Today we have visited Anani*v orphanage for the special need boys. It took us 3 hours to drive since it snowed a lot today and the road was very slippery. Thank you very much for your prayers, it encouraged us a lot.
There are 110 boys in the orphanage. Most of them are diagnosed with Down Syndrome, polio, cerebral palsy or other 4th level (stage) of severe special needs. Their age ranges from 3 to 35 years old. Today we brought them 2 big boxes of tangerines, 2 big boxes of bananas, 4 big cases of soda (the director told us that the boys LOVE sweet water - soda), 2 boxes of cookies, 3 boxes of different sweets (all that were bought for the money that were given by Marsha Whaley), underwear and 6 000 medical syringe which were donated by some Ukrainians and wonderful Christmas gifts for the boys that were given by Brooke and John Newsome.
Unfortunately, we couldn't take any pictures inside of the orphanage since the director was very cautious with us though very nice and pleasant. She gave us the 5 min video of the orphanage and the boys which was very nice of her. We do hope that we will build up our relationship with Anani*v orphanage and with your prayers and support will help the boys not just survive but enjoy the present life some...if we can call their existence in that orphanage life at all....They need a lot of support and help and most of all love and care.
The only photos we can present to you at the moment are the outside photos of the building itself and some of the boys that came out to help us to carry the boxes in.
We express our gratitude to everyone that prayed for us and supported today's project. Without you we couldn't accomplish it!
May God bless you all richly.
Slavik and Alyona
This morning the Lost Boys were found. Found by a group of Christians from a city about 3 hours from the institute. God is Good.
I find myself trying to figure out how in the world I can tell this story. It is an absolutely amazing story but I worry that I cannot do it justice. We have witnessed God's hand move in the most beautifully orchestrated act of love and it deserves much better than my feeble words typed on a computer screen. Forgive the length of this post. This story cannot be told in just a few short paragraphs.
We left Aaron's country wanting the impossible. We wanted those who ministered to our Lost Boys to know God's love. Material needs were important, but they needed so much more. Psalm 127:1 says: "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain." We wanted the impossible.
We wanted Christians. We wanted our boys to learn about the Living God. We wanted the caretakers and the director and the workers in that drab and dreary place to encounter the God of Grace and Mercy that we know. We wanted change that only God can bring to that dark and dismal place. That is not to say that we are opposed to offers of aid from other, non-Christian groups. We would appreciate any help at all, but our deepest hope was to find a Christian group that would minister to both body and spirit.
We despaired of finding anyone in that little village to fill that bill. The only Christian faith we witnessed there was completely foreign to us, and it seemed to be centered around icons and elaborate church buildings. The very idea was simply ridiculous. Where would we find anyone with the language, skills and heart to reach out to our Lost Boys?
It is here that our story mingles and merges with other stories. It is here that I stand back in complete amazement at how God has woven our story and the story of so many others into a marvelous work. For the sake of a bunch of boys at a mental institute.
They are nobodies. They are the least of the least. They have nothing to offer society. No skills. Nothing. Most can't even communicate their own needs or desires. The biggest highlight of any of their lives is when the cars and trucks drive in and out of the institute. Most of the time, as they sit in their rooms or are sitting hour after hour in the sheds, they can't even see the cars or trucks. All they can do is hear them. The ones who are locked inside the buildings, lying in their cribs don't even have that simple pleasure. They truly live a life of nothing.
To make matters worse, they live in a world that doesn't care. The culture outside their gate wants them hidden. They are shunned, unwanted and unloved. They are living in exile in a cold and hostile land. They know nothing of love. They have experienced little kindness. They are herded from place to place so that their basic needs of food, clothing, sleeping and toilet issues are met. Nothing else.
As Alyona's letter says, the life they live hardly classifies as real life.
Who would care for the Lost Boys? We despaired that we could ever find anyone in that country willing to reach out to those boys.
But God cared. He cares. He has cared for a lot longer and with much greater love than our love. His care led Aaron to that institute. I firmly believe that. Aaron needed to go there in order for those boys to be found. That is not to say that we don't grieve that Aaron was transferred. We struggle that we did not find out about him a year earlier. If we had a choice, we would erase that year from his memories and life. I would do anything to protect his mind and heart from the trauma and pain that he went through when he was ripped out of the baby house orphanage and sent away to the institute. My heart grieves over what happened to our son.
But we recognize clearly that those boys would have remained hidden were it not for Aaron. His pain became their gain. For some unknown reason, Aaron's adoption remained open after he was transferred. Every other boy in that place lost their chance for adoption once they passed through the gate. But not Aaron. Somehow, by God's Grace, Aaron remained available. We don't understand that part of the story. It is a mystery that I hope one day we are able to unravel.
We know that the director and caretakers at his baby house mourned deeply when he left their care. We know that they prayed for him during his entire year at the institute. We know that they all rejoiced when they heard we had passed court and Aaron became our son. We know this because we met them and talked to them. We saw the love and passion for Aaron in their eyes. He was their child first, before he was ours. Whether they pulled strings to keep him on the adoption records, we don't know. However it happened, Aaron left the orphanage yet retained his opportunity to be adopted.
Aaron's adoption opened the gate. In more ways than one. Both Brady and Heath became available for adoption. Brady had been previously listed on Reece's Rainbow but had been 'lost' when he was transferred. Without Aaron, neither boy, nor any other would ever have had the chance for a family.
In an even greater way though, Aaron's adoption opened a very closed facility. God opened the gate and ushered us inside, allowing us to sweat out our process in order to show us the need, break our hearts for those inside and pave the way for future ministry in that barren land. God needed Rob and me in that place, for the time we were there so that we could come away, broken, bleeding and shouting at the top of our lungs. He called us to yell. Not the most glamorous calling in the world but one that we gladly embrace. Because our journey was so hard, we gained followers. Hundreds of people, thousands, who became interested in one little boy and the Lost Boys of Anani*v.
Back in September, while we were stuck in that village, pounding the pavement to visit Aaron each day, we were contacted by a friend from home, Cindy F. A year before they had adopted a little girl from the same region as Aaron but 3 hours south. We had followed and prayed for their family as they brought their daughter home. It was through their blog that we eventually found Reece's Rainbow. Their story became part of our journey to Aaron.
Cindy e-mailed us to encourage us to reach out to the Christian lady who had facilitated their adoption process the year before. Her name was Alyona and she not only helped families with their adoptions, but she and her husband had an active Christian ministry to the prisons, orphanages and institutes in her city. We hesitated. Our village was hours from that city. Three hours seemed so far removed that we honestly didn't consider them a viable choice for our boys and we had little emotional energy at the time to deal with one more person in that country. Almost all our encounters with people in that country had sucked us dry. So we didn't make contact. It was just too hard at the time. We set aside the offer and contact information and didn't consider it again.
We came home and began to yell and scream about the Lost Boys and Brady and Heath. We hit brick wall after brick wall in our attempts to find a Christian ministry that could reach out to our Lost Boys. They were too far off the beaten path. Finally, in November, we remembered the e-mail we had received and so we contacted Cindy to get the contact information for that ministry. It seemed a long shot but we had no other options.
We sent an e-mail to Alyona, Cindy's facilitator, with little hope that much would come out of it. Surprisingly, within the same day Alyona responded. In just a few short hours, all the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. She knew exactly where the village was located, had visited the internat for older children in that village, and had a Christian friend who lived there. Unbelievable. She was definitely interested. Her ministry team was excited. We were shocked. Our first contact with them was amazing and wonderful but it was hard to communicate because we were separated by an ocean. The language and cultural barriers were difficult to overcome. But again, God was designing in and around us for those Lost Boys and He was not defeated by this issue.
You see, another Reece's Rainbow family, the Whaleys, had hit a rough patch in their adoption process. They were stuck in the region because of court issues and other problems. Their delay seemed pointless and frustrating. Since I try to follow the blogs of those who are in country to pray and support those families, I was tuned in to their issues and had shared with Rob what they had been going through.
I woke up early one morning and began to read their blog. Marsha Whaley was still in the country, just waiting for their process to finally end. Because of where she was located and because she had a Christian facilitator who also was part of a ministry to orphans and those in prisons, and because she had so much time on her hands, she was able to take part in those ministries while waiting out her adoption process. I was quite jealous. As I was reading I realized that HER FACILITATOR WAS THE SAME PERSON WHO HEADED UP THE MINISTRY I HAD CONTACTED - ALYONA. This was the same person our friend, Cindy, had told us about. A SMALL WORLD INDEED. Unbelievable. I quickly shot off an e-mail to Marsha and within a day, we were able to make a real-live connection that allowed us to communicate with Alyona much more efficiently. God provided a way.
Within a week ANOTHER family, whose adoption process we had also been following (friends of Cindy - isn't God just fun that way?) was arriving to get their daughter whom they had hosted a year ago. Their facilitator was ALYONA ALSO. We now had two contacts. TWO. Tears rain down as I consider how careful God is in protecting His design.
Alyona and her team wanted to go see the Lost Boys, but the two biggest obstacles facing the group was money and the director. Would they be welcome to visit the boys and how would they cover the expenses? These were very real issues.
Alyona's husband, Slavik, contacted the director of the Lost Boys and she agreed that they could come visit with their group. Another shocking development. We rejoiced when we heard the news because we had been holding our breath. Our deepest prayer had just been answered. The gates were going to open and God's people were going to march inside.
But finances were still an immediate issue. Alyona and Slavik's group already ministers to quite a number of facilities and their budget is already stretched to the limit. It is a very poor country and people have little spare change to take a six hour round trip across the region with gifts and other necessities to a boys mental institute. How could they add one more place? How could they cover gas costs and how could they pay for gifts they needed to bring in so that they would be welcomed back in the future? Where were we going to come up with money to help them? We were here in Virginia and just plain broke.
Again, God answered that prayer with such lavish attention to detail that we were blown away. Before Marsha Whaley had left the United States, she had been gifted money by a generous donor who wanted her to use it for the work in the different internats and orphanages visited by Alyona, Slavik and their ministry team. The money was provided BEFORE WE EVEN HAD TO ASK. Marsha was able to give 300 dollars to the group to enable them to start visiting the Lost Boys.
Sometimes in life you get an opportunity to be a part of something that is significant. Sometimes. I can't say it has happened to me often, in fact most of the time I live in the mediocre, plowing through my day doing this or that with little impact on anything of importance. But sometimes, just sometimes, you get to be a part of something that has value beyond the everyday hustle and bustle.
Almost a year ago we committed to Aaron. The week before we made the decision, we wrestled. We wondered. We prayed. One of the many reasons why we chose to say yes to the little boy in the picture was because we wanted to see what God was going to do in Aaron's life. We had read and discussed the passage in John where Jesus encountered a blind man. Jesus is asked who sinned, the man or his parents, to cause him to be blind. Jesus answered that it was neither. He was born blind so that THE WORKS OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED IN HIM. We believed that God had a purpose for Aaron and we wanted to witness for ourselves that purpose. We wanted to see God glorified through our son. We thought, not wrongly, that His purpose and work would manifest itself as Aaron grew and matured. We believed that Aaron's faith in God would be a witness of God's grace in his life.
We had no idea that God had no intention of waiting until Aaron matured. He had a plan that started even before we committed to Aaron. We didn't realize that Aaron was one part of another whole story that was going to play out for His glory. 110 Lost Boys needed to be found and God chose our Aaron to open the door. Our little abandoned at birth son, discarded by society but used by Almighty God to do His work. As I consider Aaron, the child that he is, I marvel at how well God protected him in the process. His joy, his delight in life were not destroyed in his time at that institute. He was well-preserved. How Gracious is our God. No, he did not come through the fire unscathed, but God cared for him tenderly there - of this we are sure.
Through it all, through the entire story, what I have seen demonstrated most vividly is the love of God. His love, His abiding, deep, unending love for a group of boys in a village out in the middle of nowhere. That love has shaken me to my core. It is a love that displays in essence the full nature of God. He has gone to unbelievable lengths to redeem that institute from the darkness. And on the way, he has displayed His nature, His mercy and His grace to thousands of people following this story.
The Lost Boys have been found. A bunch of boys stuck in an institute in the middle of nowhere will, in time, hear about Jesus.
All Praise, Glory and Honor to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The story is not over. Though Alyona and Slavik have been once, there is much that needs to be done in order for them to continue making the trip to visit the boys. The biggest long-term obstacle is of course, money. The other is trust. From what I understand, they were only allowed to visit the boys that were walking. The Lost Boys we came to know and love. Those in the hidden rooms remained hidden. It will take time. It will take gentle, loving persuasion on their part to be allowed to enter the places where the boys lie, desperately alone.
We cannot solve the trust issue here in Virginia. That is going to take time, God's intervention and a lot of gentle love by the ministry team. We can address the money issue. They need funds. Pure and simple. It is here that the church needs to step up. Any church. Anywhere. Alyona and Slavik minister to the very 'least of these.' They are adding our Lost Boys on top of all of their other ministries. That is a huge undertaking but they have prayed and they are willing to carry this new ministry. But they need help. If you want to help take part in this long-term ministry - please let me know. If your church wants to come alongside this group to assist them in their ministry - please - the need is great.
Please keep praying for them as they sort through how best to set up long-term ministry. As they put it so well in their letter to us - the life these boys live isn't really a life. We saw that with our eyes. It broke our hearts. They confirmed what we know. I was shocked to find out that there were THREE YEAR OLDS at that institute. Dear Friends - that just turned my stomach. Baby boys. Lying in cribs. Until they die.
God is calling the church to action. We can no longer cry that we didn't know. The group that God has called to bring His light and life to these unloved, unwanted boys cannot do this alone. They need the church to come alongside. The door is open. Please pray and please consider how you can help. If you want to read more about Alyona's and Slavik's ministry click HERE. Please keep praying for the Lost Boys. Please keep shouting about them to anyone who will listen. Please.