Friday, January 15, 2010

The Orphans of Belarus Videos & Interesting Observations!






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The videos above were taken by Ihar. He loves electronics like kids everywhere. His job while we visited the orphanages was to take pictures and videos!

Some things I found interesting while in the land of Belarus:

We took the Atroshkin family shopping again at the Hippo Store. They asked me if I had Belarussian money or did I have the "plastic card" (which I used last year and they found fascinating). We bought 4 boxes of cereal this year and milk along with chips and cokes. So for breakfast the next morning we got cereal (much to my delight). But I didn't relize they heated up the milk they used to put in our cereal. So we had cocoa puffs with hot milk. A little strange but maybe some of you do this here?!

Belarus used to be the Industrial part of the Greater Soviet Republic, so practically everything was and is made in Belarus. Because Belarus is so small, they don't need most of the factories as they operate on a much smaller scale. There are no natural resources in Belarus so all oil, etc. must come from Russia. There are huge pipe lines that run across the crounty that bring it in.

When they cook, they cook very large portions and you eat it until it runs out. They do not have specific food for b'fast, lunch and supper. So you may have mashed potatos and pickles or you also may have "porridge" for b'fast (which we had both). I like mashed potatos and pickles!

They don't have enough refrigerator space, so all leftovers stay on their serving plates and get put out on the balcony. It's cold enough so this works, they just don't use foil or plastic wrap to cover it up.

Belarus lost half of it's population in WWII.

I constantly stayed amused by Rommy and Jeff George (another American who came on the trip who hosted the Atroshkin's younger daugther, Angelina this past summer). They kept looking out the window saying "we're in here, and Belarus is right out there"! Yes, this is how I felt last year when I was by myself and no other English speaking person to talk with. The family wouldn't let you go out alone without someone with us.

This year I wasn't searched by policemen with the exception of New Years Eve night...only I was smart enough not to bring a purse or back pack with me when we went out!! Anzhelika got detained as they searched her.

Anyone want some Chai? That was the constant question more times than I could count each day! And most days, it wasn't asked, just fixed and put in front of me...and did I mention candies, candies, candies, everyday all day long! And who brushes their teeth in Belarus? I even took very colorful toothbrushes for the Atroshkins and Ihar and I think I saw them used once.

Popcorn in Belaurs doesn't have butter or salt. It's a little more like carmel popcorn but not nearly so much carmel. It smells like funnel cakes at a fair. It's actually really good!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Favorite Pictures from Belarus!

My Ihar at His Orphanage
Ihar


Orphans at Cherikov Shelter



Orhpans at Ryasno Orphanage



Last Hugs!



Medical Clinic at Cherikov



Presentation of Medical Supplies






The Year of The Tiger

My pictures are posted on Facebook for those of you who use FB! The link to see them is:
I hope the link is correct!



Trusting in God's Faithfulness/Belarus '09


Thank you for your many many prayers! This was a very hard trip (physically, mentally and emotionally not to mention spiritually). I knew Rommy was suppose to go on this trip but I struggled because I just didn't know why I was suppose to go. The week we were to leave, we rec'd an email telling us Ihar was in some trouble and we may not get to see him. Only no one told us what the problems were. But God always has a plan and He orders our steps. I went in obedience to Him.

We arrived at the train station and were met by Sergei, Anzhelika and Liza. Once we arrived at their house they had a "feast" prepared for us to eat and then Anzhelika said "lets go get Ihar". I was beyond happy at this point! We met with his social worker and a teacher. As we were invited to tea and candies, we listened in Russian all what was going on. Of course we did not understand it, but we could tell by voice tone and facial expressions it was not good.
But they let him come with us and we had him the entire time (PRAISE GOD).

Only when we were able to get alone with him and use the dictionaries were we able to figure out some of what transpired. The first 2 days he put up a wall with us as he was ashamed of his actions and thought we couldn't love him anymore. We continued to show him and tell him many many many times each day we loved him and always would no matter what. I also had a chance to find out if Ihar knows God. Yes, he knows Him, but he has not asked him into his heart. He understands and now God needs to work in his heart.

I will not go into his problems but there are many. He is a 13 year old boy who feels he has no one in the world and wants to protect himself from being hurt anymore. He has made some bad choices but we are all human and God loves this little boy. The last night we were there, he wrote us (Mama and Papa) a letter in Russian telling us everything in his heart. He was completely honest and confessed to us what all he had done. He also told us he knew how much we love him and wants desperately to come live with us. There was a translator on the bus to Minsk and she read the letter to us. (that's God again)! We also were able to have a heart to heart talk with him using Tatiana to translate for us. He knows we can't adopt him, but he wants us to pursue a student visa. He also knows the summer program has yet to open up for orphans. For Ihar to do this and be honest, is a HUGE step in TRUST.

We endured much spiritual battle as we are seeking to gain an educational visa for him. But even though there is much battle for our son and his eternal destiny, God is greater and with your prayers, we were able to accomplish Step 1 by meeting with the Director of his school. We met no open opposition and he even tried to help us by making some phone calls and getting back with Tatiana (our chaperone and good friend). We came home with addresses and know where to start. Step 2 came when Ihar told us this is his desire. God will reveal the next steps one by one in the days ahead and we will see. Everyone there warned me this would be almost impossible with a 99.9% chance it will not come to pass. But our answer to everyone was, "with God all things are possible".
We were told not to bring him things, but I couldn't stand watching him wear clothes that were too small, so I gave him the one outfit, coat, gloves, hat I brought him. And just before I left, I gave him the rap cap and hip hop shoes he wanted. We spent most of the money we would have used on things for him and took him out to eat alot (much against our host family). I also brought him some treats such as American candy, cotton candy and I brought him popcorn!

Just spending time with him and being able to hug him, kiss him and tell him "i love you" brought such joy to our hearts.

Now I will share with you some of the highlights from our trip:

1. Seeing my son

2. Listening to him say "I love you too" or "I love you more"

3. Seeing his smile & eyes light up!

4. Watching God work in getting all our luggage to Belarus and ours was not lost like some of the other folks. And we were not charged with all the extra bags of medical supplies. It just went through with no ?'s asked! And seeing the excitement at Cherikov when they saw all the supplies we brought! It was like we gave them 1 million dollars!!!!!

5. Seeing all the orphans and watching them sing and dance for us. They even got me to participate in some of the songs and dances!

6. Being able to share my heart with those on the trip and with Ihar.

7. The "pet rat" is NO LONGER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8. Being able to use an indoor toilet unlike some of those on the trip who had to go outside in the frigid weather!

9. Being able to sleep because of some wonderful meds I had with me! (as you remember last year I was unable to sleep)

10. Watching the snow fall and reminding myself God made each snow flake different just as he makes each of us

11. Spending time with Tatiana!

12. Being able to help 3 orphanages with a little bit of financial help

13. Talking on the phone with Cheri's daughter, Anastashia.

14. Getting to know new people who have a heart for these kids.

15. Seeing how God continues to work in Zack's life and I'm just so proud of the man he is becomming. He did a beautiful job keeping everyone updated on what all was going on.

16. Fixing all the gifts for the orphans! And seeing their excitement when we gave out gifts!

The list could go on and on .....!

I will tell you this, the situation with Ihar and the Atroshkin family is not what I hoped it would be. And things are a bit strained between us right now. God alone knows what Ihar needs and we are going to trust Him that He will be able to accomplish His perfect will in Ihar's life. We did not go into this trip seeking to bring him to America now. We had always hoped he would be able to come when he turns 18. However, things have escalated and the timing needs to be now. Please pray with us as we seek to do God's will. It will not be an easy task.

Love you all! Marta

Thursday, January 7, 2010

With Heavy Hearts

After having spoken with Tatiana, Rommy and Marta received news from the director of Ihar's school. He let them know that there is nothing more he can do, and that they will need to talk to the Minister of Education, who is in Minsk. This, of course, was not the answer they had hoped for. However, they know what they need to pursue in bringing Ihar to America. Although many times speaking with the Minister of Education will not accomplish much, Rommy and Marta are hopeful that, through the connections they have made in Belarus and meeting the school director, they will be able to get somewhere.

Also, the situation with the host family has taken a turn for the worse. As you may know, this is the same family Marta stayed with last year and Lisa, their daughter, spent the summer with us. However, they are extremely opposed to Rommy and Marta trying to bring Ihar to America. It has created tensions in the home and is certainly pushing Rommy and Marta to their limit. Also, Rommy has been getting sick and feeling feverish.

However, on a good note, Rommy and Marta went with the ABRO group on Tuesday to the Cherikov shelter. This is another orphanage in Belarus. It is also where some of the vitamins and medical supplies collected (through a drive at Calvary Church) were donated. They reported to me today that the nurse was so greatful to receive the supplies. She invited them back to the supply cabinet to put them away and Rommy and Marta were shocked to find the shelves bare. They were in desperate need of these supplies and so thankful to receive them. God is good!

Tomorrow is Rommy and Marta's last day in Belarus before there journey home. They leave Saturday and return to Washington, DC on Sunday. They will drive home on Monday morning. I'm sure they will have many more updates and stories once they return!

Please continue to pray for the situation with Ihar as well as their safety as they travel home!

In Christ,
Zack

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year's from Belarus!

After arriving safely in Belarus on Tuesday, Rommy and Marta got settled in and began to prepare for the many events in the coming days. On Wednesday, the entire group got together and unpacked all of the luggage and orphan bags and began making the gifts for ABRO's Christmas project. These are gifts that are given to the ABRO children, sponsered by their host families. Then, on Thursday, the gifts (consisting of Christmas cards and candy) were delivered to the ABRO chilren.

Friday was a free day and Rommy and Marta were able to spend some time with Tatiana, the chaperone for the Charlotte group. She even prepared a wonderful New Year's Feast for them. Now, Rommy was able to try all the delicious foods that Marta got to have last year! (Rommy even ate the caviar...shocking!) They were also able to talk with Ihor at this time with Tatiana to interpret. They found out that he is very unhappy at school and doesn't have any friends. They addressed the discipline problems and were able to get through to Ihor and help him understand what he was doing, while constantly reminding him how much they loved and cared for him.

Through talking with Tatiana and other leaders on the trip, Rommy and Marta have decided to meet with the school director tomorrow (Monday) about the possibility of studying in America. They believe that this might be possible and would be an option for Ihor to keep him from continuing down the path that he may be on (as two students from his school have already gone to jail this year). They have asked us all to pray specifically that they would be able to get through to the director and that he would have an open heart and mind to their request. Also pray for Ihor during this time, that he will understand the consequences of his actions and try his best. I know that with God, all things are possible. Pray that God's will would be done in this situation and that Rommy and Marta will also seek his will for them and for precious Ihor.

Then, on Saturday, they made their trip to the Ryasno Orphange. This is the home for children with dissabilities. There were about 20 children at Ryasno when they came who did not have any family to stay with over Christmas holiday. Rommy and Marta remarked on how pitiful some of the children were. However, through the blessings of God and the generous support of the group, over $1600 was raised for the Orphange. Praise the Lord!

So, in closing, Rommy and Marta continue to seek God's will while in Belarus and minister to the hearts of the people there. Things are going well in the Atroshkin home and Rommy has even become popular among the family! Even Lisa is enjoying his company!

And again, please pray Monday as Rommy and Marta talk to the school director.
-More updates to come-

With Love,
Zack