Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More questions

Why not adopt from the U.S.?

I am asked this question a lot, especially from people who themselves have not or will not adopt any child at all. I will say 2 quick things, not in judgment or in condemnation, but if you ever ask that of an international adoptive family, please be sensitive. It is hurtful to be asked this. Adoption is hard. Very hard. And we are just trying to do some good. So to be made to feel shamed about not doing it “right” in your opinion, it’s hurtful. Also keep in mind, and I can say this from personal experience, the foster care system in this country, as broken as it is, is far better then an orphanage and most certainly better then a “laying room” or a mental institution in a foreign country. Yes, every single child deserves a home, no doubt, and we will provide a home to as many children as God allows, but some children are needier, they just are.

Now to explain our situation, I get the question…there are orphans in our own back yard, why not take care of them first? I agree, really. Hubby and I went to a foster/adoption informational meeting for that reason; we wanted to take care of the orphans in our back yard. We quickly found in our souls that we were pushing something that God was not ordaining for our lives right now. We want to foster and adopt children in our state. But that is not God’s plan right now and if we have learned anything about adoption it is that you DO NOT want to do it without God! I am not sure we could have survived adoption without our faith and trust and assurance that it was God’s will! If we have matured in anything in our Christian walk it is that we know that we know when God has chosen a child for our family. We were not expecting to adopt again so soon…I mean really not expecting it. But as soon as I read Valentin’s story it was like God hit us with a 2x4.

So why are we adopting from foreign countries…because that’s where our children are. Simple.

Maybe our next child will be a child we foster or that we adopt locally. Who knows? We are open to whatever child God calls us to, it just so happens that He has called us across oceans.

Are you “locked in” for Valentin?

No. There are absolutely no guarantees that we will be able to adopt Valentin. Other then the huge guarantee of God impressing upon us that he is our son J But as far as his country is concerned, he is not ours really until he is with us and out of the orphanage.

He is not our son until a court judge in his region grants us permission to be his parents and even then there is a 10-day waiting period where biological family members can come forward and ‘claim’ him.

Several things can happen, his biological family could decide to take him out of the orphanage, another family ahead of us in the process could choose to adopt him, or he could be given as a referral to another family ahead of us in the process. We are not worried though; as of last week he was still available for adoption and we are absolutely certain God has made us a family. We would not be doing this if we were not certain that it is God’s will! Valentin is our precious son!

When will you travel? What is the process?

Within a few hours our dossier will be submitted in Valentin’s country. It *usually* takes 2 weeks for the dossier to be approved and an invitation to travel to be issued. That travel date is *usually* 2 to 3.5 weeks after that. I use the term “usually” loosely here because the adoption governing body has recently changed and no one is sure if the new process will be the same as the old process. We are in the group of people doing adoptions through the new governing body for the first time so the process is a little uncertain. But if things happen the way they used to happen we could be leaving in 4-6 weeks.

This just blows our minds! Our other adoptions took 9-10 months. We just heard of Valentin in early January and already we are talking travel??? There is a lot to be done in the coming weeks but we are so grateful that things have moved so quickly and that God has moved so many mountains!!! Our beloved Valentin, it won’t be long now…

The travel in country is averaging about 40-50 days. Yes, you read that right 40-50 days. There is no way hubby can get that much time off work so he will be making 2 trips for the parts of the process he has to be there for. I have the option of making 2 trips too and it is a struggle because on one hand I want to be here with my kiddos (the thought of leaving them is killing me) but I know Valentin needs as much love and attention as he can get. My plan is to stay the entire time in country to make it less disruptive for Valentin.

Why all the secrecy?

I know right?! You have probably noticed I do not mention what country Valentin lives in. This is for his protection and the others in his orphanage. This blog is VERY public and we are trying to walk that fine line of sharing his story and our story without also inviting any harm to come to him or us. You never know who is reading about these kids and could use info to take advantage of them.

It is so hard and so heart breaking to know that someone half way around the world is your child and yet be completely helpless to protect them. I cannot make sure that Valentin gets held today or that he gets a nutritious meal, or that he stays warm and comforted. All I can really do is protect his identity and location, so that is why the secrecy.

You know how hard it is going to be, right?

Ok, no one really asks the question like that, people have been so kind, but it is alluded to often so I thought it would be good to address here. It is easy to read this blog and others with all the blessings and stories of children being healed and thriving in their new homes and think it is kind of easy. It is easy to think it is going to be easy during the waiting. It is easy to picture a grand first meeting and an easy transition. God has blessed us in AMAZING ways and we would not trade adoption for anything…I mean anything! But, yes we know it is going to be hard. Very hard. Beyond hard. We have had one extremely hard adoption with a child that fought us every second of every day for a long time. And we have had one easier adoption with a child that smiled at us, came to us immediately with hugs and love and has not stopped since.

We are very fortunate that we have gained experience and knowledge in bonding and attachment and in development and therapy, but even with all that experience and knowledge we know that we will be shocked by what we see in Valentin. We know that the hard part has not even begun yet. It is going to take a huge amount of time and work to undo 6 years of neglect. 6 years of sedation. 6 years of possible poor nutrition. 6 years of no way to communicate. 6 years of self-soothing behavior that will not go away over night. Our minds probably cannot even imagine what we are going to see and experience. We cannot even begin to know the rough days ahead.

But God…I just love those words “but God”…but God is so good to bless us with all the encouraging stories of people helping to rescue Valentin and the thousands of prayers that are prayed for him and for us. We have seen miracles, mountains moved, people doing extraordinary things, amazing amounts of selfless giving, and many new friendships formed. All this God is doing so we can remember His faithfulness and His provision to motivate and encourage us when the hard days come.

And above all, isn’t Valentin worth it? Jesus paid a painful and bloody price for our adoption, what is it for us to have to put forth a little effort…a lot of effort?

We know the hard days are coming…but God…

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A beautiful GEM

So everyday I think I am going to be able to get all caught up on emails and messages, laundry and cleaning, etc...

Then I open my email or my mailbox and the stories and gifts knock me to my knees and leave me sobbing like a baby. I really do wonder who's life I am living some times, someone far more deserving and faithful.

Do you remember in this post where the now somewhat famous "one old lady" talked about how "the 5 teenage boys" used to be "5 teenage boys and 1 teenage girl"? The girl whose initials are GEM passed away in a car accident. My heart sank when I read those words and the first thought that came to my mind was I cannot imagine what her mom must be going through.

Who knew I would find this comment to my last post:

"I have no idea why I went to this sight today.. I had it bookmarked and clicked on it for an update. What a coincidence to see that your post today is about the fundraiser held at my church a few weeks ago for Valentin. I am personally acquainted with the teenage boys and the "old lady" , who by the way works harder than 4 "young ladies" :)

God's blessings are there everyday and I know it first hand. It was my daughter Elise that was the only girl in this Sunday School Class.. the one whose initials are GEM. She was killed in a car accident on August 2, 2011. These 4 boys were her friends and she loved them dearly!

Let me share with you a story about how Valentin is touching people you don't even know. I have this chair in my closet, crazy I know, but it is my place to hide from the world and be alone. One Sunday afternoon, I was sitting there praying and asking God why he couldn't have let my baby be one of those people who had a miracle near death experience, like the little boy in the book Heaven is For Real ... I explained that it would have changed Elise and the rest of our family and brought about many many blessings. Elise has so much to give and couldn't she have done God's work right here with me!

As always, God was listening. As I was praying and crying in the closet my phone rang, it was my mother telling me about Valentin and how Elise's Sunday School class wanted to raise money for his adoption. She told me the class had talked about Elise and know that she would have been on board.

Now this adoption and the work of those 4 boys on Valentin's behalf really have nothing to do with my daughter but at that moment it was so clear to me that God was answering the questions I had just asked him... he was telling me that my daughter was needed in heaven to make things like this adoption happen! Needless to say I went straight back to the closet to let God know that I got his message and to thank him for the many blessings I have, one of the biggest being Elise's mother!!!

I will keep you and your family in my prayers and look so forward to meeting you when you come to Mississippi!!"

How amazing is that?!?! I absolutely believe that God used Elise in Valentin's adoption and that God used Valentin to help Elise's mom. It's just too beautiful for words.

I cannot wait to tell Valentin all these stories of God bringing people together for his rescue and using him to help so many others too!

May I ask all of you to remember Elise's mom and her family in your prayer time. I just cannot even imagine losing a child, the thought alone makes me weep. God's plans are perfect and peace is found only in Him, may He grant Elise's family and friends many moments of peace. May He continue to use Elise in the lives of others.

And to Elise's mom, thank you for sharing your story with me. I cannot wait to meet you! I don't know exactly what heaven will be like but I look forward to giving your daughter a big hug!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I mean really?!

I am not sure I will ever stop crying at this point. God just keeps blessing us. People keep surprising us. I am just overwhelmed with emotion I almost cannot write a coherent post. What am I saying almost...I can't write a coherent post at this point. There just are no words to describe what I am about to tell you.

Remember the post a while ago about my dear friend's cousin who's sunday school class was raising money for Valentin until Valentine's Day? Then remember how I posted that he, "4 teenage boys and 1 old lady" worked so hard to raise over $4,000 for Valentin and shared their excitement about it? And then the pictures...those pictures that moved me so much as I saw so many working and giving to bring Valentin home? Remember me saying that I wished I could hug and thank, in person, the people that worked so hard to help us rescue Valentin???? Can you see where this is going???

We got a letter in the mail today from the brother of the "1 old lady" with an offer to help our family fly out to the town in Mississippi that worked so hard on this fundraiser and meet them in person. I mean really?! Who does this stuff happen to? Who's life am I living? We are so unworthy of these blessings and all these amazing new friends!

I don't know how it is all going to work or when but I CANNOT WAIT for all the people that worked so hard on the fundraiser and spent so much time baking and praying and donating to MEET THE BOY THEY ARE RESCUING! We have to get Valentin home and checked out by doctors and give him some time to adjust, but when the time is right we will be on the first plane headed for Mississippi to meet all his new friends! And I know ya'll are reading this so we cannot wait to meet you :)

And Valentin, our precious Valentin, I cannot wait for you to feel and see all the love that has been poured out for you. You, my sweet son, are dearly loved!

How do we say thank you

I did not intent to post again today but I just noticed that someone donated $2,000 to our grant on Reece's Rainbow. How do we say thank you? We have been awe-struck by the kindness and generosity that has been shown to Valentin and to us. I know I have said thank you so many times and have tried to say it so many ways, I fear not saying it enough or saying it too much.

I want all of you to know how very grateful we are that you have so generously shown your love for and desire to rescue our son! Yet, we want to respect that what you give and how you give is between you and God and we want you to get your reward in heaven. We take very seriously scripture and especially when it comes to giving and we know many of you want to do your giving in secret not to be praise here on earth, but to show your love for God and His people. That is why we don't "out" anyone here on our blog, when you share your stories with us we want to write about it to give glory to God and let Him reward you. So we are left wanting to lavish many thank you's on you but knowing that is not why you gave and not wanting to take away from God's blessing and honoring your gift.

I have been told that Reece's Rainbow will give us a list of everyone who has donated to our grant and I want so badly to have that list so I can handwrite thank you notes to all of you. That would make it a little easier for us to accept the money if we could personally thank all of you. But after some thought and prayer I don't think we should see who donated. When we donate to other adoption funds we like staying anonymous (unless there is a wonderful story of God's provision and glory we want to share with the family) because we don't do it for praise, we do it for the God and for the children. I am sure that is why you do it too. So as hard as it is, we are leaving the rewards and blessings to God and we hope our simple 'thank you' expresses how grateful we are.

Seeing is believing

I am so excited about this post! This post is the last one in a series another adoptive mom has shared on her blog recently. I reposted this series for several reasons, first to raise awareness, second to hopefully motivate and encourage some to do something about it, but mainly to provide a window into Valentin’s world so we can gain some understanding.

As you read this post please keep in mind that your love, prayers, and donations are rescuing ONE. Valentin could have easily been any one of the children that were talked about in previous posts, but because of YOU he will be ONE of the few rescued ones.

From the Seeing is Believing blog post:

"I am so excited to share today's post with you.

For the last week I have been bringing to your attention a situation which, very sadly, is not spoken of very often--a situation which, I'm sure, has broken your hearts as much as it breaks mine each and every time a dire situation such as one of these is brought to my attention. Sometimes there truly are no words. The pictures are terribly hard to look at! The images leave us feeling so desperate to do something--anything--to help. Very soon I will share ways that you and I can do just that...do something!

But today is a different kind of post. Today I want to show you all what redemption looks like for children such as these...the ones abandoned in the back room of an orphanage, the ones forgotten about, the ones not worth feeding, the ones living in dire poverty, the ones with no value, the ones no one wants.....

The least of the least of these!

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

These are worth a million!

This is Dusty. Adopted from the same orphanage as our girls just nine months ago--weighing just 20 pounds when he came home and was admitted straight into hospital for malnutrition.

Today, only ten months later, Dusty weighs over 30 pounds! I have been so blessed to meet Dusty in person, and to watch him develop and grow. He is a little miracle boy for sure.

Meet sweet Gabe. Home for just eight months! Weighing just 21 pounds at six years old when adopted. He was left in a crib his entire life. He only took his food pureed from a bottle, hated touch, and could hardly sit up on his own. Weak and malnourished, he needed to be rescued!

Today...a healthy, blossoming, growing boy who loves life!

And beautiful Carrington. Adopted in March 2011 and taken directly from the airport to the hospital. Carrington was nothing but skin and bones--weighing only ten pounds when she came home. Doctors told the family that Carrington's organs had already started shutting down and she had just 24 hours of life left in her.

But God...! Just look what He did! Today, almost one year after coming home, Carrington is healthy and thriving--weighing in at 27 pounds. Glory to God in the highest! Another little miracle.

And darling little Belle. Adopted at almost three years old and weighing only 15 pounds. Belle knew nothing but a life confined to a crib...until her family heard the call and said, "Here we are, Lord! Send us!"

Today...just 13 months later she is a happy, healthy little toddler who weighs 26 pounds.

I know that so many of you followed Katie's amazing journey home. Sweet, little, teeny-tiny Katie. Rescued just three months ago--hanging on by a thread in a faraway orphanage. God had big plans for this angel! Katie also went straight from the airport to the hospital--weighing a measly 10 pounds 9 ounces at nine years old!

Oh, but just LOOK what a difference family makes! Today...Katie is doing incredibly well. She is a healthy weight for her height and is growing before her family's eyes. She now weighs nearly 23 pounds! What an absolute JOY Katie is to her family!

Ah, handsome boy! Rescued from Africa two years ago--weighing 15 pounds at five years old-- having seizures, asthma attacks, aspirating on his food, and with zero hope! He received no medical care and was in terrible shape--living on borrowed time, bedridden. But God had plans for this lovie too...and He sent a very special family to rescue him.

Today...seven years old and doing so, so well. Weighing 43 pounds, he is the light of his parents lives! Redemption.

Meet beautiful Kori. Adopted at almost eight years old and weighing in at a mere 16 pounds! Lifeless, sad, circles under her eyes, and in very poor condition. But God could not leave her like that...He knew that her life had purpose and a destiny. And so He reached down from heaven and gave her a miracle....a family to call her own.

Today...a picture of health! Healthy, happy and growing in every way. Adorable!

This little lovie is Victoria. Adopted only eight months ago. She was tiny, desperately unhappy, and painfully thin. Also confined to a crib and literally starved. Victoria was another little one who spent her first weeks on U.S soil being treated for malnutrition in the hospital. She only weighed 14 pounds.

Today....what a huge difference! Victoria now weighs 26 pounds and hardly even looks like the same child. There is a light in her eyes and she knows she belongs.

Oh, my sweet, sweet Julia! How I love this little angel. Julia was the first child I ever advocated for here on my blog. I met Julia in Hailee's laying room.
**NOTE: this is the same laying room Valentin is in** Each day I would go into the room and cry tears as Julia smiled at me through the bars of her crib--lying in a puddle of urine, unable to even sit up, wasting away, languishing. You can read Julia's story here. Diagnosed with a very rare disorder, she needed to be rescued!

Today...Julia has been home for 10 months. I have been so blessed to watch this little girl--left lying in a crib 24/7--blossom and grow into all who God has created her to be. She has gone from a 15-pound little girl who was so malnourished, to a 30-pound beauty in such a short space of time. Julia has astounded us all with how far she has come.

This precious young man is Judd. Adopted from the same orphanage where my friend, Julia, adopted their Aaron from. You only have to read Julia's testimony to know what life was like for this boy for so many years. Awful! Judd was so full of sores and scars when his parents got to him...

Today...all gone! He is healing in every way, is healthy, and is such a delighful little boy. Redemption has come to him too.

And then there's one of my best friend's daughter, Lily. I remember standing in the airport just 18 months ago waiting to see Lily come home. Lily was born with a very complicated and life threatening heart condition. She was given very little hope of survival in her birth country. By the time Rachel and Chris reached Lily, she was blue from lack of oxygen and hanging on for dear life. She too was admitted into the hospital as soon as she got home.

Lily is a walking miracle. She has amazed us all with how far she has come. Her heart condition is still very serious, but Lily has been given the best of care from top heart doctors and she is finally at a point in her growth and health where open heart surgery can be done. I know her family would greatly appreciate your prayers as they journey toward Lily's heart surgery soon.

How well she has done!

And finally, there's our own miracle girl. Adopted 21 months ago. Hailee weighed 14 pounds the day I finally got to her in the orphanage.
**NOTE: the same orphanage Valentin is in** She was almost five years old. She spent her entire life in a crib--rocking endlessly, biting her fingers, hitting her head on the bars of the crib until the sores bled, grinding her teeth until all that remained were stumps, drugged with an adult tranquilizer to make her sleep, and was fed a diet of only broth. Hailee lived in what's known as a "laying room"--a place for the neediest of special-needs children.

Words cannot even describe what a blessing this little lovie has been to our family. As she heads toward her seventh birthday, she is now weighing 27 pounds and is doing well. She is learning, growing, and making us smile each and every day.

People often comment on how fortunate Hailee was to be rescued. And yes, she was, for she would surely have died if they had transferred her to a mental institution around her fifth birthday. But the greatest blessing of all has been for US, her family. We simply cannot imagine life without Hailee in it.

And so I ask you...is anything impossible for the Lord God Almighty? Anything at all? Is there any life which He cannot redeem and turn into something so wonderful, so glorious?


I believe that every single child deserves a family to call their own! Even the ones such as these--the ones so often hidden away in dark places and forgotten about. Each one of these children's lives displays the Father's glory--His ability to reach down from heaven and redeem. His miracle-working power in their lives is so tangible, so absolutely magnificent.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The power of one

This post is another one in a series another adoptive mom has shared on her blog recently. I reposted this series for several reasons, first to raise awareness, second to hopefully motivate and encourage some to do something about it, but mainly to provide a window into Valentin’s world so we can gain some understanding.

As you read this post please keep in mind that your love, prayers, and donations are rescuing ONE. Valentin could have easily been any one of the children pictured below, but because of YOU he will be ONE of the few rescued ones.

From the Power of One blog post:

"It's been an interesting few days here on my blog. When I felt sure that I needed to spend a week highlighting the plight of institutionalized children, I had no idea what God had in store.

Oh my goodness, the response to a crisis which is not spoken about very often has been overwhelming! My inbox is overflowing with e-mails asking, "What can we do?" "How can we help?" I will absolutely share a post very soon on places to get involved and ways to make a difference.

And then there were the other e-mails. The ones saying, "Really? Does this really happen?" Or, "Are you sure those pictures are not old and outdated?"

No, friends. This is fact! Reality! Just ask any parent who has adopted a child from one of these institutions. Sadly, this is a very common occurrence.

"You can't save them all," someone else said.

Well, yeah, I sure do know that. I know we are dealing with a crisis which we may only see the end of when Jesus returns (come quickly, Lord Jesus!). We may never be able to make a massive dent in a humanitarian crisis as large as this. But we sure as heck can try to do everything in our power to literally save the lives of one child at a time!

Just. One.

When it all feels so completely overwhelming and I wonder how in the world we, the body of Christ, are ever going to make any kind of difference, I am reminded of the time when Jesus went to the pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem. Many, many disabled people lay there. The Bible calls them “a great number.” Jesus went in and singled out ONE man to be healed. Just ONE. He did not look at the overwhelming problem, but went to the ONE...and what a difference He made in the life of that one man! I believe He was teaching us something there. He could have looked at the mass of humanity and turned around and walked out the same way He came in.

The same with Zachaeus. Walking down a jam-packed road, Jesus picked out ONE little short man perched in a tree to have dinner with.

What a profound difference we can all make in the life of ONE!

Because ONE leads to something else, to something else, to something else...and before we know it, something amazingly beautiful has taken place. Now, on top of that, imagine if there were thousands of families making a difference in the life of ONE! The ripple effect of obedience is glorious.

Recently someone reminded me that Mother Teresa took in ONE leper when she began her ministry. That was it. That ONE was the seed, the catalyst, that led to so very much more. More than what one woman could ever have imagined. God used her obedience to help ONE, then to eventually help countless others. Just like the story of the starfish on the beach that we all know so well.

Just. One.

My heart is so burdened for the children listed below. All are already transferred from a baby house to a mental asylum. Each one of them deteriorating so fast--some of them hardly recognizable since transfer. Each precious child needing just one thing...someone to come for them. And when I feel like their time is running out and wonder how they can possibly survive one more day where they are, I am reminded that all they need is one family each.

Just. One.

Beautiful Ksenia. Transferred to an institution and no longer even looking like the same child. A horrific transformation. Desperately needing someone to come and rescue her as soon as possible.

Just. One.

Or Ekatrina--Once a gorgeous, healthy baby who has Down syndrome. Now--nothing but skin and bones. Neglected, malnourished, and living in the confines of a crib 24/7.

Just. One.

Or six-year-old Jeannette--living in a mental asylum and hidden away in a CRIB with no hope at all. Forever!

Just. One.

Or Melissa--once a blonde-haired beauty with a great curiosity. Now with a shaved head and is confined to a crib for the rest of her life.

Just. One.

Or Nathan-- Neglected, malnourished, and deteriorating more with each passing day and is forced to remain bedridden.

Just. One.

Or sweet little Nicky--once a handsome little chubby-faced baby. Now--transferred and not a single person has ever inquired about adopting him. So sad!

Just. One.

Or darling Sasha. Nearly eight years old and literally hanging on by a thread! Just as it was with our Hailee--he rocks, bangs his head, and bites on his hands to self-soothe! Oh, but how that would all change if only he was given a chance...to live! Trust me on this one thing...I just have to look at my sweet daughter to know it to be truth.

Just. One.

Oh my goodness gracious! There just are no words to describe beautiful Alexander (and she is a girl). Almost ten years old--with no light in her eyes. Bruises, dark circles, nothing but skin and bone. Who will love her?

Just. One.

And gorgeous little Ivan. Also living in an institution--bedridden and wasting away daily. How he would blossom and grow in a family!

Just. One.

Almost rips my heart out!

The life of a child who gets transferred to an institution/mental asylum is very, very real, friends. These are sadly just a few of the many, many who deteriorate so fast once they are moved from a baby house to one of these places where it truly becomes survival of the fittest. MOST just cannotsurvive the conditions.

We may not be able to save them all...but oh, what a profound difference we can make in the life of one child at a time!

Please share their stories in the hope that they WILL be found...before it is too late! Please let's ensure that these children will know what it feels like to be held, loved, comforted, protected, and nourished...just like Liliana will soon know and Teri Lynn too.

Thank you!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If not us...then who?

This post is part of a series another adoptive mom has shared on her blog recently. Weren't the last 2 post heart-wrenching? I spent days in a cloud of misery crying out to God after reading those posts. I don't want to stop there, I want to continue to repost her series, because honestly I could not say it better. She shares so well the things we have gone through, living selfishly, God opening our hearts and our eyes, and God moving us to doing rather then just hearing. I do believe the church is moving more and more to care for orphans, I believe that with all my heart. But sometimes I need to be reminded of the need, I need to see the suffering and feel it, I need to be reminded by my brothers and sisters that, as much as I want to say it is not my problem, it is indeed very much my problem. Do you need that sometimes too?

As you read about the conditions Valentin is coming from and the doom he was headed for, please also keep in mind that your love, prayers, and donations are rescuing him from this fate. Valentin could have easily been any one of the children pictured below, but because of YOU he will be one of the few rescued ones.

From the If Not Us...Then Who? blog post:

"I have typed and edited this post a few times. Trying to find the right words—the ones which don’t offend people or stir up a hornet's nest when it comes to tough issues--is hard. I am not the most eloquent person when it comes to sharing what’s on my heart. Sometimes words escape me. Like today.

This is going to be one of those posts. The kind that’s hard, raw, emotional, and difficult to put into words. So if you are the kind of person who can’t handle seeing the hard things, it would probably be best if you stopped reading now. This post is not for you. Be warned before you read any further—the images in this post are hard to look at! They will almost rip your heart out. If you feel that you cannot handle it….stop here!

That’s my little disclaimer.

There is no way to share what is on my heart in a watered-down, peaches-and-cream kinda way. There just isn’t. And even if there were, I totally couldn’t be bothered with trying to find it. Perhaps it’s just the frame of mind I’m in these day. You see, this week I have watched in utter amazement as the world has been in a complete frenzy of grief, emotion, pain, and sadness over the loss of Whitney Houston. The pop icon overdosed. And the world went into deep mourning. Millions and millions of people grieved the loss of the singer while our televisions, social networks, and radio stations spoke of not much else. We were bombarded by her legacy, her talent, her fortune and what will happen to it, and the sad loss to the world.

Today almost 30,000 people died of extreme poverty. And we never heard a single word about it.

Today over 160,000,000 orphans lived in appalling, filthy conditions and went to bed hungry [again]. And we never heard a single word about that either.

Today children were confined to cribs like caged animals—left to lie in their own waste for hours and hours, banged their heads on the bars of the crib to self-soothe, bit their fingers until they bled, rocked endlessly just for something to do, and consumed a diet of not much more than cabbage broth. But it’s too hard to speak about this reality---so we don’t.

Today children who turn five throughout Eastern Europe will be given a death sentence—also known as a transfer to a mental asylum for children and adults. There they will spend the rest of their [numbered] days confined to beds or cribs and will never feel the warmth of the sun on their faces or the cool breeze blowing. Shhhhh….we don’t want to talk about that either.

Sadly, even those of us who do know about the atrocities that happen to orphans in faraway lands, we too don’t want to talk about it. We’re afraid of what people will think if we share too much. We shy away from posting graphic and tough images and stories on our social networks just in case it offends a friend--can't be ruffling any feathers, now can we?

Sometimes it’s just so much easier to get on with our lives and pretend that this stuff doesn’t really exist.

I guess it’s easier to talk about the things that don’t hold us accountable to actually DO something. It’s easier to talk about other people’s “issues” when there is not a single thing that we can do to make a difference. That gets us off the hook.

But how vastly different it is when we come face to face with calamity that we CAN do something about. That, my friends, is a whole different story. Why? Because the Scripture is as clear as daylight.

Proverbs 24:12 tells us, "Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act."

God holds us responsible to ACT!

I know how it goes. I used to be that person. I never wanted to see the hard things in this world. I was happy and content within my cushy four walls. The hard things made me feel so darn uncomfortable. Pain and suffering were something I did everything I possibly could to avoid for most of my life. After all, conviction would mean I would actually have to do something about it…and that was just too hard, required too much time, there are too many things on my plate…yada, yada, yada.

That was until the day I prayed a simple prayer…not really knowing or fully understanding that God would take my words at face value and He WOULD do as I asked. Because He’s God—the Almighty Father, the creator of the heavens and the earth—and He loves to answer our prayers.

“Break my heart for the things that break yours, Father!”

That was all it took. God rocked my world! He turned it upside down and inside out. He opened the eyes of my heart and I began to see…truly SEE!

I shared earlier in the week that something occurred to me as I was praying over the 119 children who got quickly added to this list. I remembered that there was a time in my own life when I just had absolutely no idea about what the word “transferred” meant next to a child’s name. I was completely clueless…until God began to break my heart for the things which shattered His. I began to do research. All of a sudden I wanted to know what happened to orphans. I needed to know.

The more I learned, and the more my heart broke, the more I came to realize how very little the orphan crisis was spoken about in churches. I could not remember a single time in all my years of being a Christian and sitting in church faithfully every Sunday that I had heard a sermon taught on their desperate plight. Not once. I realized that the ones who did know the truth were like an army being sent into battle with very little reinforcements—facing a giant far bigger than anyone was talking about—yet with very, very little help to gain any significant victories.

I do think that things are getting better. I do think the message of the orphan crisis is starting to be shared in congregations more now than it did even five years ago. But what a long way we still have to go! I am always shocked when people write to me after I share something on my blog and say, “I had no idea!” Even with all the social media, the internet, and continuous news channels--people still do not know.

We have work to do! The Body of Christ NEEDS to know. The world is not called to care for the fatherless. We are! It’s as simple as that. We’re the ones who are meant to be going, giving, supporting, bringing them home, advocating, praying, and doing everything we possibly can to make a difference. We’re the ones who are meant to be getting our hands dirty and getting uncomfortable (Lord forbid!) for the sake of the Gospel.


You know what I think? I think we need a massive awakening! I think the sleeping church needs to wake up and start talking about the hard things. We need to be talking about the catastrophes which happen not very far from where we live. This is reality, friends. It is not some made-up, Photoshopped picture someone did as a sick joke! This is real life.

This is the face of desperation--of abandonment, neglect and poverty!

These are HUMAN BEINGS we're talking about—with feelings, hurts, pains, needs, emotions, and desires.

Did you know that this sort of thing even existed? I am going to keep this post always, so that I can send it to the next person who writes to me and protests, "But isn't an institution in a child's home country better than bringing a foreign child to this country?" You have GOT to be kidding me!

These are the Father’s beloved chosen people! Created in His image with a purpose and a destiny—each one of them with the potential to become so much more than what they currently are. Every precious child is a gift from His hand. Why can we not see that? Why do we turn away and refuse to get involved? Why is getting the next best gadget on the market so much more important than the life of a child who will certainly perish if he remains where he is?

Why is it so easy to mourn Whitney…but not shed a single tear for the ones such as these?

When people ask me, “What can we do?” I always respond, “What can’t we do?”

We need an awakening, friends! A movement which ignites a fire and a passion in each one of us that makes us want to jump in and do anything we possibly can to help.

Some will read this and say, “Not my calling! Not my problem!” I have news for you today…IT IS! James 1:27, Psalm 83:3, and many, many other Scriptures tell us in no uncertain words that it IS our problem. It’s non-negotiable—it’s not a calling, it’s a COMMAND. Big difference.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am so out of excuses. I am completely over myself! As I sit writing this I cannot think of one good enough reason as to why I should NOT do everything I humanly can to try and help. Those 119 children with the word “transferred” next to their name? They are living on borrowed time. I was once told that 95% of them will die once they are transferred to a mental asylum. For some of them, when that day of transfer comes, so does the word “unadoptable." Their time to find a family has run out. They will literally spend the rest of their days confined to a crib, bedridden!

It IS our problem!

credit: all photos from google

AWAKEN US, Lord! Stir our hearts, ignite passion in us, show us where we can get involved, shift our priorities. Challenge us, show us what truly matters in this life, make us uncomfortable so that the only place we find true contentment is not in the things of the world, but in relationship with You…doing Your will, obeying your commands! Convict our hearts, Lord Jesus!

Wake us up for the sake of the millions who wait…and wait…and wait!


Sad reality part 2

This post is the continuation of a series another adoptive mom has shared on her blog recently. I am reposting it for several reasons, first to raise awareness, second to hopefully motivate and encourage some to do something about it, but mainly to provide a window into Valentin’s world so we can gain some understanding. The post is about children who have been transferred to institutions from their baby houses (orphanages). The environment in Valentin’s orphanage is better then what you will read about in an institution but not by much. For our close friends and family, when you meet Valentin it may be shocking to see how delayed he is and some of his behavior may be puzzling so we hope that reading this will provide you with a little understanding of why he is the way he is.

As you read about the conditions Valentin is coming from and the doom he was headed for, please also keep in mind that your love, prayers, and donations are rescuing him from this fate. Valentin could have easily been any one of the children pictured and talked about below, but because of YOU he will be one of the few rescued ones.

From the Treasures of Darkness (part 2) blog post:

"Yesterday I shared the first in a series this week on creating an awareness of the children who get "transferred" to institutions, or are confined to "laying rooms". If you missed that post, go and read it before this one.

I am so thankful to my friend, Julia, for allowing me to share their experiences at her son's institution. Thank you, sweet Julia, for being willing to shout from the rooftops that every child is valuable and precious to God...and therefore to us too! You are a true warrior in the Kingdom, my friend. Never grow weary of fighting the battle that rages for the lives of the ones who have no voice. Keep on keeping on, faithful servant.

Tomorrow I will share my own heart on this issue. Oh my! Some things are just so, so difficult to put into words."

The Sad Reality (Part Two)
By Julia Nalle

"Writing The Sad Reality (part one) drained me. I needed nearly two months to find the courage to write it. Then I needed over a week to write it, and several days to come out of the deep funk that writing it caused. We saw a lot of ugly things at the institute where Aaron lived. Some we will never share publicly. We chose to share The Sad Reality because there are too many children who have no voice with which to tell the world of their suffering, and we have a responsibility to be their voice, as Proverbs 31: 8-9 demands:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

There is more to the story of The Sad Reality. I didn't want to write it, and just by thinking about it, I am already slipping into a funk that only God can heal. But the story needs telling. So here it is: The Sad Reality, Part Two.

We walked the mile to and from Aaron's institute sixty-five times before we were finally allowed to cart him away to freedom. Sixty-five times we entered those shoddy gates and trod those uneven walks. Sixty-five times we struggled to accept the sights, sounds and smells of a hidden world that shook us to the core. Sixty-five times we walked, watched and grieved.

It is difficult to describe the despair I felt every day as we passed a shed filled with boys who had absolutely nothing to do. It filled me with grief when some of them cried out, "Mama!" hoping that I could offer them the same escape I was offering Aaron. It was hard to process this world, in which survival of the fittest reigned and played out every day between boys of widely varying sizes and ages-- a world in which hitting, fighting and abuse is normal and goes largely unchecked. Beyond that, how could we face the reality of the hidden boys, the ones we only glimpsed, the ones whom we knew lay behind closed doors in their cribs-- silent, lonely, attention-starved, stiff, far beyond any hope of release-- dying?

We couldn't. We just walked back and forth to and from the institute, holding hands, supporting each other, joking about anything we could find, scheming about our blog posts, biding our time until the wheels of bureaucracy turned far enough to allow us to go back to our safe, predictable world with Aaron in tow.

Aaron's institute housed older boys from a wide area of his country. So far as we know, only a few had any family in town, and only about two or three of these had any visits during our time there. Because of this, his institute wasn't well set up for visitors. There were no indoor visiting rooms at all, and for outdoor visits there was only one designated area: a painted steel gazebo with rotting wooden benches, situated just outside the administration office's door.
Aaron quickly got tired of this gazebo. After a year of confinement, he was ready to explore, and we were his passport to freedom. For our part, we preferred the gazebo. It was our assigned visiting area, the only place anyone ever really gave us permission to be. We were safe there. No dogs bothered us there, and no one shooed us away there. Each time we followed our wandering fugitive out of that gazebo, we knew that we were setting ourselves up for trouble. And we did get into trouble, more than once.

We finally reached a compromise with Aaron. We gravitated toward a neutral spot at the center of the institute, a sort of crossroads from which we could see nearly everything that was happening there. We could see the main gate, so we wouldn't miss the arrivals and departures of the institute's vehicles-- in Aaron's opinion the most important events of any day. We could see the dining sheds in which the boys took meals and snacks (picture below, at Rob's back). And we were on the paths by which all three groups of outdoor boys reached these sheds, so we could watch and join their parades to and from meals. Just down the path (to Rob's right) was the shed filled with the moaning boys, the lowest-functioning of the outdoor boys. Beside us was the building in which they slept. We didn't really like being there, but Aaron was happy there, and at least when we were there no one could accuse us of spying.

And so the crossroads became our new home at the institute. By accident or design, we received an unspoken, tenuous permission to spend three hours every day at the center of a secretive facility. We saw nothing of what went on behind closed doors, but everything that happened in the open, we saw. That's how we came to see the second part of our sad reality.

In that lowest functioning group of outdoor boys, there were three older ones whom we got to know. They had a job carrying things back and forth from their shed area to their building, strange benches with multiple holes, so we saw them every day. All three were precious. One laughed and called out to Aaron and to us with glee every time he passed. His vocabulary was limited, but he always spoke with gusto. His legs were bent at odd angles, and one was much longer than the other, so he hobbled up and down the path each day; but he always laughed and clapped his hands, filled with joy. The second was silent, lost in his own world. He stared at us from a distance and gave us crooked smiles. The third was a sweet angel with Down Syndrome. He was short, bowlegged and as gentle as can be. Alone of the three, this one would wander over to spend time with us. He gently handled and played with Aaron's toys. He spoke to us softly. He was a perfect gentleman in his behavior. Unfortunately, in his person he was anything but gentlemanly. His smell was overpowering, and when he offered his hand for us to shake, we could see why: his hands were stained with excrement.

At first we assumed that he simply didn't know how to take care of himself. We also assumed that the caretakers gave older boys like him much less help in taking care of themselves than they gave the younger ones. It wasn't really surprising that a boy of his age and in his condition would need a bath.

But later, we began to understand that all three of these boys were dirty every day. And we knew that Aaron's institute had a good staff that wouldn't put up with filth. One day, every boy at that institute got new clothes in preparation for a visit from a psychiatric professional, but these three boys were still dirty. It took us forever to understand, finally, what was happening: The mysterious things the boys were carrying every day were potty benches. These boys were washing out potty chairs every day and moving the benches back and forth from the building to the shed. They were responsible for cleaning up after 20 boys every day, probably twice per day. They were the boys from "the picture," all grown up and graduated to the next logical step in their sad existence.

We already knew that the older boys performed essential jobs there. Aaron's institute was poor, and needed every available resource. They had to put the boys to work. We had seen some carrying water from the outside well, carrying laundry and setting tables in the sheds before meals. The luckiest ones worked with the hired caretakers on the grounds, bringing in food or keeping things neat. The unluckiest, our three friends, scrubbed the potty chairs. They did their job with an innocent willingness that brought tears to our eyes. And they carried the marks of their job everywhere they went, in the form of filth that in their circumstances was just too hard to remove.

Why do I share this? Why is poop so important? Because of the indignity of their situation. There is nothing wrong with requiring the boys to work; in fact, it is probably a benefit for most. But for these three sweet boys to end up in this sad situation, doomed to hold the least desirable job at the institute for who knows how long, is just deeply sad. It lowers them to subhuman status. As we said before, their plight is a result of poverty, not of neglect. Those caretakers do the best they can with what they have, and they work hard. Where there are no plumbing facilities for so many boys, someone must scrub potty chairs. The only practical way to solve the problem would be to remove these boys from their untenable situation. They simply shoudn't be there in the first place. If so many boys were not cast off at birth, doomed for life to impoverished institutions, then no one would have to scrub potty chairs for 20 boys at a time. If more people in their country and ours would open their homes to these children who have been orphaned through no fault of their own, then no one would have to suffer degradation like this. If the nutty bureaucracies of their country and ours didn't set up so many hurdles in the adoption track, then more of these poor kids could find homes and families of their own.

Nearly every child in the Eastern European orphanages (baby houses) who has a mental or physical disability is transferred to an institution like Aaron's by the age of four, five or six. All are stowed away in these underfunded institutes, in villages far off the beaten path. They receive no education and no therapy, so they make no progress. They will live and die at these places or the even worse adult institutions that await them. They have little to no hope of ever leaving. It is their sad reality.

And as long as they live in such places, the unlucky ones will get demeaning jobs like these.

That's why we're still shouting about all of this months down the road. It's why we often find ourselves discussing, agonizing, praying and struggling with our memories and stories. It's why we want the church to march into these places. Where the church has entered, there have been life-giving changes for the boys and girls inside these institutions. We need the church to march into that village and that institute. We have no idea how it will happen, or when. We are two very small people with a bit of knowledge and little else. We don't know where to turn. We can't believe that God would open those gates for us, leave us there far longer than need be, show us all of this hurt and then leave the situation forever unchanged.

All we know to do is pray, advocate, yell, holler, scream and shout. It takes a lot of time, and it's exhausting. Sometimes it seems pointless and fruitless. But those poor boys need a voice. They need someone to cry out for them. The Lost Boys need to be found."