Friday, June 17, 2011

Magical Dates?

This morning Steve and I are taking our good friends to the airport. They are flying to Ethiopia to bring home their sweet boys. We insisted on driving them to the airport and picking them up not only because it is a privilege but because when we came home from our exhausting 36 hours of travel and drove ourselves home, well, let's just say, it was not a good thing and it's a miracle that we made it home.

When our family went through the process of adopting Samson from Ethiopia, we only had to travel once and that was for the Embassy appointment. Today, the process has changed and now the families are required to travel twice, once for the Ethiopian court date and once for the Embassy date.

Our friends were in Ethiopia just last month for their court date. They passed court on May 16th.

We did not attend our Ethiopian court date for Samson but we passed court on June 16th, same day as Olivia's birthday. So, we had much to celebrate yesterday!

The date Samson was relinquished to the orphanage was April 16th.

Then, on December 16th, we passed court in the US to finalize his adoption. This is also Olivia's half birthday.

When we were in Ethiopia, we celebrated Samson's half birthday on August 11th, which is our friend Ryan's birthday and my brother's birthday.

So all these dates, the 11th, the 16th have gotten me thinking about what they all mean. What do they mean for our family and what do they mean for our two families. Is there a Bible verse attached somehow? Is it confirmation for something?

There is more...

Ryan and Rachael were at the airport to greet us when we arrived home with Samson. It was their wedding anniversary.

Steve and I will be picking up our dear friends and their boys at the airport on June 26th, which is our wedding anniversary.

I love when God does things like this. He is magical, mystical and mysterious all in one.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Turning 12!

Twelve years ago today, Olivia came into this world. I remember the delivery like it was yesterday. I was in labor at home, Steve called the hospital to tell them and they told him to tell me to just take a bath and that the contractions should go away. This was my second full term pregnancy so I knew what full blown labor felt like. I was in labor and I could feel the baby dropping by the minute!

By the time Steve called the hospital the 3rd time, I told him to not ASK if we could come in but to TELL them we were on our way!

My contractions were very close together. I could barely make it to the car and was not going to buckle my seat belt. It was 10:18 p.m. and Steve sped the few blocks we were from the hospital. He pulled up to the ER door. The ER nurse took one look at me, put me in a wheel chair and sprinted to the other side of the hospital to the labor and delivery wing. It took 3 minutes to arrive to a room they had prepared for me and I remember having a contraction sometime during that fast wheelchair ride.

After losing her heart rate several times, adding much stress to a couple more hours of labor, I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl. Steve informed me days later that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and had to be unwrapped quickly before the final push, which would explain why we kept losing her heart beat.

Olivia had the most beautiful, porcelain colored skin as a baby. As she approached toddler age, her blond hair and jeweled dark brown eyes gave her a real striking look.

Her all time favorite pass time is playing with Barbies. In fact, Avery and her dug out the Barbies just yesterday and brought them outside to play with them on the trampoline.

Olivia has always been our joke teller. She also loves imitating movie or TV show characters, such as the kids on "The Little Rascals".

I will always remember her favorite color through her toddler and lower elementary years was red. She always wore red tennies, had a red sweat suit, red cowboy boots, a red cowboy hat and many red shirts. She still looks great in red! But I think purple is her favorite color now.

I found these pictures and I am missing those years of getting away with dressing the girls all alike.
Some more things about Olivia:

She is a gifted artist.
She is a dog lover.
She is conscientious.
She loves to take care of her younger brother and sister and is a very trusted babysitter.
She plays the guitar.
She is a wise decision maker and very pragmatic.
She has the most adorable dimples on each cheek.
She is a friend to everyone.

My girl all grown up!:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Long Term Support

Our family is part of a new church plant in our community. Our pastor has asked Steve and I to take the lead on global missions for our church.
We have been doing massive amounts of reading and learning the best approach and models to follow when stepping into a project in a developing country. We have made connections with people running organizations and have continued those relationships. The information we have taken in has been eye opening, overwhelming, interesting and for the most part has caused our views and our understandings to be the opposite of how we use to think. It's been very humbling to say the least.

We hope to educate others through all that we have learned. (Disclaimer: we do not know everything and will not ever know everything but our hope is that others will be intrigued enough to learn along with us.)

I'm writing this blog post today to share one piece of advice with you. And that is, unless you are willing to sell all of your possessions yourself, pick up and move your family to a developing country, support those who have made the LONG TERM commitment to serve in a different culture.
According to David Platt's "Radical Together", there are over 10,000 people groups in the world. And today, there are still 6,000 people groups that have not heard the Gospel.

Ideally, the work of spreading the Gospel is less costly through indigenous people. However, in many areas of the world, the Gospel has to be brought there first. Then the indigenous people need guidance and discipling, which can take years.

Many people are confused and don't understand the work of missionaries. I believe that the #1 reason why some are skeptical is that we live in a culture of wanting quick results. We want to see the fruit of the labor now.

Most of us have heard the stories of missionaries living in areas for decades, maybe even are martyred and only a few come to Christ. This is quite the price to pay and a lot of time invested. But someone has to do it! And just because it is a difficult culture to convert, doesn't mean we walk away.

I personally know missionaries who are serving in parts of the world where there is civil war and lots of unrest. They may be there for several years before they lead ONE person to the Lord.

Discipling takes time. Back in the US, we want to hear reports about how many orphanages are being supported or how many churches are being built but the only thing that missionaries may be building is relationships. To us back home, sometimes hearing about the relationships isn't enough for us. We measure progress in numbers:  How many people have they saved? How many children attended VBS? How many orphans did they feed this month?

If we measure progress by material goods or by numbers, we will be disappointed in the progress our missionaries are making. When we allow ourselves to become disappointed, we tend to judge the work God has given them, thus we sometimes walk away from those who are truly doing God's work.

One question I hear consistently is "Why is this missionary family living in a decent house?" Another common question I hear is "Why do they need a $40,000 vehicle to drive?" AND "If they are living in a developing country, why does it cost so much to support them?"

These are questions that I used to ask myself. But over time, my questions have been answered. For one, I know that vehicles are far more expensive than what we pay in the US. And, road conditions are such that unless you own a 4 wheel drive, you can't get anywhere.

Missionaries to developing countries in particular, most often move across the ocean, away from friends and family, immerse themselves into another culture, learn a new language, minister in unfamiliar surroundings and face uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations. How much more uncomfortable do we want our missionaries to live? Are our missionaries also suppose to go without transportation and live in a hut without running water?

Are you questioning the work of missionaries you support? Get to know them better. We have 3 sets of friends who are living as missionaries in developing countries. All will be in the US for the next few months on furlough. I plan to meet with them, spend some time with them and ask them many questions. My goal is to learn more about the work God has assigned each family, ask God for discernment and let the Holy Spirit direct our family's giving from there.

So, when you are deciding on whether your financial support is being channeled the best way possible to further His kingdom, get to know the missionaries you support. Meet with them when they are back on furlough, get to know their hearts. Ask lots of questions and really get a good understanding of the purpose they are serving.

Never judge the work of a missionary. Don't look for immediate fruit especially in situations where it could take decades for hearts to change. The work of missionaries is complicated and often times messy work. They deserve our support and encouragement.