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.

Blessings

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

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Home


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."

Blessings,
The Nichols

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breakthrough

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 down...no 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...

Blessings,
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!)

Chris

"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.

Chris

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.
Blessings,
Chris

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

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Released

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...

Blessings-
Chris

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inch by Inch

Good night from Ukraine...

This morning basically started in the same place where I finished the day, that is, outside the central passport office. But- there were many kilometers travelled in between and there was some forward progress made... Thanks be to God!

We submitted a fistful of documents to the "mystic portal" at the passport place at 9:00 AM. Then, after waiting for some thumbs up signal on what had been submitted thus far, and hearing that we bypassed the need to get the apartment manager's letter that we were originally told had to be obtained, we headed for the tax code office to get the 3 crucial numbers and of course the "stamps." Then it was on to the notary's office to begin to prepare a petition from each child, as represented by me, and backed up with a power of attorney letter from Vickie. The passport agency called Yuriy and indicated if we had the kids close by we could get them scanned today to get a step closer after we bring the notary letters. The oldest one, Kollin, will have to sign his own request because he is over 14. Well- that is a loaded comment from the passport agency. No- the kids are not close by, but we will sure do everything we can to get them close by. So off we go to the enchanted forest orphanage for the boys, and on the cell phone minutes to get "Ochi Dom" to send Kayla with a trusted friend of theirs in a taxi to meet us somewhere in the middle.
Between traffic and distance- this is a 2 hour adventure. Then, 1 hour at the Notary, and 30 minutes in traffic got us all back to the passport office. We placed papers into the mystic portal again, so we needed to wait. What can we do while waiting? Oh yes, Kory is with us, so we must find food. A Ukrainian salad and a pizza and a big orange drink seemed to calm down the little man.

Our facilitator looked up to see a rep from the passport office bringing a blue document into the tiny cafe where we sat...not a good sign. Seems that there was something that the passport police didn't like on the papers. Back we go to the notary. Back we go to the passport office. Now you find me at the place I described at the beginning of this blog post today. It was basically "quittin' time for the passport police" and so they said see you in the morning at 9 AM. Okay now, do I take everybody back home for tonight? More phonecalls ensued...and we got a one night pass to keep everyone with me until we officially check them out tomorrow from Orphanage care.

So- I sit in the tiny kitchen, hearing the iron door downstairs scrape open periodically, amazed that I have internet working in my apartment tonight, as my new (unofficially here) three kids sleep soundly just 5 steps away. Pray for tomorrow morning's passport session, and for quick delivery, and for our new ones to grow along with me through the steps that remain...

Blessings!
Chris

1 Peter 2:20 " For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated and you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God."

Word and Motion

Quick update and then I am going to sleep...

Birth Certificates obtained this morning!!!
Tax code numbers (though not exactly what we wanted- it was a negotiation to get them promised to us for tomorrow early)
Meeting with Passport office tomorrow to try and set a scan time and day- but no guarantees on scans yet - we also have to get an official "check-out" letter from the local apartment manager in the region of the city where they used to live-and we will try again to obtain it tomorrow since the Apartment manager was gone for the day.

Thank you for praying for us. I was able to proclaim the word of God in a village church meeting tonight. I quoted a chapter of the Psalms while my friend Pastor Ruslan translated, then I taught some from the passage on the Harvest in John Chapter 4. It was an incredible time to meet together with the family of God in the countryside outside Kiev. The local pastor and I were able to pray individually for many people who indicated they needed healing in some way from God. I am rejoicing because at the close of our time, two ladies indicated that they had believed Christ for salvation tonight!!! One had been an Orthodox church member, but testified how she has just met Jesus Christ instead of being just a religious person.

John 4:25-26 "The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.'
Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.'"

Blessings-
Chris

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A time for everything...

Tonight I had the privilege to see the people from "Father's House" orphanage have a time of celebration for my new daughter Kayla as she gets ready to transition to life in our family. It was a good farewell, with people sharing from their hearts to her, and also frankly challenging her about submission to her new parents, in being diligent to learn the language, in cautioning her not to forget the Lord's work in her while at "Father's House". We closed out the time with some great food from the people in her "family group" and lots of smiles and curiosity in trying out their best English words with Kayla's new Dad.

In addition, my brief conversations with the leading pastor over the orphanage and his associate tonight led to them asking if I would teach to the "town hall church" that God has begun there across the street from the orphanage. I replied, "When is it that you would like for me to teach?"
"Tuesday," they replied.
"Oh, that's tomorrow-well, certainly." Laughter and smiles erupt in the room. So, if you will be praying along with me- for wisdom from His Spirit in this new opportunity. They have been teaching through a series, and asked if I wanted to teach their passages, or if I wanted to share my own. I am seeking for God to align my heart with His heart, my words with His word, and my steps with His steps at this time and this place.

Grace,
Chris

John 4:34 "Jesus said to them, ' My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.' "

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Prayers and laughter



On Saturday I was able to pick up Kayla from "Ochi Dome" (translated Father's House) for some hang out time with the brothers (Kollin and Kory) and me. She greeted us with a warm smile and dishwater on her hands. I think it was no disappointment to miss out on the Saturday chores completion. We raced to "Poosha Voditsia" and collected the boys after signing a "back by 8 PM Sunday or else!" letter for Orphanage 21. It was really great. We went to a local shopping area and had some goof off time in the arcade and of course the food area- listen up, Korey was with us so this is the most important part of any shopping area in his mind. He asked if we had food in the refrigerator in "Ameriki" (okay so our translator helped him ask this). When I replied that indeed we did have food in the fridge, he said basically in his little sing-song russian tone, "not after I get there..." Now there is something to like about a young man who has his basic priorities out there with no reservation. I have no idea how the boy doesn't weigh as much as I do. He is nothing but bone and sinew, is unfazed by any challenge (like he has a pocket full of Kryptonite- if you were born too late you don't get that), and he unashamedly eats like a grown man.

Our friends Oleg and Lena Vasilevsky were so kind to have "the three and me" over to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine, have a meal, and carry on serious discipleship discussion together. The four of us went back to the apartment before 10 PM to try and get momentum for an early morning on Sunday. This was not really successful- it was after midnight before they went down for the count!

It is not Easter in Ukraine yet. Most here follow the Orthodox Calendar so next week would be the time. Our mission this morning was to get everyone up, out, fed, and to the other side of Kiev by 9:30 AM to meet with Kayla' church family during the worship gathering for a time of prayer. They introduced us, told how they believe this is just one of many miracles they are seeing as God answers prayers. I actually was able to share a few words after we were introduced as a family. It was such an incredible experience to be able to share just about 1-2 minutes with the local body/family/bride of Jesus Christ on the other side of the planet! About 400 or 500 packed the place! It was humbling and encouraging at the same time. For instance- how many times have you applauded me when I said "good morning"? I am laughing... applause occurred when I said "good morning" in English. It was a really sweet time together. They even blessed us with some beautiful flowers at the close of the prayer.

Our afternoon brought some family time at a place about 30 minutes outside Kiev. It is kind of a local Kiev pro team ice hockey arena slash indoor arcade slash laser tag slash go cart place. And they are proud of it! It is without a doubt the most pricey way to spend an afternoon in Ukraine unless you are shopping in Mandarin Plaza in the center of the city. Let it suffice to say that there were some family dynamics-as you can imagine, and we are learning love and truth together. Still, it gets better each time together. The children had a blast and we closed the day out by dropping them all off exhausted in their holding cells. OK so Kory and I were exhausted. I was released to the metro station, and all my fellow Ukrainians were waiting on me on the platform when I went through the gate.

I continually pray that God will unswervingly instruct you all to do His will through His Spirt...

Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Final visit to the courthouse...

It’s really kind of funny to get to Obolonski district each morning. If you have an aversion to really tight personal space, I recommend praying before you get on an inbound subway train in the “get to work” hours (and the same thing goes for the afternoons) There are actually so many people in the subway cars that you are pressed in and don’t have to hold on to the bars because a) you can’t raise your hand-it is stuck by your side and b) because there is no room to fall- it is like a human foam packing crate. Everyone stares at some distant point so as to not look into the eyes, hair, ear, or nose of whoever is in front of you, beside you, etc…you get the picture.

We know the courthouse guard so well now that he just waves us through. It was interesting to find that the “head judge” that we planned to meet with this morning is not there. He has appointed a substitute, and it is the same person who held court for our previous 2 adoptions. (Not the judge we have had this time around) She (the substitute) has always been reasonable and kind to us. We’ll call her Judge Happy for short. We explained the deal. She listened to the deal. She did help us by giving a quick phone call to the other judge (Judge Not-So-Happy) and the court clerk and assistant. They were told to at least print, sign, and stamp the addendum document, but the catch is that the addendum has a written note that is under the stamp that basically says “this takes power with the law after 5 days”…there is not a way around it.

Still- thankfully, we were able to leave the courthouse (hopefully for the final time) to take the document to the “birth certificate chief”. She can’t issue the certificate until Tuesday morning, but at least she said she would have everything ready for us at 9 am.

I was able to help Yuriy find some medicine for our friend Vickie Carter, who is in the middle of an adoption in Poltava area, and then I accompanied a couple from Virginia who are adopting a 3 year old as we went in to the US Embassy for a short visit. They were preparing to leave and return after the waiting period, and I went in to check with the Embassy officials to remind them I still exist here in Ukraine, and to see how I might help expedite the upcoming US fingerprint and photo scan process.

Hopefully the weekend will bring some time with Kollin, Kayla, and Kory that involves more than just paperwork. I look forward to watching the dynamic as they begin to more fully learn family life as opposed to orphanage life. This Sunday we will try to make the drive outside Kiev to Kayla’s church meeting. They have asked to pray for us as a family!

Thank you for your encouragement and prayers for us! Jesus Christ continues to supply great peace through His very own life in me, and He alone can take credit and praise.

Greetings to you on this Friday of His perfect sacrificial death on our behalf…
Chris

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’” Matthew 16: 15-16

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hang ups


Okay- so before I left to come back to Kiev for this (my third) trip to see an ending to this process, I spoke briefly with another pastor who’s adopted children before. He made a short statement that I am now seeing more clearly. He said, “You know the reason it’s so hard, adoption-it’s really a war.” This morning I walked to the ancient yellow and red electric tram with a few hundred serious faced friends. We all squinted in the sunshine and savored the chilly air between the puffs of cigarette smoke (theirs-not mine).

Fast-forward now through the tram ride, and follow the herd through one of the innumerable underground street crossings and up again to the 60’s model metro stop. Several stops and a train switch and another walk brought me to the Blue line metro. Now take a ride out to Obolonski for another day in the adoption work zone. I shuffled up the gritty granite steps of the underground to meet Yuriy for a trip to the Zogg’s office for the birth certificates. First attempt was not too great. It seems that they now computerize the information from a variety of sources, and this takes about an hour once they enter it to get approval back and print it out. Problem is they have others in line ahead of me and they are in “office hours mode” and won’t have it ready till 2 o’clock or about that time. After some appeals, the lady says she will call us as soon as it’s ready and try to speed it up. Yuriy and I went to get some coffee and something to eat for a minute, and we sat in a surprisingly beautiful spot overlooking a lake.
I’m thinking, “Relax Chris, this isn’t so bad- just a few hours of delay”. But, the soft music and Calgon moment went away when Yuriy’s phone rang. He left from our table and cancelled the order. In the car he explained that the Zogg’s lady has found a problem in the court decree. One of the old birth certificates shows up with a wrong date in the decree, and as a result they cannot go forward without it being fixed. Calls to court followed, and we made a trip to see the judge to get a solution.

Waiting and praying filled the next period of time. Okay, the problem can be fixed but the addendum that needs to be attached to the decree won’t be signed/stamped as valid for 5 days by law. Five days! What?? I told Yuriy I want to speak to the judge. He reluctantly agrees and we enter. Polite but urgent, I pled the case. Careful here…Lord- thank you for guarding me from showing anger. It is clear enough from tone and some words that I understand that she’s not going to move on this. Yuriy and I departed briefly, and I prayed for the next half hour while we went to the Zogg’s office to see if “birth certificate” lady would use the unsigned addendum to go ahead with the process. Nope- too big of a risk, she says…

What now? We tried a variety of tactics: waiting, praying, talking to her staff (since they made the mistake- not us), sitting outside their office and coming up with solutions. Nobody would move. It seems that because the decree was recorded (both in audio and in transcript) they cannot make a change and backdate the decree. They won’t sign and stamp the addendum because this violates their 5-day addendum law…
As a result it may be Tuesday before we can crank up the process again. More later.

If you would, pray along with me that there is a breakthrough tomorrow as we go and meet with the head judge of Obolonski district. Pray for God to get great glory through this, and for us to be sustained as we walk forward.

The highlight of the late afternoon, after stopping our crusade for a corrected court decree after the staff left the office at 5:15, was to go see Kollin and Kory at Orphanage 21. I got dusty hugs from both boys and it was great to see them. Guess what late evening activity was going on and involves a leather ball? I actually played a little stored up energy out on the field with them. Then I realized my age and the associated burning lungs and ceased to run any more. Yuriy and I parted ways at the last stop on the the Metro on the other side of the river and I headed across the city for my temporary home.

Looking to see His purpose in waiting. I am thankful for each of you and for the faithful character of God!
Blessings,
Chris

Psalm 146:8-9 “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.”

Decreed!




It's really late, or really early. Either way-this is going to be a short summary of the day. Wake up (why am i feeling like I just went to bed?) Now- get ready (my body thinks it's midnight), get going, take a tram (don't let the lady in the photo catch you without a punch on your ticket or you are in trouble!) meet Yuriy at Obolonski...No- just wait there. He will be there in 15 minutes. No, now kill an hour in a shopping area while he waits on the court helpers. No, wait another hour-spend it writing some thoughts, praying, memorizing, watching Ukrainians, trying to memorize Ukrainian words. Okay-to the courthouse, climb, sign, wait,wait, and finally GET the decree!!!
Now- on to the "Zoggs" office for birth certificate work, but they can't have it ready till the morning. Sigh... Go get my newly found luggage on the other side of Kiev. Yeah!! Go to the SDA downtown to drop off copies of court decree for them. Now go to the apartment across the river. Call Oleg P. our former exchange student to se if he can help me get out to see Kayla since Yuriy has a conflict tonight. Take a tram, take the Metro, take a taxi...try to remember the turns to tell him to make. Get a great hug from my new daughter and spend a good time of conversation with her. Try and understand the feelings she is having, think through upcoming departure plans, and try to talk through the anxiety she feels. Prayers, hugs, down the steps and back to a taxi, back to the Metro, get off too early and hike a mile with Oleg to eat something. Walk back 4 blocks to get the Metro again. Part with Oleg and get on the last Metro train. Get to my stop across the river and realize the trams don't run here after midnight. Walk home.
Blog.
Goodnight!

"The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him and I am helped."

Chris

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fourth Quarter Peace

I played football in high school for a rather serious program, or at least based on the number of guys that went on to play in college and professional levels, I guess you could say that it was serious. Anyway-we never(I never remember it) held up the four fingers when it got to the last quarter of the game. I mean, the fans are smart people, and they can see the 4 dots that light up the bottom of the board when it gets to be that time. But arriving back in Kiev this evening gave me some inclination, if my Ukrainian taxi driver would have understood it, to hoist 4 fingers high in the Kiev sky and say prayerfully-"Heavenly Father, if it seems good to You, please let this be the 4th quarter of this adoption journey." Instead, I prayed silently and tried to pronounce "engliski" words for him when he pointed and and gave me Russian words for all kinds of common noun landmarks along our 40 minute drive into crowded Kiev. The four finger deal will have to wait for later...

My departure Monday afternoon was a rocky start-finding that my flight to Atlanta was running behind before I got to the gate. Prayers on the runway were answered when our takeoff time was moved sooner by 20 minutes than the pilot's first estimate. Okay- I wasn't completely running through Hartsfield-Jackson, but I did blow by more than a couple of guys on the escalator and in the concourse on my way to being able to hold the honor as the last guy on the flight to Paris because my boarding pass wouldn't scan, then making it across the Atlantic easily to go storming breathlessly through the confusing minefield known as Roissy-Charles DeGaulle-Paris airport. Yep-managed to go through security 2 times there based on brilliantly clear French signage in the place. No rest for the weary, I was rejected yet again for a few moments at the gate before boarding the Kiev flight as well; same deal with faulty bar codes maybe?

One thing to note, when you get to be the last guy standing at the small luggage belt in Boryspil Airport in Kiev, it is a clear sign that your bag didn't make it. I guess the barcode for it was faulty as well. So after negotiating through a line, and meeting with the very kind lady in lost bag land, and signing over my life on some customs documents along with (Ka-chunk) some stamps by the customs officer, I hope to see some clothes my size showing up tomorrow. No worries, honestly- Our God is a true stream of unchanging fourth quarter peace.

I am thankful to be in Kiev, praying for paperwork progress tomorrow morning, and praying for 3 new children to be home with me soon. Just so you know, Kayla (13) has been calling our facilitator multiple times today..."when Dad gets to Kiev can he come out here?" That's my girl... fits right in with my others! Looking forward to days ahead.
Chris

"But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever."
Psalm 52:8

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The final chapter

Just an update to let you know when the final part of this journey continues. Chris will return to Ukraine on April 7th. He will be able to pick up the court decree on April 8th at 9:00 am. This is the official document from our court date that you need to have in order to finish the process. After obtaining the court decree, he will be able to work toward getting the children's new birth certificates, passports, background checks, medical exams, visas, and airline tickets to bring them home. I know that this sounds straight forward and simple, but this is Ukraine. Tune back in on April 8th to follow the conclusion of this journey. Thank you for being faithful to follow along with us.

Blessings,
The Nichols

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tell the official-" timeout"

Based on the fact that we went to the court house yesterday to check with the judge about when the court decree could be picked up, and based on the fact that she indicated no sooner than April 8th at 9:00am, we had some choices to make. A standard waiting period after court to pick up the court decree (all sewn with thread and stamped thoroughly all over) is 10 days. Our robed official has indicated that she is packing 10 days into 14 days. We opted for Chris to come home tomorrow (March 28th)with Kelsey and Vickie, who were already set to return on this day. Later, Chris will make a return trip when the paperwork is ready. This is not easy for our kids, or for us, but there are not alot of options with the length of this overall process stretching off and on over several months now. Even though it has been quite a process, we have sensed God's surpassing peace in us through this time and even through the uncertainty of the court. It really seems that His Spirit has created many of the road blocks to allow us to fully prepare for life with these 3 new ones, and for them to see more truth and love from Him through us. In fact, they are having to learn to trust us more because of the process (that we really will return each time we leave!). Remember ministry is our life being lived out on our turf or on theirs, and God supplies grace for both.

Yesterday was another exciting ministry day in a couple of ways. One was that we found out that a couple from America that we had shared and prayed with over dinner on Wednesday night got good news about a child in another region of Ukraine, and they went today to meet the child. They actually called us before flying there to thank us for talking with them because they were ready to fly home and call it quits before we met. A second good thing was the chance to have dinner with Sue Boycott from Birmingham. She had come to Ukraine to visit a child she met on a hosting program and file documents with the embassy for her. It was great to be able to help her with the metro and to have some good conversation with her.

We've spent the day doing some back and forth between notary offices to make sure we have an early start on the "last leg of the relay" so to speak. The highlight for the afternoon has been to go to a nearby shopping area and watch our little man Kory bounce on a bungee machine like a rubber ball. He tested the limits of the elastic ropes and made the attendant really nervous as he did double back flips. A grandmother seated near by was fascinated to watch him, I think she enjoyed it more than us. Later this evening, it will be time to take everyone back to their same ole' place until a few days from now, when liberation comes full scope. Please pray for our flights and the connections to make it home tomorrow night. We want each of you to know how thankful we are to have you as friends and family, and how God has strenghtened us to go forward through your prayers and encouraging words to us. We have experienced life in the body of Christ even 7,000 miles away from you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Court day-take 2-VICTORY!


So here's the deal-we were encouraged this morning to see the sunshine for the first time since we have been here. We alloted enough time for us to take care of some things, have some time to eat, and make sure we arrived early at Obolon metro station to meet Yuriy for a short drive over to the court house. Finally, everyone showed up except for the inspector from the boy's region, and she walked in out of breath just before 4 pm. Our friendly judge and 2 jurors clopped in within 30 seconds. We started our usual round of "who am I" and "why am I here" through the room. Everything seemed to be moving fine, until we got to the representative for the orphanage where the boys live. The director couldn't be there today, so she sent the attorney for the orphanage with a power of attorney letter. There was more awkward silence while the judge perused the papers and asked rapid fire questions to the attorney, who was obviously shaken by some issue. Yuriy turned to us and basically said, "you aren't going to believe this, but the judge is saying that we have the same problem, only it is with the other orphanage now"(with the paper work wording for power of attorney). It got quiet again. Vickie and I were both silently praying and waiting for someone to speak to break the silence. More Russian words are exchanged and finally Yuriy told us that the judge is going to allow her to bring a modified paper in the morning before 10 am.(this same document needing changed wording for the other orphanage could've happened back last Friday when our court was cancelled, but evidently the judge did not want to go forward then)

We just now are getting to the heart of the process and already everyone is on pins and needles to see what is next. So, Chris gets to go first. He is grilled on everything from where he was born, to what his job is, to what is your income, to how many children, to how big is your house, to how are you going to provide health care for them, to what is your shoe size(just kidding), to why do you want these kids, etc... But the exciting thing is that we had a captive audience (judge included) that had to listen to the great story of God in taking us through three adoption adventures! They all had to listen to how we believe that this is possibly one of God's greatest uses of our life, and how we know that this in line with the scriptures and the heart of God. Next Vickie got to share her story, and be grilled with some questions from the judge and the 2 jurors..."why do you want to adopt more kids? How will you discipline them?" So phase one was complete...

Now Your Honor (aka miss congeniality) got to ask our future kids into the room one at a time. It was a small scale circus. First, girl 'k' did a beautiful job, even answering with some English words. Next, big 'k' sheepishly smiled his way through saying to the court with an honest goof up of telling them we had 7 kids. They asked if he knew who we were and he answered, "Yes--Americans!" The court room burst into laughter. Who knew? Next, little 'k' breezed in and energetically told the court that we were his "Mama and Papa!" I think I saw a smile even in the judge's face. Okay, just one more step since no one from any of the agencies represented had a problem with the court findings. Oh yeah, one more thing Your Honor...Chris got the chance to share the story of Karson's brother Ruslan, who passed up the opportunity to come to America with us in 2006, and later died of Tuberculosis. He explained how this motivated us to take action even when we just found out about the sister of these two boys, and how this makes us want to take her into our family as well. There were actually tears from the eyes of the several in the room. We waited as the judge and jurors left for deliberation.

Back they come and everyone quickly sits down to await the answer. Okay stand up again and listen. The court decision is read. Get ready.

Meet 15-year-old Kollin Eric Nichols, 13-year-old Kayla Anastasia Nichols, and 10-year-old Kory Elliot Nichols. All now part of the Nichols' family. More details later!

Blessings,

Chris, Vickie, and Kelsey

Psalm 68:6
"God sets the lonely in families..."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three's a crowd


If you’ve been wondering what’s going on, we’ve had a little trouble with internet access in our apartment, and our schedule has not given us a chance to spend time in an internet café. On Monday, we took a snowy shuttle ride from the metro stop at Nivky station out to meet girl ‘k’ and Luda, and then together we bounced our way out to the boy’s orphanage. At this point in our journey I have just about memorized the old automated voice announcements in the subway cars. It is obviously recorded from a long time ago, and the ancient speakers make it sound similar to the Charlie Brown teacher’s voice in the Peanuts cartoons. We sloshed to a stop near the orphanage around 3:30 pm and were surprised to see the director walking in the hallway. She stopped long enough to sit with us (a rarity) and chat. We discussed the short-circuited court date from last Friday and pondered the sovereign will of God about such things with her through translation from Luda. It was a good thing to talk with her, and she volunteered for us to take the boys out of the multi-room holding cell they call home each day to go with us for the night. Okay- this is a test run of the days ahead when we have all three in waiting for travel documents.

Now picture the scene as we take our future “3” with us through the frequent stares, and we single-handedly attempt to bring Ukraine out of financial recession by the amount of grevnas we spend at the nearest arcade and the McDonalds near the metro stop. It is funny to watch “little k” as he goes from machine to machine, spending his tokens like there is no tomorrow, and then to watch him eat again at McDonalds even though we just ate 2 hours earlier at a buffet restaurant aptly named some words that translate to “fat house”… I am convinced he can eat more than I can-scary isn’t it? Our evening ended with a much needed shower for “little k” and with “big k” using a brush to scrub his tennis shoes so they continue to sparkle despite the cruddy black slush and mud we tromp through each day.

This morning our little flock decided to get up at the crack of dawn for no apparent reason, so we took the opportunity to get everyone dressed and go for a 15 minute walk to experience a newly imported treat…breakfast menu at McD’s! Yes- egg mcmuffins have made a comeback here in Eastern Europe and they seem to be doing well…this writing finds us spending a little time goofing off downtown until we have to return everyone from their work release with us before court tomorrow.

Please pray for our court tomorrow at 4 pm. Pray for any unexpected items that the judge might try to come up with to delay this once again, and pray for grace and strength for us as we continue on this journey. Pray that all the people show up for court that are supposed to be there and pray for us to show Christ to our new children.

Blessings,
Chris, Vickie, and Kelsey

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Going forward



Hello from Sunday afternoon in Kiev. We hope you are enjoying your good Alabama weather, at least one of us is getting good weather. We are enjoying light snow. On Saturday, we were able to visit the boys briefly at their orphanage, and girl 'k' got to meet us there and spend the night with us at the apartment. Unfortunately the boys don't have the same privilege. When we got to the apartment, 'K' enjoyed trying on some clothes that we brought for her and showing us how good they looked. I think she really enjoyed hanging out with us. Kelsey has worked hard to help translate...

This morning we met with a group of believers in the south part of Kiev, where there were people from Africa, Australia, America, Ukraine, Italy, and a few other places. It was good to see the church reaching to the international community of Kiev, since it is a wide open area to let the gospel be carried to other nations. It was an English speaking gathering, and they were meeting in a painted and carpeted warehouse area. We are going after lunch to see the boys (with no translator), which is always interesting. We are thankful for some time with girl 'k' away from her orphanage and away from her usual network of a social worker or caregiver. We think she enjoys being with us, even if we can't communicate on everything. This is probably good practice for later for us, you know, point and do "cave man talk".

Blessings,
Chris and Vickie and Kelsey

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

Friday, March 20, 2009

Well...

For those who have had our adoption journey dvd on hold, you can hit the play button and you will see us following our contrail route back through the skies to land here in Kiev yesterday. Chilly and cloudy skies with mixed snow and rain met us at the airport. We drove with our facilitator back into town and settled in for the night at Karson’s Ukrainian apartment on the left bank.

We rose from our unconscious sleep to head across town for court today at 2 pm. It was like a reunion of sorts, with people converging from every area of Kiev. There was our facilitator, inspectors from 2 regions, orphanage representatives from 2 regions, a director from the SDA, a prosecutor for the state, 2 jurors/witnesses, and of course our 3 children, all with freshly scrubbed faces. We began our proceeding with the basic questions and roll call. No hitch there. Only one thing was slightly out of place- the director of girl ‘k’s orphanage was not available, so she had sent a representative with a letter. No big deal we thought, but this led to an awkward pause when the judge zeroed in on the wording of the document from “girl k”s’ orphanage. She questioned everyone in the courtroom to ask if we had a problem with a representative standing in for the director (with power of attorney) from girl k’s orphanage being in the hearing. We all said that was no problem, even the 2 jurors/witnesses. Then within 5 seconds, the judge spoke some rapid Ukrainian words, and our facilitator said, “she is telling us to leave and come back on Wednesday March 25th when you have the director and the correct paper from the girl’s orphanage.” All we heard next was the sound of shuffling papers and moving chairs, and lots of quiet Russian mumbling.

We sat for a few minutes in disbelief after the judge swiftly moved out of the courtroom, leaving us all staring at each other. Frankly, both Vickie and I felt nauseated and confused, wondering what just happened. The next few moments for us was really just a blur of words and confusing looks from our children and our facilitator and the people who ventured across town to be present for this court. It seems that the lack of some wording in the document has burned gas money, subway tokens, hot water, taxi fares and people’s time. We don’t know what to say at this point, but God is not unaware of our circumstances, and He is sovereign over time and events. We will apparently wait until Wednesday to try this plan again to have court, so we ask you to pray along with us for strength and victory in the days ahead.

Blessings,
Chris, Vickie, and Kelsey

James 1:2-3 “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith, produces endurance.”

Monday, March 2, 2009

I think I see movement...

A text message broke into our sleep this morning- it was from our facilitator Yuriy. We finally have a court date. It is scheduled for Friday March 20th at 2:00 p.m. We will fly out on Wednesday March 18th and arrive in Kiev on Thursday March 19th and have court on March 20th. After court, there is a mandatory 10 day wait period. We will be able to pick up the court decree on Tuesday March 31st and then hopefully pick up our 3 new children from the orphanages they have called home for so long. New birth certificates, tax ID's, passports, medical exams, and visas have to be obtained before we climb aboard an aircraft.

Pray along with us that God will sustain the children waiting in orphanage in Ukraine until we return, and pray that our 6 children here in America will have patience until this process is over. Check back soon to follow the conclusion of our journey.

1 Timothy 6:12 "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called..."

Blessings,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Still waiting...

Just wanted to update those who are still watching our blog and waiting to find out what is going on with our "on hold" adoption status. Our facilitator contacted us Thursday morning to let us know that he is still waiting on the judge to make up her mind on when we can have court. The judge was slated to let him know on Monday, February 23 about a scheduled court date near March 12. He went in on Monday, and she basically said "come back tomorrrrrow". Well, 3 tomorrow's later, she told him that she has not had time to review our case, and he needed to come back on Monday, March 2 to get a firm court date. Our facilitator has had someone that works with the judge to talk with her, another judge at the same court house to talk with her, and he himself has spoken again with her. She told all 3 people the same thing. She said she has lots of cases and has been too busy to look at our case. So...

In the meantime, we wait and we pray, we love on our kids here in Birmingham, we try to engage the tasks required of us on this side of the world, and we think often of our kids waiting on the other side . We look forward to hearing of a court date so that we can continue toward the goal of having 3 new children home.

"Faithful is He who calls you and He will also bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us."
1 Thessalonians 5:24-25

Friday, February 20, 2009

To be continued...

After thinking that we would get news of a court date for next week, we found out at mid -day that the judge will not schedule our court until March 12th. With this news, we prayerfully believe we need to come home tomorrow morning on our original ticket schedule. We have discussed this with our future children and they understand and know that we will be returning to bring them home soon. This much time before a court date (3 weeks) is not a feasible wait period for us to remain in Ukraine.

Be praying for our trip home, for the children here who will be patiently waiting, and for wisdom in completing this process in the days ahead. Pray that He makes disciples of all nations through this and brings glory to Himself. Thanks for following along with us in this phase of the journey. We look forward to telling the story of the conclusion soon. Thanks for praying for us along the way.

Daniel 2:22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him”

Blessings!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On hold

For those of you in "60 something" degree Alabama, just be reminded that winter is still alive and well in Ukraine. Yesterday was a full day of falling white powder, and evidently the night hours brought more of it...about 4 inches more of it. Today- a walk to anywhere is a sort of treacherous adventure, however, Kole loves it and it looks good to cover the muddy slush with a new blanket of white.

This morning we waited on our facilitator as he met with the inspector and the court representative. We have been and will continue to pray for speedy results...but at this point it look as though we will be waiting a few more days. The logjam of papers for getting 3 children from 2 different regions really delayed the submission of our documents to court, so we had to battle uphill an already full court docket, and in addition the judge is wanting to take a little time to review the case. We have wrestled through a variety of thoughts, and asked every question about why the process is creeping along instead of walking along. But if we spend too much time wondering, we lose focus on people, especially our children, and we lean towards complaint (and we don't want to go there). So, as we find details, we will share the news with you our caring friends and loved ones.

Please pray with us about several things:
1) That God will make the heart of the judge open to the gospel through adoption and she will be sensitive to our situation and us having 5 children at home needing us to return soon.
2) For us to wisely use our time to honor Him through loving people here.
3) For the person scheduling court- that an early next week opening will occur on the calendar. (You can pray for a miracle of court tomorrow- that would be fine.)
4) For us to be aligned with His will.

Blessings

Psalm 28:7 "the Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him and I am helped."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Encouragement

In our prayer time today, He led us to understand the privilege of using such a small window of our life to effect things that have lifelong, hopefully even eternal significance. Psalm 103:15 “as for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes…v.17 “but the loving kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting…”

“Father help us to glorify your Son by showing love to our future children, to those who hold our papers, to those who serve our food, to everyone we share life here with…and accomplish your will through our submission. Would you be our obedience, for we have none to offer that You have not begun in us already!”

As for now, we are praying for all our approvals to show up in one spot as soon as possible, but we also are praying for ways to wisely use time and distance to know our new children better and to demonstrate His love to them. As details come about, we will keep you posted. By the way, big surprise-the weather here is cold, gray, and snowy. Okay-so it is not a big surprise, but we are thankful to sleep warmly at night and we are grateful for your friendship as well.

Psalm 39:7 “and now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stuck in the middle



It was, in some ways, a disappointing day. We had hoped that the conclusion letter from the region where the boys reside would be ready on Friday, but it was not signed Friday. We assumed that it would be signed this morning early and sent to the the SDA before lunch. We were wrong. In addition, the SDA was supposed to have sent a letter to girl 'k's orphanage so they could locally cancel the guardianship. This didn't happen until 2:30 pm today by fax, and this was about the same time that our conclusion letter was finally completed out in the boys region. Unfortunately, the local council in the girl's region was not able to get the document today, and we were told that they may not be able to act on this document until the 19th of February. That is not good.
So, as we transported ladies from the boys region office to get additional signatures, we made phone calls to the girl's orphanage to see if they could put some additional urgency on the council to act and cancel the guardianship. The ultimate goal of all this is for the SDA to issue a permission to ask for a court date. Hopefully in the morning there will be a resolution about the girl's guardianship and we will be able to request court. Please pray with us, as we have been doing all day, that this paperwork logjam will clear tomorrow which would possibly give us a court date late in this week.

We have officially been gone from the concrete in Birmingham airport going on the 4th week now. It may not seem long to you, but in complete transparency, we are feeling the duration full force. As you can imagine, our waiting game and paperwork cat and mouse chase have not allowed us to spend any time with our new children today, and the problem with distance between the 2 orphanages shuts down any spur of the moment decisions to make a visit. This has been the most challenging paperwork chase of our 3 adoption adventures. We are thankful for Yuriy our facilitator, and for his warm car and rally driving skills. Doing this by metro or by taxi at this point would be very difficult.

We were very encouraged yesterday to be able to see and speak with our M17 community via skype, even if we were very uncertain right until the call came through that we would have internet access or not. It was Vickie's 3rd asking for a Wifi card that did the trick. We are less anxious about the process than we are from being away from our children, but we are "letting our request be made known to God". Thank you for joining in this with us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Free at last (for a few minutes)


Today, we got to experience a kind of temporary jail break. Our plan was to have our facilitator bring girl 'k' to meet us, hang out for a while in the city, and then all of us would take some public transportation out to see the boys. A phone call from the orphanage changed our plans. We found out that big 'k' had a soccer game against an unknown opponent. We shifted plans for our romantic Valentine's day with 4 kids and a translator. Vickie, Kole and I struck out for the last stop on the Metro, and we met our facilitator, girl 'k' and Luda and headed the orphanage first. Our facilitator had plans so he dropped us off. Big 'k' had told us we could ride the bus to the game with them, but there was no bus, only 2 cars. We were pleased to find out that the drivers of these cars were believers, who have been frequenting the orphanage on the weekends to build relationships with the kids. It was good to know that someone is caring for them from the body of Christ in Kiev, Ukraine.

We had a great time watching skinny legged boys play indoor soccer (what a surprise!) against some well trained city girls and boys teams. It is not very often that any boys get to leave the orphanage to go play. So, this was a treat for them as well. Post game activity was a meal for the boys at a local shopping mall, where they devoured twice their body weight in food. It was great to have all 3 kids plus Kole together away from any orphanage grounds. The family dynamic is growing stronger and we laughed as they awkwardly interact with each other. Once the meal was done, we turned heads on a shuttle bus as we headed over to play a few arcade games. Our fun time ended up at the busiest McDonald's in Kiev, next to "word that translates crossways" metro. This was only the 2nd time for the boys to ever eat at McDonald's in their life and the first to ever eat together there. Little 'k' actually remembered begging for money outside McDonald's to eat there the first time.

We all rode the metro and the bumpy shuttle through the night to the boys orphanage, had prayers and hugs, and then we parted ways with girl 'k' and Luda back at Nivky station. We are now sitting in our favorite internet spot writing and listening to a guy play and sing "Sweet Home Alabama". Can you believe it? The guy is from Atlanta, but spent some time in Birmingham, and now he lives in Kiev working as a journalist/singer, pretty funny... It is good to hear music in English, and songs we know.
Keep praying for the kids to bond with us and each other, and for court, and for God to be glorified and for His will to be done in us. We pray for you and are thankful for each of you. We miss our kids and love them very much!

Blessings

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More of the same

Highlights for today were:

1) A chance to visit with little 'k' and big 'k' at their orphanage for a while. We sat in (of course) the dark lobby and talked with them while the caretakers squeaked back and forth on the ancient hardwoods. They smile and stare as we laugh and talk.
2) A chance to discuss American names with the boys, and get the nod of approval from both parties. They seemed very happy to comply with something easier to say in English, plus who would want to be a Nichols kid without a 'K' name?
3) Progress on our paperwork that may have a good result for court next week. So please keep praying for the details to complete our stack of documents.

This is Kole, and i want to say hey to all of my friends. i am having fun in Ukraine getting to know my new brothers and sister.
i miss everybody and hope to be home soon next week.

We'll know more tomorrow.

Our computer that has our pictures on it is having technical difficulties at this time, so no pictures for today.

Blessings,

Kole,Vickie, and Chris

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Riding in a car

Still in the paper chase, we left our home away from home around 10:30 am (with laundry items washing!!!) and retrieved the health paper from the boys orphanage. You should know that my Russian reading is improving to a dangerous level, so I am wearing my facilitator out asking questions about how words are pronounced. Between my Russian/Ukrainian and Kole's questions, each trip is a sight and sound experience for Vickie. I am always stunned at the capsule of history from the Soviet Union days that I see over and over...more on this later.

We made a stop at the inspector's office and bought office supplies so they can print the conclusion document that we need. The document will be ready tomorrow instead of Friday because we are taking a guy to their office to replace a broken lock on the office door in the morning. It seems infrastructure issues are a little more challenging to get taken care of here, even when it is a government office.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, our friend Luda and the director of girl 'k's orphanage collaborated to send a fax to the SDA to explain why the guardianship should be cancelled by local government in the village as opposed to the region. We think the SDA likes this idea, and they are adding their own cover letter to her region inspector. Please pray that this will work so that we can request a court date as soon as possible.

Tonight, due to the waiting game, we had a few extra minutes for the first time since we've been here to allow Kole to play in an arcade in one of the underground mall areas in the center of the city. He has been great, and so patient in this process that we had to give him a little play time. Pretty interesting to buy tokens when you have no idea what the sign says about how much each token cost, but we figured it out. I felt like an ESL student must feel in a high school lunch room. After games, we scored big with a pizza place that also has Wi-Fi. Thank you for walking with us through this journey. Hopefully tomorrow, there will be more time to visit with all 3 kids.

Blessings

On display



Tuesday brought us a variety of things. We focused today on completing paperwork in girl ‘k’s region. We picked her up from her school in mid-day (I know she was devastated to leave) in the village where her orphanage is located, then we made the drive to the inspector’s office for her area. Vickie, Kole, and I waited in the dark hall while Yuriy, girl ‘k’, and Luda went inside to answer the questions from the inspector. We were prepared to sit for a while, but God was gracious in allowing this to be really short. This allowed some time for us to go to a notary and prepare official letters that would essentially ask both regions to “get their ducks in a row” in a government fashion for the SDA to petition for court.

This signing and stamping went smoothly, and so we had a little time to go eat and go back to girl ‘k’s village for a really encouraging time with a gathering of believers. Now this was close to New Testament church! First of all, they met in an unused “town hall room” and there were families, and kids, and elderly people packed into the room. Different people, kids included, shared songs and short offerings of thanks to God. We were pointed out as “the family” who had come to adopt girl ‘k’ and she smiled and was proud to have us there to show us off to her friends. What was really incredible was that since the room was full, they had already made the decision for several in the room to begin a similar gathering in a village near by. Yes! They had only been meeting 3 times in this room. Talk about multiplication-I pray it would be so for us as well. When the time together was completed, we were able to meet with the pastor-leader of this “church plant”, and to share with him and pray with him. I think he was surprised that I was so excited to see them beginning more gatherings in another village, and his eyes were focused as I told him I was praying for God to give him the whole nation of Ukraine and beyond.

He wants to meet with us later this week and have dinner. We look forward to this for several reasons. He is the actually the overall director for the Christian orphanage, and he serves as one of the Pastors at the larger church we worshipped with on Sunday. Right now, we are praying that God would speed along the “cancellation of guardianship” for girl ‘k’. We explained this earlier, but there is still some uncertainty on who decides. God is sovereign in this, and we are seeking grace from Him to see His work and to display His glory through the process, and not to display our fatigue or emotions, but rather to display His word. We miss our kids, our M17 family, and all of Brook Hills. Please continue to pray for us to share, show, teach, and serve His kingdom.

1 Thess. 2:19-20
“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”

It will not be our fortunes that show when we come to His presence. It will, however, be lives, people, faces, that we have shared with, shown, taught, and served.

Blessings

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ka-chunk!



“Ka-chunk”, wait. “Ka-chunk”, wait. If you have ever adopted, you understand that sound of “Ka-chunk” is the familiar tune of the “stamp that makes everything official”. There are little ones, that sound more like ‘Ka-chink”, and then there’s the big mama that goes “Ka-chunk”. This pattern, to some degree, sums up a major portion of our day. We started out in the cold rain this morning headed across chilly, muddy Kiev to pick up a representative from the inspector’s office in the boys orphanage region. We had to take her with us to the orphanage to meet with the boys and the director of the orphanage. It is always an interesting dynamic to sit in an office and watch 3 hours of Ukrainian language interaction between 2 government workers and a facilitator who is just trying to get the paperwork we need to continue. Despite my best efforts to pick out some words, the pace accelerates until it sounds like “hooked on phonics” meets MC Hammer, and it glazes me over. We sit, we listen, we smile, we pray (silently), we sit, repeat—you get it. Finally, the pitch of the foreign conversation changes, heads nod, and documents appear and go into the hands of an administrative assistant (let’s call her Miss Moneypenny, for those of you who know the James Bond movie-except she’s 30 years older now).

After an encore of this routine several times over, our 2 handsome boys awkwardly step in to the office, smiling and wearing their mismatched school jackets and trousers, in order to sign “consent forms” that allow them to be adopted. (I think it is an understated way to begin a changed life, but in some ways it is better this way…) They hugged us like they meant it, and then got to work. For some reason, this signing ordeal alone lasted for almost an hour, compared to mere minutes in our last 2 adoptions. The good news is that our lengthy visit almost completed the papers needed in the boys region, except we had to make a return trip to the inspector’s office to drop off inspector 13-A and pick up a paper that she forgot to bring on trip #1. So, we made another drive out to what I have nicknamed “the forbidden forest” orphanage to get this paper signed and (yes) stamped.

At this point, feeling exhausted for no good reason, we head cross-country to girl ‘k’ territory to help them get the paper work underway. We are hearing that her guardianship will need to be cancelled before we can have court, and this is a problem. It seems there is some confusion (go figure) on whether the cancellation can be done locally or if the region council has to decide it (sort of like city or county). If the city can do it, it can happen much more quickly, if the county does it, they will only meet on Feb.19th. Obviously we were praying for better news, and we got some idea at the private orphanage that the decision might be able to be made on the local level, since it was granted on the local level. A person from the SDA will make a call tomorrow, so please be praying. We got to see our lovely daughter to be for a few minutes, while Yuriy and Luda hammered through paperwork. Tomorrow, we visit the inspector’s office for girl ‘k’s region to get permission slips signed similar to paragraph #2 above.

Thanks for praying,
Blessings!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday at the soccer field




By the way, the mystery man must have come into the main room of the apartment and cut off the code to the washing machine. We just can't seem to make a break from socialism or maybe it just boils down to our great communication skills in Russian. We timed our departure from the apartment in order to make it across town to the last stop on the red line metro. We took some pictures since frankly in the fog and the mud it looks like every other stop on the metro. Yuri picked us up and he had precious cargo inside already, since he had picked up girl 'k' and Luda before he made it to our stop. We spent the afternoon with the boys and girl 'k' on the orphanage grounds playing soccer, socializing, and sharing hugs and smiles. After a lengthy recreation time in the cold fog, we headed inside to our favorite teachers conference room, where we hold high level discussions with everyone. The boys unfortunately couldn't leave the orphanage due to the directors orders about some quarantine to slow the spread of a head cold. We were puzzled with this and how it would reduce the chance of spreading it among the other kids.

We made the decision to leave the school with girl 'k' and Luda, because it was shower time for the boys. So we took the Ukrainian culture express mini bus back to civilization, then caught the metro to downtown Kiev. It was pretty exciting to walk through Independence Square, arm in arm with our new daughter. She comes in and out of creative moods just like any 13 year old would do, even American 13 year old girls. We sent her and Luda on their way to make a curfew time, while we found some internet access to blog with. Tomorrow we are joining with girl 'k' and other believers for a worship gathering near her orphanage. They have asked Chris to share a few words for tomorrow. Maybe he won't have to preach a sermon that he is not prepared to do Ha! We are making this entry short, because it has been a full Saturday. We are grateful for how you all are caring for our family, especially for kids at home. Thank you for taking meals over and making sure they have something to eat-they are loving it! (I think Alanna is enjoying it also) We are so grateful for Alanna!

Blessings,
The Nichols

Friday, February 6, 2009

growing closer



Here is a brief Friday update for you all. Paperwork is churning in the boy’s orphanage and the inspector’s office for their region. Paperwork is churning in the sister’s orphanage and the inspector’s office for her region. The big hurdles to overcome are cancellation papers for girl ‘k’s guardianship, and permission signatures from director’s of both orphanages and the SDA, and papers that are similar to an affidavit for permission from the kids themselves, etc. I’m sure we are oversimplifying based on our previous experiences here. Once all these documents line up, there will be the push for a court date to occur. So, please pray for any and all of these issues.

Our facilitator picked us up from our apartment for the drive outside of Kiev to pick up girl ‘k’ and Luda. We had arranged it so that we could make a trip to the center of the city for a meal at TGI Friday’s. It was her first time there, and she really seemed to enjoy the business lunch and dessert, just like our American daughters would! We had some great discussion, and then made the smoggy, cold and muddy trek to see the boys. The boys, what can we say?
They crack us up with big ‘k’s serious face, and little ‘k’s mischievous face. There may be work there to do with him. What is it that one spiritual man I know says? He says “getting them out is the hard part, the rest is just discipleship.” I think he’s understating the “just discipleship” if you know what I mean. We talked about fruits, colors, favorite countries, languages, our family, and we gave the boys a few items that they need just to have some changes of clothing. They are interacting very well, and we plan on more time together tomorrow. We were so amazed to hear that our new girl ‘k’ told us that she had prayed for us last night, and we have had several conversations explaining how God has lead us through this and that she is a great surprise of joy for us.

One funny thing… she excitedly told her friends last night and today about her new family, but there was only one problem, she couldn’t remember our names, and the only thing she could remember was her new name. Still, she seems really excited to think about living with our family as our new daughter/sister. She was focused today on big questions like: what are your names, where do you work, do you have a car, do we have pets, do they speak English? We explained that we have a dog that speaks Spanish, only to have her helper Luda say, “really?” Even girl ‘k’ was laughing at that. Bottom line is, that we are excited about what God is doing with these 3 children, and we are grateful for your prayers and encouragement. We pray that in the days ahead, God will display His wisdom, love and power through our family even more.

Blessings

Thursday, February 5, 2009

stairs...


It was what you would call a monumental day today just in sheer accomplishment alone, but also in the good outcomes of the day. Off to a slow start…we actually found someone to turn on the code for the washing machine! Yessss! Now, we began to be concerned about any action for the day as lunch time came and went, and we took some time to pray with our new adjoining apartment family about their embassy visit and hopeful flight tomorrow. Our prayers were interrupted when our facilitator called us and advised he would pick us up in 10 minutes to go for our referral letter for girl ‘k’, the yet “un-meetable” sister of the boys. Now in the SDA office there is a place I like to call “the stairs”. It seems that the stairs serve as a waiting room, a social area for adoption facilitators, and a Romeo Juliet playhouse where the actors come to the top and shout out their lines to the unsuspecting parents to be and the others below. Meanwhile, the guard examines each visitor in the stairwell with a scowl, and then a blank look and occasionally a smile.

Finally, you are chosen to leave the stairs, flash your passport, sign some graph paper book, get your referral paper, and head out the doors-try not to slip on the ice. Now it was on to the inspector for girl ‘k’s region, and a quick grilling ensued from 3 ladies seated at desks in a 10’x10’ room. They looked incredulously at our desire to have possibly 9 children now, but I was clearly able to share that this could be part of God’s highest use of our life and it was Him who motivated us to begin this journey.

Now drive quickly on to the private orphanage in Clanton, Ukraine (just kidding). We were able to meet our friend L. and soon a lovely, somewhat shy girl appeared over our shoulder, looking like she belonged between 2 boys we have already met. We began discussing our family, and showing pictures of us, and within a few minutes there seemed to be some bridges built like some miracle was occurring. She took us all upstairs to show us her room, her friend’s rooms, and she even made a comment to another girl at the orphanage that was translated to us quietly as “these are my future parents”. Within another 10 minutes, we had permission to take girl ‘k’ with us to meet her 2 brothers, who she had not seen in 8 years. It was frankly unbelievable that it all worked out the way it did, and we sat there stunned as she talked with her brothers and we looked at pictures from big ‘k’s room of their past lives. Of course, little ‘k’ was his usual active self, being the typical 10 year old who had basically never seen his sister. We were treated to a tour of the boys hallway and rooms, and sat around a table in the teachers area and had quite an amazing reunion. Our time closed out there, and we had to return girl ‘k’ to her district, so we struck out yet again toward Clanton, Ukraine. Of course it was completely dark for the drive and we discussed weighty topics in the car with her as we rode.

We received hugs like we had known her for some time, and she has clearly said that she wants to be part of our family. She said she has dreamed of this for 8 years now, and she even wants to change her name to match the ‘K’s, abruptly coming up with her own ‘k’ name.

More details tomorrow…
Blessings

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


There’s always that confusing, awkward feeling to do things here like wash clothes, especially when the washer is in the bathroom and the sign says’ “do not wash by your own”. What does this mean exactly? You venture down the stairway to find the mystery man who holds the code to the electronic washing machine. You ask, “Do you speak English? He says, “yes”, so you ask, “Are you the one with the washing machine code?” he says “internet, internet.” So you reply, “thank you” and walk away...

To make a long day short:
1) Pray, wait, pray, wait, Kole does some homework, pray, wait.
2) Our facilitator talked with us a couple of times to give us a play by play of the meeting that was going on at the SDA with the private orphanage representative, the inspector, the deputy director of the SDA, and the director of the SDA.(glad to know we are being discussed in such high circles)
3) We slushed to the nearby metro station to get out of the apartment for a while-had lunch-walked around- and looked in the shops to waste time. I felt genuinely like a tourist.
4) Yuri picked us up for another trip to the inspector’s office (we shuddered to think of the 8’x8’ room again). Fortunately, we waited in the car while Kole took the opportunity to play in the snow.
5) We got a referral letter for the 2 boys!!
6) Drove to the orphanage with the referral letter to give to the director and visited with big ‘K’ and little ‘k’. (Little ‘k’ was a little worried because we hadn’t been there in 2 days. He said he kept checking the lobby to see if we were there yet.)
7) As for girl ‘k’, the results of the meeting this morning are as follows…she must return to the private Christian orphanage tonight, the orphanage will contact the SDA when she arrives, the SDA will then write a referral letter for her, we will get the letter (hopefully in the morning), and proceed out to this area (to a different inspector’s office) for permission to visit her.
8) Ride silently back to the center of the city, eat supper and briefly visit with another Brook Hills couple (Greg and Melanie) who just arrived here to adopt. Offer encouragement and prayer for their adventure.
9) Venture back to the apartment-meet an American family staying in the room next door who are finishing their adoption process. Offer hope that this is our 3rd adoption journey and we have survived through His grace.
10) Write this blog and run up icy hill at 10:50 pm to the internet café to post on line.

We thank God for this opportunity to serve the world.

Blessings,
The Nichols