I have found myself consumed last week with the crisis that is happening all around us. That crisis is the 143 million orphans in the world today. Let me repeat 143 million. My husband and I have seen first hand what that looks and feels like on the streets of Ethiopia and we are very aware of the thousands of children right here in the US who live in the foster care system. The orphan crisis knows few boundaries and spans the globe. Today is Orphan Sunday and many churches and organizations are focusing on educating about the statistics and the solution. You see WE can be the solution and the hope for the orphan. Take a look at the video below to learn more. Remember to head to the bottom of my blog to pause the music first.
This week marks ten weeks home with our precious Ava and loving her and caring for her each day makes us even more convicted about the plight of the millions of orphans who are still waiting. It’s Orphan Sunday and yes the thought of her being alone, cold and hungry takes my breath away so I am choosing this important day to share some of the details of our journey to the daughter of our hearts. I hope you will read with eyes wide open all the while listening carefully to your heart. Perhaps God is calling you to the very same path of caring for the orphan in his or her distress.
Five or so years ago we were your everyday basic family of five. We were a working Dad and a stay at home Mom raising three young boys and like most of you, sometimes tearing our hair out and wishing we could “google” parenting 101 to find out all the many things we did not do well. We worked hard and played hard, creating new family traditions and exposing our children to all the many wonders of the beautiful world. Many days we were on the go and wondering where our next bit of patience would come from or how we would make it through the next fit our youngest would send our way. We were the average American family who enjoyed our days working, attending church, raising our children to understand right from wrong. We were happy and healthy, connected to friends and family and cherishing every moment we could spend together as an immediate family. Bob was finding peace in his profession and although his days required hard work, the rewards were great. We were back in our home town and finally building a house we had waited so long for. We were blessed and in so many ways truly in love with our family and our lives.
But deep down something was a brewin’. Things were going well yet I can very clearly recall the questions I began asking of God. “So is this it? We seem to have it all, are we supposed to feel like we just continue to climb the ladder of more stuff and bigger things? Are we giving enough of what we have been blessed with away?” There were questions and it did seem that something big was missing from our lives. With three boys I was aware of my growing desire to raise a daughter and my dear eldest son, who knew that I wanted a little girl in our world, began to send me these little messages that he said were coming from God about adopting a little girl. “Adoption” became a word we threw around and a word we were very comfortable with after numerous health concerns that made us question our ability to conceive back in the late 1990’s. Adoption became a word we all used when people would comment or ask about our brood of boys. I kid you not when I say people would often stare when I was out and about with our first two and a big round belly pregnant with our third. I had three boys in four years and we did look like crazy people even on our good days. LOL! So people would ask, “So are you thinking of going for the girl?’ To which I would so casually reply, “Yeah sure but she is not going Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would become such a passion and a calling.
Then one day God flipped a switch. I wish I had the clarity to remember exactly when it happened, but I do know that we went through several months where all we talked about where the many children of the world who needed so much. We began to discuss as a family the children who were in need of clean water, a safe place to live, food and of course parents. We began to talk to our three young boys more strongly about how we give more to the needy children of the world. We participated in packing shoe boxes through Operation Christmas Child. I began to read about the child soldiers of Uganda in this child’s true story.We began looking at the various adoption agencies and researching those that served children both domestically and internationally. Way back when we even attended a meeting through the local Adoption Associates Agency and the Director of the China Program came in to the meeting to discuss a new program opening in Ethiopia. I’m telling you even way back then, four or more years ago, God was trying to open our hearts to Ethiopia.
What came next was the reading of a book by Patricia McCormick called Sold
Then came a weekend that changed my heart deeply. The Watoto Choir came to our church for a performance that was eye opening beyond measure. The children are all Ugandan and most are orphaned due to the ravages of a 20 year war. We signed on to house choir members and I will never forget the connections I felt immediately to these three precious young girls.
Each has a unique story as to how she was brought to the Watoto compound. The oldest girl was actually brought to Watoto by her older brother who was caring for several family members after parents were killed and could no longer care for her. Their stories were harrowing and although the structure of the choir and the discipline that it took to travel the world with over 100 children for 16 months left us with a few questions, we have carefully watched what the Watoto organization is doing and it seems they are changing lives for the best. The idea behind the choirs is to give each of the Ugandan children a skill and to bathe them in the love of Christ to help heal their hurts and hopefully raise them up to become leaders in their own country. Watoto children are adopted by Watoto and each is raised in a family setting with Special Mothers as the heads of the households. Check out their website. It’s worth it. The three girls who spent the night in our house changed me and made me realize that there was so much more our family could give.
So back to our story… From 2004 on God was really pushing me to become more curious about the children of the world. HE was opening me up to all sorts of Global crisis situations through books, films, reading, blogs, other families, etc. I can confidently say now that what seemed coincidental was no accident to God. HE was in the details and leading me all the way all the while begging me to TRUST Him. Yeah not my strongest skill- that lovely TRUST thing. So the story continues with us knowing that All God’s Children International was the adoption agency we were most interested in. We had read the story of how the family run agency was founded, and we loved the faith and love they were pouring into the orphans of the world. But again I need to pinch myself in remembering that choosing a Christian agency was not my top priority. Yes another thing God knew about what we needed! AGCI means the world to us now and we are so in awe of the amazing families we have met and the exceptional work that AGCI strives to do in the world. AGCI brought us hope when it felt like there was none after having signed on with the Nepal adoption program that quickly began to dissolve. The ultimate gift AGCI provided was the comfort as they cared for our precious Ava for the first three months of her new life. The entire team on the ground in Ethiopia from the drivers, to the cleaning staff to the Special Mothers and of course the agency Director are the most caring and loving souls we could have hoped for in the first few months of our daughter’s life. Now we cannot even fathom being on such a life changing journey without our AGCI family.
So I share a portion of our story on this Orphan Sunday with the hope of encouraging you in a couple of ways. What speaks to you in terms of reaching outside of your comfort zone and changing the world? What themes seem to continue to pop up in your life? Have you asked yourself if these conversations, words, things perhaps you have read or people who have come in contact with are mere coincidence or could they be very specific, God ordained signs that YOU were meant to do more. you. This week I would encourage you and I will do the same… to pray for the vulnerable children of the world. The statistics make me want to run and hide but then I am brought back to the realization that it God can do great things, beyond our wildest imagination. HE can use you and I one at a time to change the world one orphan at a time. Perhaps we cannot all adopt, but we all have the ability to research the issue and learn more. We can all pray. Many of us can sponsor children and many of us have the passion and the church platform to spread the message of the poor, the helpless, the enslaved and the orphaned. Maybe you are being called to visit the hurting children of the world. Even if you are afraid or wonder how you could possibly do such a thing with such busy days or your role as parents- DO IT ANYWAY!
Change can happen, one child at a time.