May 31, 2011

Andrey the Orphan from Ukraine: Still Needs Help!

this is a repost from 3/10/2011. Andrey's fund it now $4915.00 and needs more help! Efforts have been proved fruitful in raising awareness and money for Andrey's cause.
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
(Isa 1:17)

Ever since this little boy has been brought to my attention, his situation has burdened my heart greatly. I suppose, due to my line of work, I have a propensity to advocate for the "little guy" or the "underdog." I believe it might be just more than the vocational essence driving me though. I believe it is because the underdog status resonates with me, in my spirit, very deeply. Andrey S., is a child with Down Syndrome. He is currently in an Ukrainian orphanage. At the age of 4 he is currently in line to be transferred to a 'mental institution' where most children (90%) do not make it through the 1st year. The conditions are poor, the social interaction is very little, and the digression of their condition is drastic. The cost to help out this child ranges from $20k to $25k on average.

What I am asking you here today on this blog is to give what you can, even if it is just $5. If just 200 people gave $100, Andrey would be halfway home. The biggest hurdle for this child's adoption is the funds. Once they reach a certain point, Reece's Rainbow, the organization involved in helping advocate for Andrey, will begin notifying potential families and alerting others of the grants available to help him be adopted. If you have a blog, please re-post this, if your assembly is looking for someone to help in benevolence, please plead this boy's case! Re-post this on your FaceBook or Twitter account. Whatever you do, do something! Pray, Fast, Pay, or Adopt him!

I will post the information concerning Andrey S., and the organization currently helping collect funds to create a grant for the child. After the information concerning the child, you will find some points of information that I collected to help alleviate ancillary concerns that may make donating worrisome. If you have any questions, please comment below and I will answer them the best I can.

Boy, Born December 28, 2006
Andrey is a tiny little monkey!   HE REALLY NEEDS A FAMILY.   He has blonde hair and blue eyes. He has also has strabismus, which can be corrected surgically here in the US. Andrey will greatly benefit from early intervention therapy, and will just blossom the way all of our other children have! This little one has an ASD and a PDA, with some impairment of circulation. He will need heart surgery when he gets home.

From a missionary who visited with him in November 2010:  " Andrey seems to have regressed since the last photo that was taken of him. He has very low muscle tone and, while he is able to sit up on his own, his not able to stand, even with help. He was playing with toys and I got lots of smiles and laughter out of him when I tickled him. He definitely has some significant delays but I believe he could truly blossom with the love and therapy a family would provide. Oh how I pray he gets the chance…"
From one of our adoptive families who visited with him in May 2009: " He is such a little cutie! I am not sure if he is sitting on his own because he was propped against this fence outside and I didn't get a chance to snuggle him. But he is good size, a bit small for a 2 year old, but with therapy and stimulation, it would only be a matter of time before he thrives!! "
From his caregivers in April 2010:  Selectively comes into contact with adults. Has commitment to the toys: rattles, musical toys.  Self-sitting. Not walking yet.   Eat with spoon, drinking from a cup with an adult.

  • Andrey S. was most likely the child of parents who willfully terminated their rights because of his special needs as a child with Down Syndrome.
  • Andrey is NOT part of a 'token' or 'novelty' demographic of children that US citizens target for adoption. Children with Down Syndrome are NOT a fad. They often encumber families with medical costs/care, time constraints, and constant engagement and behavioral monitoring. Along with the medical costs, the sheer challenge of socializing and raising a child with Down Syndrome is daunting. It would indeed take a special family to desire adoption of one of these children.
  • The specifics about how Andrey actually entered the orphanage and the strata/demographical data concerning his parents and their situation are not available at this time, and probably would not be available to anyone beside the adoptive family, and the social workers involved in the adoption.
  • Andrey is in an orphanage located inside the Ukraine. The Ukraine is not known for child trafficking and illegal payments to families for children.  They in fact are very restrictive regarding foreign adoptions and have closed the doors for outsiders in the past. There is current potential for new legislation that will re-enact the moratorium, but has been tabled in the latest legislature meetings.
  • Trafficking of children to the United States by countries who participate in illegal adoption activities were halted by the U.S. State Department in 2008 (Guatemala and Cambodia). The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption has been enacted and created to monitor, regulate, and standardize these situations.
  • Ukraine is not party to this convention but still has a US embassy in Kiev, regulates all adoptions to foreigners very tightly, and requires adopting families to be married couples and under the age of 45. This is on top of the requirements the United States imposes on families who adopt children. They also must consider the adoptee
  • Contributing to assist Andrey will NOT be contributing to an organized effort to traffic children to the United States, especially Down Syndrome children.
Some more facts about adoptions in Ukraine,

·  2009 adoptions: 610 children
·  Age/Gender: 53% Female, none under 1 year of age, 30% between 1 to 4 years old, in 2008.
·  Estimated Total Cost: $30,000+
·  Profile: 70% of children are age 5 or older; 30% are between 1 and 4 years old (2008).
·  Parent Ages: Prospective adopting parents must be at least 21 years and the maximum age difference between the adopting parents and the prospective adopted child is 45 years.
·  Family Status: Married couples only may adopt from Ukraine.
·  Travel: Usually two trips required. Only one parent required for second trip. First trip is 2 to 3 weeks long. Second trip is 1 week long. If only one trip, 5 to 6 weeks.
·  Timeline: From submission of dossier until appointment date, 5 to 12 months.

Why use Reece's Rainbow to help Andrey get adopted?
  • I spoke with the organizations founder, Andrea Roberts a few times already, and intend to maintain contact with her concerning Andrey's plight, and she herself is a mother of a child with Down Syndrome.
  • Reece's Rainbow is NOT an adoption agency, they are a granting/advocating agency. The more money that is available for Andrey's adoption, the more likely he WILL be adopted.
  • Reece's Rainbow is a 501(c)3 non-profit agency that would receive ZERO dollars in compensation for assisting with Andrey's adoption. However, when a donation is made to a specific child, the Voices of Hope Fund receives 10% of that donation to go toward assisting other children and advocating for them as well.
  • Andrea has assured me that the bulk of the cost for these adoptions in are consumed in the international travel and legal fees with both US and foreign entities. At least $9000.00 can be assumed to go straight to the Ukrainian government for costs alone.
  • As a side note. The adults I attend to on my caseload at work who reside in specialized residential settings can cost up to $3000.00 per month and receive minimal care. They are far from deprived, but are assuredly not "well" taken care of. With the cost of care being so high in an industrialized nation for adults, I could only imagine the costs for children in Ukraine with special needs.
  • Since 2006 Reece's Rainbow has helped place 500 children with HIV, Down Syndrome, and other medical special needs situations.
Here is an article concerning a couple who adopted in Ukraine, and received full grant funding for the actual adoption through Reece's Rainbow,

Believe it or not, I have found it next to impossible to dig up dirt on this organization. Since we have begun advocating for Andrey, his grant fund has grown by 45% %65

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
(Gal 6:10)

Please join me in praying for Andrey. I hope you can support his adoption.You can donate directly through PayPal. 

May 30, 2011

Memorial day? What is it we remember exactly?

Today is memorial day. Regardless of the debated views surrounding its origins, it is set aside by the Federal Government as a day to remember the many individuals who have died defending the United States of America. Most folks will celebrate the day in remembrance of the fallen around swimming pools and BBQ grills, with very little ascent to the fallen dead. But for those that do set apart time to commemorate the valiant effort and brave actions of men and women throughout military history, it is a day of somber remembrance and grateful reflection of the freedom they now currently enjoy.

Freedom is a very biased word. It may even be a biased value as well. Hidden in the meaning of Memorial Day and the freedom derived from the military campaigns that cost the lives of those memorial dead provides a veil for something entirely different.

Sentimental thoughts see slaves freed burying the Civil War's Union dead to the shrapnel filled carcasses sent home in pine boxes from Afghanistan's war torn countrysides. Americans abroad focus on their ability to live leisurely lifestyles and cast bi-partisan votes on election day as freedom. In quoting John Piper from a message titled Don't Waste Your Life, "that's a tragedy." Whenever freedom is exchanged or evaluated by the cost of an individuals life, freedom becomes contingent upon the loss of freedom for those who lose their lives. Now, that sacrifice becomes noble and worthy of remembrance at cook-outs around the country.

I am perplexed. When it is suggested that one is enslaved to their hatred, anger, lusts, covetousness, adulteries, lies, or idolatry, it is met with resistance and ridicule. Even if you include that freedom is had by the death of Jesus Christ and new life through his resurrection if one turns from those sins, you are sure to be met with persecution. But, if you suggest that someone has given their life so that you can own a 4 bedroom ranch, a sports car, and voting rights, praise and rejoicing breaks out.

The question remains, what really is the cost? Arthur Sido at "The Voice Of One Crying Out In Suburbia," has summarized some statistical information that draws an interesting parallel between the combined numbers of dead service men and women in major U.S. military campaigns. The data of the latter dwarfs in comparison to the staggering number of aborted Americans in 2008 alone. You can see his post, "Some other Americans to remember today."

So what is it that we commemorate? Death, or life as a result of the death of another? In turn, what is the measure and value of the life that is lived as a result of the cost of the sacrifice? Today, let us remember those who have lost life, be it for a cause or vain glory. But remember, our Patriot dead are no more significant than enemy dead. The loss of human life is loss of life period. That can be seen in the devastating statistics seen in abortions every day.

Jesus Christ came that we may have life eternal. Not so that you can go to church on Sunday, have a 4 bedroom ranch, or go to war in the name of freedom. His life serves as a ransom for many, and as he refers to those who follow him as sheep, and he the shepherd, those who are his sheep will hear his voice (John 10:9-11). Those who truly love Jesus Christ, keep his commandments (John 14:15, 15:10). Today, remember the death of Jesus Christ, pray for those who will die (in war or the womb) without knowing him, and count the cost of your own life today (Luke 9:62).

I leave you with this video, which gets to the heart of the matter. Happy Memorial day.

A Twisted Scripture 7

In the spirit of Alan Knox's " We Live It" series,

For you can all only men prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of male prophets are subject to prophets. (1Co 14:31-32 Twisted)

May 29, 2011

Getting to the root of sin and its place in our lives

Read an interesting post at Evangelical Crossroads, Weeds: Theology from the garden today via the Koinonia blog. I was originally attracted to the gardening analogy used to demonstrate the point of sins very real presence in our lives, amidst all that we are and do. Because I garden, I understood the point, and it makes perfect sense when you consider the reality of sin on the surface but fail to contend earnestly with the roots below.

Author Chelle Stearns says,
"The imagery of weeds, sin and evil is intertwined throughout the Bible. The Old Testament prophets spoke of how God would uproot and plant. Judgment would be a sorting and a tending by God. Jesus, especially in the gospel of Matthew, talks of the complexity of discerning between the wheat and the weeds, and it would not be until the end of the harvest that whatever was not planted by God would be bound up and thrown in the fire. Jesus promises that at the end of the age, everything and everyone who causes sin and evil will be uprooted (cf. Matthew 13). In other words, Jesus is the good gardener who is patient enough to tend to his garden, not wanting to uproot too soon (2 Peter 3:9). God wants us to flourish, in the midst of all the weeds. Believe it or not, the healthier my garden, the fewer weeds. And so I wait, and I weed."
This is a great analogy to consider when we ponder the forbearance and longsuffering of our Lord Jesus Christ when we come face to face with our own inability to succeed at removing all the weeds in our lives, including the roots.

Are other people allowed in your refrigerator?

Growing up, the refrigerator door was not a toy. At least that is what I remember mom telling me when I would swing it open. She also used to remind me that no duration of time spent gawking into the shelves would make any yummy treats appear that were not already present. Needless to say, I was not allowed to swing, peer aimlessly, or pointlessly open the door to the fridge without reason.

However, should I need to provide myself with a sandwich or a cup of kool-aid, the door was always an option, and I generally exercised privilege when there was purpose to the opening of the fridge. But there was an unspoken policy in place when it came to other people opening that door.

Having many friends from the neighborhood over frequently, the house was common ground to most who passed through. But, the fridge was not to be opened by those who did not reside in the house. Our home operated on a budget and a single income, sometimes even on state or federal assistance, making the contents of our fridge very valuable indeed. The refrigerator door was not to be opened by those who were not residents of the home, and those who did would be quickly reminded not to enter the forbidden fridge zone.

After growing up, I began to notice that this rule was not unique to my home, or dictated by a denominator of neighborhood children running to and fro spreading germs and invading privacy. I even experienced the same taboo feeling of daring to open the refrigerator door in the homes of close family members whose homes were open, but not frequented enough to warrant fridge rights.

To this day, I can honestly say that a visit to someones home brings fear and trepidation if they say that I am welcome to help myself to the contents of their refrigerator. Even if they insist, opening that door and exposing unknown contents, and fumbling for unfamiliar condiments to assemble a sandwich can provide great anxiety. It is much easier when people just get what I need out of the fridge for me and everyone is much happier that way.

Other people's refrigerators are messy. Sometimes they contain really leftover leftovers. The contents of a fridge can tell you many things about a person or family. Many refrigerators can give you a quick glimpse into the financial situation of its owner. It is interesting how much we can learn from a refrigerator is it not? Most people are uneasy about other people entering their refrigerators, and likewise their lives. I think the two can easily be one in the same. While thinking about Christian fellowship, the refrigerator door showed me what it is like to really have all things in common with others.

When I was younger, other people were not allowed in the fridge. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, my fridge is open to any who dare open it. And it's contents belong to any who desires to have them, even if it is the last turkey sandwich.

For me, true Christian Fellowship can be seen in the privilege of access to your brothers and sisters refrigerators. Even more so, fellowship is established mutually. A refrigerator full of leftovers is not a blight on your reputation when you truly desire to have others see you as you are. Commonality exists in the content of our relationships, and is truly fostered in Christ-like conformity when we allow our guards to go down and the doors of our refrigerators to swing open. Even though it is easier to just have someone serve you from their refrigerator themselves, we miss out on much of the value had in earning the trust and love in genuine relationship with others. When all things are in common, the relationship becomes more important than the possession, and that last piece of cheesecake truly belongs to any who desires it. My fridge is your fridge.

Now if you really want to push someone's allegiance to the limit and test the measure of their resolve, ask them to help you clean a dirty refrigerator. That might be the fellowship breaker indeed!

May 28, 2011

Could someone please tell me where fellowship is?

It feels like forever since I remember my first struggle with the ideal of 'simple church.' You can call it home church, organic church, real church, or whatever church. But, principally, I was wrestling with what others were exclaiming to me was "biblical church."

You see, it all began when I started reading the scripture. No, I mean really reading the scripture! As I became more acquainted with the 'stories' and started to relate the 'characters' to actual 'events' lived out by real life 'people,' my biblical church view was becoming challenged.

As I was in the membership class of yet another church I had begun attending, looking for biblical fellowship and teaching, I started to feel completely torn in two. My brain was quite literally being divided between two positions. These two positions became the proverbial dogfight for quite some time.

One one hand, I was in an established church, in a respected community with excellent well accomplished elders. Their degrees and pedigree spoke loudly enough to attract any man dignified enough to label himself 'evangelical.' There were morning bible studies that brought together those who could get up early enough to make it in and hold their eyes open, and it was profitable, and allowed great discussions. Then at the strike of the hour, everyone shuffled from the classroom, to the foyer, to the sanctuary. Then, as the regular folk's began arriving, the sanctuary got settled, the organ piped on and the opening hymn began. At this point, you knew exactly what was going to happen, when it was going to happen, and at what time it would happen. Like clockwork, you could count on your worship folder and your watch to dictate your actions, and along with everyone else, fall in lockstep with the symphony of the meeting that is called church.

On the other hand, I was not quite satisfied with the 'fellowship' endured through three songs, a prayer, a sermon, and a benediction. I felt completely isolated in a room full of people. Something was missing. I guess I had fellowship in the coffee room with the leftover McDonald's someone graciously brought in, but that would not really pass scriptural muster in most places for 'fellowship' would it? That would be too much like a soccer game being sanctified because a couple church folk show up there. I did get to chat with the pastor briefly in the foyer and shake his hand. Even though I knew him pretty decently, it was like I got to meet him all over again each Sunday morning. He was a pretty busy guy, and if I had tough questions after the sermon, he would ask me to hold on to them until later, there was a line forming behind me. I suppose I could understand that, people really do not like waiting in lines, especially when they are in a hurry.

It is safe to say I was torn. Although I was struggling greatly with it, I had started driving to a friends home after these Sunday services to meet with them, to share scripture, to pray, and to break bread as we remembered the Lord Jesus. We were actually allowed to casually approach one another, share in each others lives, and honestly dig into the scriptures together. There was no pulpit, and nobody bothered arranging music. But someone always had a teaching, and someone almost always brought a song. Even though there was no worship folder, I knew what to expect. Whenever I would arrive there after the Sunday services I attended, I would expect fellowship. Each Sunday I drove there, I left fulfilled. It was indeed challenging, and these days were often very long, but I was starting to see something I had never seen before. I was seeing the lives of other believers, having things in common with them, and bonding with them as if they were my own brothers and sisters.

I cannot recall the length of time that this went on, but the more it did, the more challenged I became. Ultimately, I found myself at war with what I experienced in the morning because of what I witnessed occur in the evenings. I was also confused by what was going on in the evening because of what I knew from the morning services. And in between the two, I was forced to open my bible and begin to study this thing called the church. My conscience became so conflicted that I could no longer read what I knew was the status-quo in the mornings into the texts that were coming alive in the scriptures when I was allowing them to say what they meant. The book of Acts stopped being obscure and primarily descriptive and began demanding my obedience to the truth of what the early church gave their lives for.

In all of this, I was left holding a bible, looking at two meetings, and asking myself, where is fellowship? Most importantly, I had to open the bible and begin listening to the words that God inspired himself, and asking myself the question, what is fellowship?

How about your experience? Do you struggle with the traditional established churches of today? Do you see a discrepancy between today's practices and what the New Testament illustrates? Which discrepancies are the most difficult to reconcile? I am curious to hear your thoughts? Is this a conversation you have ever had with yourself?

May 24, 2011

Spring is here and Square Foot Gardening is near!

So, I have been missing for quite some time, at least here at the blog that is. Spring is upon us here in Southeastern Michigan, and with the warm weather, comes new outside activities! Along with the responsibilities of a new job, raising a new baby, and everything else in between, we have decided to take up gardening!

In the past, I have tended traditional row gardens, and with some success, managed to harvest a crop or two. But those harvests often came with the burden of fighting weeds and time. Living in a condo with a small patio, we were not very sure we would ever accomplish the feat of a garden in such small quarters. We definitely could not fathom creating a row garden in our closed in patio, that essentially amounts to about 10' x 20' or so. On top of the cramped space, the ground area on our patio was a mud pit and weed patch. Then there is the dilemma of sunlight not hitting the ground for sufficient amounts of time. Needless to say, our gardening outlook was bleak.

All New Square Foot GardeningBut then a friend helped us out with a book he had come across. All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is about a system of gardening made simple. Using raised beds, table tops, or deck railings, anyone can have a garden. The method not only allows you to utilize a custom soil/compost mixture that is proven to raise premium organic vegetables, but it also is broken down into simple terms, illustrations, and cost-effective material usage to help just about anyone get setup and growing! With good drainage, efficient use of water, and efficient space utilization, any area can become a productive garden that produces a crop rival to any traditional row crop around, in proportion of course!

With our limited space and planting time approaching quickly, I ordered the book, bought supplies, and prepared a space for planting. It has been a harried past month or so, but now that everything is ready, my garden is planted, and the patio is now a pleasant garden and retreat, I think we will actually have a tad more time for....the new baby!

Well, If you are a gardener, and you would like to check the method out, I have posted some progress pictures below. We will see how the crops finish at harvest time, but as for now, everything is doing great! I highly recommend this book not just for its information and instruction, but because it is fun to read and the illustrations make a pro out of any novice! Happy gardening!


May 4, 2011

Book Review: The Essential Bible Companion To The Psalms, by Brian L. Webster and David R. Beach

The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms: Key Insights for Reading God's Word (Essential Bible Companion Series)There are two types of books a student of the Bible can benefit from. Commentaries, which can be very involved and theologically deep and companions, which can serve as quick references or summaries. While both resources can vary in skill and ability required to utilize them fully, the latter tends to be more accessible for the every day reader.

The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms is an excellent example of accessibility. Sitting down with the Psalms and giving them a cursory read will often leave the reader with questions or confusion. But, this new resource from Zondervan helps illuminate several key areas of each Psalm for the reader,
  • Theme - an overarching and common thread that runs through each Psalm
  • Type - categorized by various genres of Psalms that appear in the Scriptures
  • Background - a contextual synopsis of the historical and literal events that influence the understanding of the Psalm itself
  • Structure - a brief exposition of the Psalm verse by verse
  • Special notes - a breakdown of unfamiliar terms or ancient references that may be culturally unfamiliar
Last but not least, each Psalm has a brief reflection to summarize the message of the passage. Although each entry for each Psalm appears short and lacking on the page, the information is concise and accurate, providing ease of reading and appropriate information for studying one of the greatest treasure troves of Scripture, the Psalms.

I highly recommend you picking this book up, it is well worth having as a desk reference, coffee table book, or sitting on the reference section of your bookshelf.

I received this book from Zondervan in exchange for an unbiased book review.