Author Archive for Grace Haven Staff

No Guilt, Just Grace


– Tina Kacirek

Recently, our family took a vacation. We were a large group of 9, with 3 wheelchairs, traveling in our 15 passenger van. After arriving back home, I felt a little hesitant about posting pictures. I knew most likely somebody would notice that one family member was missing and ask. To be honest, I really didn’t feel like answering to it on social media. There were so many wonderful firsts that happened on that trip and so much to celebrate, after a bit I ended up posting those photos. Soon the messages began coming in. I saw a common thread. All of them were from mom’s like me who were asking how I was able to do it without guilt and wondering how we explained it to everyone. They were sure they would be judged and misunderstood.
Instead of replying individually, I have decided to do exactly what I wanted to avoid, and share publicly. If I can ease another mom’s heart, I want to. So the following are some of the points my husband and I discussed in making our decision. If we are planning a vacation that can only happen very rarely, we want to plan for success to make good memories.
1. We considered what was best for everyone. A tight space, for long distance, with some special needs is not just hard, but in some cases, it can cause trauma to everyone around. The child we didn’t take isn’t able to currently handle the kind of constant transitions and changes in stimulation, without nonstop regulating.
(Others may not understand this because they see her in her “zone” for short snippets of time and after she’s been given much reassurance and direction.)

2. We considered past experiences. Instead of trying to make it work like we had in the past when the outcome was overcoming grief and bitterness, we looked at new options. We have 8 children and taking the one who cannot handle it, just to be together, felt unreasonable and insensitive to the others. After all they have their own traumatic pasts, and deserved to have some fun discovering.

3. We considered new possibilities. What if we disappoint that one child for a while, only for her to discover she had a blast without us? We created a vacation of sorts for her too. We brought in my brother, whom she adores, to stay with her and give her one on one attention. She had grandma with her too. She stayed in the familiar place and didn’t have to share attention. For her, that is heaven. She made memories that were new and special to her, and when we returned she was more excited to tell us about her adventures, than to know about the trip we were on.

The one question I kept getting was, “Do you feel guilty?” The answer is, I felt many things. Guilt didn’t come from within, it was an emotion that wanted to creep up when I thought about trying to explain to those who don’t understand. I wish that things were different but we can’t live our lives to the fullest trying to force something that can’t be. I felt incredible relief to do things I hadn’t been able to do in years. And it’s not relief like, “If she were just gone, life would be great” kind of feeling. When you love someone you don’t wish them away. It’s more like my brain wasn’t so full. I didn’t have constant vigilance. I could soak in new ideas, and joke around freely. It was beautiful and pleasurable.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

To Mom’s caring for children with special needs, from trauma and/or attachment disorders:
You were chosen and being equipped to care for your child. You are not perfect and you have real desires and needs of your own. You are not selfish for feeling like you need a break from your child. You are not mean, unloving or insensitive. You are human, not super human. We become tired too and need rest for our bodies and mind. The rest of the world doesn’t see what we see, and if they walked in your shoes, they would embrace you, hear your heart cry, and never again read you as harsh, controlling, overly sensitive, etc…. They would see what I see: A mom who cares to protect, nurture, love, teach, and lead their children in peace and truth.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24
I have to choose to understand that people who dismiss my concerns or quickly judge, do so off of their experiences. Most outsiders don’t realize that much of the heartache and trials mom’s like us face come from snap judgments that put us in precarious scenarios that require fast response and sometimes a long clean up with our children later. When they sweetly said, “You are so adorable, I could just take you home with me!” they had no idea what they set off for you to clean up. And so when you try desperately to figure out how to both express kindness in response but know you have to stop the sick thought process developing right now inside of your child who thinks they may be getting a new parent, well, you and I tend to look “off.”
It’s OK.


I want to be the best mom, too. I want every single one of my children to know that I am for them, with them, present. The only way I have ever learned to do that, is by getting away from them long enough to become replenished by God. No guilt in that at all. God himself tells us how important resting in Him is. We are still trying to learn this balance ourselves. One thing I have learned though, with all the best of intentions and love in my heart, I will not please everyone. Someone will always be offended. There’s always going to be those who hate you, make fun of you, etc. Just keep going. Those attempts at guilting you that the enemy of your soul takes is because you do something so rare and extraordinary in this world and it is threatening. You live to bring healing to broken hearts. What a precious gift from God you are. And we can only bring healing, when we are living out of the power God constantly fills us with.
Look inward, you will see your lack. Look up and you will see your life – the amazing one your heavenly Father has for you. I encourage you today not to shrink back anymore but to walk confidently that you are precious, important, deserving and created for much needed rest.

Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5

The Nachtmann Family for Vin

We are the Nachtmann family; Chet, Amanda, Lena and Vika.  Our adoption story began in 2010 when we were longing for a child to love.  We had been married for 2 years before we started trying to grow our family, and it just wasn’t happening.   We became foster parents but sat on a license for 6 children without a single placement.  In the mean time, we were acting as respite care for families.  During this time I was also working as a braillist for a visually impaired student while we were just waiting patiently for that placement!  This was when we first considered adopt
ing a blind child.  At first Chet said, “No way!” until we met a little boy named Will who was a tiny 4 year old with a cane and a personality as big as the world!  Will was from China. It was after him, that Chet said, “Well maybe one.” Ha!  We all know how that goes!

So, in March of 2013 we found ourselves in Ukraine adopting Lena (8 at the time) and Vika (7), both blind.  That was the beginning of our journey through love, prayers, tears, sweat, and hard work of healing from trauma.  Blindness isn’t life ending.  Our girls do everything!  They ski, horseback ride, run, rollerskate, ride bikes, hike and camp!  They frequently walk to the park and Lena, now 12, has been walking to school just two blocks away.

Well, when we got back from adopting, we found out that we were expecting!  I was so excited that I felt like God had told us to go and adopt and perhaps now we were being blessed in our obedience.  When we lost our baby at 12 weeks, we were devastated but God had other plans.  He knew that without that hole we wouldn’t have looked for another child.  Now more than ever we know this path to Vin in Serbia is God ordained.  Vin is 3 years old and was born without eyes.  We believe he is meant to be ours but we need some help getting to him and bringing him home. Out of sadness, there can be great joy!   We wish we could show you a photo of this precious boy, but laws prohibit us from sharing.

We are thankful for the love and support for our family.  Currently, we are in need of $13,000 to complete our adoption.

You can follow us at

Blessings,  Chet and Amanda


For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

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The Manuel Family – A Home for Henry

We are the Manuel’s, a military family currently living in Missouri.  An international adoption is something I’ve always said I wouldn’t do.  I’m not good with paperwork,  deadlines, writing, etc.    However, after living in New York the last 3 years, we began to hear the voice of God whispering to us His invitation to become part of His plan for adoption.   We honestly hoped it would go away but instead, God spoke even louder and more frequently to our hearts about this.

Once we moved to Missouri,  I called over 20 local organizations to try to adopt domestically.  All of them were a closed door and not one of them pursued us or gave us any hope.  However, the minute we called Great Wall of China, an international agency located in Texas, the door opened so widely that we walked right through!

Since then, we have been matched with a little boy, born in 2015. His name is Henry and he currently lives in China. We are blessed to know he resides in a medical assisted foster home with good care.   We are so excited to bring Henry home, into our family, and for God to use this adoption as a catalyst of change in our own hearts.

Thank you for praying for Henry and for our family.  This support means so much to us.

The Manuel Family

2/20/2017 – Just under $3,000 has been raised for far of the $10,000 need.  Praise God for an amazing outpouring.  Keep praying and sharing through February!   Thank you, GH Family

DONATE to the Manuel Family

5 Things to Know About Adopted Children From Hard Places

5 Things to Know About Adopted Children from Hard Places

  1. Lack of healthy affection creates confusion and fear surrounding touch.  It may feel invasive or threatening. As adoptive parents build new paths to trust by faithfully loving on their children through gentle touch, children begin developing new brain connections, helping them to positively experience relationships.
  2. Children with inconsistent care, learned they couldn’t depend on others to keep them safe.  Often, if care did come, it was unpredictable, and from multiple people.  In adoption, parents are establishing themselves as reliable primary caregivers and working to distinguish their role separate from other roles. Thus, they need reinforcement of these relationship boundaries from friends and extended family. This can be done by redirecting the child to the parent to have their needs met, even in situations that may seem natural and normal to help.
  3. It’s important to understand that due to the issues discussed above, children may behave differently for their adoptive family than they do for others.  This can end up being one of the top reasons families go into isolation.  Well meaning, positive comments can have the opposite effect on parents.  Adoptive parents long to have safe places to talk about the real things going on at home.
  4. In general, a child’s developmental age can be less than half their chronological age. For example an 8-year-old child may realistically operate emotionally and socially like a four year old.  Physically, they are often smaller in stature, and learning disabilities are prevalent.   It is important to keep this in mind as you interact, and not have expectations based on their age.
  5.   Applying traditional discipline methods to these children can actually be harmful.  Common discipline methods are based on the assumption that the child is operating with a typical brain consistent with the abilities of their chronological age. Relating to them with an understanding of this and the other factors listed here will help create a stronger bond and better affect change.

“You are the God who sees me”…   Genesis 16:13


Meet Lucia Kacirek

Lucia was born in Donetsk, Ukraine and became an orphan at 6.  She spent a decade in a mental institution where she witnessed and experienced abuse.  At 16, she was adopted and began her journey to healing.

She has a heart to explain to others the conditions that orphans are facing when no one is looking and sees the great pain in adoptive families as parents try to connect to their children.  Past trauma often comes out in behavior.

Read more from Lucia on her blog, Lucia’s Light


Convergence of Hearts

God had a divine set up when He sent the Kacirek’s to Ukraine and the Malone’s brought them into their home.  For the next two and a half months their hearts would become merged as God led them through joined prayer.  Soon, it was evident that doors opened and opportunities continued to present themselves to move as one in unity.
With joy we announce that we have become one, with Eli Project heading Ukraine ministry outreaches.  This allows families who are traveling to have additional support and prayer during their process.  This will also allow us to work more effectively with bringing support from the US to aid Eli Project in ministering to families who have children with special needs and ministering to the orphans and caregivers.
We are excited about expanding into Torez Adult Invalid facility in Donetsk and continuing to love on the elderly as the children have all been transferred out now.  If you have any questions about Eli Project, and how you can support our work in Ukraine check out our page.

His Eye is on the Sparrow by Misty Risse


We have physically been home from Torez, Ukraine for 6 months now. I say physically because this place is carved into our hearts and in many ways we are still living there. We relive it every morning when we reach into the crib and pull out our son Dmitriy, a darling smiling boy who spent almost 2 years of his life there. It is impossible to visit this town and this facility with their precious children, to then come home to America and live the “American dream.”  I failed to find a child at this facility who was not precious, who was not made in the image of God, who was not fearfully and wonderfully made. In fact if you look through all Torez, through all Ukraine or throughout the world you too will not find.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  Genesis 1:27

 I often times ponder on the love God had for Dmitriy and on the love He had for our family, in blessing us with this child. Here was this little boy – blind, speechless and sick, yet God knew him. God knew just where He was. He knew the crib he was in and the number of hairs on his sweet head. He knew his past and He knows his future. He was not forgotten by God his maker.

“…for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”  Hosea 14:3

In fact, God cared so much for this bedridden child that He sent to him a very unworthy couple from America to be his Momma and Papa. He chose to send a couple without any resources other than Christ Himself. He did this to show that He alone is the needed resource. He alone gets the Glory! He sent us over the ocean, across the globe, to our son, right where he was, a bedridden room in Ukraine.  Only God can do that!

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

In fact, that is just what He does, He comes to us.  He comes where we are and takes us just as we are. Christ gives new life, everlasting life to those who will put their trust in Him.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12


We take these precious orphans and through the gift of adoption and because of the mercy of God, they are given new beginnings in a new life.

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:15

Just as our little boy was failing to thrive, so will we without Christ. There is no life outside of Him.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

It is quite amazing to see the Lord move mountains for the fatherless. I am reminded of the song in which the course sings…”I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12: 6-7

This dear girl wanted her picture taken. I can still very clearly remember wrapping my arms around her as tightly as I could. We were able to give her a copy before we left to return home. She was so excited to get her picture taken and even more excited to have her own copy. I am thinking she felt pretty special to be able to be photographed.  I do not even know her name, but God does. Indeed precious girl, your life is of value and you are quite special to your Maker.


An Eternal Prize by Kendra Skaggs


“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step…” 1 Corinthians 9:25-26
Not prize money, or a medal, or a title. Not a promotion, a bigger house, or more money in the bank.


“So God created mankind in his own image…” Genesis 1:27
But for a life…created in the image of God, and yet deserted as imperfect in the eyes of this world.


“With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?” Isaiah 40:18
In 13 days, I’ll be able to tell you, and post pictures of, the image of God I see – not only in my daughter’s face, but in the faces of many fatherless children, abandoned due to worldly imperfection.


“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14
And so, little did their parents know, they are absolutely perfect in the eyes of God!


“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. … There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4: 16, 18, 19
He loves us and thus led us to her. We love her. We are not afraid because she is not worldly perfect.


“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:27
We’ve heard from the world (family & friends) many reasons why they believe this might not be the right thing for us.


“Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.” Deuteronomy 6:13
We do not fear what the world tells us to fear. Our fear instead is in not following his lead to her.


“And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.” 2 Corinthians 7:16
His affection. Oh, how we long for that day when we are wrapped in his affection because we have been obedient. We have complete confidence in him…and so we don’t have to fear, but follow.


“All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 28:2
She is not a burden, she is a blessing…and I can’t imagine all the blessings we would be missing out on if we did not obey.


“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step…” 1 Corinthians 9:25-26
And so we will continue in our training as Christ-followers. We will not aim for the prizes of this world. We will aim for the prizes of Heaven with purpose in every step, of every day. We are bountifully blessed. Next up – looking into our daughter’s eyes, holding her on our lap, listening to her laugh, telling her we have chosen her as God has chosen us.


Love Never Fails


****** Jason and Kendra Skaggs are still fundraising for their adoption expenses.  There is a fund here at Grace Haven if you would like to support financially.  Please pray for them on this journey to adoption and follow them at


For We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight By Misty Risse


I am honored to have the opportunity to share with you the adoption story of our precious new gift, 6 year old Dmitriy Ezekiel, born into our hearts from Torez, Ukraine.

While our adoption was just made final in March of this year, the journey of how the Lord brought us to our son starts several years prior. Today in this post I will share with you the events of how the Lord in His divine sovereignty directed our steps to Torez, Ukraine.

At the time, Mike and I had been married for 8 years. The Lord had blessed us with three children and I was about 8 months pregnant with our fourth blessing.  The Lord had very briefly in His perfect will, crossed our paths with a family here in South Dakota who was adopting a little boy with special needs from Ukraine. This family went on to adopt 3 children with special needs from Ukraine to add to their already large family. They were such a testimony to us of true religion (“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted form the world.” James 1:27) that we followed their blog and prayed for them during their adoption journeys. It was during this time that I was first made aware of a 4 year old little boy with many special needs, including complete blindness whose name was Dmitriy.  I was immediately drawn to this little boy, but did not even mention this to my husband since I was of course 8 months pregnant. We were able to easily conceive and deliver our own healthy children, why would we consider adoption? Adoption is for those who cannot conceive, right? Adoption of a special needs child, why would one “desire” to seek that? International adoption is so expensive, how does one afford that?  I went on to deliver my healthy baby girl .

Little did we know but 2010 would quickly prove to be the most difficult of all years for our family.  My sister had delivered a son who was stillborn the previous year at 34 weeks into her pregnancy, little Conner Ian.  We were rejoicing with her as she had become pregnant again with another little boy, only to one day at her 36 week appointment be told that this son too would never be brought home but that little Cameron Ian had already entered the presence of God. We drove from South Dakota to Georgia for the second time in 2 years to watch my sister and her husband bury their second little boy. After leaving Georgia we traveled to Texas where we were able to spend a week with Mike’s mom.  After continually not feeling well, my mother in law at 54 years old went to a routine Dr’s appointment to find out her heart was working at 15 % capacity. We had a wonderful visit with her and returned home to South Dakota. We were home one week when we got the call from Mike’s dad that  she had entered the presence of her Lord and Savior in her sleep. We drove back down to Texas for her funeral and a couple weeks later found out I was expecting again.  Our hopes were crushed at almost 20 weeks into my pregnancy when the Dr’s discovered our precious fully formed Levi Wesley had went to be with his maker.  “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped. And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1 20-22 We had experienced nothing in comparison to Job, yet our hearts were left full of deep sorrow.

While 2010 was the hardest year Mike and I have walked together, we are thankful we  did not have to walk it alone.  It was a year of truly learning to trust the Lord and truly feeling His presence through the loss of 2 nephews, a mother and a son. Through this the Lord showed us the brevity of life.  “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away .” James 4 :14

Then came the question. As Christians, if we do believe, which we do, that our life is a vapour….what are we doing for the kingdom of God? What are we doing that will matter in eternity? Yes, we spend day in and day out living our lives for ourselves, enjoying the temporal, but what eternal treasures are we storing up?  How will we serve the Lord with this life that He has purchased? We experienced the pain of burying our son. My sister bore the pain of burying 2 sons. We would have never chosen that. It humbles me to know that Christ chose to take the payment of my sins through the sacrifice of the shed blood of His only son, He choose this. He gave His only son as a ransom for me. “Who gave himself a ransom for all…..” 1 Timothy 2:6   Not only did He save my soul, He adopted me into His family. By this time, I had been a Christian for 10 years. I knew the Lord as my Savior, I knew these scriptures, yet the Lord had never so clearly placed these scriptures on my heart as He did during this time of my life. Shortly after we began to seek the Lord and His will for our lives.

On April 11, 2011, The Lord placed that same little boy Dmitriy into our hearts and we began praying for Him and for God’s will in our lives regarding him. This time our hearts more tender to the Lord’s will.

March 2, 2012 We stand in a small court room in Torez, Ukraine where the judge gives her blessing and announced the parents of Dmitriy Ezekiel

Remember all the questions I had on adoption during the start of this story?  Well as you can see God answered them all !

Adoption is for those who cannot conceive, right? “…Thou art the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14b Christ is our example.

Adoption of a special needs child, why would one “desire” to seek that? “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works…” Psalm 139:14  We ourselves are needy. “But I am poor and needy; yet the LORD thinketh upon me…”Psalm 40:17a

International adoption is so expensive, how does one afford that? “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24  Every single penny we needed was supplied to us by our Heavenly Father.

As I look back over our adoption journey, I can now very easily see how the Lord worked in bringing us to Dmitriy, I am reminded of one simple verse. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 I do believe that through all our sorrow the Lord was working and that through the Lord, Joy does come in the morning. I see evidence of this in the form of a 6 year old boy spinning in my living room as I type. “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

We are humbled and thankful that the Lord would use us to serve Him in showing the love of Jesus Christ to Dmitriy. The Lord has heard our prayers and He is consistently faithful.  I look forward to sharing more of Dmitriy’s story in future posts and sharing with you how the Lord is working in the life of our son as the Lord allows.

Dmitriy was the 5th child to be adopted from the Torez institution. We choose to follow the Lord’s leading to Torez where we were welcomed with opened arms. God has placed in our hearts a love both for the town of Torez, where we made dear friends and also for the Torez facility where we grew to love both the workers and the residents. Our time spent there over the 6 week period while completing Dmitriy’s adoption was a very sweet time for us. The children there are precious and we would highly encourage future adoptions from the facility.

“This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23

Please follow us as we strive to follow the Lord

In Christ,


Adoption: An Adoptee's Perspective by Andrea Benson

Growing up there has been one response, when people found out I was adopted, that has really made me think about the world’s views on adoption.

“That’s so sad.”


I have only heard this once maybe twice, but it is by far something that has really made me think. Why? Why would someone say that being adopted is sad, unless it were true? I personally never felt like being adopted put me in a ‘sad’ position or that I was any different from anyone else for that matter.  My parents didn’t have to tell me I was adopted. It was something I just knew and kind of obvious since my parents are both Caucasian and I am bi-racial. Plus,  my parents never hid anything about adoption from me or my siblings. It was an open topic that was part of our lives. Not to mention we went to plenty of adoption events as a family. My mom always told us that God put us in the family we were meant to be in, it just so happens that He did it a little different than other families.

I can see, looking back now, how some people see adoption as a sad situation. I feel though they don’t see it from the right perspective. They see adoption as a young mother, drug addict or some other undesirable situation where the birth mother/parents are forced or willingly give their child away. I see it as God giving the birth mother/parents the wisdom to make the best possible choice for their babies.  I didn’t always see it that way, but as God is growing and maturing me I see how blessed I am. I see and know God had me right smack dab in the middle of His hand, carrying and protecting me until I was able to recognize all these wonderful blessings He placed in my life.  So I have to think to myself every time that response pops up in my head.

No, what would have been ‘sad’ is if I had not been cared for properly because of the guilt and shame people might have put on my birth mother making her feel like she HAD to keep me. I could have ended up in the system, overlooked and lost without anybody’s love; an orphan or worse, aborted and not even given the chance to live.

I recognize my blessings and know I am exactly where God purposed me to be; that is far from sad.