Our family has been blessed to come along side a couple ministries serving orphans in developing countries.
One of those ministries, serving in Ethiopia, is called Bring Love In. I have written about them before. They are serving widows and orphans in a unique way, bringing them together in forever homes. I will share more about our involvement and the ministry at another time. Check out their new on-line store. They are selling really cool handmade leather cuff bracelets. They had 300 made for the first run and they are already SOLD OUT! But more are being made, so if you want one, still place your order - you just may have to wait a little longer.
The other project that we are involved in is coming along side an orphanage in Haiti. As many of you know, Lauren and I traveled to Haiti about a year ago. While there we made some very special connections and have continued to build relationships with these connections via email or phone.
I knew that before I made the decision to go on this Short Term Mission trip that I wanted to stay involved and help in some way. So, I have maintained my connections and for the past several months, I have been advocating for this small orphanage located in the city of Carrfour. The orphanage is run by Pastor Firmin and his wife. They have 5 children of their own and have taken in 12 children orphaned from the earthquake.
Their home was destroyed by the earthquake and they now sleep in temporary shelters on their house property. Since the earthquake, they have had only one team from the US visit them.
One of the last update I received was heartbreaking. They had been without food for several days and they do not have the funds to enroll the children in school this fall. This is highly concerning because as you all may know, education is the ticket to survival in a developing country.
There are days, especially when I hear reports of families in the community having to give up their children or children starving to death, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Honestly, there are days I wish I could just say, "I can't do it" and walk away. That's hard to admit. But a couple weeks ago I spent 10 days in a row with thoughts of giving up. 10 days where I was numb. 10 days someone was waiting for me to respond.
I prayed during these 10 days but still I could not feel what direction God wanted me to go with this project. It became such a weight on my life. I felt like the future of this unknown to the the rest of the world orphanage all in my hands. I came so close to not responding. I wanted to pretend that I did not know about them. I know this sounds harsh but after being unsuccessful with soliciting help from those who do know, I was feeling a little beaten down. Discouragement set in and took control of me.
Just when I was about ready to give up, I read something about fasting. It was at that time that I decided that I had not done everything I could. It took all the strength that I could muster out of poor discouraged little me and I fasted and prayed for Pastor Firmin's orphanage.
I fasted and prayed for 2 days. On the second day of my fasting, I received a call from my contact with an update. This is the same person who had been waiting 10 days for me to respond. He informed me that the orphanage had been without food for 3 days and on the 4th day, they were given food. The day that they ate was the first day of my fasting.
He also had another praise to report: the school principal at the school the children attend has agreed to let the children begin the school year despite not having their tuition payment.
I went from feeling alone in this battle to understanding that God has been there the whole time.
I have heard that the combination of fasting and praying are the only way to unleash certain demons. So I consulted with a very wise and Godly man, someone I can trust will speak straight truth. He said that he believes that fasting and praying does not unleash demons but instead fasting and praying unleashes "UNBELIEF". There is more that I learned from this conversation but that was the basis of it.
Through my feelings of discouragement, I started to lose faith and disbelieve. But through the combination of fasting and praying, I have truly seen miracles.
And there is more...
Steve and I have been discussing a long term plan to help Pastor Firmin and his community sustain themselves. We have some ideas but it will involve a lot of time and resources.
So this week, just one day after the amazing update from my contact person, Steve just happened to share something about this orphanage to someone during a business lunch meeting. This person has asked for more information about the orphanage and will consider financially coming along Steve and I to achieve this long term plan. We have submitted all the information we have and now we are waiting on a response. So, please all you prayer warriors out there, please pray that God will work through this business man's heart to help bring down the financial barrier that is keeping us from accomplishing a long term goal for Pastor Firmin's community.
I share this story about praying and fasting, not to draw attention to myself but only to show you how God really does work miracles when we believe.
I think about how close I was to throwing in the towel on this project. Just think how much I would have missed out if I would have chosen to limit God.
So, my questions to you is, "Are there things that you have thought about turning your back to because it's just too much?" "Are you limiting God to just the things that you can physically and/or financially handle?" "Or, are you trusting and believing in Him to carry out the work that He has planned in advance for you to do?"
Really ask yourself these questions when you are at a crossroads. Because once you turn your back, God cannot use you. Are you allowing doors to close? Or are you persevering through the doors that are open maybe even just a crack to allow God to accomplish more through you?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
You hear about families in developing countries walking miles and miles to fetch dirty water for drinking, cleaning and bathing. This water contains bacteria that can cause diseases and death in children. But without water, we can die too. It's an unfair predicament that millions face each day.
Samson's birth family does not have access to clean drinking water. When we talk about his life before he joined our family, the fact that some people live without a clean drinking source is unthinkable to him.
He asks me questions like, "Well, why don't we give them some of our water? We have plenty." It's not that simple but yet he does notice our abundance.
And then just a couple days ago, he asked, "If my birth family doesn't have clean drinking water, why don't they go somewhere that does?"
Based on our conversations and all his questions, what he wants for his birth family more than anything is to see them some day have access to clean water.
This past summer when we got together with my friend Tanya and her sons, Samson's buddies from his orphanage, she told me about a triathlon that she was part of to raise money for a water project in our boys' home town Mudula, Ethiopia.
Samson was born in a village outside of Mudula. At this time I am still unsure of whether this fresh water project will reach his particular village but after communicating back and forth with one of the organizers of the project, I have learned that there is a strong chance that his birth family's village will benefit.
When completed, this project is said to reach 10,000! That's 10,000 people who currently drink from an unsanitary source; that means hundreds of women and girls who no longer have to walk for hours to fetch water from a stream but now can spend that time in school instead; that means diseases and death will be cut down dramatically. And for children like Samson, this is a big wish come true!
If you are interested in financially coming along side this water project, go HERE to make your donation. I like my friend Shannon's idea and that is, to challenge each of you to give the amount that your water bill is each month. Is it $50, $100, $200? What are you willing to pay to have clean water each month? Can you donate that amount today?
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I just returned home from dropping Samson off at his first day of preschool. As you may recall, he went to preschool last year but didn't start on the first day of preschool so this is his first "First Day" of school experience.
Last year my emotions were filled with excitement for him. I was persistent and fought for him to be in preschool last year. So, when he was finally able to start in October, I was ready to let him go and experience a world outside of our home. I was not nervous or sad really. Just excited.
This morning I learned that there is something about being there the first day of school that can trigger different emotions.
After we pulled into the parking lot, we watched a father walk his son hand in hand across the street, stop for a moment in front the school bell for a photo opportunity and then proceed into the school.
Then, we watched another mom and dad escort their son into the school shortly after. I thought to myself, two boys Samson doesn't know but will soon be his new friends.
We found his locker right away and as he was taking off his jacket, I looked towards the door of the preschool and saw another dad who was familiar to me holding his apprehensive son's hand. Upon seeing Samson, the dad said, "Look! There is Samson!" in hopes to bring comfort to his son.
As we approached the sign in table outside the classroom door, we were warmly greeted by another familiar face, the preschool teacher. We watched on while yet another little boy signed his name with his parents standing along side him.
I know this family enough to know that this is their first child they would be sending off to school. I could see on her face that the mother was at peace about letting go of her son. The father, on the other hand was trying so hard to hold back his emotions. I almost lost it myself when I heard him choking back tears as he came away from the sign in table with his son and gave him one last hug before he vanished into the classroom.
Inside the classroom, I snapped a couple pictures of Samson with each of his teachers. He took one quick look around the room, gave me one last hug and was off to do their first project for the day.
His teacher handed me a note as I left the classroom. When I walked out, I ran into a family I know bringing their son to preschool. The dad was taking all kinds of pictures and had a huge smile on his face, obviously so proud of his son.
There were so many sweet moments, watching proud fathers with their sons, taking pictures, giving them one last hug before their first day, comforting them. Watching these fathers is what stirred my emotions this morning. To see their love and care for their sons in action was so touching. There were a few moms there too but it was the fathers who were nervous and emotional. I tried to be strong and thought I was doing a good job holding in my emotions until I got to my van and read this note from the teacher:
"I gave you a little wink and a smile as yo entered my room today.
I know how hard it is to leave and simply walk away.
You've been together for several years. You've been a loving guide.
But now the time has finally come, to leave your child by my side.
Just know that as you drive away and tears may start to flow,
I'll love your child as I would my own and help your little one to grow.
Know your child will be safe and loved as we work and learn each day."