Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Update on Vladik

Dear friends in Christ,

Glory to God, I think a good, loving, Orthodox family has been found for Vladik. The process will take awhile, and there's still a long way to go, but things look optimistic. Please do keep Vladik, and also the Burt family, in your prayers, that God would bring everything to a successful conclusion.

Also, if anyone else is also interested in adopting, there are still many children who need homes very desperately, so please don't give up on the idea! I would be happy to help anyone else who is considering adoption in any way that I can during the process. I'm sorry I haven't been in good contact for the past couple weeks, but I think I sort of went there a reverse culture shock period, transitioning from the orphanage to life back at home, and sort of withdrew into myself a little bit. Forgive me and pray for me.

In Christ,

Joy and silliness :-)

Sometimes in life, I can be really really silly and foolish in my approach things. Glory to God for His mercy and patience in teaching! Recently, since I got back from the Ukraine, I think it's been one of those times.

In Ukraine, I was happy and glad, doing the work that was in front of me. I was aware of the magnitude of the problem, but not consumed by it, but by God's grace, was able to do what was before me and rejoice in the work. Being there with the kids was joyful, in spite of the sufferings, and there was an ever abiding sense of the grace and love of God, towards me and towards the kids.

Granted, there was a lot of suffering there. A lot more than we're used to seeing here. But there was also joy, and infinite tiny moments of grace, such that in the midst of the sufferings, God was present, and we were aware of His presence, even if not in some earth shaking sort of way. There was tears and loneliness, but there was joy and peace, that were greater.

When I came home, I think there was a bit of a hard transition and a culture shock, being here, and not there with the kids. Without something daily and practical to do, I sort of got overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, and coped in really bad ways. Instead of holding on to the joy and grace that got me through the time at the orphanage, I allowed myself to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, and wallow in it. I ignored God and His joy that was constantly knocking at my heart. Instead, I focused on my own helplessness.

As a result, my prayer life has suffered and I became a little more cynical. I also haven't been doing as much as I could to continue to help the kids. The more I wallowed in feeling bad and sad, the less I actually did to help. I talked a lot, but have done very little.

Glory to God, though, for His infinite patience. Tonight, I read about the death of a little three year old girl in one of the cancer wards in Ukraine, and once again started to feel bad and dwell on it. In the midst of it, though, God unexpected used some circumstances to correct me.

The Christian life is certainly one of constant struggle. But it's also one of deep and abiding joy. The martyrs laughed. They joyfully went to their deaths, knowing and trusting in their Risen Lord, Christ. Those who despair, no matter what their reasons were, have always, ultimately, been the ones that bore no fruit and/or denied Christ.

So yes, the problems are real and require a lot of concentrated effort from all of us, probably for the rest of our lives. There are a lot of very real children that need love and families, and need to be rescued from lives of sadness and exploitation that are waiting for them. But unless we trust in the mercy of God and immerse ourselves in a living Joy, we have no way of helping them, and will only remain in our own helplessness and inaction.

So forgive me for being silly. Forgive me for my mistaken way of approaching things, and thank you for being there to talk, all of you. Thank you for helping to show me in your own lives the joy that I knew in Ukraine, and forgot when I came back. Thank you for everything, my dear and beloved friends in Christ.

Let us, then, begin the work that God has put before us, whether in our own homes, or helping all the many children who need our help. Let us take up our crosses daily, as Christ commands us. But let us do it joyfully!

Rejoice, my joy! Christ is risen!

The unworthy and really silly servant of God,
John :-D

P.S. Please do remember the newly-departed child of God Katherine in your prayers, as well as her family. They need prayers now. But pray for them in the knowledge and hope of the resurrection, and of Christ, who is our resurrection.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Urgent! Finding a home for Vladik!

Dear friends and family in Christ!

Christ is among us! Glory to God, I'm now safely back home in the United States, a little tired, but healthy. I'll fill all of you guys in on the trip and the orphanage work soon, but first, an urgent request!

I'm trying to find a home for an adorable little 1 yr 3m old baby boy named Vladislav (Vladik is his nickname :-)). He's currently living in an orphanage for children under four years old, and the conditions there are bad. All of the kids there really need families that will love them, and motherly affection. (My God! How can we say or read the phrase "orphanage for children under 4 years old" and not think of how horrible that phrase is?). Although all of the kids there need families, Vladik's case is especially urgent.

Little Vladik was born with hemophilia. As a result, he's always in danger of internal bleeding. The medicine he needs costs about $500 a month, while the average combined salary of a married couple in the Ukraine is about $450, so if he stays in the Ukraine, he will not get medicine. Without medicine, the internal bleeding will cause severe damage to his body, eventually crippling him, and causing him severe pain. Few untreated hemophiliacs live to adulthood.

However, here in the States, his medicine is covered by medical insurance! With medicine, he'll be able to lead a normal life, and could even play sports without having to worry! This little boy needs parents to raise him, and a mother to kiss him when he falls, instead of a cold hospital room, without even the necessary medicine.

I know Vladik's godmother well, and she desperately wants to find a home for Vladik, and will be happy to help in any way possible. The documents are apparently ready, and he is adoptable! I am also more than willing to help if at all possible, including providing translation to and from Russian and Ukrainian.

If at all possible, we would strongly prefer an Orthodox family for Vladik. We would like to see him grow up in the Church with a strong faith in Christ. If we can't find an Orthodox family that can adopt him, a non-Orthodox Christian family would also be good.

Please, I know there are a lot of things emailed around these days, where you don't know where they're from and if they're real. This is not one of them. I, John Hogg, am writing this and sending this about what I myself know and experienced. If you can, post links to this on your Facebook profiles as well, so that your friends can read this!

Don't forget about this and do nothing. Not to sound dramatic, but this is quite literally the choice between a healthy, happy, life, and a short, painful, and lonely one for this boy.

Together, let's find little Vladik a loving family!

In Christ,

P.S. If anyone is interested, I have a good bit more information about Vladik, including a letter about him from his godmother and information about his personality and his family history. Also, the godmother has his baptismal pictures and baptismal gown, and is more than willing to give things like that to his adopted family. Contact me if you're interested in this wonderful little boy!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost and kneeling Vespers

Today at Holy Cross, we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, remember the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Lord on the Church. Afterwards, we did Kneeling Vespers. Sometimes, it's good to take a minute to reflect on the Holy Spirit, "the Comforter", who is "everywhere present and filling all things."

In just over two months, I'll be leaving for the Ukraine. As I get ready and deal with the nervousness and all the emotions that go with it, it's nice to reflect on the fact that I don't go alone -- One who is greater than me goes with me, and it is He who supplies us with everything necessary to sustain both this life and the life to come.

In Christ,