Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I Shared at Orphan Sunday Today.....

Included below is what I shared at our Orphan Sunday service this morning.  It was great to reflect on our beautiful little girl and the work that God performed in bringing her home.  To God be the glory.  We love you Peaches!!!!

It was three years ago during the Orphan Sunday service that God moved in our hearts to consider adoption.  During that service, our eyes were opened to the needs of orphaned children around the world and we were lead to consider, “what could we do?”  Over the next year, God led us down an amazing road of experiencing Him as He brought Meddie half-way around the world to live in our home and be a part of our family.

So, three years later, what does adoption mean to us?

When we first met Meddie, she was alone on the steps of our Agency’s transition home.  Although the Agency’s transition home provided for Meddie’s basic needs, it obviously did not fill one of her basic needs – a family.  She talks today of how she would cry in bed at night and the workers would just tell her to be quiet.  She was scared, and there was no one to comfort her, no one to hold her, no one to make her feel safe and secure.  She had been abandoned by her family.  She was an orphan.

On that Orphan Sunday, three years ago, God began to target our steps with laser-like precision for us to become the parents of Meddie Grace.  He began to open doors and move our hearts toward a girl halfway around the world.  Though we could not have been physically farther apart, God was beginning to weave our lives together.  At the time it often felt as though we were walking through an endless maze, never getting closer to our endpoint, but as we look back now we see that God was doing the work and setting our steps.  We were just along for the ride.

God was the one who placed Meddie into our lives.  He gave her to us so that we could be her parents, so that we could be her family.  He allowed us into her life, in that tender place where we would be Mom and Dad.  She would no longer be without family.  She would no longer be alone.  She would no longer be an orphan.

This took place at three different levels.  First, was the legal process of adoption.  Meddie has been legally declared our child through a court of law both in Ethiopia and in the US.  Legally, she is viewed as our heir as though she had been born by us.  There is no legal distinction between her and her siblings.  Secondly, was the physical process of adoption.  Once Meddie entered our family, she began to live with us and be one of us.  She began to learn to live together as our daughter amongst many siblings.  And lastly, was the emotional process of adoption.  It takes a long time for an orphan to develop trust in her new family and her new parents.  There is an emotional hole that was left from her abandonment and an orphan is often slow to allow that hole to be filled by another.  It is a natural response to prevent any further hurt.  Only God can reach in to the depths of that broken heart and allow healing and restoration.  Only God can allow that child to emotionally become part of a new family.

How has this changed our view of our Spiritual adoption?  We see that God is the One who takes the step of legally adopting us.  In the same way that we stood in a court of law with Meddie and she was declared our daughter, we stand before God’s throne on the basis of Christ and are declared sons and daughters.  He physically abides in us and becomes our Abba Father.  He becomes our Emmanuel, God with us.  He declares that He will never leave us or forsake us.  He reaches in and restores our soul and heals our diseases.

Meddie’s story has a happy ending.  She is living in a home with a family.  Certainly not a perfect family, but nonetheless, a family.  She has many friends.  She is surrounded by love.  But her story is an exception.  According to UNICEF statistics, there are over 18 million children world-wide who have lost both parents.  The vast majority of these will never know what it’s like to be in a family.  They will never be held be a mom or dad.  They will grow up in orphanages or on the streets.

Is God moving in your heart today to reach out to an orphan?  Whether though sponsorship, foster care, or adoption, there are many opportunities available for you to be involved and share the love of Christ with those in need. 

What steps can you take next?

Pray for His leading.  Research opportunities and ministries that reach out to vulnerable children.

Consider sponsoring a child who is in need.  There are many wonderful organizations that are doing great works in the lives of children.  One of those organizations is Look Development.  There are many children available to be supported through Look Development.  Many of you have already done this.  We have seen these children first-hand and can attest to the significant impact that your support is making in their lives.  Or if God has laid another country on your heart other than Ethiopia, you can support one of the children through World Vision.  Please take time after the service to stop by the table in the back that has sponsorship children available both through Look Development and World Vision.  The sponsorship programs of these organizations perform a significant impact on the lives of these children.  The support provides food, clothing, schooling, and access to hear the gospel.  These programs are truly life changing for the children who are sponsored.

You can also consider adoption.  As most of you know, adoption is a long process.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  The many, many steps provide time to pray and consider God’s leading.  Maybe the first step for you to consider today is to pray and ask God, “are You leading our family toward adoption?”  “Do you have a child for our family?”  If you feel that is where God is calling you, then take that step and begin to pray –  and begin to walk in faith and see how God will amaze You as He weaves your family’s story through adoption.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great Book - "Running for My Life"

Lopez Lomong.
Age 6, living in Sudan, taken from his mother's arms by rebels.

Taken to a rebel training camp with hundreds of other boys.

Escapes from the camp with three other boys.

Runs for three days across the harsh Sudanese landscape.  Barefoot.  Hungry.  Lost. 

Arrives at the Kenyan border, sent to a refugee camp, officially a "Lost Boy" of Sudan.

10 years in the Kenyan refugee camp, surviving with 50,000 others, living in a hut with 10 other boys.  Loves soccer.  Loves to run.

Comes to America as a refugee, discovered as a runner with extraordinary talent.

Qualifies as a US Olympian, carries the US flag in the Beijing Olympics.

Knows that God has carried him every step through his incredible journey.

Just a few highlights from the book, "Running for My Life" by Lopez Lomong.  The story is a reminder of the harsh realities of life in Sudan, life in a refugee camp, and life in America as a former refugee.  Each step of his life is a journey of pain and difficulty and yet, from his viewpoint, a necessary part of God's plan for his life.  A plan that includes reaching sports' highest stage and using that stage to point others to the needs of Lost Boys and those suffering in the Sudanese conflict through his Foundation 4 South Sudan.

The book is also a reminder of how much we have in America in comparison to many around the world.  Questions roll through my mind.  Why have we been blessed with so much?  What should we be doing to help?  How will God view our stewardship at the end of our lives?  Are we doing what God expects of us?  Are we listening to His voice in our lives?  Do we see others' needs and do we act to help others?

I don't think the end goal is merely to feel guilty.  I think the end goal is to examine where we are in our lives and quietly listen to God, to do what He has for us.  It is not helpful for us to go in multiple directions, fueled by guilt, ultimately not accomplishing what God would have for us.  It is helpful for us to look to the needs of others and pray for God's leading toward the lives we should be involved with.

Take some time to read Lopez' book.  Take some time to meditate on what God has for you, at this point in your life, with the circumstances that he has placed you in.  Enjoy his goodness.  Share it with others.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Happy 6th Birthday Peaches!

Hard to believe she's six.  The tiny, featherweight girl I held on the steps of Hannah's Hope in Addis Ababa 1.5 years ago has grown so much.  She's filled with smiles.  Filled with joy and warmth and energy.  The girl that I could easily toss high in the sky, now requires effort just to lift her into my arms.  What a year and a half it has been.  She's has grown into us and we have grown around her.  On a legal level, the inclusion of an orphan into a family happens with a simple decree from a judge.  But on a practical level, the inclusion of an orphan into a family happens with much time, patience, love, and selflessness.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.  It is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

For her 6th birthday, Peaches had some friends over.  It was a simple party that included musical chairs (all who stood nearby were forced into action by Peaches' mom), cake, presents, and playing outside.  Very normal things for any little girl in America.  Very different things for any little girl in an orphanage.  We are blessed to have her as part of our lives and thankful that we can share what God has blessed us with.  Not just the stuff, but the togetherness, family, and love.

Some pictures from the day.  Radiant, isn't she?

Sunshine and Peaches looking at her new Bible story book she received from Grandma and Grandpa.

 A GIANT coloring book with stickers!  Hours O' Fun!

 A new bike!  She has ridden one of her brother's old boy's bikes since she taught herself how to ride a bike last summer.  Never did it occur to her that she had been riding a boy's bike and never did it occur to her that she should have a pink bike.  Now she has one.  She was very excited!

 Off she goes!


 A fun time opening presents with a few of her friends.

 What must be going through her head?

 Love that glimmer in her eyes!

 Whoosh!  Out they go.

One happy group of girls ready for some sugar!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Re-adoption Court Hearing

With tears in her eyes, there was much going on in her mind and her heart.
We had our re-adoption court hearing today.  Re-adoption is the legal process of adoption in the US.  Even though she was already completely legally adopted and already a US citizen, we needed to take this last step to allow her to be granted a US birth certificate and a US Social Security Number.  Those things are necessary for us to receive the adoption tax credit.

The re-adoption court hearing seemed rather simple to us and we had not put too much thought into it.  We worked with a lawyer who specializes in social work and adoption and after many forms and some money the court date was lined up.  I didn't think about explaining it to Peaches since I figured she wouldn't understand any of it anyway.

As we were walking up to the courthouse this morning, I sensed some uneasiness from her.  I told her we were going to the courthouse to complete her adoption and that they would ask some questions, we would answer the questions, and then we would go home.  It would be very easy.

She quickly tensed and withdrew, walking very slowly right behind me.  She said she didn't want to talk to anyone.  Thinking I understood her concern, I picked her up and carried her.  We went up to the second floor of the Dakota County Courthouse, all eight of us, and were told to go into the courtroom.  It was about 8:15 am.  Our hearing was scheduled for 8:30 am.  After sitting for a few minutes, the judge entered, we all rose, then sat back down, and then we received a civics lesson while we watched the legal proceedings of someone suing another person for faulty car repair.  It was fascinating.

We were next.  Peaches, Bo, and I headed up to the bench and were told to sit in the witness chairs.  We were asked a series of questions related to the specifics of Peaches' adoption.  Toward the end of the questioning, we were asked if we understood that following this hearing Peaches would be considered as though she was born of us.  Those words struck me.  I pondered their importance in our relationship with Peaches.  Though ethnically we are a half-world apart, we are connected as if by blood according to the State.  Isn't that amazing?  A girl from Ethiopia who was abandoned is now connected to a family in the US as though she was born of us.  I was reminded that she is an orphan no more.

It was then, however, we realized Peaches was crying.  She was quiet and looking down.  She wanted to be held by her sister Sunshine.  We asked the judge if we could take a picture and he happily said yes.  He tried to talk to Peaches but she turned away from him, not wanting to make any eye contact.  He thanked us for allowing him to be a part of the proceedings and we headed out of the courtroom to finish some last paperwork.

As we stood in the hallway, I heard Peaches through her tears say to Sunshine, "but I want to stay with you."  Wow.  Now I understood.  She thought the men were going to take her away.  The legal proceedings must have brought back vivid memories of her being relinquished by her birthmom - which coincidentally was in a courtroom in Ethiopia 2 years ago almost to the day.  We quickly tried to calm her and explain to her that we are her forever family and that she will be our daughter forever.  The reassurance was not enough to overcome the reality of the memories that must have flooded her mind and her heart.

We left the courthouse which allowed her to begin to calm down and realize that everything was OK and that she was not being taken away.  She slowly began to calm down and the brightness in her eyes began to return.  We then headed to Perkins with the whole family for breakfast.  Some bacon and eggs were what she needed.  She loves her protein and the heavy cholesterol proved to be soothing to her heavy heart.

How do we process all of that?  We're thankful for our beautiful girl, thankful for our family, thankful for how God places each person in a family, thankful that He can heal the deepest wounds, thankful that her adoption is full and complete, thankful that our adoption in Christ is full and complete, thankful that she cannot be stolen away from us, thankful that we cannot be stolen away from Christ.

It was an emotional day.  But we are together as a family.  Forever.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall is here - a beautiful day for pictures!

Fall is here and is was a beautiful day outside. The kids had fun playing football and raking leaves. I had fun sitting and watching them and taking some pictures.

Eddie Joe was literally running around in circles.

You have to love the smile on that kid.

Peaches always looks good wearing Red, White, and Blue.

Flowers that have barely survived the drought.

It was quite a sight to watch these two try and play catch.

A successful catch brings a smile.

Eddie Joe loves to slide.

Raking was fun until they remembered that it is a lot of work.

Can you believe this girl was an orphan?  Her face lights up with happiness, and with family.

Fall is definitely upon us.

Even Doofenschmirtz was enjoying the fun.

Peaches loves to swing.
The Big Fella sat by and took it all in.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I wonder what's next?

After being home from Ethiopia for nearly 7 months, my mind wonders what is next? Will we go back again soon?  If so, where specifically will we go?  Does God have more orphans in our future? 

God knows the answer to these questions.  We walk in faith knowing that what He has for us is for our good and that His leading is perfect.  We wait for Him to lead us.  And we know that He will.

In the meantime, we've found that there are many people in the Sioux City area that are from Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Many of these people have desperate needs due to poverty, lack of language, lack of cultural understanding, and even discrimination.  We've found these people to be extremely warm, giving, and kind people.  And we've found that even though we think about helping people in Ethiopia, there are many Ethiopian people right here that need help.  With them set in front of us it is clear that God has great opportunities for us, and those opportunities only require a brief drive. 

Our hearts realize that this involves inconvenience to our schedule - and our schedule is very important to us.  Our schedule is often more important than the needs of the people around us.  And in addition to schedule impacts, it's just not as cool to drive across town as it is to fly to Africa!  But the needs are here and the needs are plenty. 

We're thankful to God for opening the doors to those around us to remind us that we are very blessed, that happiness is not found in possessions, and that there is joy in serving others.