Step by step. That is how the Lord is teaching Wendy Farrell to walk out her faith. Motherhood can be a battle in and of itself, but Wendy isn’t just navigating the challenges of life that come with being married and having five daughters. As a caregiver and advocate for 31 Ukrainian children, she is leading her non-profit, 1U Project, during actual warfare.
Wendy and her husband Ryan’s story with Ukraine began nine years ago.
“It was noon on a Friday,” Wendy said.
Her then four daughters – all under the age of four – were down for nap time, as she read a blog post from her sister-in-law’s friend. This mutual family friend was in the process of adopting a teenager from Ukraine.
“My husband and I had always had adoption in mind, but we thought [it would be] years down the road when our girls were older,” Wendy said.
Those years down the road, however, turned into just a few months.
“In Ukraine, when you turn 16, you’re no longer eligible for international adoption,” Wendy said.
Enter: Alona. That day, during nap time, Wendy read about her sister-in-law’s best friend’s daughter’s best friend. It turned out that the adopted teenager from Ukraine had a friend named Alona who was about to age out of their mutual government orphanage.
“I was reading it at our kitchen table, and I just felt like the Lord telling me that this was our daughter and we were supposed to adopt her,” Wendy said.
After a phone call with her husband at work, a significant amount of prayer, and ultimately confirmation from the Lord, the Farrells began the adoption process and were able to bring Alona home a few months later in September of 2013. “Adoption is never easy because adoption comes from great loss,” but Jesus can turn pain and suffering into life-changing joy.
“She is amazing and so brave,” Wendy said. “I think I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone more because of her.”
Wendy has also learned more about the Lord.
“Our adoption wasn’t about rescuing Alona or saving her,” Farrell said. “I have learned so much about surrender and how our lives never really look like what we think. What we think is best is usually not what God’s best is. And so, I have learned to release a lot of control to God through our adoption and to trust Him every step of the way.”
While spending a month with Alona before coming back to the United States in 2013, Wendy “fell in love with Ukraine,” specifically the people and kids there.
“I knew that God was stirring in my heart that that wouldn’t be the last time I would be in Ukraine,” Wendy said.
Because of a local missionary spreading the love of Jesus to kids in the Ukrainian orphanage where Alona lived, she had previously come to know Jesus.
“I attribute her ability to adjust to our family because of the love of God in her life,” Wendy said.
Because Wendy wanted that same love to be shared with as many kids in Ukraine as possible, she returned to find local ministries to partner with. This is when she heard about Nikolay Shagarov and his effort to establish a Christian orphanage. Without support from the government due to the Christ-centered nature of his work, Nikolay needed help. Thus, 1U Project was born.
It wasn’t easy, though. Right after she heard God’s call to start 1U Project, Wendy’s husband was offered a job in Springfield, Missouri. So, they packed up their family and moved from Little Rock, Arkansas.
“We moved to Springfield we thought for his job, but it was really for our ministry,” Wendy said.
During this time, Wendy began researching local Springfield churches. While listening to the pastor at Ridgecrest Baptist Church on a run, she heard him talk about his desire to minister to and care for orphans. She later learned that this pastor wrote his doctoral dissertation based on a book about orphan care in Ukraine. God had uniquely brought their paths together. Step by step, He was faithfully walking with Wendy through what He called her into. Within just a couple of weeks of being in Springfield, she even brought along the executive pastor of Ridgecrest with a group she was leading on a mission trip to Ukraine.
According to the website, 1U Project’s “greatest desire is to serve Ukrainian orphans and their communities.” The non-profit does this through partnering with Children’s Path, where Nikolay serves as director, to care for orphans in Ukraine.
Since its onset, Children’s Path has cared for 69 kids and nine of them have been adopted into the United States. Wendy is typically able to take three to four trips a year to visit with the kids. Through summer camps and an exchange program, she has been able to embrace these orphans with the love of their Savior and give them a family of their own. Each time she visits, she can see “the transformation that love and security and safety have on these children.”
Creating an environment where this “love and security and safety” can be fostered remains a top priority for 1U Project and Children’s Path, especially in the midst of war.
“It was Thursday morning at 5 a.m. in Ukraine when the war began,” Wendy said. “I’ll never forget. I was sitting on my couch in my living room, and I saw the news reports that the bombs had started to drop, and that Russia had invaded.”
Wendy immediately began praying here in the United States, where it was still Wednesday evening. With a contingency plan in place for the once looming, now transpiring war, Nikolay began mobilizing the orphanage to Poland. After five days of working to obtain government permission, he was able to bring the more than 30 orphans across the Ukrainian border.
Step by step, God provided again in delivering the kids safely to Poland and providing them a place to stay. After arriving earlier than expected, God used both the owners of a Polish Hilton and a diner to feed and house the children of Children’s Path.
“We have to trust Him with each step, and He gives us peace or direction for the next step and the next step.” Wendy said.
Having already spent 10 weeks of 2022 in Poland, Wendy can see God’s hand even as war wages. Children’s Path is still currently in Poland and she plans to visit again in the fall.
Wendy recently shared her testimony with the congregation of Parkway Place Baptist Church in Little Rock during their Sunday evening “Defining Moments” series. As a daughter of Becky and Dr. Rex Horne, Wendy has a special connection to Arkansas Baptists. She pleaded with those in attendance to pray for the war in Ukraine to end. If you would like to learn more about her non-profit, visit www.1uproject.org.
Through it all, God placed Isaiah 30:21 on Wendy’s heart: “and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: ‘This is the way. Walk in it.’”
“That was just kind of a word from the Lord,” Wendy said. “[He said:] ‘Always listen to my voice. It may be crazy. You may not know where I’m leading you but listen to me.’”