Today, McKennaugh is guest posting here! McKennaugh is 17 and lives in Pennsylvania. She is passionate about justice and bringing love to the hurting. A couple years ago, she went with her family to the Ukraine for seven weeks. It changed her life radically! I hope you'll take a minute or two and read what she has to say about it.....
The rain had stopped falling, but it still poured in my heart. I doubted that it would ever quite stop. I ran through the huge wooden door, ran down the cracked cement steps, and yanked the door of Nikoli’s car open. “Pryvet,” I said, in a pained voice, choking back tears.
“Pryvet,” he responded, as my father and younger brother slid in beside me. Nikoli glanced backwards in the mirror at us, then whirled the car down the street. He swerved into the wrong side of the road to avoid a chasm of a puddle. I look over my shoulder. The wooden door is shut tight.
The green railings are the only touch of color. And even on them, the paint is nearly gone.
Faster the car goes, whipping around a corner. I can’t see the orphanage anymore. Yet another day has past and I have been able to do nothing…for I am unable to bring them the most simple thing that we all take so for granted. Freedom.
But I will, I say to myself, I will. A small voice inside me nags, “When?”
I cannot answer. Anything less than “Today” seems too unfair. Yet today it is impossible. Tomorrow is impossible. This month, this year. It’s all impossible. Ever? Is that impossible, as well?
“No,” I say, “It can’t be.”
Images flash through my head: Yuri, franticly grasping my hand, as he is pulled away; Viktor, calling in the only way he knows how, for someone to come to him; Katia, sobbing softly, until she is gasping for breath.
And I cry in the back of Nikoli’s car.
Lizzie wrote me, asking me to do a guest post for her blog. When I sat down at this typewriter, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I have written many articles about the Ukrainian orphanage that I spent time at, but each one is a challenge. How do you combine so much hopelessness and hope, heartbreak and heartsong, into a single post?
I cannot tell the whole story. It cannot be recalled in one post; each shout of joy, each tear, each word I spoke to Yuri. In a place like that orphanage, simple everyday happenings in our own lives, like someone saying hello, is an event in the lives of the children who reside there.
These children live their lives in cribs. Not babies; no, six year olds, seven year olds. In some places, even twenty-year-olds have never been allowed to leave their beds. Despite their age, inside they remain that abandoned two-year-old desperate for love.
Your worst day, if given to these children, just might be their best day. Imagine being sick, disabled, hungry, and clinging to the bars of a crib. You don’t know one person in the world who loves you. You might not even know that there is a world beyond where you can see. You don’t know that there is a God. You don’t know about Heaven. You have absolutely no hope of anything ever changing. You only know now. And now is forever, because the same thing happens over and over again…nothing.
Thus is life in many Ukrainian orphanages for special needs children. The one I saw was for younger children. Usually babies are sent there and stay until age five or six, sometimes age seven. Then they are sent on to other places that differ depending the child’s gender and severity of disabilities. Many of these places are said to be worse than the first orphanage. Simply put, they are mental institutions where the children will live out the rest of their lives. Even these words cannot make you understand. I wish that, for just a moment, you could stand there looking into Yuri’s eyes as you grasp his hand as he is being pulled away. And in those eyes you would see, “You are my hope, don’t go, don’t let them take me away from you!” And you would be powerless to do anything.
And, if you could live even that one split second of my life, you could understand the hours, days, years even, I spent trying to get the children I met adopted. You would know why I HAD to. When someone stares at you with “You are my hope…my only hope,” could you turn away and forget? I couldn’t.
You can read my struggle to find families for three of the children here:
Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 1) | Teens Interceding for Orphans
Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 2) | Teens Interceding for Orphans
Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 3) | Teens Interceding for Orphans
Lizzie contacted me because she had an email forward to her by a friend. I had written the email about the children who need help. I have a Ukrainian friend who sends me photos and information of children who need homes. I knew I could not find them all families by myself, so I had sent out a plea for other people to commit to finding them families.
Lizzie responded. She said that she would advocate for one of them. I asked her which one, as she had seen photos of some of them. She told me to choose one for her.
I hesitated. I knew who I wanted to send, who probably needed a home the most. It was a little girl named Nadya. Nadya was born without eyes. She also has hydrocephalus. I only had an old picture of her when she was five, although she is now ten. It would be very difficult to find her a home. Did I dare ask this task of Lizzie? I did. I told her she could choose another, if she wished, but Nadya badly needed the help.
Nadya had spent her first five years in the orphanage I visited. I never met her, as she had already been transferred to another place when I came. But her photo burns in my mind.
Imagine everything I spoke of above, and then being blind on top of that. The one child I found a family for was blind, too. Her name is Katia. She was fifteen pounds and six years old. You can see before and after pictures of her adoption:
Loving Katia (part 1) | Teens Interceding for Orphans
Loving Katia (part 2) | Teens Interceding for Orphans
When I look at Katia, I realize that love is not just a feeling. It causes visual changes. Amazing changes.
Lizzie has agreed to try to give this love to Nadia. She is embarking on a journey of faith to bring a family to this child. Please join her, support her, and help her. Yes, you. Help her pass Nadya’s story on. Maybe even commit to advocate with Lizzie.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. —Ecclesiastes 4:12
If multiple people join together with Lizzie for Nadya, you can change this little girl’s life.
Faith. Hope. Love. The Bible tells us that the greatest of these is love. Perhaps it is because faith and hope can sometimes be received from within yourself. It’s something you can hold onto, even when everything around you is stripped of it. I’ve seen this in some of the children I met…they hold on and wait with light still left in their smiles. But love cannot be invented by their minds. Love must be given.
Let us give love to Nadya.
--McKennaugh, age 17
McKennaugh was radically changed by her trip to the Ukraine. She saw the need of many children and decided to act....to bring freedom and joy and love!
Thank you, McKennaugh, for sharing today!