Sunday, December 23, 2012

My life collides with "Their Story"

It's not drawn from passion.  It's not drawn out of obedience.  It's not drawn from an emotional need.  No, the drive behind our family "Sharing their Story" is that "their story" suddenly collided into our lives and became, on February 5, 2012, a part of "Our Story" .

In July of 2011, we set out to take on the role of "CarePoint Sponsorship Coordinator's" for Warancha CarePoint.  We believed in the ministry behind Children's HopeChest and believed it would be an awesome way to knit us back into the fabric of the country we longingly awaited our own son's arrival from.  We had a dream - but little did we know, he had a PLAN!

Just one month after our big launch, we received the long awaited call we had waited for.  We had a 3.5 year old son!  Upon receiving his paperwork, we began to see the first bread crumbs of a confirmation that Awassa, Ethiopia (Warancha's home) wasn't just 'our choice" but His.  Birth place of Zebene Martine - Awassa, Ethiopia.

We went through the process of Court travel, Court and Embassy Clearance and on February 5, 2012, we became Forever "ours"!  During that embassy trip we were blessed with the greatest gift we would ever receive - the opportunity of meeting the beautiful woman who was giving us the gift of Zebene.

How do you prepare for such an event?  I had for years dreamt of that moment for our daughter from China.  For 5 years we prayed nightly for a woman we'd never know.  We had only dreamed what it would be like to understand the "Why's" and to say "thank you" for her great sacrifice.  I dreamed of telling her how brave she was, wondered what she looked like, and of learning a story I'd never really know.  I envisioned what it would be like to look in her eyes and let her know that she was loved.  And now, 5 years later - I was having that chance with Zebene's mother.

Our day came and I was a nervous wreck.  I had prepared a photo album and a letter - such small tokens in exchange for her unimaginable sacrifice.  Without sharing Zebene's story and the heart wrenching cards that had been dealt to the hand of his mother, it would be suffice to say that I had one goal from our meeting - MiMi would know she was adored, beautiful and the daughter of the King of Kings.   As we sat across the table, I watched her as her adoring eyes took her beautiful son in.  She greeted him with an affectionate embrace and as we talked, her gaze seldom left his face.  It was very clear that she loved her son dearly, affectionately sharing sweet memories and stories of his personality and tender moments as a baby and young toddler.  She shared her last moments with Z, as she left him in the orphanage at 2.5 years old, sharing with us the last thing she told him  "Please never forget me, Please never forget me".  As she conveyed her dreams, her story and her great loss to us, I was overcome in emotion.

Life was not fair.  My son was simply an orphan because of poverty.  A young mother, against all odds and the desires of her family, had chosen life for him.  She had chosen with the whole world against her to keep her son and do whatever it took to raise him.  She had given him every chance she could and yet - life. had. failed. her.  As we sat at that table and as we shared in those moments - my grief and one reality overwhelmed me.  Zebene, our gift, was ours only because we had "much" and his mother had "too little".

As MiMi walked away from that meeting, I held OUR beautiful boy on my hips.  Turning to Job, our guide, I began to sob.  Nothing about that moment felt right.  This - this card that life had dealt this beautiful woman, was not right.  Her loss would never be my "gain".  A truth that would forever be etched on my heart.

But, as we know, the Lord always is the perfect author of our stories.  Our relationship with Zebene's mother has continued.  On Doug's most recent trip into visit our kids at the Warancha CarePoint in Awassa, Ethiopia, he had the awesome and beautiful opportunity to see MiMi again.  Meeting up at the orphanage that she had left Zebene in, he learned one more amazing piece to our story he was penning.  Shilom Children's Hope is only miles from Warancha CarePoint!   The reality sinking in further - Warancha could have been her answer!

For over 300 plus children that are a part of the Warancha community, the same fate is only a meal - a day away.  The truth is, our sponsorships and that CarePoint is the lifeline and the breaking point between one more young mother, one more desperate family having to gut wrenchingly choose the same sacrifice for their child.  Warancha is orphan care at it's best - allowing those with "much" to keep those with "too little" together as a family!

  Those moments, at that table, in a small guest house propel me forward to continue to Share Their Stories.   My prayer is that their stories collision into your life would result in not a loss of a family - but the HOPE of a future!  Perhaps this Christmas, we really can "Change Their Story".

Here's How you can get involved and become a Story CHANGER!

Sponsor a child today (34$/month)!

Give the Gift of Nutrition this Christmas!

Our first moments

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Baby's First Christmas - and other notable firsts.

Still so many firsts!  As we turn the bend of 10 months home and soon celebrate the close of 2012, we continue to embark on the confusion, the joy and the bazillions of questions that come with a very curious 4.5 year old little boy learning all about "Mericut".  I have gotten so busy with life - and laundry (and taxi cab driving) with 4 crazy kids, that I have failed miserably to note some of the sweetest, some of the craziest and some of the most monumental times.  Maybe over the holidays I will get a chance to play some catch up.  Until then, might this bide some time.

August we moved into our new home.  Z has loved the discovery of the wild life we see out our windows.  He also loves riding his bike in the circle drive, sitting on the front porch in the rocking chair and learning to climb the trees.  We are loving the quiet hill country life, meeting new people and becoming "old" in our young age.  I for one have taken on a new love of humming bird watching and am already ready for the spring to come so my little friends will embark again at the feeder out my kitchen window.  We have seen fox, HUGE buck, doe's, roadrunner's and even an Audad.  Each day is a new discovery - and I am good with all those creatures above - just leave the sneaky snakes waaaay out back!

Seriously - this guy was less than 10 feet from me.  Good morning, Sunshine!

The end of August, the big kids started school.  Each year we begin our year with a Back to school "Celebration Dinner".  I pick a scripture for the year and place it as a name card in front of each seat.  We write down the kids teacher's names and pray for them by name.  I always use our good China and try to make it as special as possible.  Last year, we set a place for our little guy.  A promise that soon he'd fill that seat.  It was extra special that the Lord delivered that promise to us!  One year later - almost to the day we first saw his face - he was joining our celebration!
Last year's name card.  Indeed, we came for you, Zebene Levi Martine

September we embarked on our first real family "vacation"with Zebene.  We spent the 4 day labor day weekend (a yearly tradition) at Laity Lodge Family Camp.  Z got to sleep in a bunk bed (bottom bunk) in the same room with his whole family.  We quickly learned he is a noisy sleeper and by night two were all looking for our ear plugs.  He also got to play in a river, ride in a canoe and slip on the slippy slide.  It's an adventure we share each year with my in-laws and Doug's Sister's family who includes 6 kids.  Needless to say, it's full of energy and fun!

 Halloween was a muse.  I mean, really, I put on this crazy costume - knock on people's doors and they give me candy?  And yes, this kid still thinks any day can be Halloween.  I'm pretty sure he has decided that "Mericut Halloween" is a keeper holiday!

Of course, October also was the month our Daddy was away in Ethiopia visiting our kids at the Warancha CarePoint.  It was my first time with all 4 kids for that long alone (two weeks).  My folks were out of town and we had a gazillion activities going on.  I would wait each day for a skype call from Doug around 1:30 in the afternoon  - depending on the internet, some days it would work and some days it wouldn't.  It was literally those calls and sporadic text messages that got me through.  2 weeks felt like a lifetime and I realized that life is FAR more fun with my honey around.  Each day, Z would join the call from my lap and he was certain that Daddy was inside the computer.    
Some of the eyes that have stolen our hearts in Awassa, Ethiopia (Warancha CarePoint)

Doug praying over the kids at Warancha
There's Daddy in the computer.

Also, while in Ethiopia, Doug was able to see Mama MiMi (Z's birthmom) again.  We told her 8 months ago that we would return to see her.  I don't think she really believed us the first time.  The director of the orphanage that Z is from (and where they met up) said that in the history of adoptions - we were the FIRST family to ever come back after the adoption and visit the birth family.  I sent a photo album we put together of Z's first months and a picture he colored for her.  At first MiMi  seemed shy and almost shameful when they met.  As soon as Doug brought out the photo album and began showing her Z's photos, she began to cry.  At one point, she took the pictures and kissed each of them one at a time.  Doug said she loved hearing about his fun personality and Alex, the awesome HopeChest guide read/translated the letter I sent her.  By the end of the few hours together, she was all smiles and this time when Doug left and said we'd see her again soon ... she knew we meant it!  She is treasured and adored ... and I think she finally believes us when we say so!  I also believes she finally knows that I meant what I said upon our first meeting, "I am simply her hands caring for a son she loved so dearly.  I am not ever going to replace her - and she will always be treasured in our home".  In the photo album I had put on the last page a picture of the bookshelf in our living room that has a beautiful canvas of her face.  Doug said when she saw that photo, she was overcome in emotion.  Indeed, Mimi, you are always with us and very much a part of our home.
*For the privacy of MiMi and Z, I have and will always remain from showing photos of her beautiful face.  She has a smile that would light up these pages.
The picture Z made for his Momma.  I love that he wrote his name so beautifully!  She must have been proud.

Alex reading her my letter
November brought another first and milestone moment for Z.  He had his first hair cut.  Upon calling to book his appointment with a person a friend of mine had referred me to (a africa-american man who would surely not mess up my boy's girls), Mr. Bill asked me (after me asking him a few questions) "are you a white momma"?  I had to laugh.  In the end, he did an awesome job and this "White Momma" is THRILLED that I finally have someone to cut my little Ethiopian's precious locks.

His curls all brushed out were HUGE!  Can you say rockin' afro!

Awe, your so handsome!
November also brought our first Thanksgiving.  I was so Thankful this year that I forgot to take photos!  I got one of the kids before we left for our Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Betty's.

And now we are about to embark on our First Christmas!  Z is totally confused about Christmas.  Upon seeing a lit up tree inside Costco (from afar), he asked me "why tree inside - on fire"?   The hardest part of Christmas so far has been the night we decorated the tree.  As the big kids began to find all their ornaments from year's past that they made, the ones where we put in their photos, baby's first Christmas etc., Z asked "Where go my"?  The kids right away told him that "This is your first Christmas" with great excitement, however, I don't think he gets that.  The reality is, at 10 months home - I honestly don't think he even remembers much of Ethiopia and that he was once not here.  I know that is wild ... but so true.  Though he talks of "my Afreekuh", the reality is - he has little recollection and to Z - we are his home (which we love!)  I quickly began to look for the one Africa ornament I had made for him and the one Granny had gotten him this year.  And of course, all those 'unclaimed" random ornaments quickly became Zebene's.  He was as happy as a lark and tree decorating commenced.  And well - appropriately, this year Z got the honor of hanging the first one.

At the end of the night, he also partook in his first hot coco surprise followed by the annual watching of "Charlie Brown Christmas"!  He loved it!

So now here we sit, 3 days before Christmas.   My kids have settled in for the night, my peanut butter balls are complete, the presents all bought (but not yet wrapped).  Looking back on my blog, I realize how much of this crazy year I didn't get the chance to document.  I have photos upon photos, memories upon memories and the most hilarious things that this little boy has said that has never made it to the pages I hoped to fill- much like what happened to the other kids "baby books".  But alas, each of them are sewed into the fabric of my heart and as we get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus ... I am one lucky Mama that he birthed into our family another precious little boy this year!  Zebene, Merry Christmas little guy!  And yes, their are "prizes under that tree for you too - AND - your very own ornament that says, "Baby's first Christmas - 2012"!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Looking for a treat?

Halloween has come and gone, but one thing still remains ... 216 children looking for their treat!  While we were filling our bags with candy and goodies, these sweet kiddo's were awaiting the Hope of a sponsor family that will provide them an education, meals, discipleship and more.

Who could resist these faces?  All of these children still lack a sponsor family.  Could that be you?
Please leave me a message and I will give you all the information you need to make it happen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Christmas wish to "Change their Story"

"And then you came" were the words spoken by the Pastor as he clutched his hand over his heart.   For 16 months we had been busy working towards building sponsorships, bringing awareness and working to make our kids, at the Warancha CarePoint famous on this side of the globe.  But on the other side, a Pastor, a field staff and a Board of Directors were ministering each day in Faith, with minimal resources, that we were indeed doing those things.  They also wondered ... would we come?   This was the story our Pastor shared.

There is often controversy over short term vs. long term mission trips.  Are we scratching our own itch and providing a poverty tour complete with pictures?  Are we bringing our "American" ideas and cultures and imparting them on a people group to make ourselves feel like we have "done something"?  Would it be more cost effective to take those very finances we used to get there and simply give them towards the needs?  I've listened to the arguments and I've weighed the financial costs of a trip .... but through the very words of our Warancha Pastor, I have learned that both of these things are critical and valued to those we are seeking to serve and love.   So we went!  Our first Warancha trip out of San Antonio was a huge success.  Our kids were loved, the vision was caught and advocates were created!

But what now?    There is much to be done!  For certain, sponsors are still needed!  Please visit our community page  and initiate your sponsorship today.  Please also, share with your friends.  

What else??  

 My prayers is that this Christmas, you will join me in reminding our children in the Warancha Community that they are the best gift of all.  This year, Americans will spend billions on Christmas gifts and cards.  Instead, what if some of us decided that we'd ask our family, friends and co-workers to pool their resources to help orphans and children living in extreme poverty?  We have seen what a dramatic difference our presence does make, but with your help, we can also see the dramatic difference our gifts can make as well.   The list of the needs in the community is great, but the reality is, those needs cannot be met because our children's basic needs still go unserved.  Our children lack nutrition and so this year, we hope to meet that need together!

I have signed up to lead our team in the "Change Their Story" campaign through HopeChest , and have committed that I would recruit TEN of YOU to join me!  WILL YOU?

It's super easy, to get started just click here.  By filling out that registration, HopeChest will provide you with a personalized donation webpage and the online tools to engage your friends, family and co-workers.  Be sure to put "Warancha" as your community you will be campaigning for when you sign up.  As well, our Field staff has asked that our funds would be used for  the "Nutritional needs" of our children.  You set your goal and together, we make a difference!!

Campaign will run November 15- December 31.

Let's make 300 precious children's wish come true this Christmas!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reunited again!

4:00 am, that was the time I awoke this morning with one thing on my mind - today was the day that Doug was to visit with MiMi (Z's birth mother) again!  My heart beat fast and I could not go back to sleep.  So,  I gathered myself, my coffee and my bible and began to pray.

10:00 am arrived and sitting in the Dr's office I received a text from Doug "Amazing Visit.  Will share more later, can't put it into words".  My eyes filled with tears.  I knew my prayers for an amazing visit had been answered - I mean, Doug is never speechless!   I could hardly wait to hear about the day!

This afternoon's skype session was therefore, an emotional one.  I got off the phone feeling wiped out.  I can only imagine how exhausted my hubby must be.   Needless to say, the day was more than we could expect and had prayed for.  While many of the details of Doug's visit, I will not share (including photos as I would like to respect MiMi's privacy)  - I will definitely share enough to give you a little glimpse.

But first ...

The team is doing awesome and their day at Warancha went wonderfully!  They went in prepared and more mentally ready for the many kids that overwhelmed them the day before.  Doug said the "Minute to Win It" games we had planned have gone over huge and today the kids loved stacking the dice on the popsicle sticks in their mouth!  The kids love playing each of the activities, some soccer and parachute and the feel of the day was so different than yesterday.  They also acted out different bible stories.  Doug and team shared and acted out the story of Jesus's birth and then some of the kids came up and acted it out again back to them.  All in all, the morning was a huge hit!   Doug was super pleased.

The afternoon was the sweet treat of the day.  The team headed over to Shalom Children's Hope.  This is the orphanage that our sweet Z is from.  By the blessing of our America World staff (our agency that partner's with that orphanage), they were able to arrange for our team to spend the afternoon visiting Shalom.  It was also here that we knew MiMi would arrive.

Doug said that when they arrived she was already there.  The staff of Shalom had arranged chairs in a circle and they all gathered in together.  Doug said she was shy at first and held her head low as to not look directly at him.  He asked Alex if she was ashamed.  He said she was not but that in her culture, the woman didn't speak to crowds of people.  Funny, as I had texted Doug today because I was worried that if the whole team were at their visit she would be overwhelmed.  But, MiMi is a courageous woman and Alex said it was fine that they stayed.  So, they greeted with a hug that Doug said felt like 5 minutes.  Doug then began to show MiMi the photo album I made for her of Z's last 8 months with us.  He said she immediately began to weep.  He said he went through each picture and described to her his personality and his gifts and how well he is doing.  She loved it.  He said though, that as he got to the last picture (one in which I had taken a picture of the picture of her on our shelves), she became overwhelmed in emotion.  Doug said that he knew today that MiMi got it ... she is loved and is definitely not forgotten!  The staff of Shalom were overwhelmed as well and made a very big deal to her and to Doug that they had never seen a family return and reunite with their birth family after their original meeting.  They kept reiterating to MiMi and Doug over and over at how rare this occurrence was.  For MiMi, I think it was such a confirmation in what we had said we would do 8 months ago ... return!  For Doug, it was a realization that the Lord has indeed blessed us with a sweet and special connection to Z's birth family.  It was also a confirmation in what we had told her "We love her and consider her like family".  During the meeting, the team left the room a little at a time and began going into a room where some of the babies and young ones were.  After a while, the only ones left were Alex and Doug and Jaime and the social worker helping do translation for MiMi.  Doug said it was then that MiMi really began to open up and she also began to kiss each and every picture of in the album of Z.  Doug said it was a sweet sweet time.  He sent me a picture of that moment and it left me in tears!  My Momma heart just aches that she could see her boy!

Doug was able to learn during that time a bunch more about MiMi's life and where she lives.  We learned of her desire to start her own business.  Alex, the guide, after visiting with her told Doug that she had a "strong spirit" and was a strong woman.  Doug said that as the day went on, she never left his side.  He said that if he were to walk away, he would see MiMi looking for him and she'd quickly return to his side.  She stayed right near him, wrapped her arms around him and made sure that she was close by.  Doug said that it felt so good to be able to really show her how loved she was and that he KNEW when they walked away that MiMi also knew these things.  Her smile in the pictures says it all!  I wished I could show you.  She is just beautiful!

What an answer to prayer!

After their very emotional visit, the team then had the awesome chance to go do 4 home visits of 4 of the children of our CarePoint.  One of those visits was to our sponsor son, Wendgegm.  What an awesome privilege to see where our children are living and to hear the stories behind their families.
Doug said that they have learned quite a bit about Warancha and that the Pastor has really been sharing the depth of the need they have.  As I have been sharing for months, without more sponsors - Warancha's hands are tied to do little.  With only 68 of 278 children sponsored, the Pastor has little resources to do the things he really needs to do for our kids.  At this time, only the basic of education and care can be given.  We realize that we only launched this CarePoint 14 months ago - and it is a HUGE one - but today the team saw for themselves just how important you each are to their longevity and vitality of this community.   The Pastor also opened his heart and humbly shared these needs and the burden he feels.

Doug said that by far, this was the best day yet.  I could tell that he was emotionally and physically exhausted but so well pleased!  Tomorrow they will spend the morning with the kids and provide them with a large feast.  After lunch they will have the opportunity to sit down with the Pastor and hear more of the needs, his long term vision and how we can be involved.  Please be praying for that time ... and most importantly, for the community here that the Lord will raise up to serve our community there.

If you are reading this post and feel prompted to sponsor one of our kids, please contact me.  I'd love to get you connected into our community!  We will return to our kids - and next time, YOU could be joining us.  (October 2013!).

Here are a few pictures of the day.  As I mentioned, I'd love to share with you the beautiful photos Doug sent of MiMi - but I am going to refrain so that I can respect her privacy. I assure you, her smile in the pictures confirms what we now know ... she KNOWS she is loved!

YAY - It's Doug and Wendgegm, our sponsor son

Zach is a hit!  

The dice game

Nice balance!

Uh oh - I think Marie found herself a cutie!  

© Lead us to Levi

Website Design by CoffeeShop Designs