Friday, September 30, 2011

40 Days of Prayer, day 3

Day 3: "Today, ask God that of the 2 billion Christians in the world, 7% would show hope to a single orphan, looking after the child in their distress.  Ask the Lord to convict the church around the world that if we did this, there would effectively be no more orphans.  Ask the Lord to show each of His followers that we can each do something."

There are so many ways to look after an orphan.  Every family can and should do something; whether it is adoption, fostering, mentoring, donating to organizations caring for orphans, visiting orphans to provide hope, sponsoring an orphan to build a relationship, or supporting families that have taken in orphans.  These simple yet profound acts can change an orphans life.

Day 6, Karakastek

As soon as the train arrived in Almaty we headed straight to the hotel to shower and ate then got back on the road by 11 am.  We are exhausted but still running strong.  This trip has been very physically exhausting.  Not so much from working but all of the traveling has been hard on us.

We headed to Karakastek, a 2 hour (one way) drive.  The orphanage has 42 children, ages birth to 4. We stopped in Uzynagash to buy cookies and bananas, and arrived at the orphanage around 1 pm. The toddler kids were sleeping so we delivered donations (we brought slippers, blankets, hoodies, Desitin, pajamas, medicine and snowsuits) and went to play with the babies.  They were so dirty, this is the worst orphanage we have visited out of the 5, by far.  Everyone loved on the babies until we were "spoken to" for stimulating them too much and whisked away.

We had lunch in the kitchen, it was very hard for us to eat because of the smell and lack of cleanliness of the orphanage.  Then we started scraping and peeling paint, prepping walls, and hanging murals.  When we are finished the walls are going to look so beautiful and give some much needed color to this place.  We are praying it will help the children with sensory issues, they need it badly.

Before we left we went to play with the toddlers.  They were locked in their room by themselves, banging their heads and crying.  We brought bananas and they shoved them in their mouths as fast as they could, most cried when they couldn't have another.  Some were even trying to eat the peels.  It was heartbreaking to watch and disturbed us all.  We all wanted to stick every one of them in our pockets and take them home.

Remember the babies we are trying to bring to the United States for life-saving surgery?  This orphanage is where they live.  We met the girl and took video and photos for the doctors in the states.  Please keep praying we can bring her to America.  She is in desperate needs of this surgery.

The boy has already had emergency surgery here because his situation has worsened.  The surgery was last week and he has been moved out of intensive care.  He is doing well.  Please continue to play for both of these children.

The orphanage director and the staff loved looking at the family pictures and seeing how much the children have grown!

After Karakastek we went to have Chinese food with some local friends.  We wet a lady today who works as the Kazakhstan country manager for the SPOON Foundation.  Her name is Saida and she is a beautiful, wonderful lady.  We learned all about the great things SPOON is doing with nutrition in the orphanages.  They have changed the menus in the orphanages with much resistance at first but now they love the change. Currently they have 8 orphanages on vitamins and new menus.  Some have both, some only have one. SPOON was told from an orphanage that receives both that the children are much less sick.  It really is much needed and a great program for these babies.

Tomorrow we head back to Karakastek to start our painting.  We have 7 rooms to get done in 2 days.  Pray we get it done and cleaned up so the babies can move back into their rooms!

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 5, Taraz photos

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40 Days of Prayer, day 2

Day 2: "Today, pray for your Pastor to have guidance and provision as he seeks to follow the Lord's command to care for the orphans."

Did you know that the Bible mentions the importance of caring for the fatherless more than 60 times?!  Christians needs to stand together and care for the orphan.  We need to visit them in their distress.  And it starts at church.

Churches are the most influential source of care and support. Orphan care is being provided through the church in many areas. Orphans continue to receive the best care when the local church, in collaboration with other partners, is at the foundation of program development. As the distribution center for hope in a community, the local church is positioned to identify needs and support interventions for orphan care. 

The Church is the Hope for the Orphan. The Church has:
1. The largest participation
2. The widest distribution
3. The simplest administration
4. The fastest expansion
5. The longest continuation
6. The strongest authorization
7. The highest motivation.

(Saddleback Church Orphan Care Initiative)

It is time for churches to rise up make answering the call to care for children without families a priority.  Pastors and the leadership of your local church need to understand that God's heart is clearly for the fatherless and doing nothing is a sin.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 5, Taraz

We all had a much needed good nights sleep.  We have not been too bad with the jet lag but always hit a wall around 3 pm.  We got up and left for the orphanage at 9:30 am.  Once we arrived we started to get ready for our volleyball tournament.  We walked over to the school but were told the children could not play because they were not allowed to leave school.  Another "go with the flow" moment.

We walked back to the orphanage and played with the children that were not in school.  Kiefer got involved in a soccer game, those boys are good!  Lori played with a little girl named Tanya who she wanted to put in her pocket and take home.  Emily was the one all of the kids swarmed around wanting to play Angry Birds on her iPad.  We stayed for another hour or so and then headed to the Umit baby house.

We were greeted at Umit by the Deputy in charge because the director is under investigation for some very bad things.  This woman has been the deputy for a long time and recognized the children in the pictures we brought by their Kazakh names. Thank you to the families that took the time to send pictures of your children.  She looked through the pictures at least 10 times while we were there and commented many times on how beautiful the children are.  She thanked us for the donations (we brought Bumbos, sleepers, snowsuits, hats and hoodies) and told us to tell the families that she wishes you health and happiness.

There are 100 children at Umit right now.  We had about 45 minutes to play with a group of 4-5 year olds.  These children are gorgeous!  They were very well taken care of and most of them were even chubby!  We were very impressed with how clean and well groomed they were.  They were all pretty quiet and really weren't sure what to do with the toys, they were almost like soldiers.  You can tell they don't interact with the outside world a lot.

After leaving Umit we went to eat pizza and did some souvenir shopping then headed back to the house to pack.  For dinner we had Plov, yummy(!!) then headed to the train station.

We are on the train now.  This train is not as nice as the other one and I am pretty sure it was built in the 1800's.  Two very drunk women wanted to pay us to sleep on the floor of the train!  Let me just say, the facilities are not usable!

One hour left until we arrive in Almaty then we head straight to Karakastek to start painting.

Keep up the prayers, we are feeling them on this side of the world!

Pictures coming as soon as I can download them.

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40 Days of Prayer, day 1

Today we are starting "40 Days of Prayer for Orphan Care."

40 Days of Prayer is a resource given out by the Christian Alliance for Orphans, creators of the Orphan Sunday movement.  Please join us in praying for the fatherless for 40 days, ending on Orphan Sunday.

Pray alone when necessary and meet whenever possible to join together in agreement in prayer.  Gather two or three (or more) people in a home or church or anywhere and the Lord will be with you and hear your prayers as it says in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of it."

We ask that today you pledge, along with everyone at Two Hearts, to commit to the next 40 days.  You can pledge your support publicly by commenting on this post and helping us spread the word, or privately.  Just commit.

Day one: "Today, pray that the Lord would give you a personal sense of responsibility for the next 40 days (and beyond) for praying for orphans, your pastor, your church, and your community.  Ask Him to break your heart for the orphans.  Ask that He would help you see orphans with His eyes and His heart.  Ask Him to use this 40 days of prayer to change you and your church."

Orphan Sunday 2011 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 4, Taraz

We arrived in Taraz at 4:40 am and were quickly taken to the house by our driver.  The train ride was great, most of us slept and the facilities were fine.  Once at the house some of the team went back to sleep, some took showers and drank coffee.  Around 9:30 am the driver arrived to take us to Ulan, about a 15 minute drive.

Ulan is home to 97 mostly healthy orphans between the ages of 3-17.  There are 18 special needs children.  Most of the children are "true" orphans and have no parents.  The children here are all Kazakh.

When we arrived we were greeted by several children dressed in their beautiful Kazakh attire handing us bread and pastries.  All of us were overwhelmed with emotion, it was truly beautiful.  Our team was then interviewed by a journalist for the local Taraz newspaper.  The journalist interviewed the team members that have children born in Kazakhstan and their siblings.

We then went to watch a "mini concert" that the children specially prepared for us.  We saw singing, dancing, drama and more.  Of course I cried through most of it because I could not shake the overwhelming feeling that these beautiful children had no parents to perform for.

In true Kaz mission trip style, we had a "go with the flow" moment when we arrived here and were told that all the beds had already been put together.  Plans changed and so we visited every room to put new bed covers on and hang curtains. The children were so appreciative about the beds and covers and thanked us many times.  The children are being taught English and loved practicing with us.

We were invited to a traditional Kazakh meal of Bishparmak that the children helped prepare. It was outstanding.  The hospitality was wonderful.  Over lunch the Director talked to us about how the orphanage runs.  She teaches the children life skills, anything from doing their own laundry to cooking their own food.  You can tell just by speaking to her how deeply she cares for her kids.  She cried through about half of our conversation, especially when talking about the kids not having parents.

After lunch we handed out donations and went to play with the kids.  We let each girl pick out her own doll and each boy pick a Beanie Baby and Hot Wheels toy.  They also picked enough candy to rot their teeth for months!  We painted faces and arms, played hopscotch, soccer and duck-duck goose.  The children loved the one-on-one attention.  One little girl even cried when Lance had to leave.  It was sad but it did not feel hopeless there.  We felt like there was a lot of hope for the kids with such a wonderful director.

We left Ulan and headed around town to see a few sites, including some beautiful parks.  We then went to dinner (because we had hardly eaten, hahahahaha).  Once again we were served like kings.  We had Greek salad, Manti, bread, homemade jam and pickles, and tea.  We ate a lot and all felt like penguins.  Ayman played the guitar and sang to us.  We laughed more tonight than I have in a long time.

It was a fantastic day of serving our God and bonding!

Tomorrow we have a volleyball tournament in the morning...the Americans verses the Kazakhs (children of Ulan).  Wish us luck, they are one athletic bunch!

Thank you for your continued prayers!

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Day 2 and 3, Chilik photos