Friday, July 29, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Andrey

What more can I say about Andrey? Last time I shared with you about what Andrey’s day-to-day life looks like, the neglect he experiences and the heartbreak of what it is like to be a blind child in a baby orphanage… Today however I want to tell you more about his precious, infectious giggle.

There are different things I miss about each of my kids. With Andrey, there is no doubt that what I miss most is kissing those yummy cheeks of his. I would hold him in my arms and just kiss his face over and over again and he would let out this giggle that is guaranteed to melt any heart. He spent so much of his time sullen and withdrawn but when he giggled, I felt like I was seeing a glimpse of the real Andrey and it was just priceless.

Andrey’s grant fund is the lowest out of all my kids and I worry that that just confirms my fear that, because of his visual impairment along with his more significant cognitive/emotional delays, Andrey is finding himself at the bottom of the list. It’s been nearly six months since I kissed those cheeks and my heart sinks at the thought that he most likely has not received a single kiss since. Andrey needs a mama who will give him kisses every day (even when he’s 16!). He needs someone who will see past his sorrow and delays and see the sweet little boy deep inside. Can you see it? Could that someone be you? Could it be someone you know? You may not be able to adopt him yourself but you can help Andrey’s family find him by sharing his story, donating to his grant fund and remembering him in your prayers. Help me make sure that this sweet little boy is overlooked no longer so that he can know him mama’s kisses real soon. For more information or to donate, click here.

Andrey is listed as “Aiden” on Reece’s Rainbow;
in order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Finding Purpose

Lately I’ve really been feeling a lack of meaning/purpose in my day-to-day life. I’ve been home nearly six months now, the resting, re-entry period is long over yet I still spend most of my days sitting around my house. There is a job I’ve applied for that looks like it could be promising but they won’t be hiring until the end of August / beginning of September. In the meantime, although I do take the task of fighting for my kids very seriously and am thankful for the time I have to do so, lately I have been praying for something more.

Last week I heard about a family in the community I used to work in who recently had a new baby. The baby was sick and had to stay in the hospital but the mother was struggling to spend much time with her as she had no one to watch her other children at home. As soon as I heard their story something inside me clicked and I knew this was an answer to my prayers. So, for the last few days I have had the privilege of looking after two precious little girls (they also have two sons but they are at day camp during the week) while their mom spends time with her new baby. Isn’t God so great that way? Just as the clouds of emptiness were beginning to settle over me, He sends just the right thing to fill my time and give me a sense of purpose again. I don’t know if this will last for several days or several weeks but for now, I am enjoying filling my days with little ones once again.

Please pray for little baby “A”, her mother “C” and their whole family as they go through this difficult time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Igor

Today I want to share with you a little more about Igor (you can read my first post about him here). I experienced many heart wrenching moments with Igor but there is one that stands out above the rest… One afternoon I arrived at the baby orphanage and as I was walking through the gates I could already hear Igor’s screams coming through the open windows. As I walked into his room I saw Igor in a walker, tied with a sheet around his waist to the leg of the playpen. He was thrashing and screaming and banging his head on the post behind him while the workers sat at a small table laughing and chatting as though nothing was going on. So often when I was inside the orphanage I saw things that appalled me yet I had no choice but to “ignore” them, to not say anything or show any reaction knowing that doing so would get me kicked out. This time however, I just couldn’t sit back and do nothing. The workers on duty that day liked me and were always really nice to me so I asked them if I could take Igor out and they said yes. Normally Igor likes to be held but when he continued thrashing around in my arms I tried setting him down to see if that would help. He was equally, if not even more upset and began smashing his head on the floor so I decided to hold him and at least that way I could protect him from hurting himself. It was the most upset I ever saw him and I remember praying in desperation asking God what I should do. Igor always liked it when I sang to him and for some reason, he seemed to respond the most to the hymn It Is Well With My Soul.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I started to sing quietly over him and just kept singing. Slowly Igor began to relax until his head rested peacefully on my shoulder. I went home that night more physically and emotionally drained than any other day. The bruises from where he was banging his head on my chest lasted about a week but the memories from that afternoon will last lifetime.

The more time I spent with Igor, the more peaceful he seemed to become but it wasn’t until after he was transferred that I witnessed just how different his life could be. I walked into the room and saw Igor, the little boy who used to scream as food was shoved into his mouth faster than anyone could possibly swallow, sitting calmly at the table eating his orange without any hurry. When he was finished, he got up from the table and wandered freely around the room before coming and plopping himself in my lap. He was like a totally different child and he was still in an orphanage! Can you imagine what potential this sweet boy could have in a family? When it was time to say goodbye, I sang Igor’s favourite song over him one last time as he lounged peacefully in my arms. Is it any wonder that this boy holds my heart?

Speaking of hearts, look what I got in the mail this week!

I’m showing you a picture but honestly, pictures don’t do it justice; these necklaces are just gorgeous! “Wow! I just have to have one of those… where can I get one?” I’m glad you asked :) Debbi, Igor’s warrior, is selling them on her blog and for just a $15 donation to Igor’s grant fund you can be the proud owner of a heart necklace of your very own. The sensation of the necklace around my neck reminds me to pray for this sweet boy and I hope that yours does the same. Igor needs a mama who will sing him songs of hope and peace, he needs a papa whose strong, loving arms will make him feel safe and secure. Would you help me in spreading Igor’s story and join me in praying for this sweet little boy, that he would experience peace, comfort and security and that his family would find him soon? For more information or to donate, click here.

Igor is listed as “Brody” on Reece’s Rainbow; in order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One Third

I came across an alarming statistic the other day: The average household throws away one third of all the food they buy. This is a UK statistic but I imagine it’s the same, if not worse, here in North America. Whether scraped off our plates and into the garbage after dinner or tossed out from the fridge because it expired before we had a chance to eat it, a third of the food we put in our grocery carts will never see the inside of our stomachs (taken from The Poverty and Justice Bible).

Alarming in a whole other way are the statistics that keep coming at us in the news these days: 11 million people starving for lack of food in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, 2 million of whom are children under the age of five. It’s hard enough to wrap your mind around on its own but put together with the statistic above, it’s simply incomprehensible. One third of the food we buy ends up in the garbage. Meanwhile, 16 thousand children die every day of starvation (not including all the adults suffering from the same fate). To say it is sobering is an understatement indeed.

Certainly this was never part of God’s plan. In the Old Testament, God gave specific laws in order to insure that the poor were taken care of and that no one went hungry: “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10) God knew that economic equality would never exist, there will always be those who are rich and those who are poor, but He made sure that no one would ever have to go hungry.

As I was reminded of these verses I prayed about how we could apply them to our lives today. The reality is, most of us are not farmers and even those of you who are, I doubt you have impoverished foreigners wandering through your fields after your harvest. Still, the principle remains the same. God has given us a surplus not so we can hoard it for ourselves (and then throw it out once it becomes rotten) but so that we can take what we need and use the rest to provide for the needs for others. I don’t know what this will look like in your life, I’m still praying about what it will look like in mine. All I know is that God’s heart for the poor has not changed over the past three thousand years and if I want my heart to match up with His, then my habits, my mindset, my lifestyle need to change.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Denis

Over the past 9 weeks, it has been my privilege to introduce you to all of the children currently available for adoption from the city that I spent six months volunteering in last year. I have been praying about what I would do after I had posted about each of them. “Find My Family Fridays” have pretty much become the main purpose of my blog and I definitely don’t want to stop now. So I prayed… Should I continue to post about other precious little ones on Reece’s Rainbow who have captured my heart? There are certainly plenty yet the more I prayed about it, the more I was reminded of what God has whispered to my heart many times before… these kids are mine to fight for. How many warriors have had the privilege of feeling the weight (or lack thereof) of their angels in their arms, heard the sweet sound of their laughter or seen firsthand the look of longing in their eyes? I have held these kids in my arms, kissed their sweet faces and stared into their beautiful eyes. The memories of their laughter and their cries are with me every day and for that reason, I can never stop fighting for them. Maybe as some of my angels find their families I will add other precious little ones to my list (oh how I long for that day to come!). In the meantime, I’m starting again from the top…

The last time I posted about Denis, I shared that I had been told by the workers that he had a life shortening illness however that was all the information I had been given. I was so happy last month when Reece’s Rainbow was able to obtain full medical information for Denis.

Denis has Noonan’s syndrome (you can read more about it here). As I read and researched, there was one phrase in particular that jumped out at me: “When a child with Noonan syndrome reaches adulthood…” Adulthood!!! The little boy I was told would not live long could actually reach adulthood! What wonderful news that was!

The problem is, Denis is not receiving the care he needs. He has a known heart defect which is being ignored, he may have problems with his kidneys, he is definitely not getting adequate nutrition. Recent reports tell me that it looks like Denis may be regressing, that he looks even skinnier than he did last year.

If there’s one thing that breaks my heart more than thinking of Denis dying alone, never knowing the love of a family, as the result of a life-shortening illness… it’s the thought of him dying alone, never knowing the love of a family, as the result of preventable complications from an illness that could have been treated. I truly would bring Denis home myself if I could but I can’t. I’m afraid that Denis’ time may be running out. He needs a family now, before it’s too late. Denis’ grant fund has grown considerably since I last posted about him but not enough to attract the kind of attention he so desperately needs. Please consider donating even just a few dollars and join me is spreading his story and praying that his family finds him soon. For more information or to donate, click here.

Denis is listed as “Ryan” on Reece’s Rainbow;
in order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Job Update

I wish I had more exciting news to share… The truth is, the past month or so has been a bit of a rollercoaster. As I mentioned in my last update, I had an interview with a local non-profit organization (not related to adoption). My prayer throughout all of this has been that God would open up the right doors and close all the wrong ones and as I made my way through the interview process, it seemed as though every door was opening up in front of me. I was about to accept the job when, in an unexpected turn of events, God made it clear that He was closing the door.

I have total peace about the way everything turned out with this particular job but I won’t lie and say I’m not disappointed about finding myself back at square one. This is definitely not what I expected when I left Ukraine, that five months later I would have no better idea of what I’m supposed to do next than I did the moment I stepped off that plane. But I know that God has a plan and that He knows what He’s doing. I’m praying that He would make His will clear to me and in the meantime I’m learning, once again, about what it means to follow Jesus one day at a time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cards for Congo

On the list of things that make my heart happy, two that would definitely be up near the top are 1) Helping orphans, and 2) Seeing kids who are passionate about making a difference. For that reason, I was excited today when I discovered the Terry Family. The Terry family has three children, ages 7, 4 and 3, the youngest of whom was adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo in February of last year. Currently those three children are hard at work raising money for the orphans of their little brother’s birth country. As most of you know, last year I spent three months at an orphanage in Congo and, as is true with every trip I have gone on, I left a piece if my heart there. The circumstances that have caused the orphan crisis in Congo are horrifying beyond words. Most of the kids I was working with witnessed their parents being murdered right in front of them. Some were little babies at the time and the trauma that resulted is not something that they can put into words. For others who were older, the memories remain and they can describe the events in detail.

I continue to think about my Congo kids often. I miss the kids that I mothered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for three months. I have seen what life is like for the kids over there and for that reason, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of what these three little ones are doing to make a difference. The Terry kids are selling greeting cards printed with their very own artwork. You can buy a pack of 10 for just $10 for Americans / $12 for Canadians, shipping included. The two oldest kids came up with this idea all by themselves and apparently they get so excited they dance around every time they get an order – how sweet is that??? For more information or to order your own, click here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

New button!

So it seems that my “Find My Family Friday” posts are attracting quite a bit of attention; I’ve even had people find my blog by Googleing “Find My Family Friday”! For that reason, I wanted to make it easier for people to find all my “Find My Family Friday” posts all on one page and easier for others to link back to my posts on their own blogs. So… I made a button!

I would definitely not describe myself as very technically inclined so I was pretty excited when I managed to figure it out. Anyway, feel free to grab my new button for your blog and help me get the word out about my babies. Let’s face it, I try to find other things to talk about but really, this blog is all about them :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Maxim

Before I tell you about Maxim, I want to tell you about my new friend Jane over at Flight Platform Living. Jane is a warrior for a sweet little girl named Francine and every week she does “Forget-Me-Not Friday” posts in Francine’s honour. Starting this week, Jane is inviting other orphan warriors like me to join with her and link up to her post to let the world know about the angels on our hearts. I encourage you to go check out her blog and if you too are an orphan warrior, advocating for a special little who is close to your heart, consider linking up next week. It’s a great way to get the word out and support one another as we all work hard to find families for these kids.

On to Maxim… Maxim is at the special needs orphanage and although he is not in one of the groups I was working with, I have met him and can tell you from personal experience that he is a very sweet little boy.

I first met Maxim back in October when Liza’s parents were in country waiting to bring her home. Liza’s mom Melissa had fallen in love with Maxim on Reece’s Rainbow so we spoke with the director at the special needs orphanage and arranged to visit him. What a sweetheart! He was a tiny little guy with a shy smile who was proud to show off his standing/walking skills and then simply cuddle in our laps. We didn’t get to spend much time with him but by the time we left, there was no doubt that Melissa and I were both smitten.

A month or so later I got to see Maxim again when I went to visit another little girl from Reece’s Rainbow who was in the same group as him. I got to spend a little more time playing with him this time and once again, little Maxim captured my heart. He is such a happy, joyful little guy and as we played ball together I got to hear his adorable little laugh before he came to snuggle with me once more.

A while back Melissa wrote a very touching post about Maxim where she pointed out something that she had not noticed before. In one of the pictures she took of Maxim during our visit with him, Maxim was signing family!

The sign for family

When I first read that and looked up the sign for family, I literally got goose bumps – Melissa was not exaggerating, Maxim was doing it perfectly! Do I believe that Maxim miraculously learned sign language and was consciously letting us know what he wanted? No, but I do believe that God used that little boy’s hands to let us know what he truly needed – a family of his very own.

Maxim is nearly seven years old and with every birthday his chance at a family grows slimmer and slimmer. Maxim is loved by his caretakers who would love to see him find a family and be able to reach his fullest potential. Unfortunately, there are some changes going on in his orphanage right now (change in management, lower staff-to-child ratios, etc.) that have me concerned for Maxim’s wellbeing. Maxim has waited long enough, he needs a family now. Like Liza, because Maxim is considered an “older child” he does not have a grant of his own but right now there is $826 in the older boys’ grant so if you’re considering adopting Maxim, that grant could be his if you act fast. You can help Maxim find his family by sharing his story and praying that this forgotten little boy would be forgotten no longer. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Year Anniversary

Five years ago today I boarded a plane which would take me across the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time. Little did I know as I embarked on my first missions trip outside of Canada that I was also embarking on a journey that would change the course of the rest of my life…

I’ve told the story of how I ended up on that plane many times at my presentations but never before on this blog and I believe it is a story worth telling… In May of 2006 I had just completed my second year of university and had three whole months before I had to go back to school. The summer before I had worked on a student grant as a child animator at a local women’s shelter. It was a job I had loved and I was looking forward to working there again until one day I received a phone call from the director informing me that it didn’t look like they were going to receive their grant that year. I was devastated as, like I said, I loved that job and I didn’t want to have to work in retail or be stuck with a whole summer with nothing to do. I prayed and prayed that they would get the grant and then one night as I was praying I got the sense that God was telling me that He had something even greater in store for me than I could ever imagine. In that moment, I surrendered my plans for the summer over to God and simply prayed that He would work out HIS plans for me.

The next morning I got a phone call from my pastor telling me about an opportunity to go to Uganda. He knew absolutely no details about the trip yet, because of the way God had spoken to me the night before, I knew that it had to be from Him. I spoke to the team leader and just about everything she said terrified me; it was last minute and I would have a lot to do to get ready including raising $5000, I wouldn’t know anyone and would be meeting most of the other team members for the first time at the airport in London, my role would be teaching bible stories to large groups of children (I hated saying even two words aloud in front of a group of people)… Normally I would have said, “No thanks” and run in the other direction but it was clear that it was what God wanted me to do. I agreed to be a part of the team and the next day I got a phone call from the women’s shelter letting me know that they had received their grant after all. Knowing that I never even would have looked into the trip if I had still had the women’s shelter job lined up, it was just one more confirmation that God had been working out the details all along.

Fast forward through six busy weeks of fundraising, preparations and vaccinations and all of a sudden I was meeting the rest of the team in London. The three weeks I spent in Uganda were eye opening, heart wrenching and at times overwhelming yet they were also faith-building, joy-inspiring and purpose-giving. I came face-to-face with poverty and suffering for the first time and it changed me in a way I never could have imagined. Over the course of those three weeks I fell in love with Uganda – the people, the children, the faith, the culture, the beauty and when the time came to leave it was as if a well inside me broke and I wondered if the tears would ever stop flowing. Looking back now I laugh as I remember the first conversation I had with our team leader. She mentioned what a unique trip it was as it gave people the opportunity to go back and work with the same kids again the next year. I immediately thought, “I hope they don’t expect us to go back again… This is a onetime thing for me.” I laugh now because by the time wheels of the plane had lifted off the ground and we were officially on our way home, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be back.

The weeks and months following my first trip to Uganda were filled with a lot of time spent in prayer and in studying the Word of God as He took my brokenness and shaped and moulded me into who He wanted me. That is also when the “plans” that I had for my life began to change. At that point I was finishing my degree in social work and was planning on working at a women’s shelter or in youth protection. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with those jobs except that it is clear now that that is not what God had planned for me. As a result of my first trip to Uganda, God gave me a heart for the poor and the suffering. As a result of that first trip, I went back the next summer which is when God really began to give me a heart for orphans. As a result of my first trip to Uganda, I spent a semester working in the ghettos of New York which is where God opened my eyes to the poverty on our side of the world and gave me a passion for local evangelical ministry. As a result of my time in New York, I ended up working for Youth For Christ here in Montreal where God continued to increase my passion for telling struggling children about the love of Jesus. As a result of my experience doing day camps in Uganda, I went to Jamaica where God revealed to me that He was calling me to share His love with forgotten and unwanted children around the world. Finally, it was a combination of all of these experiences that led me to Ukraine which is where God placed in me an ever-growing passion for adoption and the least of these… Each of these experiences shaped me into who I am today and it all started with that first trip five years ago.

I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had said no to that first trip. To this day, whenever God asks me to do something that scares me or something I simply don’t want to do, I think back to my first trip to Uganda and am reminded that God is trustworthy and His plans for me are even better than the plans I have for myself.

Today as I was looking back at my journal I was reminded of the verse I claimed for that first trip back in 2006:
“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us,
he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.” (Ephesians 3:20)

God certainly fulfilled that verse for me back in 2006 and He has been fulfilling that verse in my life ever since.
The moral of the story… Don’t be afraid to say YES!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Victoria

For those of you who have been keeping track, you may have noticed that I have now officially featured all of “my angels” in their own Find My Family Friday post. Yet there are still other kids in the same city, kids who I have met and held in my arms, kids who have been waiting far too long for a family of their own.

Today I want to introduce you to Victoria.

Vika (short for Victoria) was at the same baby orphanage as the rest of my kids only she was transferred about one month before I got there. Still, I felt like I knew her. As one of the highest functioning kids, she was outside often and all the other volunteers knew her well. They would talk about her often and it became clear that this little girl was quite the spitfire. She may be blind but she sure didn’t let that stop her. The volunteers would tell stories of how she would run all over the place, bumping into things and getting right back up again. She was hyper, wild and, well, defiant. I often wondered what must have been going through this sweet girl’s head to make her act out that way.

When I found out that Dima and Igor had been transferred, I learned that they were moved to the same orphanage as Vika. So, when I finally went to visit them, I got to see Vika as well. Another volunteer who knew Vika from the baby orphanage was with me and we were both amazed at the change in her. This once wild, defiant little girl was now so calm and gentle. She was still outgoing and very *able* but she was no longer running around aimlessly. Instead, she enjoyed simply snuggling in the arms of her caregivers. Vika has found love and acceptance at her new orphanage and it has made all the difference.

Vika is at a good orphanage right now but at eight-years-old she will be transferred again. Where to? No one knows but I hope and pray that she never has to find out. Because Vika is already 5-years-old, she was eligible for a 5/5/5 Warrior. When no one chose her, Dima’s mom Amanda stepped forward. Despite the fact that they already have so much money to raise to bring Dima home, Amanda cannot bear the thought of Vika being left behind. As she so aptly puts it, Vika is the closest thing to a sister that Dima has ever known. I know it would mean so much to Amanda to see Victoria’s grant go up. It would mean even more to see her sweet face on the “My Family Found Me” page. You can help this precious little girl find her family and encourage another weary mama all at the same time by sharing Victoria’s story, donating to her grant fund and praying that her family finds her soon. For more information or to donate, click here.