I had been waiting to tell all of you.
I'd been sooooo excited to tell you.
My church and I have been working with the Pleven Project to raise money for the older children of Pleven.
You know, the kids who've been there forever long, who've been abused and neglected beyond comprehension.
We've been working to raise money to build a group home for them. A place where they would have their own space. Their own staff. Their own equipment for therapies. Their own specialized programs and diets.
It wouldn't be a home home, with parents. But, for those children who have aged out and won't be adopted, it was our opportunity to allow them to live out the rest of their lives with dignity.
Without this home, their only other option was that they would be transferred...to adult mental institutions and group homes, where, because they are not verbal or mobile, or at all self sufficient, they would die. Literally.
An architect was drawing up plans. Nearly $10,000 had already come in. And I hadn't even talked toyou yet! I was elated watching God move mountains for these beloved children. Finally, finally. Redemptions for these, the most vulnerable.
Today I had to send the following email to all of the parents of precious children who've been adopted from Pleven. This is just an excerpt, but you get the drift.
Hi there fellow Pleven mama. I hope and pray you and your family are doing well.
I received word this morning of a situation happening right now in Pleven, and I am writing to you on behalf of Shelley, Toni, and the Pleven Project to ask for your help.
Today we received word that a group of former orphanage employees, who we know to be unsafe for the children, have banded together to start their own group home for the older children of the Pleven orphanage. They have funding from a EU non-profit organization who provides no accountability or oversight. They are scheduled to move our beloved children to their new facility on Tuesday of next week. We know this to be an unsafe, inappropriate environment for the children. We also know that the staff have ulterior motives.
I know this is a lot to take in, so I am contacting each Pleven parent privately, not only to inform you, but also to tell you, that if God would move you to do so, there is something you can do...
You caught that, right?
The former director's right hand man, and her former cronies. The people who abused my children and hundreds more. The people who intentionally, criminally stole the life out of these, the most sweet and vulnerable of souls. The people who put a huge cement building filled with tiny humans through a true holocaust.....have swooped in and undermined the work many people have been doing to ensure their better future.
We won't stand for this. I hope you won't either. These children deserve so much better.
I said it to my precious Pleven parent friends, and I'll say it to you. There's something you can do.
Actually there are 2 somethings.
You can PRAY with all your might that we can take back control of this project. Tomorrow through Tuesday, anyone who is willing is invited to fast and pray that the Lord would intervene, as he has for these precious little ones time and time again. That He would rescue and provide more than we can even think to ask or imagine.
You can WRITE A LETTER that will be sent to the US Embassy in Bulgaria, The County of Pleven, and the Minister of Labor and Social Policy. The goal in writing these letters is to express our interest as a community to fund a private group home for the older children of Pleven who cannot be adopted. We also want to specify that we want to make sure the children will be appropriately cared for and that money will not be given to people we know to have abused funds and children.
Here's a form letter to follow.
February 12, 2015
To whom it may concern:
[Please start by briefly explaining what you know of the abuse and neglect of children you know from the Pleven orphanage, as well as changes you have seen in them since their arrival home.]
[Then, feel free to edit the following or copy and paste it as it is.]
I understand that 12 older children from the Pleven orphanage are scheduled to be moved to a group home that will be run by the very people that abused___________________ and many other children. The same people that abused them year after year before the new director came to care for them. They are being handed over to their abusers. This should not and cannot be.
I, with many hundreds of people behind me, am willing and eager to fund a private group home for the older children from the Pleven orphanage who have lived through a true holocaust. We want the opportunity to make right the wrongs that have been done to these children for so many years. Please, help us to help these children live out the rest of their lives with the dignity all humans deserve.
We, under the supervision of the Pleven Project, are specifically requesting that we be allowed to fund and manage a private group home where the children can be properly cared for. This will ensure that all authority and financial responsibility be removed from the individuals who have criminally abused children and misappropriated government funds, and put into the hands of a board with oversight and accountability for the future.
1111 Street Ave.
Lincoln, Nebraska 68951
United States of America
All letters should be signed and scanned to Shelley Bedford at email@example.com.
Shelley will send letters to Toni, our attorney, to be translated and delivered.
Of the 12 sweet children who will be transferred on Tuesday, there are two who are still available for adoption. And for them, this would be their absolute best chance. Redemption in the truest sense of the word. Will you share their beautiful little faces today. Or everyday until they find their families? If we find these babies' families soon, we can save them from a whole world of additional heartache.
This is Brandon,
I'm sure you already know, but it has to be said. Each of these boys is beyond precious. Diamonds in the rough. They would do so, so, so well in families.
Thank you for standing with us in believing that God will make all things right. Thank you for seeing these children's worth. Thank you for your hearts that say "yes" to God, even when the things coming from his hands, at times like this, bring difficulty and heartache. Thank you.
Now, if you feel so led, will you share this post all over social media. Send it to anyone and everyone who might be able to help. Especially to people who will pray. Like, really pray. We need whole armies of angels in the coming days. These kids need God to fight for their lives. And the power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside of each of us believers, so we must pray. Will you comment here and let me know that you're joining the fight in prayer? Or that you're sending a letter?
Don't you just love watching God win? Here we go again...
Lots of love to all of you.
(This is Abbie again.)
Sarah is home now. She came home over a year ago. Her body and soul bear the scars of a lifetime of neglect - she struggles to gain any weight, she can only tolerate interaction for short periods of time. But she is growing. She has learned to speak - sometimes even in sentences. She has a beautiful laugh. She loves music and light up toys and Blue's Clues and beach balls and "lellow" jammies. She didn't deserve to spend her first seven years of life abandoned, neglected and starved. No one does. None of the children there (I believe there are between 80 and 100, but don't quote me on that number) deserve to be handed back over to their original caretakers. People are working hard to make a future for the children that are left there, but even that is being sabotaged.
However, I would wager a bet that for every self-centered orphanage worker who misappropriates resources, abuses children, or at the least looks the other way, there are five or more who, to some level, care. Although I know several weeks in a country probably don't tell you much about its culture, particularly when you don't speak the language, in Bulgaria I witnessed and heard of a number of people who seemed to view fondly or even love their charges. So what gives? How have they allowed such neglect, starvation, institutionalized damage to go on right in front of them?
Like I said, I don't know very much about Bulgarian culture. But I know human nature. And I did ask a lot of questions. Many orphanage workers do care. But in their minds, what can be done? The problem is too big. The problem is the children's "disease." True story. My friends' little 7 year old - the one who weighed 10 lbs and went home to be with Jesus before they could take her home - if I remember right, this is basically what they said. "It's her disease. That's why she can't gain weight." That same little girl had a caretaker who loved her like her daughter. So there are many complicated reasons why these children live in the conditions they do. The most obvious, abuse and selfish neglect. But the less obvious (and very common) reasons - cultural mindsets are one reason (do you have any idea how deeply ingrained those can be? I didn't realize until I spent time living in another culture. These mindsets can shape the very core of who you are.) Lack of knowledge. Or, just the overwhelming belief...the problem is so large. What can one small person do about it?
And to be honest, that's the way so many of us look about it. We also choose to turn a blind eye because the problem is so large, what can we do about it? Only in our case, we aren't orphanage workers. We aren't allowing these things to go on under our noses, so it's ok. (Never mind the fact that we have 400,000 kids in foster care, or whatever the number was - again, don't quote me for statistics, probably ever.)
Only it's not ok.
It's easy to walk into an orphanage like this ready to condemn every worker in the building. But that is wrong, for several reasons.
1. Many of them care.
2. For the ones that don't - for the ones who have neglected and abused these little ones - although I hate to think of it this way, the sin God saved me from was just as horrible as the ones they've committed. I am covered by His blood. My condemnation of them cannot be justified. Either a.) they will repent, and their sins will have been paid for by His blood as well or b.) they won't, and God's condemnation of them will be far worse than anything I can dish out. It's not my first instinct and generally slips my mind, but please pray for these people.
So what is the solution to solving the problem of orphanage neglect and institutionalization? I don't know. It's a broken, sinful world and that won't change - but good can happen, God can bring it to pass. Change takes some serious big-picture thinking. To change the world for one or two or a few orphans? That's possible and within many people's reach. Fostering, adopting, etc. To bring about large-scale changes? That's harder. It takes people who are good at government stuff and understanding how the world works and why certain causes have certain effects and who can assess and plan and see how things will impact other things and how cultures work.
I'm certainly open to wherever God leads me in orphan care, but I know those things aren't my strengths. I can blog and snuggle babies and advocate and hopefully find some new orphanages at which to volunteer and mentor in South Africa in my (probably preciously small) amount of free time. I can listen to His voice. I can do everything I possibly can.
I know God is in control. I know and am coming to terms with the fact that I can only help those orphans He puts in my path. But I refuse to believe that that path is narrow and limited. With His help. I'm going to blaze a trail that reaches every last little one that it possibly can. And I can pray for a chance to somehow play a part in making larger changes.