A quick message from Brandon Dragan, HopeHouse International®Director of Communications, about our 2013 Orphanage Mission Trip.
Copyright © 2018 HopeHouse International®
A quick message from Brandon Dragan, HopeHouse International®Director of Communications, about our 2013 Orphanage Mission Trip.
Hi, this is Adam, on the Orphanage Mission Team writing for the blog for the first time.
This week has encountered a lot of firsts for me: first time across the Atlantic, first international mission trip, first time visiting an orphanage. The list could go on. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this group that is so passionate about what we are doing here. It’s also been amazing to have my wife Keysha by my side for the trip.
At this point in the trip, we have seen orphans from all over this beautiful country and have fallen in love with all of them. One of the standout points for me so far was visiting the handicapped orphanage in Kherson. We were warned by those in our group that had been before that this would be an emotional day. I tried to prepare myself so that I could be a smiling face for the kids no matter how their condition may affect me emotionally. The amazing thing was that once the children entered the room, most of them in wheelchairs, I never felt the need to remind myself to smile. Their joy was contagious as we sang and danced and played with them. I was humbly reminded that no matter their circumstances, they are still children of God.
However, their circumstances still remain. The orphanages all do the best they can with the funds they are allotted and we were blessed to be able to deliver gifts of soap, diapers, and other necessities, but the sheer number of children in need means that some things have to be sacrificed. Children may only be able to bathe once a week. Some need medical care that cannot be afforded. They may share a toothbrush or have only a few outfits of clothing. The orphanage was never meant to be a permanent solution for these children. They need faithful men and women of God to step up and be fathers to the fatherless and mothers to the motherless.
Tonight, we got to meet one such couple and their story was inspiring and humbling. Vadim and Anstastia are a young couple roughly the same age as my wife and I. With them tonight were their two beautiful adopted daughters Karina (8) and Masha (5). The girls are biological siblings and have been blessed to be able find a forever family with Vadim and Anastasia. Many would consider it enough for this young couple to have provided a loving home for these two girls, but Vadim and Anastasia are also in the process of adopting their older sister and their two younger brothers. This is all in addition to having their own biological son, a toddler. For those of you keeping score at home that’s potentially six children in the near future for this young family! HopeHouse is currently helping this growing family renovate a house to provide room for all the children so these adoptions can become possible.
It was such an amazing contrast to see the hope that these girls have with their new family as opposed to those still waiting in the orphanage to be adopted. It was a wonderful picture of the work God can do through a family that is willing to follow His call. Please join us in praying that God will raise up more families to adopt the many who are still waiting.
Not a single member of our group was unaffected by this family’s visit, my wife and I included. I feel like many of our eyes have been opened to God’s calling for Christians to take up the cause of the orphan. Maybe it means more trips like this. Maybe it’s a donation to HopeHouse International. Maybe it’s becoming adoptive parents.
God is moving in the hearts of those of us here and our hope is that He is using our stories to teach you as well. We thank you all for your many prayers and support.
I immediately recognized this first orphanage we were visiting. Last year when we visited this same orphanage, I met a little boy named Stasch. When we met him then, he had been left by his mother only a few days before our arrival. He kept asking up to just take him home. We had to tell him we didn’t know where he lived, which he countered with, “That’s ok, just take me to the bus station and I’ll find my way.” (Insert the sound of your heart breaking into a couple of thousand pieces here).
As we walked through the orphanage yard and started to set up, I kept looking around for Stasch. My constant prayer for this last year, “Please, God, let him be in a loving home,” echoed through that orphanage yard.
After a few minutes, I saw Stasch. He was rolled outside in a bed, in restraints to keep him from hurting himself. And my heart just sank.
I went up to him and started to talk to him in my very limited Russian. We asked what had happened to him that would cause him to be bedridden and found out that because of malnutrition, his hip joint had been damaged and even the slightest fall could do major damage. The caretakers at the orphanage told us that he would have to remain in the bed with very little movement for up to two years.
Everything in me screamed, “No! This is not right! This cannot be!” Little boys are supposed to be in loving families where they’re told they matter. Little boys are supposed to be able to have proper nutrition to make them healthy and strong. Little boys are supposed to be able to run and jump and play.
I got to spend some quality time with Stasch, and for that I’m so very thankful. We sang songs, fought with balloon swords, did some face painting, and looked through his new Russian kids Bible together.
To say yesterday was a tough one is a bit of an understatement. But even in the midst of the darkness, where all hope seems to be lost, where little boys and girls grow up without families and are kept in bed for years at a time, I still choose to hope. I still choose to hope that this is not the end of Stasch’s story. I still choose to hope that, in the end, this injustice will be made right.
So we ask you to pray. Pray for little kids like Stasch who listened to us share the message of who Christ is — that they would come to personally know their Creator and discover their value and worth in Him. Pray for our team as we enter the downhill slope of this grand adventure. And pray about how you can be a part of this story too. I hear there’s a great HopeHouse International trip coming up next year (hint, hint).
Another great day! We visited the orphanage for handicapped children in Kherson, Ukraine and had an amazing time. It’s always a bit overwhelming to see, no matter how many times you’ve been. The thing that’s always amazing, however, is the joy that those children have upon seeing us.
One teenaged boy we met last year named Sasha, who is missing parts of his hands and feet from birth, peaked his head into the gym where we held our assembly, and then immediately darted back out into the hall. In a matter of minutes he came bounding back into the room wearing his full soccer uniform, field shoes included!
Julie Rogers from our group shared a message of hope with the children, telling them that God loves them exactly as they are, and wants them to know that they can depend on him for their lives and their future.
We then spent plenty of time painting faces, twirling wheels chairs around, and taking pictures with them. Again, the joy in the room was really something special. One teenaged girl in a wheelchair was having a heart painted on her forearm and would burst out laughing with every brushstroke because it tickled so much!
Some of the older boys (on crutches and all) and Will, Brian, Caleb, Logan, and me from our group headed out to the field to play soccer. Let’s just say that the kids played against us like they really, really wanted to win.
And win they did.
The injustice of the way these children are treated, not only when they are young but into adulthood as well, is immense…
But we made a dent in it today.
We drove a stake in the ground, we drew a line in the sand, and we pushed the darkness back.
We went into a place where loveis like a far away galaxy–fathomed but not experienced firsthand– and we brought it as close as an embrace.
We went somewhere children are treated as different than the rest of society because they have a physical handicap, and we showed them that they are special indeed, because they are made in the image of God and he loves them exactly as they are.
We served these beautiful children with dignity and love because that is what they deserve.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team and how happy I am to be a part of this work. Thank you again for your support and your continued prayer. We have another busy day tomorrow!
I hope to have some thoughts from other members of our group posted here over the next few days, so please check back!
Brandon here, again, with a quick update for you.
We drove to Eagle Village on the outskirts of Sevastopol to participate in a church service where several HopeHouse Families are members. As an added bonus, we got to climb a “hill” (looked more like a mountain to me!), as the service was being held outdoors. We met several of the families and then settled down on blankets.
Volodya, a HopeHouse father and the church’s pastor, opened the service with a prayer in which he thanked God for the privilege of meeting outside. We sang several songs and then Brian Rogers from our group gave a short message that Ira, the HopeHouse interpreter/Ukrainian mission trip coordinator, translated for the church. At the end of the service, they stretched out their arms and prayed a blessing on our ministry in Ukraine, and then asked that we do the same for them. It was a very special time and a tangible reminder that God’s love is not bound by languages or nations or oceans.
We then spent time with the church’s children, including about 20 who have been adopted into HopeHouse Families. The difference between children in the orphanage and children who are now part of a loving Christian family is like night and day. The HopeHouse Children were clean, nicely dressed, and obviously healthy and well taken care of. On top of it all, they were happy, and not just because we came to visit. They were truly glowing. They didn’t have the scars of abandonment, abuse, neglect, disappointment, or grief etched on their faces like the orphanage children do. In fact, they didn’t look like they had a care in the world– secure, loved, and accepted.
After our time with the church, we had lunch and then toured Balaklava, which was a super-secret Soviet base for nuclear submarines built underneath a mountain during the Cold War. As we walked through the dark, underground halls of this former Communist military installation, the thought struck me that when Pastor Volodya thanked God that we were meeting outside, it wasn’t just a prayer about the weather. Evangelical churches like his were forbidden for many years. Christians couldn’t meet outside, or anywhere, that wasn’t in secret, and constantly lived in fear of being discovered and exiled to a gulag in SIberia or martyred outright. It was a stark reminder of the darkness of the not-so-distant past in this country, and a time to stop and thank God not only for the religious liberties I enjoy in the U.S., but also that God’s people in Ukraine no longer live constantly under this fear.
We returned to the ship and had a team meeting where we discussed our upcoming visit to the orphanage for handicapped children in Kherson, where the ship will dock at 2:30pm tomorrow. This is always a very tough visit, and your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Please pray that God would give us the strength that we would be emotionally present, without being emotionally drained, at least until we get back on the bus. Ira told us in the meeting tonight that most of these children do not live past the age of 35, simply because of systemic neglect. We want more than anything else to communicate to these children the love and hope that is found in Christ. One member of our team, Andy Whisenant, said during the meeting, “If I believe that the gospel is true, I can’t stand by and do nothing while there are children who don’t know that they are loved.” That’s the reason we are here.
Thank you for your continued support and prayer. We miss you all!
Greetings from Sevastopol! We spent yesterday in Odessa recouping from two very long days of travel.
Today was another long day as we departed the ship around 9am in the direction of Yalta where we met our first group of orphans. This facility was actually a place where all of the children were sick in varying degrees. We were told they all had some form of bone disease. Many were not able to walk and had to be carried to the outdoor facility by our team members. We spent some precious time singing with them, playing, painting faces, and taking photos of each of them to keep for themselves – a luxury ot offorded an orphan.
Several of the children who couldn’t walk were taken back inside the main building and put back down in bed. I was so proud of our team who remembered them and went indoors to spend time with them.
It was in one of these rooms that I met Igor. He was maybe six or seven years old, and had actually been tied to the bed so that he wouldn’t try to escape and get hurt. At the time I came in, there were only 2 children inside among the 30 or so empty beds, and one of our other team members was spending time with the boy at the other end of the room. So I parked by Igor and began talking with him as best I could with my limited Russian. I quickly learned that he derived great joy from simply hitting me over the head with the balloon sword one of our multi-talented clowns had blown up for him. I can’t adequately describe the innocent and overwhelming joy of this boy, in spite of the fact that he was tied to a bed because of illness.
When I handed him the gift bag that our group assembled for each child, he went through each item with great deliberation and much amazement. He immediately put on his winter hat, even though it was probably close to 100 degrees in that room. After opening his new toothbrush and toothpaste, he asked me if I could bring him a bowl of water so that he could brush his teeth. (We’ve been told it is typical in some orphanages that 14 kids share one toothbrush)…
Even though I introduced myself and gave him my name, Igor preferred to call me “uncle”, and towards the end of our time at this orphanage, asked me repeatedly if I would be able to come back and see him tomorrow. . .
What can you say to that?
I had to tell him that I was just visiting but did tell him I would be praying for him and that he was very precious. I explained that others from the local ministries would come and visit him when we were gone. (Follow-up outreach to orphans by local church ministries is very important to HopeHouse International).
Our work for the day was not done. We visited another orphanage, this one in Simferopol. Again, our group did an amazing job. There was a time that a little boy attached himself to Laura and took her away from her station, and Charles seamlessly stepped in and filled in for her. Especially for a group on their first day, their awareness and sensitivity to the moment and to these children was amazing.
Among some other small stops, we also got to meet a HopeHouse father, Misha, who spoke at the February “An Evening of Hope” in Franklin, TN a few months ago. We also met 3 of his 10 children. I was really struck, again, by his heart, and the fact that when he and his wife were looking to adopt their first orphaned child (after having 4 biological children), he continually thought of all the scriptures that tell us that we have been adopted into God’s family. He said that if this was true, then he MUST adopt the hurting and the lonely into his family, as well. They now have 5 biological children and have adopted 5 as well.
This was an incredibly successful and yet draining day, but one we will never forget. As I’m sitting on the deck of the Dneiper Princess writing this, docked in Sevastopol, a fire work show just erupted in the air and lasted for about 15 minutes. For some reason, that seems like an appropriate way to end today.
We are all healthy and in great spirits. We appreciate your prayers and miss you all very much. Thank you for being a part of this adventure alongside us.
PS I will try to have some members of our group blog over the next few days so that you can hear some different perspectives!
If you are reading this, you are one of our faithful followers since we have been unable to blog this week. That, however, has been no indication of the miracles and blessings we have been walking through these past six days as a team. God has proven once again to be faithful and demonstrate his power in even the smallest of details. A not so small detail occurred before we even left the country. Austin Madge misplaced his passport in Nashville and Troy wasn’t booked on the already full flight to Vienna. Tension was high as five different people searched Austin’s backpack. BNA security was called, and discouragement set in. Suddenly, Rhonda gasped with a sigh of relief as she stumbed upon Austin’s passport in his bag, somehow overlooked by five different people. You can imagine the joy we all felt after thinking that Austin may not have even been able to join us! Shortly after, Troy miraculously got the “last seat” on the flight to Vienna …. These two happenings right from the get-go seemed to us nothing short of the Lord’s divine providence.
Since we haven’t been able to blog, it would be almost impossible to capture all of the stories that have occurred in our time so far. Nonetheless, our days have been bursting at the seams with love and joy as we spend time simply holding these precious children with the love of the Father. But, we would be remiss if we didn’t include the miracle that occurred on day four of our trip. We were on our way to an orphanage camp when we recieved a call from the camp director telling us that an inspector would be arriving that day and we were not to mention the name of our Lord. At every orphanage we perform two skits – an interactive “Jonah” skit with spray bottles and silly string, and the “Everything” skit. These portray truth and light that stretches far beyond any language barrier. To try and display our message of hope without these elements seemed out of reach. We immediately prayed that the inspector would not show up until noon so that we could freely talk about God and the gift of his salvation. We arrived, set up, performed, danced, and loved these children – wouldn’t you know that the inspector arrived at the camp at noon on the dot.
Day five, as we mentally prepared to go to a handicapped orphanage, we were all faced with disappointment as we recieved a phone call saying that the inspectors would not allow us to come. What we had initially viewed as a let down, we later realized to be, yet again, the Lord’s hand of protection. Ira, Yuri’s partner, quickly arranged for us to visit a baby orphanage, where many children suffered from handicaps and chronic diseases. Not only was this a rare opportunity, but we were also given the privilege of being able to pick up and hold these babies.
It’s difficult to express the range of emotions that we are experiencing with the orphans, but also within the individual hearts of our group. God is tenderly moving and we are abiding. We ask that you continue to cover us in prayer as we are confident more than ever in the power that exists because of our conversations with the Lord.
Much love to you.
Dasvidanya (goodbye in Russian).
Our wonderful team is poised and ready to serve our great God!! Just today flying from Nashville to Dulles WA, God has shown that He is in control! Starting with not having a confirmed seat for Troy to a lost passport after checking in for another; the prayer of prayer…and yes I was on my knees in the bathroom….passport was miraculously found and Troy got the last seat on a sold out flight to Vienna!!! Praise you Father!
Well, the trip is over and thankfully, we all find ourselves safely back home. I wish that I could wrap up what we experienced in ten days by saying something like, “Wow, we really accomplished our mission,” or, “Now we can move on to the next task.” However, anyone on our team will tell you that more than anything else, we’ve been awakened to the catastrophic orphan problem plaguing Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. We saw so many tough things, and we know we only saw the tip of the iceberg.
At the same time, I don’t want to minimize the work that God did through us, last week. We celebrated almost 1,000 children, simply because they are who they are. We brought gifts, smiles, and a reminder that there is love in the world, that they are valued in someone’s eyes. We brought diapers, toothpaste, shoes, and even a hot water heater to children sorely in need. Most importantly each child received their very own bible and now have someone praying for them.
But again, this is only the starting point.
As I mentioned last week from Ukraine, I had the opportunity to visit a real-life HopeHouse, where the Totskiy family has adopted five orphaned children. This was a place filled to the brim with love, warmth, and grace—a stark contrast from the dark, cold halls of the orphanage. There was tenderness in Papa’s words and real affection in Mama’s embrace. These children played together as siblings,
sharing a genuine and natural fondness for each other.
During the entire trip, this was the only place where my heart felt at ease. On behalf of our entire team, I want to thank you all for your prayers, support, and encouraging words during our trip.
I’d also like to challenge you.
I want to ask you to stay in touch.
We have another team that left for Ukraine today on a similar mission. They will be blogging for the next ten days from different cities, different orphanages. Please join me in reading about their experiences and praying for their journey.
And after that, you can check here or “Like” us on Facebook for continuous updates on the work of HopeHouse International—from adoptions to building teams to family stories and more.
Whether you were on the trip with us or simply followed our work on this blog, it’s so easy to forget. I know from personal experience that it’s much easier to slip back into the void of my comfort than it is to remember the plight of the orphan. It’s much more convenient.
But to do nothing is to contribute to the problem.
Instead… “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” -Psalm 82:3-4
I thank you again for all you’ve already done, and I look forward to speaking with you again, soon.
Blessings from Nashville, Tennessee, United States,
We returned from our Ukraine Mission trip just two days ago. We had a very meaningful journey together that leaves us forever changed. Our prayer is that the children we visited, hugged, loved on, played with, laughed with and ministered to will also never be the same. Mostly, because we left them with the message of Hope in Christ and a Bible that they can cling to for their daily growth in the giver of Hope. Thank you to our 300 prayer partners + the Mount Paran Church choir members for praying for each of us by name throughout the trip. There is power in prayer and we did see His power at work throughout the week.
If you have a chance, please don’t miss any of the blogs below. They each tell a story that will make an imprint on your heart.
We have another group leaving on Sunday, led by Rhonda Madge, so we will be looking forward to reading their blogs as they convey their experiences to us as well.
P.O. Box 1097
Franklin, TN 37065