the little ones into a small building and an evening meal awaited them. As those children walked into the room, inching their way behind them were three other small children….a little girl about 10 and her little brother and her little sister.

Dirty and looking absolutely starved, Lynn ushered them into the room quickly. We could feed a few more, but not the whole playground. All of us were deeply touched by these children. Jessica, one of the team members, was determined they would not go home empty handed and gathered the remaining food up to give to them. A number of us walked back to the foundation so there would be room in the van to drive these children home. What Jessica saw when she arrived at their home broke her heart – absolute poverty…no food, no water, nothing that could sustain anyone.

These are the faces of poverty …and it is always the children.

On Thursday morning, the team shopped at the local market to buy essentials for this family and delivered them. Those of us who remain here for the season hope to check on this family.

On Thursday afternoon, we all went to a local orphanage to do crafts with the children and also decorate Easter eggs. It was a delightful afternoon.Jennifer and the boys really got into the egg coloring. The young man in the middle colored more eggs than anyone!

After the eggs were all colored, some remaining ones were turned into egg salad sandwichese and they were a hit!

However, in the midst of our fun, we were again reminded of the faces of poverty. A father and mother, who we later learned, were destitute and homeless, brought their three children to the orphanage. While their parents signed custody papers with the orphanage director, the three children sat at the tables where the children were doing eggs – mostly in a shock state.

These are the faces of poverty …and it is always the children.

These precious twins really had no idea what was happening, but they would be living at the orphanage now until things improved for their parents.
Their older brother, we noticed, was very watchful over his little sisters.

We have finished our second week here…it doesn’t seem possible. Already so many life experiences have deeply spoken to us. Seeing and experiencing what we have, has made us eager to continue. On a walk last night, both of us commented that our time here maybe touching one life at a orphan, a widow, a mother, a father…one life at a time.

the journey continues...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Does Love Look Like? The First Story

Have you ever asked your “what does love really look like?” I don’t’ know if I ever had before this week, but we have now. During the weeks and months ahead I want to answer that compelling question with stories from the lives of incredible people living in this beautiful, but desperate place.

What Does Love Look Like? It Looks Like Tonya and her family

For an extended period of time, Tonya lovingly cared for her ailing mother. A few months ago, her mother died. Shortly after her mother’s death, Tonya began to notice something that she hadn’t really realized before. There were grandmothers and grandfathers, just like her mother….well, not exactly. Unlike her mother who experienced the concern and care of family, these precious elderly were homeless. Often tossed to the streets by their own children, they were discarded as no longer valuable.
Tonya, her husband and children spend many long hours at the new home for the elderly. In fact, Tonya rarely leaves.

With her eyes opened, her heart deeply touched, she and her family decided to do something about the growing problem of the homeless elderly people of Kyrgyzstan. Tonya and her husband went to the local authorities and were given a building to use free of charge. This building, discarded, just like the population it would soon house, was cold, dark, broken…in much need of repair. However, the shelter of a cold building is better than no shelter on the street.

Tonya began locating elderly folks in need of care. She started with two...then three…and is now up to eight residents. We asked her how many she can manage. She said the building could house sixty, but she has no beds. Tonya and her family at this point are managing the daily function of the home by almost by themselves. She never leaves. She sleeps on folding chairs in the large room between the men’s and women’s rooms. She and her family have given their lives to these precious hopeless and helpless people. As they have given, others are seeing the need.
Care for the elderly is a family affair as this 14 year old works in the kitchen....which is a sink and one two burner hot plate.

Something beautiful has happened in this small village as the people in the village are aware of what Tonya and her family are doing. Many people are coming alongside to help. Even the orphanage children are planning some ways to help.

Tonya showed us this week exactly what love looks like. Love sees value in every person, no matter the age, circumstance or the ability to return in-kind. Love gives unconditionally and compassionately…it risks everything one has in order to care for those without hope. Love is the true walking out of James 1:27 - Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight… that is what love looks like!

David and Tonya stand next to a bed purchased with funds sent by our friends in America. We hope to be able to contribute toward the purchase of more beds in the future.

John Wright and a babybuska....a Russian grandmother.

Ruby listens to a grandmother - even when one doesn't understand, pain and sadness have a universal language.

"No one ever comes to see me," this grandmother told us. We all hope to spend more time here in the future, praying for them and ministering to their physical needs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Full Weekend and Start to a Full Week

Our first full weekend in Tokmok was full with fun and exciting activities. David, Lynn, Anne joined John Wright's family as they took 20 children to the amusement park in Bishkek. They left early and got home late. Check out the Wright's blog to see the great pictures.

An opportunity was presented to Ruby and me just shortly before we left the US and that was to apply for a major grant. We spent the entire week working on it and Ruby finished it late last night. Gaining the grant would open the doors to financial provision for training and impact on the system of child welfare here. We will keep you up-to-date on the grant application.

Sunday was a day David and I looked forward to and that was visiting Pastor Elenya and her beautiful family. We visited her church on Sunday and she invited us to her new four bedroom house. We are so thrilled for her and this was a gift to her and her three adopted children.
Pastor Elenya praying over the children of her church.
Anne, the Johnston's niece shares her testimony.
Pastor Elenya and her three adopted children. The oldest would have graduated the orphanage in the spring and released to be on her own at 16.
Lunch in her new home.

It is now Tuesday evening and we have spent a little time with the social work team from Cleveland. Although they arrived with no sleep for over 30 hours, after freshening up, we started right away with introducing them to the work in Kyrgyzstan. The next two weeks will be full of their stories and pictures.

Also coming every once in a while will be a short story. I have asked myself "what does love look like?" I saw it yesterday and have seen it many times in the past. Overtime, when we experience a "what does love look like?" story, we will share it with you so that you, too can share in the passion and compassion for the people of this Central Asia country.
the journey continues....