Friday, December 5, 2008

The Roller Coaster - We are no longer moving to Rwanda

So....life can surely change in an instant...two months ago, we were enjoying life in Seattle, not thinking of moving at all. One month ago, we were visiting orphans and widows in Uganda and spending time with good friends in Kenya. In the midst of that trip, Dano was asked to consider a job with Food for the Hungry in Rwanda. We flew there, fell in love with the country, and decided to take the offer and life changed overnight. We cannot go into the details, but basically some significant red flags were raised in the eleventh hour and we are no longer moving to Rwanda. This was actually decided two weeks ago, but our hearts were so crushed with disappointment that we've only recently come out of our "funk."

We had started making plans to move, booked flights to see family to say goodbye and told all of our friends and loved ones we were moving to Rwanda for three years. We've spent the past month reading everything we could find on the history of the country. If you are aware that it will be a tough read, I highly, highly recommend the book, "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda." It will really make you understand the current crisis in eastern Congo. We had already made some friends in Rwanda and received so much personal affirmation from friends and acquaintances.

So, now we're not moving. We do not know what is in store. We had never asked or planned for this opportunity, so in many ways life can just continue as normal, but something has changed in us. We've kept some connections open and if we are to move to the continent of Africa, we would be ready. Dano has also received some interesting offers here in Seattle, so we'll see. And if we are to stay in Seattle, then we will do so whole-heartedly.

Our church is considering sponsoring several orphan-led households that we met in Uganda. So to know that our church family could be a family to these 27 children makes the entire trip worth it. Whenever you travel somewhere and meet people from diverse cultures, your heart is never the same. We may not be moving to Rwanda, but our hearts have been touched and we are not the same.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lian asks for your help


When I came home today, my daughter showed me three drawings she had made. She said she wanted to help the kids in Africa. Lian wanted us to stand outside and ask people for 5 cents, 6 cents, 10 cents or 25 cents so that we could help the kids we met on our trip. She said she wants the money to be used for the kids for food or toys. So, I told her that instead of standing outside we could post her drawings on our website and ask people to consider giving. If people are interested in giving, please click on the donor badge to the left that provides money to Children's Hope Chest. The money goes directly to the kids. Thank you.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

We are moving to Rwanda.

Yes, that was not a typo. It is a long story of which we will share more over the coming months and it has all happened really fast (in five weeks). The short story is that Dano was offered a position as VP for Finance and Administration with Food for the Hungry/ProCom in Rwanda. He will be providing oversight to a water distribution business that received a contract from the Rwandan government and will provide water to 144,000 people. He will also be administrating and creating new business enterprises for Rwandans. This is why we took a detour to Rwanda for 18 hours on our recent trip to Africa. We need to be in Rwanda by January 30. We have made a three year commitment and will live in Kigali, Rwanda.

While we feel overwhelmed and in shock ourselves that this is happening, we also feel a tremendous sense of affirmation and peace that this is right for our family at this time. We'll write more soon.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Only in America

Eric Metaxas sent me this from his friend in Rwanda. No matter who you voted for in this election, this just reaffirms the beauty and uniqueness of our democracy and the honor with which our leaders put aside their differences for the sake of our country.

http://www.ericmetaxas.com/uncategorized/rwandan-reaction-to-us-election-only-in-america/

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Husband's Blog


Dano and I were able to visit some business, NGO and government folks while on a short visit to Rwanda during our Africa trip. He wrote some thoughts on economic development that myself and some friends thought others might find compelling. People always tell him he should write some of his thoughts down because he is a deep thinker who is able to ask the tough questions people usually don't want to ask. And he does something with his questions - he desires to do the good and to pursue truth. www.danojukanovich.blogspot.com.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun in the Sun

Lian with Wema and Amani at the Indian Ocean- best friends forever after this past week.
Yes, we rode a camel on the beach.
And we got to see a lion basking in the sun.
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A few more

Amani (Ann's son) and Anna
Ann and Jen
Dano, Dave (Ann's husband) and the kids
Our breakfast buddy (he was literally right outside the breakfast window)
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Photos

While we were never able to get a charger for my camera, we were able to use Dave and Ann's camera. Mine was definitely clearer, so we were very disappointed to miss some key moments in our trip due to the lack of clarity, but at least we have enough pictures by which to remember this trip.

Here are just a few - the rest can be found on Picasa. Just click on the slideshow on the sidebar to the left and it will take you to our album


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Scriptures We've Reflected Upon

I tried to read a Proverb each day of our trip (i.e. Proverb 16 for the 16th of the month, 22 for the 22nd of the month, etc.) On the 22nd and 23rd we were discussing many of the things we had seen and I remembered I had not opened the Scripture yet. Here are a few of the scripture that jumped out at us:

Proverbs 22
2 Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all.

16 He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court,

23 for the LORD will take up their case
and will plunder those who plunder them.


Proverbs 23

10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Defender is strong;
he will take up their case against you.

We Made it Home Safely

After traveling for 28 hours straight with no down time in the airports for the girls to run around, we made it safely to Seattle. There is nothing like coming home. Our girls are really great travelers, but 28 hours was definitely their (and ours) limit.

We've been without internet access for several days, but we had such a great time in Kenya with Ann and her family. To go from seeing the poorest of the poor to being treated like royalty by our friends was quite an adjustment, but we are grateful for Ann and Dave's incredible hospitality. Mombasa is a beautiful city, set right on the Indian Ocean. We swam, Dano went scuba diving, Lian and I rode a camel on the beach, and we had three evenings of great one on one time with Ann and Dave where we discussed everything from U.S. politics (everyone we met wants Obama to win), foreign policy, economic development, Kingdom business, miracles, parenthood and marriage. We learned so much from these two...and our kids had a blast playing together.

We returned to Nairobi for only one day in which Ann drove us around the entire city, took us to the Masai market, had lunch with her sister, whose husband is the U.N.'s Director for Communicable Diseases in Africa, visited Good Shepherd church, where our friends, the Nsimbis, grew up, had tea with Ann's entire family, and then took off for our return flight home.

Our farewell tea with Ann's family was truly touching. Her father prayed for us as we went and we just felt we were in the presence of a holy man and woman (her mother). In their retirement, these two devote themselves to preaching around the country in open-air crusades and healing those who are ill. Ann's mother had a miraculous healing 20 years ago and since then God has used her to bring healing to hundreds of people. She said that she believes Africans see miracles because of their commitment to fasting before God. We felt so loved by her family and do hope we will see them again soon. Ann also had a good friend of her's come to the tea because she wanted us to meet. Dollee just left her job working for a granting organization that takes international funds directed for Africa and disperses them to various NGOs. She believes the Lord is calling her to start a foundation that provides money from African-led businesses to serve Africans. She really desires to see Africans move away from dependency on the West so they can take care of their own people. We heard this message often in our travels.

Other blogs about our trip to Africa

Here are three other blogs that went into greater detail about the places we visited, as well as some of the places the rest of the team saw before we arrived.

Pastor Jon - http://pastorjondunwell.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-10-17T19%3A08%3A00-04%3A00&max-results=7

Brandi - homehopeandfuture.blogspot.com/

Daniel - www.danieljclark.com

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Other Side of Africa

We arrived to the welcome embrace of my college friend, Ann Mugofwa. If she is indicative of African hospitality, we have a lot to learn. We feel like royalty. While we were really looking forward to sleeping in the same bed for a few nights for a change, Ann informed us that we needed to be up at 6 am in order to catch a flight to Mombasa. We had no idea what a treat we were in for…

Ann, her husband, Dave, and their two children, Amani (5 1/2) and Wema (8) traveled with us to Mombasa and then a three hour drive through the Kenyan savannah, finally reaching the Sarova Salt Lick Game Reserve. We had a two night stay at this Game Reserve that is out of this world. Unfortunately, probably one of the worst things that I could have done on a trip like this happened – I left my camera’s battery charger plugged into my wall at home. And guess what – no one in Kenya seems to use Canon cameras! I asked everyone at the lodge and we had also gone to a store and no one carried a Canon. Ann’s camera had also run out of batteries and since we were really out in the bush, it was not easy to obtain a new set. So…we had to rely on Lian’s kid camera for our first game drive, which is really unfortunate because we saw a male lion, which was incredible. Fortunately, Ann got her camera fixed so we have a few from the second day. Again, the internet reception is so bad where we are right now that it takes 10 minutes just to open one email, so I will post my pictures upon our return.

I’ll try to give you a quick glimpse – if you can imagine opening your bedroom window and seeing a troop of elephants walking royally towards the water hole that is underneath the windows of the dining hall. Once the elephants leave, the water buffalo arrive…and I’m not talking one or two…I’m talking of dozens of elephants, hundreds of water buffalo, then scores of zebras, a few wart hogs running through, and then when all is quiet out come the baboons (or as Anna says – the “baba boons”) carrying their children on their chests. It is absolutely surreal.

The juxtaposition of this portion of our trip in comparison to where we were just a few short days ago is almost shocking to the system. We drive for three hours past mud huts and tin roofed-houses, passing people carrying water jugs on their head, only to end up 30 minutes from any humans at a game reserve that feels like it is out of a storybook – and it has plenty of running water. There is something wrong with this picture. Don’t get me wrong – we definitely enjoyed our time, it was truly unreal and we are relaxing after an intense week – but the stark contrast just reminds me that there are solutions that are already out there. We can get water to people who are thirsty; we can feed those who are hungry; we can care for the orphan and the widow; it just takes a lot of resolve and the right people to make things happen.

That’s what has been so refreshing about being with Ann and Dave. They are people who are making things happen. They are successful young professionals and parents who care deeply about their country - and not just for this generation. They care about what will be for their children’s children. It is so uplifting to hear what they are learning about putting kingdom principles into action. They see changes happening in their government that are honoring human dignity. They realize it takes time, but they are not waiting around for the government to make things happen. They are doing it themselves. It has been so wonderful to be with them and to have our children playing together non-stop.

Following the game reserve, Ann and Dave surprised us again by treating our two families to a three night stay at a resort in Mombasa, right on the Indian Ocean. It is absolutely beautiful and feels so good to rest and be refreshed. I do believe that in the midst of seeing much pain, you still have to take time to enjoy God’s goodness and refresh your soul.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The hearts of our children

***I've been trying to load pictures, but it took 50 minutes to load the last two and I can't stay up another hour. We'll post them on Picas after we get back.***

After we left the orphan-led household, we all got on the bus in silence. I turned around to ask how Lian was doing and she had her journal out. We hadn't written anything in it except for some fun facts about animals since we'd arrived. She had pulled it out on her own and written the words "Poor Kids." She drew six children who were crying. Dano asked, "Why are they crying?" She said, "Because they're poor. They have no mommy and daddy." They were poor because they had no mommy and daddy - not because they didn't have money, but because they didn't have a mom and dad. I turned towards the window with tears streaming down my face - I thanked the Lord for my daughter's heart and for her perception.

Today we were at Caring Hands ministry that provides work for widows. There was a woman there who has four children with AIDS. The youngest was about 6 months old and was with her. Not even realizing the impact of what she was doing, Anna went up to the baby and said, "Hug? Hug?" Finally they hugged each other. It was a beautiful and yet tragic moment all in one breath.

99.9% of orphans are never adopted. It seems unfair when I sit there holding our precious girls and I'm surrounded by boys and girls who would give anything to have a family love them. Tonight, a woman who works in the front office of the hotel asked me if I would adopt one of her nephes and nieces. THeir mom is dying of AIDS. I was in shock; yet also not. THis woman loves her nephews and nieces and she loves her sister. TO her it makes complete sense. I have adopted two already and I am a Christian, which, in her words as a Muslim, makes me have a good heart. I tried to explain it's not as easy as that. But, now I have a place I can direct her to to receive the help she needs.

In teh midst of all the tragedy, we decided that our family needed to have a down afternoon and we took the girls swimming. It was such a blast.

We leave for Kenya tomorrow morning, bright and early. We cannot wait.


I'm sitting here in my room at the Hotel Africana with African dance music playing in the background, my children asleep in their mosquito netting, yet feeling so far from the pain we experienced over the past three days. We were able to Skype my parents this afternoon and both Dano and I felt overwhelmed with tears as we shared with them. We realized that with all we've experienced, we haven't had a chance to really sit with what we've seen.

Our leader asked us last night what were one or two moments that really stood out to us on the trip. The first for me was meeting Beatrice, a widow who started a widows outreach ministry that no has 20,000 widows registered with them. Beatrice lost her husband to a boda-boda (moped) accident. He was a pastor. She was taken in by her brother, but he took advantage of her financially, which often happens. In Uganda you are considered a "problem" if you are a widow. FOr some, they cannot even drink water out of the same well as others because it is believed they will bring their problems to the water. Beatrice told me that one night as she lay crying, God told her to stop mourning and that he couldn't do what he wanted to do through her until she stopped mourning. Beatrice then had a dream where there was a widow in shackles, laying on the ground. ALl of a sudden, the woman stood up and broke free. Beatrice knew then she was to help widows break free. She turned her mourning into dancing. THen through a series of miraculous events, she met this guy, Dave McPherson, who helped her start this widows ministry. At her first conference for the widows, they had 4000 women show up. THey didn't even have money for food. Beatrice said she had two sacks of rice and beans, but didn't know how they'd feed everyone with that. THey prayed and then she said she saw a miracle take place. Every time they took food out, it was as if food was put back in. And they were able to feed everyone. We also went to a hospice center she runs. This was a very beautiful, yet tremendously place to be. Dano took the girls out for this part because the women were so sick - many had cancer all over their bodies. The only drug that could be given to them was morphine to take away the pain. Nothing else would work.I sat there holding hands with a woman who is the same age as my mother and yet looks at least 20 years older. Her son was killed trying to escape Uganda - shot down. Now she has no one to look after her.

The second moment that really stuck out to me was my daughter. Yesterday was very difficult. We visited an orphan-led household. You'll notice when I finally get to upload my pictures that I don't have too many of individual children. Personally, I really struggled with whether or not to take photographs. I felt like I was invading their space - a stranger coming in to their world for only a brief moment and yet asking if I could do such a personal thing as capture them in a photo. This was a real struggle for me at this camp because watching their faces, and their sadness, they knew we were only there for a brief time. And that broke my heart. I have never seen such destitution as I saw in this little village, located so remotely from town. Six huts stood around a common area. The food supply is extremely limited. William, the eldest, is now 18, and he is in charge of his family of six. Both parents died. They cannot go to school. He cannot feed them. We only had juice and biscuits to give. There are six other orphan-led households nearby. If we could get a carepoint in here and have all six families sponsored, then we could get these kids to private school, provide them with food, provide them with padlocks to prevent rape, provide them with a uniform to replace their tattered clothing. So I am praying for a sponsor for William and the other six households.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We Made it to Africa

Internet access is very slow and limited here, so I am afraid I don't have any picture to post and this will be rather limited. It will be also hard to explain all that we've seen and experienced in the past 48 hours without pictures. We made it into our hotel in Kampala at 2:30 am. (Lori - thank you for arranging for Lawrence to drive us!). Lawrence then picked us up at 11 am to drive us to Bugiri. A three hour drive became a four hour drive. We met our group in Bugiri, rested for 20 minutes and then drove another four hours to Soroti. Our girls are doing so well though. They definitely deserve some treat for being the world's best travelers.

The rest of the group had already experienced so much. I began to think we wouldn't really see as much as we had hoped, but I was wrong. We started our day visiting a children's hospice. It was actually so encouraging - the place is run by a woman named Else who works for YWAM. She started this hospice because she believed children have the right to die with dignity. The amazing thing is how many children who came to die were nursed back to health. We just held the infants in our arms for as long as we could before having to leave. Lian and Anna played outside with the older children. Yesterday, Lian was so eager to play with kids that when we pulled over to get directions, she jumped out of the car and said, "Mommy, can I go play with those kids and say hi?" To her - they are not orphans, or sickly, children - they are children, friends. It has been refreshing to see this trip through her eyes.

We then drove to Otuboi which is a school for older orphans that was run by the government ten years ago, but they asked CHildren of the Nile to take over this. Children of the Nile primarily works with widows, so they have asked CHildren's Hope Chest to take over this school. We had such a great timew ith these older orphans, but the needs are so great. Over 90 children attend teh school, 60 of whom are orphans. When you are an orphan you lose government sponsorship, so they have no money to buy their books. They hope to find work "digging" in people's gardens in order pay for their school books. THeir school is a cement building with two classrooms. The other two classrooms are dormitories - 30 beds in each room. 10 of the boys didn't even have a bed; they sleep on the floor. THere are only five mosquito nets. THey only eat meat once a month. So our group committed, on the spot, to purchase beds for those boys and mosquito nets for all and then we went to the market to buy fish for everyone for one meal. The passion to learn and to move beyond what they have is overwhelming. And convicting.

After lunch, we drove to an IDP camp (Internally Displaced People) and this was very difficult. THere are only 5000 people int he camp right now. THere used to be 25000 when the LRA was more active here. WHen I say camp - these are 8' huts spread all over. We purchased biscuits to hand out to the kids and it was as if kids came out of nowhere. We must have had 500 kids surrounding us. Lian was so thrilled to play. I met a 17 year old mom, Ann, who had a one year old and her child was stricken with malaria. Precious child, precious boy. But the future is limited.

THere is much more to process. I feel very newsy in this post. Tomorrow we head to a widow's hospice and another children's home.

Our new plan or twist in the trip is that Dano and I are headed to Rwanda on the 22nd. We will arrive at 6 pm and leave the next afternoon. Dano was invited to visit some water distribution workt hat Food for the Hungry is doing. We will have the chance to see our friend, Seng Thor, who works for FHI.

Thanks for your prayers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We're off!!!

We're off to Uganda and Kenya...and possibly 24 hours in Rwanda (still TBD)...that's another story for another time. Still hard to believe this is happening. We'll try to post when we have internet access. Another place to check on what we are doing is on the blog - www.danieljclark.com.

Lian is so excited. She brought in her atlas to school today to show her classmates where she is going. A mom came up to me and said she was in the classroom when Lian did her presentation and was very impressed. She said Lian even took questions. One of the questions was "What is different in Africa?" Her response was "Children's Hope Chest is there." :)

Anna keeps saying, "Africa? Africa?" While her memory will not recollect this trip at age 2, our prayer is that her heart will remember it.

We'll be in touch!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We Leave for Africa in 23 Days!!!

I don’t even know if we’ve told all of our closest friends about this trip yet, but, yes, as the subject line says, we are going to Africa in 23 days. It’s a long story, but the short of it is that Children’s Hope Chest (www.hopechest.org - I serve on their board) is taking a vision trip to Uganda and we are going to join them there. When I got a contract job this summer, we were going to save the money for a third adoption but decided instead to do this trip. So we have no agenda in going except to be with kids in Uganda and then our friends in Kenya. We’ll trust the money will be there when we adopt again.

I am actually speaking to about 70-80 pastors in our denomination about Hope Chest and the orphan care crisis on Oct 8, so we will be catching up to the group since they are all leaving on the 7th. We depart Seattle on the 10th, arrive into Kampala, Uganda at midnight on the 11th. We will then try to get a decent sleep, let the girls run around in the morning, and then depart mid-morning for Burigi, which is located at the mouth of the Nile. There is an orphanage there we are considering partnering with that has about 100 children. It is run by a Ugandan pastor. The rest of our group will have been there overnight, so we will join them there before departing for Soroti.

Soroti is about five hours north of Kampala. We will be staying in Soroti for two days with a group there that has a very strong and powerful ministry to widows – hospice, conference center, business enterprises. The government also asked them to take over a boarding school that has 90 children, over half of which are orphans. In addition, through their work with the widows they know of another 260 orphan-led households in the surrounding area, and estimates are that there are about 900 nearby. This particular organization does not know how to do orphan ministry and they’ve asked Children’s Hope Chest to come and consider working with them there. We will then return to Kampala on the evening of the 14th and the rest of the group will leave on the 15th. We will probably chill out as a family in Kampala for the day before going to Kenya on the 16th, where we will stay until the 25th.

For my Gordon friends, we will be hosted in Kenya by my dear, dear friend and college roommate Anne Ndunda. She and her husband and two kids have our entire week planned. We told them we just want to experience life with them and we want to see both the beauty and the pain of their country. Anne is so excited and has taken care of everything there, including a safari! So…..

We all had the joyous experience of getting our many vaccinations today. That was a very tough two hours for the girls. However, now we’ve got our Yellow Fever, Meningitis, Typhoid, etc. and we are good to go J It just makes the trip that much more real.

Prayer Requests –

*Health for our family as we travel

*Anna’s passport’s been expedited, but we are still nervous about it getting here on time

*Open hands and hearts for what God wants to show us in Africa

*The girls’ emotions as we spend time with other orphans

*Transportation from Kampala to Burigi/Soroti

*Discernment for Children’s Hope Chest to know where the best place is to partner when there are so many needs.

I doubt we will have internet access until we get to Nairobi, but we will try to blog about the trip when we can.

We are very excited. This is a dream come true. And the chance to see Anne again is such a gift.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lian's First Day of Kindergarten

We can hardly believe that our beautiful little girl is now a kindergartner. It seems like just yesterday that we brought her home. I doubt that I am the only adoptive parent who feels slightly "jipped" in terms of the time we have at home with our children. Starting kindergarten has made me that much more aware that I didn't have her for her entire five years - only four, but they have been four wonderful, wonderful years and there are many more to come. A few friends had to remind me that she wasn't graduating high school, college or getting married - she was just starting kindergarten :) Yet, still...how did she grow up so fast?

It is a full-day program, but we started her half-day in order to ease her into the transition. By the third day, she really wanted to stay for the whole day. So we've done full day this Monday and Tuesday and while she is exhausted, she is so happy. She loves the playground, recess time, choice time (centers) and writing in her journal. She already has homework (very simple, but still it's homework) and has been great at getting that done each day.

Lian is also very blessed to have two of her good friends from church at her school - Emma and Bethany (see below).

Every night around the dinner table, we share our highs and lows of the day. Yesterday, Lian's high was that she got to hug her sister before she left for school. How precious is that? She also told me to remember that when I get lonely I just need to remember that I have an Anna. Don't worry, I told her, Anna will not let me forget. It has actually been wonderful with Anna. Even though she misses her "Jie Jie", she and I have had wonderful one on one time together.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Lian's $16.02 goes a long way


Ever since the earthquake destroyed much of Sichuan, China, last month, Lian has asked on a weekly basis about what will happen to the kids whose houses were destroyed. She has used the analogy of God parting the Red Sea to talk about how God must have parted the earthquake so it didn't hit the kids in Gaoyou. It is hard to explain the unexplainable discrimination of a natural catastrophe to an adult, never mind a five year old.

I finally got the hint last week after she mentioned it again and this time I asked Lian if she would like to do something to help the children in Sichuan. She said "Yes!" I told her we could not travel there to help them, but maybe she could give some of her money that she has been saving in the bank. Again, an emphatic "Yes!" I asked her how much. Without even pausing she said, "$16.02."

Lian's "Auntie" Jen works for World Vision so we called to ask her if Lian could give her money to World Vision to help the children in Sichuan. In true Jen fashion, Jen orchestrated what I believe to be a truly transformational afternoon for our girls. I took Lian to the bank on Friday where she very confidently walked up to the bank teller and asked her for her $16.02. The banker smiled and said, "You must be going shopping." And Lian replied, "No. I am helping the kids in Sichuan, China."

We then went to World Vision's office to hand her money to someone who would send it to China. I wanted Lian to see where the money was going. Well, Jen, had an entire greeting party for us at the front door - Dean Owen , the director of Public Relations for World Vision, Karen from donations, Rachinda and Kristie from Acting on Aids Campaign. Just amazing. Lian felt like royalty (or at least mom did). Dean took us on a tour of World Vision's museum which highlights how World Vision is helping children around the world. Lian was able to see the packages that her money will help provide to the earthquake victims. Lian wrote a letter that we had translated in Chinese by her tutor and she was so excited to know that Karen would send the letter to a family in China.

Karen told Lian that her $16.02 would provide care packages (tent, lantern, dishes, candles, toiletries, blanket, and food) for four families. In the car later, Lian asked, “Momma, how many kids would $100.16 help?” I told her, “25.” “How many would $1000.60 help?” I told her, “250.” “Wow,” was her reply. Then later when Dano got home, the only thing she wanted to tell him about the time at World Vision was, “My $16 helped 4 kids!”

After we toured the museum, Dean thanked Lian for her gift and gave her a beautiful book on China. He told her he really wanted her to remember this special visit to World Vision. I know she will.

On the way home, I told Lian that God loves a cheerful giver. She just smiled. Dano and I always tell Lian that she has an incredible gift of "helps". She loves to help people. I want to have more of my daughter's heart.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Anna's Readoption is Final

The last step in our adoption of Anna Mei is called her "readoption." This basically allows us to get her a U.S. birth certificate, which will ensure that she never has any trouble proving her identity should her Chinese birth certificate or adoption decree ever get lost. We started Anna's adoption process back in January 2005. Three years, four months later, we are all done with anything related to adoption paperwork - Praise God!!!!

In an effort to save $500, I became our family's "attorney." For Lian's readoption, we hired an attorney. Now I know why people pay attorneys. I have spent 3 1/2 hours at the King County courthouse since starting this readoption process. I had to learn an entire new language - motions, ex parte, cause number and more. I learned that there is a mad rush upon the clerk's office at 4:27 pm (three minutes before closing). And I learned I do not wish to be an attorney - I could never deal with the bureaucracy.

I thought I had everything compiled in the right order for our 9 am hearing this morning. When we showed up, the 3rd floor clerk informed me that none of the paperwork I submitted to the 6th floor clerk's office had been received (when I filed this three weeks ago, I gave them a huge stack of documents but the clerk had never filed a readoption paperwork before - just my luck). Also, it was apparently a very big deal that I did not have cover sheets on each section of my paperwork. For those of you who know me, you know I don't do well with "systems", so I was ready to explode when they told me that. However, we were very blessed that the adoption facilitator was willing to make me cover sheets so that we could still get our hearing in today.

Finally, the clerk ushered us into Commissioner Joan Allison's chambers where we swore once again (I think this is the fifth time since adoptiong Anna) to love and cherish this precious little girl. The good thing is that despite my ineptness at maneuvering the County Court System, Family Court loves adoptions. After sitting in their courtroom for an hour waiting to file my motion, I now understand why. I was on the brink of tears the entire time listening to marriages disolved, custody battles fought and estates challenged. It was extremely depressing. So for a commissioner to be able to help form a family and honor the love two parents have for an abandoned child is extremely rewarding for them. Thus, they are willing to overlook the bureaucratic mess I created.

There were many emotions today. I cried after we left the courthouse. Some of my tears were tears of joy at ending a process that has lasted over three years; others were tears of frustration at my own feelings of incompetence with the system; and others were tears of anger at a system that creates rather than removes barriers to adoption. St. Augustine said "“Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.” Today was a day of both great joy and anger. I am believing our tomorrows will be made of courageous steps to be a voice for more children.
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gaoyou Girls 5th Birthday Celebration



Ellena, Lara, Lian, Isabella, and Sarah. To see these girls now, four years after their adoption, is to grasp a vision of hope, courage and love. It is sometimes difficult for me to balance just wanting to be a mother to my daughters, and not think of them as orphans, with the realization that the orphan crisis is only growing and that my two daughters are two of the 143 million orphans in the world. Each orphan has a name. Each orphan has beauty inside that these girls capture. Each orphan deserves to be loved and not forgotten.

The members of our adoptive group gather each year to celebrate our girls birthdays. We do not gather to focus on what would have happened. Instead we gather to focus on what is and what will be because these girls are our precious children. But I know that I can work on a professional and personal level to make sure that more children receive the blessing of family. Adoption represents less than a tenth of a percent of orphan care. While I wish everyone could experience the miracle of adoption, I also know that reality says we can't wait for that to happen. We have to ensure that the children who are without families receive its blessing in other ways. That's why I am on the board of Children's Hope Chest (www.hopechest.org). Our friend, Tom Davis, who is its President also writes a blog on these issues - http://www.tomdavis.typepad.com/.

We celebrate these beautiful little girls and the young women they are becoming. And we pray and act for the ones who are left alone.
Anna loves for us to sing, especially Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. She pats her head whenever she wants to sing it. This was the first time she did it and I just had to capture it on video. Now she requests this song at least every few minutes throughout the day.

Anna grows more active with each day. She loves to climb things. Today she stacked up some pudding boxes from the closet just so she could reach a higher shelf. She soon learned that pudding boxes don't work very well :)


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Big Week - Lian turned five and Anna walked!

Lian turned five on Thursday. We celebrated with a "Building Bash" birthday party. We had twenty children over and divided them into different work teams where they rotated around their job sites building Marshmallow Towers, a Friendship Wall, a Cranium Fort, and digging in the dirt with dumptrucks and demolishing towers that they built. It was a blast and Lian was so happy all day.

Dano and I both noted how much Lian has grown and matured over this year. She is turning into such a beautiful little girl. Last year it would have been very difficult for her to handle this kind of a party. The anniversary of her adoption last year was very difficult and with all that we've worked through and with much prayer this week, we saw such a growth in her own spirit. She had such joy yesterday and just loved being with all of her friends.

In true "Jennifer" fashion, Lian asked over breakfast what ideas I had for her sixth birthday party. "Lian," I told her, "We haven't even had your fifth birthday party, yet. Can we just enjoy this one first?" She seemed okay with that, until this morning when she told me that she would plan Anna's fifth birthday party for her. Always thinking ahead :)

It was also a big week for Anna. Last Thursday, in the midst of our Chinese luncheon for our home school, Anna took her first steps. If I can ever get my video to upload to You Tube, I will post the video of her first steps. Of course, now that Anna knows she can take a few steps by herself, she wants to be everywhere we don't seem to want her to be. The toilet has become her new favorite place and for some reason she is often found fishing in the toilet. I think we're going to have to get a lock for the toilet. And then she just gives you that sweet little smile that seems to say, "How can you be mad at a face like this?"

It has also been such a joy to see the love developing between these two little girls. Lian loves to teach her sister things and Anna is often found mimicing Lian. This was the first week that Anna said "I love you" to Lian and you should have seen the smile on Lian's face. We continue to pray that they would grow in love and friendship with each other.
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Tragic Death of Another Young Person


When we moved into our neighborhood six years ago, we knew that we wanted to get involved with the neighborhood youth. We live behind a gas station, so there is always constant activity that requires both prayer and action. Yet, we learned that you cannot expect to earn a young person's trust just because you have good intentions. It took three years of saying hello, asking their names, and just smiling at many who hung out on the corner, before we could ask their opinion as to whether or not they'd be interested in coming to a weekly BBQ at our house during the summer. For the past three years, this has proved to be the highlight of our year - hanging out with 15-40 kids (we've had four year olds come and 21 year olds come) every Thursday night. There's been no agenda...we simply spend time with the kids, offer them food, set up game and art tables, show a movie and shoot a few hoops (they're always surprised that this 35 year old white girl can actually jump). Its been a blessing to us and we've had many of our own stereotypes broken.

I'm feeling reflective and a little somber today though. In three years we have known two young people who have been shot and killed and one street worker who died of AIDS. We attended Jamal's funeral two years ago. He was 19 years old and it was only two months before the birth of his son. Billy Jean died this past summer of AIDS. On Friday morning, I read in the paper that DeChe Morrison, 14 years old, was shot and killed. Our hearts broke. DeChe had come to almost every BBQ. We hired him to mow our lawn a few times when he was trying to earn a few bucks. This past summer he seemed harder and more distant. We had difficulty talking to him, but he still came and brought friends. Now he's gone. The sad thing is that apparently there were friends with him at the time of the shooting, but they left him and didn't call anyone. No one found his body for 14 hours. Then when I called one of the teens we know and asked him if it was truly the DeChe we knew, he agreed without emotion, just said, "People get killed." Dano made the comment to me that when you spend most of your day playing Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games it is no wonder that life loses its value.

We know that there are so many factors - its not just a video game - there is the divorce factor, the lack of father figures factor, the gang factor, the poverty factor, the racism factor - but I'm also convicted of our own tendency to not want to seem like we are about the "truth" factor. When kids hear about a God who does love them, when they see they are not alone because adults show them they are valuable, when someone says hi when they pass them on the street and doesn't turn away because they don't look like them or because they might be a "thug", when they learn there is good and evil and that they have a responsibility to choose the good, rather than being told everything is up for interpretation, when they learn that actions have consequences, then I do believe we will lose less children.

Our little corner of Seattle is just one microcosm of our country. I am devastated that this little corner has known two victims of gang violence in three years - this little corner that is surrounded by many middle and upper class families.

Anna was sick today. I held her so tight today as she was crying and I just prayed for her. I prayed that she and her sister would know that they are loved unconditionally, that they would know truth and be able to stand for truth, that they would love other people, that they would be protected from evil. I do believe in the power of prayer and tonight I will say a prayer for the many children in our city, country and world who long to be prayed for and loved.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Some reflections on Lian

This blog was originally started to chronicle our journey towards Anna. I realized this weekend that I haven't said much about Lian. This week has been one in which I've marveled at the inner beauty of our nearly five year old. So I thought I would write some thoughts down.

Patient. Generous. Empathetic. Intuitive. Intelligent. Full of Wonder. These are just some of the words I could use to describe Lian. This year has been a tough one, to be honest. We've had to address a lot of issues related to her abandonment that manifested themselves in some tough behaviors. Thanks to the love of friends who challenged us to seek some help, to a wonderful attachment therapist, and many, many prayers, we are seeing true healing take place in our daughter.

Lian is our best helper. She is always wanting to help momma with cooking, cleaning, feeding Anna, planning our new home school and even stamping and labeling the many mailings I have done. And when she gets to help Daddy build our front porch stairs, dollhouse, or at his office, you should see the smile on her face.

Lian is reading voraciously now. It is amazing to see the world this is opening up to her. We think she has read every story in her children's Bible, she loves to read to her dolls and finds such joy in learning new things. Lian was like this as a baby, as well, which is ironic that Anna would rather be where the action is than curled up in a corner reading a book. We love them both.

The best part of our days is when Lian just comes up to us randomly (which seems to be every day lately)and says, "I just came over to give you a hug and a kiss." She always knows just when we need it. I keep thinking each year in her life is my favorite, but each year keeps getting better.
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