Unpacking the Trip

The last couple trips to Africa have left me disoriented when I returned home. Not only did I have to unpack a duffel bag full of laundry, but I had to unpack my experience , which took months. (Thankfully the literal unpacking only took a day…).

However, when I went to get Ephrem from Africa, I didn’t have a chance to unpack what I saw and experienced while we were there. I was doing the up-five-times-a-night thing. And the settle-into-our-new-life thing. And the you-can-do-the-employed-momma thing. I had these memories and experiences that had to be unattended while I gave emotionally to our family. There were no emotions or time to unpack the experience. And I felt okay with that. Becoming a parent through adoption was intense. (I’m sure becoming a parent period is intense…) I needed to focus 100% on our family.

But now we’re settling into a sense of “normal” and I’ve started the task of what all of this meant….or means.

One of the biggest reasons I went to Africa to bring Ephrem home was to capture any little piece of his story I could. So on Saturday after I arrived I found myself in a car, with Ephrem on my lap, traveling to the orphanage the originally cared for him. While I’ve visited a number of orphanages through my mission work so I knew what to expect on some level, I knew it was going to be a different far more personal experience because this place had a part in our son’s history. I would get to see where he slept, to meet the person who cared for him, see the children who lived there with him.

The visit was brief – just long enough for me to meet one of the orphanage workers, take a few photos for Ephrem’s life book, and meet some of the children who were there. But it was long enough to wreck me months later.

Because I am haunted by the children who were left behind that day.

I cannot stop thinking about them recently. I’m haunted by the idea that many or most of them won’t know a family. I’m haunted by the sad eyes of one little girl. I’m haunted by the poverty and vulnerability of the children, who likely only eat once a day if that. I only spent a moment with them, but they left their little fingerprints all over my heart. And I can’t seem to move on. More importantly, I don’t know that I want to.

But it’s left me with questions. Many questions.

When we ask God to break our hearts, and He does, what does that mean for everyday life? What does it look like here, when I can’t be in Africa? What does it mean for me now? How do I do what I can, where I am now, with what I have?

I’m unpacking the trip. And more than ever, I don’t see my world being the same again.

Josh Wilson “I Refuse” from Nathan Corrona on Vimeo.

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James 1:27 and the Box

Living James 1:27 out has turned my world upside-down. Even before we adopted, James 1:27 threatened my normal American life. It wasn’t convenient to give up vacation and time with my husband to spend two weeks in Africa visiting and caring for orphans. My friends and family thought I had lost my mind to voluntarily go to Africa. It wasn’t easy to see abject poverty and not be able to change the way the world works so these kids will have a chance. It wasn’t fun to know that many of these children will never have a family. It was intimidating to think about what James 1:27 (or any of the other verses about caring for the widows and orphans) could mean to my nice, clean idea of my faith.

 

But that’s when I engaged my faith in a way that I think made me really “get it.” That’s when I really saw Jesus – in the eyes of beautiful children who happen to be fatherless. That’s when I felt His heartbeat. That’s when I learned that caring for orphans and vulnerable children with a $35 check each month wasn’t enough. That’s when I learned the power of holding hands and giving hugs to children who will not get them otherwise. That’s when faith wasn’t about going to church every week and meeting my “obligations,” but really living the eternal life that Christ died for (because, yes, you don’t have to wait for that to begin when you die…).

And adoption? Adoption has taken my faith to a whole other level. I now see God as a loving Father. I now know mercy and grace in a way I never would have experienced it before. I now look in my son’s dark eyes and see a future and a hope, not fear. I hold my son and know what an amazing miracle was done in his little heart and body for him to be here with us. I believe with all my heart that he would have died without a family who prayed for him for the eight months we waited for him.

So when I hear of someone tell people of his faith tradition not to adopt, to deny what I feel is a key part of our scriptural mandate(yeah, I don’t think it’s an optional part of our faith tradition) to care for the widows and orphans up close and personal and, for some of us, to adopt them to be part of our families, I am angry that people think that this little person represents my faith. I want that person to know that I pity his small version of Jesus. I think that sort of view of Christ cuts out 99% of the Gospels I read. I pity him for not wanting families to be representative of the family of God. I am annoyed at his underlying racism. And I am sad for him because he simply doesn’t “get it.” I am sad that God’s grace is limited to what is convenient to him. His version of God is confined to a nice neat American box.

I don’t think God lives in that box, Mr. Robertson.

(Thanks to my friend Kelly for sharing this video with me!)

Hunger

Like many Americans, I really thought I knew what hunger felt like. I thought I understood that sort of uncomfortable belly and grouchy feeling that you get when you’ve waited too long to eat. I’ve fasted or had to go without eating for a day…or so. I thought I knew it well enough.

That was until I heard my son’s hungry cry for the first time. I know what a hungry baby sounds like. This cry…this cry was so much more intense than that. And this is where words fail me. It was the sort of cry that makes you wish that no one ever has to be hungry ever. I can imagine that the time my son spent in an orphanage was a time when food wasn’t guaranteed or predictable. Formula is expensive in Africa. And orphanages are rarely adequately funded…if funded at all. Although I knew he had access to all the formula he needed, he did not. It was a horrible feeling, as a mother, to hear my son cry so loudly and know that his experiences taught him that food is not always available when he needed. (I did learn to make bottles in record time with a cry like that to motivate me!)

Nearly two months home and Ephrem is doing much better about food. He can now sign when he’s hungry (or at least sign back that he’s hungry :-)) and his cry has gotten to a more annoyed-that-this-is-taken-so-long cry rather than the will-I-ever-eat-again cry. He eats very regularly to comfort him that food is predictable and available.

This is why we believe and support Brighton Their World. If you’ve never heard of this small non-profit based out of Atlanta, you need to read their story here and learn what they’re doing here. They understand that nutrition starts at infancy and that no child should be hungry. Ever. They aren’t looking to solve child hunger, but they are making a big impact where God has led them. God is using them to create beauty from ashes.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post or sharing this part of our story, today.

Today, I’m writing to ask you for $7. I’m asking you for $7 to make a difference for one child.

Brighton Their World launched a campaign to provide meals for 500 kids in three orphanages in Ethiopia for the Ethiopia New Year. These kids get to eat three nutritious meals a year (New Year, Christmas and Easter). Yup, you read that right, A YEAR. Brighton Their World is looking to partner with these three orphanages to ensure that they can feed the kids for one of those meals. The cost to feed these kiddos an awesome, nutritious meal? $7 per child. Yup, you could skip a fancy Starbucks drink and have most of the money it will cost to feed just one child.

It’s not going to solve hunger. It’s not going to change the way the world works.

But it’s going to make sure these 500 kids in Ethiopia eat at least one nutritious meal in September.

We think this is something to be a part of and want to invite you to be a part, too.

http://www.brightontheirworld.org/FeedEm/

Impact Zambia

Every now and then I get the chance to share about something exciting that’s happening with Lifesong for Orphans. Check out the post below for an AMAZING opportunity to impact Zambia. There are only a few days left to join  – Check it out!

 Join us to IMPACT lives in Zambia...   

“Hi.  My name is Richard.  I am in grade 7.  I stay with my sister, Josephine.  I have three brothers and two sisters.  My other sister attends Lifesong and is in grade 5.  Her name is Emelia.  My mother stays in a village far away.  My father died in 2006.  Thank you for supporting me and may God bless you and add more days to your life.  My favorite subject is art.”

Richard is just ONE of the 253 students that we are blessed to serve at Lifesong Zambia.  He is also one of the students that will be moving on to grade 8 this fall.

Without the construction of new classrooms, Richard may join the 95% of Zambian children that are not able to attend High School.

Will you join us in impacting the lives of children like Richard?

To add to the excitement–thanks to a generous donor, all donations will be matched up to $225,000!!

To join the Impact Zambia 100 team, email info@lifesongfororphans.org!

Just Feed One

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

(Mother Theresa)

Photo courtesy of L. Miles, 2012

This quote haunts me. In all reality, you (as one individual) can’t fix the orphan crisis. Or hunger in the world. You can’t solve global poverty for everyone. Or provide a family for every child. So often we use this logic to excuse ourselves from doing anything. As if an inability to solve problems that have plagued the world since sin destroyed Eden means that we should refrain from trying to do something at all. But we can make a difference for at least one person.

We can hug one child who feels like they have been forgotten.

We can visit, come home, and advocate for the vulnerable.

You can sponsor a child to make sure they have access to food, education, and health care.

You can provide formula to an infant, who may otherwise become malnourished in a developing country.

You can adopt one (or two, or three, or more) children to be part of your family.

We do not have an excuse to do nothing because we cannot do everything.

 

So, what are you doing to “feed one”?

 

His Heart for Children

A little one from Haven of Hope in Nakuru, Kenya

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:13-14)

I have never been so convinced of God’s heart for orphans and children as I have through this adoption. He sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68), even when there doesn’t appear to be a way. If we would just open our hearts, God can use us as part of His work.

For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)

A Fundamental Change

Before Africa.

I think I remember my world before Africa. Some days it feels like a shadow, like a dream that I awoke from.

I believe my world was smaller. I believe it was more about me. I think even though I believed in justice, it wasn’t something that kept me up at night.

I remember that.

All that changed the moment I stood on African soil. The moment I looked into deep brown eyes and felt hands so quickly grab mine own. The moment I really saw what “fatherless” really meant. The moment that I understood poverty, not from a statistic, but putting rice in a bowl to serve to a child. The moment we decided that we meant to parent first through adoption.

Here’s the secret they don’t tell you about mission trips or adoption: It creates a fundamental change in your world. It causes you to lose sleep over the fact that there is significant injustice in our world. It causes you to wonder what you can do to be part of the change in our world. There’s a critical change that you experience that reorients your world.

All those verses about justice? They make sense.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah

Thus says the LORD,
“Preserve justice and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed”
Isaiah

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
Jeremiah

When we had the opportunity to give our adoption testimony at church, the worship leader led the church in “The Solution” by Hillsong United. It was the first time that I heard that song. I was absolutely mesmerized by the lyrics (which was a bit of a challenge right before we had the opportunity to speak…). It reminded me that I can’t just sit idly by and not make a difference anymore. Now that I know, I am responsible.

This honestly keeps me up at night. The idea that by virtue of “luck”, I was born in the U.S. does not excuse me from not doing something about the basic inequality that exists in this world that we share with 7 billion other people. As one of my heroes once wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – MLK, Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963

There’s no good reason that 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. (Global Poverty Project)

There’s no good reason that since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, almost 60 million people have been infected with
HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes. There’s no good reason for there to be 14 million orphans due to HIV/AIDS. (With anti-retroviral medications, HIV/AIDS is considered a chronic, but manageable disease. These deaths are now inexcusable.) (UNAIDS)

There’s no good reason why 3.5 million people should die due to water related disease. (Water.org)

There’s no good reason why we continue to allow an estimated 1.2 million children to be trafficked every year are a victims of sexual abuse or slavery. (Love146)

Because where you live shouldn’t determine if you live.

If these sorts of statistics keep you up at night also, check out any of these organizations and help fight injustice:

World Vision
Lifesong for Orphans
Brighton Their World
Love146
Charity Water

(This list is not exhaustive by any means- there are many other great organizations out there as well!)

Exciting News!!!

We have been selected to do a Both Hands project to fundraise for our adoption! Through a collaboration between Lifesong for Orphans and the Both Hands Foundation, we will get the opportunity to live out James 1:27 (NLT)…

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…

So what’s a Both Hands project? Here’s how it works – Evan and I find a widow in need and assemble of team of our friends to complete projects around her house (e.g. painting, cleaning, landscaping, etc.). Then we get sponsors for the day as we work on the widow’s house. All the funds raised will go toward our adoption. Just like getting sponsors for a 5k Run for the Cure. Awesome, right?

We are really excited for this opportunity to minister to a local widow and help bring Baby Shows home. We’re still getting details together (including how you can sponsor this project!), but we’ll post them here when we have them.

A big thanks to Lifesong for Orphans and the Both Hands Foundation for this opportunity!

 

 

 

 

A memorial stone for faith

It’s almost been one year since we started really pursuing our adoption. It’s crazy to think where we were last year. We had so little money to put toward this adoption. We weren’t really in a place where expanding our family was logical. But the calling was clear. Pursue it this year.

So we started on the path of adoption.

And we had doors we thought we were supposed to go through that closed.

Then we had to seek God again – “We did hear You, right? This is the path You called us to walk…right?”

When I think about the particular moment – the moment when Ethiopia didn’t work out for us – my heart still breaks. I was so certain that Baby Shows was in Ethiopia. I was prepared for the long wait (it was more logical for us anyway). It didn’t make sense to me. And I wanted to be a momma so desperately.

But if we had tried to force our idea of what God wanted for us, we would have missed Baby Shows. Because Baby Shows was in an entirely different African nation. One that we weren’t expecting, honestly. And I can’t tell you (yet) all the things that happened since we submitted our application, but I can tell you October was the reason we were supposed to walk the path that He placed us on. October 4 will remain one of those days that we will never forget. His plan was there all along. Hidden from us until that moment.

Now we are in 2012. God has amazing things for us this year. This is the year we hope to become a family of three.

Yet a mountain stands between us and that point. Last Friday, I was defeated. I couldn’t see how it was possible. I wavered in my faith.

What does it look like to have faith?

Although my husband is someone of great faith, I am not. I tend to timidity and fear (and a lot of “What ifs?!”). So this whole journey has been a long exercise of faith. And what I’ve learned is this.

Faith is a choice. It’s not a feeling.

There have been many moments where I don’t feel like I should believe. There have been many moments that when I look at the evidence, I shouldn’t believe. Because it is impossible by all earthly means.

But faith is a choice. It’s a choice to see what’s there and believe what isn’t. It’s a choice to believe despite all evidence to the contrary. The adoption is the first time in my entire life I have truly lived Hebrews 11:1 (The Amplified Version):

NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

Faith is something that only grows when challenged. Like a muscle, faith develops from a weight that tears the fibers apart so they can heal and become stronger. “Our faith grows the strongest on the sides of steep slopes where there’s less to cling to.”

 tree on the edge(Photo courtesy of craigcloutier on Flickr)

 

We ended up on a completely different timeline, one that has been incredibly quick. Even in this, God has been faithful in every step. Every single step. He has taught me what is meant by our “daily bread.” It seems that every need has been bigger than the funds we have personally. But we haven’t had a cost go unpaid. The funds we need are there exactly when we need them. Our friends have given sacrificially to help us bring Baby Shows home.

I cannot adequately express my gratitude that so many people have been faithful in the love of our heavenly Father, whose heart is for the Fatherless. And all of you have a beautiful part in our child’s story. We are so blessed by you.

So, to 2011 was a year of learning to have faith. It was my year to exercise belief.

I’m not sure what 2012 holds, what little gems God has prepared for me. But I know that if God is preparing our steps, whatever 2012 has, it will be ultimately good.