Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our Boys Are Finally Home!!!

Hi to all of you! We are so pleased to announce that our boys are finally home! It was a whirlwind of a trip... lots of stories to share with you. We traveled for 48 hours in cars, trains and planes with our little guys. I've only slept 6 hours since getting home, so, I am only posting 1 picture tonight but will add more pics and update all of you, in more detail in the next few days.

Thanks again to all of you who have been praying for us. We are so humbled by your love and your kindness!

God bless you!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


More from them when they land and catch their breath!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2AM on the Train

Derek and Renee, Derek's mom, their friend Amy, their facilitator Sergi and ALL THREE BOYS are on the train from Novograd to Kiev. It's 2AM their time.

They are all exhausted and the boys are all sacked out asleep. It's been a lot of stimulation for the boys obviously since they have never been outside the orphanage walls, and are seeing so many things they've never seen before.

They should be at the hotel in Kiev by 3AM and will have to get up bright and early for 9AM medical appointments and a noon appointment at the US embassy for the boys!

The party went well. The worship team played some awesome upbeat worship songs and the kids LOVED it!

They fly home Saturday! We can hardly wait to see them and meet the boys!

If I hear more I'll let you all know. Continue praying for them all. For grace, strength and favor for Derek and Renee, and for peace and rest for the boys!

Brief Update

I know you're all waiting for an update.
I had a 30 sec phone call with Derek a few minutes ago.

They have the boys with them in their apartment, everything when great at the orphanage.

Derek asked me to call back later this afternoon. As he put it, "I've got to go. It's bedlam here. There are three little boys crawling all over the place, and we're trying to figure this out."

So, know that the boys are in their arms, they are happy, things are a bit crazy, and we'll get more of an update soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Last Lap

Well, I just got a call from Renee and she, mom, and Amy have landed in Kiev safely. They are getting some lunch and then heading to the train station to catch the 7pm to Novograd Valenski. Pray for them, by the time they arrive here, they will have been traveling 30 hours. They will be so tired. Tomorrow we are hosting a goodbye party for the boys at the orphanage. The Lord has opened some really wonderful doors here. Yesterday I was asked to play music for all the kids in the orphanage (John - you're next!). I started playing an up-tempo Irish jig on my low whistle and the care-givers and kids all started clapping. We were having a great time. About fifteen minutes into it, the director came into the room and stopped everyone. I thought, "Oh shoot, he's probably former KGB and I've crossed the line. Cold basement and electric probes here I come". I was mustering all the Jack Bauer courage I could when I noticed that the director had tears streaming down his face. He looked at me and then pointed to the camera in the corner and said he had been watching and listening to all the music and heard the children clapping and singing and full of joy. He said, "Thank you so much, thank you".

Because of this favor, I've been able to get a worship team from a local church in as the "live music", for our goodbye party! This worship team is precious .... and really good. This church is so full of the life and joy of Jesus. They are really excited about being able to minister to the kids. I am hoping that this will give them a continuous open door with the director so that they can go weekly and minister to the kids. Imagine these orphans feeling the presence of their Heavenly Father on a regular basis. Nothing could help or heal them more than that!

Yesterday when I went into the orphanage to play with the boys, Ethan saw me from across the room and he threw his arms out to me and broke out into laughter. No one could believe it. The workers were all pointing and commenting about it among themselves. I was shocked. He recognized me and clearly, far more than I realized had been sinking into his little heart and mind. When I picked him up, Silas began reaching up to me and crying ... he wanted to go with me to. So, with one in each arm I made my way back to the play room. I sat them both on the bed, gave Silas a bunch of stickers to play with, and I began to play my Irish whistle in front of them. They both sat there on their own listening, and looking at me playing with big eyes of wonderment and regular smiles for around 30 minutes. Ethan seems like a sponge, just soaking up everything he can. It hit me this morning while walking the snowy streets trying to buy potatoes, I love these little boys - I feel it. They are mine and in one day, we are getting them out of here and into a whole new world. Starting tomorrow, we will not visit them anymore, they will be ours forever and wherever we go they will be with us. I think I've felt some of the emotions of Jesus in John 17 when he cried out, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am ..."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Update for Derek and Renee

I just got off the phone with Renee who was in airport in Chicago headed to Ukraine. Pray for Renee, Derek's mom, and their friend Amy as they travel today.

At Derek's last visit to the orphanage, he discovered that there has been an outbreak of chicken pox or measles at the orphanage. Please pray that their three boys are not affected by the virus so that their trip home is not delayed in any way.

I'm hoping Derek can update you on the whole story himself sometime soon, but I'll give you the short and sweet version so that you can be praying. They have been given permission to bring in a worship team from a local church on the day of their farewell party at the orphanage. This means that they can worship and pray over all of the children at the orphanage on Wednesday! This is such an amazing blessing and we are rejoicing as a family at the favor of God in all of this. So if you're up bright and early Wednesday morning, please join them all in prayer- 6AM Cent time, 2PM Ukraine time!

Hope we all get a more detailed post from Derek soon, but I wanted to get you all praying NOW!

Blessings, Tracie

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another Adventure

Yesterday was quite an adventure! We took all three boys out of the orphanage and drove them to Zhytomir to get their passport photos taken and apply for their passports. Zhytomir is 1 1/2 hrs away. The day started at 7:45am with us getting into this late 70’s German ambulance. The boys, three care-givers, and myself all got into the back. There were two benches along the walls. Sasha and I sat on one and the caregivers sat in the other. Ethan and Silas stayed inside their strollers while traveling. No seat belts, no padding, not nothin honey. Sergi and the driver sat up front. Unfortunately all the windows were frosted and the boys couldn’t see out. I thought, “Man this stinks, these little guys have never been on a trip outside the orphanage and now they have to stare at the bare metal walls of this ambulance”. To remedy this for Sasha, I held him up so he could peer over the front seat and take in the sights. He was mesmerized! Silas slept the whole way and Ethan quietly took in all the new movement after a few initial Mogli grunts.

When we arrived in Zhytomir and the ambulance came to a rest, Sasha announce to everyone, “Ok, we’re in America now!” We had to explain to him that that was yet to come. He looked a little disappointed. Poor little guy, he has no concept of time because he has sat in that orphanage and has done the same thing day after day after day. It would drive any of us into the special needs category. About 15 minutes before arriving Silas woke up, sat up, and started rocking back and forth and singing. He’s gonna fit right in at IHOP. He’s got the rocking back and forth thing down. I’m sure some well meaning person will see him the first day in the prayer room and prophesy that he has the burden of intercession upon him ....... Um, probably not, this has been this kids only mode of entertainment for the last two years but hey, all those developed back and stomach muscles will come in handy when the spirit of prayer does hit him!

We took a group photo before going in for the passport pics. The boys did marvelously well! At one point the clerk was trying to explain to me in Russian that I needed to sign my name in this box but that my signature could not touch the lines of the box. In order to explain this to me she pulled out a practice sheet with many boxes printed on it. Then she drew a circle within the box and scribbled inside the circle. I was at a loss ... What did she want from me? Sergi was nowhere to be found – I had no lifeline. I signed my name in a practice box but tragically part of my signature touched the edge of the box. Frustrated she drew another circle and pointed to the inside of it. I didn’t know this was a practice sheet and I was grasping for anything. So I thought, “Well, maybe she wants me to draw a circle inside the box. Hey cool, this is like picture pages or a fun ‘How to draw stick animals’ activity conveniently placed in between the stressful passport process, all for my entertainment pleasure!” Wrong ..... I drew my circle inside the box, and this clerk, with a slight vodka hangover rolled her eyes and breathed heavy shaking her head. I wanted to shout with my best Brian Reegan voice, “THE CIRCLE’S INSIDE THE BOX PROFESSOR! DON’T BE SO HARD ON ME. I’M DOING THE WORK! I’M NOT A SLACKER! C’MON, GIVE A LOST & CONFUSED WESTERNER A BREAK! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?” Well eventually I figured it out and our little “not so stress free” preschool activity was over.

On the way home we stopped at McDonalds and bought lunch for everyone (except Ethan and Silas who still eat from a bottle). You should have seen Sasha’s face pucker up and his eyes squint the first time he put a french fry in his mouth. He quickly recovered and proceeded to wipe out half of my fries. He also went crazy over the pieces of “Big & Tasty” I fed him. He was so overwhelmed I thought he might break out singing in tongues with a voice like Pavoratti. When he sipped the coke he pulled back quickly, puckered his lips, and squinted his eyes. Ahhh ... The first encounter with carbonation and more sugar than any human being should ingest in their lifetime. I don’t think he’s gonna be a coke drinker. The only way I can explain it is imagine Piglet from Winnie the Pooh taking a big shot of straight vodka ... that should give you the picture. All that said, I was feeling more and more like their Daddy. Actually going somewhere together and showing them new things – it was great, especially on the way home when Sasha reached over and put his hand in mine and quietly said, “Pappa”.

The boys with 3 of the orphanage workers

The ambulance

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Day Of Music

I spent two hours yesterday and two hours today with our boys. It was amazing. I brought my guitar and Irish low whistle with me (for those of you who don’t know what that is think the “Titanic” soundtrack). All the boys responded dramatically to live music. Sasha acted scared of the guitar when I strummed loud or played it rhythmically but he also was smiling big with wide eyes and started clapping his hands and squealing. He warmed up to it quickly and began strumming the guitar with me changing the chords and singing to him. I started playing the Beatles “Blackbird” for him and started writing new lyrics for him ... “Hello Sasha, you’re my special boy, I’m so proud of you and you bring me so much joy” When I would come back around to the “Hello Sasha” part he began singing along with me. I’m not sure he’s ever sung before. We had such a precious time together. Today when I pulled out the Irish whistle he lit up like a firework. We took turns playing it and the guitar. He was blowing the whistle and I taught him how to finger a few notes. He did great! I broke out into a fast Celtic “diddy” and he started laughing and clapping his hands.

The changes I’ve seen in Ethan are nothing short of miraculous. Yesterday when I brought him into the room I sat him on the bed to see what he would do. I grabbed the guitar right away and he was so mesmerized that he sat up on the bed by himself the entire time! And that without any “Mogli” grunting! He also strummed the guitar and started playing a game where he put the pick into the sound hole and laughed when I pretended to be upset by this. Today, when I went into the orphanage to get him, he saw me, smiled really big and stretched his arms out to me. Even the orphanage workers were surprised by this and began commenting to each other. There’s so much more going on in that little mind than anyone knows .... We’re gonna mine this little guys potential and bring it all out! I gave him a tiny piece of chocolate (dark of course, milk chocolate is part of the fall). I found out later he and Silas have never eaten solid food. Their meals are all blended into a mush. Ethan’s little tongue began discovering that chocolate and his eyes got brighter and brighter. When I pulled it away he gave his famous grunt and leaned forward to try to get it. After a while, I showed him another little piece and hid it in the wrapper. He picked up that wrapper and started trying to pull it apart to find the chocolate! Then he crumpled up the wrapper and started throwing it from one side to the other. Every time he threw it I pretended to be “upset” that he threw the wrapper down. He thought this was very funny and he burst out laughing every time. He was doing it on purpose to get my reaction. Oh yeah, he was sitting up on his own this entire time (30 minutes).

Silas loved the instruments and is destined to be a drummer. I turned the guitar over and taught him how to hit the back like a drum. I broke out an energetic Irish jig on the whistle and Silas began beating the guitar in time, smiling wider than the English channel, and yelling out with excitement. I thought to myself, “Man, I’m gonna love our OJC prayer room!!!” The neatest part of my visits with Silas was when I was lying on my back doing pushups with him. He loves this and laughs so much. At one point I just let him lie facedown on my chest with his face cheek to cheek with mine. He just laid there the longest time and then switched sides and pressed his little face against mine. We just laid there and I talked to him and prayed over him. It was pretty awesome. Silas evidently wasn’t ready for the tiny piece of chocolate because he spit up all over me. Now my very necessary fleece smells like puke. Oh the joys of fatherhood!

Another Day...

I arrived on Monday in Novograd Valenski after a 16hr train ride from Kielce Poland. Our facilitator Sergi and I went to Silas’ home village in order to get a new birth certificate issued with his new name. We have to drive to the birthplace of each boy (for the 2nd time) and get the local governments to issue new birth certificates and request new social security numbers with their new names. Then we have to take those documents and get each one notarized in Novograd where the orphanage is, and then take all of that to Zhytomir (the state capital) to make the application for the boy’s Ukrainian passports. The passports are issued from the national capitol, Kiev. We’re having to interact with about 6-8 different local, state, or national offices and get them to cooperate with one another and say the same thing.

To help you get the picture, imagine the worst experience you have ever had with a department of motor vehicles in the USA (Kansas City people – please don’t go into spazms). Imagine spending day after day after day for two weeks trying to make sense of 8 different DMV’s who keep changing the requirements or tell you that some other office needs to give you some obscure document that they hadn’t mentioned before even though you had been there 3 times. This is pretty much like trying to play chess with an ADD monkey on crack. It’s a moving target and procedural logic got trampled at the door. By the time we get this completed and Renee, my mom, and Amy get here to help me transport the boys back, I’ll probably be wearing pink and green tights from the orphanage and sitting in a corner sucking my thumb trying to think of a happy place. Renee, when you get to the orphanage, I’ll be the big one with my eyes rolled back in my head singing “I am 16 going on 17” while sitting in the corner drooling animal crackers down my chin. Please take me home too. Please.

When I saw the boys it was awesome. They are doing well and I had a great time playing with them. Sasha is really excited about coming home to America on an airplane. I called Renee when I was with Sasha and his eyes lit up and he got so happy when he heard her voice. It was precious. I think he’s gonna be a mommy’s boy. I played with Ethan for a while. He still grunts when you do something he doesn’t like (pretty much anything that requires energy :-) I said to him, “Listen son, you have to come up with some other sounds because it sounds like you were raised by lions in the bush”. For this reason, Sergi and I have affectionately given Ethan the nickname “Mowgli”. I tickled him a lot and he was smiling real big and laughing out loud. I also got him to move his arms and legs around and get some exercise. Silas was the little smiley hunk he always is. As soon as I put some music on he started his classic dance moves – watch out IHOP dance team, you’re not gonna know what hit you when Silas gets to KC.

Yesterday Sergi and I spent 12 hrs obtaining new birth certificates for Ethan and Sasha. We unexpectedly ran into Ethan’s birth parents which was a bit awkward. I still don’t know how to process all those emotions, I’m just so thankful they didn’t abort Ethan. Today is a “sit and wait for results” day so I am studying Psalm 57, drinking coffee, and trying to get some work done. Oh by the way, tonight we have hot water for showers! Heehaw! That only happens two nights a week here. In a couple minutes I’ll start my shopping hunt to find a rubber ducky to celebrate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Derek's Visit With The Boys

Derek got to see the boys yesterday and he had a great visit with them. I don't think Ethan and Silas can quite figure out what's going on yet. They probably think that Derek is just a fun guy that showed up to play with them for awhile. They have no idea what's about to take place in their lives. Sasha on the other hand, was very happy to see Derek and I think probably also relieved!
Derek explained through our facilitator that I will be there soon and that we will be taking him to America to his new home very soon. Derek called me while he was with the boys. He put Sasha on the phone to talk to me. He said that when Sasha heard my voice, his face lit up and he said, " Mama" and pointed to the computer. Derek pulled up our family picture and Sasha pointed to my face and said "Mama." I blew him kisses through the phone and I got some in return! I just can't wait to hug these three little punkins! I'm so glad that Derek is with them now.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Safe Arrival!

Derek made it safely to Poland at 2:45AM K.C. time. He said he slept a good amount of time on the plane and read a lot in one of his John Piper books. At about 7AM our time, he took a 3 1/2 hour train ride to Kielce Poland, where he is ministering at right now. He gets on another train Sunday and travels for 14 hours on the train to get to Novograd where our boys are. Thanks to all of you who are keeping him in your prayers!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Derek Is On The Way!

Right now Derek is in the air and on his way to Poland. He will take a train on Sunday night back to Ukraine to the orphanage to see our boys! We are so excited! Please keep him in your prayers. He was beginning to feel a bit sick on his way out this morning.
He got his computer up and running again so those of you who want to email him can do so!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Heading Back To Ukraine

We just wanted to let you all know that tomorrow Derek will be flying to Poland to minister and then will be taking a train back to Ukraine two days later. He will go straight to the orphanage where he will get to see our precious boys once again! Derek will then head out with our facilitator, Sergi, to each of our son's villages to pick up their new birth certificates, showing their new names! He will also be completing the necessary paperwork at the U.S. Embassy and taking them to their required medical appointments. We would appreciate your prayers! Derek's computer just crashed tonight so any of you who are thinking of emailing him might want to wait until you hear that he is up and running again.

Derek's mom, his assistant and I will all be joining Derek on the 21st to help bring the boys home. We are so excited!

Thanks again to all of you who have faithfully prayed for us and given us encouraging support! We love you!