Monday, October 31, 2011

Kingdom Hoops Season Kick-off & Fundraising Event

On Friday night we held our first-ever Kingdom Hoops Kick-off event which also doubled as an in-house fundraiser! It was a major hit! A few of our Kingdom Cares International board members organized the entire night which included shooting contests to raise money - half-court shot, hot shot, and a free-throw contest against Jake in which players had gathered pledges the past few months. The player who raised the most pledges won an IPAD2! There were also raffles, teambuilding activities like team-knockout, unveiling of the new uniforms designed by one of the players (Brady Elder), unveiling of the Kingdom Hoops spirit wear website via partnership with Sports Page (go to, click on team, then select Kingdom Hoops to order), team pictures, shirt order fundraiser, and a chunk of time for Jake to share his vision for the 2011-2012 season in addition to briefing the parents and players on our Ghana projects. The entire night was set to the back-drop of a dj who played all the latest hits, and there was lots of dancing going on! These kids may be basketball players, but they’ve got some mad dancing skills too! There was also a special surprise for the night that we knew the kids would love…..we got a fog machine and balloon arch and had the dj announce each player and team individually, just like they do in the NBA all-star game! You can imagine how much fun they had with it!

All in all the event cost us about $1500 to put on, but we raised a smidge over $12,000 (and that doesn’t even include the money we will make on the shirt orders that were also a huge hit)!!!!! Not too shabby for the first ever in-house fundraiser! This event kicks off the season for the 3rd through 8th grade teams as the high schoolers will be tied up with their school teams through March. Some of the high-schoolers that were at the event for their younger siblings were begging Jake to hold the kick-off event for their teams come spring!

I was busy gabbing most of the night so I got off track on capturing all the moments I had hoped to, but here are a few!

Some of the players show off the new uniforms and Jake & Alex sport the shirt we are selling as a fundraiser.

My kids and our Rosebud girls had SO MUCH fun hanging with friends and dancing!

Half-court shot contest......

The fog machine............................................................

I grabbed a cute video of Justice being announced with his team (he's playing with the 3rd grade boys this year). :)

Raquel Dickerson, player on the 7th grade girl's team, raised the most pledges for the free-throw fundraiser coming in at $1309! In the week leading up to the event all the players who participated in gathering pledges got to have a shoot out for the chance to take Jake on in one minute of free-throw shooting at the event. Lauren Riggs (pictured below), 7th grade girls team, and Collin Lister, 5th grade boys team, made the most free-throws in the team shootout and got to take on Jake. In one minute Lauren made 16 free-throws, but she couldn't catch Jake who made 24 free-throws! Collin came so close, making 21 free-throws, but Jake edged him out by making 22 free-throws. :) This part of the night was a fan favorite!!!!!

3rd through 8th grade boys and girls teams...................

So our first kick-off event/fundraiser was a definite success, and I only see this getting better and better each year!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I'll Be Thinking About Them All Day!!!!

Around 2pm today our friends, The Lee’s, will get to start the next chapter in their adoption journey…..THEIR THREE KIDS WILL BE ON U.S. SOIL – finally! Jason & Jen will be meeting their kids for the first time this afternoon as their kids are escorted to the Chicago aiport by chaperones from their birthcountry. As our friends started their international adoption from C-country in Africa last year, Jake and I have ridden along their roller coaster ride of highs and lows, with the excitement building the past 4 weeks as we knew this day was getting closer and closer. All morning long my tummy has been turning in excitement, trying to picture what those first moments will be like as Jason & Jen get to meet and hug Zahra, Zoe, & Isaiah for the very first time this afternoon. This never gets old to me. It’s just so amazing to me that God had these children picked out for our friends all the way across the world….and now they are in the sky and on their way! You will definitely want to follow along this family’s journey as they enter this new phase of life post-homecoming. Jen is extremely prepared for the challenges that lay ahead and any adoptive mom will be encouraged by the information, resources, and insights that she shares on their family blog. Make sure to check out this post especially…..

Rejoicing with our friends today that God sets orphans in families! I know He will be glorified many times over through this family’s adoption!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ABC 20/20 Documentary: Children of the Plains

When this documentary aired on ABC a few weeks ago Jake and I made it a point to sit down and watch it. It was so extremely insightful to many of the how’s and why’s running through our minds the past few months as we’ve started on this journey of hosting our girls from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It answered a lot of our questions, and also brought up more questions that perhaps we will be able to shed light on as we continue with our hosting experience. This documentary was filmed at Pine Ridge, a neighboring reservation to Rosebud in South Dakota. Our church’s hosting program currently has 12 students from Rosebud, and 1 student from Pine Ridge. This documentary is about 40 minutes long, but definitely gives a vivid and honest glimpse into the culture, family dynamics, and living conditions on ‘the rez’. You can watch the full documentary here:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Her Eyes

A conversation with Jayla after watching a medical segment on the nightly news ~

Jayla: “Mommy, why do we have blood in our bodies?”
Me: “Because that’s how God made us.”
Jayla: “How did He make all these things?”
Me: “He just spoke and it happened.”
Jayla: “You mean, did He have a magic wand?”
Me: “Nope, He just had to say it – like ‘Let there be light’ and then the sun came out. That’s how powerful He is.”
Jayla: ……thinking…...“Did He have to go like this (flexing her muscles)?”
Me: “Nope. He just had to speak things into existence and then they happened.”
Jayla: “Oh....”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Visiting Yaw

Jake had the opportunity to be the speaker for a men’s conference at Morningside Lutheran Church in Sioux City this weekend. Yaw (our first ever host student from Ghana) is at Dordt College in Sioux Center about a 45 minute drive from where we were, so we swung by to see him Sunday afternoon!

He showed us around campus...

And we loaded him up with some goodies - college style!

We checked out his dorm room where he and his 6'5" roommate squeeze into their loft beds! I laugh just thinking about it! Yaw got us each a crisp new Dordt College t-shirt!

And of course Yaw wanted to show Jake the gymnasium where he will play all his games. We hope to make it up to a game before Christmas!

According to Yaw….

-The dorm food is bad (in fact he is the only one I know who has gone off to college and gotten skinnier!)
-His classes are good, and his teachers are very nice (he’s majoring in business).
-There is one other guy on campus from Ghana!
-No one can pronounce his name there – they call him Ya without the ‘w’. He said they just can’t seem to catch onto his name!
-He walks to church and catches rides to the store.
-His basketball team is picked to finish second in their conference heading into the season. Jake predicts that they will make a run for the NAIA Division II title this year!
-He and Ezekiel (who is back at Gillette College) talk every day.
-He won’t be home for Thanksgiving because of practices and a tournament, but he’ll be home for Christmas!

We are REALLY missing Yaw! Especially, you-know-who!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Days Like This

Hosting these students has been the hardest thing I have ever been a part of. Emotionally, spiritually, physically I feel that we have been pouring our lives into them….only to see no fruit, hard hearts, more deceit, manipulations, and walls knocked down and then built up higher. There are many days when my head spins and spins trying to figure out how to climb out of their circles of lies and double-mindedness. There are many nights when I can’t sleep because my mind is filled with stress over their ways and my responses. I am easily fooled into their traps. I can’t decipher what is genuine and what is not. My spirit wars against so much of theirs. There are days when I sincerely from the bottom of my heart want to beg and plead with them to repent and change their ways. There are other days when I give up and wonder when the path of destruction they’ve chosen will catch up with them.

I could write 10 more pages on how drained, confused, lacking, defeated I feel in these moments. BUT, I would rather sing of God and how He is meeting me right where I am in this mess of broken, rebellious lives intertwined with ours. In the midst of days like this, I feel God’s presence so strongly. My heart wants to shout all day long about how good He is. I feel His light penetrating the darkness that we have opened up our home to. It is a mystery to me of how I can feel so depleted with these circumstances and yet so alive and satisfied in my soul at the same time.

The past few days I have been asking the Lord how He would encourage me to press on. He answered in a whisper. This is only a season. Only a season in a lifetime of moments. In the big picture this is such a small, small clip of days. This won’t last forever. I know that if I was in my right mind I would run in the opposite direction of them and their lives. But He reminds me daily that I am not in my right mind. I have a new mind in Christ. And because of Him I take another step closer to them.

This morning as I sat before the Lord I felt my heart turn to the Psalms. So, I flipped through them knowing that God was trying to point me to one. And I found it. I hope it encourages you today too, whatever season of life you find yourself in.

Psalm 63A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Because He is Daddy

Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.
~Author Unknown~

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Would A Loving God Send People to Hell?

Because He is just.

Imagine for a moment that you find yourself in a court room, observing the trial of a man who abducted, raped, and murdered a young child who lived next door to you (I am using this scenario because I think we would all agree that this man had committed horrendous sin). Now, what if the judge announced his ruling by looking the offender and murderer in the eye and saying, “You are free to go, just don’t do this again.” How would that sit with you?

I am guessing it would make you absolutely sick. In fact, our hearts would scream out for justice….that the convicted rapist and murderer would receive punishment for his crime, and would never be let out for fear that he would do the crime again. It just wouldn’t be right that someone who did something so awful would not have to be punished.

Now picture God as the judge. If we served a heartless, unaffected god that appeared to be an emotionless robot like the judge in the above scenario can you see how utterly frightening that would be? But we don’t. Rather scripture tells us that the Lord feels emotions! For example He is compassionate, He is tender, and He feels anger when He sees injustice. Furthermore, the Bible tells us that God grieves over our sins…

Genesis 6:5-6
The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

Our sin affects God. So much so that the Bible tells us our sin separates us from Him (Romans 3:23) in the form of a spiritual death sentence (Romans 6:23). It has to be this way because sin cannot be in the presence of a holy God. Sin must be cast out of heaven, and no sin can enter heaven (Revelations 21:27).

By now you might be thinking as I used to - Wait a minute, wait minute I haven’t done anything that bad….I haven’t murdered anyone for goodness sakes! But the Bible tells us we are all sinners (1 John 1:8). Have you ever lied? Then you’ve sinned (Romans 3:9-13). Have you ever participated in wild living and drunkenness? Then you’ve sinned (Galatians 5:19-21). This poses quite a problem for us. In our sinful humanness we find ourselves facing a death sentence, awaiting punishment.

But because God IS LOVING (John 3:16) He did something unheard of. Something crazy. Something that has dumbfounded scholars and theologians and kings and the entire human race for years. He sent His very own Son into the world to die a criminal’s death IN OUR PLACE. God’s Son, Jesus, took the punishment WE deserve for OUR sin, so that we don’t have to serve our spiritual death sentence ~ hell.

Romans 3:25-26
God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Sin cannot go unpunished. And God is just. But God is also loving. So He sent His Son to take the punishment for us. Justice AND love. Justice AND love. Justice AND love.

The Bible tells us that if we reject Jesus Christ, then we reject the payment for our sin (Hebrews 10:26). Which means that on our own judgement day (2 Corinthians 5:10) our sin will stand. It will condemn us (John 3:18). And we ourselves will have to pay. In hell. Forever.

Does God want people to go to hell? No. The very evidence of that is Jesus.

Will hell be a buddy-buddy party and celebration of moral badness and rebellion? No. The Bible speaks of being thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, and of being tormented day and night forever and ever. It will be a place of sorrow, devoid of happiness. The Scriptures talk of worms (literally maggots), of an intense darkness, of people weeping and gnashing their teeth in extreme anguish, of being parched with thirst, and of remembering this life and of wishing for no one to join them. It’s a place of lonely suffering (The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, pg 68).

The truth is that our loving God made a way for us to be saved from this eternal destruction - hell. His name is Jesus, and He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and to heaven itself (1 John 5:11-12).

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
~Isaiah 53:5-6~

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jake's Testimony

Jake sent the following out to his Kindgom Hoops program this week, and I wanted to share it on the blog as well...

A couple of weeks ago I had a parent within the program call me up to do lunch. I was assuming this individual wanted to talk about his kids, especially since they are new to the program. However, I got a cool surprise. His first question for me that day at lunch was that he wanted to know ‘my story’ - or in more 2011 Christian language ‘my testimony’! It was a great lunch, and it was fun to share the journey God has had me on the past eight years. As I hopped back into my car that afternoon it dawned on me that I have never shared my God story with the program. My initial thought was how can I expect people to understand what we are doing as an organization if they don’t even know how this all started in my life. So, this week I have decided to share my testimony. Please note this is the abbreviated version. If I went into all the details this 'thought for the week' would be 30 pages long. I will do my best to keep it short and as concise as possible.

My journey to Christ started in college at Iowa State as God began to remove the things from my life that I had clung to deeply for so long. As I was losing so much that I had held dear, God began to bring people into my life that would show me a different purpose for living.

Over the course of the first 20+ years of my life I had created a god that was centered around me and basketball. I never really understood that while pursuing my dreams. I figured I was just pursuing a goal that I was extremely passionate about. The more success that I garnered on the basketball court the greater my desire grew for the status and recognition that came along with my success. I never understood that I had any platform greater than myself. Of course I did a lot of nice things for other people, and always had a passion for young people, but when you got down to the core of it, all of my nice actions were really to benefit me.

My college basketball career began similar to all that I had known in the past. I committed myself to being successful more than anyone else around me. Through all my hard work (or so I thought) I continued receiving as much praise and admiration as I did in junior high and high school. Then it all changed one July day in Norway. I was traveling in the summer of 2002 with the Big 12 all-star team overseas for a couple of weeks while we competed against international competition. I was playing the best basketball of my life, and without question was having the most fun I had ever had playing basketball. During the prior six months I had committed myself to losing 30 pounds, and I was beginning to see the aspirations of playing in the NBA just outside the reach of my finger-tips. It was our 2nd to last game during the tour, and during the last minute of the game I rolled my ankle pretty badly. I probably should not have played in the final game, but I said what the heck! I got it taped up and took some serious pain medication. During that final game I was 7 for 7 from the three point line in the first half, and with the adrenaline and pain medication I had forgotten about my ankle.

Then in the second half I felt something different. I could never accurately describe it, but I was pretty sure I tore whatever you can tear in your ankle. When I got back on the bus that evening I discovered that I could pop my ankle in and out of its socket. It was quite painful to do it, and I thought to myself that this can’t be normal. A few days later I returned to Iowa State and went immediately to the athletic medical staff. Within a couple of hours of bringing this to their attention I was in a tube getting an MRI. The results came back, and it showed no structural damage. They could not see anything wrong, and they thought it was just all the swelling from the sprain, and I was told it would be better in a couple of weeks.

As my junior season began in 2002 I definitely knew something was wrong with my ankle. At the same time that I was struggling with this injury God was putting people in my life that would eventually lead me towards Christ. Obviously, I had no idea that was what was going on, but as I look back on it I now I can see what God was up to. We had this manager on staff named Dave Edwards that gave me a Bible, and told me to read the book of James as it would help me deal with Coach Eustachy. A year and half earlier I started dating a pretty good looking girl, and she started to attend something called Salt Company at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. I thought it would be a good idea to attend if she was ever seriously going to date me! (This good looking girl later became my wife). On the basketball court everything looked great from the outside, but the reality of the situation was much different. I was taking anywhere from 4-6 vicodin pills per/day, and was getting shot up before every game. My ankle would dislocate 4 or 5 times per/game. I would bend over pop it back into place and keep playing. It helped that I was so drugged up that I really could not feel it anyways.

After the season was over I was in for another MRI, but again nothing. But, the doctors could now clearly see how easily I could pop my ankle in and out, so they decided to cut me open and see what was going on. To make a long story short my ankle was shredded into little pieces. The doctors went in a couple times to insert screws, repair tendons, and shave down bone. I rehabbed as hard as I could, but as I slowly returned for my senior year I knew this journey was coming to end. It is also important to mention that during all of this my head coach Larry Eustachy was in the middle of a huge scandal after a poor decision at the University of Missouri. The media was everywhere, I had a cast up to my knee for three months, and soon the guy who was responsible for bringing me to Iowa State was now resigning. Teammates were transferring and a new staff was being brought in. My previous best friend had transferred to Mississippi State a year earlier, and now my new best friend was transferring to Iowa. In the midst of all the chaos, God had started to reveal himself to me. I slowly began to understand the realization of what Christ did for me and all my sin on the cross. In September 2003 I surrendered my life to Christ and God started me on an incredible journey.

My basketball career ended at Madison Square Garden in the final four of the NIT in March of 2004. All those hours of hard work were now a distant memory. All the trials and tribulations on the basketball court were over. All the things I accomplished did not really matter any longer. Cyclone Nation was on to the new recruits and the new players that would continue Hilton Magic. Within a blink of an eye it was all over. A couple months after that last game in NYC I got married to the girl I dated all through college. I began to grow in my understanding of the Bible. I was now doing what good American Christians do! I was going to church every Sunday, I was actively a part of a young married couple’s bible study every Wednesday night, and yes I would grudgingly open my Bible on occasion to read it. My life had gone from a great adventure on the basketball court, to something that was simple, quiet, and in my mind pretty boring. During the start of this new life I had the opportunity to start All Iowa Attack alongside a successful Ames businessman, and soon found myself living a rather cushy life for being 25 years old. I was working for a successful business man, I had very little expenses, and I was making more money than anyone else my age that I knew of with the exception of my friends that went on to play professionally.

However, I was so BORED. In 2008 I was up visiting my parents over Labor Day. JJ was now 2 years old, and my wife and I had just had Jayla who was about 3 months old at the time. We had spent the morning and early afternoon on Saturday 2008 of Labor Day Weekend at the Minnesota State Fair. When we arrived back at my parents’ house everyone headed to take a nap. I was left alone to my thoughts in the basement that I grew up in. I had really been wrestling with this boredom in my life. I was used to playing in front of 15,000 people in Hilton Coliseum. I was used to a life that was always centered around goals that everyone always told me I would never accomplish. My basketball career had taken me to over half of the states in the United States, and handful of different countries. I missed the locker room. I missed my teammates. I missed the adventure of being an athlete. And, anyone who has had the opportunity to compete in athletics at a very high level will know exactly what I am talking about.

Now I was living a quiet life, coaching young people, in Ames, Iowa. I knew I was going to heaven, and I knew Jesus died for me. I was very grateful for this realization, but no matter how you slice the bread it was boring. So, with all of this swirling in my head all I really knew how do was just to tell God. I was pretty sure that I would totally offend him, but what the heck he might just answer my prayers. He always had answered my prayers from the first time I got to know him in 2003, so I thought that just maybe He would want to listen to me again. That September day in 2008 I got down on my knees and simply cried out to God. I told him how bored I was, and if there was more to this Christ thing than just going to church on Sunday, doing a bible study, and one day entering eternal life. I asked Him to show me what I was missing. Then as I closed out my prayer I told God that if there isn’t more to this journey with Christ on earth to just please take me to heaven now, otherwise I was going to drive myself nuts due to the shear boredom of my life since basketball had come to an end.

I finished crying out to God, and I wasn’t sure if He was even listening. About an hour later I got a text from a man in our church asking if I wanted to join his men’s group. I texted him back asking what time and when? He said, “6am, Thursday mornings.” For anyone that knows me I don’t do mornings. Usually I don’t go to sleep until 1 or 2am, so 6am just does not work in my schedule. Plus I suffer from something called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which I will share more about another week, but the less you sleep the more the symptoms of OCD manifest themselves. I quickly texted him back and said, “Maybe some other point in my life, but not now.” I wish I could say that was the end of the story. However, God bugged me about it all day, and the next morning for some reason I texted him back and said that I had changed my mind and I would see him Thursday morning. From this point on God began to show me that there is so much more to a life that is fully dedicated to Christ, but this did not get revealed overnight.

In our men’s group we were studying through the book of Isaiah. Most of our topic was that as men God has called us for a particular purpose, and we can either choose to join him or not. But, regardless of what we decide God’s purpose would be accomplished, so we might as well jump on his team and join in on the adventure.

Two weeks after starting this men’s group my wife and I are attending our Sunday church service when about 20 minutes into service she begins to cry uncontrollably. As any husband would do, I replayed every action that I had made in the past 24 hours that could have caused this anguish. I was sure I had done something wrong, but I was having trouble putting my finger on exactly what it was. Janel excused herself to the restroom, and came back about 10 minutes later. We made it through the rest of the service, and soon we were heading to the car with the kiddos in hand. During this walk to the car it seemed like the car was miles away. I had a huge knot in my stomach, as I was sure she was going to inform me of what exactly I had done wrong. Well, what comes out of her mouth next is not what I was expecting. Janel says, “I am pretty sure that God wants us to adopt, and when they were showing the video of the orphanage in Zambia it was like God was speaking directly to me.” I opened my car door and under my breath I said to God, “Thank you Lord that it was you and not me.” I then turned to my wife and said, “Sure that would be a lot of fun.” If only I knew what God was going to begin in our life.

About two weeks after my wife and I had officially decided we were going to adopt I got a knock on my office door, and it was the business man I worked for with All Iowa Attack. He informed me that he was selling the All Iowa Attack facility, and that I would need to find a place for our boys’ teams to practice as he could not have all those boys at his home gym practicing throughout the winter. I thought somebody had just punched me the face, and I looked up and said, “Seriously?” Oh, he was serious and I started looking for options. As I am out searching for options God is moving our adoption along. God was developing a strong passion inside of me to ensure that our adopted child would always understand where they came from. I wanted our yet to be named child to understand that God had simply allowed them to be adopted by a family from the United States, but they were not just escaping their country. Instead, I wanted them to always have a responsibility to make an impact in the place that God would call them from. With these thoughts swirling around in my head and some money saved up from individual training that I had been doing, I decided to start a 501C3 foundation called Kingdom Hoops. I had no business plan, and no idea why I was really starting this foundation, but I thought to myself if I ever needed it at least I would have it.

Before I could blink it was the spring of 2009. Our boys’ teams were now practicing at a facility in Ankeny. I had a foundation all set up, and was headed to Africa for the first time ever with no plan, and no idea what I was actually doing. In May of 2009 my All Iowa Attack partner and I decided to go different directions which removed me from the comfort of his umbrella. Our first adoption attempt had fallen through and cost us an enormous chunk of money in fees that we could not recoup, and we were choosing to start the process all over.

The rest is really history filled with a million different God stories along the way. God forever changed my life in 2008, and I will most definitely never be the same. In it all I became a believer in 2004, but God truly took my life from me in 2008. He continues to grow me, and challenge me daily. I have been in a place the past 18 months where I have nearly lost everything. There is no money any longer in my savings and retirement accounts. Most of my life makes little sense to the world. However, I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus said He would use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). The adventure I was looking for has most definitely been found in Christ. He has taught me how to give up my life for His purposes. He is teaching me how to fully trust in His word and promises. I have seen His Glory shine when all seemed lost. One prayer, on one fall day, had changed everything. God showed up like I could have never imagined. There are many days I want to quit. But, then I think how easy it would have been for God to quit on me when my god was me and my dreams. Who knows where the adventure will lead, but I take great comfort in knowing that I am still part of a team, now God’s team.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

JJ ~ ESPN Analyst

Oh my sweet JJ….how I love him! I wish I could have a hidden video camera in our house keeping track of our conversations throughout the day. The video below was the best I could do to give you a little taste of JJ’s mind as it relates to sports. You really can't get the full-effect though until he engages you in a general conversation about teams, and upcoming games, and players....Jake and I call him a little ESPN analyst. :) I realized after I took this video that I forgot to ask him more of the scores from last weekend’s games….somehow he is able to memorize the final scores and team records and can recount them at the drop of a hat! Hang on until the end of this video to get your giggle in for the day!

This is another thing that JJ loves to do in random break-out sessions throughout the day….throw the ball up to himself and get caught up in imaginary games, complete with play-by-play announcing. He will do this for an entire hour without getting bored!

His mind is all about football right now….it will be interesting to see if he switches gears once basketball season rolls around!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Children's Haven Update

My most recent post detailing the hearts of Jake and I to start up a children’s haven in Asikuma, Ghana can be found here.

In that post I talked about how we could feel God leading us to start construction on the children’s haven project as soon as possible, but we weren’t sure where the funds were going to come from. We decided to add the remodel of one of the buildings onto the tasks for our August trip anyways....knowing that doing so would cost above the $25,000 needed for the medical clinic and library/classroom alone. As you all know, we weren’t able to get started on the remodel for the children’s homes at all during August so we pushed it back to the December trip coming up. Well, something COOL has happened in the mean time. God just seems to have a way of funding things that are top priority in His mind. :)

Since we got home from our August trip our church, Cornerstone Church of Ames, told us that they wanted to help support us in our endeavors in Ghana. Our church has a large global ministry and they said that we should feel comfortable reaching out to them for help….that we don’t need to ‘go it alone’ so to say. Jake and I had many conversations about this, and in the end decided to put forth a proposal to ask our church to help us with the funding we need for the beginning construction/remodel of the children’s haven! We got to meet with a few of the ‘big wigs’ a few weeks ago and they have decided on giving us a one-time financial gift that will cover the remodel of 2 of the children’s homes, as well as furnishings, and an outside fence/gate to enclose the property. Can I get a WHOOOOP WHOOOOP?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!! Jake and I were SO EXCITED!!!!!!!! Once we get these first two homes up and running we hope to eventually remodel the other two buildings as well, but this will be a great start. Here are the items our construction team will be tackling on the homes this December:

-Patchwork/repairs to building structures and rooftops
-New window screens
-Enclosing porches
-Modernizing bathrooms
-New coat of exterior paint
-Pipe polytank water supply from medical clinic to children’s homes
-Fence/gate installed around perimeter grounds

Construction of furnishings:
-Bunk beds
-Table & chairs for eating/homework

We are SO THANKFUL that our church ROCKS and will be supporting us with this project! We are also SO THANKFUL for all of you, who paved the way for our projects in Asikuma by donating to the first-fruits of our work in August. Because of the urgency of getting the children’s haven up and running, finishing off the library has been put on hold until our spring break trip in March. As for the medical clinic we left behind funds to have Nana hire out the remaining jobs to be finished. According to Nana, the clinic opened up about a month ago, and treated 43 patients in its first week open! We hope to get a much more extensive/detailed update to share when we are back to check on how it’s running in December.

Long-term, our Isaiah 1:17 Foundation will be responsible for covering the salaries of the house mothers hired to work at the children’s haven. At full capacity, each home would likely have 6-10 kids with 2 house mothers each. Our foundation will also cover the day-to-day operational costs for electricity, water, and building upkeep. Adoption Advocates International will cover the care fees for any child on the adoption track within their program including food, education, sanitary needs, and medical costs. The majority of the kids who will reside at our children’s haven will be in-process for adoption. :)

That brings me to a list of tangible items that are currently needed for our partnering NGO in Ghana – The Ripley Foundation. The Ripley Foundation works with many schools and orphanages who are in bad shape and could really use some donations. Our children’s haven will also need to stock up on these items as well, so we will be making room for as many of the following donations as possible for our December trip:

- Thermometers
- Blood Pressure cuffs
- Children’s play games (any that would fit reasonably in a suitcase)
- Toys (Frisbees, nerf balls, wand bubbles, dolls, trucks – anything that would fit reasonably in a suitcase)
- Shoes (Sizes 1yr to 15yrs) I am crossing this one out because we already have PLENTY of shoe donations
- Boys Clothes (all sizes)
- Girls Clothes (all sizes) Anyone up for sewing more pillow case dresses? :)
- Bed Sheets (twin mattress size)
- Cups & Plates
- Kitchen cooking utensils for stovetop cooking (spoons, dippers, tongs, slotted spoons - preferrably metal)
- Diapers
- Baby Formula
- Socks
- School Items (educational items, crayons, coloring books, etc)
- Children’s picture Bibles

I think that about covers it for now! Can you picture it folks?!?!?!?!? Can you!?!?!?!?!?! Ahhhhhhh…..I can’t wait to see how God will bring this all to fruition and use these homes for His purposes!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Moves

Warm-ups….Jayla always likes to be nestled right next to the older dancers that help with her class. :)

I think I got first position down, mom.

When Jayla first started dance class over the summer she would get so distracted with seeing herself in the mirror that she couldn’t focus on imitating the teacher! :) Now she’s getting better at it!

They are learning moves to 4 counts right now. It’s so interesting watching their progression of skills that will lead them up to being able to do an entire routine during the spring recital. Rumor has it they are going to be mermaids! This ‘sport’ is all new to me, and I am having fun learning all the ins and outs as we go!

They do about 10 minutes of gymnastics at the end of each class….


Balance beam.

And they just started learning how to do back flips (is that what they are called? or are they back rolls? back bends?).

Jayla’s FAVORITE move from dance class is the bridge.

When we are at home she’s always asking everyone if we want to watch her do the bridge. “Yes, Jayla, we’d love to watch you do your bridge for only the 10th time today.” Gotta love it!

Oh, and, if you’re going to be a dancer, you’ve got to be able to display different emotions, right? Let’s just say we’ve got that part down too!

love, Love, LOVE, LOVE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Some fun ~ October Style


Everybody found their perfect pumpkin and Jayla is ready to go home!

Line 'em up folks!

Let the carving begin!

And that was about the last picture I got of JJ and Jayla. They enjoyed picking out their carving stencils and digging out the guts, but after that they weren’t so interested in the tedious work of the actual carving! Jake and I got to finish their pumpkins out. :)

Jake decided that carving pumpkins was pretty theraputic because you get to shut your brain off full speed and slow down a bit! That combined with all the fun conversations we had around the table made us start to wonder if perhaps our family should sit down and carve pumpkins every month! ;)

Victoria started off with a scary hand stencil, but part way through her carving she accidently chopped off one of the fingers and had to start over.

About half-way through our carving we decided we would have a little friendly competition on Facebook to see who's finished pumpkin could win the most 'likes' are the finished masterpieces....

And the winner of the 1st Annual Sullivan Family Pumpkin Carving Contest was.....










Miss Kiana, winning the most 'likes' on Facebook with her intricate spider carving! She now holds the title until next year!

Our family has never carved pumpkins before, but we sure had a lot of fun!!!! This will definitely go onto our list of yearly Sullivan family traditions! :)