Friday, January 22, 2016

Thoughts on Pleven (And a Pajama Party Wrap up)


First, thank you all for your support and prayers for Penny’s surgery for the stomach dissociation. Upon assessment the week prior to surgery a pulmonologist determined she does in fact have severe pulmonary issues and we elected to do a bronchoscopy before the surgery.  This in conjunction with a successful surgery should help to eliminate the reflux issues and reduce pulmonary issues (but may not eliminate them.)  She has had a very rough 15 years of life. Post-surgery healing is going well, and we just need time and patience as we watch her become healthy and growing again.

 

Do you want to know how big our God is, how He moves in the lives of those call Him father?

 

There is relevant quote from David Platt that I want to share:

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

 

Oh how we are learning the truth of this. My arms almost physically ache to hold these children, no more innominate, again. To hug caregivers and thank them for feeding, caring for, and loving these little ones relegated to “least of these” status.

 

My trip to Bulgaria was very productive. We were able to maintain and improve the health of the little Victoria during the week before coming to the USA, and she was discharged in short order from the hospital in Oregon to be at home with her new family.  (Prayer request: Since I drafted this post, Victoria’s been readmitted & discharged again from the hospital. To date, the work up has not particularly conclusive.  Prayers for her healing, revelation regarding her health needs, and for peace & strength for her family are humbly requested and very appreciated.)

 

At the Pleven orphanage the director was overwhelmed that 150% of the requested PJs were provided, a total of 123 PJs. Amazingly, we had a single pair of cotton PJs donated; everything else we purchased or given was fleece, which was my focus for “winter jammies.” We packed them in anyway. Little did we know there was one little girl that cotton was the best material for her to wear and this one set of PJs ended up being her size, and they were a style that was ideal for dressing her (she has a very delicate skin condition.)  We also bought candies and treats in country for those children who could eat them. We had some extra funds that allowed for buying some crib toys from a local business in country for those children who were too little or unable to have sweets.   

 

The pastry/cookies platters for the staff were something they had no concept for, and seemed almost at a loss for how to respond to such a gesture, as it had never happened before.  In America, the nurses’ stations are inundated with food & treats at holidays; there never. I had to explain it was for the staff, not the children.  They asked which staff? I said all staff; those who clean the nurses, the leylas, administration; everyone. I suggested to them to find a place they could put them and have the staff come and get something from the trays during their shift.  It was a blessing to show appreciation to them in what proved to be a completely unexpected way.

 

I was able to see children on each of the six floors; an almost unheard of privilege.  I saw the full dynamic--from children growing as strong and healthy as an institutional environment could possibly allow for, as well as several children in some very rough medical conditions.  Yet absolutely all the children were clean, linens clean, and they generally seemed well cared for. Their fragile conditions due to the either the effect of previous neglect when under the old leadership or  the lack of medical intervention from the government agencies which dictate the permitted care, effectively leaving these children in this condition. The staff has essentially no support even though they are often providing palliative to hospice level care, and it was obvious that they were hurting as well.  My American naiveté was struck by this complete dearth of support-no chaplains, no resources, no protocols, and no debriefing-nothing. There’d been psychologist who under the direction of the Pleven Project had provided comprehensive case management and follow up. The name “psychologist” is somewhat disingenuous; their role was more consistent with a hybrid of Rehabilitation medicine, case management, care plan evaluation/accountability, and psychological assessment and support (including support for the staff.) There’s no further funding for this role.

 

The director & staff had such a concern for one tiny baby girl, “Dee” with significant medical issues that were declared untreatable/inoperable by those who make these decisions in country (this after a gross delay in care PRIOR to being admitted to the orphanage.) To not mince words, after delaying and providing no intervention, this child was left with essentially no treatment options, and was sent to the orphanage to die on their staff’s watch. I was permitted to gather information to specifically seek a consultation with medical professionals here. Caveat upon caveat-there would need to be a surgeon who would be willing and able to travel to Bulgaria to assess and potentially operate. I wasn’t convinced this was possible, but was certainly willing to “ask around.”  God clearly had a larger vision for this; and I was able to connect with several surgeons; one was able to facilitate connections with a Doctor’s Without Borders team currently in Bulgaria within a week of returning to the US. This team is being connected with the Pleven Director to consult the case.  That this connection can happen is a huge prayer request.  Realistically, it may be too late to intervene on this particular little one who inspired the efforts.  God has His hand over this too. Access to modern care in this specialty is simply unavailable; what is available is done in an outdated, frequently more harmful than helpful manner. I am prayerful that this connection will change that-If not for tiny Baby Dee, then for other children who have no current options for care, but who would BENEFIT from the care, were it to be available.

 

 This trip, made possible exclusively by God’s grace and God’s people rallying around us, has provided an opportunity to quickly and effectively respond to Pleven’s request for help.  He’s allowed us to provide abundantly more-than expected or imagined! I am hopeful this will build relationships which will grow and continue to benefit the children of the orphanage and the community at large.  Our God is good….all the time!

 

There are two pressing needs, an immediate need, and a long term need. Immediately, the role of the independent psychologists needs to be funded, as well as resupplying the Pleven medical fund (which has supplied additional care needs since 2012!)  A post dedicated to this role (explaining, outlining roles, responsibilities, costs, etc.) and the current state of the Pleven Project is shortly forthcoming. Long term, with the shift in focus to non-institutionalized care models, the need for outpatient care for children with special needs will become only more glaringly apparent.  Parents are routinely left without option except to relinquish custody of their medically fragile children because services simply do not exist within their communities. The director at Pleven shared with me a vision for capital improvements to the existing facility, including outpatient therapy clinics at the orphanage. Not a wish or amorphous dream, but a solid vision, complete with renovation construction plans and costs. The actual cost-approximately $40,000 USD, is actually not beyond reaching (nothing is with God.) Sadly, however, there are little to no other community supports (medical supplies, transportation, and equipment repair, etc.) yet in place for parents that want to keep their children with special needs in their home & communities. Both the needs must be met, for capital funding and for the needed community infrastructure supports. This lacking, far more than simple funding obstructs the progress. Prospective in trivia form: agencies and community supports for physical and mental disabilities (hard fought but achieved) in the US are decades old. The equivalent government agency in Bulgaria serving those with intellectual disabilities is barely two years old, formed in 2013.

 

So the challenge is set before us. Paul is currently assessing how the needed business structures that provide community supports to special needs children might be addressed- no small task. The only solution we have at this time prayer; serious prayer for the children and people of Bulgaria. Prayer that doors will be made open: for the government agencies that regulate business, suppliers, and supplies that are necessary for children to be raised by their parents will become available. Prayers for the others God will be calling to fulfill this because they will be the planners, consultants, funding sources, and hands and feet for these things to happen.  

 

 Pleven is better. Far, far better than just a few short years ago. The improvements are visible, and many children are thriving. There is a clear sense of pride you see on the faces of the staff as they show you what these (their) dear children are accomplishing.  And the pain on their faces as they tended sweet baby Dee and the handful of other children in similar condition was no put-on show for my benefit.  This is not an easy place, and the darkness would very much like to take it back-through fatigue, through discouragement, through the helpless feeling that you simply can’t make a difference. The battle is won, but dear friends do not kid yourselves for one minute-the war is not over.  Not until every child is given the standard of medical care.  Not until every staff member knows they are valued and doing incredible work-even in the soul wrenching work of caring for little ones being taken too soon.  Until no other family is ever forced to relinquish their child because they can’t have access to care-until this time, we are fighting.  God has this. He never plants things in people’s heart without His purpose already planned. We can see several foundational things happening (many already shared above), connections being made and other connections at the ready down the road for so many great things to come together for these little one in Pleven and hopefully other orphanages too.  Now is the time for obedience, much prayer, patience and diligent seeking Gods direction while taking intentional action since we already know His purpose for us……James 1:26-27.

 

~Paul and Maureen

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wanna Come to a PJ Party?

 First, forgive the atrocious lack of blogging. We lived life, rather intensely, this spring and summer (except for gardening, and none of that actually occurred, though I kept the deck plants alive.) I will retrospectively review the very, very busy season we've been through, but for know, I have an exciting idea to share.




  I have a chance to travel to Bulgaria this December. Primarily, I am travelling to assist the Horton Family bring their tiny (tiny!) sweet new daughter safely home. I also have the opportunity to go back to Pleven and see the progress made and visit a little ones who continue to wait for their forever families (here, and here, and here, and HERE, just to list a few-feel free to share liberally!) Given it's Christmas, and the building is older and chilly, I asked if pajamas were a need for any of the children. Little did I know, the Holy Spirit was hard at work behind my inquiry.




Cause there certainly is a need.






A need for 90 pair, in fact.  80 regular 1 piece "footie" jammies, and 10 pair of 2 piece types with nice thick socks, more suitable for the older, and more contractured children, for whom footie jammies are just impractical.






The director had reached out to another charity, unbeknownst to me, or my in-country contact. But she'd not gotten a response.




It's funny how God works like that...








So, it appears, we are going to have a Pleven PJ party. And I would really, really love you to come!! And I want to see this need met in a God-sized way, abundantly more. I would like to bless each child with a new pair of pajamas, and a small candy gift or toy (depending upon ability.) I would also like to bring a small platter for the staff on each shift in time for Christmas.  At ~$12-15/pair, plus a little treat, and the staff blessing, I'm fully anticipating ~$1200-1400 total cost (inquiries are already out regarding the possibility of bulk purchasing discount, and this is a priority prayer request.) Any funds raised over and above will be earmarked towards the purchase of formula for older children with specialized feeding needs.






How can you help?


1. Pray-pray for provision, for favour with suppliers, and for the ability to actually transport all of this over. Especially that!






2. Keep following me here and on Facebook! Share our party, our prayer requests, and opportunities to give.






3. Give as you are able. This is a sizable need, and falling the time of year when budgets are generally getting maxed out. But any amount is a blessing.  Donates may be made via PayPal to zingermama@gmail.com. Alternatively, a check may be sent payable to Hanover Evangelical Friends Church (HEFC on the payable to line is ok) with "Pleven PJ Project" on the memo line:


Hanover Evangelical Friends Church
6420 Mechanicsville Turnpike
Mechanicsville, VA 2311


With GoFundMe snagging a good 10% of every donation, I'd honestly love to avoid it; that 10% can go to it's best use buying PJs! If possible, we'd love to be fully funded by 12/10/15, so I have time to purchase and pack!  Thank you so much!!




4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.


Psalm 100:4-5 New King James Version (NKJV)











Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Second Half

Of the year in review....








































Tuesday, February 3, 2015

One Year Later....

Occasionally, I'm inclined to believe that's how long I lag between posts. Despite uploading mobile blogger, which hates me, and my phone, in even measure, I suspect, I'm still not more faithfully blogging. I am living, so to choose, that's my go-to. ;) But the title is not a stab at self-deprecating humor....

One year ago, today, two little girls ceased to be orphans. Instead, they became precious, cherished, children. Sisters. Granddaughters. Friends. Classmates. .....

I remember trudging though, what seriously had to be, 3 feet of snow, in Fanny's little home town. (After a three plus hour drive, punctuated by every 45 minute stops....) Tearfully hugging her foster mom. Bringing along a reluctant little one.

And then climbing the stairs of the orphanage for Penny. Cold and forlorn, down a side street. Yet, though its history's dark, and its harm irreversibly done, there was warmth in her send off. 

We survived a week, cooped in a hotel room, with fevers and food refusals, uncertain if our collective sanity would hold up. Then the fevers broke, and the weather too. As though a hug from God Himself, we enjoyed a 50-60*'s mini-spring reprieve.  Found street level pizza, underground shops, ancient churches, and that Bulgarian sidewalks eat strollers. Fell head over heels in love, with two tiny girls, and their home country, and its people.

To bring the trip itself full circle, we arrived home, toe touching down in Dulles airport as newly minted American citizens AND the 1,000 & 1,001 Reece's Rainbow babies home, and then drove home in a blizzard by anyone's standards, stopping every 45 minutes so I could work out the last of the motion sickness from the flight's descent, in the form of vomiting up what felt like my very toe nails. *bleh*  (Marty, you're vindicated, just saying.)

The year has flown by, emotionally rising and falling like the waves of the ocean. Simultaneously exceeding expectations, and realizing that some things can never be restored this side of heaven.  Cheering victories, no matter how seemingly insignificant to the uninitiated observer, and weeping as I've held a child screaming and raging for hours on end, at an utter loss as to why the pain, and completely unable to relieve it. Learning first hand that every wound is not visible, and the invisible sometimes are the worst. We welcomed another sister, a 4th precious daughter, who loves Penny unconditionally, and unabashedly best. Word 3, before even Mama or Dada consistently? Peh-Peh.

We've had first times, and good times. Beaches, fairs, fire pits, and back yard BBQ's. Holidays and Christmas trees. Meeting cows, and other barnyard critters, as any once removed Farm girl Mama, is intentional about exposing her babies to. And we've cried with friends, who've said good bye to their precious Pleven treasures, cementing in our minds' and souls' that each day is a gift....and none is guaranteed.

So it has looked a little like this:



































And that's only the first half of the year.....

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3 v1-8 (NKJV)