Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Week In The True "Apple" City

I was sitting on the couch in a family’s home in the village outside of Almaty this past week. I was simply observing the cutest little girls play their games and speak their beautiful Kazakh language. We were there because their aunt wanted them to know foreigners. They loved us in the way all little girls love the older girls. We taught them games and simply spent time with them. They taught us words and we taught them.

I sat there thinking to myself how incredibly remarkable that it was, here I am in a KZ village spending time with little kids (which I have truly come to value) and how that moment was a gift. Time here in this country is a gift.

We had such an awesome opportunity to travel to the South of KZ this past week. We visited Almaty which is the largest city in KZ. The name "Alma" means apple in Kazakh.

Like I said in my last blog, it was a 20-hour train ride but really it was cool to ride in a train like this. We had beds and our own little cart (it reminded me of the train in Harry Potter haha). On the way down we shared a cart with an older man who was very talkative. He was the typical old grandpa man who probably has grown up working very hard and has seen many things. He was a very interesting fellow

In our time in the city we did so many fun things. We went to a KZ speaking fellowship and spent time with the local believers (It was a day of all different language ha!). That day was fun because we went to a place up the mountain a ways and it had bumper cars! These bumper cars were not like in America though, they were legit I almost flew out of my car on several occasions. After this we went and saw “Puss in Boots” the new animated movie in Russian with them (and I understood most of it). We also visited an incredible museum of all KZ history, played in the park in the beautiful weather! The three of us also visited the biggest bazaar I have seen! It was so intense and I was very over stimulated with all of what was going on around me! It was good that after this we met with the KZ team leader and met some of his family and were able to enjoy an awesome meal with them in their home. They are a wonderful family and I loved hearing their stories!

On Wednesday we helped out our local believing friends sister with her English class at one of the many Universities in Almaty. This was good because we saw what students outside of Astana think and act like. There is definitely a difference in attitude and values even. After this is when we met with an older KZ lady who was the aunt of the little girls. She drove us two hours from the city to this village close to the mountains. We taught the girls fun games and our friend told them the story of Daniel in the Lions den. We ate plovf with them and had a great outside of the city cultural experience, all the while getting to help the aunt share love to her nieces and their friends.

Thursday we rode a bus all the way up the mountain to where they held the Asian winter games there we went ice-skating in this huge ice skating rink where they had speed skating! It was incredible. This rink is in the middle of this valley in the mountains so on all sides were pointed snow tipped picks towering overhead! Then on Friday we went to the ballet with our friend who teaches English. It was a beautiful performance and I was happy to spend time with our new friend.

I have definitely decided that I love trains for the soul purpose of meeting people. On this train ride we met our cabin friend, the girl who shared with us. She was so sweet and talked with us and I even let her put make up on me haha! (She likes doing that kinda of thing J). We talked about lots of things from relationships to language to our faith. I hope we will be able to meet up with her before we leave. It is just amazing how friendships start and how there is purpose even in an incredibly long train ride. There is purpose even in a “vacation.” We did get to do really fun things and enjoy time with our best friend but we also encouraged local believers and had great conversations about the Father with people. We are constantly living to glorify Him.

My joy rests in the purpose of the Father. My satisfaction will reflect His glory. My every moment is made to reflect him. We can be one of two kinds of scopes. “When you magnify like a microscope, you make something tiny look bigger than it is. A dust mite can look like a monster. Pretending to magnify God like that is wickedness. But when you magnify like a telescope, you make something unimaginably great look like what it really is. With a Hubble space Telescope, pinprick galaxies in the sky are revealed for the billion-star giants that they are. Magnifying god like that is worship.” (John Piper)

So my day-to-day purpose in life is this. I am to be a telescope, and a light that is not revealing Madison but rather the galaxy creating Creator. So even in a “vacation” I do not cease doing this. I find joy and that deep down feeling of peace when I live intentionally, and purposefully. And it is a journey to find out the ways to die to self and to love. We love by showing the dying souls around us that there is life-giving beauty in the Father’s grace and this grace is His glory. And when it is His glory it is ours because we are His.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Snow is Amongst Us!!!

At this moment our supervisors are flying across the ocean America bound,

And in this same moment my peers are in their own locations living and serving,

My friends and family in America are sleeping (maybe),

Students here are going about their lives in class,

And here I am caught up in thought, writing about the moments I know but still so amazed that it is but one tiny dent in the windshield.

Alison and I have had two very crazy weeks! Her parents visited and had the opportunity to travel the city, seeing museums and important buildings in Astana. All of us here in Astana celebrated a Canadian (early) Thanksgiving Wednesday night because our Family was leaving and it gave us a great excuse to make delicious food and meet. The next day Alison’s parents came to our University after our language class and met our professor later that same day we had them be our guest speakers at club, it was a fun night! Friday was very fun because we were invited by our professor to tour two important buildings in Astana as a class. Alison’s parents were able to come with us too! We toured a very huge conference building and this is where they have a future replica of their 2030 plan of the city. They have some crazy things planned to build in the future like a whole indoor city and entertainment center. They also are planning on building more apartment buildings but all of these are designed by very famous architectures so they are all super modern looking buildings. After our class toured this building we crossed the street to the Pyramid of Peace and Agreement where they have held world religion conferences and have concerts in a giant auditorium. This place is one of the prizes of Kazakhstan and many people are proud to have this building. We went up an elevator that goes diagonal, like the pyramid hotel in Los Vegas haha! One night with Alison’s parents we went to the Astana professional hockey teams game. It did not turn out so pretty (the team needs a little work) but it was still fun to watch and it made me want to play! Then after all these events of the week Alison’s parents headed out. It seemed like such a quick week.

This past week seriously seems like a blur. I just see it as a dream. We did our classes and our club we went about our normal lives but it just seemed to fly. We spent time helping, as much as we had time to, packing and helping our family get ready to leave. One day this week there was a giant convention at the Radisson hotel for different Universities around the world coming to recruit students. We went to this and met students and passed out flyers for our club. It was really cool to see all the different representatives. After this we had two girls we met come to our club! I really love our clubs. It is such a great thing to meet students. I find myself listening to the students hearing their thoughts and ideas that reveal what is important to them and I get swallowed up with thankfulness to be here.

The Father is a faithful provider. He provides wisdom, depth, our needs, and relationships. He is revealing Himself constantly in moments. All moments of thought, of sadness, of excitement, of laughter are a true and beautiful reality. There is no way except by His grace I would have gotten to this place of depth, love and care for my friends and family here in Astana. We have only had four very short months but in this time in His provision of love and strength He connected us and taught us how dependable He is. I know and trust so much more that wherever He is to lead me and unravel His plan I will have the body, I will have my brothers and sisters, even ones I do not even know yet. The Father loves this, He loves to bring us in relationship with people and grows each one to be unique.

I know that it is so easy to get caught up in missing those things that are meant to be temporary and forget the eternal, so right now when I am missing my family and their sweet kids running around all crazy like, or my family in America and friends in Bolivar I am comforted only by the Creator and His Eternal Kingdom. I had a conversation about time with my dear best local friend. She said, “Time is a beautiful thing really. Think about it, there was probably no time in the garden but when man fell time was created because it is a constant reminder of the Father’s promise. In time there is always a beginning and following that an end. The reminder is that there will be an end, He promises through time He is coming to bring us home.” Our big brother (aka supervisor) told us this past week that in this last bit of time here we really begin to sense the urgency. I have 1½ month to give up all false control, to trust and to deliver this message to the Father’s loved creation. And as this time is growing closely to an end His faithfulness is what my trust is bathed in. He is faithful to water and grow, He is faithful to change hearts, He is faithful to love my friends I have to leave. And for all of this, again I am swallowed up in a joyful thankfulness.

I have watched three seasons in this wonderful country. I woke up this morning greeted by a blanked of snow outside my window. I smiled and laughed when both my friend and I felt the childlike excitement with the first snow. I love it! And I love it here.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It is a wonder how some moments in life will just sweep you up. Busy seasons of life are like a whirlwind that takes you swirling through the days. So here I am, swirling through the business of life at the moment and simply along for the ride.

These past couple of weeks Alison and I have gotten to travel and experience a lot of things. We have also continued to teach our English clubs which are going well. We seem to have gotten the art of teaching and creating conversation (at least with our regular students). Now when the students come we see the familiar faces mixed in with new, and I myself feel I am more relaxed and myself around them. It is really awesome how there is now a pretty regular group of students that come and we are really able to build friendships with some. Along with our English clubs we also have our Russian classes, same as before. I definitely think that many of my fond memories will come from my class and my little Kazakh teacher, Gulsara. She is so funny. The other day in class Alison and I were repeating to her one of our assignments we needed to memorize but we were a tad slow. After we were done speaking she proceeded to say that we spoke like tractors drive and she really wants to sleep when we speak. I could not help but burst into laughter, we all did. It was a great memory.

Besides our normal schedule we have had many added on events happen in the past weeks mostly why it has been busy. One of our regular students is a teacher and psychologist at a local college (aka high school) here in Astana. She told her director about our club and we were invited to teach a club at this college. We agreed and a couple Fridays ago we met with our friend at her college and gave a lesson on communication to the college kids. The class went well and we had a chance to tell the students about our club. Mostly it was a great opportunity because we were able to spend quality time with our student and do her a favor for her work. We had tea with her after class and got to know her more through the whole afternoon.

The Saturday after our local home group traveled to the same orphanage that Alison and I lived at this past summer to visit and play with the kids. It was so surreal to go back there and see all the faces that had made such an impact on me this past summer. Alison and I were asked to help with the English class being taught at the kids’ school. It was funny though because we had not prepared anything. We ended up just doing a little bit of conversation with basic words before the kids had to go to lunch.

Within these couple weeks our team has also experienced transition. Life is just so full of transition, all the time. Last Saturday we picked up two new journey man girls who are going to be working and living here for two years. It has been so crazy to watch them live out their first week and think back to mine and I have been encouraged by how far I have actually come in immersing into the culture. I feel for them though as they were jet lagged or not understanding the language at all. They had their first classes and were behind from the rest of the class so just added on to the craziness of life for them right now. They are both very sweet girls and have their own special gifts that will for sure contribute to the effectiveness of our team here in Astana.

Along with these different happenings there have also been two trips up to Kokshetow, a nearby city. This is the city were some of our local believing friends have started an English center. We travel there to help with their Friday night speaking club. The first trip was just Alison and I and we helped with the club and also celebrated Teachers’ Day (A local holiday). During this visit our local friend taught Alison and I how to make Plovf (a local food). She also taught us how to can vegetables for the winter, it was awesome! This family we stay with also has two little boys one is three and the other is five. They are so precious and so fun to play with! The second trip to Kokshetow was this past weekend. This one was just the two new girls and I because Alison went to the village to help our supervisors. It was a short trip to show the Journey girls the way of Kokshetow and to help with Friday English club. However, in that time we still learned how to make Montey (another local food) and meet with some of the students from club for tea and cake. It is always a fun thing to go to Kokshetow and a neat opportunity to serve the very few believers there.

In all this time we have been very spoiled because the weather has been amazing! Everyone says it is so unusual for it to be as warm as it has been, but I am not complaining  It has been such a wonderful fall season and even this past week I was able to go for a perfect run outside in the park with all the falling golden leaves.

The next couple weeks will not be any less busy and I will continue to go along for the ride in the whirlwind of life. Alison’s parents are getting a chance to visit because they were already traveling for work. It is going to be so awesome for our students to meet them and simply bring them along side our days here. We are also planning on showing them Astana, the city we have come to love. Then after this week our dearly loved family (our supervisors) will be headed home for furlow. We are all weary for this day to come. Even today the little girl of the family who is six said, “I am going to cry when we have to leave you.” They truly have become my family; a piece of my heart is theirs. It has been so wonderful working and growing with them and I have learned so much from them! But, for now, we are simply enjoying the last couple weeks we have together.

I realize so much in the brief moments I have to take deep breaths how much business can distract me from the Kingdom. Even when I am outwardly doing many things for it I still lose focus. My strength must only come from the Father and His promise through His son. That simple statement is packed with so much reality. There are days I fight and fight and am so tired and it dawns on me how I have once again relied on my own ability. In those moments it is only confirmed so much more how important PR is and how that is the source of peace and strength. This peace and strength is what I can whole heartily trust and press on towards. I am very weak but here I am able to live purposefully only because I have a true purpose to live for. For this I am beyond thankful.

bce. (That's all in Russian) :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Slow Music on a Cold and Cloudy Day…


Have you ever had one of those moments where there is a full consciousness and appreciation for the Father’s plan?

Or maybe, a moment that you get to just take in a deep breath and see that life is happening.

Happy days, sad days, plan days all alike, you begin to understand that it is possible. It is possible because there is a perfect encourager, supporter, sustainer who is watching your back, walking with His arm around you, and holding His had out to you all at once.

In the midst of busyness, of hurt, of confusion, of instants blinded by excitement or merriness we will always have assurance of home and rest.

The past two weeks have been great! Alison and I started teaching our English classes and also our own language classes at the University. Our English classes have been so awesome to get to know students. We have had enough classes that by now there is a solid foundation of friendship with some of the more regular attendees and we are getting opportunities outside of class to hang out with them. We are able to partner up with a Student life M team and do game nights and movie nights with as well. They also host seminars that we get to attend inside the dorm.

Our classes each week have a theme. The first week we themed “Travel” where we discussed traveling around the world or inside Kazakhstan. We explain different idioms that English has and play different games that provide opportunities to practice simply speaking in English. In the “Travel” themed week we explained what a road trip was. This was so much fun, we split into groups and planed the perfect road-trip. The Second week our theme was “Communication.” This ended up being a great topic. The first night of this week was a little rough because we had more beginner speakers. We as a team are still trying to figure out the best way to help all levels of speakers. We decided to have the very beginners sign up for a different time so the more advanced speakers will get more benefit from the speaking club. After we did this we were able to have really great conversations with the communication theme. We talked about verbal and non-verbal forms as well as social networks, e-mail, and texting. They really enjoyed this topic!

Another opportunity that was presented to us this week, which I am very excited about, is one of our students teaches in a University different from ours and her director has invited us to give a Saturday seminar soon. This is a huge open door to reach out to students we would not normally get to see because of it being a different University. Our student shared with her class in a lecture about our club and how people are able to speak and not feel shamed for their level and it is a very free speaking club with fun opportunities. This was so encouraging to hear her say because I know it was the Father working through all the people who have worked in the Student Center. So I am looking forward to planning out this Saturday class and experience the Father’s plan in opening this door.

These past two weeks we also have been attending our Russian classes. Whew, lets just say my brain hurts by the end of each lesson. There is soo much grammar in the Russian language. It has seven tenses and words change with the gender of the word, this means that there is a lot of thinking involved in talking correctly. The other funny thing with our lessons is the Soviet style of our professor. Even the book we use is soviet style, it was printed the year I was born (1989) haha! She wants us to do a lot of memorizing which is difficult in our time schedule. We are making a goal to be more diligent in studying however, because it may be difficult but it is respectful to our teacher, which is a valued trait in the people here. I love moments when we do see the side of our teacher that is more then a professor. For example, the other day I went to say our memorized conversation, “I have an older brother,” but the word for older is close to the word for ugly, so I accidentally said, “I have an ugly brother.” It was so funny and we all laughed at the mistake. My teacher reminds me a lot of my Grandma, so she now has a very special place in my heart.

I think the biggest thing with Language is to remember to look at as I HAVE three months left to learn it instead of I ONLY have three months left. I really have to seek out the Father’s strength to keep optimism in the short amount of time remaining. Remembering it is a glass half full not empty. He has the perfect plan, it is unfolding before Alison and I and we are learning to take it day by day. A really awesome lesson I have been learning is about the promise of Rest. Our local club has been studying in Hebrews and we read chapter 4 the past Sunday. I did not understand much of the conversation there but after conversations and on my own reading the Father shows how His rest is only united with Faith. It is a rest that is spoken of in the terms of “entering the promise land” (Like the Israelites) and a rest just like the father rested on the seventh day of creation. We have a promise of rest, and we are resting in the today like the Father. We are also to be obedient in our works as well, so we rest amongst our obedience (works) of the Father. With all this world of rest that I am learning it is awesome because a month and a half ago I begin to PR for the Father to teach me the art of Rest, and here it is the answer being laid before my eyes!

PR for more opportunities in our conversations to open up topics of depth,
PR for when we get to spend time with our friends outside of the office that we simply build genuine friendship and trust in each other,
PR for our classes and the world of grammar we are consumed in ☺
PR for the two new Journey Girls who will be joining our team in just two short weeks!
PR for Alison and I to continue the road of learning how to work with each other and communicate.

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Friday, September 9, 2011

I’m watching the seasons change.

I recently came to the conclusion that fall is most definitely my loved season. I was walking outside on a simple and beautiful day taking in my surroundings. I was sitting in the park finishing a book thinking about how the leaves have started to change. There is a new painting of brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow across the sky. There is something to the weather changing bringing in the fresh, cool air that brings a feeling of familiarity. This is a familiarity of traditions and preparation for the months ahead. All of brings great warmth to my heart.

Alison and I babysat for a local believing friend who is a part of a student organization. She was spending time with her team members canning food. It was there way of being more of a family and building unity between them. I loved this!

With all this change of fall and the season blooming before my eyes there is another season of life changing. This week was our first week of teaching English and next week will be our returning to our Russian classes in the University, in other words, our schedules are beginning to fill up. The time of summer and explorations are done and a new busier season is happening. Students are all around us now! The dorms are packed and there is a constant stream of students that walk back and forth from the university and the dorm. We have been handed an almost overwhelming opportunity to engage students and it is amazing to be a part of! Even just later today we get to have time with some of our new students at a local coffee shop. Our English clubs are every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. We teach many different subjects and basically provide a place to practice speaking and creating dialog. Our Russian classes will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We also hope to do fun events every other Friday night with the students we come to know better and better. So there is going to be much to do!

In this season the Father has brought me to a renewing of awe. He is reminding me over and over of His sovereignty, His power, His wisdom and the beauty in that. Not only does he paint using leaves and refresh using the winds but also He engages His creation and He loves. He loves with people, with memories, with His Word. I know He is changing friends, my family, and me. It is breathtaking to acknowledge His glory in that. It brings His people to the only place that makes since, His throne and a complete immersion in Worship. Let us all continue to press into this reality not seen. Press into the truth and dig deep for it I promise, there will be unimaginable treasure to be found.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Making Memories

Since last I wrote it has been city living again for Alison and I. It is insane how fast this past month has gone by too! Our days have been full of many random things as the summer comes to the end. Some days have been busier than others but basically we explore, we observe, and we prepare for the season ahead.

Some simple stories from our past couple weeks…

The weekend after we returned from the Orphanage camp we had some visitors come to Astana. Our visitors just happen to be the VP of the IMB who was on a tour of this part of the world to see how things are going. This was a really awesome experience to meet with him and his wife as well as some other leaders of our Central Asia zone. They were only in town for one night and left the following morning. In that short time though we were able to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant and then have a meeting that lasted pretty late. In this meeting many topics were discussed from the changes taking place in the board to sharing with them about what has been going on in KZ. All of this was a great time to experience the wider vision of what the board is and I was able to learn a lot in just one night of conversation. We talked quite a while about the state of the American “clubs” and what should be done to awaken them to a Kingdom focus (this was my favorite part of the conversation). We talked about the student’s perspective and what could be done to connect two very different generations. I was also very excited to hear about some of the changes the board is preparing to do in the future as far as partnering with local “clubs” to send more people.

The next week Alsion and I were exploring a different part of the city and went to find a coffee shop that some believers own, however when we found it is was closed. So we decided to walk around and stumbled upon a coffee shop (that had ICE LATTES!). When we were at this coffee shop we met another American who was visiting Astana for the weekend. We talked a lot with him and it was one of those moments of simply enjoying conversation. He told us about the NGO he was working for and his time in the Navy and we shared about SBU and our many different travels. He is going to the Peace Corp. in September. This day reminded me of my time in New Zealand meeting all the different travelers and hearing great stories.

Our supervisor’s family is in town this week. It has been fun seeing where they are coming from and how they interact with their dad and sister. We were able to celebrate several birthdays with them so this means lots of cake and parties! The little girls birthday was puppy themed and it was super cute!

One of my favorite days in this time happened just a couple days ago when we were able to travel to Boravoe! This is the resort place of Northern KZ. It was so beautiful and even better because of the people who we had the opportunity to go with. We met some women from Germany who are working for a special needs kids home. They are the ones who invited us to go but we were also able to invite a couple of our local friends. We took the train there and I learned how to play a very fun German card game called “bonanza.” The entire day was full of so many languages and culture, it was so much fun! I had the chance to swim in the gorgeous lake and we also hiked alongside the lake. There was a place to rent paddleboats so we all decided it would be fun and took em’ for a spin! It was a very fun day to be outside of the city with good company but I was so wiped out from the day I just slept on the train ride home haha!

The following day after that we all met again in the evening to make a local food called barosock. This night was so fun we laughed, cooked, and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Also the sister of one of our local friends came and it was awesome to be able to meet her!

The best part of our free time is and will always be our time we get to PR. We have been committing a good amount of time to specifically walk the campus and prepare for our upcoming time that will be spent there.

This weekend there is a team retreat that we are both looking forward to. It will be kool to meet others from different parts of KZ. After this will be when things really pick up as we start advertising for our English courses as well as planning them. We are also helping a local team prepare folders and things for the new freshmen that are coming to study at our university. We will hopefully get to help them with different seminars they have the opportunity to do on campus.

So, this is life right now. We are making memories and getting a chance to grow in so many different ways!

My song of the summer has this chorus (I thought I would like to share)

We have found our home

We have found our peace

We have found our rest

In the One who loves

He will light the way

He will lead us home

As we offer all

To the One who saves us.

(Hillsong: “The One Who Saves”)


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer is complete with Summer Camp.

There is just something about a summer camp that completes a summer. The past two weeks my dear partner and I spent our time with the kids from the orphanages at their camp location, which is about a mile from the older kids home. The camp was in the more wilderness side of town, tucked away inside some trees. The kool thing about this camp is kids of all ages were living there for the summer so we had the unique opportunity of living with kids from 6 years old all the way to 18! This particular city that the orphanage is located has two cites one for the younger kids and one for the older. There are around 152 kids total (to my understanding). There is a pretty even amount of KZ kids to Russian kids at the homes and most speak both Russian and KZ.

When we arrived last Saturday we pretty much were left to figure things out, which was perfect because it gave us a great opportunity to jump right into using the Russian we know and pretty much becoming a part of life there. The thing with the KZ culture is their schedules are pretty lacks; this means the kids had a lot of free time to spend doing what they wanted in the campsite area. Alison and I were giving a tentative plan of how each day would go…

This looked like; at 8am meet on in front of the building for morning exercise/stretches, at 9am we would eat breakfast, the first week we were there at 10am we would go to work with them in the garden and also around the house were they live during the year pulling weeds and such (It was very hot this first week so we had our work cut out for us haha). The second week this time was a little different I’ll explain later… We would come back from work then have an hour or so of free time then at 1:30(ish) we would eat lunch. Then after lunch the kids would all go to their individual houses and have a naptime from 2 to 4. I was very thankful for this time and the Father began to show me the art of REST, which was so good. After this time 4pm would be yet another time to eat haha (we ate good this past two weeks) then some more free time to about 6pm when we would then go to the stage up the hill and watch/partake in a concert/competition (some really funny memories where made during these). After this would be dinner, then free time or some “disco techa” where the kids would all go to dance ha! After this more eating for second dinner and tea then the kids would go to their houses and have a time called “candle” (but in Russian) and tell about their days and say goodnight and such.

The food they eat is A LOT of potatoes and bread! We ate some very delicious soups and they made GREAT bread (and anyone who knows me at all knows I really like my bread haha). Occasionally they would have some fruit or tomatoes. They eat the potatoes though because that is what is most available to them and grows fairly easily there. They also use a lot of dill in their cooking because it grows well too. They would also have meat everyday but it was cow mixed with onion and other things. Sometimes there was fish soup. We were thankful for our meals and the kitchen ladies who worked very hard everyday to cook for the 70 some kids at the camp plus the workers.

Alison and I were on our own for understanding things with our very simple basic Russian for the first couple days but then they hired a helper who speaks English. She was a younger woman, a single mom who works for the kids home. At first it was very awkward to have her around because we had no schedule of our own and she would often ask, “what should you do?” and we could only respond with what the kids do or play with the kids. She would just have to follow us around or go hang out with the other workers. However, by the end of the two weeks this woman became a great friend of ours. She was so willing to share about her life and she helped us so much with language. Her friendship to me is one of those things that are hard to simply describe and the best words I can say is the Father definitely gave me a heart for her. I had quite a few moments of deeper conversation with her and earlier, I shared my story with her which lead to those different conversations about what my “story” means and such. We had really great moments of laughter as well. I am so thankful for what I know the Father had planned from the beginning.

As far as were we lived we thought we would be assigned to a family group but we ended up having our own room and this gave us a bit of a challenge to connect to the kids but this was good for us. We had the chance to spend time with all ages and different groups of the kids. Alison and I both found specific groups of kids and ages of kids we connected to.

My picture of what the orphanage was kids desperately seeking love but actually I personally went in with a pretty open mind of what the time would look like on account of Alison and I actually not having a lot of info going into our stay (I think this was a good thing!). To describe the kids and the atmosphere would be a lot of deep hurt that comes out in the coldness and rough attitudes of the kids. These kids of all ages come from all different situations only about 25 they said are true orphans that have no one the rest have families still but have come from abusive situations or the families simply cannot support them. Some of the kids actually have some contact with their families. The kids also definitely have the northern KZ culture, hard at first but we saw that once you talked to them, or played with them they loved it. The older kids were a bit harder to approach because they have more years at the home and it is evident the hardness that they build up, especially to outsiders. Through out our time we would found that little things like playing cards or making bracelets where great ways to spend time with the older kids. The younger kids definitely captured my heart as well ☺. I really do love simply being silly or playing games with them. They were also so helpful to language learning, I loved when they would speak really slowly so I could pronounce things right and we all would just laugh because of how I sounded. I did however learn a TON of new words and can understand much much more!

The thing that lingered on my mind as we lived life day to day with these kids is something our language helper had told us. She said one of the first days there, “these kids live here and it seems that they are like any typical child, but they have seen and lived through so much.” To think that my little friends have been beat up, abused over and over, have watched their parents drink themselves to lowest of lows. No wonder they come across as rude or disrespectful they have never been shown anything else. Also the old soviet way that is apart of the culture is that yelling and force is the way to teach them, they are taught hardness. I watched multiple times kids going at each other swinging very forceful punches that did major damage to the receiver of them. This is their life though. Another thing our language helper told us was, “they will love you one day and the next treat you horrible.” I understood this because they are there, they do not get to go home to a family and extra provision. Their family is the groups they are in (which they do stick very close together) and even then they fight or have clicks. They have only some constant people in their lives like the different workers or teachers and the home hires “moms” to come and help them or stay with them. The kids love these women very much because they are the constants in their lives. Even with staying with them two weeks they still knew that we would leave and go to extra comfortable living and they would be left. This was the biggest thing that broke my heart. I also know how incredibly hard it is there and have times of getting flipped off by a kid because he thinks it is funny or to be blatantly disrespected. It is hard work to live there; I admire the women that do work there. The kids are simply crying for attention in all different ways, some are extremely clinging, some are rude, some are loud or quiet it all varies. This all shows that they are seeking attention, worth and love. I know that nothing I could give, or no amount of time I could spend with them would ever be enough but the truth I hold and desperately wanted to give is what changes lives and the love that is so desperately sought.

This is a marathon blog, but a few highlights of the week...

Alison and I both competed in their fun competitions they had. Alison was in the “Miss camp” comp and ended up placing 2nd haha. They have different workers or older kids judge the different questions asked and Alison had to do a dance. I competed in the “I wanna be a Star” comp and I had to sing two songs one children’s and one popular song. My popular song was one of the English karaoke songs they had, a song by the Dixie Chicks! (see facebook for videos). We also wrote a rap and a blues song we performed for them, they loved that I could beatbox ha!

I got a chance to play quite a bit of basketball and loved it! We also got to swim in their swimming pool they had, which was so great on the hot days because the water was SUPER cold haha. Another thing, two words, FRESH RASPBERRIES! They let Alison and I pick raspberries multiple times (my first time ever picking fresh raspberries). I am eating some right now ☺.

The little kids had a TV in their house and would watch Jackie Chan cartoon and it was so fun to simply go watch it with them then play fight with them after haha! Then my time with them at night, after they found out I could beatbox they had me teach them every night and sing songs. We would laugh and sing it was a very sweet time.

One of my favorite things of these two weeks was my best friend their, a little boy who befriended me day two and helped me so much. Much of my talks to Father where for this little guy. I will always remember him and most definitely will be back to visit him before December.

It was a great two weeks, and I know that so many lessons where learned through it. It is fun to come back and understand more of what people are saying around me. The time at the orphanage was hard but one of those moments that forever has shaped my heart and how the Father draws forever the glory to himself. The biggest thing that I was shown and reminded of was that actions speak when language can’t, and to simply think of what the Son would do and that our hope for glory comes from following His example.