Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Russian Friends

Olga, our Russian translator and friend, has been a continual blessing in Misha and our family's lives. We have been so delighted to also get to know Paul and the kids over the last few months.

Paul and Olga, Victoria, Alec, Maryanna, Janet, Eugene, and Paul Jr.

Shortly after Misha's hospitalization he began saying that he missed speaking Russian and hearing his own language. Olga told me she would gather together several youth who spoke Russian and bring them up for a visit.
The first group that came were Olga's neighbors, friends and family. They represented three different churches and it was really good for me to experience how Misha feels when everyone around you is speaking a language you don't understand. I really enjoyed getting to meet Natalia and her children, as well as, having David teach me how to play a game of pool.
We had a great day and I just loved the following photo of Hannah and the girls!
A few days later, Misha had a visit from the younger youth group of Slavic Pentacostal Church in Inman. Stephanie and I were at the Bonne Aime dinner, mentioned in the previous post and unfortunately missed getting to meet this group. Misha and the rest of our family really enjoyed getting to know these precious people, as well.

Our family was so blessed by the sweet and compassionate spirits both groups had toward Misha. We were delighted to hear that some of the churches have Russian services and look forward to taking Misha so that he can hear the gospel in a familiar language. God bless you all for everything you did to make Misha feel loved and special!
Misha sure looks happy being surrounded by so many lovely ladies!

Bonnes Amies

During the Christmas holiday, Stephanie and I had dinner with a wonderful group of ladies, who call themselves the Bonnes Amies (which means "good friends" in french); introduced to us by a friend and fellow church member Judy Bishop. We had a delightful time hearing stories about how Judy's mom, Julia Scott, Mary Jane and Florence formed this group over 60 years ago. The group meets once a month and every year has a special theme for Christmas (this year it was candy canes).
We were so blessed as we observed the special bond these ladies share with each other. It reminded me of the days when women would get together and exchange homemaking skills as they laughed and quilted together. The busy generation that we live in has robbed many women of the priviledge of having such close friendships and opportunities to learn from each other. How encouraging it was to witness a group of women who have overcome such obstacles.

After a wonderful meal and a time of sharing the group presented us with a generous check for Misha. Thank you ladies for the special part you have played in adopting Misha.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Misha's New Wheels!

Update: I wrote this post several weeks ago, but due to our lengthy hospital stay, I'm just now getting around to publishing it.

Philip and I have been so blessed over the last two months by your prayers, gifts and words of encouragement. God has used so many different things to demonstrate His provision for our every need, even before we know those needs ourselves. The following story is a beautiful testimony to this.

When we were preparing to leave the hospital 6 weeks ago, three days after Misha's leg amputations, Misha was very nervous about how we would get from the car to the front door of our house. Our home is not handicap accessible and he was really worrying about how we were going to pull this off. Everyone at the hospital assured us that everything would be fine, but Misha wasn't convinced. After hours of quizing him we began realizing that his big concern was our old wheelchair bumping him around to much and not allowing him to recline to the position that was comfortable for him. We decided to just rent a reclining wheelchair for a few weeks in order to give him peace of mind.
(Misha's old wheelchair)

When the day came to return the wheelchair, Misha had a doctor appointment and since the rental company was nearby we decided to just drop it off on our way home. Just for fun, Philip decided to price wheelchairs while we sat in the car. Minutes later he came out, picked up Misha and told me that the saleman was really nice and had suggested we just bring him in for a look around. As we entered, a used electric wheelchair caught his eye. Philip placed him in it and to all of our amazement he began wheeling himself around with great skill and ease. From the look on his face you would have thought that someone had just handed him the keys to a new Ferrarri. He was clearly impressed!!

However, we left that day realizing that an electric wheelchair simply wasn't something we could wisely spend money on. Two weeks later the salesman called and said that the owner had willingly offered to reduce the price. We were amazed at what a good deal was being offered to us; yet, trying to collect money for Misha's adoption must be our number one focus, so we decided once again that even though it was a great deal... it was a luxury that we just couldn't afford right now.

Several days later, Misha had another doctor exam and we found out that he would be hospitalized for several weeks. After the surgery to connect him to the Wound Vac, I had the opportunity to talk with several patients who also had this machine and began realizing that several weeks is a very hopeful estimation. Everyone I talked with had already been hospitalized for at least 6 weeks and most thought it could possibly still be months before they were able to go home.

The thought of Misha being hospitalized for that much time overwhelmed me for many reasons. How would I juggle hospital and home? How could we make a needy child more independent... quickly? These and other questions raced through my mind.

Suddenly my phone vibrated and brought me back to reality. The wheelchair had been privately donated to Misha by its owner. What a shock! And WHAT a blessing!! When I called the store to thank all who were involved with making this gift happen they connected me with the owner of the wheelchair. I was so blessed by the generousity of a total stranger and yet after only moments on the phone our spirits connected by a shared faith. The owner asked that I not reveal their names but gave me permission to share the blessing.

God used this sacrifice to demonstrate several things about Himself to me. His Omniscence was revealed in His knowing our needs long before we did. The day we innocently pursued renting a wheelchair, for a scared little boy, had been orchestrated by a loving God who was preparing others to join with Him in meeting our needs.

Misha has had many painful experiences these past couple of months. The Wound Vac machine has tubes that are connected to a sponge that fits inside Misha's legs. This sponge has to be changed three times a week and is a very painful procedure. Misha's wheelchair was presented to him just moments after his very first sponge change. There could never have been a more wonderful gift for the moment.Because Misha's arms and hands are deformed the removal of his legs required him to depend on everyone else to help meet his basic needs. As I've watched him glide around the hospital with a huge smile on his face, I've realized that the wheelchair help give him back dignity that he had lost. In his wheelchair he can pretty much go where he wants to go giving him a feeling of freedom and control that he desperatedly needed.

Since Misha has been in-doctrinated with atheism, it has been especially wonderful for him to witness the mighty power of God, in providing all our needs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

World Magazine article on Misha

A few weeks ago, we were contacted by Alisa Harris, a reporter for WORLD Magazine, about doing an article on Misha. Here's the article per WORLD Magazine's website!

One of their own

EASLEY, S.C.—When Philip and Melissa Johnson, the parents of eight children, volunteered to open their home temporarily to a disabled Russian orphan, an organization sent them a photo of 15-year-old Misha Bunitskiy. His hands were twisted towards his body. His elbows were locked straight. His arms were so fragile that you could close your fingers around them. His feet and legs were so mangled he had to walk on his knees.

But a friend told them, "He looks just like one of your children," and since Misha came to the Johnsons' home two months ago, he's become like one of their own. At first Misha had a breakdown if he spilled a drop of food. He was self-conscious about his deformities, especially his feet, until once when Melissa felt an impulse to kiss them. He started to cry, grabbed her in a hug and said, "Mom, I love you!"
It was a breakthrough, Melissa said: "I guess he felt that I had accepted something he's been rejected for." Misha's mother saw his crooked body and abandoned him at birth. Now the Johnsons hope to adopt Misha so he can stay after he completes his medical treatment and recovery. He is with them under the auspices of International Guardian Angels Outreach, a Christian organization that places disabled Russian orphans in temporary foster care while they get medical treatment.

There have been challenges—Misha hates American food and has to break habits he learned in the orphanage, where he smoked and drank—but he has bonded with the Johnson family. "He loved the children," Melissa said. "He really loved me. . . . He came up to me like he wanted to sit in my lap and I just grabbed him and hugged him, and he'd never had that before." He's a mix of strength and vulnerability, Melissa said—brave but terrified of pain.

Misha has already undergone a double amputation at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, S.C. He'll get a prosthesis and if he chooses, surgery to unlock his arms and fix his hands. For Misha to stay after his recovery is over, the adoption will have to go through before he turns 16 on May 9. Melissa hopes that happens, and that this adoption is part of a bigger one: "The bigger goal is to adopt him into the Lord's family. And you know, that's the reason we do this." — Alisa Harris

To read the entire article, with the other families featured, click here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Longing for Home

Misha is doing great! His legs are healing nicely, and we are praising the Lord that all his cultures came back negative. Every day is filled with occupational therapy and physical therapy among other socialization activities such as crafts and games.

I find that we're kept so busy here, that I've not had the time to update like I would have liked. The hospitalization has also prevented me from getting all the DVD's out in a timely fashion. Stephanie will be sending a batch out today, so I thank you all for your patience.

When I first heard that Misha's stay would be a long one, dread filled my heart. I caught myself worrying how I could ever keep up with all that needed to be done at home and be here at the same time. I praise the Lord for a wonderfully understanding husband, and children who are willing to sacrifice themselves and help out.

I'm daily reminded that God always has us right where He wants us. I have loved getting to know the precious staff here at Shriners. I have met so many wonderful people and have been blessed by so many of the patients as well.

I have a confession. I'm a person who could easily become a hermit. I love being in my home with my family and I really have to push myself to mingle in social situations. Its not that I don't enjoy being around people, quite the opposite, I love people. I am just naturally an introvert and get charged by being alone.

God is using this time to teach me that His plans for our lives are not always comfortable. Stephanie and I have realized that for the moment, God has placed us in an arena where we can share hope to those who are hurting.

Although we all long for home, we will joyfully bloom where we have been planted.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Reflections of Thanksgiving

What a wonderful Thanksgiving we had this year! We traveled down to our oldest daughter's home where we enjoyed the fellowship of her husband's family, along with ours. Our four oldest daughters, cooked the entire meal, providing Isaac's mom and I with a much needed rest.

Last minute touches!

Look at all the delicious food!

And Desserts!

Misha asked us several times what this holiday was all about, so it gave us some great opportunities to teach him about being thankful.

Hannah teaching Misha Yahtzee

During his first days with us, we began realizing that he was not always thankful for the things he received. This confused us because we have always expected that someone who has so little would be grateful for anything they received. Instead, of gratitude we faced a demanding and complaining spirit.

One of the areas that his ungratefulness was mostly displayed was during mealtime. He would say, "foo, me no like"and push away his plate. Maybe some of you out there are also finicky eaters and sympathize with him, but as the mother of a large family I cannot share your sympathy. There are too many jobs in our household to create another. Welcome to boot-camp Misha!!!

Mealtime has become the classroom where Misha is beginning to learn gratefulness!
The Lord has been using Misha's ungratefulness and the heartache it has caused me, to reveal how much my Savior is hurt by my daily demands and ingratitude. As I constantly sacrifice for Misha and work to meet all of his needs, I have become frustrated when he didn't appear to understand the fullness of what all I do for him. One day, when I was in "one of my moods", I began to get a small glimpse of how Jesus must feel when I continually neglect to appreciate all that He has done, and continues to do, for me.

When God adopted me as His child; He took an undeserving sinner and clothed me with a garment of Righteousness. During the 25 years that I have been His child, my needs have always been sufficiently met. Yet, there have been so many times when I have grumbled, complained or questioned His judgement over the circumstances in my life.

Jeanna holding her cousin Mercy

We can all deceive ourselves into seeing only selective things about ourselves. As I have looked into the mirror that God has placed in front of me (Misha), I have seen my true reflection. It is not very pretty!!! I now desire to strive for a thankful, joyous spirit. By the grace of God, and with His help, I will be a better example for "the mirror" He has placed in front of me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back in the Hospital!

On Monday, December 3rd, we took Misha in for his regular doctor examination. After examining his legs they decided to re-admit him for a surgical procedure that would open up his wounds and allow them to place a wound-vac in both his legs.

The wound-vac is a small machine that connects to a sponge and tubing that is inserted into the wound and kept in place with tape. It gently suctions any drainage from the wound and will expediate proper healing. It also helps keep the area clean so that there are fewer risk of infection.

The negative thing about this machine is that it must stay attached for several weeks to be effective. Therefore, we will be spending most of the month of December in the hospital. Misha's not to happy about that!!!

His surgery went very well. There was no sign of infection, but there was a lot of fluid trapped under the skin. He's doing great and ready to get up and move around.

I've meet some really nice families this visit at the hospital and know that God has providentially led us here. God has proven that He works all things together for our good and He's been using these testing moments to build my faith and trust in Him.

Spending the holidays in the hospital during such a busy time, isn't my idea of a restful break, but God knows how to slow my activities down to the important things. We had already decided to make Christmas very simple this year. God is just ensuring that I have a good excuse!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers!

Blessings to you all,