Saturday, June 6, 2009

The week in review – keeping a diary for ourselves

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, there are a number of reasons to blog. One, to share what God is doing through the ministry here. Second, to let our friends know of the needs here. And, third, to keep our own personal diary. So this week in review, I am really writing a diary entry for ourselves.

Dear Blog,
This Saturday morning, David and I left early to go to Bishkek. Tomorrow is our 34th wedding anniversary and we planned to take a long walk through the city, eat at a great restaurant and then come home. Last night, our plans for that great restaurant changed. We were at a gathering at a friend’s home where we learned the need of 20 Chinese men, here to work. They all live in one small dirty house with very little to eat, waiting on work. Both of us realized that we could not enjoy a meal at a fancy and expensive restaurant,(even though it was a special occasion,) while these men had so little. The cost of our meal would fund their needs for a number of days. So, we went to Bishkek, took a great walk through the city and enjoyed a modest lunch at a place where we usually go. We will look in to how to get the necessary supplies to this group of men on Monday.

From Saturday's walk through the streets of Bishkek. It is a beautiful city.

On the way to the city today, we talked about exactly what happened last week. Some of the events were major…others smaller, but no less significant.

On Monday – The morning started off with my bi-weekly Russian lesson. I cannot explain why I enjoy learning this most difficult language, but I do. I do feel God is helping me to make progress as I can read much more and understand more all the time. Speaking the language has been my greatest challenge and I am told that part usually comes last. My teacher and I talked today about maybe continuing when I go home – on skype. Maybe??

Monday afternoon, we went with our friends to take care of some necessary business in Bishkek. We forgot it was Children’s Day and major streets were closed. We experienced a long detour in the city, and major traffic jams added a couple of hours of travel time. It was okay because we enjoyed being with friends.

Monday evening we had dinner at Valera and Luba’s home. - I remember when we first met Luba and Valera last year. David had the privilege of praying with this man, who suffered with many problems. He had so many needs. What a joy it was to see him this year. He is doing better in every area of his life. He looked healthy and was happy and productive.
Praying for this special family as we leave.

On Tuesday – Getting up early to be in Bishkek by 9:00 is a requirement here and we left very early. We were invited to the Humanitarian University for a four hour seminar with their psychology and social work students. We arrived well ahead of time, spent a few moments in the office of the department head and then walked into a room full of 23 students, waiting for us. We were so impressed with them as they listened attentively and asked a lot of questions. The seminar focused on what is child abuse and neglect – a subject they have not had yet. The time flew by quickly with requests to return. They are so open to learning and it was a joy to be with them.

These young ladies are third year social work and psychology majors. It is a five year program for them.
Gathering after class for a group picture.

After the seminar was over, Natalia, David and I went to a favorite lunch spot. We were eating on a outdoor area with two young friends, when the young man received a phone call from a friend. The friend told us to take shelter – an incredible hail storm was on the way. Within just a very few moments, we were being pelted with the largest hail stones I have even seen. Natalia kept saying “this is a historic moment – this never happens here.” It lasted about ten to fifteen minutes….quite interesting!
Although the clouds were dark, it was calm and peaceful...then all of a sudden the hail started and we ran for cover.

Tuesday evening we met with a young couple in our home. They are soon to be married. David guided the time together as we talked about the five needs of a husband and wife. As we were finishing up, the young woman asked us if they could come back one more time. We were so honored as we really didn’t know what they were thinking. We will be leaving before their wedding and I am sorry we won’t be here.

On Wednesday –I really looked forward to this day – it was a final day for now training in Kemin. We have spent a lot of time there in meetings and training on the building blocks of a successful foster care program. Foster care is a brand new concept to the people of this Central Asia country. We have spent the last three to four weeks simply dropping seeds into the ground with the hope that some of them will take root. One of my biggest regrets is that I cannot talk to these precious people without a translator. I want to talk to them…hear their stories…learn about their families.
Planting seeds -with many, many challenges ahead, our group explored what a foster care system is. We talked about recruitment, family assessment and preservice training. One of the fun things we did was plan what a recruitment program might look like, planned an informational meeting and created recruitment flyers. Their creativity on the flyers was fun to watch.

These workers are from villages and had not experienced a training like this before. They feel they now have a beginning understanding of what foster care is and look forward to continuing program development.

The young lady in the middle is one that we have targeted to consider development as a trainer for preservice. She is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and wants to be considered.

Nagasyat on the far left, is the new director of the region's Family and Children Services. She has been the force behind the desire to start foster care in Kemin.

All of these workers were there for all sessions, worked hard - and we laughed alot. I really look forward to continued work with them.
After the session was over, we talked about the next steps. It is our hope to be able to return here in the fall and guide this group of workers through training and foster care development.
On Thursday – After morning devotions, we left for training. This was final day for training this round in the Chui region, as well. We also began planting seeds of the dreams of a foster care system. We have spent a great deal of time with this group of social workers – last year and this year and I do have hopes that from the seeds that were planted here, change will come. I told both groups – Kemin workers and Chui workers, that they are pioneers and that being a pioneer is exciting, challenging, discouraging, even sometimes frightening. It takes patience and perseverance through the numberless untold barriers ahead.
Last summer, we trained for six weeks here with this group and returned this trip for three sessions. There is real interest in the future for foster care in this Chui region.

On Friday - Friday morning started out just like Monday – I had Russian lessons . We knew Friday would be an unusual day filled with many different things. David walked down to the bazaar for much needed things for the house. Natalia and I went to fulfill a promise – to deliver a ball to a little boy in a small orphanage who broke his leg. He had been refusing to walk and we asked a friend, who is a physical therapist to intervene. She did and he is making great progress. We told him we would bring him a “get-well ball” which we did on Friday and we amazed at how well he is now walking. We ran a few other errands before we went home to get ready for a very special wedding.

Friday afternoon, we were invited to attend the wedding of the daughter of Foundation's Superintendent of Schools - Lydia. It was a beautiful ceremony and David was asked to give a blessing to the new couple. We had to leave a little early for one more stop - we were only mid way through a six course meal!
Marina and her new husband - She currently is a faculty member at the Professional Institute.

Blessing the new couple

Beautiful dances highlight the ceremony.

We now will begin our last full week here....many things we have planned...many things have not been revealed yet...we are so thankful as our journey continues.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Week in Review -Blessing the Children, First Bicyles, Powerful Touches, School's Out, Training and More

This Sunday evening as David and I talk about the events of last week, we reflect on the richness of the journey here and the beautiful people we meet, work with and so enjoy being with. With the busyness of these last weeks, I have only time to blog once a week, before the next week begins, so here is a snapshot of the opportunities we experienced last week as we journeyed alongside our friends here.

Today – Sunday – Blessing the Children

As we say to each most every evening, “was that just today?” This morning seems along time ago. David had the privilege of speaking at the Chinese Church and we have come to really enjoy our connections with these people. Each Sunday someone will ask him to pray for them or to bless their children. The precious five month old pictured below, is the daughter of a very gifted and special young mom. She asked David to bless her every time we see her – even at the bazaar.

Preaching at the Chinese Church. This church is experiencing growth and it is so good to see. A number of children come each week from the neighborhood and we look forward to seeing them every week.

I have never seen one so young, smile so very much.

Saturday, May 30 – First Bicycles and Powerful Touches
Before we left the US last spring, a number of friends of ours gave us financial gifts to use as we saw fit. Most of those gifts have been given to serious humanitarian needs. However, a small portion of those gifts went to another very worthy cause – two young boys and first bikes. Having a new bike in this country is mostly just a dream for most little boys. Each week we spend time at the seniors’ home and every week we see a family and a grandmother voluntarily taking care of homeless elderly. No pay – little outside resourcing. Each week, two little boys spend most of their time there – playing as there family members meet the needs of the seniors. We felt impressed to take care of the caregivers with a small gift for their children.

Choosing the bikes at a local bazaar.

Charting our way through the crowd with our friend Hymannot. He gets us everywhere we need to go.

Little Aziz helps David and Hymnnot get the bike ready. We realized it is a little big for him, but he will grow into it. He has very mild CP and our hope this will strengthen his legs.

"Grandfather" as Aziz calls David helps him with his first bike tour of the grounds. Notice the beautiful mountains in the background.

Ignot, the youngest son of the primary caregivers, knew how to ride a bike, but has never had one. Once on it, it was almost impossible to get him to stop long enough for a picture. One quick moment for a pose with everyone - Tonya and Colya are next to David in the back. Next to Coyla is Oleg, Aziz's grandmother, Luba, his aunt and the cook for the seniors' home. ALeixi is sitting down behind Aziz.

After the excitement of the bikes, we went in to spend time with the seniors. They are precious people. We had with us something powerful and we didn’t know the power of it until we experienced it. Ruby and Lynn, our team leaders have invested much of their heart and soul into these people, spending a lot of time here. It was difficult for them to leave. Late last week, Ruby sent personal letters to them, wanting them to know they are not forgotten. Natalia translated them and we took the letters to them. Natalia read each one personally to each of the seniors. The look on their faces was so beautiful. It is the look that comes with the knowledge that someone cares for them, loves them and is important to them. It is almost too difficult to describe it. We left their deeply touched with this gesture from Lynn and Ruby.

Natali reads Nicholi's letter to him. This dear man, basically abandoned by family, is blind. All the other men at the seniors' home help him with all his needs. They have become like family.

Lydia could be Ruby's mother...and she cried as Natalia read her letter to her. She knows she is not forgotten.

This picture is for Ruby and Lynn - the stove is working beautifully. Can you see the steam coming from one of the pots?

Friday, May 29 – Celebrating the End of the School Year
Friday afternoon, we were invited to a special program- hosted by the School of Blessing and Mercy Foundation to celebrate the end of the school year. We were thrilled again as we watched these incredibly talented young people perform. We had the opportunity to see them in Rockford, Ill, just a week before we returned here and seeing them again was wonderful. We have never seen such gifted young people, so creative and full of life.

The Ambassadors of Grace

The Ambassadors of Grace

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - May 26, 27,28 - Training in Three Regions

We are excited that training on the building blocks of a successful foster care system continues. We had the privilege of training over 60 social workers and psychologists in three different regions this week. The seminars continue for two more weeks. Our goal has been to simply plant the seeds of what can grow here as this nation continues to go through many, many changes in child welfare.
Social workers and psychologists examine the issues of attachment in this seminar, held in a town about 1.5 hours from our home in Tokmok. Twenty were in attendance at this workshop.

They have such special ways of saying thank you for coming. They are waiting for our team's return in the fall and want many seminars.

Monday, May 25 - The End of the First Year at the Professional Institute

This past week, David spent many hours talking with the students who are finishing their first year at the Professional Institute. This was just a dream three years ago of Elder Yang, and now it is a reality. One thing each student said, over and over again, "this Institute is my only hope for a bright future."
The young man, with David below, is Vitali. He represents to us, the students of this growing school. Sponsored in part by a friend of ours in Ohio, he finished the year strong. He will be working at the Institute on building projects this summer to earn money and plans to return in the fall. is the end of the school year. This music group from two large universities celebrated with the students at the Professional Institute.