Wednesday, December 1st, is World AIDs Day. HIV/AIDS has ravaged Africa and is responsible for much of the overwhelming orphan crisis found there. And not just there, but across the globe.
This also means there are children who are HIV positive who are orphans, who need homes. Who need parents. As educated and equipped as we are in this country, it is surprising how ignorant we can still be about this virus, and how much we still operate from a position of fear when it comes to HIV/AIDS. I admit--I have been mostly ignorant myself...but I am learning.
Part of my own awareness is because of the Tweitmeyer family. This is a family of 15 (!) who are passionate about adoption and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. Their organization, Project Hopeful, comes alongside families who are adopting children with HIV/AIDS and provides them with support and encouragement.
The Tweitmeyers were recently featured in People magazine, and tomorrow night (Tuesday), will be interviewed by Katie Couric on CBS Evening News. I know I will tune in to watch and pray as God uses them to share truth from this national platform.
Watch their video below (it's awesome!). Be educated. Know the truth. And let's pray for those who lives have been affected by this virus, especially the children.
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Posted by Rachel at 9:21 PM
So we are home and recovering from a whirlwind of a week. We traveled hard for two days, went nonstop for three days in country, and then hopped on a plane and traveled for another 40 hours. I am a little jet-lagged and alot exhausted...: )...in a good way. But I wanted to post and give a little more detail about our time in country.
Our time with Abby was wonderful. We got to spend about 6 hours each day with her at the House of Hope. It is not the best context for bonding: playing in a small, hot room with three other families and their kiddos, and doing whatever you can to engage a little girl in activity. We had beach balls, crayons, bubbles, stickers, lollipops...played lots of chase...anything to give us something to do together. We did play outside a little, but that is harder for the other kids who are there to watch, and so we limited that. But it was still wonderful, getting to know her better and also getting to know the other traveling families. I have a feeling those might end up being some long term friendships, as we will travel again together in December.
Our routine was a few hours in the morning at the HOH, lunch out in Addis usually connecting with friends, back to HOH for afternoon playtime, and evening dinner again with friends and errands somewhere in the midst of all of that. It was a blessing to see old friends, introduce Joe and Katie to them, and also to make new ones.
Hiring our driver Ephrim is really what made our trip so doable and seamless. I highly recommend his services, if you need or want to hire your own driver while in Addis. Staying off-site and having our own driver gave us flexibility that we really enjoyed. He's so much more than a driver--he'll get you anything you need, translate, and provides you with a cell phone and laptop. Not to mention he loves Jesus and is just fun to be around, so we enjoyed every minute of his company. (Stay tuned...because he is not only a driver, but also has a coffee business, and I just might have some coffee available here on my blog in the near future!!)
We stayed at our friends the Trier's home, which was such an amazing provision. Their house workers became like family to us and we can't wait to see them again in December. The Triers are in the US on furlough, and we were so thankful for their hospitality, as well as our new friends the Duttons who have been renting their home. They will be opening a guest house soon...stay tuned because I'll be telling you more about this awesome couple and their non-profit guest home on behalf of orphans.
We saw Peter and met his new wife. We hung with Bisrat and talked about church planting. We ran into some of my street kid friends we played soccer with on the mission trip in January. We met up with Katie's friend Ben from school who now teaches at a school outside of Addis. We met the Steuers, friends who minister there that we've known online only up until now. We visited Drawn from Water's new children's home and dropped off donations. We missed Sammy this trip, as he was out of town at the boarding school, but we will see him in December.
We shopped at the market. We walked the streets and saw some sites. Joe went on a morning run with Ephrim and Kebede (the Trier's guard) on the streets of Addis, and loved it. We ate some wonderful Ethiopian food prepared by Ephrim's wife, Yeshi. And each night, we attempted to get on the internet and usually ended up yelling at the computer screen. Good times. (One sidenote: never buy a card reader for your camera on the streets of Ethiopia. You might just loose about 200 pictures trying to use said reader....just a suggestion--no charge for that one. : ))
So it was a wonderful trip. Of course, time with Abby was the highlight. We enjoyed every second we had with her. Leaving was hard, but...ok. She has a tough exterior--after all, she is a survivor. So she tried to be very strong. There was one moment, when we were leaving, that she looked up at us and said "To America?" But she knew already, because they had prepared her....not yet. We told her we'd be back, and she hugged us, waved "chow!" to us, and turned to go play with her friends. I know she is loved there at the HOH. While I do believe she is looking forward to coming to America, she feels safe and secure there, and it made leaving her just a but easier knowing that.
In order to keep it real, let me say this. We were both struck with the realization that now is when the work actually begins. Adoption is a beautiful picture of the redemption story, but it is not a fairy tale. We can tell we have much to face in the next six months, and alot about our lives will change. There will be wonderful parts of that change, and we know there will be very difficult parts as well. Abby has many adjustments coming her way, and some will be fun and exciting and others will be painful and difficult. We love her so much, and are committed to being there through it all.
And it became very clear to me that my life is about to change drastically. The freedom I have enjoyed with my older kids in the last year or so will disappear completely. The areas I serve outside of the home will decrease for a while. My circle will tighten, and my home will not be as open as it has been. I am a gal who likes my freedom, so I'm just being honest when I say that will be hard for me. Because every moment of my day will be mostly consumed with investing in this little life and building the security and bonding that she needs. It is a privilege to get to be the one who gets to fill that role for her, to be her mommy. It's almost as if I see this as a "labor" that come after instead of before birth. And, like most moms, I am ready to embrace what I fully expect will be draining and exhausting so that I can see the fruit of that labor: her little heart beginning to open up and receive the love of a family and of her Creator.
Thank you again for all the love and support. We appreciate your prayers more than you know.
Posted by Rachel at 9:03 PM
We met Abby yesterday and spent most of the day playing with with her at the House of Hope. She is precious, full of energy and spunk, quick to be affectionate, and happy to have a mommy and a daddy.
A couple of things we now know about her: she loves to wrestle and be chased by her daddy. She’ll eat as much candy as you give her. She giggles when we try to speak Amharic to her. She loves her picture album with pictures of her family and shows it to everyone. And her favorite color is most definitely purple.
This morning we went to court, spent all of about 2 minutes with the judge, and were officially given the privilege of being called her parents! It was an emotional moment for me, and one I will never forget.
We spent the rest of the day with Abby again. Trying to get Joe to leave her is near impossible. Tomorrow will be hard, when we say goodbye, so please pray for us.
Thank you for all the love, prayers, and facebook comments. We will be home Sunday evening and will update as soon as we can.
Posted by Erica at 3:40 PM
Well, it is official. We are on our way to Ethiopia. It is all a bit surreal, and I sit here in the airport in Tampa, I think it's the first chance I've had to take a deep breath in weeks.
Several friends have asked how I'm feeling this last week. Excited? Nervous? Honestly, I have been so busy, wrapped up in everything that needed to be done in preparation for this trip, I haven't had time to really stop and determine how I feel!
When I reflected on that question the other night, I realized what I feel most: incredibly blessed. Spoiled rotten. Who gets to do this?! Who gets to bring a precious little girl home and love her forever?! Who gets to travel overseas and enjoy a beautiful country with beautiful people?! Who gets to spend some uninterrupted time enjoying an incredible husband and friend? Who gets to have so, so many people praying, following, and loving us through it all?! I do. Blessed. That is how I feel.
And I can tell you this, it is wonderful to be at this point, where I can sit back and enjoy this time with my husband as we travel. And to also really, really begin to let the truth sink in that in less than 48 hours I will finally get to hold my little munchkin in my arms.
We will do our best to post as much as we can on here and on facebook. For now, our schedule looks something like this:
Tuesday-Wednesday: travel; arrive Wed night 9:30pm
Thursday: morning "Meet-cha" time with Abby; afternoon visit with her as well; also we will visit some friends at Drawn for Water and take donations
Friday: court date (not sure of time yet); more time with Abby; meet up with a few other friends in country
Saturday: hopefully more time with Abby; link up with our friend Sammy; fly home at midnight
Sunday: arrive home @ 8:30pm
So that's the tentative plan. Our visits with Abby are scheduled around the House of Hope's visitation plan, so once we get there and know when those times are, we will plan our other activities around that. And of course around our court time, once we know that. Addis Ababa is 8 hours later than Tampa (Eastern time), so that gives you a frame of reference for how our activities will relate to your time zones.
Many of you know my niece Katie is traveling with us to photograph and chronicle this amazing experience for us. We link up with her at our next stop, and she'll be with us the rest of the way! So blessed to have her with us!
We are grateful for your prayers. Some specifics:
- for our kids as we travel; safe and fun times while we are away
- for Abby, her little precious heart and adjustments as she meets us and processes all that that entails
- safety and health (specifically no migraines for me)
- our meetings with locals, always looking to see how God is leading our church to future ministry in Africa
- glory to Jesus in all we do and say; that we represent Him well
Posted by Rachel at 12:59 PM
It is with great joy and humble gratitude that we announce to you:
Thanks to the generous gift of an anonymous donor and a Show Hope grant, we are done fundraising!!
It has been a year and a half of blood, sweat, tears, and prayer, as we walked this out-- never really knowing just how God would provide. We started with $100. That's it. We knew there was a long road ahead. We have worked hard organizing fundraisers like our garage sale and vendor blender and raffle, we have set aside any extra money that has come our way, we have watched the slow and steady sale of our t-shirts provide just as it's been needed, and we watched in amazement as God raised over $10,000 in a week for our referral fee.
Fundraising is a funny thing. Not fun--don't mistake me. : ) Fun-ny thing. At times, you know your hard work and perseverance is required. At others, it is simple trust as God provides in ways you could never orchestrate no matter how carefully you planned or how hard you worked.
And I must say this. I must. I know there is much debate on whether or not to fundraise when adopting. Let me say this: had we not, there is no way we could have afforded it. We didn't have choices like putting off the remodeling of our kitchen or cashing in IRA's...those are not options we have been granted, as church planters. Large sums of cash are just not at our disposal, for adoption or for anything else.
So we rolled up our sleeves, sought to honor the Lord by sacrificing and working hard--and then left the rest to Him. Frankly, whether we sold an old lamp or sold a t-shirt or sold a raffle ticket or received donations via paypal--we see it as ALL from Him. He is our Abba Father, our Jehovah Jireh--and not just ours, but Abby's as well. He has provided each step of the way. And because we fundraised, Abby will come home to a forever family. And not just to her immediate family, but to a family of friends who loved her and gave on her behalf long before they knew her name. I'm so glad God made it so we couldn't do it on our own; we needed you.
If you have the means and are led to pay for an adoption all by yourself, by all means, do so. But for those of you on the fence, hesitating because of finances--please, please don't let money be what holds you back. As Erica said to me over a year ago when I told her we could never afford it: "Do you have $100? Because it's only $100 to apply." It's one step, one fee at a time. And so we stepped out in faith. Our family is a perfect example of God's provision each step of the way.
So we thank you for being a part of it all. Many of you gave, served, prayed, and sacrificed for this adoption. This is as much YOUR journey as it is ours. Know that. We sense your love and support and know God used you to bring our little girl home. This is how you have loved the orphans of the world, and demonstrated His love for the least. "Thank you" is not full enough of emotion nor descriptive enough of feeling to express the love we have for all of you.
But ultimately, we give thanks to the God who does exceeding above and beyond all we could ask or think.
I an reminded of one of my first posts on this blog, as I dealt with discouragement on the financial end. This is what my friend wrote to me over a year ago:
I wanted to share a piece of my heart with the hope of encouraging you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and rest there with humble trust, giving thanks as you are in these days of small beginnings. Jesus finishes what He starts, He loves the fatherless...you're on good ground to remain hopeful.
And so I did. And I found firm ground indeed. He has finished what He began.
Posted by Rachel at 9:48 PM
I have to admit, a little part of me doesn’t like that we call it that. Like it’s limited to one day a year. We don’t have “Prayer Sunday” or “Quiet Time Sunday” or “Obey Jesus Sunday”---these are a regular part of how we live out our faith daily, they aren’t just highlighted on one Sunday every November. It would seem weird to say, “Share the Gospel Sunday”.
I guess I understand. It’s there so we don’t forget our responsibility and calling. It’s a chance to speak up all the more loudly for those who cannot speak for themselves. Especially here, in America. Today, we sit in our comfy churches where our kids go to Sunday school and eat their cups of goldfish and accidentally spill their dixie cups of clean water and where we sip on our coffee and nibble on our donuts and complain that the thermostat is set a little too low and the volume of the speakers set a little too high. Even in gospel-centered, truth-teaching, God-worshipping churches, we can be mostly isolated from the situation that over 147 million children face every morning when they wake up: no mom. no dad. Today helps us remember.
Because we do forget. I forget. We forget that there is an orphan crisis. Not just that there are orphans in the world. But an orphan crisis. 147 million is a number I can hardly begin to wrap my head around. I can write it; but I can barely grasp the magnitude of that. many. little. children.
Who will teach these 147 million children to ride a bike? To write their name? Who will tuck them in and tell them stories and comfort them in the middle of the night when they have a nightmare? Who will buy 147 million pairs of light-up tennis shoes and 147 million pairs of jeans and 147 million toothbrushes? Who will fill their Christmas stockings and their Easter baskets? Who will take their pictures over the years and notice every little change as they grow? Who will kiss their bo-bo’s and bandage their skinned knees and make them chicken noodle soup when they have a cold? Who will laugh at their silly jokes and hold them tight when they are sad? Who will throw 147 million birthday parties, with cake and hats and games and party favors?
Who will help them avoid lives of servitude or prostitution? Who will pass on to them the traditions of culture, religion, of history and government, of craft and profession? Who will help them grow up choose the right person to marry, find work, and learn to parent their own children?1
And who, who will tell 147 million children that they are loved by their Creator and that He has a purpose for their lives?
The Bible says who. US.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans
and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.
Adoption is not the only answer.
Adoption rescues few. Adoption illuminates by example: these few once-loved children…have been offered a second chance…like young ambassadors, they instruct us. From them, we gain impressions about what their age-mates must be like, the ones living and dying by the millions, without parents… For every orphan turning up in a northern-hemisphere household—winning the spelling bee, winning the cross country race, joining the Boy Scouts, learning to rollerblade, playing the trumpet of the violin----ten thousand children remain behind alone.2
There is much for us to do. There is something everyone can do. For the orphans in our country and around the world.
So adoption may not be the only answer. But it is part of it. Maybe you are being called to adopt. Look into it. Ask questions. Don’t dismiss it and let the impulse pass by without weighing the thought: is one of those children your child?
And if not adoption--there are so many ways to serve orphans. A few blog posts I recommend to get started:
Read. Pray. Investigate. Let God lead you. But don’t wait for a flashing neon sign---the call is clear.
Tonight at our church we’ll watch a short video and have some info out about adoption and foster care. Our pastor will mention it briefly during the sermon. We won't have any fancy posters or cool decorations, but I suppose it will pass for a decent attempt at an Orphan Sunday.
And that’s ok with me. Because the spirit of adoption and a love for the least is written on the hearts of our people. And while we still have a long way to go as we figure out individually and corporately how to live that out, this Sunday will not be a reminder. We already know. It’s a responsibility we own and pray to obey daily.
As Christians, we must go to church and worship together. We must read the word and pray and share our faith.
And we must take care of orphans. We must hurt for them and pray for them and serve them and love them. This Sunday and every Sunday hereafter.
In you the orphan finds mercy.
1This paragraph is quoted from “There is No Me without You” by Melissa Fay Greene, and the paragraph before it is adapted from the same section as the quote on pages 22-23.
2Greene, p. 24
Dear Hannah & Danielle,
Another birthday. Another year older! It is a bittersweet time for me as your mom. I love watching you grow into young women, but at the same time I miss the innocence and simplicity of our yesterdays. As you each celebrate another birthday, and inch ever so much closer to womanhood, there are a few things I feel I should say to you.
The world has messages and sentiments it deems appropriate for times such as this, as we celebrate who you are becoming and look ahead with expectation towards your future.
I disagree with most of them.
Believe in the beauty of your dreams.
Set your mind to it, and you can accomplish anything.
Believe in yourself.
It doesn’t matter to me what you choose to do with your life, all I care about is that you are happy.
When you learn to love yourself, you’ve discovered the greatest love of all.
It all sounds nice, but it’s a bunch of bologna. Sorry. I wish the fact that something sounds nice would make it true, but it doesn’t. In fact, sometimes the truths are the hardest things to hear.
The Bible says not to let anyone look down on you just because you are young, but to be an example to others in the way you live. (I Tim 4:12) This makes me realize I should not wait to tell you these things until you are 18. I need to tell you now. I need you to know them today.
Here’s the truth, girls. You have been given one life. You must choose how you will spend it. And this is not a decision for when you are an adult and leave our home. It’s a decision you can make now, even in your youth. Every day you are alive is a day you are spending, a day you can never get back--and why waste all these wonderful days in front of you in the next few years of young womanhood?!
Most girls your age spend these years obsessed with boys, friends, clothes, and fun. And as long as you stay out of trouble, folks would say that is perfectly normal. Most girls your age are “figuring out who they are”, discovering what interests them, and building a healthy self-esteem. So it’s ok to be obsessed with frivolous things at this age, they would say.
Most parents are happy if their kids are basically moral, get good grades, and show interest and even achievement in some sort of extracurricular activity. Listen to Christian music, hang out with the right kids, and go to youth group every week. Just let kids be kids, and when they grow up and know who they are, then they will begin to figure out the whole God-thing.
But what if there’s a different paradigm all together? Not just listen to the right music, be moral, and make sure your cute clothes are appropriate. Not just live as the world lives, and sprinkle Jesus in.
What if-- your life is not about you? What if I told you God created you for a purpose, and frankly, that purpose has little to do with your interests/ desires and everything to do with HIS kingdom?
The world will tell you to find your significance in how you look, what you know, what you can do, and who likes you. I’m telling you—it doesn’t matter if you are the most accomplished, beautiful, popular, smartest gals in the world…it will not make you significant. It will not make your life matter.
You do not have anything inside of you, in and of yourself, that makes you beautiful. I know that sounds harsh for a mom to say, but if I believe the Bible, than I have to believe that, even about my own kids. The Bible says that “Nothing good in me dwells” (Rom 7:18) and that “The thoughts of man are only evil continuously.” (Gen. 6:5) That doesn’t jive with the sentiment of “believing in yourself” or “looking for your inner beauty”.
Now, saying that doesn’t change the way I feel about you as your mom. I love you to the moon! In my eyes you’re a rockstar!!! But God did not say that I could decide the standard. He has one already, and it’s perfection. None of us measure up to that. What’s amazing, is that in spite of the fact that we fall short, He loves us anyway. Think for a minute about little Abby. I know that you love her intensely already, like I do. And yet you’ve never met her! You’re not loving her because she is particularly loveable---you don’t even know her yet! You are choosing to love her. This is a reflection of how God has loved us. In fact, His greatest act of love for us was when we were the most unlovable (Rom 5:6-8).
And this is comforting. Because His love for you is not based on your attractiveness, your performance, your “goodness”…He just loves you. You do not have to earn acceptance; he gives it to you freely.
He frankly doesn’t care if you get good grades or look cute in pictures or recycle your water bottles or become the youngest doctor on the planet. He cares that you realize you belong to Him, bought with a price, and there should be enough significance for your life in that truth alone. His righteousness, or goodness, is inside of you, because of Jesus. And that, my dears, gives your life meaning and value. That is beautiful! Don’t look inside yourself for your own strength or beauty—lean on His Spirit inside of you instead! There is much HE can do through you, if you will let Him!
You will spend these years pursuing something. What will you pursue? What will drive you? What will you value and what will make you feel valuable? The world will offer you many paths and make you many promises. But I can tell you, none of them will satisfy in the long run (Prov. 14:12).
Don’t waste these years, girls. You can serve Jesus now just as much as I can as an adult! You can love widows and orphans and grow in His word and depend on His Spirit and have Kingdom-impact just as much as I can.
And know that as you labor for Him, it will not always be fun or easy. It is a race, and you’ll need endurance to finish. The crowds will not always be rooting for you. You will fall down sometimes, because you just will—you’re not going to run it perfectly. But that’s ok. Just get back up, and get back in the race.
Because running—participating—is a great privilege. You were not created to be a spectator. You were created to run. And that is where you will find joy. That is where you will find true beauty. You will feel His pleasure and know His purpose for you.
And know I’ll be right there, cheering you on and loving you through it all. This is one race you won’t run alone. We’re in this together. And I wouldn’t miss a second of it---being your mom is one of the greatest joys I’ll know this side of heaven.
I love you, Hannah. I love you, Danielle.
For you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
Posted by Rachel at 10:30 AM