In Which We Become Aware (The One Where I Stop Talking)

I’m turning it over to one of my favorite people today! 

 Mr Gray

Yep! You guessed it: Mr. Gray! Without further adieu…  

Mrs. Gray has been trying to get me to “guest post” (whaaat?) for a while now and let me tell you “guest posting” is exactly the thing that excites me. (I may find it difficult to write sarcasm.) However, I am incredibly proud of her writing accomplishments. I am grateful for her ability to correct my spelling, punctuation, diction and grammar so quickly and so often. It’s like a superpower or something. I have wanted to honor her request but it is difficult for me as the manliest of men to get real touchy feely about things. The more pressing issue is I haven’t had a subject matter that inspires me enough to tell anybody about it… until now. I’ll title this post AWARENESS.

I’ve be given the opportunity to join a mission group headed to the Ukraine in June. I’m not going to get into a lot of detail about how this adventure came about, but just the fact that I consider myself very fortunate to have recognized the opportunity. The idea of being aware or awakened to the purpose of life surprisingly isn’t about some deep, inward, spiritual journey designed by some celestial being or Mother Nature or some other creation we worship. Truthfully, I’m not smart enough and don’t have enough patience for any deep meditation. Things have to be made very simple for me (much to Mrs. Gray’s dismay). 

So the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is:

ATTITUDE. It’s quite simple, many people are aware of their path in life but what keeps most people from greatness is their attitude. Things happen in life to everyone, both good and bad, but the thing that defines a person’s life is their attitude. Most people don’t choose to be fired from their job or have an addiction that destroys their marriage or get in a car wreck, but we can choose how we respond when “life happens.” We do have a choice. I am very blessed to have my attitude and my choices directed by Jesus Christ.

I’ve been reading a book about Chris Kyle, the deadliest military sniper in history, who was tragically killed a few weeks ago. The book is an autobiography of his life growing up and being in the military. Aside from the fact that he was a total badass (Mrs. Gray here, please note, I tried to have Mr. Gray change that word, but he wasn’t having it; I guess this is truly his post), the most interesting part of the book is about his attitude about life. Chris wrote about enjoying the simplest things in his life and taking in the breath of his existence. In his book, Chris continually chronicles his failures and shortcomings both as a husband and a soldier. But it’s his attitude and his focus that made him great. Oh, and when you read his book you’ll find out his life was also influenced by that Jesus fella. 

Back to the mission. Somebody asked, Why are you going halfway around the world to help orphans when there are plenty of kids here that need help? The truth is, yes, there are a lot of children a lot closer that deserve just as much attention. My response? Why does it matter whether it’s my neighbor or someone on the other side of the planet? Especially when we are talking about children. Who am I to decide what children deserve to be helped? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that every child is deserving; the question should be what am I going to do about it. 

Before last year, the idea of mission work wasn’t even a thought in my mind. But God has a way of speaking direction into my life. No, He’s not literally speaking to me, although I don’t know if that would make any of my decisions easier. Again, I want to restate that simplicity is the key. I have been made aware of a simple problem that deserves a simple reaction: GO. My reasons for GOing are mostly selfish, so I can feel good about myself and feel like I have accomplished something. God is able to use our selfish desires to accomplish His goals. 

The mission trip has a purpose to help a specific orphanage in the city of Denetsk, Ukraine. This orphanage houses the “unadoptable” children. In the Ukraine, for a child to be adopted the parents must physically terminate their parental rights either voluntarily or by a record of their death. So the children in this particular orphanage have no record of their parents–dead or alive. One common scenario that seems to happen is that the parents can’t afford to take care of their children so they will drive away from the city and just leave their child on the side of the road as they drive off. The ages of the children range from one year old to sixteen, and most of these kids are picked up off the street. The goal of the mission is to continue to build on the relationships with the children in the orphanage and the management that operates the orphanage. Support for this specific orphanage and the surrounding children’s hospital was started about 10 years ago.  

Currently the Ukraine mission is a partnership between three organizations: A&M Church of Christ, PHA (Program for Humanitarian Aid) and EEM (Eastern European Missions). Because A&M Church of Christ has a 501c3 religious designation, entry into the Ukraine is problematic, so the organizers of the mission trip created PHA. PHA has a 501c3 humanitarian aid designation, which allows for smoother operations with in the Ukraine. EEM is the partner in country that coordinates from the Ukraine side. 

One of the original directors of the mission offered the following scenarios to me: What good is it if you go to the orphanage and tell these kids that God is the answer to their problems and all they have to do is believe in Jesus and they will be saved while you get on a plane and go back to your life in America? or How do you tell these young girls they shouldn’t be a prostitute when it’s zero degrees outside and they’re starving and somebody offers them 20 bucks and a place to sleep? The ultimate goal of the three groups is to create a halfway house for the children that age out of the orphanage at 17 and have nowhere to go. The Ukraine government is generous enough to provide access to an education for these children once they leave the orphanage but most of the kids are more worried about how they’re going to eat and where they are going to sleep rather than getting to school on time. Here are the statistics:   

  • Within 2 years 10% commit suicide
  • 60% of the girls become prostitutes
  • 70% of the boys become involved in crime
  • After 5 years 80% will be dead from AIDS, tuberculosis, homicide or suicide; will be in prison, or living on the streets

It’s not about saving the world, it’s about being aware of the opportunities that God has for all of us and then doing something about it.

My role at the orphanage will be helping with Bible lessons throughout the week, coordinating sporting activities, and helping with the construction team. The construction team will be responsible for building a chicken coop with material purchased with in the Ukraine. Along with the children’s garden, the chicken they raise will dramatically increase the protein in their diet. The medical team’s goal is to assess future needs of the pediatric medical facilities surrounding the orphanage and continue advising the medical staff.  Each team member is responsible for covering the cost of his or her own trip. I have been blessed to have the financial means to do this while helping fund other team members. My singular fundraising responsibility is gathering as many soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, frisbees and any other sports equipment that we can fit into two disposable suitcases. If you would like to help with any part of this project, you can send deflatable balls or disposable suitcases, or make a donation for us to purchase them (please note in the memo line).

The logo below will take you straight to the online donation page; if you’d like to mail a check or contribute balls, please send an email, and we will get you the address.  

Thank you to those who have already contributed. I appreciate it.


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