I thank God every day for you. I will be there for you as you grow up. I pray you stay strong in life’s struggles and enjoy every moment of its joys. When you need me to hold your hand, I will be there.
I thank God every day for you. I will be there for you as you grow up. I pray you stay strong in life’s struggles and enjoy every moment of its joys. When you need me to hold your hand, I will be there.
Dear Mama and Papa,
Thank you so much for loving and caring for us. You saved us, and for that we are very grateful. Our lives are forever changed.
Misha, Egor, Dasha, Katia
We thank Brian Ericson, author, and Nfocus Nashville Magazine for publishing this article and sharing our story.
A well-written summary to learn more about HopeHouse International®…https://www.nfocusnashville.com/people-places/article/21018017/q-and-a-with-deneen-turner-of-hopehouse-international
20 Miles south of Nashville, Tn is the quaint city of Franklin, Tn where a Franklin-based HopeHouse International® hosted its 13th annual – “An Evening of Hope” – at Liberty Hall at the Factory beginning with a Ukrainian Children’s Art Sale at 5:15 and Dinner and Program at 6:00 p.m.. Congressman Marsha Blackburn served as Honorary Chairperson along with VIPs to include State Representative Jeremy Durham of Williamson County; Rick Morton, co-author of best-selling book Orphanology; David Levey, M.D., Ph.D., Nobel Peace Prize winner; and HopeHouse representatives from Ukraine. The event included donated performances by mulitiple CMA and GRAMMY® award-winning artist Lee Greenwood, comedian Jeff Allen, two-time GRAMMY® nominee Christian Artist Matthew West, Atlanta’s Mount Paran Choir, and Metro Big Band. “An Evening of Hope” also spotlighted Ukrainian Children’s Art Sale, oil paintings by Ukrainian orphans ages 9-15.
“Prior to the “Evening of Hope” Gala, HopeHouse International® eradicated the equivalency of FIVE orphanages, closing their doors in the Ukraine and breaking the cycle of homelessness, suicide, imprisonment, and trafficking for those orphans who have been adopted into a loving Ukrainian Christian family,” said Deneen Turner, Co-founder and President of HopeHouse International®. “As a result of the monies raised at the Franklin Gala, HopeHouse International® will now be able to close the equivalency of a SIXTH orphanage in Ukraine through more orphan adoptions. We thank our strong supporters who made this possible!”
One hundred percent of all monies donated at the fundraiser went directly to the mission of providing adequate housing to help Ukrainian orphans become adopted. This is made possible by the HopeHouse International® HOME-TEAM who pays for all administrative expenses throughout the year. Turner was recently recognized in Washington D.C. by Congressman Marsha Blackburn and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCIA) as a 2012 Angel in Adoption™ recipient for her outstanding advocacy of adoption.
HopeHouse International® Thanks:
Chairperson-Linda Young, Event Director-Amy Young, Program Director-Tom Bledsoe, Video Director-Todd Young, Stage Director-Melissa Wooten, all of our artists who donated their talents, our many volunteers, Chris Mastalia Photography, event photographer and Rebekah Pope Photography, children’s art photographer.
Hi, this is Adam, on the Orphanage Mission Team writing for the blog for the first time.
This week has encountered a lot of firsts for me: first time across the Atlantic, first international mission trip, first time visiting an orphanage. The list could go on. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this group that is so passionate about what we are doing here. It’s also been amazing to have my wife Keysha by my side for the trip.
At this point in the trip, we have seen orphans from all over this beautiful country and have fallen in love with all of them. One of the standout points for me so far was visiting the handicapped orphanage in Kherson. We were warned by those in our group that had been before that this would be an emotional day. I tried to prepare myself so that I could be a smiling face for the kids no matter how their condition may affect me emotionally. The amazing thing was that once the children entered the room, most of them in wheelchairs, I never felt the need to remind myself to smile. Their joy was contagious as we sang and danced and played with them. I was humbly reminded that no matter their circumstances, they are still children of God.
However, their circumstances still remain. The orphanages all do the best they can with the funds they are allotted and we were blessed to be able to deliver gifts of soap, diapers, and other necessities, but the sheer number of children in need means that some things have to be sacrificed. Children may only be able to bathe once a week. Some need medical care that cannot be afforded. They may share a toothbrush or have only a few outfits of clothing. The orphanage was never meant to be a permanent solution for these children. They need faithful men and women of God to step up and be fathers to the fatherless and mothers to the motherless.
Tonight, we got to meet one such couple and their story was inspiring and humbling. Vadim and Anstastia are a young couple roughly the same age as my wife and I. With them tonight were their two beautiful adopted daughters Karina (8) and Masha (5). The girls are biological siblings and have been blessed to be able find a forever family with Vadim and Anastasia. Many would consider it enough for this young couple to have provided a loving home for these two girls, but Vadim and Anastasia are also in the process of adopting their older sister and their two younger brothers. This is all in addition to having their own biological son, a toddler. For those of you keeping score at home that’s potentially six children in the near future for this young family! HopeHouse is currently helping this growing family renovate a house to provide room for all the children so these adoptions can become possible.
It was such an amazing contrast to see the hope that these girls have with their new family as opposed to those still waiting in the orphanage to be adopted. It was a wonderful picture of the work God can do through a family that is willing to follow His call. Please join us in praying that God will raise up more families to adopt the many who are still waiting.
Not a single member of our group was unaffected by this family’s visit, my wife and I included. I feel like many of our eyes have been opened to God’s calling for Christians to take up the cause of the orphan. Maybe it means more trips like this. Maybe it’s a donation to HopeHouse International. Maybe it’s becoming adoptive parents.
God is moving in the hearts of those of us here and our hope is that He is using our stories to teach you as well. We thank you all for your many prayers and support.
I immediately recognized this first orphanage we were visiting. Last year when we visited this same orphanage, I met a little boy named Stasch. When we met him then, he had been left by his mother only a few days before our arrival. He kept asking up to just take him home. We had to tell him we didn’t know where he lived, which he countered with, “That’s ok, just take me to the bus station and I’ll find my way.” (Insert the sound of your heart breaking into a couple of thousand pieces here).
As we walked through the orphanage yard and started to set up, I kept looking around for Stasch. My constant prayer for this last year, “Please, God, let him be in a loving home,” echoed through that orphanage yard.
After a few minutes, I saw Stasch. He was rolled outside in a bed, in restraints to keep him from hurting himself. And my heart just sank.
I went up to him and started to talk to him in my very limited Russian. We asked what had happened to him that would cause him to be bedridden and found out that because of malnutrition, his hip joint had been damaged and even the slightest fall could do major damage. The caretakers at the orphanage told us that he would have to remain in the bed with very little movement for up to two years.
Everything in me screamed, “No! This is not right! This cannot be!” Little boys are supposed to be in loving families where they’re told they matter. Little boys are supposed to be able to have proper nutrition to make them healthy and strong. Little boys are supposed to be able to run and jump and play.
I got to spend some quality time with Stasch, and for that I’m so very thankful. We sang songs, fought with balloon swords, did some face painting, and looked through his new Russian kids Bible together.
To say yesterday was a tough one is a bit of an understatement. But even in the midst of the darkness, where all hope seems to be lost, where little boys and girls grow up without families and are kept in bed for years at a time, I still choose to hope. I still choose to hope that this is not the end of Stasch’s story. I still choose to hope that, in the end, this injustice will be made right.
So we ask you to pray. Pray for little kids like Stasch who listened to us share the message of who Christ is — that they would come to personally know their Creator and discover their value and worth in Him. Pray for our team as we enter the downhill slope of this grand adventure. And pray about how you can be a part of this story too. I hear there’s a great HopeHouse International trip coming up next year (hint, hint).
Another great day! We visited the orphanage for handicapped children in Kherson, Ukraine and had an amazing time. It’s always a bit overwhelming to see, no matter how many times you’ve been. The thing that’s always amazing, however, is the joy that those children have upon seeing us.
One teenaged boy we met last year named Sasha, who is missing parts of his hands and feet from birth, peaked his head into the gym where we held our assembly, and then immediately darted back out into the hall. In a matter of minutes he came bounding back into the room wearing his full soccer uniform, field shoes included!
Julie Rogers from our group shared a message of hope with the children, telling them that God loves them exactly as they are, and wants them to know that they can depend on him for their lives and their future.
We then spent plenty of time painting faces, twirling wheels chairs around, and taking pictures with them. Again, the joy in the room was really something special. One teenaged girl in a wheelchair was having a heart painted on her forearm and would burst out laughing with every brushstroke because it tickled so much!
Some of the older boys (on crutches and all) and Will, Brian, Caleb, Logan, and me from our group headed out to the field to play soccer. Let’s just say that the kids played against us like they really, really wanted to win.
And win they did.
The injustice of the way these children are treated, not only when they are young but into adulthood as well, is immense…
But we made a dent in it today.
We drove a stake in the ground, we drew a line in the sand, and we pushed the darkness back.
We went into a place where loveis like a far away galaxy–fathomed but not experienced firsthand– and we brought it as close as an embrace.
We went somewhere children are treated as different than the rest of society because they have a physical handicap, and we showed them that they are special indeed, because they are made in the image of God and he loves them exactly as they are.
We served these beautiful children with dignity and love because that is what they deserve.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team and how happy I am to be a part of this work. Thank you again for your support and your continued prayer. We have another busy day tomorrow!
I hope to have some thoughts from other members of our group posted here over the next few days, so please check back!
Brandon here, again, with a quick update for you.
We drove to Eagle Village on the outskirts of Sevastopol to participate in a church service where several HopeHouse Families are members. As an added bonus, we got to climb a “hill” (looked more like a mountain to me!), as the service was being held outdoors. We met several of the families and then settled down on blankets.
Volodya, a HopeHouse father and the church’s pastor, opened the service with a prayer in which he thanked God for the privilege of meeting outside. We sang several songs and then Brian Rogers from our group gave a short message that Ira, the HopeHouse interpreter/Ukrainian mission trip coordinator, translated for the church. At the end of the service, they stretched out their arms and prayed a blessing on our ministry in Ukraine, and then asked that we do the same for them. It was a very special time and a tangible reminder that God’s love is not bound by languages or nations or oceans.
We then spent time with the church’s children, including about 20 who have been adopted into HopeHouse Families. The difference between children in the orphanage and children who are now part of a loving Christian family is like night and day. The HopeHouse Children were clean, nicely dressed, and obviously healthy and well taken care of. On top of it all, they were happy, and not just because we came to visit. They were truly glowing. They didn’t have the scars of abandonment, abuse, neglect, disappointment, or grief etched on their faces like the orphanage children do. In fact, they didn’t look like they had a care in the world– secure, loved, and accepted.
After our time with the church, we had lunch and then toured Balaklava, which was a super-secret Soviet base for nuclear submarines built underneath a mountain during the Cold War. As we walked through the dark, underground halls of this former Communist military installation, the thought struck me that when Pastor Volodya thanked God that we were meeting outside, it wasn’t just a prayer about the weather. Evangelical churches like his were forbidden for many years. Christians couldn’t meet outside, or anywhere, that wasn’t in secret, and constantly lived in fear of being discovered and exiled to a gulag in SIberia or martyred outright. It was a stark reminder of the darkness of the not-so-distant past in this country, and a time to stop and thank God not only for the religious liberties I enjoy in the U.S., but also that God’s people in Ukraine no longer live constantly under this fear.
We returned to the ship and had a team meeting where we discussed our upcoming visit to the orphanage for handicapped children in Kherson, where the ship will dock at 2:30pm tomorrow. This is always a very tough visit, and your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Please pray that God would give us the strength that we would be emotionally present, without being emotionally drained, at least until we get back on the bus. Ira told us in the meeting tonight that most of these children do not live past the age of 35, simply because of systemic neglect. We want more than anything else to communicate to these children the love and hope that is found in Christ. One member of our team, Andy Whisenant, said during the meeting, “If I believe that the gospel is true, I can’t stand by and do nothing while there are children who don’t know that they are loved.” That’s the reason we are here.
Thank you for your continued support and prayer. We miss you all!
Greetings from Sevastopol! We spent yesterday in Odessa recouping from two very long days of travel.
Today was another long day as we departed the ship around 9am in the direction of Yalta where we met our first group of orphans. This facility was actually a place where all of the children were sick in varying degrees. We were told they all had some form of bone disease. Many were not able to walk and had to be carried to the outdoor facility by our team members. We spent some precious time singing with them, playing, painting faces, and taking photos of each of them to keep for themselves – a luxury ot offorded an orphan.
Several of the children who couldn’t walk were taken back inside the main building and put back down in bed. I was so proud of our team who remembered them and went indoors to spend time with them.
It was in one of these rooms that I met Igor. He was maybe six or seven years old, and had actually been tied to the bed so that he wouldn’t try to escape and get hurt. At the time I came in, there were only 2 children inside among the 30 or so empty beds, and one of our other team members was spending time with the boy at the other end of the room. So I parked by Igor and began talking with him as best I could with my limited Russian. I quickly learned that he derived great joy from simply hitting me over the head with the balloon sword one of our multi-talented clowns had blown up for him. I can’t adequately describe the innocent and overwhelming joy of this boy, in spite of the fact that he was tied to a bed because of illness.
When I handed him the gift bag that our group assembled for each child, he went through each item with great deliberation and much amazement. He immediately put on his winter hat, even though it was probably close to 100 degrees in that room. After opening his new toothbrush and toothpaste, he asked me if I could bring him a bowl of water so that he could brush his teeth. (We’ve been told it is typical in some orphanages that 14 kids share one toothbrush)…
Even though I introduced myself and gave him my name, Igor preferred to call me “uncle”, and towards the end of our time at this orphanage, asked me repeatedly if I would be able to come back and see him tomorrow. . .
What can you say to that?
I had to tell him that I was just visiting but did tell him I would be praying for him and that he was very precious. I explained that others from the local ministries would come and visit him when we were gone. (Follow-up outreach to orphans by local church ministries is very important to HopeHouse International).
Our work for the day was not done. We visited another orphanage, this one in Simferopol. Again, our group did an amazing job. There was a time that a little boy attached himself to Laura and took her away from her station, and Charles seamlessly stepped in and filled in for her. Especially for a group on their first day, their awareness and sensitivity to the moment and to these children was amazing.
Among some other small stops, we also got to meet a HopeHouse father, Misha, who spoke at the February “An Evening of Hope” in Franklin, TN a few months ago. We also met 3 of his 10 children. I was really struck, again, by his heart, and the fact that when he and his wife were looking to adopt their first orphaned child (after having 4 biological children), he continually thought of all the scriptures that tell us that we have been adopted into God’s family. He said that if this was true, then he MUST adopt the hurting and the lonely into his family, as well. They now have 5 biological children and have adopted 5 as well.
This was an incredibly successful and yet draining day, but one we will never forget. As I’m sitting on the deck of the Dneiper Princess writing this, docked in Sevastopol, a fire work show just erupted in the air and lasted for about 15 minutes. For some reason, that seems like an appropriate way to end today.
We are all healthy and in great spirits. We appreciate your prayers and miss you all very much. Thank you for being a part of this adventure alongside us.
PS I will try to have some members of our group blog over the next few days so that you can hear some different perspectives!
Hello everyone! My name is Brandon and if you frequent our blog you may remember me writing from Ukraine during our May-June Orphanage Mission Cruise this past summer. I’d like to take a minute and update you on a particular experience and some thoughts that have been churning around in my head since we came home.
In the very first orphanage we visited, I met a little boy named Ruslan. There’s a photo of the two of us that hangs in my office. During the course of our visit, we gave a gift bag to each child. In the little ziplock bag of gifts that each boy received was a brand new tennis ball. I have never seen such excitement over a little tennis ball, such a seemingly small gift. What was so special about this tennis ball, though, was that it was his. These children don’t get gifts often, and when they get something that is truly theirs, they cherish it.
So the first thing we all did was run outside to throw the new tennis balls around. What blew me away about Ruslan—who was obviously athletically inclined—was his willingness and even eagerness to include some of the smaller boys who were standing outside of the little circle that had naturally formed. We were laughing, joking, and having fun… until I made the boneheaded decision to try to show off by throwing the ball behind my back and over my head, and Ruslan’s brand new tennis ball landed in the small garden—in a fresh, wet patch of mud. I couldn’t believe I had just ruined his new gift.
He surprised me again, though, when he carefully tip-toed through the garden so as not to get mud on his shoes, retrieved his ball, and held it up with pride—its bright green color tainted and stained—as if everything was fine. He smiled brightly and threw it back in my direction.
You see, to Ruslan, an orphaned child with practically nothing to call his own, it wasn’t about the stuff—it was about the love. He didn’t care so much about thewhat as he did the who. That tennis ball didn’t mean something because it was green, it meant something because someone had thought of him.
The photo hanging in my office was taken as we were leaving the orphanage—after the mud incident. There is not a trace of disappointment on his face. In fact, there is quite the opposite.
I see that photo every day and am reminded to stop trying to protect my stuff, because there’s more to life than stuff. I am reminded daily that no matter who we are, no matter how little we feel we have to offer, no matter how badly we mess up, God wants to use us to bless those in need.
If you haven’t been on one of our Orphanage Missions Cruises yet, I want to ask you, without guilt or agenda—why not?
You have something to offer these precious children.
If you can give a hug, if you can paint a face, if you can throw a ball (even poorly!), your love can give a child hope—and in that child’s love you might just find some hope as well.
There are still slots open for a trip next summer. For more info, check out: http://hopehouseinternational.org/about/mission-trip-cruise/
P.O. Box 1097
Franklin, TN 37065