July 6, 2011

Neighborhood Kids LOVE US!

Summer is in full swing, and our second team is here already, and, in fact, they're almost on their way home. We've had an awesome time with this team from North Carolina, USA. Though the team is only here for a short time (1 week total), they have made a huge impact! During the daytime we visited the kids of Solnechney Orphanage, and every evening after dinner we spent in our local neighborhood, spending some fun times with the kids in our neighborhood. Every day more and more kids from surrounding neighborhoods joined in on the fun. What fun interested these kids so much? Well, every day we brought the kids outside Frisbees, jump-ropes, and soccer balls to play with. We've brought these things every year, but this year's hit was the new things we brought, such as face painting and glowing bracelets! These two things alone were the biggest attention-grabber of all, but we also did scratch-art crosses, and even preached to the kids with "Evangicubes". The first day of the week we had about 25 kids show up and play with us, and by mid-week we had 50+!! Our second-last day was the biggest show-up; we had upwards of 70 kids swarm outside around us on the playground!!

Here our team is singing songs with the kids
Every time even ONE of our team members showed up to the neighborhood, a group of no less than 30 kids would all scream in unison from excitement and swarm around that person, asking what we would do with the kids that day. I remember the first time I experienced it for myself. I came out of the main door of my apartment building and what seemed like 40 kids ran full-tilt towards me and surrounded me. I had glowing bracelets to hand out, and it was a frenzy! Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed. As the days went on, and the numbers of kids grew, I got more and more concerned with what the neighbors might be saying and thinking about us. I felt like we were the Pied Piper, because these kids seemed to want to participate with us, no matter what we were doing.

Typically in summer there are several elders of the neighborhood who sit outside my main door, keeping an eye on the neighborhood, sort of like like a "Neighborhood Watch" program organized by themselves. They keep watch over the kids in the neighborhood while the parents aren't around. So basically, if you get on their bad side, you are in deep waters. The other day I came out my main door to join the rest of the team outside with the kids and found a distraught mother of one of the kids from the neighborhood looking to make a fuss. She came straight to me and started yelling at me, asking where we came from, what we're doing, and why kids from families need "free handouts" and why we need to play with them, since they have parents. That's when our "Neighborhood Watch" ladies piped in. They were beside themselves at the nerve of this woman. They said, "Look at all these 70+ kids in the playground right now. Tell us where their parents are! They are all over there at the bar or in their apartments getting drunk and/or stoned while their kids roam free outside, without someone to watch over and care for them, let alone play with them! They are neglected. Yet these wonderful Americans travel half way around the world to play with them and hand out gifts to them. They are taking care of our children because our people are too apathetic to do so themselves." I was beside myself. The ladies looked at me with a smile. "Don't pay attention to this woman, or any others like her who complain about what you do. We have no problem with it. You are doing a good thing." I was so very thankful and encouraged immensely.

When you want a picture with one, you get a picture with them all
I am grateful for such an awesome team who was able and willing to do so much in such a little time. It took some courage to handle this crowd of neighborhood kids. I even had fear of it, and I could actually communicate with them. My main concern was that my own neighbors would start to hate me because of our program, because to some it may seem rather invasive, and it may seem like we are stealing their kids from them like the Pied Piper. But through the encouragement I got from the ladies outside my apartment, as well as numerous helpful and encouraging parents, I know what we did was successful and good. Many kids' lives were touched, and they heard the story of Jesus. All praise be to God Almighty for His goodness!

Speaking of parents who were encouraging, one even wanted to take a picture with her daughter and me together. Here is that picture...


  1. Love it!! Great picture from above, too! :)

  2. That's awesome Curtis!! I wish I could have been there to witness it. We got a little taste of the kids in the neighbourhood, but praise God - it sounds like He is opening new doors of opportunity!!

  3. Great that you have support from the neighbourhood watch, Curtis. I am always amazed at how much fun you can have doing simple things with kids in Ukraine. Just a little love and attention goes such a long way.