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Testimony

  Wow!! What a life changing experience!! Something this phenomenal cannot be fully described in my own words, but I’ll try my best. This trip was, by far, the most exciting, the most rewarding, the most difficult, and the most heartbreaking thing that I’ve ever done. I don’t think that I’ve ever laughed so hard; I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard. I don’t think that I’ve ever been happier . . . or sadder. God changed my total outlook on life and is leading me down a new path of life. I went into Ukraine prepared to change these orphans’ lives and I came out with my own life completely different. I have so many stories filled with the glory of God that I could easily fill up a book. So here goes, the best thing that has ever happened to me, summed up in a nutshell:

  This trip was really a great leap in faith for me. I had never flown internationally, never flown without my family (even though the team became my family), never been on a mission’s trip, and never trusted God with my whole life. Oh yeah, and I’ve never eaten fish eggs or liver (I thought that was important to throw in!). The flying went almost as smoothly as it could have, with just a slight

Sam Wright

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hiccup in Kiev that God worked out in the end. The team was spectacular with hardly any arguments or rough times between us. Both the American team and the Ukrainian team grew really close over those short two weeks. We worked together striving to show God’s love to these beautiful children and succeeding in teaching them about Jesus’ sacrifice through skits, songs, and Bible Verses. I continue to pray that these kids remember our programs during times of despair, hopelessness, and temptations.

  The programs were a blast to be a part of. The Ukrainian part of the team did most of the preparing (partially due to the language barrier), but allowed me and the rest of the American team to play roles in wordless skits and help out with the motions of songs. I think that I was involved in at least one skit every day but one and had so much fun in each one. My favorite and most nerve-racking skit was the one that we performed on the last day we were at Gorney. It was called “The Cross.” It showed how those that put there faith in Jesus will live and those that don’t will encounter death. The circumstances surrounding the skit also made for an interesting delivery of this play. The day that the skit was going to be done on was planned to be backwards day. The Americans figured that if it was backwards day, we, instead of the Ukrainians, should plan the program. Programs were two hours the entire time we were at camp, so naturally, we planned a normal two hour program with more humor and games because we didn’t know the language. (We always planned the program the night before it was executed, so that the morning of the program, we could just quickly run through it. So we planned this backwards program on Wednesday and were going to complete it on Thursday.) Thursday morning when we woke up for devotions, Marina and Vitaly (team leaders) told us that backwards day was called off because Ukrainian inspectors were going to be at the camp. I guess inspectors in Ukraine are much different than those in America because the entire camp was very tense and no one was allowed to be wandering around the camp that morning. They are part of the government and tend to fine for almost anything they can find with any flaws. This meant two main things: the first being that all of the kids were required to attend the program; and secondly that instead of a two hour program, we were supposed to come up with a three and a half hour program. A number of thoughts ran threw all of us at once. We were thrilled that we had planned this really powerful skit on a day where all of the kids had to watch it (definitely by God’s influence), but the American team was terrified realizing we had an extra hour and a half of unaccounted and unplanned time. We fell back on the help of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The few hours before the program we crammed memorizing new skits and songs . . . I’m positive we never could have accomplished what we did without the help of our Lord. When it was time for the program to start, we all gathered all the supplies and carried them to the amphitheater. I would say that the highlight of the entire program was going to be the skit “The Cross.” I was so excited to be a part of it. We began the program and it all went smoothly for about an hour and a half. At that time, Marina comes running across the stage to where our team was sitting and starts whispering in each person’s ear down the line. As I watch, troubled looks come over each person’s face as she tells them. When she gets to me, she tells me that the inspectors that are in the camp don’t look kindly on Christians and that we could get in big trouble if we continue to share our faith. She also says that from here on out, nothing is to be said about God. The whole demeanor of our program changes as we begin to improvise skits and games, cut out testimonies, and say nothing about the love of God. I was very confused about now and during the games just sat in prayer. I was sure that this day was set up for us to perform “The Cross” regardless of the inspectors. I didn’t know if God had an alternative plan so I just trusted God that he knew what he was doing. After about an hour of improvising, Vitaly stands up, picks up our hand made cross, walks out in the middle of the stage, and sets it up for the skit. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but I got into my place for the play anyway. Despite the consequences, we performed “The Cross” and I noticed that while we performed, the entire crowd of kids became silent and all eyes turned upon us. At the end of the skit, there wasn’t laughter, there wasn’t clapping, there wasn’t talking . . . the only sound that we could hear was the sound of silence. It was beautiful. Performing this skit required us to put all of our faith and worldly safety in the Lord. It was one of the neatest experiences I have ever had. God spoke through us to those kids and they accepted it and listened. God truly is an awesome God.

  God filled this trip with answered prayer and spirit filled adventures. Whenever we were in need, He was always there and willingly to help us out. From smaller seemingly insignificant needs to spiritual warfare, God was constantly in the foreground. He delivered water; He got us out of a dangerously hot van; He kept us safe (both in travel and in witnessing); He kept me from sickness; He gave us time to spend with those precious children; and He defeated Satan throughout the trip. I learned the importance not only of prayer but of reading and meditating in the word. One verse that I often turned to was the well known verse in Matthew 7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

  Leaving the children was the most heartbreaking thing that I’ve ever had to do. Both the team and the children cried from Thursday night all through Friday night, even after we had left. We grew so close to these children that I sometimes cry here at home when I think about them. I loved getting to know the kids . . . from Nadia’s smile . . . to Andre’s beautiful eyes . . . and from Katya’s facial expressions . . . to Angela’s giving heart . . . and Ira, and Olya, and Anton, and . . . each one very special. Some of the kids asked me if I had gifts to give them before I left . . . I replied, “Yes. I have the best gift of all. Though I am going home, I will leave you Jesus and his love . . . I will never forget you.”

  As we got onto the bus, we were crying, the kids were crying, and at that point I knew that the memories that I experience on that trip will never leave me. And they haven’t. There has not been one day when I haven’t thought of my trip to Ukraine. As I cry writing this, I recall the last I saw of the kids . . . We had just detached ourselves from their hugs and crawled upon the bus. Everyone was in tears. They all had their hands against the windows on the outside of the bus and we were inside, looking down from the window at the grief of the children. And then the engine started, and we slowly and painfully drove away from the kids . . . “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy -- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Summer 2007