Friday, December 31, 2010

Jake's journal - Day 2 in Ghana

Here's what went down yesterday via Jake:

Day number two began with a bang! I was up at 5:00am preparing to go on the morning show for Ghana television. The only way to accurately describe the show would be to compare it to The Today Show in the United States. When we arrived at the TV station we were whisked away to the make-up room where Nana and I were doused in make-up. Please note my make-up was quite fashionable with my two day old clothes since my luggage is still nowhere to be found. Not many people have the opportunity to go on the Ghana Today Show in shorts and a dirty T-shirt but I got to and I will have to include this adventure in my book someday.

Following the appearance on Ghana TV we returned back to the hotel to pick up the rest of the crew for the big launching event of the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation and the Isaiah 1:17 basketball tournament. I was not fully prepared for what this event would entail. The best way to describe it would be a ceremony/banquet/celebration all wrapped up into one spectacular event.

The first two and half hours were dedicated to speakers such as the minister for social welfare, the minister for youth sports administration, various pastors, a couple of us from the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation and the event was centered around some cultural dancing and music. There had to be between 300-400 people at the launching including every possible news media source in Ghana.

The most incredible part of the event was after I had the chance to speak and share my vision for raising money in Africa with the crowd! I encouraged them to stop waiting on others to help because many are blind to what is going on in Africa! Instead I encouraged them to begin to rely on God’s strength and blessing that the African people would look at each other and believe through a heart of giving they could create change. Soon after I finished, an offering was taken for the Foundation and I don’t yet know the totals that were raised but I would guess it was over a few thousand dollars. We had young men in the crowd who were 15-16 years old waiting for the basketball tournament to begin that live on less than a dollar a day pull out whatever money they could find and gave it away. I felt like I was in the Bible with the lady that gave the least in monetary value, but gave the most according to God because she gave everything she had. I saw prominent chiefs, beautifully dressed women, ordinary men, and young children giving. I have had a lot of incredible moments in my life but this by far was the single greatest moment. I got to see all that God commands through a heart of love displayed so fruitfully.

After the launching of the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation concluded it was on to a fun-filled afternoon as the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation hosted its first ever basketball tournament in Ghana. We had four teams at the event (Kingdom Hoops, Galaxy Academy, Cape Coast Hoopers, and Dynasty Basketball). There was music, hundreds of people, contests, and great basketball. Kingdom Hoops fell short in the championship game and lost 39-38 to the Galaxy Academy, but like I told all the boys, at the end of the day this event was not about winning a championship. Instead it was a simple step to make Christ known through the country by using the game of basketball. The atmosphere at the event was special and you could feel the Lord’s hand in it all.

By the time we wrapped up for the night it was 8pm and we headed back to the hotel for a quick bite to eat and now off to bed. When I am here in Ghana I feel so much closer to God and I feel like every step I take here was purposely designed for me by the Lord. I guess my prayer for the day is how can I have this type of relationship with the Lord when I return to the United States where everything is dictated by the bottom line and the stresses of the world? Why do I get so distracted by the things that just don’t really matter? I know my life is so backwards from anything God had intended and when you are working with blind faith for him in a place that is not your home it is like everything is clear and God directed. God, how can I have that same purpose and feeling when I return home? I pray he will provide me answers for all these prayers as the week goes on!

Good Night from Africa!!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jake's journal - Day 1 in Ghana

Last night Jake emailed me his first blog post which was his journal entry from their first day in Ghana yesterday! Not sure if he will be able to continue to email me his journals each day, but I will plan on posting them as they come in. Of course you will have to wait to see the pictures until they get back since my mom will have all of those on her camera. Here you go...this is what went down yesterday:

Well we have arrived in Ghana, Africa! I am short two suitcases which leaves me with stinky underwear and stinky socks. My advice for anyone coming to Africa is to expect the unexpected and let God do the rest. As we finished reporting my missing suitcases I walked out to a lobby full of reporters which I had no idea would be there waiting for our arrival. Tomorrow is the big kick-off for our Isaiah 1:17 Foundation at the Aviation Center and the media was all over the story! You could see God working in orchestrating all of this and it has created great momentum for our project here.

Once arriving to the Airside hotel we had a scheduled press conference with all the media resources from throughout the country. I was able to share our vision and our goals for the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation. I also announced that the core of our fundraising effort will be done in Africa which caused me a good 20 minutes of questions because that is basically unheard of in Africa. (Now if you don’t live in Africa we could still really use your help)!!

I explained to the media that the majority of the people in the United States are not interested in giving to Africa. Many people of the world, particularly Americans, remain blind of the desperate situation in Africa and other third world countries. For instance, I explained that the world is blind to the fact that there are 26,000 children dying every single day from very preventable causes. I explained to them that at some point the African community needs to look at each other and say we have to create the change from within and stop waiting on the Americans and Europeans to do something. I explained to the media that third world countries have been waiting on the help from Americans for hundreds of years and at some point people in Africa have to say fine, then we will change on our own.

This statement caught a lot of people off guard and the next reporter asked me why do I believe that Americans don’t care because guys like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have done a lot. I said I totally agree there are a handful of people who are making change in the world, but there are very few ordinary/non-celebrity people fighting for change and only a small amount of Christians fighting for change. To fight for the injustices of the world you truly have to lose your life in order to gain your life in the Lord. Bill Gates is in a different class of people than someone like me or you. If Africa is going to change or any third world country is going change, I believe it starts with ordinary people.

I went on to tell them that most people are afraid to step out on the edge for Jesus….to step out on the edge for what God has called us to do. It is hard, it is uncomfortable, and it is difficult to plan precisely and control every situation. It forces ordinary people who choose to help to look at themselves in the mirror and understand that fully living for Christ is not safe or comfortable. It showcases the need to begin to live a life that more resembles Jesus and walk in faith. I said that I believe as a whole, the American Christian has become dead and hidden from what is hard. If Jesus comes back today I would not be surprised if he would speak to us like he spoke to the Church of Ephesus in Revelations 2: 4-6.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

After a passion filled press conference we grabbed some dinner at Frankies and spent the evening with Prince, Kelvin, and Kofi. The best part of the evening was that you could feel God’s presence in it all. Please pray that God will give me the right words in all situations to fully share what he has done for all of us on the cross. Pray that my heart will break for what breaks God’s, and pray that God’s love will be portrayed from all that we do.
I love it here in Africa and can’t wait until tomorrow which will be another day to paint the vision; I am reminded today that nothing is impossible through Christ.


Jake's journal entry made me think of an 'ordinary' guy that is making an extreme difference in Ghana. The following video was aired on the Today Show back in October....if you didn't get to see this story, you have to click on the following link and watch the video! I couldn't get the embed code on the video to work, but this link will take you the video starts you have to watch an advertisement first, then the story will come on. The story is called 'Well driller pours aid into Ghana' and it is part of Jane Pauley's series called 'Life Calling Today'. Here is the link:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lose Yourself In Me

I am leading you along a path that is uniquely right for you. The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self - the one I designed you to be. Because you are one of a kind, the path you are traveling with Me diverges increasingly from that of other people. However, in My mysterious wisdom and ways, I enable you to follow this solitary path while staying in close contact with others. In fact, the more completely you devote yourself to Me, the more freely you can love people. Marvel at the beauty of a life intertwined with My Presence. Rejoice as we journey together in intimate communion. Enjoy the adventure of finding yourself through losing yourself in Me.

~Jesus Calling (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; 1 John 4:7-8; John 15:4)~

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Ghana They Go & Trip Itinerary!

Jake, my mom, and 5 other Kingdom Hoops affiliates are now on their way to Ghana for a week's stay! I must say, it feels so strange that I am not going on this trip! I can't wait to hear all of their stories and see their pictures once they get back. I took this picture of my mom and Jake as we said our goodbyes at the airport earlier this afternoon....I am so excited for all that they will experience!

In case you are wondering, I had decided to sit this trip out since Jake and I have the Sierra Leone trip planned for March. I didn't think I could do without my 3 little red-headed munchkins for two whole trips! One trip is hard enough on me! :) Here is the general itinerary for Jake and the group for their time in Ghana...Jake wrote this out before they left:

Today, December 28th: Travel to Accra, Ghana....3 different flights
December 29th: Arrive in Ghana about 2pm. We will have serious jet lag so we will get through the airport and customs and get checked into the hotel. For dinner on the 29th we will go down to a place called Frankies which is an American restaurant in Ghana so everyone should be able to get some good food before we call it a night.
December 30th: Basketball tournament to support Isaiah 1:17 foundation 11:30am-6:00pm at Aviation Center.
December 31st: Head to Cape Coast around 8:30am and spend the day in Cape Coast partnering with Hoops Care International to put on a basketball camp, educational learning sessions, and bible study. We will probably stay in Cape Coast to celebrate New Years’ Eve. The directors of Hoops Care International are handling all the logistics of the day.
January 1st: Family Fun Day – 9:00am-6:00pm in Accra, Ghana - we will be using this event as a big fundraising event for the Isaiah 1:17 foundation.
January 2nd: This is Sunday and we will head to church at Central Gospel Church in Accra and then take a visit to Prince's village and spend the day with his soccer team.
January 3rd: We will head to the village of Kwahu with Kofi Oppong who handled our adoption and serve wherever he decides would be best for us.
January 4th: We will head to the airport at about 7pm on the 4th and during the day we will leave open for activities that may need to be finished before we leave. We will have at least one host student traveling back with us and potentially two.

I know I haven't blogged about our Isaiah 1:17 Foundation yet....that's because there are at least 2 posts that need to come prior to that one to give you a good picture of how it started. :) Hoping I will get to that within the next week. I should also have a guest post coming from Jake in the next day or two about why he is so passionate about Africa. :) That was his project for the plane. He will also be journaling each day of the trip, so hopefully it will work out to post his journal once they return. In the mean time, you can check my mom's blog at: If she gets a good internet connection in Ghana she might be posting a few things while they are there.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!

The Sullivan's

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Day's Festivities

Thanks to a lesson from Grandpa Tim, we did a lil snowblowin'....

And a lil snowman makin'....

We got rolling on Jesus’ birthday cake….still need to decorate it (and yes it is a box mix)!

The boys got their Christmas haircuts (including JJ who would not leave the barber shop - the barber who cuts African hair mind you - without getting a little trim himself)….

And we got Big Sam picked up from the airport! I haven’t updated the blog regarding his looonnnggg story, but Big Sam is now attending Rhoades State College in Columbus, Ohio….

Yes our house is hoppin with activity and I wouldn’t have it any other way! And now, the best part of the evening….getting ready to head to church to sing praises to the only One who is worth living for. I. Can’t. Wait. Thank you Jesus for giving us NEW LIFE!

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
~Matthew 1:21~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

They Didn't Get to do THIS in Ghana!

First time sledding for the Ghanaians (Yaw hadn't tried it yet either)!

Yaw, Sammy, and Daddy

Mommy & Jayla, Peprah, Justice, Ezekiel & JJ

The hill
(if you were an Iowa Stater, then you know where this puppy is).

Wow, that's good guys, but, uh, can we get a little more real please....

That's more like it!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home Safe!

Well, Yaw and Ezekiel had quite the adventure in getting home from Wyoming! They started out on Monday morning, and the plan was for them to drive home and get here late Monday evening. However 2 hours into the trip they met up with icy roads and ended up in the ditch. Thankfully they were okay but happened to literally be in the middle of nowhere! A tow truck grabbed their car, but it was totaled. A friendly group of passerbys picked them up and gave them a ride to the nearest town where they stayed the night in a hotel until we could figure out travel plans. After trying options with rental cars and bus lines, Jake eventually decided to drive and pick them up himself. So, yesterday morning Jake set off for what turned into a 12 hour road trip to pick up the guys! They were scheduled to get in late last night, and JJ, Justice and Sam were so excited to see them that they asked to ‘wait up’ for them on the couch.

I hit the hay at 10:30pm and Justice and JJ were still wide awake watching Christmas movies! The guys got in late last night and they were greeted with lots of smiles and excitement this morning!

So glad everyone is home safe! Let the fun begin!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Immeasurable Power of God's Spirit at Work

If you have been born again - repented of your past sin, chosen to believe in the one and only Son of God for your salvation, and given your life from that day forward to following him - then something extraordinary is inside of you. The Holy Spirit. Did you know that this same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead LIVES IN YOU (Romans 8:11)? Think about that for a minute. The same power that took a dead human and resurrected him to life lives inside of you. Now with that in mind, consider Jesus’ words to his disciples:

John 14:12
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

And consider Paul’s praise to God in his letter to the church of Ephesus:

Ephesians 3:20
Glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Wow. I love those words. God’s spirit in us can accomplish more than we might ask or think! God can work through us. He invites us to take part in His work. Even in the most doubt-filled situations, even in the most worst-case-scenarios, even in the most uncomfortable and non-appealing places, God’s power in us can get 'er done. But as has been my own heart many times, I often say no when these opportunities come. I strain and scramble to stay in my comfort zone, even when I feel God leading me out. For example, a few weeks ago I received a text message from a youth group leader inviting me to share my faith testimony to a group of about 15-20 high school girls in our community. Well, if Facebook had a dislike button and a public speaking page, let’s just say I would hit dislike for public speaking about 50 million times. I mean really, who can get up and speak in front of others unless they have the gift of teaching, right? So, I decided not to text this youth leader back. I knew I couldn’t do it, but I felt bad in saying no, so I just didn’t respond. Then, about a week later I got the same text message again. This time however, that Romans 8:11 verse was part of the material we were studying in my women’s bible study on this particular week. And that’s when it hit me that if God’s spirit could raise Jesus from the dead, then that same spirit would certainly help me to speak clearly and share my testimony to a group of young girls. So that time I said yes, only because I knew I could rely on God to speak through me.

So why? Why do we tell God no when it seems He is giving us an opportunity to live by His Spirit in our actions? Francis Chan’s book, Forgotten God gives the answer. FEAR. He gives details about 3 different types of fears that can hold us back from allowing God to use us.

1) The fear of rejection ~ When we worry about how others will view us, how friends/family will respond, or how we will be labeled or even misunderstood.

2) The fear that God won’t come through ~ The fear of God failing us leads us to ‘cover for God’. We ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more.

3) The fear that God will show up ~ What if God does show up but then asks you to go somewhere or do something that’s uncomfortable? For many people, fearing that God will ask them to go in a difficult, undesirable direction outweighs the fear that God will ignore them.

In the spirit of Christmas-time let’s talk about the virgin Mary. She showcased the ultimate obedience and submission to God’s will in allowing God to use her to accomplish His purpose of bringing our Savior into the world as a human baby. Mary was young, poor, and female. Each of these characteristics made her an unlikely candidate of this time period to be used by God. And the biggest obstacle - Mary was only engaged to Joseph, not yet married. My Bible notes explain the implications of pregnancy for Mary’s situation in this way: A young unmarried girl who became pregnant risked disaster. Unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she would probably remain unmarried for life. If her own father rejected her she could be forced into begging or prostitution in order to earn her living. And Mary, with her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, risked being considered crazy as well.

Joseph obviously had a huge decision to make in this too....would he stay or would he go....but that’s a whole other story. For now, picture yourself in Mary’s shoes. An angel just told you that you were going to be with child and eventually give birth to God’s son…and all of this through the work of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine? Mary could have caved by any of the three fears above. They all applied. But she didn’t. After the angel’s explanation of the coming supernatural pregnancy and birth this was Mary’s immediate response:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

And I bet God was sitting up in heaven and saying “WHOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO! SHE GETS IT!” Or something like that. :) God wants to use us! You and me! Let’s be like Mary and shake off our fears and say YES!

The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. But, the Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be... ~Francis Chan, Forgotten God~

Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You on the Bench or in the Game?

A little over two years ago on labor day weekend of 2008, unknown to me, my husband was down on his knees with a question for God. “Is this all there is to following you, Lord? I go to church on Sunday, I attend my men’s bible study group once a week, I read my Bible daily, I try to memorize some verses, and I pray. I share my faith with others. I try to incorporate your word into my life. But, I am bored in my faith. Is this really all it means to be a Christian?” I didn’t know about this prayer until earlier this year when Jake spoke at a church regarding our adoption and Ghana projects. At the beginning of his sermon he shared the details of how he felt about his faith at this point in his life. He explained that for 4 years in college, he had gotten to play basketball in front of exhilarating crowds of 14,000+ people a few nights a week. He’d been cheered on by the Cyclone faithful, he’d been spit on by opposing fans, his mug had been in the newspaper on an almost daily basis announcing his broken records and achievements, he’d been the face of the ISU men’s basketball team for 4 years, he’d been the target of ridicule and mean jeers during the games. He faced adversity on and off the court, he was challenged, he triumphed, he failed, and yet every day his life was filled with excitement and energy. In 2003 Jake had put his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior. And yet 5 years later on that day in September, Jake had come to a crossroads. The daily hum drum of living the Christian life seemed boring compared to all the other things he had encountered in his life. Yes, he had salvation and an eternal hope. But what about the here and now? Wasn’t there more to this life? Wasn’t there more to living for God?

Little did we know that less than 3 weeks later, God would answer Jake’s prayer by beginning to open up our eyes to a world of desperate need, and give us an open door to be launched in. On September 21st , 2008, 20 days after Jake’s prayer, I had the experience at church when I felt God clearly speaking plans into my heart for our family to adopt. I know I’ve shared it a million times. But, the point is, that the adoption was only the first step for our family to be given opportunities to step out of our comfort zone, and start putting our faith into action. From the adoption came the idea for Jake to use the platform of basketball to begin helping the less fortunate in Ghana, from there the development of the Kingdom Cares 501c3 foundation, from there the international student hosting program started, from there the courage was born for our family to begin an ‘open doors’ policy for our home, from there stemmed the the Ghana projects that have been started with Kingdom Cares International. This was the type of faith-inspired adventure Jake had been longing for. God became bigger when we had to rely on Him fully and completely. God became bigger when we purposely had to decide whether or not we would venture out of our comfort zone. The scriptures came alive in our hearts because we were truly experiencing what it meant to walk by faith, not by sight. When Jake gets to speak at churches or to youth groups, he now makes the following distinction: There was one point when he understood Jesus' work for him on the cross, and put his faith in Jesus as his Savior. But, there has been a different point in his life when he consciously decided to give his life over to Christ to be used however God would use him. To Jake, these each happened differently and separately in his faith walk. He says, "When I put my faith in Christ I was then and there on God's team. But, I chose to sit on the bench. But when I eventually went all in for Christ and allowed God to use me for His purposes, I was no longer on the bench, I was playing in the game."

It is estimated that 70-88% of teens who profess Christianity walk away from their faith by their freshmen year of college (~Family Driven Faith~ by Voddie Baucham). Could the reason be because they have never experienced the adventure of what it means to totally go all in for God? To get off the bench and in the game? To trust Him so fully and completely that if He doesn’t come through for them, they will be in big trouble? There is a spiritual high that comes from being in these sorts of situations, because you see and experience the power of God in ways that you never have before. There is a deeper intimacy level in your relationship with God when you must fully depend on Him, even for your next step. But, if you’ve never found this with God, then it makes sense that at some point you will abandon your faith and try to seek this sort of exhilarating adventure elsewhere.

Do you say the Lord’s prayer at your church? Do you know what you are praying for when you say this part: May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). How can God’s perfect purposes, His will, be accomplished on earth? Well, if we are in Christ, God has given us HIS SPIRIT so that He can USE US to accomplish His work on this earth. We are not the ones however to get the glory for this work because it is God working in us. However, we have a choice as to whether or not we allow ourselves to be used as God’s instruments. More on this immeasurable power of God’s Spirit at work in us tomorrow….

Friday, December 17, 2010


Last weekend we got our first snowfall of the winter in Iowa. But on the day it let loose we were in the gym from sun up to sun down for that Hawkeye shootout tournament, so Justice didn’t get to experience the excitement of ac tually getting to watch it fall from the sky. So that’s why, when we walked outside after the day’s games Justice took a look at the white blanket of snow and asked, “Is that real snow?” By this point the snow had stopped falling out of the sky, so it probably was quite strange to him that when he went into the gym there was no snow, but when he came out everything was covered in white (there were no windows at the gym).

Of course I had to run out and get Justice some snow pants and snow boots for school, and he has had SO MUCH fun getting to play in the snow at recess. He says their favorite thing to do is to load up the slide with snow and then it makes you fly down it really fast! He really wants to make a snow man and a snow fort, but we don’t quite have the right type of sticky snow for that yet. Hopefully soon!

It's a good thing a momma has some good help around here! Side note - we do have a snow blower, but nobody knows how to start it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jake's Thought for the Week

My favorite book of the Bible is the book of Acts. I believe the book of Acts gives all of us the exact example we are looking for from God in regards to how we are supposed to live in a broken world - how we are supposed to be willing to give up everything for the purposes of God - how we are supposed to step out in blind faith trusting that God will provide - how we are supposed to keep coming back even after we are beaten and fall down. My favorite story in Acts shows how God often uses 'fools' of the world to shame the wise and allow God's glory to be known.

My favorite disciple in all of the Bible is Paul. In my opinion, Paul probably had the single biggest effect on the spread of the gospel throughout the nations and his story is told in detail in the book of Acts. He lived a life that I strive to live each day not by what I say, but by how God empowers me to live. However, Paul was not always the great disciple Paul. Paul was an extraordinary sinner. In fact his name was first known as Saul and he had a strong reputation for taking bold stands against Christianity - he in fact started out as a murderer of people who professed faith in Jesus.

Then one day the Lord appeared to Saul and called him out for his sin against God's people. God placed scales on Saul's eyes making him blind. Soon after this God sent a man named Ananias to place his hands on Saul's eyes. The scales were removed and Saul's sight was restored. From this point on God used Saul, who was later renamed Paul, to spread the Gospel across the nations.

What has always fascinated me about the story of Paul was that God took away his sight and then restored it, allowing him to see the world differently. I often asked the question why his sight? Why not his ability to walk, his ability to hear or why not just perform some great miracle for him to believe? As I pondered these questions I began to look at my own life and I noticed my own blindness. Maybe I was not the Saul who did not believe in God, but I had been the Saul who was blind to God and his purposes for my life. Slowly God began to remove those scales from my eyes and my world would never be the same. I am still blind in many areas of my life where God is working or calling me too, but every time I sit down to pray since studying the book of Acts I try to end all my prayers with the following: God please give me the eyes to see what you see and my heart to break for what breaks yours.”

I used to see
Kingdom Hoops / All Iowa Attack by the end results on the bracket boards, the trophies that surrounded the gym, and the number of players we helped to get to play college basketball. I used to see my own personal success on how much money I had in my Orange Savings Account. I used to see my worth on the assets that I possessed. Then my life changed when I opened my Bible and began to pray that God would remove the scales from my own eyes.


I saw a swimming pool full of boys and girls from the spectrum of farm communities to the inner city, laughing and playing together.

I saw a young man who once gave me great joy if he simply said "hi" to me, laughing and smiling as he did cannon balls into the swimming pool.

I saw another young man play with poise throughout the weekend despite his Dad showing up to watch him play, when just a year ago we completely lost him emotionally for about six months when his Dad showed up to this same tournament.

I saw a girl become one of the leaders of a team that despised her just less than six months ago because of my decision to have her replace one of their most liked teammates that had decided to leave the program in the fall.

I saw a young man begin to understand just what God may be calling him to after years of failure and unwillingness to listen.

I saw five guys on Friday night that had the opportunity to be part of the Hawkeye vs. Cyclone rivalry. I remember these young men reaching for this goal just a few years before, and now they have an incredible platform to be used.

I saw a team come together that has been made up of three teams that never really saw eye to eye on the basketball court and who come from drastically different backgrounds.

I saw a spirit and glow in young lives as they walked onto the floor of Carver Hawkeye Arena preparing for the championship games.

I saw two boys on a team hug after a semifinal win who just four months ago would warm up as far away from each other as possible.

I saw God working in a program that has such a bigger purpose than just basketball.

And yes I did see those three championships :).

I returned home on Sunday night to another week but then I saw -

God working in a good friend's life.

I saw 18 Kingdom Hoops players playing in the high school game of the week.

I saw God working in my life.

In a single picture emailed to me I saw God confirming everything he is calling us to do to help change lives. I saw two kids who were not long ago searching for answers in a third world country accomplish an awesome goal at their junior college.

I saw a two year battle with the United States Embassy in Ghana lead to a 55 second interview for the approval of our next host student that will attend Pella Christian.

When I saw these things over this past week, I saw God.

Have a great week.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Home for Christmas

Recognize anyone in this photo?
Yep, that’s Yaw and Ezekiel in there! Their team, the Gillette College Pronghorns, just beat their biggest rival - #15th ranked Sheridan College in Division I junior college basketball! So exciting! They are currently 9-3 on the season, with two games left before Christmas break. Yaw and Ezekiel will be coming home for Christmas break on Monday! There will definitely be a house full of people who are anticipating their arrival….

Jayla especially has been SO CONFUSED by Yaw’s departure, and she is even MORE CONFUSED about chatting with Yaw on skype! It will be fun to see her reaction when she sees her long lost friend in person!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sullivan Family Christmas Letter 2010

Merry Christmas from The Sullivan’s!

It's that time of year when I get to take a chance to catch you all up on our family…..there is lots to tell from 2010, so here we go:

JJ ~ Sports crazy! When he woke up one morning last month and requested to watch ESPN News highlights instead of his usual cartoons, I knew that he had officially been corrupted. :) Actually, it’s been so fun for Jake that JJ loves what he loves. Those two can sit and watch an entire football or basketball game together, and have the time of their life. JJ especially has a new found love for the NBA. He can list off more player’s first and last names, their team, and their jersey number than you would dare imagine. He’s even memorized each team’s abbreviations that appear in the score box, so just by seeing that he can quickly tell you who is playing. JJ also loves to play board games, card games, and the Nintendo Wii. The other day we were setting up the memory matching game and he looked at me and said, “I’m a beast at this game!” Nothing like trying to get in the head of the opponent early on!

Jayla ~ Has a great imagination! This girl is a pro at entertaining herself (probably because she gets a lot of practice). She loves to especially play with her baby dolls – reading them books, holding them in her lap and singing songs, and taking them for a stroll around the house. Most of all I enjoy listening as Jayla talks to her dolls in her motherly voice while caring for their needs like changing their diaper, giving them a bath, and putting on new outfits. The other day as Jake watched her do this he said to me, “She really thinks her dolls are real!” Well, of course Daddy! :) Jayla also likes to ask lots of questions, and does all sorts of voice inflections and faces that match whatever she is talking about. She will also break out into song at random times throughout the day. Usually she sings her ABC’s, Jesus Loves Me, and Old McDonald had a Barn (she insists that it is barn not farm). There are quite a few songs on the radio that she has memorized, so she will often sing along in the back seat of the car. Her favorite song is ‘Mighty to Save’…she’ll belt out the entire chorus all the way through!

Justice ~ Previously known to our friends and family as Samuel, the little boy we had been adopting from Ghana. In June we traveled to Ghana for our visa exit interview appointment to bring Justice (then Samuel) home. However the U.S. Embassy in Accra would not yet issue his visa, and kept adding on more appointments. Eventually after we changed flight plans 3 different times we were forced to leave Samuel in Ghana and come home without him. A few months later we still had no news on the status of Samuel’s visa, and we learned that many other families adopting from Ghana were facing similar problems. It was at this point that Jake felt as though God was clearly giving him the words to write a letter to the Embassy to speak up on behalf of these waiting children and to voice concerns over acquiring visas from Ghana. God literally used this letter to stir up some action, and less than 1 week later we had notice that Samuel’s visa was approved and printed. On September 22nd, exactly 2 years and 1 day after our adoption journey began, we left again for Ghana, and on September 25th, we arrived home with our son. We changed Samuel’s name to Justice so that each time we say his name, we can proclaim that God came through for him! Now we can confidently say as David the psalmist did – ‘I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.’ (Psalm 140:12)

Sam ~ We became guardians for Sam earlier this year in February. Sam is from the Des Moines area and is projected to be part of Team Sullivan through high school. Currently Sam is in the 6th grade at Ballard East Elementary. Sam is also a lover of sports! He plays football with our local Huxley team, and he plays basketball with Jake’s Kingdom Hoops program. The other day Sam said to me, “Someday when I make it to the NBA I am going to buy you your own island where you can sit on the beach all day!” Well, that would sure make my new job as shuttle bus driver worth it! ;) Learning how to parent a 6th grader has come with a great set of challenges, but lately we have been reaping the rewards. It’s been a joy to watch Sam grow into a leadership role on his sports teams, to get unexpected bear hugs from him for no reason at all, and to watch as he opens up the scriptures and gets excited about what he can learn from an Almighty God.

Peprah ~ The younger brother of our former host student, Nana Yaw. This August we sent Yaw off to Gillette College in Gillette, Wyoming where he received a basketball scholarship and is now a starter for the men’s basketball team there. With Yaw’s absence, God provided us with the opportunity to bring his younger brother, Peprah, to the United States. We are currently awaiting the final processing of Peprah’s student visa. In the mean time Peprah has been able to start attending Des Moines Christian High School where basketball season has started. Unfortunately practice for the JV team is at 6:30AM in the morning, and since Peprah cannot drive, guess who gets to get up and take him to practice? Dear old Jake. (And might I add that his school is a 30 minute drive from our house!) I will take the afterschool shuttling duties any day compared to that! Peprah has been a lively and tender-hearted addition to our family. He is a great encourager and motivator. He’s continually giving little mini sermons around the house to keep our spirits up. Peprah loves American food and always wants to know what is on tap for dinner!

Jake ~ Continues to run Kingdom Hoops ( and his 501c3 non-profit, Kingdom Cares International. Jake is a leader for our family and encourages us to step out in faith and daily live a life that positively impacts the lives of others (even if in doing so we have to step out of our comfort zone)! Over the past few months Jake has received numerous opportunities for speaking engagements regarding our completed adoption and our newly founded non-profit specific to Ghana - The Isaiah 1:17 Foundation. The first project for our foundation is to develop a foster care home/orphanage near Accra, Ghana. Later this month Jake will be taking a small team of Kingdom Hoops affiliates to Ghana to host a fundraising event kick-off that will aim to create awareness of our funding needs for the foster home. Jake is also working on a youth outreach project for the Des Moines area called My Brother’s Keeper. This will be a youth program that offers educational tutoring, Christian leadership, and basketball training. As you can see, God has stirred up a passion in Jake’s heart for giving opportunities to disadvantaged youth, and he certainly has no shortage on ideas of how to put this into action!

Janel ~ On most days there is at least one point when I think to myself that we are out of our minds for taking on this much responsibility! However, over this past year God has clearly given us the opportunities to grow our family in ways that we ourselves could have never pictured. All we did was say yes when the opportunities came. And that’s not to say that all of this has been a walk in the park. In our journey I constantly refer to what God has been teaching me about His definition of love, which I believe can be clearly seen in the verse of 1 John 3:16 ~ This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Over the past year God has been engraving His definition of love into my soul. I’ve learned that love as described in this verse is a lay down your life action and submission to God’s will. And this is where my growing pains have come. Laying down my selfishness, time, conveniences, and desires feels so unnatural. But I know that through this process God is growing and conforming my character into one that exhibits love ‘not with words or tongue but with actions and truth’ (1 John 3:18). Our family is busy. Most days threaten to fly in and out in a blur. I’ve learned to watch for and absorb those little heart-fluttering moments that are hidden treasures in my day. Like Jayla asking me to sing her to sleep, or hearing JJ’s heartfelt prayer blessing our meal before dinnertime, or listening to Justice’s bubbly excitement as he waits in anticipation for our first real snowfall, or observing a 6th grader belting out praise songs at church with his hands raised in the air, or listening to Peprah’s 15-year-old-wisdom-packed quotes. These are the moments that fill up my tank and make each and every day in this crazy life more than worth it!

The hope within us~ In Isaiah 64:6 we are reminded that all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. We cannot come into a right standing with God by our own human achievements. If this is our approach, we will fail every time because even our best efforts are still infected with sin. Our only hope to be reconciled with God is through faith in Jesus Christ, the one who has paid our debt of sin by His blood. Now this is eternal life, that we would know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent (John 17:3). At Christmas-time our family celebrates this gift of salvation that we could never earn or deserve. May the love that Jesus poured out on the cross for us all cause you also to rejoice this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

~Team Sullivan~

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Weekend In Hawkeye Territory

Heading to the BIG game. Look how excited this bunch is!

(Tyran hangs with us on the weekends sometimes - he's on Jake's 6th grade team)

We're here!

Now, let me say that these game time pictures certainly don’t tell the full story of the night! Let’s rewind back to the hotel lobby as we were heading to dinner before the game. As we were getting ready to leave the hotel we ran into Diante Garrett, one of the star players for Iowa State. As Jake was chatting with him, he decided to introduce Diante to JJ. Jake told JJ that this was one of the guys who plays for Iowa State, and Diante reached out to give JJ a high five. And JJ gave him a high five, looked him in the eye and said, “Go Hawkeyes!”. AHHH! As always Jake was able to make light of the moment, but oh my goodness that one will go down in history in the Sullivan family! :) The reason JJ likes the Hawkeye basketball team so much is because 3 of Jake’s former Kingdom Hoops players are on the team….Zach McCabe, Eric May, and Branden Stubbs. JJ followed each of their whereabouts the the entire game! During warm-ups Justice also decided to go for the Hawkeyes because the Hawks went through a 5 minute dunking drill, and Justice LOVES dunks! So, that was the clincher for him. So, all through the game, both Justice and JJ were cheering for the Hawkeyes (while also dressed in their Iowa State gear mind you)….but then, when Iowa State started pulling ahead in the second half, wouldn’t you know it, my two lil Hawkeye stinkers switched back over to the good side. Is that even legal? Well, despite my 'unloyal sons forever true', we sure had a lot of fun at the game! The rest of our weekend was spent with Jake’s teams as they played in the Hawkeye Shootout….

If the teams make it to the championship game, they get to play on the floor at Carver Hawkeye arena! 3 of the 4 championships were played by Jake's Kingdom Hoops teams so imagine the excitement of JJ and Justice getting to go back to the court and actually set foot on it this time!

Jake's teams took home 3 of the 4 championship titles!
7th grade boys

8th grade girls

The two 8th grade boys teams had to play eachother in the championship!
So long til next year, Hawkeyes!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From the Mouths of My Loves

In the grocery store JJ was helping me put the groceries up on the belt at the check-out line….he dropped a glass jar of spaghetti sauce and it shattered all over the floor. Once they called over someone to help clean it up he looked at me with HUGE tears in his eyes and said, “Am I going to jail?”

Justice: “Mommy, can I see your IPOD when we get home?”
BoldMommy: “Yes.”
Jayla: “Mommy, can I see your eyeball when we get home?”
Then lotsa giggles from the backseat!!!!

JJ: “When my Daddy played for Iowa State did his team beat the Hawkeyes?”
Mommy: “Sometimes.”
JJ: “What do you mean? Did his team win or lose?”
Mommy: “Sometimes Daddy’s team beat the Hawkeyes, but sometimes the Hawkeyes beat Daddy’s team.”
JJ: “Oh.” then a few moments thinking and then….“The Hawkeyes must be pretty good.”

About 30 seconds into my ever-longed-for morning shower bliss Jayla comes in and hollers out “Mommy I have to go poop!!!!!”

While in the car JJ says to Jake: “Daddy, when the light turns yellow you are supposed to slow down, but if Mommy is driving she doesn’t slow down she goes really fast.”

Justice: “All I want for Christmas is a mohawk.”

Jayla: “There’s an alligator in my room and he scratched my back.”

JJ: “Grandma Lori is really, really, really, really old. She’s 50!!!!”

Justice: “Can real reindeer fly?”

Sam: “When you were a kid did you ever wish you were an adult?”

Justice: “Our orange cat is the strongest cat I have ever seen!” (when Justice says ‘strong’ he means ‘tough’)
JJ: “Yeah, he’s stronger than Lebron James!”

Mommy: “At Christmas-time we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.”
JJ: “How are we going to get Jesus his birthday presents all the way up to heaven?”

Mommy: “We might get to go to the Cyclone and Hawkeye game this week!”
JJ: “Oh yeah! I’m going to cheer for the Hawkeyes! Go Hawkeyes go! Go Hawkeyes go!”
Mommy: “You can’t cheer for the Hawkeyes, because you were born a Cyclone. Daddy was a Cyclone and Mommy was a Cyclone so you have Cyclone blood inside your body.”
JJ: “What?!?!?!”


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Haven't Missed a Year Yet!

As far back as I can remember, each year at Christmas-time my mom and I have gotten together with my Grandma to make cookies and candy and yummy chex mix! Here’s a pic of me and my Grandma back in the day (and yes, that's a Christmas schnauzer-puppy sweatshirt that I am wearing)!

And here we are in 2006.....JJ's first year of experiencing the tradition! Look closely at the table cloth and my Grandpa in his overalls there in the background.....some things never change....

And yesterday was the big cookie day for 2010! Some cool mom let one of her kids skip school so he could get in on the action.

My kids are so blessed to be able to know their spunky Great-gram!!!!

Everyone is hard at work!

Time for cut-outs....everybody's favorite! We still have the same cookie cutters from the 1980's! :)

Everyone gets their own pan to decorate....they were so into it this year. Serious business during this part!

We added a new item this year.....gingerbread cookies! We haven't ever made these, but they were a huge hit with the boys. JJ might be the first 4-year-old to ever make a Lebron James gingerbread man. :)

JJ sneakin Great-grandpa a cookie fresh off the presses.

More pictures of our fun on my mom's blog today: