Saturday, January 28, 2012
This is Anteneh. He is documented to be about 8 years old but the doctors examining him think he may be about a year younger. Steve had commented to me that he is robust, loud, playful and loves lots of physical touch. He better get ready.....because I can't wait to get my hands on this little guy!
This is Ephrem. He is documented to be about 10 years old. As with Anteneh, the doctor seems to think he is about a year younger than reported. My husband says he is more reserved and cautious but always smiling. After being there for three days, Ephrem finally gave Steve his first hug and would not let go. I am going to love this guy a lot.....I can tell.
Here are the nannies that took care of our precious sons during their two and a half year stay at the orphanage. I would give each of these amazing women a tight hug for giving their time and love to all the children there. I have no doubt God used them as angels to protect and nurture these young children. Thank you.
There you have it. I am prouder than a rooster and more thankful than a beggar on the streets for these two boys. Welcome Ephrem and Anteneh to our family....we can't wait until you are home with us.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
The land itself is gorgeous as is the weather.....and, for the most part, the people there are more than kind. But Steve and Sam are so drained by all the poverty they are seeing and the amount of people that it is affecting. They are mobbed by it visually and physically at every turn. Most days for them have ended without words to speak. Here is an excerpt of one of the emails he wrote:
".....we had some small excursions planned but after speaking with folks who have been here, the general concensus was that there's nothing really to see. The truth is that there is absolutely nowhere one can get out of the car (within an open public place be it a parking lot, or street market) where we are not just surrounded. The truth is, is if you're white you've got something to give. Yesterday, Dereggie (the driver) wouldn't even let Sam keep his backpack in the car at the market place. He carried if for us. Literally, yesterday when we pulled into to park at the market, a young girl pushed her mom, who was in a wheelchair, right up to my side of the car. Not Dereggie's side but mine. I couldn't even get out. Dereggie said to them in their language, "Shoo shoo". And EVERYBODY wants to sell you a map of Ethiopia. One boy came up to me and insisted that he shine my shoes, But my shoes cannot be shined. The boy said, "I have not eaten all day, please."
My husband is a rescuer and a peace maker by nature. To see all the need, and to feel inadequate to even scratch the surface with his own resources and actions, is killing him. It is overwhelming and he is numb as is my son. This is going to take awhile for them to process when they get back home.
"I have not eaten all day, please."
It's not like he's begging for an iPod. It's not like he's begging to go to a friend's house.....or a movie or a new pet. He just wants for some food for that day. I often wonder what God thinks or feels when he looks down on His creation and His children in so much need...... What about manna.....could He do that again? But the tug I feel is God asking me the same question. "What do you think and feel when you see my children in need....can't YOU be the manna? That is what I have called you to do. BE the manna.......LOVE my sheep." If all of us able bodied Christians could be the manna.....would there be any children, mothers and fathers scratching and begging at my husband's car door? Does it really have to be like this?
As I was typing this post, Steve called. They went to court today and our boys, Ephem and Anteneh are officially OUR boys....they are MY sons! They now have our last name!! Today a new branch has been grafted to our family tree.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of adoption.
Steve said the first thing they did was go back to the orphanage and tell Ephrem and Anteneh that they were officially our sons today and that we would bring them home in a couple of weeks.
Then there was silence. And Steve said, "But there are others, Thea."
And he began to tell me of another set of brothers who were just amazing boys....and a 2 yr. old HIV+ girl who kept following him around. He said he noticed the dejection in the faces of some of the other children when he came back to tell Ephrem and Anteneh the good news. His heart has been pricked deeply by the need of these children for a family. But his main concern was for these other brothers aged 11 and 12. No one has even once inquired about them. They have been separated from a sister that was adopted over to Spain. Oh, the need is so great. I want to take them all.
We need to be the manna dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to be the manna....
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
With My husband and eldest son in Ethiopia as we speak, it has been heartbreaking for them to see the poverty and need at their feet, car windows and wrapped around their legs smiling and begging to be claimed. It is not just our boys that need....it is a population that is bending under the weight of its own poverty and illness. If you have seen the pictures I have posted of our own sons' orphanage....you know there is a need and you have probably wondered what can be done. I have dedicated this post to helping a friend named Missy Roepnack find families to sponsor the Ethiopian children listed at the bottom of this post. She and her husband are also in the process of adopting two little ones from Ethiopia. Her blog is http://roepnack.blogspot.com/ If you feel you have not been called to adopt but have been called to help in some fashion.....this is perfect. Please consider sponsoring one of the precious, gorgeous children. And without further ado, here is Missy's post and a video that gives such a beautiful portrayal of what Missy is doing.......amazing.
Last night, my daughter fussed after I put her to bed, telling Mama that something wasn't right. I went in to check, and found a wet-diapered little girl who was trying to fall asleep in a big wet circle of spilled bottle, shirt soaked through.
I let Daddy deal with diapers and fresh PJ's while I handled the sheets. As I tugged off the wet ones, my heart sank. I thought of all the big wet puddles on the crib sheets in the Enat Elam video, and the newborns with bottles propped up against blankets learning to self-feed...
I thought of my own two adopted babies, waiting for me in a care center in Ethiopia, rocking themselves to sleep. My babies.
I'll be honest. I lost faith for a moment.
The immensity of the AIDS and orphan crisis finally did what it does; it punched me in the stomach and told me that anything I can do is not enough.
As I scrambled to pull myself together and manuever crib sheets around bumpers, I prayed that God would keep my candle lit. I thanked Him for fresh sheets. I asked Him to handle the dark voice that did not belong to Him and remove it from my brain. (He did, because He does.)
I am battling that dark voice every day. We all are. The one that tells us that we are not big enough to make a difference, because the problems of this world are too overwhelming.
So we do nothing.
And yet we have a responsibility as Christians.
It's right here in black and white. Actually, it's in red lettering.
What EXACTLY does GOD say about our responsibility to the hungry?
To those in Africa who are "sentenced to die" by starvation?
Well, it's harsh, and you aren't going to like it. The first time I heard these words on Daily Audio Bible, I was floored:
11 Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die;
save them as they stagger to their death...
12 Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.”
For God understands all hearts, and he sees you.
He who guards your soul knows you knew.
He will repay all people as their actions deserve.
So what can we do?
Where is the solution for this impossible situation?
After reading this post by author Tom Davis, I read his book, Red Letters. I found an answer, amidst all of the statistics that reek of death...
It lies within our five small barley loaves and two small fish.
The disciple Andrew asked:
9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6: 1-14
The boy had faith.
The disciples had statistics.
Don't let Satan use statistics to trick you into thinking that you should not offer Jesus your small lunch because it won't make a difference.
Have faith. Be the boy.
Ready and willing to help? Confused about what to do?
I understand. I am, too.
I will never fully figure this one out.
How about sponsoring one?
How about being the disciple who tells a lonely child of God that they are not forgotten?
The benefits of sponsorship go both ways. You and your family can write letters telling that child that Jesus has not forgotten them, and neither will you. You can back those words with a year or more commitment to sponsor them in education and health care.
You get to watch God work.
And He DOES.
Want to see what your tiny fish and barley loaves can do when placed in the hands of Christ?
Want to see Jesus feed the 5,000 all over again?
Do you want to be the one to hand over your lunch while everyone else stands around asking questions?
Do you want to see what He can do with your tiny fish...
And your 5 barley loaves?
Offer it to Him.
(He still puts on a show.)
Why am I doing this today, when I am sure we would all prefer a nice post about homeschooling or a walk in the garden?
Because I have a 6 month old, 9 pound daughter...
who will not grow up sitting in the dirt begging for water,
and a son who will never beg for food.
Because I have prayed and searched for the right charity to point my readers to, and I believe in this one, because sponsorship programs allow you to impact one person's life in a way that can change the future.
Any of these kids could have been ours.
And I mean all of ours.
These are God's kids, and they belong to all of us.
We must mark the lives of the lost
with the love of Jesus Christ.
We must TEACH them LOVE.
These photos are the proof of lives changed through
You can be the hero by doing something that will give you more joy than you have ever known.
You can tell them you remember.
You can be the one to love "the least of these."
- Matthew 25:40
Today, you can a part of this miracle.
The blog hosting this guest post is joining together with 9 other bloggers to find 100 children their sponsor families.
10 Bloggers x 10 Kids = 100 children.
100 children loved, fed, remembered.
The children pictured below were chosen specifically for this blog.
Choose your child today, and email JWilson@hopechest.org with your child's name in order to request their sponsorship package:
4. Eyarusalem Sponsored
5. Sena Sponsored
6. Tsinat SPONSORED
7. Kalkidan SPONSORED
8. Yoseph Sponsored
9. Eyuel SPONSORED
10. Dawit SPONSORED
I promise you, this experience will bless you 100 times more that you could EVER bless these children.
$34/month = one child loved, fed, and remembered.
Are you a blogger who would like to advocate for these children by taking on your very own 10 Kids?
Monday, January 23, 2012
This is right outside the orphanage...
This is the kitchen.......
This looks to be where the cups and dishes are stored.....
The sleeping and living area.......
(There is Sam playing soccer with some of the little ones..)
This is the play yard. Steve said he saw absolutely no toys at all in the orphanage and that the children did not have a whole lot to do.
This is all my boy's know. To them, this is probably good nor bad, just their life. Could you imagine your children growing up here?
arrived okay here. a very impoverished area. horrible, absolutely horrible. i just want to stay in my room. people coming up to the car in crutches, wheelchairs when i had my window down with their hand out. our driver told us that the gov't does nothing to help these people
..........met the boys...they're awesome. it's unfortunate that their living conditions are not. truly truly a third world environment. i understand by our driver who stated the other orphanages are a lot better. not even an oven to cook. they use a wood burning stove. i was told they are in need at the orphanage of dry milk, pnut butter, jam etc.
It breaks my heart to know our boys are not living in the best of conditions and that their orphanage is one of the worst.
Oh Lord, this is from you....I can feel it in my bones. Steve and Sam are seeing things, people and situations that will change their perspectives and lives forever. Lord, let their reactions to this be reactions that are long lasting, far reaching and that please and glorify You. Thank you Lord for Ephrem and Anteneh. Already, they have been such blessings to our lives.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
It has been a week of preparing to travel to Ethiopia. There has been a slight, but major, change of plans. I will not be going to Ethiopia. My husband was feeling too overwhelmed at the thought of traveling with a heavily pregnant wife and felt it was best that I stay behind and let my eldest son take my place.
It is now 11:30pm at night and they should be landing in the next 20 minutes or so. I have not been able to keep my mind off of Steve and Sam and I am awaiting anxiously to hear of their arrival. Within two hours of landing, they are scheduled to meet our boys, Ephrem and Anteneh for the very first time. Oh, how I wish I could be there to see every one's reactions. Those boys are very aware that their new family members are coming to visit them.....what a mess they must be in their heads. I can't imagine what it must be like for them in a moment like this. What are they thinking? Are they scared? What are they hoping for? I have prayed that Steve and Sam are able to communicate our absolute excitement for them to be a part of our eager family. Oh Lord, please be present at this event and guide every one's hearts, minds and souls to start the bonding process.
This just couldn't get anymore exciting than this!!! I'll keep you updated!
Friday, January 20, 2012
Well, I guess we could get special picture magnets of the boys to stick on our fridge to remind us to throw money at them every time we open the door to stuff our faces (all the time knowing they have no family to claim them or to call their own). I guess we could keep our guest room open and our resources to ourselves. Yes, maybe we could do that. That would be easy. That would be painless. That would be safe. Then all the naysayers could feel safe and not have to feel uncomfortable with their own passivity while someone else they know is doing something "unsafe" in the name of Christ. Because we all know that being a follower is all about safety and comfort. And we all know that Christ valued his safety and comfort above all else (sarcasm at its worst). Yes, I guess we could do that. Let me make one thing very clear.
We won't. We can't.
I displayed real live fear in my last post. There was nothing contrived about it. It was an honest appraisal of acknowledging that there was no way we could manage this adoption on our own merits and strength. And, as in all monumental decisions in life, these types of decisions need to be weighed wisely with a whole lot of prayer, respect, knowledge, and a dash of fear mixed with a child-like faith. As a Christian, I say this to all my brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to avoid becoming people who are constantly defending the gospel while rarely demonstrating it.
As Christians, we need to pray that we will be open to circumstances in our lives that will prove the existence of God to others. This means that the situations we encounter will be way bigger than we are.......more than we are capable of handling. That way, any success will have to be attributed to "something" more than just us; it will have to be attributed to God. As David Plat so beautifully puts it in his recent book "Radical Together":
"I began to pray 'Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am'......This has been my continual prayer. .......The reality is that I'm still a beginner as a pastor, in over my head at every level. I often feel like Solomon when he said, 'I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.' I need wisdom-the kind of wisdom that comes only from the Bible.
God has designed us to depend on his Word to lead his people in ways that are utterly disproportionate to who we are."
I know too many Christians that would never think of tapping into their retirement, giving up that family vacation, buying a cheaper, used car with less bells and whistles, or handing over a large bonus, etc. in order to go beyond themselves for others' needs. They have it all wrong....they associate these actions (or sacrifices) with unbearable suffering and self denial. But what is missing in this whole story of giving to others (more than you think you can), is the euphoric feeling and knowledge that you let God use you as His hands in a situation. There is no other feeling like this. Sure, you gave something up, but the pleasure from doing this far outweighs the pain.......it is addictive. I promise you, the very act of giving to others in need will give you purpose.
Matthew 16:24-25 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
It is a well known fact that people who consistently give of their lives, time and/or resources to people in need live longer more satisfying lives. This is why when you feel down, one sure way out of this nose dive of self-pity is to minister to someone elses' needs. This is the way God made us. It satisfies us.
This adoption of our boys and having a large family is "utterly disproportionate to who we are" in every sense of the word. We have gone beyond what financially we thought we could. We have gone beyond what others see as "normal" or "healthy" in regard to family size and dynamics. But it all works. My prayer is that all watching our family will see that our family is not doing this on our own. We can't. We haven't. It is too big to claim any success in this arena as our own. May all who look into the window of our life realize that there is "something" more at work here......."something" worth looking into and "something' worth depending upon....and it's not us. I want what our family does to show that God is real and that He is powerful, loving, and waiting for you.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I am wrestling with the Devil.
Oh forgive me for what I am about to write.
I am scared.
What in the heck are we doing?
Last night, by phone, I spoke with another fellow mother of a large family. I had met her briefly at my daughter's soccer game and found out that she too had nine children which included 3 adopted from Africa. I was intrigued by her and wanted to learn more about her situation. One comment the mother said that stuck with me was "There are so many things we would have done differently."
I had tried on several occasions to get in touch with her during a four month period with no response. Yesterday, I felt I would give it one more try and she answered. I asked her if she would mind if I probed her regarding her adoptions and what it was like to integrate them into her large family.
There was a silence.
Then she answered "Sure, but I need to tell you up front that we have disrupted the adoption. So, I am not sure of what help I can be to you." It took me a couple of seconds to recover....this wasn't going to be the "Go get'em, it's a blessing, can't imagine life without them." type of talk. Where could I go from here except to ask "What happened?"
What happened. She spoke of the ages of the adopted children not really being true and that the oldest was much older disrupting the birth order of her oldest son. She stated that the youngest was exhibiting strong signs of RAD. Then, the clincher, she talked of having 'left behind' all her other children for the sake of the two adopted ones that were challenging the family the most. She said when they were relinquished (the adopted children), she realized how much she was unaware of what her bio-kids were going through and how she felt she had neglected them. There were so many more questions I wanted to ask but felt inappropriate. I don't care who it is, relinquishing children is a heartbreaking decision and one that leaves wounds for all involved. I did not want to give the impression that I was judging her.
I asked if she had any regrets. None. Would she ever consider adopting again? Nope. Never. I desperately asked her more questions to see some difference between our family and theirs that would explain why a disruption might have occured. Not much. Although, I will readily admit I do not know this woman and her family very well, it occurred to me that....this could be us.
This is the conversation I went to bed with.
And the Devil began to wrestle with me.
Lord, what are we doing? Are we really hearing your voice in this adoption? With the court date looming, things are getting very real. We've never done this before. This other family swore they heard your voice too.....and now they're not sure. I don't even know these boys. I have no idea what kind of baggage they will have with them. Are we able enough?
I remember being in labor with my second child. I remember with each contraction, crying and worrying about what I was doing to my first by having another. Tears laced with these same emotions fell last night. I love my children so much....it would kill me to know I was hurting or neglecting them in anyway by adopting these precious boys.
The enemy had me in a headlock now.
Oh Lord, what are we doing? Are you behind all of this? Lord, I am scared. Please hear me. Is this normal?
You may be wondering why I am now just having these fears at this late in the game.....maybe even why I hadn't thought of these things before. Oh, I have. I just never let it rise to the surface to air. Purchasing the flight tickets brought to the forefront the reality of what our family was about to embark upon. This is really big.
And then I fitfully drifted off to sleep only to dream about meeting our boys for the very first time. We knocked at a door and the eldest answered. He surely did not look like the pictures I had been given. He was much taller than me, looked like a sumo wrestler and was wearing tribal gear. The younger one was just a "mini-me" version of his older brother. They had deep burly voices and were practically men. Don't laugh! Even though it seems funny now to post, it was really very, very upsetting! These were not the little scrawny Ethiopian boys smiling sweetly and wearing clothing too worn out and small for them on my computer screen at home. My husband seemed unfazed by their appearance which horrified me even further. All I remember from the rest of the dream was the blubbery "boy-men" hugging me and me thinking "There is no way on God's green Earth that I am going to adopt these full grown men!"
Devil throws me to the mat and pins me.
My husband gently woke me up out this nightmare. He wanted to talk as he knew I was struggling. He pointed out that we had an awesome family and that there were two boys out there that didn't have this. He reassured me that we could do this and that the Lord has blessed us and we shouldn't keep it all to ourselves. I needed his reassurance like water to a parched throat. I got up and spoke to God asking Him to speak to me too. And sure enough, in my quest to read through the Bible in a year, today's pages contained this verse:
8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
I then referred to one of my favorites books of all time: Radical by David Platt He sums it up so beautifully, enough so, that it brought great peace to me.
"We say things such as, 'The safest place to be is in the center of God's will.' We think, if it's dangerous, God must not be in it. If it's risky, if it's unsafe, if it's costly, it must not be God's will. But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something is God's will? What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us? What if the center of God's will is in reality the most unsafe place for us to be?"...........
.......Radical obedience to Christ is not easy; it is dangerous. It is not smooth sailing aboard a luxury liner; it is sacrificial duty aboard a troop carrier. It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end such risk finds its reward in Christ. And He is more than enough for us.
Smack down. Match over. The Almighty Wins.
In the last 24 hours, my convictions about this adoption had been at their weakest point ever....and honestly, they have never been weak until now. You have seen my weakness; you have seen my fears. It is all out on the table now. I am totally walking by faith now. I know there are no guarantees; I get this. But I am ready and I refuse to let the enemy speak lies that tie me up in his ropes of fear. I just plain refuse.
I promise you Lord, I will give these boys and this adoption my all. I promise I will not hold anything back fearing I will lose what I think is "rightfully" mine when it is not. It's all yours. Give me the strength and insight I need when I find it hard to keep these promises.
Lord, I'll let you do the wrestling next time. You have shown that you always win.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
We have a court date set for January 26th. This is amazing! This means I GET TO GO.....by the skin of my teeth!
I get to......
-Meet our boys.
-Hug them and tell them that we are theirs.
-Tell them they are precious and we can't wait to get to know them.
-Tell them they get to come home.
-See how they move.
-What makes them smile.
-See where they have lived for the past 2 years.
Last night I was thinking of the next post I was going to write and what I was going to say.
I was going to say that.....
-I'm tired of looking at videos of them there; it's not enough anymore.
-The videos I want to see have our house in the background not their orphanage.
-I need to have peace about staying home.
But I don't have to. I AM GOING!!!!! I'm doing the pee pee dance!
So much to do. Reservations to make; forms to fill out; people to talk to; bags to prepare and pack and my beautiful brown boys to dream about.
THIS, my friends, is a cool, cool day.
Monday, January 02, 2012
I drove around doing errands with my second eldest daughter which afforded us time to speak of many random things. I love this time to be alone with my children separately as it allows the closeness between us to resurface and become fresh again. We spoke of our recent New Year's Eve celebration with my best friend's family and how much fun we had laughing, eating and displaying how stupid four college graduates could be in lighting (or not being able to light) fireworks. This topic was the avenue my daughter used to ask me what New Years Eve's were like when I was younger. As I thought about it, I was stunned that these experiences hadn't ever been relayed to my ever curious children who seem to be overly enthralled with some of my childhood antics. Countless times I have questioned the wisdom of retelling these legends as I fear they will be repeated (much to my absolute grief and horror) by my porous progeny that pick up my bad habits like black fabric picks up dog hair. But, against my better judgement, I told her the following story anyway.
All I can say is that I lived to tell about it and that should sum up the amount of supervision that was present at some of these childhood New Year's Eve festivities.
I lived in a cul-de-sac in Arizona with the two houses to our left consisting of five other children my age (around 13) and older (maybe 17). The amount of intelligence with all of us grouped together on New Year's Eve probably rivaled that of a toddler drinking rum while playing with a loaded gun. Our parents were inside their homes with guests celebrating with the express directive for us kids to "go outside and play". To help accomplish this, they would all pool money together and rent us roller skates.
The other resources that they unknowingly provided (and we used with mouth foaming joy) were: a sledge hammer; cap guns; a buttload of caps; matches; tennis balls and the ever-so-necessary pound of jet fuel.
I am not kidding about the jet fuel.
The beginning of a New Year's evening would start out by roller skating our brains out until we became bored and thought of another activity to pursue. The sledge hammers made their appearance and we would use them, instead of the cap guns, to decimate the caps. Overkill would be a good word to use here. We looked like lumber jacks smashing with great fervor just to hear the pops of the caps......hundreds at a time.
We were not having fun anymore.
And we began to have a whole lot less fun as the terrorist of a ball rolled slowly across the street under a parked and newly purchased (and much bragged about) Volvo of one of the guests in our homes. Let me put it this way. Constipation was not a problem at this juncture. It was now silent as we gasped with the knowledge that each of us would not live to see our next birthday. If the blast didn't kill us, surely our parents would.
And we waited.
And the tennis ball rolled casually and miraculously out from under the car on the other side still blazing like a miniature version of the sun. How and why that car wasn't blown sky high is still a mystery to all of us today.
There were several important lessons to be learned that evening.
1) I was never to be chosen for goalie again.
2) Jet fuel is for jets.
3) Flat butted people are best used as score keepers.
After telling my daughter about this particular New Year's Eve adventure, I looked over at her and she was catatonic. I worried that maybe I had said too much or maybe she was just plain appalled at my behavior as a child. Maybe this story should have waited until she was 40? After a couple of seconds, she came to with just one take away question:
Mom...... do I have a flat butt?????