Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Don't judge me!"

That’s often the response that many Christian’s get from the mouths of others when taking a stand against sin. I remember when Jake and I were living together in college in a 1 bedroom apartment. Soon after he and I professed our faith in Christ our pastor at church pointed out that our living situation (the outward evidence of our immoral relationship) was not appropriate for a couple yet to be married according to the Bible (see Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thess 4:3-8, 1 Cor 6:18, Gal 5:19). Our response? “Why is he judging us?” We see now what we didn’t then: The gospel in itself is naturally offensive because if shared with all pieces and truths, it WILL and SHOULD point out, or convict us of our sin.

In John 15:22 Jesus says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.”

When the light of Jesus shines on the darkest parts of our hearts, it exposes us. Our secrets, our lies, our masks, our sins are brought out into the light. It feels YUCK. It makes us extremely uncomfortable. We get offended. Our natural response is to hide, argue, minimize it, or turn the blame. We harden our hearts against the messenger and get defensive of our ways. But Jesus knows that we must first understand our sin condition and the eternal consequences that must be paid, before we will ever appreciate or feel the need for a Savior and forgiveness. This needed recognition of our sin is the “bad news” of the gospel.

If you are part of a church that never tells you the bad news of the gospel, lets sin continually go unchecked in the church body, and only tells you what you want to hear then RUN! RUN THE OTHER WAY! Going to a church that makes you ‘feel good’ and only tells you pleasant things that you want to hear should not be at the top of your list.

I was thinking through these things in light of Angie’s testimony that I posted yesterday. I was remembering just a few weeks ago when a pastor from Des Moines was all over the news because he had taken a very visible stand against the sin of homosexuality because he was preaching over that particular scripture the coming Sunday. This pastor chose to stand up for righteousness and the truth of the scriptures – but he was labeled as a judgemental person of hate by our local news.

That compared to this church that I just drove by in Ames on Monday when I was on my way to the post office:

All churches should welcome us sinners, but not to condone a sinful lifestyle as it appears this church is. [I don’t go to this church. I don’t know what the sermons are. But by the words on the bottom of the banner mixed in with the homosexuality symbol it appears the church is proclaiming they will close their eyes to this issue in order to promote peace.] Rather, the church should follow Jesus’ example ~ He was always found with sinners but His mission was to convict them of their unrighteousness, and lead them to repentance. God DOES NOT overlook sin in order to win favor, avoid conflict/promote peace, to come across politically correct, or to stay in step with mainstream culture - and neither should the churches that represent Him and His word. I wanted to include an excerpt on this topic from one of Angie’s articles that she has written….

This lack of absolute Truth seeps into the churches creating such attitudes as “nice” and “tolerant”. Let’s all get along without any conflict. The word “nice” has crept into our churches and is taking precedence over truth. We would rather treat someone nicely than present the truth in love and help people out of their sin. In many cases the church has become a ‘feel-good club’ rather than the house of God. It sounds inviting but it places Truth, holiness and God on the back burner. We forget we are serving a HOLY God and we begin to serve ourselves, and other people. Where there is a desire for “warm and fuzzy” without a commitment to truth makes the general religious arguments of the pro-gay theology all the more palatable. Unlike pro-gay social justice arguments, these general “religious” arguments appeal to the themes of harmony and goodwill and bypass issues of mankind’s fallen nature, sin and obedience. To the biblically ignorant they can pass for truth; in the light of Scripture, though, they have no leg on which to stand.

Church, Jesus always confronted sin: whether it be in the temple (in our religious institutions – Matthew 21:12-17), with the money changers, his own disciples, the religious people of that time (priests, pastors or ministries), or while He was ministering one on one with another person (like the woman at the well). Jesus never “winked” at sin and let sin go unchecked. He addressed the heart issue and helped people overcome their sin by speaking the TRUTH! Some chose not to be helped (such as the rich, young ruler – Luke 18:18-23) but others wanted His help. He told them their sin was forgiven, and to go and sin no more (ex: the woman caught in an adulterous relationship (John 8:10-12). Jesus loved others so much that He desired for them to be set free from sin and live an abundant, narrow way of the Christian life. Church we need to do the same…

Jesus loved the sinner, and yet, at the same time hated (and confronted) their sin. As humans we do this so imperfectly, often swaying to one extreme or the other. In fact, I know that someone, somewhere was told truth, but that it wasn’t done in love. And that stinks. But on the opposite end, in my opinion, it would stink even more to be told ‘God is love’ your whole life but to never understand that He is also a God of wrath who will punish sin - eternally. It would not feel good to die and stand in front of a Holy God that you thought you knew, realizing that you cannot enter heaven because no one ever loved you enough to show you that your sin was leading you down the path of destruction. Rather, they didn’t want to hurt your feelings or you call you out or make you feel uncomfortable. Which has you in a real bind now on your judgement day with God, because you are going to be extremely uncomfortable for eternity.

To diminish, overlook, or disregard our sin is to take away an integral part of understanding why we need a Savior. Jesus didn’t die for nothing.

“We cannot appreciate the wonder of God’s grace and love until we truly understand God’s righteous anger against sin. We cannot appreciate God’s forgiveness until we appreciate the eternal consequences of sin. We are without excuse. We are incapable of saving ourselves. This “bad” news is a necessary part of the good news, called the gospel.” ~John MacArthur~

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Unmasking Counterfeit Love

Today I get the awesome opportunity to share with you one of THE MOST powerful testimonies that I have ever known - and unlike any that I have ever shared before. Below is the testimony of a friend, Angie, from my high school. Eleven years ago Jesus set her free from homosexuality. Angie lived the homosexual lifestyle during Seminary training. She stayed in the homosexual lifestyle for six years and struggled tremendously with the weight of this sin. She wondered if homosexuality was okay, in spite of what the Word of God said. In Angie’s words, “Homosexuals will tell you that they are born that way, that 2% of the American population is homosexual, that a homosexual cannot help themselves and always had feelings of being gay. Homosexuals will tell you that change is not possible.” But today my friend stands in the grace of God a changed person, and I can’t wait for you to read about it. In sharing all of this today I want you to know that this does not mean that I am full of hate for homosexual individuals. Rather, sharing this today reflects something much deeper – I fear the One True Living God and I love the people that He has created. My heart grieves for those who are chained to the ways of darkness, death, and destruction as I too once was. There is no difference between me or you or any other human on this earth. We have ALL sinned - whether those sins are hidden or on display - and that causes us to fall short of the glory of God. We all need Jesus’ redemption. This testimony is an awesome reflection of that. Angie’s testimony in her own words…

I will not be silent: Unmasking Counterfeit Love

Revelation 12:11
And they overcame him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and they did not love their lives to death. They overcame him by appropriating the VICTORY of the finished work of Jesus Christ!

Each of us wants desperately for someone to love us, for someone to tell us we have worth, to tell us we matter. We are hungry and desperate to feel loved and feel accepted.

Your story and my story may not be that different from one another. I have gone through some things you may never experience and you have gone through things I will never experience. However, each of our stories must be heard, especially when the finished work of Jesus Christ has been applied to it. You must know despite the lie of the enemy that people do walk away from homosexuality and NEVER return.

Many in the homosexual community have said ex-gays do not have value and that each conversion is false only repressing what naturally needs to be expressed. They will also say that we never struggled with homosexuality and that we (who do come out) have always been heterosexual. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know what I have struggled with, what I have been caught in, I know the sin of homosexuality has gripped my life, and I know how this sin has ravaged my life and relationships.

I do not have time to be silent! We are living in a very desperate and dark hour where the sin of homosexuality is devouring many people, theologies, and ideologies across our nation. There are millions that need to hear this message, that are in the valley of decision. You must know that change is possible and millions of people like me do exist. This is only a portion of my testimony of how Christ has set me free, and continues to restore me.


I grew up in rural Iowa, of course, on a farm. My family had more cattle on the farm then people in our hometown. My father did not have any boys - only four girls and we all learned how to manage the farm. I grew up a tomboy - loving sports, playing with matchbox cars, beating up the boys, and hating dresses. I loved the outdoors and being part of one of the guys. I excelled in sports throughout high school and college and found great worth in the success I had in sports.

Growing up I always had a boyfriend during high school. In fact, I had one for five years and we often spoke of marriage. He ended up cheating on me and treating me wrongly. I made a vow that I was never going to let a man hurt me again.

Born Again

I became a Christian when I was sixteen, and knew God was calling me to be a pastor, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was during my junior year of college and well into Seminary that I embraced a homosexual lifestyle. I fell in love with my best friend. I was caught by complete surprise by this attraction to her. She was fun, loving, and passionate, told me I had value (my value was connected to having ‘human’ approval), and we entered into a four-year homosexual relationship. My life started to add up in my mind. I remembered the times I had same sex attractions as a child, I remembered the times that people had told me I was homosexual, I remembered other homosexual experiences with other women and the feelings I had with my best friend seemed to confirm what everyone had spoken into my life. So we entered into a relationship together.

Falling for the Counterfeit

I had found someone that totally accepted me, that loved me unconditionally, that gave me worth. She understood the depths of my heart and we became more and more emotionally enmeshed. It seemed that both of us were made for this type of relationship. My feelings reminded me that I had felt this way for as long as I could remember; that I must be a lesbian.

This new adventure was a counterfeit of love and counterfeit acceptance. A counterfeit that wore the perfect mask that said the perfect things but always left me in disappointment; always left me to clean up the mess- and literally left me hating myself. The adventure was filled with lust, wrong motives, control, codependency and emotional enmeshment. You need to understand how satan will present things to people. He will make things look good, look loving- but behind my partner’s words were emptiness, void, and darkness. Please know that even my words were counterfeit to her as well, and empty just as much as her words were. Her words were never meant to sustain me, and my words could never satisfy her.

It was strange, as our relationship seemed to flourish - and we lavished each other with love - tension grew. Please understand that sin is only pleasurable for a season. We began to fight more and more and tried to control one another. I was left with a dark cloud, with guilt, with pain, with shame, and with depression. It was during the fourth year of seminary, that I spent days in bed, and hours on the internet viewing pornography. I was looking for a quick fix. I was looking for things to numb out the pain.

God Spoke

I would pray for ways out, for someone to find us out, for someone to call me out. No one took a stance - everyone was accepting - even my Christian friends. This acceptance from my friends could not stop the aching inside; the dying-aching feeling inside was consuming me; the sin I had embraced was heavy and crushing me. I thought of ways I could kill myself as the dark cloud around me became more and more suffocating. I thought God had left me, that He did not love me anymore. I knew He had to hate me; I hated me - why would He not hate me. I knew deep down no matter how I justified what was occurring - that I was in the wrong. I could not shake this feeling no matter what I did. The sin became a cancer in my body, it was eating me up.

Out of desperation I cried out to God, and He spoke to me. God told me this day you will either choose Jesus or choose your sin! I knew that was my moment, that another moment like this one would not occur and out of brokenness and longing for freedom I chose Christ. I had tried to get myself out of this situation - but nothing in Angie Sandquist could set me free. I needed One greater that could break the chains, and open up the prison cell that kept me in homosexuality. I cried out to One greater than me- JESUS CHRIST! What would I become? Who was I if this was all stripped away? What would happen to my partner- would she die? Yet I was so desperate to be made whole again - to have purity mark my heart. God kept speaking; He really loved me; even in my utter failure and defilement. The fullness of His love transforming everything about me did not happen over night, over days, not over weeks but it was over years until I was able to feast on the fullness of His love- and still to this day I am receiving His love, and growing in it.

I thought I was gay. I thought I had become the sin that was devouring me; but contrary to what I thought, God said something different. He reminded me that He created me in HIS IMAGE- and that image was good and whole. He told me I was not my sin, but He could set me free. I am not going to pretend like this was an easy thing. It grieved me that I had to leave my partner, I lost all my friends, and I had to drop out of school. I was shocked the Creator-God loved me so much, that Jesus could set me free completely from sexual perversion and that He gave me His Spirit (Holy Spirit) to live in me and fill me with love, power, righteousness, and His holiness. I was overcome by HIS love and my own weakness ravished His heart (Song of Solomon 4:16). My own weak affection pulled on the heart strings of God.

I don’t know where you are at today. I know what it means to be caught in something that was never supposed to be a part of you. I know what it feels like to think something is right and find out later it is wrong. I know what it is like to struggle with your heart, feelings, and mind. I do know that God will set you free from homosexuality.

Please understand that God does not stand over you shaking His head, pointing His finger at you placing shame on you - that would be the devil. God is Holy and does not like sin at all and His heart breaks for you and He longs to restore you. It is not easy but it is possible. The blood of Jesus has healed me; I have been set free from emotional enmeshment, from lust, from depression, death, from the chains of darkness. Listen He is speaking to your heart even now.

Pastor Angie Sandquist
763.464.9952 or ~ Christian Church of Brooklyn Park Minnesota

If Angie can be of any help to your church, a friend or family member please do not hesitate to call or email her. She is available for counseling, teaching, speaking, and equipping. Her ministry also does support groups for those (parents and friends) who have someone who is homosexual. Angie has also written several articles on this subject such as ‘Pro-Gay Theology ~ a closer look at how the gay-agenda twist Scripture’. (If you are wondering, the pro-gay agenda is a well-organized plan strategized by gay-activists which aims to desensitize people on the subject of homosexuality by covering a spectrum of mediums.) She has sent me this article in which she has outlined the scriptures that the pro-gay theology use to back their lifestyle. There is literally an entire religious movement riding on the back of this false theology which Angie is able to expose because of her first-hand involvement. Angie has also written an article entitled ‘Pro-Gay Agenda Invading American’s Classrooms’. If you would like any of these materials mailed to you she can do that as well, and she also has copies of her testimony in audio format on cd.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Justice on Adoption & Orphans

I’ve been wanting to ‘interview’ Justice on his perspective of adoption and orphans in his own words. We talk about his adoption often and so I thought it would be good to record some of his thoughts and the insightful things that he has to say. I told him the questions that I was going to ask him about an hour before we recorded so that he could think about what his answers would be - then we started videotaping. From Justice’s perspective - on adoption, orphans, and his upcoming visit to his birthcountry…….

Friday, February 24, 2012

For Development of Asikuma School

From Jake:

Recently God has been bugging me to step out in faith and do a little more for the youth in Asikuma, Ghana. Actually God began working on my heart while I was recently in Ghana, Africa at the end of December as we were completing the addition of the library onto the school. Once the final pictures of the library and school building were sent to me I could not have been more excited. But, with that excitement I felt that God was challenging me to do more. So, on February 18th I set out to raise $12,000 in the next 28 days (all prior to our March trip to Ghana) in order to employ Sampson and his men to not only complete the remaining school buildings (5 in all), but to also add electricity into the school, fans for proper air circulation, and new black boards for the teachers. These funds would also go towards helping to ship the thousands of pounds of school supplies that sit in my garage that have been donated to the school in Asikuma.

Below is the fundraising letter that we are distributing and sending out. If God puts it on your heart to donate towards the project that would be incredible or if you know of people who might be interested in something like this please pass it on to them.

What makes all of this so exciting is that this week Drake University has approved a trip of 15 educational students to head to Ghana with us next year. The trip will be directed by Jill Johnson (one of our Kingdom Hoops mother’s!!) and will be on January 11-19, 2013. The students will be teaching in the school, assisting the teachers with curriculum development, and overall enhancing the educational systems within Asikuma, Ghana.

All I can think about is how cool it would be if we could set the children up for a lifetime of success through education. Nearly 50% of the total population of Asikuma consists of children 0-18 years old.

If God did something crazy and allows us to raise more than $12,000 we will put the additional funds towards the development of a computer center at the school that will also operate as an internet café. Since there is no internet access within 20-25 miles of Asikuma people would pay a small sum of money to have computer and internet access. These funds would then go into a fund set up by the school in Asikuma to maintain its facilities as well as to provide scholarships for children to attend secondary school in Ghana (which is the equivalent to our high school in the United States). Currently only about 25% of the children that get through grade eight in Asikuma actually get to go on to secondary school due to their extreme poverty.

We are also working on other unique ways to get behind the school to provide the funds necessary to give every youth in Asikuma a chance for an education which helps to lead them out of poverty and into a life of promise and hope.

Here is our fundraising letter with more information. Thanks for your consideration!

Kingdom Cares International is excited to announce its spring 28 day fundraising campaign to support the development and enhancement of the Asikuma school in Ghana, Africa. Kingdom Cares International has set the goal of raising $12,000 in the next 28 days prior to our spring mission trip to Asikuma, Ghana.

Asikuma is a village comprised of roughly 2,000 people with over 600 students in grades K-8. Over 50% of the community is infants, toddlers, and school age children. Asikuma is located in the far western area of the Eastern Region approximately three hours from the capital city of Accra. God has led us to this particular community through different relationships and doors that only God himself could open.

During our last 24 months serving in Asikuma we have had the opportunity to construct a medical clinic that has seen over 500 patients since it opened in August 2011. We have also completed construction on a school library with the goal of this facility becoming a place where a computer lab can be developed and a place where the teachers can begin to improve the literacy rates of the children that attend the school.

During our time in the community and our work at the development of a library it become apparent of the great need the community has for the enhancement of their educational facilities. Overcrowding has become such an issue that the school day has to be split up into two separate shifts. The first shift of students arrive from 9am-12pm and then the second shift arrives from 12:30pm-3:30pm.

Not only is there a great need for additional classrooms, but there is a need to simply finish the current ones. A few years ago an organization called U.S. AID came in to help the community and started in on the construction of some additional classrooms. Once the outer shell of the building was finished the organization supposedly ran out of money and just got up and left leaving two half-finished buildings.

The sad part about it is that due to the sheer number of school age children the teachers and staff have had to use these half-finished rooms as classrooms. The floors are simply dirt, the rooms are dark with no lighting, and there is a little or no air flow despite the temperatures rising to nearly 100 degrees every day.

Not only is the school as a whole in terrible conditions but they also lack basic school supplies. During our first trip to Asikuma in 2010 we sat down with the community elders and school administration to see what needs we could help the community with. The first thing they asked for help with was basic school supplies. The school had no teacher resources and not even one book whether that be a text book or a typical book that would be found in an American library. The only supplies that each student had were a pencil and a notebook. Over the last two years we have shipped nearly 5,000 books and teacher resources to the school and currently have an entire garage full of teacher manuals, textbooks, and other educational resources that are just waiting to be shipped.

During my most recent trip to Asikuma in January 2012 God put it on my heart that something had to be done if the youth in this community were ever going to have any opportunity to succeed through an education. Kingdom Cares hired a local contractor named Sampson to begin work on five of the unfinished class rooms. Sampson not only was faithful and diligent in his completion of those classrooms, but it also gave us confidence that he can assist us in taking the development of the school to the next level. With all of that being said we believe that if we can raise $12,000 by March 18th, 2012 we would be able to take those resources with us during our March trip and complete the development of all the remaining classrooms. We hope to fully equip the rooms with electricity, fans for proper air circulation, enough desks for all students, enhanced teacher resources like black boards and white boards, all classrooms plastered and painted, non-dirt floors put into each classroom, as well the shipment of all current school donations we have collected over the last 12 months.

We know we have a big task ahead of us in order to raise $12,000 in just 28 days, but like Jesus told us in Luke chapter 18:27; “What is impossible for men is possible with God.” We are not just asking all of you to donate. Janel and I have decided to contribute the first $1,000 towards the project, so that leaves us $11,000 to raise in the next 28 days!!! I believe God can do incredible things and I am confident that He will allow us to raise these funds in the next four weeks and change the lives of thousands of youth in Asikuma, Ghana.

I want to personally thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider making a donation towards the youth of Asikuma, Ghana. If God puts it on your heart to donate please make checks payable to Kingdom Cares International and mail them to 315 Ridgewood Drive, Huxley, IA. 50124. 100% of the funds will go toward the development and enhancement of the school in Asikuma, Ghana and all donations are tax deductible.

We thank you for your support and prayers as God leads us to accomplish his purposes in Asikuma, Ghana.

In Christ,
Jake & Janel Sullivan Co-Founders Kingdom Cares International

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Children's Haven Update

A few months ago in October we had received word that our plans to remodel a few building structures in Asikuma and turn them into a children’s haven (foster home) were facing a road block – literally. You can catch up to speed by reading this post.

We were left wondering if God was perhaps steering us in a different location for our children’s haven, or if He was orchestrating different timing for the project. Enter Jake’s recent December trip to Ghana in which he got to visit the makings of Kwahu Orphanage (you can view that post here). Kofi, our in-country social worker, had gradually been building this orphanage from his personal earnings and donations from adoptive families. At the point of Jake’s visit, the project was at a stand-still as Kofi waited to raise more funds.

Immediately after Jake’s day spent at Kwahu he called me and said we needed to strongly consider backing Kofi’s all ready started project. It just made more sense rather than trying to re-invent the wheel when Kofi had such a good thing going and just needed some help to finish it off. Jake and I first connected with Kofi in 2009 when we accepted Justice’s referral and Kofi became our social worker. Justice's was the first-ever adoption case that Kofi worked on and processed. At about the same time that Jake scheduled the December team’s trip to Kwahu, Kofi also took over as the case worker for our current adoption. Anyone that knows Kofi knows that his heart for orphans is HUGE. His own background in growing up as an orphan himself certainly plays into that. Over these past few years, and especially on Jake’s recent trip to Ghana, we have been able to see Kofi’s commitment to caring for these children - Kofi’s whole life is now his social work, and his newlywed wife is right there along with him.

In the days following Jake’s trip we began sketching together a vision of how we could partner with Kofi and make his orphanage a reality that wasn’t years away, but just months away. Since our church had an interest in backing our children’s haven project, we again went to them to ask for help with the funding. We proposed a one-time gift to benefit the remaining construction items for Kwahu Orphanage, and about 2 weeks ago the elders of our church approved our proposal. Here is what the donation will go towards – completion of:

-the roof and ceiling
-all windows and doors
-security fencing
-tiling of the floors
-the water borehole
-all electricity
-purchase of beds, dressers, and appliances
-purchase of mosquito nets in all the rooms

Once completed the home will accommodate an average of 12-16 orphans. The orphanage will have a total of 4 bedrooms complete with their own bathroom. Three of the bedrooms will be designated for the orphans – one room for the boys, one room for the girls, and one room for toddlers and infants. The fourth bedroom will be for the hired house mothers. In addition, Kofi and his wife will also have a room at the orphanage in which they will live and care for the children. The Kwahu Orphanage will also have a full operating kitchen, one main bathroom, a laundry room, study room, and a sitting room. There will be a minimum of two full-time house mothers employed and one assistant. One full-time security guard will also be employed to help control the movement of children and visitors.

The children will attend public school in town during the first year of completion and operation of the home. Once the orphanage is complete, Kofi envisions starting construction on a Christian boarding school that will sit on the same land as the orphanage. He would have the children in the orphanage attend the boarding school, but would also open it to the general public. It would not be a free school as the governmental schools are, but instead it would be a private Christian school where individuals would be required to pay to attend. However, he would plan to have a sponsorship program for the more needy children whose parents have a desire for them to attend a Christian school. His vision is to have phase II completed by December 2013.

Kofi has also laid the initial foundation for the construction of a 96 unit apartment building that will sit on the same 32 plots of land just north of the orphanage. The apartment units will be used for the boarding school so that children from neighboring communities could attend the school and have proper housing provided and included in the school fees. The apartment units will also be used for mission groups that arrive in Ghana as well as for families who are traveling to Kwahu for the adoption of their child. His vision for phase III and the development of this housing complex would be completed in December 2014.

WOWZA – what a vision, huh? It’s clear to see that Kofi is in this for the long-run, and his personal investment into the project shows his commitment and heart for the orphan.

The best part of all this, is that with our church’s donation, Kofi is aiming to finish out the remaining construction on the home over the next 4 weeks. He hopes to be able to have the grand-opening of Kwahu Orphanage while our team is there in mid-March. It would be so great to get to experience the inauguration and to get to celebrate the opening of this safe haven for Ghana’s orphans.

We’ll see what God has in store!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Got this message into my Facebook over the weekend:

Hi Janel!
I just wanted to write you a quick note and tell you how awesome Justice is. ‘Y’ had a girl in her class on Friday being kind of mean to her, saying she 'doesn't have a dad'. Justice stuck up for her and let the teacher know what was going on. Very sweet of him! Just wanted you to know what a great kid you if you already didn't know that :)

A child himself once fatherless, now defending the fatherless. A child himself once teased and outcasted, now with the confidence to stand up for those being treated unfairly. Such an advertisement for the way that God has transformed my child's life through adoption. And he sure is living up to his new name isn’t he? :)

Isaiah 1:17 ~ Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Asikuma Library & School Update ~ Sampson's work

You may remember us talking about a guy named Sampson who lives in Asikuma and has been helping out our construction projects from the beginning. He is an extremely hard worker. Today I wanted to update you on the awesome amount of progress that Sampson has made on the tasks Jake & Chris left with him since January. Here’s an excerpt from Jake’s recent trip detailing where things left off…..

It is so hard to explain but it was like God was telling me to start looking for ways to empower more people within the community. Then it was like He opened my eyes to what the school buildings in Asikuma actually look like. We are closely moving towards having this beautiful looking library connected to an unfinished school building that you would not want lifetime criminals having to stay in - let alone 675 students going to school in. I also noticed that no matter how much progress we were making on the library there was no way we were going to be able to complete the whole project before we left.

While all of this is going through my mind God draws my attention to a Ghanaian construction guy named Sampson who had been working alongside our crew. Sampson had a work ethic and a diligence to his work that I have never seen by a worker in Asikuma. It was like God was telling me to find a way to empower Sampson and God would use him to accomplish great things.

As God was speaking to me I walked over to Sampson and pulled him out of the library where he was plastering the wall. I asked him to look at the entire school building and I asked him if he would be capable of plastering, painting, and finishing all of the school building not just the library. He looked at me and said of course. I asked him how much cement and paint it would take and what it would cost. He gave me a rough number and then I walked away and Sampson went back to work.

I knew what God was challenging me with so I shared my thoughts with Chris. I told him that I was thinking about leaving roughly $750.00 with Sampson to finish the entire school building. I told Chris that if Sampson could get the job done and be faithful with the resources it would open up a real door for us to accomplish even more in Asikuma. This would also give Chris the confidence of helping the community start a particular project and then leaving it in Sampson’s hands to finish.

After it seemed like Chris and I were on the same page we asked for Sampson to join us at dinner and that we would like to meet with him. Following dinner that evening Chris and I along with Nana (chief of the village) sat with Sampson and I explained the guidelines of our plans. We handed him 1,000.00 cedis which is equivalent to about $750.00 and told him he was fully responsible to finish the school building and library. He could use the money to buy supplies, hire staff, and other items that he may need to finish the project. The more efficient he could be with the money would ultimately mean more profit for Sampson for his time. We also let him know that if he was faithful with this project that this is something we could do again for future projects in Asikuma.

I am pretty sure Sampson left tonight thinking that he had won the lottery. We are excited to see his work and we will be receiving weekly updates of the progress that he is making.

Our friend, Ken, who lives in Asikuma (the one who sent us the picture of Yaa and Adjoa earlier this week) has also been sending us updates of Sampson’s progress. To begin, here was Sampson hard at work plastering the inside of the library during the January trip:

And here was the look of the outside of the library as the team left back on January 4th:

About one week later we received our first update from Ken on January 13th:

Hello Jake, hope you fine. I went to the library/school as I told you I would and took the pictures. The main block is beautifully plastered all over and it is now left with the inside of the library and 3 sides outside it. A side is already plastered. Think just after that, they may start the painting.

With that update we received a couple of pictures of the plastered (re-surfacing) of the outer walls. Basically the plastering covers over the cement blocks so you see a smooth surface and can no longer see the outline of the blocks. Here is a before-plastering picture of the school I had taken during our August trip. I couldn't crop to get zoomed in on the building, but if you look really close you can see all the cement blocks, especially on the corners of the building.

Here are the pictures Ken sent of the outside walls plastered – hard to make out in the pictures but you can see the smoother surfaces because the cement block outlines no longer show through.

Plastered wall:

These buildings are very long, so you can see this was no small task!

On February 6th we received a picture update of the library’s outside walls completely plastered:

Feb 8th was our next update:

The painting started today and the guys are doing a really good and impressive job:).

Sampson at work:

And we just received another update earlier this week on February 15th:

Latest pictures after the whole painting is done. Taken this afternoon of the 15/02/2012.
To God be the glory and thanks to K.C.I.

The school classrooms:

And finished pictures of the library!!!!!

So here is a picture progression of the library:

Wowza! Sampson definitely followed through and accomplished the job that Jake and Chris had given him. It’s such a great feeling when things turn out the way you intended! Next up we will need to finish out the shelving and stocking of books inside the library. Jake also has high hopes to be able to install electricity in the school (for lighting) as well as doors for all the classrooms. And he has another big idea for the school yard. More to come!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


One of the ways that the Lord showcases His Sovereignty is through the timing of events. I absolutely delight in getting to experience this facet of God’s character because it is often through these divine appointments (the world calls them ‘coincidences’) that I feel God speaking so personally.

Not even a day had passed since the aunt had decided to not give either of our girls – Yaa and Adjoa - in adoption. And we received word from our agency on two other girls, sisters, that had just been brought to our in-country social worker’s orphanage. They were the approximate ages of 5 and 1.

With our agency, adoptive families are not matched with a referral (an orphaned child) until they – the adoptive family - are ‘paper-ready’. That means the adoptive family must have an approved homestudy, and then they go in line behind the other families who are waiting to be matched with their referrals. This avoids many issues that can happen in holding specific children for certain families who haven’t even taken the first steps in the adoption process.

Well, because we started this adoption back in August of last year, we are (and have been) ‘paper-ready’ for a few months. Interestingly, at this time, there are no other families in our agency’s program that are ‘paper-ready’ or who have set their preferences to accept two girls in these age ranges – except for us. When our Ghana coordinator gently mentioned this all to me on the phone my mind started running off with the thought of it…..Could it be that the Lord used Yaa and Adjoa to lead us to these other two girls? Are these other girls truly our daughters? I know for CERTAIN that we would have not started a Ghana adoption back in August if we hadn’t been led to Yaa and Adjoa. I know even more for certain that we would not have signed up to adopt 2 children at once if it weren’t for Yaa and Adjoa. All of our paperwork, our homestudy, and our I-600 pre-approval now has us approved to adopt 2 children – all spurred by Yaa and Adjoa. And furthermore – if any of these events had been even one week off – the new girls coming to the orphanage, the failed interview with the aunt and social welfare, etc, the timing wouldn’t have felt so meaningful.

I started praying about these thoughts. As I did, my heart was in a spin of confusion. I felt guilty to even be thinking about these other two girls when I had pictured Yaa and Adjoa as my daughters for months. I had especially already begun picturing Yaa with us in the everyday events, thinking of the friendship she and Jayla would have, planning my routine for her hair care, etc. I also had thought that the Lord already gave me her new name - so that felt strange in and of itself. My heart was certainly stinging in having all those little dreams for her taken away. Then to even think about replacing those dreams with new, unfamiliar faces – it seemed that my heart kept putting up a sign that said “spot already taken.”

Gently, however, the Lord continued to whisper to me about His Sovereignty over timing. Through a comment on my last adoption post…..

A lot of times I have thought that God brought us down a certain path to make his timing work out perfectly, and to bring us to where we needed to be in our hearts to accept his plan for us.

To the very next day reading this in my daily devotional…..

Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different. Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be. You will get through today one step, one moment at a time. Your main responsibility is to remain attentive to Me, letting Me guide you through the many choices along your pathway…

And then, just this week as I emailed our Ghana coordinator a few questions about these new girls – mainly wondering if the relinquishment process had already been completed – her response….

Your timing is interesting to say the least, as the relinquishment meeting for the girls just occurred today in Ghana. The girls' mother and the maternal head of family have relinquished the girls and agreed to adoption.

As this week comes to an end, I am convinced, confident, and have accepted that the Lord did purposefully lead us to this exact place, at this exact time. He foreknew that all of this was going to happen with Yaa and Adjoa, but, it had to happen this way so that He could get us to where we are supposed to be.

Coming to accept that, however, did not do anything about those spots in my heart that are already taken. But this did –
That would be a picture of our girls, Yaa and Adjoa, taken on Tuesday of this week by one of our friends who lives in the village. Seeing their heads freshly shaven, their bodies clean, sporting their little Iowa-made dresses, waving and smiling – that did my heart good. I know that their aunt who has come along is capable of meeting their needs. And, I know that Jesus doesn’t call me to only care for orphans that I bring into my home. We will still get to care for Yaa and Adjoa – it will just be in a different way than we had thought. And those spots in my heart feel taken because they are. I will always consider Yaa and Adjoa my daughters. But every mother knows, that when your next child comes, they do not replace spots in your heart that are already taken. Rather, your heart adds on more spots – each one unique, and each one its own.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feelin the Love

A little love to you from my sweet ones!

Thank you to Justice’s basketball coach and his wife, Gabe & Ang Peasley, who gifted us our very own Take Heart photo session! And also, a HUGE THANK YOU to these families with big hearts…......

…….who took part in the Take Heart sessions from Captured by Heidi that benefited our adoption fund. The proceeds and donations from these sessions totaled a whopping $325!!!!! God continues to ROCK THE FUND and show us that He is in this adoption! We are SOOOOOOO feeling the love!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Justice Hoopin'

Well, we’ve come a long ways since Justice first dribbled a basketball in the dust of Ghana back in December 2009!

Now he gets to start on Jake’s Kingdom Hoops 3rd grade boys team.

The team is a combination of 2nd and 3rd graders from around central Iowa. They have tournaments about every weekend, and most often play ‘up’ in the next age level bracket (vs. 4th graders) so that they can develop their skills against higher competition. Justice’s ball handling has gotten so good, and probably the best part of his game right now is dribbling full court through defenders into a lay up.

I don’t video-tape the entire games, so I try to catch little clips on my camera when he is about to score. I have yet to be quick enough to catch him in one of his break away lay-ups, but it is so fun to watch him dribble in and out of defenders and score it! Here is a little video I grabbed of him scoring after his team gets the rebound.

Justice gets to throw the ball in on the out of bounds plays, and he also gets to help bring the ball up the court.

His free-throws are another skill that he has tremendously improved on! Soft and easy!


In between games - a sign of the times - all the boys engrossed in their video games!

And Jayla of course has to be the center of attention among all the player's siblings during the games!

Right now Justice is only participating in basketball. He decided to end his taekwondo career about 6 months ago – he told us he was expecting it to be more like ‘the movies’. :) It got to be kind of hard too because he wasn’t able to go to the taekwondo tournaments since it’s our family time on the weekends traveling for basketball. He is very excited to also get to start playing tackle football later this year, and I am excited to see what position they put him at. For now, the Sullivan hoopster tradition carries on!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Did you know that public speaking sits as the #1 phobia in the top ten phobias of people in the world?

1. Fear of public speaking (Glossophobia)
2. Fear of death (Necrophobia)
3. Fear of spiders (Arachnophobia)
4. Fear of darkness (Achluophobia, Scotophobia or Myctophobia)
5. Fear of heights (Acrophobia)
6. Fear of people or social situations (Sociophobia)
7. Fear of flying (Aerophobia)
8. Fear of open spaces (Agoraphobia)
9. Fear of thunder and lightning (Brontophobia)
10. Fear of confined spaces (Claustrophobia)

Surveys and research results show that most people would rather die than talk in front of a live audience. It's a social phobia that is related to self-presentation in front of an audience. Scientists sometimes call it social anxiety disorder. Their medic term is glossophobia; from the Greek words glossa and phobos. Glossa means tongue and phobos stands for fear or dread. (

Well this is no news to me. If there is anything that will get my upper back in a twist of knots, my heart racing, my blood filled with anxiety, and my legs weak, it’s definitely the thought of public speaking.

Enter an email that I received 2 weeks ago. It was actually sent to my husband first….it was from one of his former coaches who lives in Ankeny…

I wanted to ask your wife if she would be willing to come speak to my women's Titus 2 group on Tuesday, February 7th on the topic of the fruit of "goodness". I don't have her email otherwise I would ask her myself.

Jake read it aloud to me while I was unloading the dishwasher that afternoon in the kitchen. The only words I really heard were ‘come speak’ and that was all that was needed for my flesh to shout out a big giant NO WAY, JOSÉ!

My husband knows me too well. With a grin he looked up and said, “What should I tell her?”

My thoughts raced for a minute and I knew that it would look bad if I said ‘no’ without an excuse so I said, “Oh just forward it to me.” And he did. And the email sat in my inbox, untouched for 3 days. On purpose. Because I figured if I didn’t open it, then I wouldn’t know what it said, and I wouldn’t feel bad for saying no, and I wouldn’t have to consider saying yes. Great logic right?

Well, Jake kept bringing it up and encouraging me to do it. And by day 3 seeing that email sitting there in my inbox really started to nag at me. So I opened it. Immediately after reading it, my flesh again started speaking real loud ~ “No! I am a writer not a speaker! What will I say anyways? What do I know about goodness? I’m too young to have any sort of credibility. That’s an hour and half speaking commitment! Jake is the speaker in this family, not me! Absolutely, can’t do it.” But the interesting thing about being a believer in Jesus, is that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me. So when my flesh starts talking, the Holy Spirit engages to bring in truth. Immediately the Holy Spirit started talking back to my flesh as I recalled Moses’ response to God when God had given him an assignment in Exodus 3 that involved much public speaking….

Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it (Exodus 4:10-13).”

Oh Moses, I am so feeling ya buddy.

So, there I was, email open on my lap top, with my flesh and the Holy Spirit engaged in an all-out war inside of me. I know enough in my walk with God now that I need to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading even if where he is leading is going to take me to a place out of my comfort zone. I knew that this was an opportunity God had given me. An opportunity to speak of His glory in the story that He has written in our lives. I typed out my yes response. And for the life of me I could not press send. For 5 minutes I sat there balling my eyes out like a little baby, telling God that I so did not want to do this. I prayed that if I said yes that He would instruct me on what to say. That He would give me courage. That He would calm my nerves and give me a clear mind, and clear words. Finally, after I got done with my pity party, I clicked send. And off that email went, and I asked God to please come through for me. Or I was doomed.

And you know what?

The first thing God led me to do was to look up the biblical definition of the fruit of goodness in a book I have by Elizabeth George called ‘A Woman’s Walk With God’. Goodness defined is: movement into total action, actively serving others. And it hit me. I do have a lot to say on that topic! Literally the rest of the afternoon ideas of how to form my speech would just come to me at the most random times. As we were driving in the car my mind shuffled through my file cabinet of experiences and I outlined what the main points of my speech would be on a scratch piece of paper. That night we were out for dinner and headed to a high school basketball game – scriptures and quotes and stories and little nuggets of things that I have blogged previously came flying into my brain. I kept sketching them out. I committed most of last week to forming a rough draft of my speech and spent all my free time on it. I practiced out loud in the closet and became mindful of my ‘ummms’ and tried to recall those good transition phrases that I learned in high school speech class. My mind took over and memorized big sections because I knew I couldn’t read off the paper the whole time.

And when the preparation was done I got to stare at 10 pages of notes, full of truths and stories of God’s glory all centered around living out the fruit of goodness. And when I practiced, the total speech came to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Just perfect. And you know what? I started to get excited! So excited to share and speak about what God has done in our lives – in a way that I never have before. I wondered who would be there, and how God would stir their hearts by what He would say through me. I was confident in what I had to share, and felt that God had prepared me fully. Now it would soon be go time. My heart did start fretting again as I thought about all those faces that would be staring at me. So I emailed two friends and asked them to commit to pray for me during my speeches – I had to speak twice – once at the morning bible study group and once at the evening one.

And earlier this week was the big day. And I made it through. I didn’t die of embarrassment, I didn’t flub up my words, and my zipper wasn’t down, and nothing was hanging out of my nose. My voice didn’t shake, and I did cry at some parts, but so did the other women so it felt fine. I didn’t blank out and not know what to say because I had taken the time to write very detailed notes and had rehearsed it to memory. My stories got the women to laugh, and to get tears in their eyes, and to nod their heads, and they were engrossed in what I had to say the whole time. They gave me such positive feedback at the end about what spoke to them that by the time I got to my car I apologized to the Lord for being such a coward. Part of my speech involved talking about the 3 types of fears that hold us back from allowing God to use us. I’ve blogged about them previously here – I like to call them paralyzers. Well, how ironic that these fears almost paralyzed me from doing this speech.

I know God wouldn’t have been mad at me if I would have said no to this opportunity. He wouldn’t have taken away my salvation and He wouldn’t have given me the silent treatment or distanced Himself from me. But you know what? I realized that if I would have said no to this, I would have been telling God that I didn’t believe He would equip me or empower me for what I was facing. I would have been telling Him that I didn’t actually believe that the same powerful Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead was living inside of me and could give a teeny tiny speech. If I would have said no, I would have been telling God that I didn’t trust Him to come through for me. And I would have never gotten to experience the awesome feeling of Him absolutely taking over and delivering – I wouldn’t have become confident in this aspect of His character. And more than any of that, I would have stifled the invitation to shout out my Savior’s message – He’s in the messy situations, He reaches out to the hurting and the broken and the outcasts and the immoral and the people with bad reputations and the overlooked and those enslaved to a life of sin. And if He’s in those situations, reaching out, than that’s where His followers should be found too. You can slap a label of 'the fruit of goodness' on it. But I’d rather call it 'rolling up your sleeves and getting messy for the Lord (whoop whoop!)'. :)

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Adoption Update

Last week this was on the radio station that I listen to:

God’s 3 Answers to our Prayers

1) Yes.
2) Not yet.
3) I have something better in mind.

As you begin reading this update get your mind wrapped around answer #3 there. We’ve had quite an unexpected turn in our adoption.

Deep breath. Here we go….

In the Lord’s grace, with both our last adoption and this current one we have been able to be involved in the ‘before-process’ of the many steps that take place before a child is ‘officially’ referred for adoption. Although these before steps are some of the most difficult and certainly induce heart-fretting moments, I have become thankful that we get to be so informed on our children’s pasts and living conditions/situations before they are placed on the path of adoption.

When most adoptive families sign up with an agency to adopt internationally, they are typically not matched with a child before all of these before-steps have been completed. They are usually matched with a child that has already been relinquished - parenting rights terminated – the child is already in an orphanage/foster care setting. For some reason, that is not the path the Lord has put our family on, either with our adoption of Solomon (which fell through around this point), Justice, or this adoption. As I’ve pondered this I am grateful to get to understand all of these ‘before-step’ intricacies of adoption. Over the past months the Lord has made a path for Jake and I to mentor and encourage families who are choosing adoption, and perhaps going through all these before-steps is just helping us to understand adoption at a deeper level, heartbreaking as it sometimes is.

As of last week the biggest of these ‘before-steps’ that we were currently awaiting was the signing of the official relinquishment/abandonment letter that must be signed by the surviving relatives of our girls in order for them to come into the care of our agency. This is done at the interview with social welfare.

During Jake’s time in Ghana last month, he began to prepare me that there was an aunt who had come into the picture. He said she had taken the younger of our girls in, was caring for her, and had gotten close to her. In His grace the Lord began to work on my heart right away about this. Immediately I felt joy for our younger girl - that a relative had stepped up to care for her. That is what should happen in these situations when birthparents die or leave. And if that happened more often then adoption wouldn’t be needed in these cases.

From there the Lord began to prepare my heart that we may only be adopting the older of our girls – since she had not been spoken for. As the weeks went by this seemed to be confirmed. There are many things that I won’t be blogging about publicly but all ‘signs’ pointed to adoption being the best outcome for our older girl.

Then last week was the appointment with social welfare. This was to be the official relinquishment, and from here our older girl would have been taken into foster care until our adoption finished out. The aunt attended the appointment on behalf of the family. And she decided that she would not give either of the girls in adoption - we already knew that was her heart for the younger of the two, but we were thrown for a loop that she did not choose this for the older one.

My heart is in complete submission to God’s plans and I am trying to leave my own emotions out of it. Adoption is not about us. It never has been, and it never will be. As I wrote about here, international adoption should be reserved for worst case scenario status – if a child has nobody to care for them. Our hearts were prepared to help this family if they needed it, AND if they wanted it, but it seems that the aunt is prepared for the girls to stay.

If there’s anything I am kicking myself for, it’s not that I allowed myself to emotionally enter in to this. I would do that again, and again, and again. I love how God is teaching me to have compassion for His children, and I thoroughly have learned so much from this family. I do regret, however, telling the whole world (via blogging & facebook) that we were adopting these two girls specifically. Honestly, back in September of last year was the first appointment in which a social worker visited the family. It was after that appointment that we received word that adoption was chosen for the girls. In my ignorance, I thought that appointment was the official relinquishment - but it wasn’t. It was only the first interview to get the ball rolling. I honestly feel awful that I have involved everyone else in all this drama. However, one very, very, very awesome thing has come out of my ignorance. And that is that God has used the past 5 months to build up our adoption fund – which clearly speaks to my heart that He intends an adoption to come out of this.

I labeled this post ‘adoption update’ for that reason. We will continue on in this adoption process - it just won’t be these girls that we will adopt. It feels so strange to even type that because it literally felt like the Lord purposefully led us to them. I haven’t processed the ‘why’ of that yet. But, I can think of a few things. For one, while sweet ‘C’ baby was in our life last year I had many talks with her dad about adoption. Our conversations gave me an ache in my heart to be there for inner city teenagers just like him. Jake and I were strongly contemplating looking into being part of a domestic adoption for those reasons – I even had an agency all picked out before our August trip to Ghana. Could it be that the Lord intended for us to adopt again from Ghana instead, and this was His way of leading us there? Definitely possible. Because now we are all signed up with our Ghana agency, and have paid a few of the initial fees. We actually are right on track in the process.

I don’t know about you, but I think to try and figure out the ‘why’. I like to look over my shoulder and see how the Lord has taken bad things in my past, and worked them out for good. I like to think back on things that were confusing, and then see some answers come to the surface. I like to watch how the Lord uses situations in my life to refine and teach me. So, I will keep contemplating and wrestling with why on earth we were led to these girls, and yet, at the same time we will continue to move forward as God guides us from here.

I paused numerous times last week just thinking about how good God has been to us. We have nothing to be sad or down about. God has always revealed His Sovereign plan as we continued to trust in His unfailing love, and we know that He will do so in this situation too.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A little girl needs her daddy...

A little girl needs her daddy
To love her with manly charm,
To soothe her when she's hurt,
And keep her safe from harm.

A little girl needs her daddy
To show her a man who's good,
To help her make right choices,
As only a father could.

A little girl needs her daddy,
to be the first man in her life,
to tell her she is worthy,
of a husband who treats her right.

A little girl needs her daddy,
for rides up on his shoulders,
for surprise stuffed animal gifts,
and for strong arms that hold her.

A little girl needs her daddy,
to lead his family strong,
cause through the sunshine and the rain,
he teaches that faith can carry her on.

A little girl needs her daddy,
for a snowy February date,
cause there’s a dance down the road,
and the whole day she could hardly wait!!!!!