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Friday, December 26, 2014

Vision for the Children Internationals year end letter to friends and family

Dear friends and family,
               Merry Christmas to you!  I know how busy we all are this time of year, so I will do my absolute best to give you as brief an update on our lives as possible.  Somehow I think we have squeezed two years of events into one.  There have been some major highlights this year of which I proudly must report! We are now grandparents!  Our first granddaughter, Liesl was born in July to our oldest daughter Esther and her husband Andrew.   Our daughter Hannah just got married this month to Ethan in an amazing winter wonderland wedding here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Talk about some proud parents!    With these major landmarks in our lives this year, the value and importance of family has hit me harder than any other year that I can recall.  More and more I have begun to see the return on the years of investing time, energy and sacrifice into the family.   Monique and I are close to celebrating 27 years of marriage and I will tell you, that with all the many blessings, it also hasn’t been easy.  It’s sad to think that many of those years were spent just fighting to survive and hang on when there was very little hope.  Our family came so close to just ending up another statistic of a broken home.  Monique and I both give all the glory to God because without him we both know that we would never have made it.
               This year continues to reinforce in us the powerful impact of fighting for what is right even when you can’t see a better tomorrow. It is wonderful to see our six children growing up and living lives with bright futures ahead of them because God didn’t give up on us.   I think of our two adopted children from Ukraine who would have not been adopted and would now be caught up in the middle of a war  had God not help us stick it out.  This life isn’t always easy and it takes sacrifices and work but you just never know what God has planned for our futures if we keep fighting the good fight.  I am not foolish in believing that all our challenges are behind us but I stand today knowing that investments in the family can last far beyond what we can personally see today.  It can last for generations.  I am reminded that over two thousand years ago, another father was willing to do whatever it took to rescue his children from a life of brokenness.  During this time of the year we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior who valued us more than his own comfort and willingly laid his life down for us.  He knew that his temporary sacrifices would last far beyond his short walk on this earth.  To God our father, the family unit was and is meant to be a powerful place of love, security and safety.   

For to us a child is born, to us a SON is given; …his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting FATHER, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

               In short, I guess that inside of me, I am feeling a strong sense of awe and blessing because God never gives up on us.  He sees our potential and our future and the impact we each are able to accomplish in our world and fights for us.  Now that is a father that cares and willingly does all he can for his children.  So, during this season of celebration and gift giving, take a moment and step outside the craziness of it all and enjoy the families we each are a part of.   I also want to say thank you for your friendship, prayers, support and all the encouragement you have given to both Monique and I since launching Vision for the Children International.  We could never have done this without you, nor could we continue without you.  This year has been a lot of work but we continue to see amazing fruits as we continue to do what we can to strengthen the family and provide hope and future for at risk children. If you haven’t stopped by in a while, pull out your smart phone, laptop or tablet and check out our website for up to date news, videos and ministry posts.   God has provided amazingly in 2014 and we are so excited at all that is planned in 2015. Please, bear with me as I give a low pressure yearend plug.  Sorry it must be done.  As the year ends and the tax season approaches, I want to remind you that Vision for the Children International is a 501c3 nonprofit and we would greatly appreciate your consideration as you look for last minute ways to save a buck on your 2014 tax returns.  You can give confidently and securely online at www.vftci.org.  Blessings to you all and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds (Phil.4:7a)     Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Vision for the Children International!

Blessings,
Christopher Green
President
Vision for the Children International 


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summary of our Trip to Georgia

Like so many things, I had high expectations of myself being able to write more details of our journey in the country of Georgia but was physically unable to do it. A very well organized and very busy schedule prohibited time to write and at times even to process all that was happening. In fact, it was very hard just to update our Facebook Page due to our busy itinerary. I personally don't think we could have squeezed more in and as a result we were able to accomplish a tremendous amount during our stay. It has taken us a good month to recoup and begin to process the many layers of our trip. Currently we are in the process of expanding and strengthening our current projects in the country and planning a much larger missions trip back to the country in 2015. Please visit our website for updated news, sign up for newsletters and keep posted on upcoming events (missions trips) at www.VFTCI.org.


Let me share just a small excerpt from our trip to Georgia. Georgia is divided into twelve regions with one of the regions fully occupied and another partially by Russia. We were fortunate to be able to travel within 9 of these twelve regions. We traveled within close proximity and sight of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. It is a country with many nations within itself and from what I could gather a lot of segregation. For example we traveled to many towns and villages that would be know by a predominate nationality like Armenians, Azerbaijan and Georgians etc. Along with these different nationalities you had Ukrainians, Indians, Kurds, Turks and Russians. It is a country with a tremendous amount of history and cultural diversity. It's historical landscape dates back thousands of years. One example, this area is believed to have had wine vineyards dating back over 7000 years. It is also a country that has a feeling of progress and of moving economically towards a better future. At the same time, there are signs of setbacks, failures and political challenges and inequalities. There is very little middle class and a very large gap between the lower class and upper class. For a country so beautiful and progressive, I have never seen so many beggars and homeless people with no other options available. You could expect children or mothers to approach you almost anywhere asking for money or food. In some cases, they could be very aggressive. There comes a point that you begin to ask how much do you give and when do you begin to put on your blinders to the needs around you. You could literally give everything you had and still more would be asked of you. It's was just not possible to give to everyone who would ask you for help. So we would always carry change and give as we felt lead and were able. On one occasion we had come out of a small market with bottled water and a banana and I was approached, like so many times before, by a very aggressive woman asking for money. I gave her a rather large amount of money but that was not enough for her. She wanted my banana too. It was then that I began to feel a lot like a character in the movie "Despicable Me" as a wide eyed minion tried to wrestle my partially eaten banana from my hands. Humorous but very sad as these kinds of stories would play over and over each day as we traveled.


The influence and history of the Orthodox Church in Georgia is literally everywhere. Incredibly beautiful Orthodox churches dot the landscape and there belief systems are intertwined into government, business, culture, art and personal lives. Add to this a predominate mix of Baptists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God and growing population of Muslims and you have an incredibly diverse religious and belief system.


In the beginning when we flew into Tbilisi Georgia, we were expecting another variation of the country of Ukraine. Instead what we found, was a uniquely beautiful people and country. Our goal was to understand and appreciate even more those who lived in Georgia, those we work and partner with and to better understand the history and culture of this great country. What we found was an intriguiging and beautifuly unique place that neither of us ever imagined.


A short video of highlights of our trip accross Georgia:


ps: if embeded video does not work please use this link:     http://video214.com/play/efiu0gSGaJ4EV1QZcsOgfA/s/dark


Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A quick post as we take off to Georgia the Country NOT the state.

Twenty five more hours and we will land in Tbilisi Georgia.  Currently I am sitting in our plane in Denver Colorado with snow on the windows waiting for the planes deicing to finish. At this time, I find myself surprisingly calm and at peace.  This is a far cry from how I felt the last two trips to Eastern Europe.  Those two trips were filled with anxiety and so many fears of the unknowns.   Not sure what the difference is this time, maybe it's a bit of denial or maybe more experience but I hope instead that there has been a level of faith and trust that has developed in the process since.  The recent invasion of Russia into eastern Ukraine and turmoil in Kiev have changed my world views tremendously.  Somewhere in watching these world events unfold and a realization that close friends lives and safety hang in the balance daily put into perspective my own stupid fears and life.  Not sure exactly what caused the paradigm shift but whatever it is I hope it sticks.  I do believe that life should be lived regardless of fear or uncomfortably and I do believe that living life requires taking some risk.  As a believer, that risk is qualified by the command to go into all the world.

So with that thought process in mind and sleep deprivation setting in (I have a hard time sleeping on planes) here is a sample of what's on the agenda in the country Georgia.
One of the primary reasons we are traveling to Georgia is to meet our teams and partners.  It's these amazing people that deserve so much praise for their hard work and accomplishments.  It is in these meetings that we hope to catch a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges ahead of us.  I am so excited to be able to tour and meet our wonderful mothers and children who have been rescued with KERA Georgia. We are also planning a missions trip in 2015 and we will be working on the itinerary and logistics of this upcoming trip.  Along with this, we will be doing outreach excursions into local villages and taking a trip to Batumi on the Black Sea to meet with some leaders who are interested in starting a transition home for aged out orphans and/or a shelter for abandoned mothers with children. We are planning to take in the sites and soak up the culture and history of this great country along the way.  The one thing I have learned from past experiences is to leave my American agenda and timetable in America.  The reality is anything can happen and we must be flexible to change as we go.  I believe it is in this flexibility that God is allowed to tweak our plans for his better purposes.  So here is to the journey that I expect will be an incredible experience and adventure.   Well it's now about 16 more hours till touchdown in Tbilisi after our layover in Detroit Michigan.  Next stop Amsterdam, Netherlands!

We can make our plans, but the lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)


Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hope Revisited

Took a trip down memory lane to see where we have been over the last few years and was encouraged by reading a post from August 2011.  Considering some step of faith?  Maybe this will be an encouraging story of hope.

When a person decides to adopt a child, each has their own special reason or conviction for doing this. With this decision comes our own unique personal challenges that need to be addressed in order to proceed on this adoption journey. For me, it was without a doubt trusting for the financial part.   In 2011, my wife and I decided to adopt two children from Ukraine.  It wasn’t because we needed more children; in fact, we were well on our way to being empty nesters and happy parents of four grown children.  We adopted because we overwhelmingly knew we were called to do it.  But even with this inner knowledge and confirmation from other sources, could I put my faith and trust in God to provide?  Well, that was a different story.  Faith requires action and so we took a step and little did we know at the time, the journey it would launch us on.  Like the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

The beautiful thing about a blog is the way you can step back in time and see what inspired you and what has happened since.  As I reflect on this post, written after finishing our adoption, I realized a couple of things: One, it doesn’t end when you get your child home.  Two, if you’re willing to keep pressing forward in faith, your journey is really just beginning.  Our adoption lasted six weeks in Ukraine with over 4000 miles driven in a taxi between our son and daughters orphanages. It was a mix of many emotions and challenges, but in the end, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

Original Post from August 2011

        I like to say that adoption won’t give you stretch marks but boy will it stretch you and boy has it ever!  When Monique and I started this journey, we knew we were entering uncharted waters but we told God that we would walk in faith and if He closed a door, we would persist regardless, try a window or two but if there was no path forward, we would know we had been obedient and had done our best.  When we started, our number one challenge was the financial piece.  I have spent many a night freaking out unable to sleep and waking up in a pool of sweat.  Oops, I mean prayerfully reflecting upon Gods scriptures about his faithfulness and resting in His presence and provision. I know it's not a very American thing to do to talk about our personal finances but I have felt I should for awhile now.  Like many of us, we enjoy our accomplishments and material gains and look to them as signs of success and prosperity.  I have no major problem with that.  All of us want to provide good things and experiences for ourselves, families and friends.  We as fathers and parents work very hard to provide for our families.  We have always tried to do the same and I am proud of what Monique and I have as a family and the success of our children.  We have always worked hard and when that wasn't enough, we worked harder and when that wasn't enough, we found ways to cut back and keep things within our means.  That said, we always seem to just make enough week to week. We are a pay check to pay check household.  I say this because I want to encourage those who are contemplating adoption or some huge leap of faith.   Step out of the boat!  I love that scripture!  Remember Peter stepping out of the boat and walking to Jesus on the water in faith?  How many of us are willing to get out of the boat in some very scary weather conditions to walk with God.  Sure Peter sank in the process but Jesus reached out and rescued him during this act of faith. In my opinion, who cares if you freak out and start to sink!  You got out of the boat!  Many many many times my faith lacked and lacks and I sunk and I sink in fear but God continued to send his word through scripture or people and pull me/us close to His presence to continue the walk.  Very little of us consider the fact that Peter accomplished his goal and that was to walk with Jesus on the water.  So what if he got a little wet!  Besides, he continued to grow in faith because he was willing to get wet in the first place.  
          To come up with over half our combined yearly income to adopt two children and then add more expense to an already very tight budget is, as I have already alluded to in past posts, irresponsible and reckless.  It has been uncomfortable, painful and faith building, to step out and walk the seemingly impossible.  Yet, two children as a result, are rescued from a life without a loving home and security.  Aren't children worth risking it all for?  Which one of us fathers and mothers would not give up everything and their very lives for one of their own children!  Should we not risk the same for others who long for safety, love and a roof over their heads as well?  But reckless foolishness is more than just adoption, it comes in all forms.  What does stepping out of the boat look like to you?  Where do you need or desire to venture in this life? Is it missions or starting a business or what about giving a sum of money to some worthwhile cause?  What does it look like to you to step out and enjoy the life that God desires to take you through?  What or where will you need to go to completely rely on Gods provision to take you through it?  If we are trusting in our own self then our trust lies in the wrong place.
          Some might think our accomplishment in rescuing two wonderful children from an unknown and perilous life extraordinary or amazing and I would say you are absolutely right!  It is and was extraordinary and an accomplishment that by ourselves and in ourselves we could not have done!  Walking in faith is hard, especially when your faith is small and you’re forcing yourself to stretch it.  I can say with complete honesty that this is a God thing and we are no one special or extraordinary.  I have said before that I don't feel like anyone special and that is true.  It took me a long time to figure why that was.  Why shouldn't I feel special?  Here we are sacrificing everything for these children.  Every dollar we have has been spent or borrowed to pursue this rescue. Our comfort and leisure in life has been risked in pursuit of these two lives.  Why shouldn't I feel special? It finally hit me why and it looks like this.  The word clearly commands followers of Christ to take care of the fatherless and the widows.  What we did is obedience to scripture nothing more and nothing less.  What I feel though, is honored that God would call us to this level of caring for the fatherless.  I believe with all my heart that adoption is not for everyone but taking care of the fatherless is everyone's responsibility.  
        It's so nice to be able to write these things from the other side and confidently speak of Gods provisions, it's another thing to not see his provision and take a step out of the boat.  What a great journey it has been and continues to be for us.  What's your journey going to look like when you take that first step out of the boat?

"Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."  Romans 8:24-26


Vision for the Children International 

www.VFTCI.org


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Christian Unity: a matter of the heart!

I have to believe that the overall unity of the body of Christ has to be an ongoing priority of our Lord’s heart. As a husband and father it is one of my pleasures to come home and see my family living life and working together in common love and respect for each other. It is a beautiful and special thing to behold but the flip side is not. When the kids are disrespecting Mom and there is bickering and fighting among the siblings and Mom has had enough, well you get the picture. It doesn’t take any theology to know that our heavenly father desires the same of His family and bride. I think it must be human nature to complicate or over think things, so my desire in this post is to try to simplify how we can easily begin to take first steps to being a part of the change.

Setting the stage of Jesus’ time on earth, we find Him walking the earth and communing with a people governed by a religious body that had so complicated the Word of God that it had lost its original intent and purpose. God’s chosen people had begun to focus more on a person’s outward appearance. So we find in the record Jesus spending a significant amount of time, on Earth, bringing awareness to purity of the heart versus outward appearance.

Now this was not to say that outward actions were not a major part of his ministry teaching; however, the difference was the motivation was behind it. In the famous scripture passage 1 Corinthians 13, we see over and over that unless our actions are based out of love, then it is nothing.

Jesus confronts this outward piety head on by healing on the Sabbath and speaking and dining with tax collectors and Samaritans. His teachings began to refocus people to the heart and spirit of the law, instead of the letter of the law.

They had forgotten that even in the writings of the Old Testament, the people were challenged to think more like God – to think with their hearts.

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." - 1 Sam 16:7(b)

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus simplified all of the Law down to one sentence, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with your entire mind: and Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Imagine the weight of this legalist world falling from their shoulders as the revelation of this began to sink in. No longer was it a huge list of “dos and don’ts” but it was instead about a changed heart and a life lived motivated from Godly love. When you begin to realize that God’s desire for His people is to simply love Him completely, well, it literally changes everything! It is when we really begin to seek God first and to love Him, with everything in us, that things naturally begin to change for us.

Now lest you are tempted with the thought of throwing out the Bible and singing “All you need is love”, remember it is the Bible that shows us what love is. If you’re like me, you might be confused with what true love looks like, especially when our culture has perverted its meaning so completely. The Holy Bible, written on the foundations of love, is the teaching that begins to renew our mind on how we are to think, respond and act in our world.

Why does Jesus’ response to this question, “What is the greatest commandment?” end with the statement, “…and love your neighbor as yourself”? I believe it is because it is the natural byproduct of wholeheartedly loving God with all your heart. When the heart of God begins to permeate our being, then we naturally begin to respond to our world in the way He would. Remember, He willingly laid his life down for us. It was the ultimate show of love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13)

It is when this kind of love begins to take over, that our selfish tendencies naturally begin to change and we begin to be filled with Joy, we begin to sacrificially give to others, the hurting of this world begins to prick at our hearts, our world views begin to change and we start seeking to live in peace with each other. Now imagine the Body of Christ focusing its whole heart, strength, and mind on loving God. You would begin to see the Body of Christ naturally acting together in oneness of purpose and filled with the presence of God. Our God is not divided on purpose or mission and when we know Him perfectly, we too will not be divided on purpose and mission.

David Platt in his book Radical, states it this way: “All He (Jesus) wanted was a few men (and women) who would think as He did, love as He did, see as He did, teach as He did and serve as He did. All He needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.”

As I continue to grow and understand this powerful vision for Unity in the church, I find myself often overwhelmed by the obstacles in its path but then I am reminded that with love, all things are possible. It has been exciting to see God opening doors as I have begun to build interdenominational bridges.

Recently at the request of the Arcángel Film Festival in San Gabriel, I was invited to California to take part in a special film documentary highlighting our journey from adoption into ministry as well as co write an article* on unity and the challenges we face in Eastern Europe. In the process of all this, it was especially exciting to see the heart and passion of so many I met share their hope and desire for a more unified Body of Christ.

Their love of the Lord crossed the boundaries of our differences in doctrinal beliefs and all that mattered to them was the hope of serving together to reach a lost and hurting world. Let me encourage you to take the first step and love the Lord with all your heart and second, begin sharing that love with others.

Mother Teresa summed up “love your neighbor as yourself” when she said,
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by - 'I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.'”


*. http://www.angelusnews.com/news/national/east-europes-orphans-missionary-seeks-la-catholics-aid/


Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org

Monday, March 10, 2014

Vision Stopped by Division?

Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

Wanted to share with you the published article produced by Angelus, The Tidings Newspaper in Los Angeles California. As many of you know, I was invited to come to southern California to be interviewed and filmed for a mini documentary of our journey from adoption to ministry. It is being produced for a film festival this coming July with the San Gabriel Playhouse.  I am still humbled by the whole process and am excited to see how this is used to further create awareness for at risk children, woman and families in our world.  As a preface, I wanted to share a few more of my thoughts for clarification and at the end I have posted a link to the online published article. 

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John13:34-35
One of our challenges we face in ministry is engaging individuals and uniting churches to the cause of the oppressed in their communities and world. In our attempts to rescue and provide support for those in need, we have found ourselves at times turned away from churches because we are not a part of their church body or denomination.  As an example, last year we rescued a mother and her four children from the streets, provided extended shelter and food and began to solicit the help of a church in their town to love on them and bring them into their church community.  This never happened even though this church had within their means the ability to rescue them and surround them with love. I still can not fully comprehend this refusal to extend love and hospitality to this precious family who was abandoned, abused and in need of help. But as sad as this is, I do understand how churches and individuals can get caught up in their own agendas, programs and busyness of life. How often I have done the same.  It is so easy to get caught up with life, our own families, our jobs and hobbies to the point that we unknowingly begin to close our eyes to the world outside of them.  To me, it is very much like the parable of the Good Samaritan. The reality of the story was those who passed by the victim didn't have time to stop or worse their religious doctrines got in the way. The practicle implication of this parable is that we all need to stop what we are doing at times, give what we can and help a life that comes along our path of influence.  We must not be  so caught up in life to the extent that we  close our eyes and do nothing.  And shame on us if we allow our religious differences to prevent us from showing the compassion and love of our God.  James 1:27 says: Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Simply said, the evidence or fruit of our salvation becomes tangible in our acts of caring and kindness to those who are down and out in this life.  A powerful statement of this is in Mathew 25 were Jesus says: “...‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

It is my ongoing passion to see unity in the body of Christ, to see us lay down immaturity and differences of beliefs and view our world in the way that our God views it. What part of our religious belief system should ever cause us to refuse to work together to help the widow who can not provide for herself or the orphan who has no family or those who are starving or just need clean water to drink. We as Christians have been shown so much love and mercy that we cannot even begin to comprehend it all and the result of this in our lives should be love that overflows to others. 

1Corinthians 1:1 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

In closing, if the body of Christ with all its denominations and doctrinal differences could unite in maturity with one purpose to help those who are oppressed and in need of salvation, I believe that we could literally change the world we live in. A good friend of mine told me that we must each personally come in contact with the living Jesus. How is this possible?  Jesus said it clearly, "...when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.’

Online published article by The Tidings:

http://www.angelusnews.com/news/national/east-europes-orphans-missionary-seeks-la-catholics-aid/

Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Slava Ukraini

Although Ukraine and its current social and political issues are always on my mind, I have yet to publish a post of my thoughts on the current events.  If you follow me on Facebook, this is completely the opposite.  You can at anytime find current events and my opinions.  Today I feel the need to write and in some ways this is my therapy for the pain I feel inside for this people that is suffering so greatly.  I ask you to bear with me as I put in words, my heart that is breaking for a country and its people I care deeply about.

Today the news is full of pictures and articles that show the dead and talk of the increase in violence on the streets of Kiev.  Hundreds have died and are missing, as this country tries to advance towards a better future and not slip backwards into a dictatorship and even more corrupt society. My heart breaks for this people that never stops to amaze me in their strength and persistence.  I think of those who actively work in this country day in an day out to rescue those who are hurting and who have been forgotten.  I talk with them and read their posts and I know what they feel and grieve for them.  I have always believed in a Ukraine that was lifting itself out of years of abuse and corruption.  Stalin and Hitler waged their campaigns of hate and destruction on much of this land and yet out of the starvation, death and ashes, a people rose out of it, stronger and more determined. Today these same people continue to believe and fight for a better future and I too believe in what they are standing for. 

Why do I and so many of us work in humanitarian occupations?  For me it is simple, I believe in the people and the countries I work with.  I believe that in time they too will find greatness and be able to provide for their own but in the meanwhile they need a helping hand along the way.  Jesus did the same when he walked on this earth.  He often met the person at their need and rescued them from their immediate circumstances.  Afterwards, He guided them to a better way and in the process gave them hope. Sometimes our needs and hurts become overwhelming and that is all we can see at the moment.  So,when we adopt, rescue a woman from prostitution, save a family, provide education or give hope to an individual, I am always believing that not only are we changing their futures but in essence we are changing a people, a society and eventually a country for the better.  In essence we are giving them a vision of hope for a better tomorrow. I am always working in the now and in the future at the same time, forever optimistic of what we can do if we join our hands in unity as a people.  In Ukraine, thousands stand believing in this same principle that what they are doing today will change the future of their country.

I often wonder why Ukraine is so much in my blood and why a small post soviet state has affected me so greatly.  I honestly don't know but somewhere along the way it has.  Maybe it was the weeks we spent struggling to adopt our two children or maybe it was the weeks I've spent with orphaned children and kids from hard places.  Maybe it was the people I have worked with along the way who have inspired me with their determination and hearts of compassion in the midst of so many great odds.  Whatever the case, I stand today in awe of them and I pray that they will succeed as the continue to stand and believe that what they are fighting for and dying for is not in vain! 

Slava Ukraini


Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The birthplace of Los Angeles and .....

The last few days have been somewhat surreal and amazing all at the same time. Two weeks ago, I had been asked to be apart of cowriting an article with Jennifer Atencio for the "The Tidings" the oldest still printed newspaper in Los Angeles. Jennifer works with the San Gabriel Playhouse and is a Non-Profit Consultant and Grant Proposal Writer specializing in Program Development for established and start-up non-profit organizations. She is also very interested in educational programs and ministries in the Catholic Church and other Christian organizations with a focus on evangelization, grassroots Ecumenism, and Pro-life Causes. She was also a very close friend of my wifes in her teen years and had reconected in the last year or so. She had recently become interested in what we were doing with our nonprofit and wanted to get involved. The purpose of the article was to bring awareness to the plight of the peaceful protests going on in Ukraine now commonly refered to Euromaidan. It was and is to focus on the colaborative involvement of the churches and the resulting unity of different denominations, orthodox and Catholics. As many of you know, writing is not my best subject but knowing this was a great opportunity for us, I of course said yes. What I didn't know, was the total extent of the opportunity that was beginning to open up to us. Shortly after excepting the challenge, I was asked if I would come to California and be filmed in what I thought was somewhat of a mini documentary on the same subject. All of these different aspects were going to eventually link into what Vision for the Children International was doing in Eastern Europe. Needless to say, I was very stressed and didn't sleep very well as my departure to CA got closer and closer. Thoughts of inadequacy, fear of the unknowns and unrealistic expectations were running ramped in my mind. I eventualy came to some peace of mind after meeting with some friends of ours for council and prayer and realizing that at worse case, I would waste the cost of an airplane ticket and suffer some unrepairable emotional trauma ;) All of the details of my stay in California were very vague but regardless of this I found myself in San Gabriel California a week later. Arriving in LA, I was greeted by Martin the husband of Jennifer who gave me a whirlwind tour of Downtown Los Angeles on our way to his home were I would stay and work out the details of the coming days. After hours of discussion and processing information we both found ourselves not much clearer of what lied ahead and a bit brain dead from the long day. Many things needed to come together for any of this to happen and nothing at the time was a definite. Wednesday morning arrived quickly and running late we found ourselves at the beautiful and historical site of the San Gabriel Mission to meet with the film crew to discuss the details of the shoot. For no logical reason, I found myself at peace that this was going to work out and I was enjoying the beautiful day and the California History that was surrounding me. The San Gabriel Mission is the birth place of LA and was started by Father Serra of the Catholic Church. Well over 25,000 baptisms were conducted at San Gabriel between 1771 and 1834, making it the most prolific in the mission chain. In its heyday, it furnished food and supplies to settlements and other missions throughout California. Somewhere amongst my site seeing and conversations, I began to wonder if Father Serra would have ever imagined how his step of faith would grow into what now is the sprawling metropolitan community of Los Angeles. Interestingly that became the opening theme and a talking point that would introduce the video being produced. It was this idea that when anyone of us steps out in faith to follow the prompting or leading of the Holy Spirit, none of us can ever grasp the full extent of the impact that obedience can have on our world around us. Tying this theme in and the beautiful settings we began the interview. An interview that was to connect the dots of how a kid from LA county would end up running a ministry in Eastern Europe. It was very evident that God was involved in all this as the conversations took on a life of their own. Only once or twice did we have to stop the shoot and refilm a segment and even those were mostly because of noise polution. I have only on two occasions had to speak in front of a camera and both times it literally took about nine retakes of me saying the equivalent of two or three sentences. This was one of the reasons I had found myself panicking after excepting this opportunity. I have mentioned in the past how one of the greatest enjoyments in running our non profit is the people we meet. Well, one of these people was the director of this shoot, who I might note, did this entire shoot at no cost to us and only out of a heart to help bring awareness to at risk children, orphans and the sex trade industry. Louis Cywinski came to us with an impressive filming history and the recipient of five Emmys and in his words, he had filmed almost every great Hollywood star. As he began to list off an impressive number of actors that included John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ronald Reagan and the Dahlia Lama, I became overwhelmed with gratefulness at what God had orchestrated for us. Louis' easy going personality and experience quickly set the tone and put us all at ease. Meanwhile, Jennifer who had orchestrated my busy days in LA, began to make me feel I had some high powered agent working for us. Her contacts, passion and intense desire to create something impactful and meaningful for us and our mission was amazing! Often I felt like I had been sucked into a raging stream with nothing to do but ride it out to its completion. This raging current eventualy took us from working on the beginnings of an article that would go out to 200,000 readers, to a beautiful promotional shoot for Vision for the Children International, and lastly to meet with Father Alexie, a leader in the ecumenicle world of the Catholic Church. It is our hope an desire to create working relationships with the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Eastern Europe and this meeting was the beginning of this dialog. All these wonderfull events will ultimately bring us back to California on July 19th of this year to be highlighted at the Arcangel Film Festival at the San Gabriel Playhouse. No words can express the tremendous gratitude I have for Jennifer and her intense passion for what we are doing! Her heart for her lord, those who are hurting in our world and her desire for unity and love amongst Christians and our churches is a wonderful thing to witness. Please keep her in your prayers and thoughts as she continues to press in and finish the writting, finding the necessary filming editor for the promo and her ongoing work with the upcoming film festival. Well, I now find myself on the last leg of my flight home and I find myself in awe of the impact of all those who surrender themselves to the will of God and his purposes. I wonder if in time, the seeds of faith and action of these individuals will become like those of Father Serra and will eventually grow beyond anything they could possibly have imagined. I guess, only time will tell but just like it did for Father Serra and the San Gabriel Mission I am believing it will.


Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Getting out of the boat is so important as a believer...

Stumbled upon these ramblings of mine in my notes on my phone from around two years ago.  Looks like I was coming to grips with why God doesn't seem to move or react to issues in our world.  Since this time, getting out of the boat has become somewhat of a theme in my life.  Again no grammar police! I'm sure theirs plenty of mistakes ;)

If God is a good God then what holds back his hand from giving good things.  In Matthew 7:11 its says, If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So why does it seem there is so much need and Gods hand so slow to respond.  The bible clearly teaches we are His hands and we the church are the body of Christ.  There is unmet needs not because Gods is slow to respond but because we His hands are slow to respond.   Romans 12:5,6 So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us....It goes on to say that what ever gift has been given to each of us, use it!  I believe that God puts in us each of us a special calling or gift that is unique to us that he desires us to fulfill in this life.  But it requires us to reach out in faith and action to accomplish it.  Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  What is God calling you to do?  What is His purpose for you in this life?   I think that He gives us a glimpse of that mission and then waits for us to take a step out in faith.  Matthew 14:26-33  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."     We like the disciples and peter must each catch a glimps of Jesus in our lives and stop fearing  what we are seeing.  What is it that we fear?  Isn't it the unknowns?  What is it going to take to  get us out of the comfortably known boat of our life's and do the extraordinary!  Did anyone notice that God didnt stop the storm?  It would appear that God wasn't going to make it easier for them.   We know that he calmed the seas before but why not this time?   I believe that Jesus was trying to have them exercise their faith.  Maybe Peter was tired of His present struggles and desired to hang out with Jesus.  Isn't that the best place to be while in difficult circumstances?!!  So many of us are quick to judge Peter because of his lack of faith but did anyone else get out of the boat?  Did Peter walk with Jesus on the water?  Wasn't that his intention.  I say,  so what if he began to get scared I am pretty sure I would too.  The point to me is he got out of his circumstance to attempt the impossible and when he began to sink he cried out to God first and He rescued him.  He succeeded in what he set out to do!  I would only imagine that Peters faith grew rapidly after that walk of faith.    If we are to be his hands and feet in this life we must be willing to risk it all.  1 Corinthians 2:9  However, as it is written: "No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"   Do we believe this?  If so then we must do our part to obtain it.  What do you mean we need to do something?  It says God has prepared this for us.  Prepared, Yes but we must choose to partake of it.  James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   For us to be used we must choose to believe and step out in faith.


Vision for the Children International 
www.VFTCI.org