Tuesday, August 31, 2010
With that, we started looking around for a host family that would be able to take Peprah in. The months went by, and the summer went by, and there we were a few weeks ago with Yaw’s family here at our house. We hadn’t pursued Peprah’s student visa any further because we hadn’t been able to find a host family for him yet. So Peprah came to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa, and we said that we would start pursuing his student visa once a host family was identified.
On the first Sunday that Yaw’s family was here we all went to church. And our pastor told us a story. Our church has a reach-out ministry to an Indian reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota. One of the leaders of the ministry has started placing some of the Rosebud kids with families here in the Ames area as a sort of exchange program. Well, a handful of Rosebud kids had just been identified that would be good matches to be exchange students. And an email went out to a large percentage of our church family (our church family is around 2500 people) to see if anyone could take these kids in. And, the ministry leader got some responses back. And most of them sounded like this:
…..not really a convenient time.
…..with this economy I don’t really have any extra money right now.
……we don’t really have any extra space in our house.
……we just don’t know how a person of that environment would mix with our family.
……we’ll pray about it.
Out of the very large amount of recipients to this email, only 5 families in our church said yes. YES, we will be a host family.
And you know what, my guess is that the above thoughts DID cross the minds of these 5 families. But they said YES anyways. Why? My guess is that they’ve read God’s word, and understand that when we choose to follow Him, there is going to be sacrifice. Jesus paid the ULTIMATE sacrifice for us…..death…….so that we can have a relationship with God and spend eternity in heaven. So, why then, as Christians do we say we want to follow Jesus but then not expect to encounter any sacrifice of our own? It makes no sense. It’s easy to say we’ll pray about it. It’s easy to hope someone else will do it. It’s easy to just give a little extra money towards a cause and feel like we’ve done something good. It’s harder to actually do it.
And on this day in church, my very own selfish heart was convicted by the outstanding example of these 5 families who said yes. They didn’t do it because they had some extra money in their bank account. They didn’t do it because it was a super convenient time to add a teenager into their life. And they didn’t do it because they have a huge home with tons of extra space. I am sure that the circumstances in their lives were most likely not perfect. But they did it because they have faith that if they step out and obey God, He will provide for them and lead them every step of the way. Their decision will certainly not come without sacrifice. Another reason why the take-up-your-cross verse I keep posting about applies yet again. Why? Because Jesus pre-empts that verse with this: DENY SELF (Luke 9:23).
You can follow one of the families that took in one of these students by clicking here.
Now, back to my selfish heart. The reasons I didn’t want to take in another host student at this time were all selfish. In fact, when I went through all my own excuses, I couldn’t think of one that wasn’t selfish. Someday I will get a break. And most likely, it will NOT come this side of heaven. For now God tells me the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few (Matthew 10:37). I know what work He has given to our family. Through the Holy Spirit God has made His word CLEAR. I read it, and I understand it. But will I do it? God has given me the attribute of being hospitable. I feel absolutely comfortable opening up my home to people. But it’s not easy. Some things about it are really hard. Will I let those things crowd out my talent? Will I squelch my talent when the opportunities come? Will I go and bury my talent like the servant in The Parable of Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) because I want a break from my work? Or will I remember who I am following? The One who gave HIS life, shed HIS blood, and died an UNDESERVED death for me.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Friday, August 27, 2010
(Thank you Gerlach family for purchasing all of the college necessities!)
Jake gives some last minute advice....
Oh, are you wondering why Peprah is still here?
I bet you can guess!
Ezekiel & Yaw college-bound
It's a long story, but Ezekiel is actually no longer going to Indian Hills. He is instead headed to Gillette with Yaw and was also offered a basketball scholarship there.
Oh the fun they will have!
Goodbye for now....and Godspeed.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
But eventually I chased her down!
Before Clip #1
Yes, I know I know. It’s about time we tamed the wild bird’s nest. And yesterday was the BIG day. I took her to my hairstylist, Miss Jill.
And Jayla was in serious mode.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
From the outside, it may appear that there is absolutely no reason why we haven’t received Samuel’s visa yet. But, behind the scenes, Jake and I feel that the reason we have not received it, is because God is still using Samuel to accomplish His work in Ghana. In fact, this has become quite clear to us over the past month or so. We’ve been in some meetings, trying to figure out where God is leading our family in all of this. And, more than a few times I have felt like God was sitting right there in one of the swivel chairs with us saying, “And this, I did this because of this…..and that, well that happened because I want you to do this.” In fact, our prayers at night have changed. A few months ago we were praying, “Please God, bring Samuel home.” Now we are praying, “Please God, keep using Samuel to advance your work. We know you will bring him home when you have accomplished what you needed to through him.”
That is a hard prayer to pray. In my own selfishness, I want Samuel to be home. But, I’ve come to realize that God has a much greater purpose in all of this. And as a follower of Christ, I am learning that I must be more concerned with God displaying His glory and getting His work done through our circumstances, rather than being so focused on my own desires.
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I am sure nothing looks too special about these moments to the outside eye. But inside of my spirit, every single one of my days is filled with joy because I get to be a mommy and live each day in these moments. Thank you Lord for this beautiful responsibility.
Monday, August 23, 2010
And so, Yaw is off to college this week! I can only imagine all of the new adventures just waiting there for him! So, Jake and I are 28 years old and sending our first kid off to college. :)
Also, I am still reminiscing about our time with Yaw’s family. Just have to share these pictures that my friend Stacy took. You can just see their beautiful spirits SHINING in these pics!
She even got an impromptu pic of me and my munchkins! JJ and Jayla were practically begging Stacy to take their picture and it wasn't even our photoshoot! When I schedule our family pics later this year they probably won't want anything to do with the camera!
And I love this one....Nana wanted a picture with the Huxley water tower! :)
Sunday, August 22, 2010
There are SO MANY.
Below is a link to a few waiting children in Ethiopia….waiting, meaning they are paper ready for adoption and waiting for a family to put aside their inhibitions and fears and uncertainties and financial worries and say YES to adoption. Link to waiting children: http://ordinaryheroblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/waiting-children.html
Also, in case you haven’t heard, there are MAJOR FINANCIAL BENEFITS to ADOPTING NOW! You can read about the new tax refund by clicking Here and Here. Or, just read the following paragraph if you want a quick synopsis of this AMAZING refund. I borrowed this segment off my friends' blog :
With the passing of the new Health Care Reform Bill, the government changed the adoption tax credit. The $13,170 is now FULLY REFUNDABLE (PER CHILD) the year after you finalize your adoption. This means the amount you get back is no longer dependent on how much money you paid in taxes. And there is no more 5-year window. The government will literally give you a check for $13,170 after you file your taxes the year after you finalize your adoption. If you adopt two kids, you will get $26,340 back. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!! And UNPRECENDENTED in the history of our country!! However, this new adoption tax refund is set to expire at the end of 2011 (it could be renewed, but there is no way of knowing if it will or not).
So, what are YOU waiting for?
Adoption is not just about couples who want children – or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself. ~Adopted for Life by Russell Moore~
Friday, August 20, 2010
My name is Pastor Randy Jaramillo and I am pioneering a church here in Accra. I am from the USA (Texas)...I have been playing basketball with your team and having a great time! I am here in Ghana trying to reach out to the communities to bring the Gospel to them. If there is anything I can do to help the team please let me know...I am here and available. I find playing with them a great opportunity to minister to them; in fact James came to church with me this morning. It almost seems that for most of these kids basketball is their only hope...they are good kids and God can do so much with them….
Exactly. Since this initial email, Jake and Pastor Randy have spoken every couple of days. There is MUCH Pastor Randy can help us with, and I believe God had him walking by the practice courts for a reason that day.
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 117)
Speakin’ of preachin’, Jake is going to be sportin’ the pulpit at Living Word Fellowship Church in Knoxville this Sunday! They’ve asked him to come share his testimony and also to talk about what God is doing with Kingdom Hoops in Ghana! He will be speaking for about 45 minutes. I know he’s got some awesome things to share. If you would like to come, church starts at 10am and it is located at 321 East Robinson Street in Knoxville.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to Yaw’s family. They will be heading to North Carolina for about 5 more days to visit Esi’s host family from when she was an exchange student in the 70’s. Jake and I both agree that it is going to be so strange not having them here. Our house has been bubbling with activity and rich conversation for the past 3 ½ weeks. We’ve laughed, cried, reminisced, prayed, and realized that God has so intricately woven our hearts together. The best part is knowing that this is actually not a real goodbye. It’s just good bye for now. Jake and I can’t seem to keep ourselves out of Ghana for even 6 months at a time, so I am sure we will be seeing them in a few months! Oh, and since everyone keeps asking us if we took them to the Iowa State Fair….the answer is OF COURSE!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Have you heard this saying before? I believe this saying derives from this verse:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
I think the verse is clear that when we find ourselves in situations in which we are tempted to sin, God will provide a way out.
However, I think oftentimes, this ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ saying gets thrown around as a sort of coverall for any and all situations. This saying has not become limited to only apply to situations of temptation (and I think the verse is clear that the context is temptation). But rather, it gets applied to everything….even trials, emotional pain, hardships, and suffering. And, I think in this regard, it has become a poor misinterpretation of scripture.
To say that God is always going to have us in situations that we ourselves can ‘handle’ is to me, not biblical. I am going through the Psalms right now, and the cries of distress that come in the Psalmists words illustrate desperate, unbearable adversity. For example Psalm 69 was written by King David. He says this of his situation:
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God…..
If left to himself and his own ability to handle this one, it doesn’t sound as if David is likely to make it.
Then I think of Jesus’ own words, which have played over and over in my mind the past few months:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34)
Do we understand that taking up our cross means we are ready to identify with and follow Jesus who carried his own cross to his undeserved crucifixion and death? Crucifixion. Death. Suffering. Discomfort. Unsafe situations. No easy way out. Hardship. What if we shouted up to Jesus while he was dying on the cross, “Don’t worry Jesus! God will never give you more than you can handle!” It sounds so foolish to even think that. So then why do we feed that line to each other?
The way I see it from examples in scripture, God is going to dish out situations to His followers that are completely beyond their own ability to handle. He does this NOT because He wants us to look inward and muster up some extra strength, and understanding, and wisdom to as the saying implies ‘handle the situation ourselves’. How will we ever learn that God is truly our Refuge (Psalm 91:2 ), Strength (Psalm 46:1), Shelter (Isaiah 25:4), and Trust (Psalm 40:4) if we are never in situations when we have to completely rely on Him to get through?
I think of my friends’ sister in the medical profession who was serving at a clinic in Africa and accidently contracted the HIV virus.
I think of a couple from my church who a few months ago held a funeral for their newborn baby boy who died less than a few hours into his life.
I think of the numerous couples in our Ghana adoption program who found out last week that the children they were set to adopt were taken back to their villages and were no longer available for adoption.
I think of our Pastor’s wife who offered forgiveness to the man who raped her while she was running on a park trail in high school.
As Christ-followers, we must be prepared to face situations that we are completely inadequate to handle. We are not exempt from extreme pain, suffering, tragedies, and impossibilities that will completely rock our world beyond what we can bear. God doesn’t promise us an easy, trouble-free life this side of heaven. But He does tell us that He will protect us and be with us in difficulties (Isaiah 43:2-5), and that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Through our suffering and trials we will learn that WE CAN’T HANDLE our burdens. But there is someone who can. And His presence in our life is the only refuge in which we can trust.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
His secret gum stash.
It must be genetic. Mommy hides her gum too. Because if you live in this house, your gum is not safe. And if you share a piece with one person, then you have to share a piece with EVERYONE.
You can call it selfish. But I call it smart.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I love the Vander Weide family. They have opened up their hearts to this boy that they haven’t even ever met. I pray that there are more Christians out there like them, that take Jesus at His word, and stand up and take action for the least of these….
When historians look back on us in one hundred years, what will they write about our nation of 340,000 Christian churches in the United States (by the way - that makes 155 million regular churchgoers)? What will they say of the Church’s response to the great challenges of our time – AIDS, poverty, hunger, terrorism, war? Will they say that these authentic Christians rose up courageously and responded to the tide of human suffering, that they rushed to the front lines to comfort the afflicted and to douse the flames of hatred? Will they write of an unprecedented outpouring of generosity to meet the urgent needs of the world’s poor? Will they speak of the moral leadership and compelling vision of our leaders? Will they write that this, the beginning of the twenty-first century, was the Church’s finest hour?
Or will they look back and see a Church too comfortable, insulated from the pain of the rest of the world, empty of compassion, and devoid of deeds? Will they write about a people who stood by and watched while a hundred million died of AIDS and fifty million children were orphaned, of Christians who lived in luxury and self-indulgence while millions died for lack of food and water? Will schoolchildren read in disgust about a Church that had the wealth to build great sanctuaries but lacked the will to build schools, hospitals, and clinics?
The gospel of Mark tells of a remarkable encounter between Jesus and a leper. In this brief story we get a glimpse of how God would have us approach the sick, the broken, and the downtrodden in our world. The leper was sick, and he was poor. He lived his life isolated from those who were whole. This man was marginalized, ostracized, devalued. Healthy people believed that those with leprosy were sinners, and their afflictions were a judgment from God. Yet, this man’s suffering and desperation compelled him. He came to Jesus “and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’” (Mark 1:40) The disciples were undoubtedly horrified as this unclean man approached their master. Any other rabbi would have been unwilling to become ceremonially defiled by any contact with a leper. But Jesus did the unthinkable to the untouchable: “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man” (Mark 1:41)
Did you catch that? Jesus’ heart was not filled with disgust, with fear, with hatred, with judgment, with indifference, with anger, or with condescension. Jesus was filled with compassion. “I am willing,” He answered the man. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:41) And the once-leprous man was cured.
If you are willing….This same petition hangs before every follower of Christ today.
Are we willing?
How will the Church of Jesus Christ respond to the “lepers” in our midst – the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, in our country and in our world? Are we, like Christ, willing to respond with compassion and urgency to those who suffer? Are we willing? Do we have the kind of faith, the moral courage, the depth of love, and the strength of will to rise up off of our padded pews to demonstrate the good news to the world?
(EXCERPT FROM THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL BY RICHARD STEARNS)
Friday, August 13, 2010
And, in case you are wondering what 11 year olds want to do for their birthday, well, the final decision has been contemplated for weeks! Sam was all across the board floating around ideas like going to Adventureland, The Lost Island Waterpark, Perfect Games in Ames, and some others. Then just a few days ago he decided that he wanted to have a big sleepover with all of his friends and teammates at the Kingdom Hoops gym. Perfect. It will be one last bash before school starts for Sam next week (can you believe school starts next week?!?!). We’re thinking pizzas, friends, and basketball – all night long. Can’t beat that!
Also, I wanted to share pictures from our Ghana Samuel’s birthday party that took place last weekend! Samuel is staying with Esi’s aunt while Esi and family are here in the U.S. Apparently Esi’s aunt is quite the baker, so she planned a little party for Samuel, complete with a birthday cake. In Ghana it is a treat to have Coco-cola and Fanta pop at your celebration, so you will see that Samuel got to have some at his party. Esi’s aunt invited some of the neighborhood boys, and she made a nice meal complete with chicken and jollof rice. I wish I could jump right into these pictures and be there. He needs a big hug from his mummy.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
She was saying how Samuel is a very good eater (not picky) and that he eats A LOT of food. One night during dinner Esi said she was joking with Samuel and how much food he was eating. She said, “You know, your American Dad, he is a good eater. But your American Mom, she eats real small amounts of food. If you go to America eating like this they will say ‘Why is this Ghanaian boy eating all of this food?’ She said they giggled about it and then Esi said, ‘Yes, if you go to America eating like this they will send you back to Ghana!’
And she said Samuel looked at her and said, “No, mum. They won’t send me back. When I go to America, I am going forever.”
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
And guess who gets to use her old camera (which has a few years logged on it but is still an upgrade from my little digital)? Yes, yours truly. Thanks mom! I am excited to finally have a camera that takes ACTION pictures! I am going to need it in this crazy house! :)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
That’s right, our first team member to play FOOTBALL! Wow, do we even know how to pronounce that word in this house? Well, ready or not Sam has started practicing with the Ballard Jets! I bet you are wondering how us hoopsters will turn out on the football field? Me too.
Monday, August 9, 2010
At the Vanderweide’s we played the game ‘A Minute to Win It’. Have you seen the game show? Well, basically we were separated into teams and we had a series of fun and crazy games that we did to get points! Oh man, we were all laughing so hard!!!!!!!
For the first game, you had a partner and one partner had to throw a ping pong into the cup strapped to the other partner’s head. You had to get 2 balls into the cup in 1 minute to get the points. Here is Yaw teamed up with his brother, Peprah.
JJ gives the game a shot with Daddy.
Even Esi tried it out!!!!!!!!!!!
The next game you had to stack 7 ding dongs on your head and balance them for 3 seconds to get the points! That is Sam's friend Tyran in the tank top, competing against Peprah.
Daddy was the first to get it done!
I didn’t even know this next game was possible! You had to stack 2 golf balls on top of each other and get them to balance on their own for 3 seconds!
And this last game, was hands down the most hilarious of them all! 1 person from each team had a pedometer strapped to their head, and they had to shake their head as much as they could in 1 minute to get the most ‘steps’ logged on the pedometer! The goal was 125 in a minute and most of the guys surpassed that! This video is hilarious! This is Jake, Yaw and Sam competing!
Of course Jayla had to try on Daddy's hat after he was done!
By the end of the night the guys struck up a hot game of ping pong. Apparently Nana was quite the ping pong player back in his day! He challenged Ezekiel to a game!
One of the Vanderweide’s daughters competes in dance and so she has a trunk full of old dance costumes that double as dress up clothes! I think Jayla tried them all on!
Snugglin with Auntie Stacy.
And you know what Jake and I did most of the night? This......
And it felt good!