A thankful Grammy’s heart

So many things to be ever-so-thankful for…and among these, the safe arrival of baby Elza last week. Jeanne and Kolya spent Monday day and night at Johns Hopkins where Elza joined the family on the OUTSIDE early Tuesday afternoon. THANKFUL that Jeanne and Kolya were both able to snuggle their little gift before she was attached to too many monitors. Knowing her heart condition could have preempted these early moments made them even more special.

Jim and I arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday morning — chauffeured by sweet friend Jill Fears and accompanied by two of her daughters. They helped us clear out the fridge at the Kotiash abode and pack bags with food for our stay. Jill introduced us to the Believe in Tomorrow children’s home that is situated directly across the street from the hospital. We learned that Elza qualified to have her family stay at the home, and we learned that there was indeed space for our arrival. SO THANKFUL for this place. Each patient qualifies for one room and each room can hold 6 people: two beds plus cots if needed. Jim, the boys and I learned our way around during the first day or two, and then when Jeanne was discharged, Kolya was able to join our room.  The boys were THRILLED to see Tato and Mama…Milan exclaimed, “My beautiful mama is here!” Though the farewells can be sad, the boys DO know that their parents are nearby and are trying to spend much time with them. AND they have met Elza via skype. THANKFUL for technology!!

Pre ElzaJim and I did get a few minutes with Jeanne while Kolya, Jill, Tori and Katie Jo entertained the boys at the hospital on Tuesday. It turns out that the little ones cannot even be in the family waiting area on Jeanne’s floor — no one under 18 is permitted during the flu season. Jim clicked this photo just ten minutes before Elza was born! THANKFUL that we could switch places with Kolya in time!

That evening we were blessed by a home-cooked meal at the children’s home. Volunteers from all over Baltimore and environs volunteer to provide dinner MOST nights. In fact, we’ve been here a week and have only fixed our own dinner on Sunday night. The boys sometimes need a supplement — not too excited about a new place and new food — but the adults are eating way more than I ever expected!

And the staff here has gone overboard in helping us with the little ones — even providing chocolate milk! (Turns out that the boys aren’t nearly so enamored with chocolate milk as I thought they might be…what does grammy know?!).Chocolate milk I took some pictures to assure Jeanne and Kolya that the boys were actually eating. The staff made sure the boys had a doughnut (HUGE) for dessert, and the boys spent their time worrying that the volunteers in the kitchen needed a doughnut, too! So sweet.


After cleaning up our table to Milan’s rendition learned in Sunday school: “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your part. Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your part.” I think the volunteers are going to teach this song to all of their friends.

After baths and putting on warm pajamas, we all crowded onto the boys’ bed to watch a movie and fade out.


All in all, a good first day for everyone.

Thankful for all the prayers!



One of our daughters has spent most of the last decade living in Kathmandu, Nepal. She has adapted fairly easily to the lifestyle there and particularly appreciates the food: she has celiac disease so has been gluten-free for YEARS. (May I say that it would have been a lot easier for me to provide much more variety in this day and age than earlier — I had to read every ingredient on every label and be aware of all the three-mile-long words that were code for ‘contains gluten.’ Thankfully in Nepal the staples are rice, beans, veggies.)

We received a message today that she was involved in a scooter accident yesterday on her home from music campus. It appears a motorcycle cut her off and when she applied the brakes she was on loose sand due to the dry season, the scooter went out from under her, and she skidded along the side of the road. She is pretty banged up though she cautiously is saying that nothing serious happened. (She was worried about one leg, but the powers-that-be refused to do an X-ray because she walked on it — limping, mind you.)

Anna on her scooterAnna was so thankful for the full-face helmet that the children at Providence Presbyterian Church in Salisbury MD gave her last year before she returned to Nepal. I thank you, too!! She hit her head hard and is in the market for a new helmet, but this particular helmet certainly served its purpose.

Please pray that Anna might be able to get some restful sleep. She is in quite a bit of pain, and for her to even say that it must be nearly unbearable. Anna rarely complains about anything, especially physical pain. Pray also that her body will heal quickly.

I am thankful that her office is allowing her to work from home while she recuperates, at least these first few days.

Praising God that He protected her from anything worse!

1 in 10,000

HeartStatistics are one of those things that we talk about a lot in our flat. Almost always these numbers are in conjunction with some health challenge, and my pediatrician husband frequently has the same general statement: 99% chance that this is nothing, BUT if you are the 1%…well, it’s now 100%.

Our daughter Jeanne and her husband Kolya are expecting their third child — our first granddaughter — in early February. They have two young active boys (ages 3 and 18 months-ish) and are more than thrilled to be welcoming a little girl into the family. Already they are discussing names and dreaming about how life will look with three little ones in the home.

Last week Jeanne received a call ten days after a routine ultrasound and she was told to travel to Annapolis (from Salisbury on the Eastern Shore of Maryland) for another sonogram. It seems that the baby was so active and uncooperative (shy?) that they could not get a clear picture of the heart for routine measurements. No big deal. She and Kolya made the drive on Friday leaving at 7 a.m. for the 9:00 appointment. How do you say thank you to a friend who will take all day with your grandchildren so that the parents could go to the center without the distractions of the boys?

Well, once there the staff seemed quite surprised that no one had prepared Jeanne and Kolya about the seriousness of the baby’s condition. What? Are you serious?

It turns out that precious Baby Girl has pulmonary atresia, a condition that affects 1 in 10,000. Pretty good odds. Unless you’re the 1…see what I mean? For those interested, you can read more about this congenital heart defect on this site from Boston Children’s Hospital.

Turns out this little one will most likely be facing three separate heart operations by the time she turns 4 years old, beginning with one within the first days or hours. The birth will now take place at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore…over 100 miles from home sweet home. We are so thankful for the team that is forming to be ready to treat her immediately, as needed.

For my praying readers, would you be so kind as to lift this dear family up in prayer as the Lord brings them to mind? Would you pray that this little heart will not deteriorate further between now and delivery? Would you pray that the medical team will seamlessly work together to bring about the best results possible? Would you pray for safety on the roads as Jeanne and Kolya make multiple trips for continuing evaluation of Baby Girl? Would you pray that Jeanne and Kolya will know without a doubt that God has this under control, that He is not at all surprised by this, and that He has hand-picked them to be the perfect parents for this little one? May the Lord pour out His grace on them during this time of waiting.

I would love to hear from any of you that have experience with open-heart surgeries in newborns!

May God be glorified through all that takes place. He is good.

A truly positive meeting

I sometimes feel like a broken record. (Does anybody even know what that means anymore??!!) You know, when the needle is stuck in the groove and keeps repeating the same thing over and over and over again.

“Worldwide we have done such a great job of scaring people re HIV/AIDS that we now have people scared of PEOPLE! And the only way to change this is to educate, educate, educate.”

I cannot even count how many times I’ve stated this obvious fact…on my blog, on facebook, on twitter, at conferences, among friends, wherever!

And how many times we’ve asked for prayer for how to change things here in Ukraine! Lord, send us some like-minded Ukrainians who see the same need. And, Lord, direct us to useful information…knowledge plus practical.

Is our God faithful?

Does He answer prayer?

Well, yes. But not necessarily on my time schedule. And not necessarily in ways that I would expect.

He is God, after all.

I cannot even express the joy and expectation for great things I have felt since a meeting at our flat earlier this week. Initially we were meeting to discuss some summer camp thoughts. We shared what we do, and others shared their expertise. And hearts opened and raw emotion flowed freely. (Thankful over the years to be considered a safe place for many to pour out their hearts — praises, frustrations, sins, whatever.)

And then Traci Heim (Project Hopeful) and Viktor Grachov (Positive Heart) joined the discussion. (We were scheduled to meet with them after the camp meeting.) Traci had questions about the system here… and the next thing you know…real answers for real situations bubbled to the surface and I am confident that a group is coming together to tackle the serious stigma of living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine.

There is palpable fear in revealing one’s status here.

So, what do moms need to know before even leaving the hospital? Who is offering emotional and spiritual counsel to these women…in a world where you don’t dare tell your situation? In a hospital where HIV+ mothers and their children are separated for long lengths of time, unlike the other moms. Where the clergy tells the women that it’s their sin and God is punishing them. Where suicide often seems the only answer.

Please, please, please pray with all of us as vulnerable people consider their potential role in boldly fighting back against stigma while also compassionately coming alongside others who have been recently diagnosed.

This is huge, my friends.

And only God can bring it all together… in His timing and to His glory!

Helping Hands

Our children’s club met again this afternoon and came up with the official name: Helping Hands. We had so many suggestions over the past month, but this is the one chosen today. A couple of our artists will hopefully create a logo, of sorts. Thankful for some new participants today.

Each meeting, the children find their names on the attendance chart and add a sticker on the appropriate date. It is surprising how motivating a sticker can be!

As usual, we prepared calendars for each child — THANKS, Lyena, for the hours of computer work, cutting, punching! They looked great. The children who arrived early were able to decorate the calendar covers, thanks to Westminster Pres in Huntsville for the carousel of crayons! On each date, the children learn an interesting fact, or discover that a friend has a birthday, or are asked to consider a Scripture verse with space to write their own thoughts. These questions prepare the children for what will be coming up at the next meeting.

Today we learned a bit about our bodies…and particularly about how our amazing God designed them. We compared heights of children, curliness of hair, colors of eyes. We tried to find someone with the same color eyes as ourselves…a great way to get them looking at each other! It’s always good to get these kiddos up and moving about, so you can be sure that this lively group did the Hokey Pokey and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Honestly, how can you discuss body parts and not do those two classics?

Dr. Jim had his stethoscope and the children listened to their own heartbeats. First, they simply stood still…and then, after some activity, they listened again. One of the boys said that you could hear that it was faster but that you could actually feel it speed up!

We asked whether we had to think about when to blink. Or when to breathe. Or if we had to tell our hearts to pump blood. And then we had a short story about how our bodies even fight infections without us having to say a word. Our God thought of everything!

The Land of Inside You. Starring Inspector Bodyguard with supporting roles by Captain Blast and General Cold Virus. Lyena did a super job narrating the story that was illustrated not only by some creative power point slides (thanks, Toliy!) but also by live performers. Tanya was one awesome gob creator — you know, the little gobs of mucus that join together to make a thin layer of protection in your nose. Once General Cold Virus invaded she had to work overtime and created so many gobs that there were too many to stay in the nose — the gobs tried to flood those awful germs. (Tanya created the gobs by blowing bubbles, just in case you like details…)

Captain Blast, the Germbuster, was able to put together a formidable army of antibodies specifically created by God to fight this particular virus. One on one. The battle raged for three days, but the antibodies eventually won. Way to go, Captain Blast!

Afterwards, we outlined the children’s bodies and gave them time to color them, though we had to cut this aspect short. Well, if they wanted a snack, that is. We rolled up their images and sent them home with them to finish on their own.

Over the next couple of weeks, the children’s calendars will prompt them to consider what God calls His people…the body of Christ. And what does that mean for each of us in light of what we’ve learned about our bodies…

Can’t wait to get back together with these children!

Kyrgyzstan visitors

Once again, the post from our ministry blog showed a bit of our lives in Kyiv that might be interesting to my friends as well.

Thus, the link: Kyrgyzstan visitors

Meant to post this yesterday, but better late than never.

Please continue to pray for our ministry, if you are so inclined. And as our work increases, I am also trying to be more consistent about writing on both blogs. I know, I know, you’ve heard about my attempts at consistency before. Pray for me!

Not Forgotten — The Secret of Autism in Ukraine

June 21. Only 10 more days to vote.

What? Vote on what, you ask?

Thanks for asking.

Ten years ago autism was forbidden to be diagnosed in Ukraine. It was Ukraine’s little secret. The stigma of such a diagnosis was just too much to handle.

Now, thanks in part to friends in Alabama, autism is slowly being addressed in Ukraine. Ukraine Medical Outreach board member Tom Saxon (and former missionary in Odessa, Ukraine) and videographer extraordinaire Matt Blick have joined forces to create a documentary that exposes this secret. And what can be done. Their desire is to bring education and encouragement to both the health-care professionals and the families of those with autism. But, of course, this takes more money than currently available to them.

Matt completed a trailer of the documentary to help raise funds to complete the project. He and Tom have been interviewed by various news media and autism organizations. They are now in the final ten days of a contest that just might award them the much-needed money to finish the project.

The cause is one of 30 causes that Cultivate Wines is showcasing this quarter. Cultivate Wines gives away $100,000 each quarter to the top six causes in the competition: $50,000 to the winner and $10,000 each to the 2nd through 6th place finishers.

So, how is their ranking determined? Again, thanks for asking.  The answer: by YOU! Each person can vote once each day for the cause of choice…our choice is for the autism project: Not Forgotten — The Secret of Autism in Ukraine. The main mission of this cause is “to aid in education of professionals who work with Autism in Ukraine and to create a support system for parents of children with Autism.”

The families need you to vote NOW. And then every day until the end of the month. And let your friends also know about this cause. Maybe some of you are even connected to autism support groups whose members might want to vote each day.

Okay, okay. I’m sold. I want to vote. Tell me how already! Follow the simple directions in this short video:

How to vote for NOT FORGOTTEN

Please help us spread the word.

Chornobyl: now what?

Interesting article about the health issues resulting from the Chornobyl explosion…25 years ago today.

One comment within this article has a lot to do with why we are here in Ukraine: many people simply don’t trust what they are hearing from medical professionals.

Health issues are just one lasting consequence of this disaster.

Remembering … and praying for those continuing to suffer. And for those in Japan who may be faced with much the same future.

May God give great wisdom to decision-makers re Chornobyl and its future and great comfort to the much-forgotten victims.

Sale of alcohol and cigarettes banned from kiosks

I must say that this is quite contrary to anything I would have ever thought possible, particularly here in Kyiv.

Unless this decision is overturned it appears that alcohol and cigarette sales will no longer be allowed in the myriad of kiosks on the streets and underground near the metro stations.

Naturally, the entrepreneurs (?!) are protesting this, and I will keep my eyes open on April 1 to see if changes are actually made!

Read the whole article here.

Hope for Europe

Jim and I officially registered for the HOPE II conference being held in Budapest, Hungary in May. We so look forward to meeting with Christian leaders from throughout Europe, but we are most excited to take part in the health-care track.

Ukraine Medical Outreach, Inc. board member Chris Steyn is one of the chief organizers of this section and looks forward to challenging health-care workers to see their workplace as a site for ministry. Chris encouraged us greatly to attend and to bring some folks with us. UMO has invited Jim’s assistant to join us there. And we are praying that those other folks we’ve strongly suggested to attend will make the decision to go as well.

For anyone wanting more information on this Congress in general (as opposed to just the health-care track): Hope-II-Congress.