Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At Home in Belarus

After a long car ride up to DC, we parked our car at the hotel and were shuttled over to the airport. We checked in without any hassles and even got the medical supplies bag checked without any extra fees! Praise the Lord! Even going through security with our carry-on's we weren't stopped and didn't have to open our bags. You couldn't have asked for anything more!

Then the journey began...from DC to Germany and onto Minsk. Here we went speedily through customs (once again, Praise the Lord!) and boarded the bus to Mogilov. The roads were covered in snow, which didn't stop the bus driver who continued on at full speed, past the snow plows. Rommy was just a bit nervous and said he would have been going 5mph, if on the roads at all! However, we arrived in Mogilov safely and were greeted at the train station by Sergei and then were able to pick up Ihor at the military school to join us for our trip. Praise God for working in the director's heart to allow us not only to see Ihor, but to have him with us overnight! This year, the Atroshkins prepared a glorious "welcome home" feast for us, complete with the whole family (even the grandparents)!

I will also report that the pet rat is (sadly) no longer. I'm sure that Marta is very distraught not to see her old friend again this year! Whether or not it was part of the feast is still TBD...although I stronly think not!

However, not everything in Belarus is as perfect as it sounds. After calling today, I recieved word of what Ihor had been doing to get in trouble at the military school. I'm not sure how much I am supposed to share, but I will say that he has been caught cheating and getting involved with the wrong group at his school. He has also been selling some of his things (apparently some of what we have sent him as well) to buy cigarettes. This has greatly burdened my heart this evening and I would ask that all of you specifically pray for Ihor at this time. Pray that the Lord will use Rommy and Marta to be a light for him and to help him understand the consequences of his actions. The Lord can do mighty things and it is my prayer that he would do a mighty work in Ihor's life and give new light to Ihor to walk in His steps. Only God knows his heart and I know this is especially troubling to Rommy and Marta as they strive to be a Godly expample, even half a world away.

-More later from Rommy and Marta, on behalf of Zack-

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tickets & Visas, Ready To Go!

Froster Frost and Snow Maiden as we visit the children in the orphanages!!!

Orphan bags packed, medical supplies ready to be packed for the upteenth time! Tickets and Visas in hand! We leave on Dec. 28. We will drive to Washington D.C. to catch our plane. Then we will fly from D.C. into Frankfort, Germany. Catch another plane to Minsk, Belaurs. There we will a bus from Minsk into Mogilev.

Flight information follows:
Lufthansa 419 leaves D.C. on Dec. 28 at 5:50 p.m. and arrives in Frankfort at 7:30 a.m Dec. 29.
Lufthansa 3240 leaves Frankfort De.c 29 at 10:50 a.m. and arrives in Minsk, Belarus at 2:10 pm.
Our return trip flight information:
Lufthansa 3241 leaves Minsk, Belarus on Jan. 9 at 3:10 p.m. arrives in Frankfort at 4:35 p.m. We have a one night stay in Frankfort.
Lufthansa 418 leaves Frankfort on Jan. 10 at 1:00 p.m. and arrives in Washington, D.C. at 3:50 p.m.
Because it will be so late and we will be so tired, we have opted to spend the night in D.C. after clearing customs we don't want to drive another 6-7 hours. So we will be leaving D.C. on January 11 for Charlotte and home!

Thanks to everyone for praying for us. Several requests:
1. Pray doors will be open for us to share Christ.
2. Safe travel and be able to clear customs with all our medical supplies in hand.
3. For Ihar to be able to stay with us while we're there.
4. For meetings between the Director of ABRO and with government officials in Minsk to get our program re-opened for orphans (like our Ihar) to come back this summer.

Don't forget that Belaurs is 7 hours ahead of Charlotte time!

Many many thanks to Cindy (for all the socks), Kristin (for all the good smelly soaps), Elouise (my dear friend who crocheted all the beautiful hats and scarfs), Dr. Gus (for all the toothpaste and toothbrushes), and Miranda (for all the beanies, shirts and purses)....for the children! and many blessings to Zack (you know what you did) and Tory, Patti and Susan (for the children)! Love you guys!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Letter from Ihar (Oct., 2009)

My latest letter from Ihar:

Hi, Mama and Papa, How are you doing?Sorry for my not writing for long. I had a good vacation. And now I am very busy at school. The school I going well for me. I am learning English. I have started thinking about my future professions. As of now, I am planning to try to get to the Aviation school and to become a military pilot. How is Miranda in South Korea doing? We were told that next summer other kids and I may go to America. Are you going to come to Belarus at Christmas time? Thank you for everything you are doing for me!!!! How is Ethan? Does he play soccer? How is his team doing? How is Caddles (?)? Now when the school has started I can’t often go to Anzhelika and Sergei. I love you very much! Ihar

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fields of the Fatherless

By C. Thomas Davis...

One of the most convicting books I have read in a very long time.
In this world you are an orphan eagerly anticipating your adoption as God's child.
In this world you are a widow, longing for reunion with your Bridegroom.
In this world you are a stranger, a pilgrim waiting to become a citizen of heaven.
And in this world, God has called you to care for the orphan, the widow and the stranger.

"God gave the responsibility to care for the defenseless to those claiming to be followers of Christ. It is through our hands the Father's love comes. It is through our voices His voice is heard, it is through our efforts and those of the church that His care is revealed to the ones the rest of the world has forgotten. "

Why reach out??? "God calls His people to reach out to the defenseless because they are the neediest. Without our help, they die early deaths, they are swept into lives of poverty, they make bad decisions and end up in jail." "One person has the ability to completely revolutionize the life of an abandoned child, a foreigner who is here to study or work, a single mom, or an elderly widow."

True compassion is Involvement.

As most of you know reading this blog, our journey began when God brought into our home a 11 year old young man named Ihar from Belarus. During his visit to our home, God showed us His great love for Ihar by causing us to fall in love with his child. He is the ours even though we are unable to adopt. God gave him to us to love, to nurture to give hope too. Although Ihar was unable to come to America this past summer, God provided by placing Ihar in my host family (Atroshkin family) home for the summer. While their daughter, Liza, came to our home.

Ihar needs to know we are still there for him and that we still love him like a son. His biggest desire has been for Rommy and me to both come to Belarus this Christmas. While I have been unable to see how this could happen, God has used one very special person to pay our passage to Belarus. Still there are other funds we need...but yet God is showing us He has more work for us to do and the orphans in Belarus are part of that work. So while we are unsure about the rest of the funds, we are reaching out and trusting God in His unliminted resources and will go and get involved in these orphanages to a deeper level. Our trip begins December 28. There are so many orphans (like Ihar) who need to experience the Hope of Jesus. How can they know this hope if no one is willing to go?

Please pray for us. We love you all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Letter of Thanks!

I thought I would post the letter I rec'd from Belarus. It is from Anzhelika, Liza's Mother, and Ihar's caregiver for the summer. Lena works at ABRO Belarus. She is a wonderful lady who speaks excellent English! She has been a big help to me with Ihar. :-)

A letter from Anzhelika

Dear Marta and your Family,

We want to wholeheartedly thank you for your care and love for our entire family. Liza enjoyed so much the time she spent in your family and she will always remember these 6 weeks. Every day of them was full of joy! May the Lord bless you for your kindness and your love!

A little about us.

We have had a rather cold summer this year with plenty of rains.
The favorite pastime of David and Ihar is soccer, sure.
Ihar loves you very and misses not being with you this summer.
On the night Liza and Anhelina returned, he was not sleeping.
He was eager to get to know how you were doing.
He was so excited to get the gifts you sent him.
He was so happy and we were happy for him!

We met Adam in the church only once but Ihar and David were in the country on that day and they did not meet.

Dearest Marta,

Again, we are very grateful to you and your Family for everything.
We will be happy to meet with you here if you come to Belarus again.
With much love, our entire Family

Dear Marta,

And here are thanks coming from me, Lena .
Thank you very much for your care and remembrance.
It was so kind of you to think about me too and to send the gifts through Tatiana.
You have so many people you care about!!!!
I really was deeply moved by it.

You are very special and Tatiana spoke so highly of you!
I wish you and your Family lots of God’s blessings!

Today is our last day before the vacation. All groups have returned safely! Praise the Lord!!!!
Please write us when we are back in the office and I am always glad to be of any help to you.

I am writing through Mark as I feel that messages from here do not get to you for some reason.

With much love, Lena

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Weeks 4, 5 & 6 - Liza's Visit

Where did all the time go? Liza and her group left Sunday, August 2. They arrived safe in Belaurs on Monday around 7:00 pm our time (2:00 am their time). These last few weeks, we spent much time with Tatiana (our chaperone); group activities (with the other children who flew to America with Liza); visiting her sister, Angelina, in Pinnacle, NC with her host family; bowling; a trip to the zoo; a trip to Carowinds; shopping; Vacation Bible School; swimming; watching movies (Liza's favorite channel on TV was the Hallmark channel)....and a day of straigtening her hair to look like Hannah Montana....
She is different from our little boy, Ihar. So it was a very different experience for us. She returned to Belarus bearing gifts for Ihar from us as well as gifts for her family. Their views on family are much different than ours here in America.
We are having to make a decision on a trip to Belarus over Christmas soon. Miranda leaves for South Korea on Aug. 17 so our family lives will change again very soon. Amazing how much spice children add to life!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Liza's Visit Week 2 & 3

As you can see from our pictures...we took Liza to Oak Island for a Tarlton Family Vacation. That means staying in my in-laws trailer and enjoying God's creation every day! Liza absolutely loves the ocean! She kept wanting to go further and further out to "ride the waves". We had beautiful weather! We came back home on Saturday, July 4 in plenty of time to watch the fireworks.
Liza enjoys spending time with Ethan (my nephew) and had a blast bowling w/Ethan.
Today we went swimming with some friends from church. Liza has made new American friends, Abigail and Emma. She had great fun with them!
Liza's favorite foods are pizza and chicken nuggets from McDonalds!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Meet Liza! aka "Lizaveta Atroshkina"

Liza arrived on Sunday, June 21, 2009. Her plane landed around 3:30 and after a long wait in customs she and the group she traveled with made their appearance around 5:00 pm. She is the oldest daughter of the family I stayed with in Belarus. She came bearing chocolates for Rommy & Zack, and hand creams for Miranda and myself! Plus she came with letters from her Mama and Ihar (in Russian of course)....! Ihar is upset he could not come but he is happy spending the summer with Liza's family in Belarus.
We have had a busy week. She called her mother in Belarus and her two sisters who are visiting with other families here in America. We have been swimming, shopping with our chaperone, a trip to the dentist, to see the play Cinderella at Matthews Playhouse, watching TV, seeing a movie, meeting my Russian co-workers at Target, and playing with Ethan. Not to mention meeting Rommy's entire family for dinner one night. She is tired and happy!

God is good all the time! Love you all!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

God is Still on the Move!

It has been a long time since I have written! The Government of America and Belarus were not able to come to an agreement so the orphans and children in foster families will not be able to come to America this summer. Yes, that does mean my little boy, Ihar. Only he's not really so little (he is 12 years old)! He will be 13 years old on July, 25. Only the children who have families are allowed to travel to America.
We have been absolutely heart broken over this but God does has a plan and a purpose and His will is perfect. And we are trying to rest in that. We decided to invite Liza Atroshkin. She is the oldest daughter of my host family in Belarus. We shared a bed most of the nights (remember they have 7 children and only a 2 bedroom apartment) and she and I became great friends. She does speak some English and is so mature for her age. She went everywhere with Ihar and me and so they are good friends too! Here is a picture of Liza with Ihar. Liza would like to go to the university and learn to teach English for the schools in Belarus when she grows up.

Since my return to America in January, my host family have been getting Ihar out of the orphanage on Saturdays/Sundays and taking him to their church (most weekends). Inviting Liza to our house is a way to help her, help my host family and yes, even help Ihar.

I was able to call Ihar for the first time since coming home from Belarus!!! He is at my host family home and I cannot begin to tell you just how good it was to hear his voice!!!!!! I talked way too fast for him to understand everything I said. However, I know God will use it to remind him, how special he is and that he is loved so very very much. He told me "I love you too very very very very much!" It was priceless. There was much excitement at their home when they found out it was "Mata" from America calling! Now for the exciting news, Liza told me on the telephone that Ihar stay with their family this summer! He will stay with David (their oldest child) while Liza and her 2 sisters are in America! So while my heart grieves, God continues to show me He has not fogotten Ihar.

I will keep you posted on our visit with Liza. Thanks for praying for us, for Ihar and for the children of Belarus. There is such hopelessness in that part of the world....but my host family has HOPE as their HOPE is in the Lord.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pictures and Favorite Memories from Belarus...

Ihar standing in front of a cross
at a Russian Orthodox Church

Here's a link to my web album. Just click it on to view my pictures. I Love you all...thanks for praying for me! Marta


Some of my favorite memories while I was in Belarus:

- Seeing Ihar the first full day I was there. He was waiting for me by the front door of the orphanage. He threw himself into my arms.....for a giant hug!

-The times Ihar told me how much he loved me....over and over again!

-Watching God work in the arrangements with the Orphanage Director in getting Ihar everyday till 8:00 pm.

-Worshipping God in the two churches that profess His Holy Name. And hearing praises flow from the Belarussians singing. And sitting in these churches knowing that Ihar was hearing about our God in his own language

-Praying mornings and evenings with my host family. And being able to share my testimony with them.

-Visiting the orphanages and seeing the precious children God has not forgotten. Also when Adam played the piano and sang with an orphan "How Great Is Our God" in Russian at Cherikvo Shelter.

-Taking Ihar to the pizza place. Waching him enjoy pizza, coca-cola, and ice cream!

Some of my least favorite moments!:

-Learning my family has a pet. A "house mouse" named "Sima". Sima is actually a RAT and not a mouse. He lives in a small cage right next to the kitchen sink. These are my least favorite animals so anyone who knows me it was God's grace that helped me endure!

-Watching my family wash dishes with water and a rag, no dish detergent used. Knowing I would be eating off of those dishes again. And 4 of the children were sick with a stomach virus and high fevers.

-Being in the bathroom knowing the door would open on me at any moment!

-Night times after I had to return Ihar to his orphanage. I cried all the way back to my host family home every night.

-Having to say "Good-Bye" to Ihar and not knowing if I will get to see him this summer. (At this time the Goverenments of USA and Belarus do not have an agreement signed for the orphans to return. And Ihar is a orphan)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back in America

My Host Family in Mogilev - Sergei and Anzhelika Atroshkin and Children

WOW! God is so good! We arrived back in Charlotte around 11:30 PM. It was so incredibly good to be back on the ground. (I still feel like I am flying)! I walked in my house and couldn't believe how clean, and how big my house seemed to me. We are so incredibly blessed here in America.

It was hard to be say Good Bye to Ihar. We had our time of tears and lots of hugs and kisses Thursday evening as I had to return him to the orphanage by 8:00 pm. On our walk to the orphanage he told me he "very...very...very....very...very...very...very...good night.....very...very...very...very...good morning......very....very....very....loves me! I also told him I very much loved him...but because he used more "verys" than I did, he loved me more!

God showered blessings upon me and allowed me to find favor with Ihar's orhanage director. Praise God! I gave him a gift of leather gloves and he gave me a newspaper of sorts about the orphanage. I was also able to purchase a gift for the school which will be used by all the boys in the orphanage. Tatiana helped me with the language barrier and the director asked for a TV and DVD player for the boys. So that is how I used my money. He thanked me several times over and invited me back anytime I come back to Belarus. He seemed very pleased I have fallen in love with their country and Mogilev.

Besides finding favor with Ihar's orphanage, God also blessed me with a Christian family in Mogilev. This family has now become sisters and brother in Christ with me. They told me "they could see Jesus Christ in my face". They and their children love me and were so sad to see me go. But they told me they could see that Ihar was a good boy with a good heart and they are going to pursue paperwork with Ihar's orphanage so they can try to get him on Saturdays/Sundays and take him to church! They will provide hugs, kisses and love to Ihar in my absense and for me not to worry about Ihar. How awesome is our God!!!!! He constantly reminded me that Ihar is not forgotten and knows his needs. I can not even begin to describe just how good God was to me and Ihar on this trip! I was showered with hugs, kisses, and opportunities to share my testimony. How cool is that? I will write more later...so check back on my blog. I will post my pictures (I took over 350 pictures) for you all to see later today.....thanks for your many many prayers. God heard and answered. Susan, thank you for praying at 7:30 every morning. It was that exact time that I met with Ihar's Director and while I was sitting there praying listening to Russian flying back and forth trying to work out details for me to get Ihar, I looked at my watch and realized you were praying at the exact time all that was going on! Thank you!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Christmas Day in Belarus

Marta and the others spent Christmas Day in Kostyukovichi, a small village about a two and a half hour bus ride from Mogilev. (Belarus celebrates Christmas on January 7th according to the Orthodox Church calendar.) There they attended a Christmas service at Hope Church ( a Baptist church). The people there were very warm and friendly and Marta said the service was very much like what you would experience in a Baptist church here in America.

It was extremely cold again, -4 degrees Farenheit. A sunny day, though there was snow on the ground, and they are expecting more snow tomorrow.

Marta called me this morning around 9am (4pm her time) from the bus as they were driving back to the city. Ihar was asleep at her side. The phone reception was poor and we were cut off 5 times during a 1o minute conversation. At one point I started hearing a lot of commotion in the background, then Marta said, " Oh, my gosh; Oh, my gosh; honey, I wish you could see this..." then click, the phone went dead. I had no idea what was going on until a couple of minutes later when she was able to call back. The excitement was a Hallmark moment. They were driving through the countryside, vast expanses of nothing but flat, snow covered fields, enjoying one of God's beautiful sunsets. Seemingly from nowhere, a herd of deer came into view wandering across the field, silhouetted against the orange sky. I think Marta has fallen in love with Ihar's home!

Tomorrow will be her last full day in Belarus. Ihar goes back to school. And Marta and the group will have a farewell party at the ABRO headquarters.

Posted by Rommy

Tuesday in Mogilev

There were no group activities planned for Tuesday, so Marta was able to spend the day with Tatiana. They started the morning at Ihar's orphanage spending time with the director there. Marta had brought a gift for him and discussed ways she might be able to do some things to help the boys there. He was very gracious and invited Marta to come back whenever she is in the area. This was important to Marta to do whatever she can to insure that Ihar is well taken care of.

They also met up with Cheri and Anastasia and went to the girls orphanage in Mogilev to deliver a gift from Lakeview Baptist Church in Monroe. That also involved a great deal of paperwork and a trip to the bank. (And not just a quick trip thru the drive thru window like here in the states.)

Being a ladies day out, of course, the day had to include shopping! And to appease Ihar, another visit to the pizza restaurant for pizza, coke, and dessert.

Posted by Rommy

Cherikov Shelter

On Monday Marta and the group went to the Cherikov shelter. This is a privately owned center that provides temporary housing to children who are neglected, abandoned, or removed from their families by the state. The shelter has 6 months to attempt to find a home for the children. If a suitable family can't be found, then the state will place them in a state run orphanage.

As part of the program the children presented to the group, they each told their story of how they ended up at Cherikov. Some of their situations were really pitiful and had Marta and the others in tears. Father Frost was there and spent time with each child asking them what they wanted for Christmas. Then the group gave out the gifts they had brought. The children were thrilled with their presents.

Again there was an auction of crafts made by the children and lunch with them. Over $1200 was raised to help with expenses of operating the shelter. The shelter is funded by private donations, much of which comes from churches and individuals in America.

Posted by Rommy

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday in Mogilev

The weather in Belarus continues to be cold and snowy. About 8 degrees Farenheit this afternoon.

Marta and Ihar went to the Baptist church with her host family this morning. It is a large church by European standards - about 200 people in attendance. Adam, the American with the ABRO group was there again and helped her understand what was going on. The service was beautiful, though long, about 3 hours. Most of the hymns were familiar tunes; songs like"There is Power in the Blood", so Marta sang along in English under her breath. They also served communion which was especially touching for her; the bonds we share in Christ cross the boundaries of language and culture. The congregation shared a common loaf of bread and and cup (spread those germs!). She is hoping her contacts with this church might serve as a source for future cooperation.

Marta is still looking to the Lord for direction as how she can further assist one of the orphanages with needs they might have. She has talked with Tatiana and others in the ABRO office. There are a number of areas where help is needed. Pray with her that God would clearly show her how the funds she has available could best minister to the orphans there.

She slept better last night than she has the entire time she has been away, and felt really rested when she woke up this morning. She thanks those of you who have been praying for her.

This afternoon she plans to go with the Anjelica(the mother in her host family) to Hipos (a store similar to a Walmart). She wants to purchase some things for the family that they usually would be unable to afford (treats such as ice cream, fruit, and candy).

Then this evening they are going to go sledding! She has promised Ihar that she would sled down the hill with him. He is excited about that. Ihar is very happy that she is there. Most of his friends in the orphanage had family members to stay with over the Christmas break from school, but Ihar has no one.

Tomorrow the group goes to the Cherikov shelter to distribute Christmas gifts.

Posted by Rommy

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Visit to Orphanage

Today, Marta went to the Ryasno Orphanage near Mogilev. [Ihar used to live near this orphanage before he was sent to the military school and knew several of the kids there.] She said that although the conditions within the orphanage were very poor, the kids were happy and loving.
When her group arrived at Ryasno this morning, they were treated to a Christmas program performed by the children. They sang, danced, and performed little skits.
Afterwards, the orphanage held an auction featuring crafts made by the children. They were able to raise about $1200 through it to help fund projects for the orphanage.
The orphanage also hosted a lunch for the group. [A highlight, because Marta was given an orange--the first time she's had fresh fruit since arriving in Belarus.]
It was extremely cold today--the coldest day of the trip so far. It also snowed all day.

Posted by: Miranda

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dinner with Tatiana

Marta called with another update this morning around 9:30 (4:30pm Belarussian time).

She and Ihar had a traditional Russian New Years feast with Tatiana and her family last night. Tatiana and her husband were there along with their 2 daughters and sons-in-law and 3 grandchildren. It was a huge spread of food and Marta tried dishes she had never even heard of, much less eaten. Overall the meal was delicious. She was impressed by Tatiana's cooking and hospitality.

Today Tatiana took Marta, Ihar, and Anna (one of the host family daughters) sightseeing around Mogilev. She said it is a beautiful city and the people very friendly. They visited a museum and spent some time shopping (a highlight for Marta!). Apparently the value of the American dollar is much greater than that of the Belarussian ruble. Marta treated them to lunch at a local pizza restaurant (a favorite of Ihar's).

It was extremely cold today (about 6 degrees Farenheit). But the people keep their houses very hot. Going from the bitter cold into the inside heat, Marta has developed a sore throat. Please pray that it doesn't develop into anything worse.

Tomorrow the group will be delivering gifts to one of the orphanages. Marta is excited about meeting the children. She will also be seeing Cheri tomorrow. They haven't talked since arriving in Belarus, and she is anxious to get caught up on things.

I hope to hear from Marta again tomorrow and will post an update on her visit to the orphanage.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Marta called this morning (woke me up at 4:30am).

She is doing well. She celebrated New Years Eve with Ihar and her host family. They began the evening with a service at church. Her family attends a Baptist church near their home. The service lasted an hour and a half. There were three ministers; each gave a sermon and a prayer. One of the other Americans with ABRO was also there with his host family and was able to interpret some for her. She said the service was really nice. She was told that Sunday services usually last about two and a half hours.

After church they went on a walking tour of the area around their home. It was bitterly cold! (She said she has been staying warm aside from this late evening stroll.) Then went back home for dinner around 10:30. The festivities in the square below their apartment got cranked up around midnight. Fireworks, music, and dancing until after 3:00am. Ihar was able to spend the night since they were out so late. She got very little sleep because of all the noise and partying going on.

There are no planned activities with ABRO for today or tomorrow, so Marta is looking forward to some "down time" with Ihar. Tonight they go to Tatiana's home for dinner.

Posted by Rommy.