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 (www.kingdomhoops.com) 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!