# 10 : Spending our Christmas in Ukraine.

Day 16. From my Journal, Friday December 16th 2016. We started the day with prayer. I can’t believe we have been in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi for over a week already! It’s gone fast! This morning we walked to the supermarket and then to the Orphanage to see Declan. He did a 142 piece jigsaw puzzle by himself-twice! That’s amazing I think. He really wants to show us what he can do. His English is coming on so well. He repeats after us all the time.

Yura drove us back there at 4:00 pm and we had a really good visit with all the kids. Their friends join us all the time now. We don’t mind, and after the first day, the workers don’t try to take them away any more. They are all such sweet children! We played tag in the yard outdoors before going inside.

Posing for a picture between games!

Yana came back on the train this evening. More errors in the paperwork but now the documents should be ready for Monday. Here’s hoping! The kids love playing with Rob! He is such an amazing dad!  Rob told me that now he has some idea of what His Heavenly Father must have felt when he, as a little boy, knelt beside his bed, and asked Jesus into his heart. By comparing how he himself felt when the children asked if they could call him ‘Papa’ on that first day!

Day 17. From my Journal. Saturday December 17th 2016. I couldn’t sleep, so during the night I stood by our bedroom door and used my phone. It’s the only place I can get wi-fi. The floor is very cold on my feet and it’s drafty here but if I sit in the chair that’s beside the door, I lose the signal. At 0311 am local time, I got a text from my friend Kaylene in Manitoba. She writes: while still in Asia, the family who are currently staying in your house had been concerned about accommodation when they returned to Canada. After family prayer,  the mom asked her little daughter ‘Did God give you a picture?’ ‘Yes‘ Gemma responded, ‘He showed me a Christmas House’. Kaylene said that when they arrived at our place for the first time, Gemma said ‘This is the house that I saw’! This is beautiful I think, how our loving Father takes care of our needs regardless of where we are in His world!

My role as a ‘Movie Extra’ continues as today Rob told our driver, Yura, that we need to exchange more dollars into Hryvnia (Greev’na). Yura took us in his van to the crowded markets, slowed down and a stranger got into the front seat beside him. All I could think of at the time was that he was what I would describe as ‘a shady looking character’ with dark glasses and a large leather shoulder bag. This person, whose name we never learned, pulled a wad of cash from his bag and took our dollars. Then Yura drove around the block to drop him off again and he disappeared into the crowd. This whole transaction took maybe a minute and a half. No names, no signatures, no receipts and off we went again, back to the hotel.

Selfie at the hotel.

Day 18. From my Journal. Sunday December 18th 2016. ‘When it seems undone, it’s already won and glory to the King of Kings even now’! Conor was very difficult yesterday evening. We had been playing chess with the children when he pulled the chess pieces away and wouldn’t give them back. He huffed and stomped off to his room during our visit. Rob went after him and tried to reason with him to no avail. He refused to look at Rob or talk to him. We called Yana and she says this happens in over 95% of cases and not to worry about it. Today we will try again.

Back from the Orphanage at 6:40 pm. What a turnaround! We had such a good visit with Conor this evening! ‘Lord, I guess You were trying to teach me from what I wrote at the start of the page from yesterday’. Niamh is getting a cold and feeling sick so she stayed in her group room so we only had the boys in our visit tonight. Conor asked if he could tidy out our backpack and he neatly arranged all the books, puzzles etc. He responded so positively to our thanks, went to his room and got his books, he has two, and asked if he could bring them to Canada. He was amazingly polite and well-mannered, and even asked for things in English!

Niamh was an ‘Angel’ in the Christmas play!

Day 19. Day 19 From my Journal . Monday December 19th 2016. Today is Saint Nicholas’ Day, something like our Christmas. We went to the Orphanage early after getting some gifts for our children at the store. All the children were taking part in a play. They did very well! The singing was beautiful! The staff and children have put considerable effort into this production. I’m so proud of them all! Declan was all dressed up in traditional costume for his role in the play. He looked so cute in his little outfit! The Mayor of Bilhorod was there, as were news reporters, taking  pictures of her and filming her. I couldn’t help but feel this was a bit of a publicity stunt but I hope I’m wrong.

Later at the hotel, Yana called us from Kyiv to tell us Yura would be picking us up in 15 minutes time to go to the Office of Children’s Services to sign the conclusion of the Social Worker’s Report. I have never seen things done like this! Yura took us into the office to see the Director, and we signed our names in a big ledger in pen. Then Yura was given our completed file: Not in a secure envelope or anything, just a brown duo-tang to take to the train station in Odessa to hand it over to one of the conductors and then Yana or Inna would be at the train station in Kyiv the next morning to meet the train and collect it!

Our Three Beautiful Angels!

We went back in the evening to the Orphanage to see the second performance of the day. The children have put so much effort into this and no one but Rob and I were there to see them! That’s so sad! Niamh constantly sought our eyes for approval, as did Declan. Conor was not taking part this time. They all appreciated their gifts. So glad we bought things that they like.

Some of the Orphanage children in costume for the play. See Declan is in the middle of the second picture.

‘The Seduction of Comfort’. Rob and I talked about that again at supper, about what that looks like in reality. We are still working through that. This is so challenging to us in our North American thinking. We have seen so much here in our short time, that makes us not want to take things at home for granted or to think that we are any more deserving than others. We don’t want to become complacent. There is also the aspect of stepping out of our comfort zones. Radical! With God’s help, we are getting there!

Day 20. From my Journal. Tuesday December 20th 2016. Off to the Orphanage early again this morning. I am so enjoying our walks and talks! At least we are getting lots of exercise! Stopped again at our regular coffee shop for breakfast. We had such a good visit with Declan today! He kissed both our hands several times and had fun showing off his ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ to his friends! He seems so proud of us. I guess he’s somewhat of a ‘minor celebrity’ in the Orphanage at present, now that he has a mom and dad coming every day to visit.

Day 21. From my Journal. Wednesday 21st December 2016. Inna called this am to say there had been another error in the paperwork, this time by the social worker here and that the SDA will not accept the documents until it is corrected. The spelling of our names causes problems as do the new names the children have chosen for their new lives. We also signed papers for the Court today and they will be filed tomorrow.

Day 22. From my Journal. Thursday 22nd December 2016. Good visit with the kids today. Now I am sick-again! My throat hurts a lot. I’m very tired!.

Day 24. From my Journal. Saturday 24th December 2016. Today started off poorly. Rob and I are so sick. Right now we seem to be picking up every virus around! I sound like a two pack a day smoker! Today we did another ‘Bourne Identity’ stunt. Once again we needed to change some dollars in local currency to pay the hotel. We texted Yana, who called Yura, who in turn, came to our room. Rob handed over the $500 USD he wanted to exchange and Yura will bring back the exchanged money at 4:00 pm when he picks us up for our evening visit with our children. I know Rob is not at all comfortable with this arrangement but we have no option but to trust. So far Yura has proved himself faithful and honest. Inna also called to say our documents were submitted to the SDA office yesterday. Guess the file made it safely to Kyiv! It will be January 3rd, she says, before we hear anything. Praying for approval and an early court date. Tomorrow is Christmas and we miss our family in Canada.

Our beautiful son turns 11

Went to the Orphanage this evening to celebrate Conor’s Birthday. He turned 11. We stood around in a circle and held hands and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. He told us after the song that he loved us! Maybe no one has ever sang that to him before or given him a gift or made him feel like he matters? Has he ever felt loved? These are questions I don’t have the answer to. Declan was very funny tonight. He huffed when he saw he only got a little car and he pouted, but in a funny way. It’s more of a seeking-attention thing. Already we are learning to know the differences in his behaviour. He eats bananas like they are going out of style! Got a cool email from Andrea, the mom staying in our house. She sent Christmas wishes and told us of something she had read about God this morning. She writes ‘of God as self giving, pouring out love’ and I thought, she goes on, ‘on what that kind of love looks like: it’s waiting in a small room in Ukraine! How generous of her!

In the little room in Ukraine where we spent nearly 8 weeks!  (we spent another 2 and a half weeks in Kyiv)

Day 25. From my Journal. Sunday 25th December 2016. Today is Christmas Day! Rob and I are alone in our room, in our two little single beds, coughing and spluttering, but feeling better than yesterday! So thankful! We sent texts to all our kids in Canada and received back very positive responses. We miss them! I miss them all so much it hurts! So glad we can connect through text! Rob is going to read the Christmas Story for us and then we are going to go for a walk to have breakfast. I hope there is somewhere open here on Christmas Day, otherwise we won’t have anything to eat!

Day 26. From my Journal. Monday December 26th 2016. We are both feeling very poorly today! Our colds are back and we are sore from coughing. Very frustrating. My nose is running like a tap! Yesterday our Christmas dinner ended up being a kebab and coffee. It was good! Most times when we get a sandwich here it has so much bread and not very much meat. I’m finding all the bread a bit much. Its so dense and heavy and not at all light and fluffy! We found a restaurant under renovations that was still open. Inna called to say we have a possible court date of January 10th! Trusting the Lord that this date works. It’s still a ways off! There is a blizzard currently in Manitoba and I worry about our children out on the roads. Thankfully I heard from Peter and that settled me somewhat. He was just heading to bed. That’s where I am right now also.

Our little room in the Fiesta Hotel. Home for almost 8 weeks! You can just see the table in the right corner of the picture where we would sit to write. The beds look bigger than they were! In reality they were just a little wider than my medium sized suitcase!

Day 28. From my Journal. Wednesday December 28th 2016. I can’t believe this year is almost over! We are feeling better today. Yesterday Inna helped us buy some medicine over the phone at a pharmacy. We had called her and she talked to the pharmacist who got us what we needed. We both slept better too and that helps our bodies heal. I think the fact I’m not sleeping well at night and the mattress is so thin and uncomfortable is not helping us recover. Our bodies are already under stress with all that is happening.

Today we went twice to the Orphanage. They had another Christmas program in the morning. This evening was not a very good visit. Somewhere Niamh had got hold of a cell phone, perhaps from one of the workers. She spent our whole visit texting on it and not interacting with us at all. Then in the middle of our visit, the phone rang and she took off like a bullet out of a gun! She didn’t return and she looked very guilty when she left so I couldn’t help but think that she may have ‘taken’ the phone without the owner’s permission!’

Day 29. From my Journal. Thursday December 29th 2016. We decided to go somewhere different for breakfast this morning-mix it up a bit. We prayed as we walked, for patience, for wisdom and for insight: on how to reach the children. We prayed for our relationship and for total dependence on Jesus. We ended up eating in the  Bdzhilka Coffee Shop (The Honey Bee). We both had coffee and Rob got a chicken sandwich and me a sort of puff pastry with a savoury meat filling. Rob said it looked good and thought about adding one to his order. He asked the waitress what was in it and could she bring him one? She told him it was made with Ground Pigeon Livers! Rob suddenly decided he didn’t want one after all. His face was a picture! I just laughed at him as it was delicious!

The Bdzhilka Coffee Shop where we got to know and love the staff. Above Ola, Victoria, myself and Tanya

Day 30. From my Journal. Friday December 30th 2016. We finished our Christmas shopping today. We went again to the Bdzhilka Coffee Shop today for breakfast. We were greeted with so much warmth! The staff wanted to take pictures with us. I got to sing ‘Silent Night’ this morning, standing there in that little coffee shop in Ukraine. It was such a blessing to be asked to do this as I love to sing. I don’t know how it happened but the girls asked me and I thought this is about Jesus and how He loves them. People clapped and smiled and I’m sure some thought I was just a crazy foreigner but I didn’t care. Rob said that’s one of the things he admires in me: my spontaneity!

Shopping for fruit and nuts in the market.

We went to the Orphanage again this evening. We played ball with all the children and the cleaner there this evening told me she loved me and what a great thing we were doing for these children! This is such a compliment! We really want to be parents to them but the people here see it as a good thing too, to be giving them a chance of a new life. Declan got very exasperated with Conor and went to stand beside Rob, with quite a fierce look on his face. ‘My Papa’ he shouted at Conor! Very cute!

Day 31. From my Journal. Saturday December 31st, 2016. Today is New Years Eve! It is a beautiful sunny day! It’s cold but the sky is a clear, bright blue. Once again we went to the Bdzhilka Coffee Shop this morning for breakfast. A Pigeon Liver Pie for me and a Hot Dog in pastry for Rob. Lattes and a chocolate, marshmallow cream tart for me. We walked around for a bit afterwards, through the markets, then on to the Orthodox Church, over streets not walked before, and then back to the hotel. Glad I had my scarf to cover my head or I wouldn’t have been able to enter the church!

We went to the Orphanage again this evening. Today our Declan turns 6! We also have gifts for the other children. It was such a positive visit! They were delighted with their gifts! I have never seen anyone get so excited over getting a coat! Conor loved his skate board and Niamh her ear-rings, even though we had to go into a tiny jewelery store with two security guards with guns strapped in holsters on their hips, to get them for her. This overt security bothers me. What are we not seeing?

Back for supper. The only place open was the Bdzhilka Coffee Shop. Everywhere else was closed. We seem to be making a habit of coming here but it’s so cheap when we convert into our money. About .65 cents for a speciality coffee compared with maybe $4 in Canada and about $5 for us both to have breakfast. When we arrived back at the Fiesta, one of the cleaners gave us a small bottle of Champagne and a hug and kiss to celebrate the New Year and Ukraine’s Christmas which seems to be celebrated on many days including December 31st. We have already had our 3rd Christmas celebration at the Orphanage! I am very tired. I have a toothache now to add to my cold! I’m so fed up being sick! Took a Naproxen and off to bed. When I wake up it will be 2017! …………….  Lord, Only You know what this year ahead will hold for us. You are so faithful and will continue to be so. Continue to guide and direct us Jesus!’ …end of Journal entry and End of 2016.

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