Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"to give you HOPE and a future...."

This is how it all starts for me.  I'm watching this clip, shared by a friend on Facebook, and I am ashamed at what I do not know.  Every misconception that exists about HIV, I am guilty of assuming true.  And it's humbling, this heart for the orphan that has missed out entirely on such a large group of orphans to love, simply out of ignorance.  But this family hits my heart at its center, and the truth that requires bravery and releases hope is powerful.

Over a course of months, I read lots about Project HOPEFUL, and I often sit and wipe tears from my face as I scan the faces of children who need a mom and dad... children who need to know the Father who is their Defender and the One who hears their cry.  The Father who has promised to them, "'I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD, 'plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11. I think of my Savior, his heart for "the least of these," and it's hard for me to sit in my house in America with my healthy children and my kitchen filled with food and the goodnight stories read in the rocking chair and not wonder, "who could this world possibly consider as less than the orphan living with HIV?"  And there are so many we call "least."  

The list of who we consider to be least grows.  It includes these little ones living with HIV, who we don't stop to consider, because we are afraid and don't know the hope that exists.  And it includes the foster children in our country whose hearts are wounded.  It includes little babies in America born with skin too dark for some waiting parents to bring them home.  It includes children who have nothing left on this earth but the brothers and sisters they have come to depend on for every sense of safety, but they are too many in number, so we break them up so it is easier on us.  And it includes boys like my Sasha, young men with promise and humor and dreams, who age-out of care and yet still are at ages where care and support and structure is needed.  

I am thankful for a Lord who shows us how to love "the least of these," and who reminds us that how we treat them is, in fact, how we are treating him.  He says, "And whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:5

After learning a lot about Project HOPEFUL and having spent the past year and a half praying about where exactly the Lord would use me to serve in orphan care, I'm very excited to now be the Maine Associate for Project HOPEFUL.  This week I'll be learning more in a training about the variety of ways I'll be able to serve families in our own state, and I have been blessed with a very unexpected and absolutely amazing opportunity to link our trip to Ukraine to the ministry of Project HOPEFUL!

Friday morning, I enjoy a long and wonderful phone call to Traci Heim, who is Project HOPEFUL's Ukraine contact and the FIG Director (Family In the Gap Program, which helps in a variety of ways to link families here with kids in other countries who need support and love and prayer and family).  As we chase busy toddlers thoughout our homes (I automatically feel a friend-connection with anyone who understands that it's ok for me to give my 2-year old several popsicles in a row in order to manage a full phone call...), we have a two-hour conversation about Ukraine and the kids there who we love so much. This is a great news clip about her family:

Our mission in Ukraine has at its center a boy who is our son according to our hearts.  You all know our Sasha.  He is part of our family, and his photos are on our wall in our family gallery, all around my computer desk.  Our kids consider him family, and I have grieved his absense from our home tremendously over the past year, although I know God's story is not finished.  So we are thrilled to see him in only a few weeks!

As I talk to Traci, she shares a need she sees.  She tells me that Project HOPEFUL seeks to help older children and sibling groups as well as children living with HIV. We both know that in Ukraine, orphans age-out of orphanages at 16, and most often they are left on their own.  She has a vision that Project HOPEFUL can come alongside organizations who would care for these kids, offering support and linking families in the States with teens who need to know the love of family and of Christ and to be safe.  I tell her about Sunshine, about Sasha having someone to go to his trade school parent nights and about his letters sharing that he is learning to manage his time and money, and I tell her that I am so thankful he is safe and loved and provided for as he transitions to aduldhoood.

We are now adding a new element to our trip, as we connect our mission with that of Project HOPEFUL. Specifically, we are exploring the "how's" of linking up support to kids in Ukraine who need to be safe and loved and guided through learning a trade and being ready to transition to adulthood safely and successfully.  I watch as God is weaving together a relationship between our countries based on loving the orphan, and I see that even in what I thought was a closed door, God's faithfulness is opening a door of opportunity to serve Him alongside a team of people scattered across different countries but joined by His heart for "the least of these" and faith in the One who gives "hope and a future."

We've added a Donate button at the top right of our blog page, which will allow you to donate specifically to this mission in a tax deductible way through Project HOPEFUL, should you be led to do so.

{I'd like to say thank you to Project HOPEFUL for being used to share and expand the vision we have of orphan care in Ukraine!  It's been a desire of my heart to see more kids have the blessings of family and safety that Sasha has received, and I'm honored to be part of a team of people seeking to come alongside those in orphan care ministry overseas.}

{I'd like to also say thank you to Kathi Lipp for writing The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You've Always Wanted and for your friendship - your words have been an encouragement to me to make steps in the direction of the dreams God has given me.}

1 comment:

  1. I'm SO excited for you! It's wonderful to have you become part of the Project HOPEFUL team! :)