Over many years we have had the privilege to be friends with several families that have embraced adopting and investing in the lives of special needs children from around the world.
We have had the honor of knowing Skip and Ashley Perkins and family, Jack and Elsabe Louw and family, and several new families adopting special needs children from our area here in Kyustendil, Bulgaria, but I wanted to share about Derek and Renee' Loux and family and their heart for the broken. Anytime I start to feel down or dejected, I just read this blog from Derek Loux sharing his heart and experience about Redemption and the real love that God has toward us. Derek Loux passed away a few years ago and Renee' is still continuing in the work they started together many years ago. God bless this family and ministry as they show us the true heart of God. God bless all families that have a heart for the broken.
Derek Loux wrote:
“Renee’ and I are sitting in the office of a telephone company in Novograd Valenski, Ukraine, using wireless internet. We are in the middle of adopting three special needs boys from an orphanage here. Two of the boys have Down Syndrome. Roman is high functioning, energetic and happy. Dimitri has serious mental retardation, failure to thrive, and though he is five years old, he is the size of a 1 year old. He has sores on his face, a distinct smell of death on him, and yells out if we try to do anything with him other than hold him. Because he has less ability to respond and learn, he naturally gets less attention and care from the orphanage workers in this world of limited resources. The harsh reality of the “survival of the fittest” principle is a life and death struggle that this little boy is losing fast. Our third boy Sasha, is a brilliant six year old who has Spina Bifida (the condition our son Josiah died from in 1996). He is like a learning sponge that can’t get enough! He is happy and alert and thirsty for knowledge and experience. So with two of our boys, we get an immediate return on any investment we make. With Dimitri, there’s not much immediate gratification. In fact, it’s unknown when and if there will be a return at all. This is the kind of situation that makes the carnal, fallen, human reasoning think, “Why try? What’s the point? What will this produce? What good will this do? Why not select a boy who has more potential? This looks like a lost cause.
Two days ago we drove for hours into the Ukrainian countryside to the village where Dimitri was born. We met with officials there and signed papers and answered their questions. We also went and saw Dimitri’s house. The day had been long, we were still recovering from jet lag, I was beginning to really miss my six daughters at home and all the familiar things our fragile human hearts entangle themselves with in feeble attempts to feel secure. Sitting in the dark on our very long drive back to Novograd that night, the Holy Spirit began to whisper to my heart, and new understanding about redemption began to take shape.
I was thinking, “Man, adopting this little boy has been so much work. This is exhausting, expensive, uncomfortable … and it doesn’t feel very rewarding right now.” What am I doing in some little Soviet car in the dark, in the middle of rural Ukraine in frozen December, as the driver dodges cats and potholes? What if Dimitri doesn’t improve at all? What if we get “nothing” out of this? … Ahhh, there it was; that dark, fallen, unreedemed, selfish human love, rooted in the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil”. The love the Greeks called “erao” love. The love where we treat someone as precious and treasured for what we can get out of it. This is unlike “agapeo” love, the God kind of love that treats someone as treasured and precious for their good, not for my good. It’s when I love a person in order to meet their needs, having no expectation of them meeting any of my needs. At a whole new level, God is working His kind of love into my weak heart, and He’s using little Dimitri to do it.
On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.
My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.
Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.”
To learn more about their ministry, the Orphan Justice Center click the link below.
We live in country that has many needs and many people are in desperate situations. You have certain groups of people from the elderly Bulgarians to the Roma with a very uncertain tomorrow or future. It is our job to encourage and build hope for their future. I was reminded recently of the movie Finding Nemo, when Dory and Nemo's dad, Marlin, are surrounded by darkness in the ocean and Dory makes the statement of "just keep swimming". In other words, just keep moving forward no matter what is in front of you. This month has been busy moving forward with Discipleship Training, Food For All, and continuing to build relationships. As we look around Bulgaria and see all the poverty, you wonder how you/we can make a difference? We have to be like the old man in the story about "The Starfish" that goes like this:
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t
possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts
won’t make any difference at all.” The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another
starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
When Dee Dee and I first arrived in Bulgaria we were overwhelmed by the task in front of us of how we could ever make a difference in a part of the world that has been around for thousands of years. But, God's mercies are new every morning. We have to "Just Keep Swimming" and the remember the starfish story. We have seen many people's lives changed and we will continue to do what we can each and everyday.....we will just keep swimming and let God cause the growth. Our job is best described by Mother Teresa "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.
Dee and I are here showing people that they are loved and cared for by God and their is hope in future and
Just Keep Swimming!
This is a big week for fighting injustice in our communities concerning Human Trafficking. We are visiting our church plants and engaging in the fight for the children of these communities. Bulgaria is mostly a country of origin which means our girls are kidnapped or tricked and will be transported to other countries. After starting heathy churches in communities the next line of defense to the dangers of Human Trafficking is to make the community aware with the information of the truth, then empower these communities to take action by protecting these girls from the dangers of human trafficking. Some of the communities we are ministering in this week are where girls are being tricked or stolen every month. We work hard to fight against the brokenness in these communities by training up Godly leaders, creating jobs through micro-enterprise, feeding and clothing the poor. This week we are empowering the nationals to take action. The team is led by Dee Dee Galloway, Hollie Wells, Petra Ilieva and Meghan Shuffet from Samford University and they are going into these communities to engage the church to be aware, to bring the light to dark places, and to be a difference where the norm is hurt, brokenness and poverty. We are going to the root of the problem by informing our girls and community of the traps of Human trafficking. We are so encouraged by the willingness to stand and get involved by the people in each of these villages. They are standing up after the presentation excited to engage in any way they can, by prayer, continued awareness to their friends and neighbors, and even putting their hands to work by coming alongside and offering help to pull weeds, paint, doing odd jobs at the new home for at risk girls! We love that they are taking ownership, taking a STAND, and bringing light to injustice! Please pray for us this week!
A lot of my post, shares, and updates are about our “doings” because, to be honest, the Lord has us busy doing a lot these days. Everything that we have prayed for the last few years, spoken about, shared with others, fundraised for, are coming to fruition and all at about the same time. But that is not what today is about. Today I want to share about our “being”.
Today is a Saturday. A gorgeous Saturday in our new apartment. We loved the place were lived for the last 5 years, it was such a God-send and we knew without a shadow of a doubt that was exactly where God wanted us, but last year God opened the door through a wonderful Christian family to provide a new place for us to live. We have worked very hard to remodel the new apartment over the last year and have finally moved from “this needs to be done” to “let’s sit on the balcony and enjoy”. The other apartment was in the center of town in the rush and busyness of town. A great place to walk anywhere you needed to go, but our new place is in the center of a Bulgarian neighborhood and it is a bit different.
Instead of the sounds of the street noises of cars, racing motorcycles, drunken pedestrians in the late night, football clubs celebrating their recent victories, and the ping ping ping of the walking signal feet from our bedroom window, now my sounds, sights, and smells are filled more with the family lives of everyday Bulgaria. The sounds of father and sons working on their cars, children laughing and riding bikes, women working on their terraces hanging clothes and fiddling with their balcony flowers.
The smells….oh the smells are what I am enjoying most of all. Instead of car fumes, I am enjoying the fragrance of the blooms of spring, the smell of grilled meat or vegetables, and freshly washed clothes on the line.
The views also can’t be beat. The apartment, which is in an old concrete block building set around Bulgarian family homes, has two terraces. One which looks to Osogovo mountain and one on the other side that looks to Konyavo mountain. We were also able to paint the walls with colors that made it feel a bit more like home, and it’s amazing how being engulfed with familiar colors has comforted our souls. God has blessed us with a place of peace to recharge our batteries and engage further into the lives of every day Bulgarians and we are so very grateful.
Don’t get me wrong, the place we enjoyed for 5 years before was perfect for what we needed at the time for location, for size, and to grow in deep relationship with our amazing landlord. We are just enjoying this new transition and thanking God for changes that are sometimes uncomfortable and a lot of work, but bless our hearts in the end.
The last 5 ½ years we have had temporary residency status and have had to apply each year for a new permission to stay. It required lots of time, documents, money, and trips to the local notary and police departments and usually lasted 3 months from start to finish. Last week we were able to apply for our long-term residency status that will last 5 years. With the new transition of home that feels more permanent and projects that are really setting down long term roots, it feels as if we are transitioning from a season of plowing and planting to a season of growth and to things that are blossoming, and we are excited about this new season of life. Thank you to all who join us on this ride.
Written by Dee Dee Galloway
Little George was born 17 weeks early. The doctors gave Little George very little chance to live after birth. When he was born the doctors said he had 7 major problems/illnesses. The head doctor wanted to do nothing to try to save his life and just let him expire, but Little George had a young physician right out of medical school that believed in the doctor's code and right for life. The young physician fought for Little George all the way to the administration of the hospital. The young physician won!
Now, Little George had to battle 7 major problems including pneumonia. After 10 weeks and much prayer and love, Little George left the hospital completely healed of all problems! The day Little George was dedicated in the church in Kyustendil, Bulgaria, was a day to remember. Seeing Little George's granddaddy Pastor Lubcho, grandmother Petra, mom, and dad telling the testimony of this little miracle, was priceless! The church celebrating his life and victory was a joy that is hard to express in words. It is amazing what prayer and faith can accomplish!
It was an honor and priviledge to anoint Little George with oil on dedication day. God is faithful! This is the wonderful story of the miracle of Little George that we wanted to share with you all.
Written by Borislava Zaharieva
International Fellowship of St. John, Board Memeber
Wife of Pastor Stanimir Zahariev , Kyustendil, Bulgaria
A good woman and her three kids went on a trip. Being a responsible mother, always planning ahead, two days before the trip she buys the bus tickets online, but unfortunately she got the wrong date and time of their return. It's good she noticed it on time and walked all the way to the ticket center, explained to the girl at the ticket office of the mistake she'd made, the girl understood and they fixed everything. The next day the mother and the three little ones got on the bus, happy, arrived in 2 hours and an had amazing weekend with their friends. The time came to go back home. The four of them went to the bus stop and showed the lady the tickets they had bought long long time ago, before they had left. To their surprise she said, "Your bus has just left , ma'am. They gaped in surprise! What do you mean, it has just left, we have tickets for it- it says 1.30. Yes, 1.30 but from the next bus stop and from this bus stop- at 1.10. The woman got upset, fear creeping in- How can you pay to go one place and be given a ticket for somewhere else, how is that even possible, what am I going to do here at this bus station with the kids at this time of day? - begging, crying, no mercy coming from anyone, no understanding. The lady behind the counter looking at the screen/monitor repeating, that's what the system says, its your fault, not ours. "What do you mean its my fault?" I say. I said what I needed and I paid for it and it turns out I got something else instead. Four pair of eyes blink in harmony with the monitors/screens- one cashier, three bus drivers, and one monitor. How do I get home now I ask as I leave the room mad, ready to faint. All of a sudden someone's little black hand taps me on the shoulder. Excuse me, ma ám, can you come back and tell the names of the children? Me: But..but..what, why ? Him: It's no use, ma ám, arguing with the system, if the system says so, noone's going to help you, tell me the names of the children. I say them, still not understanding what's going on. "Here you go, Ma ám." He hands me four tickets for my destination. Tears start pouring down...I don't have a tissue...It's humiliating. Wait, you can't pay my tickets just like that... "It's allright, Maám..."
Waves his hand. "Wish you the best of luck, maám, please, don't."
So, why am I sharing this? Yes, I've poured out my soul, to let it off my chest, you say. And one more thing. The boy was a Roma.
The next time someone says the gypsies are much ahead of us, Bulgarians, I am gonna agree with that. I am going to agree wholeheartedly and I will never argue about it. I will even tell them the story.
The room was full of white people, white and whiter. And colder. Did I mention the 1.30 bus left half empty? But.. No but! We have a system here! We have rules!
You are a Romani man living in Bulgaria. You were the last one selected in the church plant project. You were not the most charismatic person.You were even very timid. Church plant leadership had very low expectations about your success. You struggled for a year and a half with about eight people in your church in a very small place. Because of the small place you could not receive groups or teams to come help you. You came to trainings faithfully. You listened and received wisdom from other leaders. You always keep that joy and smile on your face. You took the wisdom of God's love and embraced the vision. You asked for nothing. You convinced a mayor to give you a building. You are working with other denominations. You are impacting a kids, teens and a community. You open the doors of the new church building and had over sixty people attending. You never quit. You never got discouraged. You just believed. Congrats man of faith. You showed us the character of a true man of God.