Sunday, May 17, 2009

4 weeks later

I thought some of you might want to know what is going on with us at this point after arriving home. There has been great progress in many ways, and tiny steps in others. Regarding language, Kayla (13) is the undisputed winner of "who knows the most English" contest. The boys are trying. They understand more than they can speak. We have periodic moments of brilliance followed by periods of normal fits and starts. For the most part, the international relations underneath our roof have been smooth. We do have times where tempers flare over frustration with language, or over rules that aren't so easily understood. We have had to decide sometimes whether it is worth starting a skirmish over things of little consequence. In the long run, about half the things we used to worry with really boil down to just a few items that need immediate correction. We have to pray for God to supply grace so that a level of trust develops, and this helps in "earning the right to discipline".

Each of the 3 new children seems to love American food, and despite the cool outward appearance on the older 2, they also really seem to like where we live. We've gone from constant fascination with everything, to days where they are somewhat bored. Vickie and Kelsey have been doing English lessons and math on a regular basis and mixing it up with time for backyard soccer and some swimming. I think they are glad our other kids are home now for the summer. We continue to pray for God to transition them from orphanage life to family life and for His glory to be displayed in our family. Pray for us that we do not lose this focus amidst life with 9 children.

We will keep you posted on the changes in the days ahead. We continue to walk forward one day at a time trusting His fresh supply of grace daily.


Psalm 86:10 "For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God."

Thursday, April 23, 2009


It's really staggering to think of the number of miracles that have to occur in the divine plans of God just to get us home. Alarms that operate on gold film lines in silicon printed circuit boards have to work, gas engines have to start, and a host of people have to get out of bed and go to their jobs. That is why, as I stand next to the "occupied" sign on the water closet door at 35,000 feet over the North Atlantic, I thank the lady who speaks 2 languages and serves my ginger ale with ice for working so that we can fly home today. She laughs and asks me why I have been to Ukraine. Well, I will tell you...

And so goes another chance to platform the great story of God in our family. I pray that I never lose the opportunity to share some of His work in us, and if 9 children is part of how He wants me to do it, then I pray that He will let me share it well.

It was almost surreal to close and lock the apartment door for the final time for now, bump down the dusty steps in the stairwell that smells like, well, not good things, and to ride through the morning rush in my 2nd hometown to get to the airport on the flat plain outside the city. Is it happening? Will we leave the gate?

Despite a late departure on Delta 89, and the musical seat exchanges in boarding, we made it to JFK-NYC about 10.5 hours later. God was gracious to us even through the immigration process in New York, and we smiled and celebrated with a Burger King feast in the airport as now a family of 4 American citizens before our flights to Atlanta and Birmingham. Yes, you arrive somewhat numb and fatigued, since you last turned off the alarm clock and got up about 24 hours earlier, but the adrenaline of being able to see your wife and children and deliver these new 3 into our household pushes you forward with disregard for much of the travel bleariness.

To re-quote from an earlier post, a person had once told me that the "hard part was getting them out (of their situation), the rest is just discipleship". But I am confident that the work does not stop here. In fact, I am more confident that it begins here, with prayer being the primary ingredient of it all. I want to thank you in advance, for praying in the days ahead, for walking with us, and for displaying the character of Christ to us. We are grateful to God for you all!!!

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

The Nichols

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Psalm 146:1-2 "Bless the Lord, bless the Lord O my soul. I will praise the Lord while I live, I will sing praise to my God while I have my being."

This morning God strengthened us again for another morning to end up with all three of my new independent Russian thinkers across town at the US Embassy at 8:00 AM. I'll give you funny details later, but let it suffice to say we hurriedly headed to the medical center(another funny story) after the Embassy visit, and then backagain after a lunch break to wait on the med reports to come out for us. After getting our brown envelopes with health details inside, it was back to the tiny bit of free air above the US Embassy grounds, and we had to wait. Okay- at 4:00 PM our embassy officer behind the blue glass did not have good new for me and another American waiting. We were the last 2 people there and the servers were visa's were happening right now. This was all said to us as the microphone intermittently cut out back and forth, so you hear every other sentence loud and clear. Mr. Nichols, we......,and they are.....,and if you........., so we will.......Then you strain your ears for the other words.

They basically said that they would continue to work on bringing them (the servers) back up, but at that point they thought we would not get them today for travel in the morning. So, David (my new friend from Philadelphia) and I began to pray together for His will to be done, and for us to have grace to endure whatever, but we also asked for good gifts from Him in the form of a total of 4 visas to travel, and tickets for us as well, and that if He needs me to wait another day, then for Him to show me what to do with the waiting time.
5:00 came and our embassy rep said she was leaving but that someone would be in the office until 5:30 and that we could wait if we wanted. God does not need reminding of what He already knows about. We decided to sit for the remainder of the time. I took a walk down the hall of the silent Embassy, and when I returned my friend David smiled and advised he was seeing movement from behind the bulletproof glass.
By 5:20 we all had our walking papers!!!!!!!!
Now our facilitator raced to the center of the city with my new children yipping back and forth excitedly in Russian in the back seat. I climbed out of his black car for the 500th time in this journey to run in and see my friend Lubov at the Delta office. She had graciously agreed to wait for us. As I write this, tickets and documents are now in hand and we prayerfully seek to be on the Kiev to NYC flying in the morning!!!
Thanks be to God for His faithfulness.

Pray for strength, and grace, and swift progress through customs and immigration in NYC and then for arrival into Birmingham at around 10:30 PM tomorrow night...

Chris and Kollin and Kayla and Kory

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time to catch our breath...

I pray for God’s grace and strength to you this Sunday, that is, Easter Sunday in Kiev, Ukraine. Yes, you heard me right…
It is one week behind from your US celebration. Last night we had the chance to “ring in the Easter holiday” with our friends Oleg and Lena Vasilevsky and their children. Just before a late dinner, we read the scriptures and prayed together with our kids, and with a tag along friend from the boy’s orphanage. If you examine the New Testament, you won’t find a pattern of hunting or breaking eggs, or even of decorating crosses with flowers, or wearing nice clothes. In fact, you won’t find many of the things we fret about in the post-modern church world. You will see in there, people gathering in prayer and around the teaching of the word, and sacrificing on behalf of one another. Yes- you will find leaders, and they lead because of their intimacy with the Spirit of God, and not because of their staircase of ministry experiences, or by their knowledge of psychology. I am thankful for the simple beauty and power of His perfect word and His eternal help to us through His Spirit.

Many of you remember our Ukrainian exchange student, Oleg P. He returned to Ukraine over one year ago after staying with our family, and becoming a believer in Christ during that time. Today we had the opportunity to catch a metro train through the sleeping city, and then take an hour-long close personal space marshrutka ride through a rolling Ukrainian countryside to his town of Rhadomoshyl. He tells me that I am probably the first American there in at least 3 years, but who knows? We were able to eat with his family, and to pray for them, and to walk through the streets he grew up on. It was a nice break from the city routine, and for our new children to experience the small town atmosphere and get some energy out on a couple of long walks, including a beautiful lake and old grain mill (watch your step or you'll fall in easily). Many of you who have traveled outside the US in the last few years can attest to how we live on such a grand scale compared to the rest of our neighbors in the world. Once you spend time enjoying carefully prepared Ukrainian food served on tiny tables and plates, and enjoyed without electric lights burning in every room, you begin to understand why we are considered by many countries to be so flighty and disrespectful as an American culture. It was an honor to be in their modest apartment home, to be treated as a guest, and to know that this young man now carries the seeds of the Gospel as he completes his studies in Ukraine.

We did make it back to Kiev this evening, riding along with many who brought baskets of eggs and bread for blessings from Orthodox priests. Many shops and restaurants are closed and will be until Tuesday morning. It is kind of nice to have less traffic and noise in the walkways. Our kids are now asleep, and so I plan to follow suit. Christos vos creas (Christ is risen!)


"The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."
Matthew 13:33

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday thoughts

Just before Easter in Kiev, Ukraine it seems to get really quiet. Today, the breeze pushes the sky from cloudy to sunny, then back again. Almost a sweat breaks as you walk, then around the corner you feel the urge to turn your jacket collar up. It is a beautiful time of year. I talk like I have been here for Easter before, and I have. In the spring of 2004, Vickie and I, along with Alan and Karen Thompson, "rode out" an Orthodox Easter weekend as part of our first adoption journey. This afternoon, as I am here for the final stretch, I am reminded of that suspended time. Karen and Alan: I will eat a slice of Easter bread just for you...

The facts of the day are pretty straightforward. The passports for the children were delayed from yesterday afternoon's scheduled delivery. However, they were promised for a rare Saturday handout from the mystic portal. We showed up on the brown chalky sidewalk outside the crumbling passport office on Terasa Chevshenka Boulevard- which would fit as a scene from any Russian spy movie. Of course, we still waited for almost 3 hours, moving back and forth from a nearby cafe to currency exchanges and back to the cafe...I think we bought like 40$ worth of chai, coffee, sprite, juice, etc. Finally our mystery lady called our facilitator, who was stranded at his place about 10 miles away. We got the nod to go into the inner sanctum via a call, walked past the curious chubby faced guard, talked broken English with my old friend Yulia, and finally signed on the lines for the much envied booklets that will get us closer to coming home!!!

We paid for a speedy cab ride back to the boys old orphanage just to help Kollin's anxiety about being late, and Kayla and Kory and I watched him play a fierce game of soccer in the dust. It is at this point a flood of memories and thoughts came to me. There are plenty of kids still left in the dwindling numbers there at the school. Some have family, some don't. Some are literally there due to the sins of the fathers, and some are there because they have a lazy eye, or a misshapen ear. Some say it is a long story if you ask how they came there, which means it hurts to remember it. Bottom line is that although God has brought Vickie and me to this place for our third time, and despite how tired I am of seeing that place it still reminds me of the ones that need my smile, need my Americanski "hello", and need me to ask their name. Each one has a name you know. It still strikes me deeply about the character of God in reaching to us, despite our family dynamics, or our weird ways, or our unpronounceable name.

The kids are doing quite well. We are working together through languages and transition from orphan life to family life, and I will tell you with honesty that there is room to grow for all of us. Be praying- He is adequate for all of it. I am praying for all of you.


Philippians 1:6 " For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quick Update

Okay- Yesterday about 6 PM I got a call from Yuriy indicating I could get the Ukrainian passports from the "agency" this afternoon. So this morning, Kollin, Kayla, Korey, and I headed across town to the Embassy to see how much early paperwork we could possibly finish. I gave them 5 cm by 5 cm photos of the kids for them to begin scans as early as possible. We can't do fingerprints at the Embassy for them until we get the Ukrainian passport, and the Med center will not let us examine them without it.
Still, getting the passport later today is better since it is one less stop. I have been working on possible flights and trying to obtain a small discount on air tickets. Be praying for us to make miraculous progress and wisdom, and for His will to be accomplished through us. They have been great to have with me, and I am thankful for their cooperative spirit thus far through the paper chase.

Psalm 103:8 "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness."

Thursday, April 16, 2009


To Do List for Today in Kiev!

Get out of bed and remember it was already today when I went to sleep last night- pray for grace and strength-Done.

Fix water closet light after hearing kids click it 42 times this morning around 6 AM because it won't come on- Done.

Get everyone to the Electric tram to get to the Metro- walk the route because the tram broke down mid way-Done

Get 3 Russian speaking children to Universitet Metro station and to the passport office by 9:00- Done.

Get 3 Russian speaking children scanned for Ukrainian travel passports- Done.

Go sign documents at Kayla's orphanage to officially drive away with her-Done

Go get an Inspector to take to the boys orphanage so she can see me sign papers to officially take the boys- Done

Load Yuriy's car with some bags from each place- Done

Call the airline to tell them I won't be traveling on Saturday- Done

Call the Embassy to tell them that our passports for the 3 kids are promised to be available on Tuesday morning(after a long Orthodox Easter holiday)-Done.

Ponder and pray about letting the kids see their biological Mom for a brief visit this weekend...still doing...

Skype call my Godly and beautiful wife, my Proverbs 31 living picture, and tell her how much I love her, how amazed I am that she is handling the needs of all 6 children by herself, and pray with her on the skype line...still doing this and thinking this continuosly...

Post blog to tell you of the incomparable greatness of God and the salvation of my soul and yours only through Jesus Christ His perfect Son, and His power in us to do the will of God through His Spirit and His written word...may I ever do this...