Monday, July 23, 2012

Home sweet home!

After 4 airports and approximately 20 hours of traveling we, along with all our bags, made it back to Georgia safely yesterday afternoon. Thanks again for all your support this past week. We couldn't have done it without your love and prayers.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What a week!



It's been quite a week.  A good week for sure.  We have an amazing team of people, and without each individual contribution this week would not have been a success!

We made it to Sofia this afternoon, spent the day recuperating, and finished the week with a wonderful traditional Bulgarian dinner.  We will be leaving the hotel at 5am in the morning to head to the airport.  We should be back in Atlanta around 4:30...i think!

When I'm not so tired I will post a recap of the day!  Ciao!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wobble...

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Picture Day!

Every year, we take tons and tons of pictures.  Towards the end of the week we begin printing a few for each child to give to them on the last day.  It is quite a tedious process a) taking lots of pictures b) identifying each child c) printing them one by one on a mini-sized printer d) making sure each child has at least a handful of pictures.  This year we gave them pictures AND a small photo book that they could decorate.  It's really fun watching them get their pictures and sharing with each other.  The very first year I was shocked at surprised their were to see a picture of themselves!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ciao!

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Wow.  It's hard to believe that this week is coming to a close.  As always, it has been a busy, exhausting, and at times emotional week; however it is one of the MOST rewarding experiences.  While the stories and situations of these children break our hearts, their smiles and laughs melt them.  They dance in the midst of heartache.  They don't have much to give, but yet they want to give everything they have, offering every picture they paint, necklace they make, and any trinket they can find in their rooms.  They are a special group of children who we hold near and dear to our hearts.  

Last night we had dinner with the former orphanage director, Tonya.  We, as well as they kids, were sad to see her go.  She had done so much for the orphanage, and we feel as if they have resorted back to their old ways.  The children love her and consider her a mother.  She made a good point last night however--we are there for the children, regardless of who is in charge or the unfortunate conditions.  They need us and look forward to our visit every year.  We have made a difference in their lives.   

Tomorrow will be difficult as we say our goodbyes; even after six years it doesn't get any easier.  Each day the kids follow us to the gate to say goodbye--hanging over the wall yelling their last goodbye as we attempt to escape back to the hotel without any "extras".  Above is a video of this from the second day--you can only imagine what tomorrow will be like.  We have a full day of fun stuff planed, however--watermelon, ice cream, picture books, games, and I'm sure they will request one last dance session!  

"Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."- Dr. Seuss 

  



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Life is like a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. 
- Unknown

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Planting the Seed


Culture is a very interesting concept.  Often we live day to day not thinking twice about the things we do, what we say, and why we do it.  This week we have come face-to-face with a completely different culture—a completely different way of life.  In the case of the orphans, their way of life is almost a subset of the Bulgarian way of life.  They live for survival, living to meet their basic needs.  They yearn to feel loved.  They want to belong.  They need security, stability, and recognition. They want to be respected. 

Sadly, many of these children have never known anything but what they experience in the orphanage.  They lack adult supervision.  They lack a constant sense of love and support.  They lack stability and direction.  It is survival of the fittest. 

With this, comes many challenges.

Yesterday, a 15-year-old asked Bree why she didn’t have a facebook account, and if she didn’t have one because Joe (her boyfriend) would kill her if she got one.  When Bree laughed and replied “No, that’s not why”, the young girl asked if Joe would beat her if she got one.  At this, Bree was confused and asked for insight from our translator. 

Relational violence is becoming a prominent issue in this culture.  The older girls especially long for someone to love them.  They want to feel needed.  They want to feel beautiful.  Unfortunately, their understanding of this—how they achieve this—is not the safest, nor the healthiest way for a young girl to live.  This is obviously an issue that impacts many girls in many various settings; however, these girls especially lack proper role models, friends, and a voice of reason to keep them on the right path.  They don’t have examples of healthy, nurturing relationships.  They don’t understand that this is not “normal”—this is their “normal”. 

We hope that in our time here we can plant the seed.  We may only be here a week.  We may be Americans who they feel don’t understand their situation, but we can at least show them that we care enough to bring these issues and concerns to the table.  We can start the dialogue—a sign that we are here, we care, and we want to help.  

The men at work...


Well we have made it to Wednesday—halfway done and definitely tired!  A few team members have been a little under the weather today; hopefully it’s not something that will spread around the whole group. 

While we have been busy with the kids this week, the men have been working on various projects around the orphanage and group home.  They painted a room in the orphanage, fixed a few items at the group home, and today they completed their work on the kitchen at the orphanage.  I am not an expert in construction or maintenance, but I’m sure Wayne will be happy to give you all the technical details!  According to Joe, they scraped lead paint and cleaned off walls that were covered in mold...  Below are some before and after pictures of the newly painted room and remodeled kitchen!















Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Just Dance!

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Dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt.  Sing like there's nobody listening,  And live like it's heaven on earth.- William W. Purkey

Day at the Kindergarten Center

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Change.

It's hard to believe that our group has been coming to Lom for the past 6 years.  It has been quite an amazing experience. These are "our" kids.  Not only have we seen them grow physically, we have also seen the emotional and social changes.  They laugh, listen, care, love, and trust.  We have built relationships with them that have grown and strengthened over the years.  For some, we have been one of the only constants in life.  This trip isn't just about bringing games and crafts to play with; it's about the relationship--providing them with love, trust, confidence, and care.  

And you know that you have made an impact when the foster parents hear you are in town and ask if their kids (former orphans) can spend the day at the orphanage with us.   

Today, I was struck with how many of our "original" kids are still living in the orphanage.  Below are a few pictures from 2007 to give you an idea of who is still here and how they have changed over the past six years.  









Please continue to keep our group in your thoughts and prayers.  We had a full day today with water games, decorating fans, the wobble, handbells, soccer, hula hoop, tattoos, jump rope, pillow making, and relay races.  Tomorrow, some of us are going to the new kindergarten center to see the younger children in the morning so keep Jennifer, Nicky, Susan, Bree, and Katherine in mind as they entertain the others without us! 






 

Crafting

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This afternoon the girls made pillows out of fleece.  Each girl got two squares of fleece to cut, tie together, and then stuff.  They really turned out good and each girl seemed to enjoy the opportunity to make something useful for themselves.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Love


Where is Bulgaria?
What's in Bulgaria?
What do you do there?
Why do you go back every year?
Why do you want to help those children?


We get asked these—and many more—questions anytime we mention our trip to Lom. And today, when Beth—a member from the UK team—spoke at church she put it perfectly… 



We have been loved, so therefore we go to love.


Love is not just a feeling.  It’s an action.  When we are hot, sweaty, and tired it’s love for these children that keeps us going. We don’t just paint fingernails and braid hair because it’s fun and pretty, it’s how we show love.  When we hand the older boys paintbrushes and trust that they will paint the wall and not each other, we are showing them love.  When we work alongside them teaching them a new skill, we show love.   When they are fighting over jump ropes or markers, we show love through our patience.  And it’s love that you show through your support and prayers.


It’s hard to imagine never experiencing love.  But sadly, some of these kids have families that just don’t love them.  In addition, they live in a country that has turned their back on them and refuses to accept them just because of the way they look. 

Over the past five years, we have seen a group of kids grow in their ability to love, trust, and do good despite the hardships that they face.  Although we are only here a week and speak very little Bulgarian, we speak the language of love. 

It doesn’t take a translator to give a hug and a smile.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18











Saturday, July 14, 2012

We're here!

Welcome to Lom! 
We finally made it to Lom! After a 3 hour van ride through the mountains with (almost) all our luggage we arrived safe and sound at our hotel.  Zoiko and Steffi were there to greet us--and Zoiko happily carried our luggage upstairs...perfect timing!

After settling in and showers, we headed down the street to eat.  Eating in Bulgaria is always an experience in itself.  First, rarely do you find a menu (or a waitress) that speaks english.  Second, you don't get your food at the same time.  Some may get their salads after their main course....some may not get their food at all...and sometimes they just change your order because they don't have a certain item.  It's really odd and with 18+ people, dinner usually takes awhile...  But tonight it was unusually easy and really good after a long day of travel.
See something appetizing on this menu?

While we were out we saw quite a few kids from the orphanage.  Rati and Cassandra, as well as many of the guys that worked on the construction crew came by to say "hello".  Lucho, one of the younger ones who has been there since the beginning, was actually eating at the same restaurant with his new foster mom.  He was pretty surprised to see us, but was really excited and walked by several times just to say "hello".  Rarely do these children get adopted or get placed in good homes outside the orphanage--Lucho is definitely one who could use a good home with lots of individualized attention.

Tomorrow we are going to church in the morning and then we will head to the orphanage after lunch to see the kids and hang out for the afternoon.  We've heard there have been quite a few changes in personnel and with the number of kids so hopefully after our visit we will have a better idea of what to expect this week.



Tomorrow the high is supposed to be 106.  Thank goodness for church fans...



The whole group + Zoiko making important decisions..aka where/what time we are going to eat 

We made it!

We have arrived safely in Sofia! Unfortunately, Karen's bag did not make it from Munich but it should be here tomorrow.

At the airport we met up with the UK group and a couple from Macon, Georgia who are adopting a child this week from Lom whom we have known for awhile. I'll post an update about their story soon.

We are currently re-energizing at McDonald's before heading to Lom! Wayne's at the wheel of one van which is always an experience. After 20 hours of travel we are tired and definitely in need of a shower...three more hours to go!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Storm delay

We made it to Charlotte around 3:00pm boarded for Munich around 5:00 and we are currently sitting on the runway waiting for a big storm to pass. Charlotte is under a severe thunderstorm warning with cloud to ground lightening at the airport...we knew Friday the 13th couldn't go this smoothly!

It's about a 8.5 hour trip to Munich then we will board for Sofia. After arriving in Sofia we will pile into the vans with the members of the UK team and begin our 3 hour road trip to Lom. It's quite a journey but definitely with it!

We're off!

10 people
15 bags
10 passports and tickets
2 cars...headed to the airport!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Time to pack!

Last night Karen, Susan, Nicky, Jennifer, Katherine, and I met at the church to pack our supplies for the trip.  Since Bulgaria doesn't have a Walmart, we have to pre-purchase everything and strategically pack it in extra suitcases to carry with us.  Our first year we each took an extra suitcase which was slightly overwhelming when you have 10 people with 20 suitcases in a foreign country for the first time. This year we have managed to pack supplies for 60 kids in only 5 extra suitcases (don't worry Wayne, you don't have to carry an extra one).  Here are some pictures from last night's packing party!

 And while it looks like I am not working, I was in fact looking up the dimensions for suitcases...Katherine on the other hand...hmmmmm


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Countdown has begun...

The FBC Bulgarian Mission Team will be leaving on our 6th Annual Trip to Lom on July 13. 


We have begun collecting supplies and organizing our plan for the week.  This year we will be working with approximately 60 children between the ages of 3-18.  It will be a busy week of games, crafts, handbells, hugs, and painting.  In addition, Wayne and crew will be remodeling and making additions to the orphanage.  

We ask that you continually pray for us and the kids.  It is always an exhausting but rewarding week together.  There are bound to be bumps along the road, but we are ready to be back! 

Below is the itinerary for the week:


Friday, July 13
 9:00 AM        Meet at FBC
 2:00 PM        Depart on Lufthansa flight 5143 for Charlotte, NC
 3:14             Arrive in Charlotte
 5:10             Depart on Lufthansa flight 429 for Munich, Germany

Saturday, July 14
 7:50 AM        Arrive in Munich
 9:15 AM        Depart on Lufthansa flight 1702 for Sofia, Bulgaria
12:10 PM        Arrive in Sofia; travel to Lom
 5:00 PM        Arrive at Hotel Moskva in Lom

Sunday, July 15
Sunday morning – attend church
Sunday afternoon – work and play at the orphanage
Arrange and plan projects, games, and crafts for the week.

Monday through Friday, July 16 -20
Mornings and afternoons spent at the orphanage and group homes
Time after supper spent planning for the next day

Saturday, July 21
Visit the orphanage one last time
Travel to Sofia to Hotel Ganesha 

Sunday, July 22
 7:15 AM          Depart on Lufthansa flight 1707 for Munich, Germany
 8:15               Arrive in Munich
 9:55               Depart on Lufthansa flight 107 for Frankfort
11:05              Arrive in Frankfort
12:10 PM         Depart on Lufthansa flight 444 for Atlanta
 4:25               Arrive in Atlanta

All times listed on the itinerary are local times.  Remember that Lom time is 7 hours ahead of Commerce time.


As always, thank you for your continued support and prayers.  This trip would not be possible without it.




"But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the world."
Acts 6:4