A lot of us probably don't live where we grew up. A lot of us may be glad to be away from our hometown while others of us may long to return. I think my daughter, Stephanie, may struggle with both of those emotions.
Stephanie was born and spent the first 15 years of her life in Ukraine. At the age of 10, she was separated from the only life she had ever known. She was put in an orphanage surrounded by strangers who would later be considered like family. Though it provided a bed, clothes, education and hot meals, it was a far cry from what we would consider a family. Her roommates would become like her sisters, her caregivers like mothers. They had to fight to survive though and learn a lot on their own.
Fortunately for my Stephanie, she met a wonderful woman named Hollie in 2008. Hollie and her family helped bring her over to the US on a hosting trip. She got to see first hand what a family was supposed to look like. She learned many things but one important thing was how to be a servant of the Lord. The Holmes family is an example to many of what it means to follow Christ. They have a large beautiful family that consists mainly of adopted children. I can not even begin to tell you or explain the depth of their hearts. Stephanie learned so much from them during that summer!
Fast forward to 2010 when she was adopted into our family. Once again, she was taken from the only life she had known for the past 5 years. Those in an institution, those people within those walls were her sisters, her caregivers, her family. And the country we saw out of the tiny windows in our airplane, was the only place she had ever known. I can't imagine what she must have been feeling on that plane. Was she excited to be leaving? Scared of what was to come? Mourning the loss of leaving her friends, her family? Anxious about her life and what she would become? I'm not even going to pretend I know how she felt that November day!
Now, she is 17. Living life to the fullest on an island. She's made wonderful friends, been to church camp, met godly leaders, studied new subjects, learning to drive, worked as a nanny for many families but most importantly, she has grown in her walk with Christ.
I'm sure she still struggles with who she is in this life, where she will live, what she will do, who she will become. But for now, she's on a mission. She wants to share her story, a story of rescue and redemption. She wants to tell other orphans that there is hope, a hope that nothing on this earth can give. She wants to share Jesus with the fatherless. What better vessel than one that has been where they are? One that knows what's its like to be alone. One that knows the heartache of being torn away from your family. One that has to fight to survive.
Hollie, her host family from 2008, is still very much a part of our lives. She conducts camps in Ukraine for orphans. She asked if Stephanie would like to go and without hesitation, she said yes! With only a few days to raise money, she took a leap of faith and committed to the trip! Last Thursday, she said YES and by Saturday, she was at $1900 of her $2700 goal! If that's not a direct confirmation that God wants her to go, I don't know what is! So she will get up bright and early tomorrow morning (6:30am flight) and leave on a jet plane bound for Ukraine.
I don't know what she must be feeling. I'm sure it's quite similar to the feelings she felt looking at the country she left behind in 2010. Excitement. Anxiousness. Scared. Grief. But I do know that now she understands Who sent her to Ukraine and Who is in total control of this trip. When she returns on August 17 and she watches her homeland fade in the distance through those tiny airplane windows, she will be grateful and hopeful because she has shared her story, a story of rescue and redemption and not just physical, spiritual!
Join me in praying for Stephanie as well as Rachel and Hollie Holmes as they travel. Pray that God would prepare the hearts of those children and the caregivers. Pray for safe travels and that all would stay healthy! Pray that Stephanie's final $800 would be raised while she is gone. Pray for the Hills as we stay home and carry on our lives without our big sister! Lots of tears from the little ones as she packed her suitcase. I'm sure there will be many more early in the morning.