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 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.