Monday, January 31, 2011

Why We Are Selling Our House

The reason is simple: We’d rather invest in people than a house. With our current house payment we cannot do both long term. One of them has to go.

I didn’t always feel this way. Having a beautiful, model home used to be on my top 10 list of things that I desired for my life. When we moved into this home back in the fall of 2007 it was just Jake, I, and JJ - and little Jayla was on the way. When we built and purchased our house we crunched the numbers and we knew our lifestyle was going to have to change to be able to afford it….less eating out, less unnecessary purchases, etc. We were willing to make these changes so we could have this nice house. But we didn’t know what was coming.

Over the past two years as God brought additions into our family we began to see the value of helping people and investing in them. I learned that there is much more value in a 5 minute heart-to-heart talk with my kindergarten son who shares not one ounce of genes with me than in living on a golf course. I know that sounds like such a silly comparison, but that's really how I think about it now. God reminds me continually that my focus should be on eternity, not on the things of this world.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21)

Now I know what God was talking about.

As I pass by my front door throughout the day, that bright yellow and black for sale sign stands out in my view against the pure white snow. My selfishness is tempted to think of all that we are losing – a perfect location, friendly neighborhood and surroundings, comforts of a home we ourselves designed, the memories we’ve built here, and my mind could go on and on. But I am reminded that we aren’t doing this out of duty. God didn’t tell us to sell our house. We are doing it because there is VALUE in looking around at the faces in your household that are there only because of God’s sovereignty. There is VALUE in the process of God teaching you to have open hearts and open doors to allow outsiders to become family. There is VALUE in living a life that is sacrificial, that puts to death selfish desires for the sake of showing others the magnificent treasure of following after Jesus. We are doing it because there’s VALUE in serving the Lord. There’s VALUE even when it’s hard. Even when you give and give and give and get no immediate rewards and see no immediate fruit from your labor. There’s VALUE because you are becoming more like Christ. I don’t know what it’s like to die for another person. But I am starting to understand what it’s like to offer myself as a LIVING sacrifice for someone. And it’s worth it.

Yes our family is now half the size than it was even just 2 weeks ago. Yes the grocery bill will be smaller and yes we have an empty bedroom. But now I am not thinking about how I can decorate a guest room. Or how comfortable Grandma and Grandpa will be when they come for a visit. I am praying that God would bring someone else in. That God would use us to change someone else’s life. I have no idea where God will lead us from this point….I just know that my heart is now wide open to the possibilities of bringing more children into our home. We want to be in a position to freely say YES when there is a need and an opportunity for us to help someone who really needs it.…even if that means living in a home that is a little less glamorous. We are expectant that God will lead us to exactly where we are supposed to be when the time is right.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Story of Two Monks

“I need oil,” said an ancient monk, so he planted an olive sapling. “Lord,” he prayed, “it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers. “Lord,” prayed the monk, “my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray thee.” And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. “Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,” cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.

Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. “I, too, planted a little tree,” he said, “and see! It thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.’ "

~Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow~

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Before we adopted I felt like Jake and I sort of had a picture-perfect life. We had a little boy and a little girl, a beautiful house, money in the bank, Jake had a steady job, and I got to stay home with my loves which was something that had always been in my heart. Everything seemed so perfect. I enjoyed stability, control, and the peace of mind in laying my head down on my pillow at night feeling like everything was taken care of. I felt safe, secure, comfortable, and blessed.

Then Jake parted with his business partner and started his own basketball program/business.

Then we started the adoption process and watched our savings account go out the window.

Then we added a host student to our family.

Then we added Sam to our family.

Then one host student left and we added another.

Then we put our house up for sale.

Then our adoption finished out and Justice was here.

Somewhere in that jumble of events my bubble was popped burst smashed. I no longer felt control over….anything. My emotions were stretched to the limit, every day seemed like a crazy mess of sorting through schedules and who has what and trying to get kids to this event and that, I felt like I was on a roller coaster trying to attend to everyone’s emotions and need for attention. Every trip to the grocery store would give me a gut wrenching stomach ache as I wondered how much I would spend for a week’s worth of food. Every purchase had to be strategized and planned for. There were devotionals to plan, meals to cook, loads of laundry to do, homework to help with, heart-to-heart talks to be had, to-do lists racing through my head, children to train up, date-nights that needed to be planned out weeks in advance, quality alone time that I somehow needed to find with each of my kids, and many things that seemed so important had to be put on the back burner….like returning emails!

But through all of that, something wonderful happened. As hard as the last year was, as I reflect on all that God did in our lives through bringing outsiders in and making them part of our family, I can only smile and cry tears of joy. I can now see the pure growth that God did in me through that time. Last week I recalled when I blogged this. Most of the time it really did feel like I was running and not getting anywhere! But in my case, this ended up being a good type of getting no where. Because God had to teach me to give up control over my life. God had to wean me away from depending on my own means of gaining security, control, and stability in order for me to find that my security can only rest in Him alone. In Francis Chan’s book The Forgotten God he says this: From my own experience, I have felt closest to God when nearness to Him was a necessity. He goes on to say And like our Savior, who poured out His life and blood so we have reason to rejoice, we were made to lay down our lives and give until it hurts. We are most alive when we are loving and actively giving of ourselves because we were made to do these things. It is when we live like this that the Spirit of God moves and acts in and through us in ways that on our own we are not capable of.

The most alive. Yes, that’s how I feel about the last year. Physically I was exhausted. Mentally I often couldn’t even grasp what was going on most days. But spiritually, I was growing because I was forced to depend on God, moment by moment. And as many times as I desired to have my sense of control back, there was something so thrilling and peaceful about allowing God to write the story of my life instead of me. It’s funny how money, time and stability fade in value when you experience the fullness of investing in a human life. And funny how the values I wanted to teach my kids have been expressed and modeled better in a chaotic and sacrificial life than the stable and comfortable one I had longed to set up for them even before they were born.

The other day before Sam & Peprah had gone someone said to me, “I don’t know how you do it…keeping track of all these kids.” Immediately what came out of my mouth was “I don’t know either!” But I do know. Through the Holy Spirit, God has supernaturally given me the ability to serve the people that He has placed in my life. I wish I would have told that lady that it really has nothing to do with me and my ability. But it has everything to do with God’s power alive in me and working through me. I was not capable of doing any of those things on my own. I had to depend on God for everything. And I’ve grown closer to Him because of it. It seems that chapter in our life has closed now. But my heart is now OPEN to serving my God in this way….a year ago it wasn’t. And that’s what makes me cry out to God each morning in prayer saying “That was such a hard time in my life, but DO IT AGAIN LORD! DO IT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!” :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Peprah Update

At the end of December we received the news that the application for Peprah’s student visa was denied. Peprah had entered the United States in August on a visitor’s visa when he traveled here with the rest of his family for their 4 week visit. Since that time we had decided that our family could host Peprah as our next exchange student and tried to switch Peprah’s visitor’s visa to student visa status. To avoid the cost of flying him back home for Embassy appointments we had tried to do the switch on the United States side with the help of an immigrations laywer. However, the U.S. Embassy in Ghana did not allow this for Peprah and so he will have to start the process over in Ghana with face-to-face interviews at the Embassy. To make things more interesting SEVP (International Student and Exchange Visitor Program) is requiring that we go through a termination process of the first I-20 that was issued (an I-20 is the form issued by the school to start the student visa application – in Peprah’s case it was Des Moines Christian) before he can be issued a new I-20. So complicated. The down side is that none of this will be quick. The termination process itself takes some time, and we are very new at this so not exactly sure what all is involved.

Last week we had said goodbye to Sam on Monday evening. And then on Tuesday afternoon we said goodbye to Peprah as he boarded a flight back home to Ghana. With a visitor’s visa you can only be in the United States for 6 months. So, Peprah’s time on that visa would be up at the end of January which was why he had to return home for now. So, in a matter of two days our house had a completely different feel with the absence of Sam and Peprah. A friend texted me and said “no matter how big your family is, when even just one person is gone, you feel the emptiness”. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Last week the general routine of our days was so different. Everything felt strange and I felt so out of it. It’s going to take me some time to get used to 3 kids instead of 5.

As strange as everything felt last week I wasn’t fooled for a minute that this was some sort of coincidence that all this happened at once. I believe that one of the main ways God showcases His sovereignty is in the timing of events. I sure want to know what is coming next, but if I’ve learned anything over the past year it is that I can’t rush forward trying to stretch my glance to see what is ahead. I need to let God set the pace. All I can do is say “I trust you, Jesus. I give You my open mind and my open heart to infuse me with Your desires of what You want to do with my life. I am Yours. Lead me one step at a time as I learn to depend on You more and more.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bingo with a Zing!

The most popular game to ever hit the Sullivan household is....

Zingo!! It is just like Bingo, only it can be played by little kiddos too. The box says 4 and up, but Jayla LOVES this game, and so do the older kids! Each playing card has pictures on it…the dispenser kicks out chips with corresponding pictures….if a picture on your playing card matches the chip yell out what the picture is….be the first to do so and you win the chip. Be the first to fill up your entire card and you win the game! You can imagine this gets pretty heated when you have a bunch of people playing! I just had to blog about this one in case you love board games at your house like we do! It’s really perfect for the little ones.

Here’s a video of me and Jayla playing. We had just played a round before I videotaped this one so she had memorized the pictures on her old card so you’ll notice me saying ‘warning’. You get a warning if you yell out for a chip but you don’t have the matching picture on your card (if you get 3 warnings you have to remove a chip from your playing card). You’ll have fun listening to her chat along as we play. :)

One morning when I got back from taking Justice to school I walked in the house and found JJ and Jayla playing the game all by themselves! Jake was in the shower and they had gotten the game out, set it up, and were playing just like two little old people play cards! :)

So sweet!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Year of Memories

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

Dear Lord~

I pray that you would take the faith You have planted in Sam and multiply it. May the truth of Your Word be firmly established in his heart so that his faith will grow daily and navigate his life. Help him to trust You at all times as he looks to You for truth, guidance, and transformation into Your likeness. I know that trusting in You is a choice we make. Enable him to make that choice. I pray that he will look to You for everything, knowing that he is never without hope. I pray he will have faith strong enough to lift him above his circumstances and limitations and instill in him the confidence of knowing that everything will work together for good (Romans 8:28).

As he walks in faith, may he have Your heart of love that overflows to others, a heart that is willing to give of himself and his possessions so that others can experience Your light through him. May he see that giving out of love is actually giving back to You in faith and that he will never lose anything by doing so. I pray that he will share his faith to those around him, not only in words, but in actions. May the light inside him shine so brightly to everyone around that they can’t help but notice his faith, and give praise to God.


(prayer adapted from Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Simply Trust

Approach this day with awareness of who is boss. As you make plans for the day, remember that it is I who orchestrate the events of your life. On days when things go smoothly, according to your plans, you may be unaware of My sovereign Presence. On days when your plans are thwarted, be on the lookout for Me! I may be doing something important in your life, something quite different from what you expected. It is essential at such times to stay in communication with Me, accepting My way as better than yours. Don't try to figure out what is happening. Simply trust Me and thank Me in advance for the good that will come out of it all. I know the plans I have for you, and they are good. Isaiah 55:9-11, Jeremiah 29:11
~Jesus Calling by Sarah Young~

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Letting Go

A phone call. Shock. Tears. Long talks. Earnest prayers for a different outcome. The news sinks in. Wrestling with God. Truth. Promises. Hope. More tears. Heartache. Raw emotions. Yet peace in trusting in God’s timing.

Our last few days have been filled with these things as we received a phone call from Sam’s mom last week that she is ready to bring her son back home. To be honest, we all knew deep down in our hearts that this was going to eventually come. And I’ve dreaded it. But coming this soon, was quite a shock to us all, and Jake, Sam and I have experienced some real raw emotions over the past few days.

There are parts of me that understand this. But more parts of me are in deep anguish for the loss that I am feeling over this boy that God has taught me to love unconditionally. I understand a mother’s yearning inside her heart to be with and raise her son. I fully get that. But as I’ve processed my emotions over the past few days, my fears have been kicking in.

I think of all the progress he’s made here in his behavior and school and I fear it will all go down the drain when he gets back to his other life.

For almost a year now I’ve watched him develop a loving, selfless, appreciative demeanor and an awareness for others’ needs. And I fear he will be hardened once he goes back into that environment.

I’ve been reminiscing over these past few days of when Sam’s faith in Jesus was born inside of him a few months ago, and how I have been seeing the work of the Holy Spirit transform his life and give him an excitement in thirsting after the things of the Lord. I think of the open-hearted family devotionals we’ve had with him, of the youth pastor at our church who has invested in him, of the friends he’s made in our community who are also choosing to follow God’s path, of the long-deep talks he and Jake have had about spiritual maturity and using the gifts and talents God has given him to impact others…..and I fear that his foundation in Christ isn’t strong enough yet for him to walk this path in a completely different setting.

I fear that he’s not strong enough to stand against the peer pressure and lifestyles that the city life presents to young boys.

I fear the awaiting destruction of no good male role models.

I fear that the loving bond Sam has made with each of our children will be broken with him now living at a distance.

I fear the loss that I am already feeling in my heart. Because as much as I thought we were part of Sam’s God story, he is actually more a part of ours. When I look at Sam I see growth in my faith. I see the sweat and the tears and the frustrations of learning how to love someone no matter what they do or how they act. When I look at Sam I see a huge piece of my life that taught me how to put others first in a selfless love. And without him here, I fear a big piece of me will be gone.

And yet, as my mind swirls and swirls and swirls with these fears produced from my heartache, I hear God say to me There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. Who am I trusting in? Where there is fear and worry, then there is no trust in an Almighty God. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. God has assured me that He is living in Sam’s heart. And this peace is the only thing that can drive out my fears. God’s perfect love is the only strength, help and victory Sam needs to stand firm in His faith. He doesn’t need me or Jake. He doesn’t need a perfect environment. He just needs to continue trusting in his Savior. And so do I.

Sam’s question to us as we sat down and talked through all of this a few nights ago was “Why now? Why would God do this now when everything is going so good?” Jake’s answer was that God had given him an awesome year with our family to develop his faith and set a foundation. But now God was calling him out. Out of here, and into a place where he can have a huge impact for Christ. His impact here in little Huxley, Iowa would have been good. But the impact Sam could potentially have in inner-city Des Moines where there are not many young, African American role models following Jesus to look up to is going to be so much greater. And Sam will have the platform of sports which can be used as a huge platform for Christ in the inner-city. As I practically downed an entire toilet paper roll in my tears, Jake encouraged Sam that this was the same way as it was for the disciples in the Bible. They didn’t have a lengthy amount of years with Jesus. But they believed, they spent time with Jesus, and then Jesus left them by way of the cross. And Jesus’ final command to them after his resurrection was summed up in these two words: Now go. Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Jake encouraged Sam that God is ready to write his story….the book of Sam. We know that the story has actually already been started and has quite an exciting beginning, but where will it go from here? When the news hit, my maternal mind and heart quickly took me into worries and frets about Sam’s future….but then as people started praying for us, God’s promises to Sam became louder in my mind. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them (Isaiah 42:16). GOD WILL NOT FORSAKE HIM! For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). SAM’S CIRCUMSTANCES AND HIS SURROUNDINGS ARE NOT AN ACCIDENT! GOD HAS BIG PLANS FOR SAM’S LIFE! So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10) GOD IS SAM’S STRENGTH AND HELP AND GUIDE! And it’s only because of these truths that I can say to Sam - I am confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

As we’ve said our goodbyes to Sam over the past few days I’ve been reminded that God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect. And even though Sam’s circumstances and environment have changed in the blink of an eye, there is one thing that NEVER changes and is ALWAYS constant….and that is our Almighty God. No matter what trials lie ahead, God is with him.

Dear Sammy~
I hate that you have to leave us. Jake and I have grown to love you so much, and I am having a really hard time letting go of you. I am SO PROUD of the young man I have seen you grow into over the past year. Continue on in the one and only thing that really matters in life - loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. If you continue to seek Him, He will help you in every single way that you need.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9~

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Isaiah 1:17 Foundation Part 3 of 3

Have you looked up the Isaiah 1:17 verse yet? It reads:

Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

This name for our foundation came about because they would not allow us to use the word ‘kingdom’ in our foundation title when Esi went to register it in Ghana. We had wanted to use Kingdom Cares International since that is the name of our foundation here, but in Ghana they said there were too many foundations already started with the name ‘kingdom’ in them! From there Jake put me in charge of coming up with our new name for the Africa extension of Kingdom Cares International. As I prayed about it, I continued to be drawn back to that verse above….and now I think it perfectly embodies everything that we hope our foundation becomes to the people of Ghana.

So, the first project for the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation is going to be the completion of this foster care home that my last 2 posts have introduced. Originally we did play around with the idea of converting the home Esi and Nana had already begun constructing into the foster care home, but the general layout of the home didn’t seem to be fit for our purposes. Then on our last trip in September we viewed some land where we could start construction of the home from the ground up, but in the end this option fell through too. As Jake and the team headed out on this latest trip to Ghana, my main prayer was that God would really provide some guidance about this foster care home, and where it should be. And, He did. This will be our starting point:

Nana and Esi own this home and three other small identical homes next to it in a village far up in the Eastern region of Ghana. A village named Asikuma. This is the village that Nana is the chief of and the village that Jake and the team visited during their recent trip to Ghana.

Typical housing in Asikuma...

During Jake’s recent time in Ghana, it was decided that 3 of these 4 homes that Nana and Esi already own could be perfectly ‘fixed up’ into a functioning foster care home area. The next trip that Jake is planning to Ghana will consist of a team that will remodel these units. There is also a building behind the 4 homes that could be converted into a small medical clinic. The village has a traveling doctor that visits once every 7 days, and he needs a place to be able to see patients and house his medical supplies. When Jake talked with the elders of the village, the elders spoke of their need for a ‘library’ for their community. They said there is not a single book in their entire village. This has really intrigued me, because there is a school in this village that a few of the children attend. However, what I have gathered from Justice and other’s explanations is that school in Ghana is not what we view as school here. It is mostly instructional up on a chalkboard, and the children are to imitate what they are shown up on the board. In the small village schools, they learn a little math and a little English and are home from school by noon to do chores. All this to say, I can’t imagine sending my children to a school where there are no books. The library will be another great project for our foundation.

What this village does have is clean water.
The village sits right next to the Volta River which is their water source. They have 8 of these little wells throughout their village and make a profit off this water by selling it to neighboring villages who have no clean water.

So, as of right now, we really feel like God has clearly led us to this village of Asikuma for the housing of the foster care home. We have much planning and coordinating to do so that on our next trip to Ghana we can knock out some of the work to be done on these units to make them livable and functional. Of course there will be many updates to come as this all gets underway…

My personal hope is that the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation will also someday be able to also serve as a small adoption agency. I would love for our foundation to be able to identify the orphans in most need, and then place them with loving families. There is a lot that needs to be done to get headed into that direction, but I believe we’ve got a great start. We’ll see where God leads this all. And that is the scoop on the Isaiah 1:17 Foundation!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Isaiah 1:17 Foundation Part 2 of 3

For a few years Nana and Esi had wanted to start their own foundation in Ghana to give aid to orphans and the underprivileged. Eventually they did begin their foundation calling it The Siblings Foundation (this was a few years before we met them), and were approved for it in Ghana. In the profile for their foundation it is easy to see the heart of their hope for their efforts – Looking at the sharp disparity in social situations in our country where some people have so much and others virtually nothing, gave reason for us to help the less privileged who through no fault of theirs find themselves in such unfortunate social circumstances. We wish to inspire a world of peace and brotherliness where everyone is their brother’s keeper. Eventually though, Nana & Esi’s professions and busy lives got in the way, and they weren’t able to keep up with all that they had intended to accomplish with their foundation. But the desire to do something more for their country had been born in their heart.

Fast forward to that day in this conference room as we sat around the table and talked through the need for a safe, loving, environment for children in-process for adoption to be housed in Ghana…..and all of a sudden I could see the wheels turning in Esi’s head. And she began sharing what she was thinking….they had a home that they had begun construction on which was supposed to be where their family would move into within the next year. But she noted that over the course of a few months it could easily be converted into a foster care home, and she and Nana had many people who could be hired for staff members….a housemother, cook, nurse, etc. On that day, our hearts all meshed together, and we decided that Nana & Esi, and Jake & I would begin the plans to open a foster care home together in Ghana. It just made sense that we should combine our efforts, because we each brought different resources, yet similar hearts to the table. It was clear that through Justice’s circumstances, God had really brought the four of us together and we needed take the cue and follow His lead.

Starting an orphanage/foster care home had always been in our vision of what Jake and I had wanted to do in Ghana. You can read about our initial vision by clicking here. A few years ago we had originally thought that the foster care home/orphanage would likely be alongside the basketball facility we had also hoped to construct and later on purchased the land for. But for now the basketball component in Ghana seems to be taking off on its own as the result of figuring out the international hosting process. Eventually it would be wonderful to have our own facility in Ghana to train the athletes, but we believe God will provide the building funds and guidance for that when the time is right now that we have the land. For now, God is giving clear direction for setting up the foster care home first and I will share the rest of those details tomorrow.

I should also note that the remaining children in Justice’s old foster care home have finished out their time there…..a few of the children’s adoptions were finished up this fall and they are now home with their forever families. A few of the other children were returned to their home villages by the authority of the village chief who decided against having the children in his village adopted. For now Kofi has found a new foster mother in the town in which he is a chief of outside of Accra, and he is also in the works of building a new orphanage by his own efforts.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Isaiah 1:17 Foundation Part 1 of 3

A few days before Yaw’s family was set to visit us back in August 2010, we were finishing out the plans of where Justice would stay while they were here in the U.S. (because at that time Justice had been living with Yaw’s family in Ghana). For about 2 days time, we thought we were going to have to send Justice back to the foster care home he was at previously before we arranged his stay with Yaw’s family during our visa trip disaster in June. During these 2 days it seemed like the foster care home was going to be our only option, so Esi (Yaw’s mother) began preparing Justice to go back there. And that is when Justice began opening up to Esi, Peprah & Aku about abuse that he endured at the foster care home. He shared with them about details of physical abuse he received from both the foster mother and her biological (older) children living in the home, being forced to take part in child labor, and negligence of care in many ways – including receiving food.

During our trip in June 2010, we visited the foster care home the first day when we picked Justice up. From the outside, everything seemed fine. The foster mother seemed nice, she smiled a lot, and showed physical affection to Justice while we packed up his things. The older children that resided in the home seemed interested in us and Justice, and also flashed smiles and wanted pictures with all of us. You will recall that during this trip in June, Justice’s visa was not issued, and we had to come home without him. We left Ghana asking God why. Why, why, why? Why God did you have us go to Ghana to bring Justice home when you knew his visa was not going to be issued? But once all these details of abuse emerged, my questions about the purpose behind our June trip were finally answered. I believe God sent us to Ghana in June to get Samuel out of that foster care home, and into a safe and loving environment with Yaw’s family.

With Samuel’s descriptions of abuse, it was clear that the first thing that needed to be dealt with was the protection of the other children residing in the foster care home. However, there were a few issues that went along with this whole situation. There were accusations that Justice was lying about the abuse and negligence, as well as thoughts that the adverse treatment could have soley been limited to him because of his albinism. The other children in the home may have been cared for normally, but there was just no way to tell. The consensus among all those involved was that it was best to place the other children into different foster care, whether or not we had the clear answers to these issues.

Two days after the stories of the abuse surfaced, Esi and family were in our living room for their 3 week stay with us in August. From there we scheduled a time to meet with our case worker to talk through where the children left in the foster care home could possibly go once they were removed. And during this particular meeting, God showed up. It was as if God was sitting in one of those swivel chairs with us in the conference room. In my heart I already had the answer of why we traveled in June. But there was more to come. Through Justice, God had involved Nana & Esi in all of this. And there was a reason why….

I am trying to break this story up into readable parts, otherwise I think it will be too long for blogging purposes….so I will continue on tomorrow….

Monday, January 10, 2011

Another First for the Sullivan's!

Well, we have another first in the Sullivan household…..and it is this:

Yep, Justice is going to start taking martial arts classes! That picture just makes me chuckle because martial arts absolutely fits Justice’s personality so perfectly! No, the Sullivan’s don’t know anything about this sort of thing. In fact I can’t even tell you the difference between karate, judo, tae kwon do, kung fu, and hapkido or any of the other combat trainings. But I do know this: there are some great disciplines that these classes teach. Respect and obedience to authority, decrease in self-centeredness and increase in the awareness of others, integrity, confidence, leadership, and self-control are just the beginning of the values that are integrated into the training for these classes. A few months ago, Jake asked Justice what sport he wanted to learn here in the U.S. And Justice’s answer was: “I want to learn how to fight.” From that day on I’ve taken note of the way Justice has been wired as a fighter….emotionally and physically. There are so many things I’ve noticed….for instance, one morning we were all in the hotel during a tournament. I was getting ready in the bathroom and Justice and JJ were manning the tv. As they were flipping through the channels Justice came across a boxing match and his mind and emotions were captured….this was the first time he had ever seen boxing. As the men swung punches at each other and fought with all their hearts I observed Justice yelling at the tv saying, “Boom! Pow! YEAH! GET ‘EM! Shoot him!”….all the while punching the air along with the boxers. And sitting next to Justice was JJ, also observing boxing for the first time, and I kid you not, all JJ could mutter was, “Oh my.” What a contrast between these two boys! That was the point when my mind really started keeping track of the yearning inside Justice to ‘fight’. My gut feeling all along has been that this yearning is more of a desire for self-defense. With Justice’s circumstances in Ghana, I believe there were many times when knowing how to ‘fight’ would have come in handy for him. I am positive that he is still carrying around some of that emotion and helplessness, and I believe that is what really causes him to find enjoyment in picturing himself with not only the ability to fight, but also with super-human powers. There are many other instances that have solidified this idea in my mind…..

-When I observed the way Justice physically embodied himself into the main character of The Karate Kid movie during the bullying and fighting scenes.

-His choice for his Halloween costume (a ninja) and seeing his excitement when he first put it on and went out to the edge of the driveway and practiced ninja moves for almost an hour straight with his plastic swords.

-His fascination with the Airbender movie and the parts when the main character showcases extreme power with air and water. His comments during these scenes are always, “How can a small boy have all that much power? How can such a small boy do that?” This movie has given us great opportunities to talk about how God is the only one in the whole world who has that kind of power. I've realized that Justice hasn't quite been able to decipher what is real and what is acting. He doesn't yet understand that the movies he watches aren't really happening somewhere in the world.

-The day they had an elephant sale (which is sort of like a garage sale) at school and he came home with $5 worth of plastic superheros which have become his prized possessions that he goes to battle with on the living room floor.

-His instinct to hit or punch is the first that comes out when someone is being sarcastic with him, has made fun of him, or says something he doesn’t like.

-Waking up early (5:30am) to be able to watch the Avatar cartoon (I obviously put an end to this)

-Justice also has a general fixation with unrealistic super-powers, magic, and fighting power. He speaks a lot of magic and has a desire to be able to have super-powers. As a believer in Jesus, I know that God clearly forbids the occult, black magic, and sorcery (Deut 18:9-13, Acts 16:16-19). I also know that once someone starts dabbling in these areas, it is easy to become obsessed because of Satan’s power in using them for evil. This is a major reason why I want Justice to learn to funnel his passion for powers and strength into something productive and positive, and I believe the martial arts studio we have chosen is in line with this ( Much of this has also been a good lesson for me in monitoring the types of shows/cartoons that my children watch....a lot of this fixation has expressed itself through movies and cartoons.

I know the tendency is to just chalk each of these instances up to ‘being a boy’, but with Justice’s background, I feel that this goes much deeper than that. On New Years Eve I took the munchkins to ImaginEve at HyVee Hall. One of the shows up on stage was students from Farrell’s Martial Arts. We walked over to the stage area to watch the show, and towards the middle of their performance the teacher asked for 10 volunteers. I urged Justice to raise his hand, and he did, although he didn’t know what he was volunteering for. And wouldn’t you know it, Justice was the last volunteer picked to go up on stage to participate in what ended up being some cool karate techniques and trainings. For 10 minutes the instructor took the volunteers through a range of different moves and taught them the values of respect and self-control. In the midst of inflatable toys, kids screaming at their parents, babies crying, and JJ tugging on my hand to head over to another ride, my eyes actually filled with tears because all I could see was the determination and focus on Justice’s face. He maneuvered his body perfectly into all of the moves choreographed by the instructor. I had never seen him so intent on doing something exactly right before….not until those moments up there on stage. After that I felt like I had gotten my cue that we needed to put the basketball to the side for some time and start looking into martial arts classes.

So, I’ll have to keep you updated on how it goes….I could totally see Justice as a martial arts ‘master’ someday….teaching other little girls and boys how to ‘fight’. :) Time will tell. :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ghana Trip Pictures

Well, I don’t get to share any fun stories from this trip, but I did grab some pictures from my mom since Jake didn’t bring a camera along. My mom is going to be blogging about the full experience starting on Monday and I can’t wait to tune in! Here are a few ‘telling’ pictures that I enjoyed that went along with Jake’s journal entries which I posted previously…..I intended on picking only 10 out of the 630 my mom uploaded to her picasa album, but I think I wound up with 20 or so on here because they were all so good! I just couldn't narrow it down! There are many stories that go behind each of these pictures so you will have to check out my mom's blog next week to hear more of the trip details. Her blog is:

The Isaiah 1:17 Launch. I will be blogging about our Isaiah 1:17 Foundation beginning next week. Check out Esi's beautiful handiwork with the decorations and fabric....I told you she was good at this!

Jake's speaks to the teams that participated in the first Kingdom Hoops Ghana basketball tournament. Kingdom Hoops lost in the championship game by 1 point to Galaxy Academy.

Basketball camp in Cape Coast. That is Grace Vanderweide there in the orange demonstrating footwork for the lay up drill. Can you imagine the experience she had? She is on Jake's 8th grade girls Kingdom Hoops team and is from West Des Moines.

Shoes not required.....

While Jake ran the basketball camp sessions, Doug and Dawn Vanderweide and my mom held a bible study and worship time with the kids and their parents who had finished their camp session.

Cape Coast

My mom pictured with 2 Cape Coast girls - one is selling water, the other is selling plantain chips.

Jake getting ready for one of his TV interviews....he looks like has done this before! :)

On the beach near Esi's house during New Year's.

The team got to take a day and travel to Nana's village (Esi's husband) in the eastern region of Ghana where he is a chief. Other than visiting Justice's village, I have not gotten to experience village life, so I was very jealous of this awesome experience that they had!

Jake got to speak to the elder's of Nana's village. Jake had A LOT of impromptu speaking opportunities on this trip, but luckily those types of situations are right up his alley!

My mom hands out gifts and candy to the village kids.

Dawn Vanderweide hands out some food.

You may recall that the Vanderweide family was going to be Prince's host family here in the U.S. upon getting his student visa. It was so great for them to finally meet this young boy who has a special place in their hearts. Here is Prince showing the Vanderweide's son, J.D., the bed where he sleeps in his house.

Prince's house is set in a type of cul de sac.

These pictures brought me to tears when I first saw them....that is J.D. there on the far right....Prince's team let him suit up for their soccer match. I cannot imagine the memories that J.D. will have in his heart of what he got to experience in Ghana.

On our last trip in September Jake gave Prince's soccer coach 250 Ghana cedis (equivalent to about $200 U.S. dollars) to purchase uniforms for their soccer team and this is the result.....looking sharp boys!!!!!!!!!!!

A lady making banku....

Doug Vanderweide tries it out!

They got to experience so many awesome things!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!