Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Of Friends & Family

Today started with a quiet morning.  Most mornings seem to begin that way right now.  It's actually been quite nice.  We sure do miss our family being all together, but once in a while it is refreshing to have a quiet space to reflect on life.  This is likely how our days will go until our court date, and then again for another 10 days after that as we await the court decree to become effective so that we may proceed with obtaining birth certificates, passports, and visas for the children.

We will go to the orphanage later today, as usual, with some craft or activity to share with the children there.  We look forward to making the kids smile.  Actually, it is not so difficult a task to make them smile.  The kids are all smiles as soon as we walk in, and speak a mile a minute in their own form of language which is sometimes accurate and sometimes a cross between their native tongue, another
common language, and whatever else they might be able to use to be functional in communicating with one another.  Either way, we understand almost nothing of what they are verbalizing, but we still manage to communicate.

Some of the children have tried to help us learn some of their vocabulary.  However, learning to speak a word is one thing.  Learning what it means and how to use it is the crucial link that is usually missing.  However, that doesn't deter them from trying to help us out.  It's a lot of fun.  As good as their care is here, they just do not receive anywhere near the interaction and social stimulation that they need...let alone the love.  The bottom line is we were all created to need a family.

Yesterday, we met with our new friends, the Newsomes, and made our way through a local labyrinth of a market.  John was looking for a few items to help with our evening meal together, so we turned this way and that.  First searching for the items, then simply searching for a way out of the system of mazes under tin roofing.  It was cold, somewhat dark, and jam-packed full of side-by-side "kiosks" that get rolled out every morning & buttoned up every night.  Sometimes colorful displays of old
                                                                              beat-up mannequins
and cheap imitations of popular brand name clothing, coats, hats, cookware, cutlery, intimate apparel, breads, meats, draperies, wedding apparel, fake leather wallets, and all other sorts of seemingly random displays that repeat over and over throughout the miles of tunneling walkways.  It's like some sort of flea market heaven...and then reality sets in that this is normal fare for most of the world.  We're apparently the oddballs for having a heated, well-lit store with wide walkways and well organized merchandise displayed for every need or want under the sun!

After our adventurous outing, we finally made it back to the orphanage to find the children greeting us with smiles and hugs at the entry of their wing.  You can just see it on their faces that this is the moment they've been looking forward to all day excruciating day of trying to patiently endure school and necessary homework to get to this one moment only to have to say "Good-bye" one more time!  I think they believe it is worth it!  Their faces speak what words are unable.  And tomorrow we will do it again...until the last time we will have to say good-bye, and the first morning we wake up together as family!

Yesterday gave us a couple of hours together coloring, tickling, giggling, learning new words, hugging, and some heartfelt sharing with Anya as she processes these new changes in her world.  Several of the other children were also able to join in the fun.  It seems therapeutic for everyone's soul, and they get to experience God's great love and care for even them through our time together.

Every day is a new day, and presents us with new opportunities to do good to the one's He loves.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor,
"Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it"
–when you have it with you.
~Proverbs 3:27-28

Please remember to thank God for all of His goodness and sovereign care that He lavishes on us, and for the concern He has for the orphaned and abandoned, and ask Him for:
-Continued favor with all of those with whom we are working to complete our 
           adoption process.
-The Newsome's paperwork to arrive today, so that they may keep their court date 
-For us to find a meaningful, purpose-filled rhythm of life here where we may be 
                   able to meet with God and reflect His grace and mercy.
-The unity of our family while we are all separated.  There is still much time to 
                         endure, and, yet, it has already seemed such a long time to be apart.

Thank you for taking us before our Father in prayer.  It is such comfort to know that His family cares for one another!  What a blessing to allow three more to experience that amazing love!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Life as a Foreigner

Yesterday Anya and Tanya had to return to school, so we were unable to see them until about 4pm.  Since Ruslan is also napping until that time, we stayed at the apartment and played catch-up on a few things.  Jenny got Jaden & Kellen back into a more routine schedule of schooling, as well.  Thankfully our apartment has a mini conference desk that works well for their schooling away from home.  You can imagine they were "thrilled" at the idea of getting back into the rhythm of their education!

They certainly have had great opportunities to learn about another culture, language, customs.  That has been invaluable for them, but will likely be very helpful for Anya's adjustments as she will have the comfort of knowing that her siblings understand where she has come from.  When she speaks of where she grew up, they will understand. She won't be totally alone in her experience.  Thank God for His "little" mercies.

Jenny was also able to do some of the routine things of life, as well.  She got our laundry caught up even though it's a little tricky.  First, finding the right detergent in a different language has it's own challenges.  Secondly, everything must air-dry, so clothes get hung wherever we can find space, but we are very thankful to have a washing machine & hot running water!  Our accommodations are very nice and comfortable.

Yesterday was the first day that we did not really venture out much.  We stayed home except for one little errand to change out some currency.  It is interesting how every people group seems to have their own characteristics.  Here the folks have been pleasant, and some have even been very hospitable.  In general, however, there aren't too many cordial greetings or interactions, not to mention common courtesies, between stopping to allow others to go first through a door, smiling on the street, or even gesturing a "hello".  It seems to be "every man for himself".  In fact, we have been warned that if we don't press our way on and off the bus, we will get the door shut in our faces even if our kids are on the other side of the glass!

Snow removal is non-existent with exception of hand shovels and brooms, so there is snow-pack ice and rutted roads everywhere.  Somehow the taxi's seem to navigate it all just fine while making good time weaving in and out of traffic.  There is a flow to the traffic that is hard to understand.  It seems chaotic to our eyes, but cars & buses swerve in and out while vehicle & pedestrian traffic just keeps flowing.  There are hardly any emergency stops.  You just get used to a trip across town being a string of "close calls", and it all begins to seem so normal.

God has truly blessed us with some new friends here!  We have been able to spend quite a bit of time with the Newsome's who are adopting Anya and Tanya's best friends.  Since they are staying within walking distance to the orphanage, we have been sharing meals & some great encouraging conversation.  John is an AMAZING chef, and it is so good to have friends in a foreign land!  It certainly provides some perspective on how to pray for our missionaries overseas.  They love their family, friends, and familiar surroundings in the states just as much as we do, yet sacrifice it all for the sake of following Christ and making him known.

We all have our role to play in God's family.  Some have been called to minister to the spiritual needs of people far from home.  Others have been called to reach the neighbors they have known all of their lives.  May we all be faithful to that which God has called and equipped us.  Let us never shy away from our joy-filled work because we might feel "uncomfortable" or can't see the outcome of our efforts.  God is faithful always, and His joy is the blessing of our faithful obedience.

Please pray:
-For the Newsomes and our paperwork to be processed in time for us to have our 
          scheduled court hearings (theirs is Jan. 31st, ours is Feb. 7th).
-We may have more opportunity to encourage and love on all of the children at the 
-That we continue to grow in our unity and love as a new family.
-That Jenny regains energy and recovers from some of the exhausting portions of the 
          journey thus far.
-Thanks to God for His foresight in providing for all of our needs!

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Traumatic Love of God

 Weekends are slow times in terms of getting anything accomplished for the adoption process.  However, thankfully, we have been able to spend much more time with Anya, Tanya, & Ruslan.  We may visit the children at the orphanage at 10am, and take the children with us until 6pm when they have dinner.  Yesterday, Jaden, Anya, and Todd made lunch.  It was fun to just do some normal family things together!

Today we all opted to eat at a very good restaurant near our apartment.  The cost is very reasonable, but the food is incredible.  Apparently, the rest of the world can spot an "American" from quite a ways off, so coupled with the fact that we had 5 kids with us (that's 4 more than the norm for here), we really drew some attention!

The waitresses treated us as special guests, and even had us sign a special book because we were from "abroad".  Redneck Royalty might be a fitting description.  We had a great time over a great lunch, but, always, the most enjoyable part is being together!

When we got to our apartment with the children, we considered letting them watch a movie together.  Anya requested no movie...she just wanted to spend time together as a family.  So we tried to just have as normal a day as possible, & even squeezed in a tea time.

We purposed to get back to the orphanage a bit early to allow us time with the other children there.  We haven't had much time to encourage the others, and are hoping that our time here can be fruitful in helping them to see the love that God has for them through the way that we love on them.

Every kid draws security and joy from that!

Anya's perspective on what is going on in her world is amazing.  Today, Todd asked her what the last thing she wanted to do here was.  Her eyes got big, and a very solemn and reflective look came over her.  She said it was the first time that the reality of leaving and never returning hit her.  She said that made her sad.

There is so much change coming for these kids, but especially for Anya.  What they are just beginning to experience is nothing short of traumatic.

Please pray:
-That God would lavish them with His abundant grace and mercy through this transition time for them, and help them to find their place in their new family and environment.
-That we would be able to invest more meaningful time at the orphanage with the other children.
-For Anya, Tanya, and Ruslan to be able to grieve in a healthy, fruitful way over the people and things which they are leaving behind.
-Thanks to God for these beautiful children, and that He has allowed us to be the avenue of His love for them.

Thank you.  We daily know His presence and the power of the prayers of His people!

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday we celebrated Tanya's 7th birthday!

We went to a unique place here that I think I can best describe as Chuckie Cheese on steroids! There is a huge trampoline floor surrounded by trampoline walls at this facility.  It's about the size of a basketball court.  I'm not sure if it ended up being more exhausting for Mama & Papa or for the kids.  We all had a great time!

 Jaden made several friends with a group of teenage boys that were there.  He managed to impress some of the boys with his gymnastics, and they kept ooo-ing and ahhh-ing, and asking him to try new things.  It was great to witness his confidence in talking with the boys (as much as was possible with the language barrier).

It's already getting more difficult to say goodbye to them each evening at 6pm when we are required to leave the orphanage, but the they seem to take it very well knowing that we will return.  Anya just wants to be with her family all the time.  It has been very moving to watch an older child respond to adoption.  She has processed this over and over, dreamed about it, prayed over it a thousand times, and now it's finally coming to fruition.  She's nervous, a bit sad to leave friends at the orphanage, and the comfort of familiar surroundings and language.  However, there is much comfort in knowing that her and Tanya's best friends (which are sisters) will be going home with their new family about a week before us.  They will be in Rhode Island.

We do have a big praise (& prayer request)!!  Yesterday we found out that we have a court date set!  It is set for Feb. 7th.  There is a little concern that paperwork will be ready for the proceeding, but our facilitators have been working very diligently to ensure that will not be an issue.  When we arrived, they informed us that we would likely not receive a court date before Feb. 14th.  We are thanking God for the good news.  However, we still must trust Him to continue working out details.

We have made friends with the couple adopting Anya & Tanya's best friends.  He happens to be a chef, & prepared an amazing meal for us.  He made the mistake of offering his services again, so we will definitely take him up on that!  Sometimes it is just refreshing to speak with another couple that can relate to all the adjustments and processes, and speak a common language with relative ease.  We are thanking God for new friends.  It's given us a better perspective on God's call for us to help "widows, orphans, and strangers in the land (foreigners)".  All three are vulnerable groups, and we get the honor of being Christ to them.

Please continue in prayer:
-For all the necessary paperwork to be complete, accurate, & ready for the court proceeding to take place.
-That God would continue to give us favor with all those with whom we working to complete the adoption.
-Rest & strength for Jaden & Kellen.
-For God's love to be knitting our new family together at the deepest levels.

Thank you for your prayers!

11 Year Old "Mama"

The following is a post from an email update dated Jan. 24th:

Today we figured out how to make our way to the "big" market.  Actually, it's a pretty normal supermarket, but it was a little victory in helping us to feel a little more freedom, and not be so dependent on our facilitator who has helped us with just about everything.  It's nice to gain a little independence, especially since we seem to be in a very safe area.

There has never been any concern for safety...other than when in a taxi or crossing streets!  It seems that signs and lines are really just mild suggestions when it comes do driving.  In fact, if you don't find a parking spot, you just create your own in an intersection, sidewalk, etc., and the police don't seem to concern themselves unless you steal the spot they are holding for somebody "important".

The boys have been learning to count local currency, as well as, beginning to learn their alphabet with pronunciations.  It's been tough to get our mouths and tongues to cooperate!

We made our way to the Notary again today, & were successful in getting our document notarized.  We are still waiting for the Inspectors report so that we may officially petition the court and receive a court date.  Yesterday was very exhausting.  There has been quite a bit of walking here and there, struggling with language barriers, not being able to eat regularly, and being at the mercy of others in many regards.  Thankfully we were able to get a great sleep last night.  I think we are finally settling into local time.

The next several days should be less complicated schedule-wise.  It seems to be the drill for international adoption:  Hurry from place to place until you're completely exhausted, and then go some more.  It seems we find new frontiers of persevering, and then there are days where there seems to be nothing to do.  We are only allowed to spend afternoons with the children at this point since they are in school.

The great thing is that Ruslan is now getting to spend more time with the girls.  He has been separate from them because Anya was getting stressed by feeling the need to personally care for him.  At 11 years old, Anya has shouldered the weight of the future of her younger siblings.  She takes that responsibility very seriously, and it obviously weighs heavy on her at times.  

Tanya simply adores Rusie, and is very good with him.  Oh, for them all to learn how to just be kids with the security of a loving family!

Please pray that:
-We continue to find favor with those with whom we are working to complete the adoption
-We will effectively encourage the children at the orphanage with the love of Christ each day
-Jaden & Kellen will find new strength in Christ and be able to persevere through all of this
-Sage, Christopher, and Katie to be comforted and encouraged by the Lord each day
-Anya, Tanya, & Ruslan to be preparing for the transitions that are to come

And always praise God for all that He has done and is yet to do.  He has been so faithful.  He continues to be our motivation and strength.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The "First" Meeting

The following is a post from an email update dated Jan. 23rd:
The first walk into the orphanage!

Many thanks and praises to God!

We had an AMAZING reunion with Anya, Tanya, & Ruslan.  Anya was very nervous, but all three went for Jenny with open arms.  By the end of the day, Ruslan decided Papa's arms were the place to be.  They all look better than Jenny recalls from previous visits.  It seems that the hope of a family God has given them has even brought physical, intellectual and emotional health.

The Inspector asked the girls if they needed 24 hrs. to decide whether they wished to be adopted into our family.  They said they did not need any time!  They were ready to write their letters of consent right now.  It was a beautiful thing to watch.  Tanya was all smiles as she worked hard to write her letter.

Afterwards, the girls took us to their rooms where they gave us some hand-made sculptures which they had made specifically for us.  One of the little creatures was holding a heart-shaped sign that read "We love you!"

The Inspector is preparing her paperwork, and tomorrow we petition the court for a court date.  We have been informed that recently some small changes have been made in procedures for processing some of the paperwork, so we are anticipating about a 1 week delay in our planned time-frame.  Todd will likely be required to remain until around Feb. 15th due to this delay.  However, as with the rest of the adoption, we must trust God for all of our needs.

Please pray that:
-God will give us energy, strength, stamina and perseverance
-God continues to give us favor with all of those whom we are working with to complete the adoption
-All remaining paperwork is moved through without hinderance
-That God will cause our court date and other work to be done in very timely way that we may return to the US as a complete family ahead of schedule.

Thank you again.  Your prayers are powerful and effective!

The Last Train Out of Town

The following is posted from an email update dated Jan. 22nd:

Things went well at the Embassy.  Although Todd did not have a scheduled appointment as required, they let him fill out his necessary paperwork.

Praise God that we also obtained the "referral" with enough time to make the train to the children's city!  Thank you for your prayers.  God hears.  God answers.

We are now cozy in our new dwelling, and are preparing to head out in the morning to see the local Inspector who is to look over & reissue our referral from this region specifically.  Then he/she will go with us to the orphanage to view how we interact with Anya, Tanya, & Ruslan.  They want to ensure that we seem to be a healthy match for the children.  We will hopefully finally be able to spend some good time with them, as well.
Then comes a very exciting part of the adoption...the children will write their own official letter of consent that they want to be adopted by our family!
This will likely occur the following day as the Inspectors generally do not like to overwhelm the children with too much in one day.
Please pray that: -God continues to give us favor with all of those whom we are working with to complete the adoption
-Our local "referral" is issued without delay or hinderance
-A great "first" official meeting with Anya, Tanya, & Ruslan
-Learn to navigate the city without a driver
-We represent Christ well at all times.

Thank you.  We keep getting word from a friend here that Anya is so excited to see "her family".  It is so satisfying to the soul to hear that!

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

The following is posted from an email update dated Jan. 22nd:

We have been so blessed to make a new friend.  Her hospitality, helpful insights, and navigating directions have been extremely helpful.  She has even put us in contact with a local in our adoptive city.  It is a HUGE blessing to have a local help us navigate the city.  Being able to understand and utilize public transportation will likely give us much more freedom and allow us to move around without the expense of a driver.  This is likely to be a big savings for us.  Praise God for new friends in new places!

We had a successful SDA appointment yesterday.  Todd was able to squeeze in an appointment at the US Embassy to prepare necessary paperwork so that he can depart for the US on Feb. 8th before the whole process is completed (Jenny, Jaden, & Kellen will remain to complete the process as only one parent is required to remain for the duration).

Today we hope to obtain our written "referral" to visit Anya, Tanya, and Ruslan.  If we are able to get our referral by about 4pm (local time) then we should be able to make a train to where the children's orphanage is located.

If you're still awake, please pray that we will:
-Obtain our referral with time to spare to make the train
-Have our logistical details of housing, navigating the city, and scheduling court dates all come together without hinderance
-Continue to find favor with all of the people with whom we are working to complete the adoption
-Fulfill our opportunities to minister the love of Christ to those we come in contact with

Thank you for your continued prayers.  We are so thankful for our Faithful God, a loving family and encouraging church family.

Entertaining Angels

The next few posts will be copies of email updates that were sent as our journey led us to the country where our soon-to-be children are located.  After months of work, prayer, waiting, and more praying, we are finally with Anya, Tanya, and Ruslan.  The next few posts will detail our days upon arrival.

After some much needed rest, we had a great time going to church with our hostess, Karen, whom we are staying with in XXXXX until Tuesday when we travel to XXXXXXXX.

We almost decided to stay home to rest, but after revisiting our purpose for being here, we chose to go and worship God with His people.  It was a great blessing and encouragement to us as we met our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
           ~Hebrews 13:2

International Christian Assembly (the name of the church) is made up of folks from all over the world.  Many Americans live here and are a part of both this church and its partnering ministry to promote the adoption of orphans.  I have been invited to attend a conference they are hosting on February 6th & 7th that is aimed at equipping and motivating pastors to help their churches capture a heart for orphans and adoption.  Since I am tentatively to depart to the US on February 8th, I am hoping that our timing will work so that I may be able to attend.

Tomorrow we will have our State Department of Adoption appointment where we will officially choose Anya, Tanya, and Ruslan for adoption.  Tuesday we hope to obtain the SDA's referral that allows us to visit the children at their orphanage.  We then will travel by train for 5 hours to move into an extended-stay hotel in their city.  We are hoping to actually see the children on Wednesday.

Thank you for your prayers.  Please continue praying for our more immediate requests which are:
1)  our SDA appointment to go well and unhindered
2)  that we get our referral to adopt Anya, Tanya, and Ruslan on Tuesday from the SDA
3)  that we get our referral early enough on Tuesday that we may catch the train that would get us to their city Tuesday night instead of having to wait until Wednesday.
4)  for Sage, Christopher, and Katie to be filled with God's joy, peace, and courage to persevere while we are away.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The First Step

What is the saying..."every journey begins with the first step?"  Well, I guess that really does accurately pinpoint faith in God.

I was just considering how God brought His people to the Jordan river one time when it was at flood stage.  His people were to follow the Ark of the Covenant (a visual reminder of God's presence) wherever it went.  In fact, God even reminded them not to get ahead of Him because they had "not passed this way before."  (sometimes we've had this problem of getting ahead of God, & it never ends well!)

So He brought them right up to the raging Jordan River, & set their toes in the water.  As soon as the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant entered the water, the waters stopped & held for the whole nation to cross without getting wet.  As long as they waited on God, and followed His lead, they were safe.  Too soon & it would have been bad news.  Shuffle their feet in fear of God not being able to withstand the building force of the water He was holding, and they would have missed their opportunity to stay on their amazing journey with Him.  (Joshua 3)
That's faith.
Being patient to stay far enough behind God that we are able to clearly see Him and follow Him, and, yet, being prepared to go at anytime when He says it's time, and the whole time trusting that He is enough.

When God moved in our hearts to adopt the two girls, we were prepared to trust Him and go the distance.  Even when that meant finding out that they have a younger brother!  The funny things is that the whole thing seemed perfectly logical to us.  3 siblings need a family.  We have a family with enough love to go around.  We have a home with the space for 3 more.  We have a God who is enough.  Logic.

We still aren't sure what our lives will look like as a result of trusting Him in this, but what we do know is that He will be enough.

And He has been.  He was enough when the children began loosing hope that our family would come for them.  He was enough when we didn't have even close to enough finances to complete the adoption journey.  He was enough when the waiting seemed too long.  He was enough when the late nights of feverishly pulling together paperwork to meet deadlines was too much.  He was enough when criticisms came about "more" children.  He was enough.  He is enough.

Like the nation of Israel on the far side of the shore, we now look back with stories to tell and a God to celebrate!  Every journey begins with the first step or not at all.  We decided to take the first step, and trust God with every step after that whether in high water or dry ground, daytime or dark because we have learned that He is enough.  Always.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Best Summer Ever

We titled it "The Best Summer Ever" because it was.  We gave our summer to the Lord, and He gave us something incredible in return!

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4

When we delighted to commit ourselves to the Lord, He gave us a desire to do something significant in the lives of others.  Then He delighted to fill that desire.  It's an awesome place to be.

Well, you already know a little of the story, but here it is in a nutshell:

We wanted to go on a summer mission trip as a family, but we felt like it was not the wisest use of our resources.  The financial cost would be great, but we would have limited time in the mission field as a family, so we investigated other creative solutions and found one that seemed to be a great fit.

Through a post on we discovered an international hosting program for orphans and children with absent parents.  In essence, we could bring the mission field to our home for 3-6 weeks!  Not only that, but our church family and friends could also be a part of the summer adventure!  Our mission:  Let God love the lonely and orphaned through us.

We were placed with two sisters from Eastern Europe, Anya and Tanya (we are not yet at liberty to share detailed information regarding location of the children until our adoption is completed).  

These beautiful girls arrived a bit fearful, reserved, and unsure.  It's quite understandable.  But what we witnessed as they began sharing in the love of our family and friends is that they came to life.  From straight faces and polite smiles to laughing, joking, hugging, and acting as any other member of our family.

 There is joy in being loved and finding a place to belong.

The to-the-point ending is that we just couldn't give these two beautiful girls that love for 5 weeks, and send them packing.  Enter: the amazing journey of adoption.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thankful. (how this journey began)

God has blessed us with a great family, and we give thanks for that every day! The real fact that many children wake up without that is heart-wrenching! We have come to love family because God values and loves His family (of which we are thankful to be a part of through Jesus!). We have come to love adoption because God made us family by adopting us into His family...from lonely, misplaced, and unloved orphans to fully accepted and adored children.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
~Ephesians 1:4-6

The first time we became very intimately acquainted with adoption was when we adopted Christopher and Katie from Uganda. You can read that story at

Now God has again set our feet upon that path. We are excited that we have a means through this blog to allow others to see the awesomeness of God as He works in our lives, and teaches us more about His abundant love and grace.

To God be the glory!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


"REDEEMING HOPE" is the name we've chosen to represent the record of this amazing journey God has brought us on as a family. It is intended to reveal how He has intertwined our hearts with His, and placed His passions in us that the "Good News" of Jesus Christ would be poured into the lives of the lonely and vulnerable. In the upcoming blog posts you will learn of our family, our passions, our purpose, our humanity, and the life-changing work that God is still doing in us. We invite you to join us on this journey. Together may we explore the amazing richness and joy of complete surrender to our Great Compassionate Rescuing Redeemer King, Jesus.