Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Opportunity Knocks

Every day there opportunities to help all around us. Some days we allow ourselves to see those opportunities and other days we shut our eyes. We shut our eyes because we are busy. We shut our eyes because it hurts too much to look. Or we shut our eyes because it might cost us something, financially or otherwise. I want to share an URGENT opportunity to help with you today and I would like to ask that you not shut your eyes but that you choose to read on.

Meet Sanju, who lives in India.

Meet Lily, who lives in my house and is my daughter. 

They are about the same age and enjoy many of the same things. Yet there are some striking differences. Lily lives at home with me, her mom. Sanju lives in an orphanage and sees her mother only occasionally, which is difficult and confusing for her. Lily has always lived with me. I am always available for hugs, kisses and playtime. Sanju has not always lived in the orphanage. Before arriving there, she used to live in the brothel that her mother works in. Her mom was not available to her since she had to be available for her clients. Sanju's mother is poor and desperate for income and so she subjects herself to life in a brothel. Work comes easily for me and the worst thing I subject myself to is sitting in traffic for twenty minutes on the way to the office.

Sanju loves her older brother and sister. They are all she has. Lily loves her brother and sister, but they are not all she has. She is surrounded by a community of people who love her and are invested in her future. Lily is getting ready to go to Kindergarten in the fall. I simply had to fill out some forms and she is all set. Sanju is supposed to start school THIS THURSDAY, but she will be unable to go because the people who run the orphanage she lives at do not have the money to send her. Lily will start school effortlessly while Sanju's future is unknown.

What is known is that without an education, Sanju is likely to end up in the same profession as her mother. But we have an opportunity to change that. We have the chance to give Sanju a life that is different than her mother's. There are 12 other children in the same boat as Sanju. School is starting in two days and they will not go unless you and I can help.

Children's HopeChest (the organization my husband is going to work for next week!) is trying to get funding for all 12 of these children in the next two days so that they can go to school. It costs $407 per child to send them.

I have the incredible privilege of simply just sending Lily to school. Sanju needs help. If she is to have any future at all, she needs US to help her. There are few things that I fundraise for on my blog, but this is urgent and oh so important. The life that she will lead without an education is bleak. What if it was my Lily stuck in this situation. Would we not run to her aid? Would we not sacrifice to give her a hope and a future?

Sanju and her eleven friends need a miracle in the next two days. What would seem miraculous to her is really quite attainable for us.

12 children's education for one year (including tuition, uniforms and supplies) X $407 = $4884. There are 75 people who "follow" this blog. If we each gave just $64 we could pay for 12 children to have an education this year. We can do this. If you feel like you can contribute to this in any amount, please go HERE to give and put "India School" in the notes section.

Thanks for considering this.  Sanju thanks you. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

All The Difference

With 147 million orphans in the world I am acutely aware that not everyone grows up with a father. And certainly, not everyone grows up with a GREAT father.

This weekend as we celebrate Father’s Day, my heart aches for the children who have never known their dads. It hurts for the children who are watching their fathers die from diseases that are preventable. And I hurt for the fathers who have had to give up the children they love because they can’t afford to feed them. As the mother of one of those children, I am sobered.

There are plenty of heart wrenching stories I could tell just from two trips to Africa in the past months about children who have been abandoned by their dads. Stories filled with abuse, neglect and pain. I won’t take the time to tell those stories now, but I have to say they have led me to realize something I’m afraid I have often taken for granted. Having a father is a gift. Having a loving father is an incredible gift that fewer and fewer people on the planet seem to get the privilege of enjoying. Ask 17 year old Elizabeth who lives in Otoboi, Uganda. Her father was an alcoholic who almost killed her and her sister. Ask the little girl who lives in fear at night that her daddy is going to come into her room. Ask the 11 year old who was sold into sexual slavery by her father. Yes, loving daddies are hard to come by. I hate that the word “Daddy” conjures up such terrifying memories for so many.

Yet somehow, out of all the families on the planet, God chose to set me in a family with one of the great dads. Oh, he wouldn’t say he’s great...which is sort of what makes him just that. :) It’s not the fact that he baked strawberry strudel pastries for us every Sunday before church (and by baked I do mean took them out of the frozen package and placed them in the oven!), or that he built us the coolest treehouse ever in our backyard. It isn’t that he took us fishing and went on God knows how many bike rides with us. It isn’t that he took us swimming or opened our home to foster children. It’s the heart behind all those things that makes him great.

My dad isn’t perfect. Funny thing…turns out he’s just like all the rest of us – broken, needy and in desperate need of a Savior. Thankfully, he recognized that many, many years ago. The decision he made to love his family like Jesus loves him has made all the difference in my life. I am incredibly grateful for his gentleness, his servant’s heart, his loyalty, his steadfastness, his wisdom and his love.

I’m about to move over a thousand miles away from my Dad. It’ll be the first time in my life I haven’t been within a 20 minute drive. (Gulp.) What I love about my dad is that he chose to invest in my life in a way that even though I’ll be far away, I’ll still be living out the things that he taught me and more importantly, SHOWED me really matter. My children will be laughed with and snuggled, my spouse will be hugged and respected, my prayers will be many and my life will be lived not for myself, but for the glory of God. Thank you, Dad. There aren’t words to say how much I love you.

...And God, be close to those who have no daddy to love them. Heal the hearts of the children who have been mistreated by their dads. Whisper your words of comfort and value to the girls who are being sold for sex multiple times a day. Bring rescue, God. Let your light flood the darkness. Let these children know that they have a Heavenly Father who knows their name and sees each tear that falls. Reveal your love, Jesus. Thank you for being the best Dad ever.

Friday, June 11, 2010


My last blog entry was all about stopping to remember what God has done.  This blog post is to celebrate what God is currently doing!  Just a quick recap of the past two years for those of you who are new around here:

Ben and I decided to expand our family through adoption back in 2008.  We pursued an adoption of a little baby boy from Ethiopia (up to 12 months old).  As we embarked on this journey we started reading more about Africa since we basically just knew what we saw on tv. The first book I picked up at the store was "Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds" by Tom Davis.  I admit...I picked it out because it had a cool cover. :)  Turns out that book with the cool cover started a transformation in me that is going on to this day.  In it I read about the AIDS crisis in Africa, about the millions of orphans in Africa and about the Church's poor response to these things that God cares so much about.  I was broken.  I started asking questions about my life and the way I live it.  I started evaluating my love of "stuff" against my love for the least of these.  I started wondering why I insisted on living my life so safely.  I've just got this one life, right?  What am I doing with it? How had I ignored this crisis?  How had I closed my eyes and ears so tightly so I wouldn't be bothered? 

That book led me to check out the author, Tom Davis.  I looked him up online and found out he's the CEO of Children's HopeChest, an orphan advocacy organization.  Through his website I ended up going to the blog of a woman named Brandi, who is now one of my best friends.  We ended up exchanging emails and I found out more about the organization.  The more Ben and I found out about HopeChest the more we liked it.  We ended up driving down to Louisville to meet the new COO, Bob Mudd. He was leaving a very lucrative job to run HopeChest. We learned more about the organization and how we could volunteer so we decided to get involved. 

Throughout this time I can't begin to describe what was going on in me.  I was losing sleep, I was dreaming of Africa, I couldn't get the pictures and stories of the African orphans I had read about or watched videos of out of my head.  My life as I knew it was over.  Then came the opportunity to go to Uganda.  The way God paved the way for our trip is CRAZY.  What we saw there changed us.  It shattered us into a million pieces.  It gave us vision and the hope that people like you and I can make a difference in the world. One of the things that haunted us about Uganda was the number of child headed households.  Children raising children.  There were four and five year olds holding their younger siblings on their backs.  We were heart broken for these kids.  After seeing these kids we decided to change our age range for our adoption.  We felt like we needed to be open to adopting an older child.  Two days after we made the change we received a referral for our son, Tariku.

Our family went from this

to this

But our journey isn't over.  We have our son home, which has only further reminded us of all the children in the world who do not  have anyone to care for them.  Our hearts are now wired to give our time and energy to helping provide orphans with a hope and a future.  We have been praying seriously for the past year about what our next steps as a family should be. 

Through this time we've had to grapple with what we value and what is really important.  We've been brought face to face with the question of what we are willing to sacrifice.  It's been a crazy important journey for us.  One that has brought us to this conclusion: We are willing to go wherever He wants us to go to serve His children.  In the end, that's all that matters.  The American Dream doesn't matter.  How much stuff we have doesn't matter.  But giving our all for the dream God has for us does.  After years of running from the sacrifice that God requires of us, we are finally willing.

So today, my husband is quitting his job of seven years where he has done community development.  We are leaving the city we have lived in for the past thirty years.  We are leaving both of our families.  We are leaving our friends.  We are leaving our church.  We are leaving our children's comfort zones.  We are moving to Colorado Springs to work for HopeChest.

Are we scared?  Heck yeah.  Do we still need to sell our house desperately?  Yep.  Are we crazy?  I'm sure.  Are we excited?  Completely.  Are we in awe of what God has done in the past year?  Totally. 

Are we totally relying on God to continue to lead us and get us through this massive transition? Oh my, yes.  The really, really great news as I was reminded yesterday is that "The One who calls you is faithful and He WILL do it".  - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Let the FUN continue!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stages in the Journey

A few days ago I was reading Numbers 33...yeah, not the most exciting chapter in the Bible I know.  But verse two caught my attention. It says "At the Lord's command Moses recorded the stages in their journey.  This is their journey by stages...".  Then the chapter goes on to list how the Lord led the Israelites from one place to another during their time in the desert.  I thought it was so interesting that God commanded Moses to record each place that they went.  You'd think that people who had been rescued from slavery and been promised a land flowing with milk and honey would remember the journey.  The other chapter in my Bible reading plan that day had me going to Psalm 78. Verse 11 is talking about the Israelites and says "They forgot what He had done, the wonders he had shown them."  The verses that follow that list out the miracles that God performed on their behalf - amazing stuff!

It got me thinking...there are so many times when I start to question God or His timing.  I start to get anxious and want to try to control my situation or circumstances.  I wonder why the heck God is being so slow or so seemingly quiet.  I start to doubt.  I become like the Israelites who had forgotten what He had done.  So, this week especially I've been taking time to REMEMBER what He has done and where He has brought me.  As I really reflect on all that has happened even in just the last year it is unbelievable to me.

I actually ran across my journal from 2008 and thought I'd share a portion of it with you. 

August 25, 2008:
Well, I'm now picking up the journal I bought a year ago. :) Too much is going on not to start writing it down. Where to start? I guess with what I'm feeling. I'm feeling like I'm experiencing God's heart for what seems like truly the first REAL time in my life. The process of our adoption is turning out to be much deeper than just bringing our son home. God is opening our eyes wide to the plight of those in Africa. God's children there are in such need of the very basic things that I take for granted on a daily basis. Food, clean water, shelter, basic medical care....these things are luxuries there. The struggle runs deep in me as I try to figure out how I can live with so much while entire nations live with little to nothing. How does God feel about it? That's what really matters. My life is about more than living the American dream. It has to be. I feel God shouting that it's about more. Maybe He's been shouting all along and I just haven't wanted to hear. God forgive me for clinging to my possessions and my narrow view of the things You care about. What I feel is about more than just supporting a child, giving aid money to organizations etc. although I definitely will continue to do these things. I feel God calling me to something deeper...something more sacrificial...something where His power can be made known because I have come to the end of myself.

I feel done with life as I know it, which is what's really strange. I have a really great life! Great family close by, great church, great friends, great job - but it doesn't feel right anymore. What exactly is God calling us to? A move to Africa? A change of careers? Something I can't even begin to imagine? I don't have a clue. I just know I feel so deep in my being that change is coming. I'm petrified, excited, prayerful, desperate for God to reveal more of Himself and His plan. I want to lay it all down. I want to make a difference. I want to see Jesus come in His power and touch the sick, heal the brokenhearted, give water - both flowing, real water and His streams of living water - to those who are thirsty. I realize I'm thirsty too. For the first time in a long time. Thirsty for more of Jesus...thirsty to touch those living with AIDS, thirsty to feed the hungry, thirsty to meet the needs Jesus would surely meet if He were walking in Africa. And yet He IS walking in Africa - through His children who are feeling His heartbeat and being compelled to love those people around them who are hurting and desperate - the orphans, the oppressed, the outcast. Jesus, give me your eyes so I can see, give me your eyes for humanity.

Lord, I want to be where you want me to be...doing what you want me to be doing. Help me to be open, to be discerning, to surrender. Help me not be afraid but to trust you in everything. You are good and faithful and will care for us every step of the way. I love you, Lord. I desire more of your presence, your peace, your leading and your power in my life. Come, reveal yourself to me in new ways. I want to continue to see people the way you do. Don't let me get comfortable, God. Stretch me, build my faith even stronger in You. Help me to love you with all that I am, even when it hurts. For now, I will be still and know that You are God.

Wow.  To think that just months later I would meet a group of people who God would use to change the course of my life.  To think that I would be in Uganda just one year from when this was written.  To think of all that God has done in my life since that journal entry not even two years ago.  Yes, I think God was onto something when He told Moses to record each place that they went. Stopping to remember what God has done gives me hope that He is moving in ways I cannot see at this very moment.  I wonder what I'll think when two years from now I look back at this time in my life. I pretty much can't wait to see.