Thursday, May 21, 2009

Made it

I'm not sure how, but somehow I managed to fit a 4-day conference into the past week along with substitute teaching, regular teaching, and church activities. It makes me wonder how I could have thought my normal life was busy...

I wanted to just share some impressions of the conference. The theme was on teaching lifeskills to teenage orphans and graduates. Two ladies came from a church in Ukraine to lead the seminars. One of them was originally from Mexico. She brought some interesting cultural elements to the atmosphere. :)

The conference initially left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, here we were talking about all the familiar issues: how children end up in the orphanage, how they suffer developmentally, what all the consequences are. I didn't need a conference to remind me of that. But at the same time, there was a sense of everyone speaking the same language. Anyone can visit an orphanage a few times and make some generalizations about life there. But everyone at the conference had exptensive experience and had made more specific observations that we could all relate to.

I was completely humbled by our seminar leaders' wisdom and insight. They keep these conferences small on purpose so that the atmosphere will be more personal. They said at the very beginning that the materials which they had authored and brought to share with us are not a "program"; they are simply tools to use in our relationships with youth. I'm still not sure how/if I will use the textbooks I received, but I do know that my heart was touched.

Here are a few nuggets we talked about:

-Not opening wounds if you aren't prepared to be involved in the healing process. For example, if you're going to initiate a conversation about the child's past, you had better be ready to be a good listener and also to discuss whatever issues come up. And you need to be ready to protect the child's trust.

-How discipline relates to the cycle of testing that the children will put you through. If you don't reward good behavior, the child may resort to bad behavior. If you don't correct bad behavior, you also miss a chance to give a child guidance and let him know that you care.

-Being patient when a child hurts you and realizing that it is coming out of his past and not related to you personally.

-Being careful (women) about how you dress/act around teenage boys in the orphanages. Modest clothing and all that. Simple advice, but a female volunteer in their ministry had been raped, so it isn't something to take lightly. I'd already made various observations for myself, but I was quite grateful to our guests for sharing so explicitly. I have never encountered that level of detail at a conference before.

At one point we began to watch a video as part of one of the lessons. We had already seen excerpts of various videos, so we were never really sure what we were going to see. This one turned out to be about adoption. There were adults sharing about how specific children had touched their hearts. I felt myself getting teary, even towards the end after I realized that I had seen that particular excerpt before!

Then I looked around the room and saw all the shoulders shaking, and the hands reaching for tissues. It was as though our emotions had been put aside while we talked about practical matters, and now the crux of the matter was revealed. A young man sitting near me had been joking around just a few minutes beforehand, and now tears were streaming down his face.

I think that adoption stories make almost anyone cry with their poignancy. But there was a different feeling in the room, because you knew that for each child featured, each person in the room had loved at least a dozen similar to him.

By the end of the conference, I had spent some time with other Christians who work in orphanages in St. Petersburg. Some I knew already; others were new acquaintances. We all had a lot of the same concerns. And there was no sense of competition. Competition is when I come to the orphanage and they say "You're our 3rd English tutor today." But when it comes to loving children, I don't think there could ever be redundancy.

Since we received a contact list, I hope that there will be more cooperation between everyone involved in this kind of ministry. We will have the summer to plan and pray, and to build up new ideas and strength for the fall.


  1. So glad you enjoyed the conference. I have heard good things about it too. I look forward to hearing your visa story work out. Life is interesting, eh?!

  2. I'd be interested in details you have to share.

    My great question is why adoption must be so expensive. It is not convincing people to adopt that is the problem (at least not at this point) it is all the people who long to, who dream of it, but who cannot come up with the ordinarily enormous sums necessary.

    I've been amazed recently to find out that there really are almost no children to adopt in the US. I accidentally joined a yahoo adoption group focused on domestic adoption, but continued membership since it was interesting. I was frankly amazed at the numbers of couples and singles longing to adopt....even much older, even disabled, emotionally impaired children, of any race....even sibling groups - and not getting referrals. Apparently for one sibling group of three AA children, two of which were over twelve there were over forty couples who submitted homestudies before the agency refused to accept more. It is so odd that the "buzz" is that there are all these children available. When I look on the Michigan list I see primarily AA older teen boys.

    So....there are loving families...if only they could afford the cost, and had the help. I got so lucky stumbling on an agency, the purpose of which was actually to help children, particularly older children. It was small so there was no overhead, no employees to pay (only one or two part-time SWs to assist, as needed with homestudies). There ought to be more agencies like that!

  3. I'm sorry I missed this conference. I think my friends Betty and Irina went to it, right?

  4. Too many leaders start out with the best of intentions, but then get caught up in doing the wrong thing for the sake of keeping their appearances.

    It shouldn't be that way. Ok, a conference. There are millions of conferences that are taking places everywhere in the world. What's the point?

    Someone saying they are happy for you?

    Is that a point? If it is, I wonder how you, personally, feel about it. If you feel great, I'd say, it is not really what you need.

    I remember one of Petra's (and one of my fav. songs - yes, I am THAT old!) songs "Seen and not heard".

    Seen and not heard,
    seen and not heard
    Sometimes God's children
    should be seen and not heard.

    There's too much talk,
    and not enough walk.
    Sometimes God's children
    should be seen and not heard

    Nothing against the Heards, just a play of words there.

    I like it though.

    How about doing something. I mean, I visited hundreds of conferences myself. What's the point? It's like going to church EVERY Sunday. It doesn't make anyone more spiritual. Spiritually lazy, maybe.

    Anyway, real work is waiting.

  5. Mary, I saw Betty and Irina as well as Vera, Nina, and Marina from "Road of Life."

    Annie, I'd always heard that there were a lot of children available for domestic adoption as well. I'm surprised that isn't true. In Russia, financial help is needed as well as housing for adoptive families. I suppose one obstacle is that you need to not only find a source for these but also have a whole procedure developed for how the support will be allotted. Lots of paperwork involved!

    Vitali, I agree with you about not needing to draw attention to ministry! That's a good point. This conference was more of an information exchange and not a "show and tell." I tried to explain in my post how gracious and humble the speakers were. They were NOT boasting about or advertising their own success. We were all from different ministries with similar goals, and agreed...why "reinvent the wheel" if we all have something to share with each other that would save a lot of time and energy? Sometimes if you go out and "just do" something, you end up wasting time because of needing to correct mistakes. Maybe I shouldn't have written about it on my blog...but I thought that the exchange could continue here, as I know some of my readers also work with orphans.

  6. love you, liz. and i love seeing what God is doing through you.

  7. "love you, liz. and i love seeing what God is doing through you."

    Liz, please, do not delete this post.

    No, they have NOT seen what God is doing through you. Not that he cannot or may not use you, but they did not see anything. Just because someone says something, it doesn't make it true.

    This false encouragement is just that... false. Jody, Ruth please email me. Some REAL people need some REAL help. Can you help them? Financially, spiritually, emotionally? They are not some folks out there in the 3d wold countries. They are your neighbors, co-workers.

    We have people, right here in Tally, begging for money on a lot of the city corners. You want to help them? I am sure they have kids that need to be taken care of too.

    I am tired of this mission-like falsehood. Someone here in the US need to rise up against it. And it ain't gonna be me. Are there serious Christian leaders in the US who can break down this falsehood? I know I am ahead of my time for about 10 years. I guess I have to wait for another 10 years.


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