Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adoption and Sanctification

Today marks our two year Gotcha Day – the day we landed on U.S. soil with our son, Justice. His adoption was completed and he was officially ours on September, 25, 2010!

Arriving at Des Moines International Airport two years ago today.  This was the first glimpse our friends and family got of Justice! :)

As I prepared in my mind to write this post, my plan was to show you a bunch of pictures from Justice’s last two years that display how much his soul has lifted…how his face has brightened…how he’s growing into a Spirit-filled, well-rounded young man….how the opportunities here in the U.S. have enabled him to come alive….how simply having a father has given him confidence and direction….how the ability to just be a kid has literally wrapped him up in peace and released him from the oppression and daily struggles of his former life. I could tell you how almost nightly he prays that God would ‘get more people to adopt’….and how he prays for the children in Ghana who have been adopted that God would ‘grow them up so that they will want to adopt too one day’….and how it is regular dinnertime discussion for him to say ‘I wish we had A LOT of money so that we could adopt as many orphans as we wanted’. Yes, I could write story after story and find picture after picture that evidence these very things. But today, it is instead on my heart to write about this truth: Justice has changed and blessed our lives more than we ever have his.

For me personally, adding Justice to our family by way of adoption was part of God’s design for my sanctification process. Specifically, I believe one of the many reasons the Lord asked us to adopt was to protect my heart from making idols out of our biological children. Yes, I’ve written about this before…a few times actually. But for whatever reason, I feel like the Lord is urging me to share about it again today because He’s given me a new spin on it….so here we go….

Have you ever read the story of Abraham and his son Isaac in Genesis chapter 22? If not, I’ll include this excerpt to get you a bit acquainted or to refresh your memory:

Genesis 22:1-9

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then…

I’ll tell you the rest of the story in a minute. I’ve read this story many times in my Bible before. And each time I have always thought that this was a test of Abraham’s faith. Would He believe that God’s plan was greater than His? Would he obey, even when it seemed that what God was asking Him to do didn’t at all make sense? A test of faith right?

Well, some time ago I gleaned a different perspective on those verses when I read the following in my daily devotional:

Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one – as well as yourself. Remember the extreme measures I used with Abraham and Isaac. I took Isaac to the very point of death to free Abraham from son-worship. Both Abraham and Isaac suffered terribly because of the father’s undisciplined emotions. I detest idolatry, even in the form of parental love… (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young page 246)

Abraham and his wife Sarah had struggled with infertility (Genesis 15:2-3, 16:1). As the years went by, they began to lose confidence that they would ever have a child together (even though God had promised it would happen). Then God ordained a miracle to fulfill His promise – Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son (Genesis 21:2). His only son. Imagine how easy it was for Abraham’s heart to fall into idolatry of this long-awaited son. (An idol is anything that you put first before God - it can be money, time, a job, a person, or a way of life. God strictly forbids idolatry ~ Exodus 20:4.) This was the son Abraham had hoped and yearned years and years for. And when Isaac finally came, I am sure Abraham wanted to clutch onto him with a tight grip…..and never let go.

Obviously, moms and dads are wired to love their children. But we must heed caution that we do not allow our world and life to become centered on our children instead of on Jesus, His Kingdom, and His purposes. Jesus explains the weight of this in Matthew 10:37-39 ~

Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

This tendency toward making idols of my own children has been very exposed in our adoption processes. In fact, it wasn’t until we adopted that I was able to see it. When God leads you to adoption, and you already have children, you fear for them. You are tempted to become paralyzed because of what adoption might to do them. You forget that God teaches and matures faith through trials. Your instinct is to pad your children from experiencing any sort of preventable heartache or strain, but you may actually be padding them from how God desires to work in their lives to develop their faith. When you don’t entrust your children to God, it will become extremely difficult to obey Him with the little things or the big things because you are worried that they will be negatively affected. And if they become your excuse to not move forward in obedience, then what you are really doing is offering your children a world-view that is self-centered and far from the heart of the gospel. It’s a dangerous place to be.

Well, Abraham passed the test. The test of obedience. The test of faith. And what I now also see as the child-idolatry test...


he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son (Genesis 22:10-13).

It wasn’t fully revealed to me until I wrote this post. But adoption has been my child-idolatry test (and a faith test and an obedience test and probably many other tests that I haven’t processed yet). I’ve eluded to it previously in some of my past posts that I wrote during and right after Justice’s adoption. However, it didn’t really sink in until I saw the Abraham-Isaac replay in this new perspective. The notes in my Bible seem to solidify it all: God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his son. Both times with our adoptions, God has asked me to do this same thing in my heart. His Kingdom and His purposes must be of more importance to me than even my own children.  And the unexpected bonus: We’ve found that obeying God by adopting orphans into our family has not hurt our own children - at all. Just the opposite - it’s blessed them (beyond measure) and shown them a living-acting faith. For that, I am thankful, and I look forward to the spiritual growth of our family continuing on by way of adoption.

So often I think we go into adoption thinking that the main point is to help change the life of an orphan. And that does happen. But what you find out by the end is that God desires to use them to change you just as much….maybe even more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

As you plan your week...

This Thursday evening our friends Nick and Typhanie of The Move Project are co-hosting a free screening of Exodus Cry's "Nefarious" which is a documentary on the global sex trade.

Event Details:
Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:00pm
Screening will be at Drake University - Sheslow Auditorium
2597 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50338
Mature Audiences (Ages 18+)
Presented by Exodus Cry

View the documentary trailer here:

You can follow the lead up to this screening on Twitter by following: @MegNicolet, @TheMoveProject, @NickMahlstadt and @NefariousMovie.

You can also tune into Nick and Typhanie’s blog HERE for more posts on this topic.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Introducing Baby in the Bush's Forever Family!!!

Earlier this year on our March trip to Ghana there was a newborn baby who was abandoned to the ‘bush’ in Asikuma - the village where we do our work. The Lord had us there at just the right place and time, and we were able to eventually get the baby into Kwahu Orphanage and on the adoption track. You can read the story HERE and the last update I posted on him HERE.

I now I sit here with goosebumps, and a flood of emotion that threatens to burst out in gigantic happy tears. Because, today I get the joy of continuing to show you the beauty of adoption… I can now introduce you to baby in the bush’s forever family. :) Before I do, there is more news that you didn’t know yet. You may remember from my original post, that baby in the bush had an older brother – around 2 years old. His name was Ishmael. Here he is…

Well, a few weeks after baby in the bush’s birthmother had relinquished her baby into the care of CompAfriCare (one of the NGO's our Foundation works with in Ghana) to be adopted, we found out that she had decided to also give the older brother, Ishmael, in adoption. I truly felt in my heart that this was the right decision in light of her desperate situation. By that point, baby in the bush had already been matched with a family to adopt him, so they had a decision to make. Would they be able to adopt Ishmael too and keep the brothers together? Indeed, it was meant to be. They went forward with the adoption of both boys, and just last week their adoption case PASSED COURT in Ghana!!!!!!!!!! They now await the official adoption decree and then can ‘fly and file’ their I-600 form in Ghana (which is what Jake did for our adoption case back in August). They are just a few months/steps right behind our own adoption process.

Here's a little background on the forever family...they, Erin (mom) and Kyle (dad) have two children, both girls. The girls are Killian (going on 4 years old) and Keegan (going on 2 years old). You will see the girls in the pictures because Erin and Kyle brought them with on their trip to Ghana back in July so they could meet their brothers. I know – these people are ROCKSTARS let me tell ya!!!!! By the way, they live in Michigan. Erin is a veterinarian and Kyle is an ecologist turned stay-at-home-dad. I will be posting their side of the adoption story on Monday.

Erin and Kyle have also given the boys new names, and I wanted to share the background on those since I will be referring to them by their new names now. Here is the explanation of how they decided on the names via Erin:

“We are naming the baby, Ewan, and Ishy we will add the name Fynn to. Fynn is Ghanaian for "from the Offin River", which he actually is (even though we came up with the name before we knew that). And Ewan is a celtic name, like everyone in our family has, but we also liked it since he is from the Ewe people. We wanted to combine our own Irish heritage with their Ghanaian heritage, and these names seemed to do that.  Our girls have animal middle names...Killian Adelie (Adelie is a species of penguin) and Keegan Kodiak (for bear). The boys full names will be:

~Ewan Osono _____ Horan-Turner (Osono is Ghanaian for elephant)
~Fynn Agama Ishmael Horan-Turner (Agama Agama is the rainbow lizard...those cool guys you see running around Ghana).”

The ____  on Ewan's name is still in the decision making process.  I love all the thought that has gone into the boys' names.  Erin has said that they are really into names in their family, so now I know why God kept bugging me about 'baby in the bush' going to the orphanage without a name.  There is always a reason for even the little things! :)

Alright, here we go!  Here are just a few of the awesome pictures from Kyle and Erin’s two-week trip that they took to Ghana to meet their sons...

One happy momma with one blessed baby. :)

Formerly known as ‘baby in the bush’. Now known as Ewan.

Lookin’ good and strong buddy!  Ewan is now 6 months old!

And here is Daddy Kyle with baby Ewan…

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Jake and I thought the same thing.  Daddy Kyle looks a bit like Jesus. How fitting. :)

Momma with Fynn (formerly known as Ishmael) and daughter Keegan.

Fynn hiding out with sister Killian

I also just wanted to interject a neat little story here that Erin had told me...

"When we told Killian (age 3) about Ewan and talked to her about if she would be happy with a baby brother (since we had been telling her for months that we would be getting her a brother around her size and she was so prepared for this) she kept saying, "Yes, we should get him. A little brother for Keegan. And we can get a big brother for me." We kept trying to explain, "no just one brother this time. You guys have to share a brother." And then when we found out about Fynn she laughed and said that she always knew we were getting two brothers, a big brother and a little brother.

I loved your post about how Justice squashed your fears of worrying about if he would impact your bio kids. So true! The kids are SO good about it. Our girls acted like Fynn and Ewan had always been their brothers. It was amazing to watch, especially Killian who is unbelievably shy, to the point you could classify it as social anxiety. Within a few hours, she was holding hands with Fynn, playing soccer with him, laughing with him. It was good for my heart to see."

Dad with Ewan and daughter Killian

Fynn with his sisters

Sister love

It is striking to me how alive and vibrant Fynn has become. We didn’t see this side of him when we met him in Asikuma. It gives me such peace in my heart to see him this way…..I am overjoyed that he gets a happy ending too.

Looking at pictures of himself and his brother…

They also worked in a trip to one of Ghana's beautiful beaches!

One of my favorites…cried happy tears when I saw this one the first time…an expression of trust and contentment in his momma’s arms…

Fynn, Keegan, Ewan, Killian = SIBLINGS!!!

Ewan. NEVER will I forget those eyes.

Fynn. So handsome I can hardly handle it!

Brothers. Forever.

♥  ♥

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~Jeremiah 29:11~

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Foster Care ~ One Year Later

Last fall I asked a friend of mine, Jenna, to write a post about her and her husband’s experience as they entered the world of being licensed foster care parents (you can read that post HERE). At the time, they had only been licensed for 4 months, and although they were new and green, God was already teaching them so much about His heart for orphans. Today marks exactly 1 year of the day their first placements walked in their front door. I asked Jenna to write another post so that we can all get a glimpse into what their past year has looked like as first-time foster care parents. Here is the update….in Jenna’s words…..

One year ago today, I received a phone call at about 11:00am telling me there was a sibling group of 4 that needed an emergency placement. The lady on the other end said, “Don’t worry, you can just choose 2 if you’d like.” At the time our own kids were 3 years and 9 months old, so we decided to take the 7-year-old boy and the 4 year-old girl. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t believe I just told this lady yes! This had been something we had thought about during our whole pregnancy with Mya and in my mind was still in the future. It suddenly became REAL. About 3 hours later the doorbell rang and in walked two brown eyed kids, looking so afraid and in need of haircuts and baths real bad. And so began our journey into the world of foster care.

SO much has happened since that day that it’s hard for me to narrow it down and put it all into words. I first want to start by saying GOD IS GOOD! I knew I served a God that was big, but I don’t think I really understood that…and sometimes still don’t…until we laid down our lives and said yes to Him. I can remember sitting in church a while back and hearing one of our pastors talk about how their foster kids were moving to Texas with relatives and how hard that was - but he didn’t want that to stop anyone from doing foster care. I can clearly remember sitting there thinking, “There is no way I could ever do that.” And I was right. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22. So far on this journey, the times I try to do this in my own strength, I fail. I want to pull my hair out and wonder what in the world we were thinking. But when I go back to Truth and the promises that God will sustain me and His purposes are great and perfect, I can go on. My hope is not in my abilities, but in His promises and in His strength.

Anyone who knows me knows what an emotional person I am. I didn’t want to do foster care because I didn’t think I could possibly go through the heartache of attaching to a child and then letting them go. To add to that, I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ my own kids and take away from our family. To be completely honest, these are fears I still had when I said yes to the lady on the phone a year ago. We didn’t wait to ‘feel’ fantastic about the decision we made or wait until WE thought it was right. Scripture is so clear on what our role is as Christians when it comes to taking care of orphans. James 1:27 ~ “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows IN THEIR DISTRESS and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Psalm 82:3 ~ “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed.” So we said yes because we could not avoid the truth that we are his hands and feet and in this age, foster care is a practical way to lay down my life for God’s bigger picture (1 John 3:16). Our fears were unfounded and not from God. We have in no way ruined our children. We have added to our family, not taken away. Our son uses the term ‘foster mom’ like he knows what that means. It’s normal for them and they love having new people at our house.

Another truth God has been showing me is that my kids are no more important to Him than children who don’t have parents and children who are in these horrible situations because of the foolish choices their parents have made. He created them and loves them, just like he does my kids. It’s not a ‘my kids versus our foster kids’ situation. We are a family and we have included these kids into our family, just like Christ did for us when we become one of his children.

So what has the last year looked like practically? Well, “J” who is now 8 years old, walked in our front door looking like a stereotypical orphan. He had zero confidence in himself. He didn’t trust ANYONE. Hoarding was a way of life for him. He craved and requested any fresh fruit or vegetable he could get, which was crazy to me because Max, my son, only requested chips and apple juice. I’ll never forget the first night when we said it was bed time. They both looked at us like we were nuts and couldn’t believe they had a set bed time. “J” has had the most emotional damage and continues to have a long road of healing ahead of him. About a month ago, after months of praying and different situations, “J” moved in with another foster family to be with his oldest brother. So we had to experience our first goodbye. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that was anything but HARD. We had come to love this boy so much. He drove us nuts at times, but we had invested a lot into him and he had grown SO much. He gained so much confidence in himself and started to take pride in what God had given him and was understanding the gospel and loved to read his Bible and go to church. He went up 10 reading levels in first grade. For the first time, he had a structured home with a bed time and 3 meals a day. And if he could have it his way he would literally eat all day :)  I’ll admit, as I was packing his room up I was a complete disaster. The kid who I was afraid to let into my house, I suddenly didn’t want to see him go. Where I once had fears my own kids would feel neglected, I was now fearful they would miss “J” too much and wouldn’t understand why he was leaving. In the coming days I found so much peace knowing that Nate was still going to meet with him a couple times a month and that God had allowed us to share truth with him and that God is the one who saves souls, not us. We had been obedient to this one child and now I had to let him go and trust that God’s plan for him is going to be more than I could have imagined myself. He will always be a part of this family and we will always pray for him!

“A” is now 5 and is still with us. It’s hard for me to even call her a foster child anymore because she is such a part of our family. She was the favorite child in her former house of 4 other boys and she knew it. She had been taught that if she threw a fit, she would get her way. So teaching her different behavior has been very challenging, but she is a completely different little girl today than a year ago. She still tries to throw fits to get her way, but will usually stop when she quickly realizes that it won’t work :)  She is just starting to understand the gospel and the very simple truth that God is ALWAYS with her and she does not have to be afraid. God is still writing the story in the lives of these kids and what their future holds. We don’t know yet what will happen, but we know that God is in control and I have so much peace that the God of the universe is in control of their lives and our family. "Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail." ~ Proverbs 19:21.  Deuteronomy 7:9 ~ "Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands."  We can do foster care because we serve the God who is. I can depend on Him on the really hard days and give thanks on the really awesome days. I don’t want to pretend that this is not difficult. It really is difficult. It’s hard to see such extreme brokenness and feel completely helpless. It’s hard to watch kids suffer because of choices their parents made. But I can look back on this last year and see how time and time again God was faithful. I can look back on days where I thought we were crazy and see that in fact, this is what obedience looks like. In their distress we chose to love and take care of these 2 kids and we will continue to do so. We have seen the need and we cannot turn our eyes from that.

The need in Story County alone is HUGE! Even if you got licensed and only did respite care for foster families needing a break, that would help. The body of Christ could easily meet and surpass this need and allow these kids to not only have a chance on this earth, but to have an eternal hope in Christ.


*     *     *

As Jenna noted, if you live in the Ames, Iowa area there is a very HIGH demand for foster care homes right now. The licensed foster care families in our church are receiving many phone calls a week for placements. Another foster care family in our church, The McCollough’s, recently posed this thought –

Imagine the impact on our community, country, and the Kingdom if the church could step forward and provide every foster bed needed.

For that to progress from imagination to reality, more families need to become licensed for foster care. Why should believers in Jesus consider becoming a licensed foster care family? Tim McCollough, foster care dad in our church outlined the following reasons…

Because the State of Iowa will:
*Deliver the poor, abandoned, orphaned, abused, and/or needy to your doorstep.
*Expect you to care for them in their distress.
*Expect you to share your life with them.
*In most cases you have access to minster and serve their family as well.
*Pay you to do it.

Seriously, if you are a Christ-follower – this is a major ministry opportunity, let alone a command from God Himself. Children and families in our community are suffering in despair, searching in all the wrong places for peace and fulfillment, and are desperate for hope, for some good news, for a friend, for a role model. And many children, plain and simple - need a mom and a dad. Christ-followers, LET US be the ones to step in the gap and provide for these needs.

There are two offerings of the PS-MAPPs training sessions (foster care preparation classes required for licensing) scheduled in the Ames area in the near future. The 10 week sessions start:

-November 6, 2012
-March 13, 2013

The process to become licensed begins online at Iowa KidsNet. http://www.iowakidsnet.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.show&pageID=85

Monday, September 17, 2012


A few weeks ago I learned that a fellow adoptive mom and community member would be nominating me for the ‘Yahoo! Women Who Shine’ contest.  You can read about why she, Emily, decided to nominate me on her blog HERE.

I have always seen our Foundation’s work in Ghana as a partnership between Jake and I, and so I was a little uneasy about being in a contest that focused on what I was doing. Ok, really uneasy. Jake is the speaker. The leader. The visionary. He is the courageous one that gives me the confidence to leave the rational thought processes of this world behind and radically jump in. Go for it. Make an impact – even when it doesn’t initially seem logical. Or safe. Or feel comfortable. This Foundation does not roll without him. So, upon reading Emily’s email to me about the nomination, which was pending my acceptance, my stomach was all in knots and every part of me wanted to ‘sit on it’ for a few days before answering. But I didn’t – and I’ll be honest why – it was because of the money. I could not possibly turn down the chance of our Foundation receiving $10,000. Not when I have looked into chocolate brown eyes, on chocolate brown faces, some fresh and young, some old and weathered, that whisper…

Help me.

Feed me.

Disciple me.
Hold me.

Comfort me.

Be a voice for me.

I have seen. And I am responsible. In that alone, my heart resolved that this ‘contest’ would not be in vain. This is for them.

That in itself could have been enough confirmation, but God continued to affirm my acceptance of this nomination. I worship, serve, and believe in a God who is ALIVE. He’s not dead. And often I write on this blog that God speaks to me, or that He whispered something to heart. Because that’s the only way I know how to describe it. Those are the only words that seem to fit. The next few days the uneasiness about this contest being centered on me, only half of our Foundation’s work, kept coming in waves on the inside. And that’s when God spoke. I opened up my devotional and read the day’s reading and the last sentence was like a blowhorn…

Shining. God used the word shining. One simple word and my heart was BOMBARDED with truth. The name of this contest is 'Women Who Shine'. And right then and there God said ~ Janel, I can work through any platform. I am calling you out. I am putting you out there, on this big scale, in front of the world so that You will glorify My name. Don’t back down or downplay this. This is a chance for You to tell the world about Me in a different way than you are used to. And immediately this verse entered my mind…

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

God was giving me confidence to embrace this platform.

I also find it quite interesting that Jesus tells me (and all Christ-followers) that we are the light of the world – only to then read this in John 8:12…

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

These verses do not contradict each other but rather explain each other. Jesus says I shine because He shines and is living in me. And a verse that further explains that marvel is this one…

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To even be able to fathom that we, imperfect and sinful, human beings can reflect what our Almighty God is like is pretty much absolutely mind blowing. And yet, people’s heads do turn here in this world when they catch just a glimpse of God’s character (whether they recognize it as that or not). Jake and I have adopted a few children, fed children who are hungry, paid school fees for children to get an education, raised money for orphanages/foster homes, helped children receive medical care, and built a place where sick people can go to get medicine. I don’t feel like that is anything extraordinary. And yet, I now find myself in a contest to win $10,000 because of it. It absolutely blows my mind to think that this is all just a reflection. What people are seeing ‘shining’ in us is just a sliver. Just a teensy weensy. A shaving. A smidge of God’s character, manifested in His followers. Can you even imagine meeting Him face to face? Seeing justice and compassion and mercy and advocacy in its absolute FULLEST and PUREST form? It will knock us to our knees – and then some.

Until that day, when we can rejoice in heaven at the throne of Jesus because all the pain and sadness are gone – we have work to do. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering. It IS our blessed responsibility to act on their need. To bear their burdens. To give, and love, and serve them. If it is God’s will that I should win this money, it will all go to our Foundation, and we will continue to do just that. And when we do, the joy will be ours, because we know these people change our lives more than we will ever change theirs.

Here is the link to vote….

Friday, September 14, 2012

Faces of Sponsorship

Back on our March trip to Ghana you may remember that I met little George whose wellbeing I became concerned about. Once we got back to the States I had his situation investigated, and it turned out that he was the perfect candidate not for adoption, but for sponsorship. His case was the lead into something bigger. A few months later, during Jake’s trip to Ghana in August, it became blatantly clear that God was steering us into starting a sponsorship program in Asikuma.
So we did.

Throughout the remainder of Jake’s trip in August he allowed God to guide him to the children who needed sponsorship. Each day God did. By day Jake would text me pictures, names, and ages of the children. By night he would call and give me the details of each child and family’s story while I typed out his descriptions. By the time Jake returned home from his trip I had a list of over 15 families/individuals in the U.S. who were signed up to be matched with a child. Jake came home with 21 children in need of sponsorship. And our program was born! Here’s a look at the sweet faces of children thousands of miles across the ocean who now GET TO ATTEND SCHOOL (!) and have their basic needs met by families and individuals here in Central Iowa...

Maui received a medical sponsorship from our foundation...

Maui had a testicular hernia and was in much pain. There is a hospital nearby which does routine hernia surgeries. Our foundation paid 375 Ghana cedis (about $187) for his surgery and he was in and out in less than a day!

I also wanted to share a story from one of our sponsorship families on the U.S. side that really made me smile. In this sponsorship family, the gramma had signed up to sponsor because she really wanted to involve her two granddaughters (‘M’ and ‘m’) in the experience. She was excited to show them what it was like to be able to help someone else. I received this email from gramma after they received the info and pictures for their match…..

Hi Janel

Just thought I’d let you know how it went when I introduced ‘M’ to Miriam and baby sister. ‘m’ is oblivious to most things so I didn’t include her in the conversation. She will pick everything up from ‘M’.

Anyway, I was talking with ‘M’ about her interest in Africa and asked her if she thought it would be cool to help a child in Africa. She was so excited. Then I said, “Well, let’s wait until mommy comes in here because I want to talk to both of you about it.” She said, “Gramma, am I in trouble because I’m intrigued by African people?” LOL! INTRIGUED!? I love that kid. Anyway, I explained all about Miriam and her brothers and her baby sister. She was excited about it and immediately told me she had a bag of money she could send her. :)

I printed out large photos of Miriam, her mom with babe and their house. I’m sending you two photos - the first is of the printed photos – ‘Momma A’ put them on the kitchen wall next to where they eat so they will always remember to pray for Miriam and her family...

The other photo is one ‘Momma A’ sent me yesterday afternoon - she went in the kitchen and 'M and m' were parked in front of the photos…I’d love to have been a mouse to hear that conversation!

We stopped by their house yesterday and ‘M’ asked if Miriam’s baby sister had a name yet and she told me to tell her as soon as I hear what it is. I told her as soon as I get any information I will let her know.

While I was at M and m’s yesterday, they were watching a kids’ show and they were talking about Africa and had the coolest rhyming song about each country in Africa. So ‘M’ got to see about Ghana. When they showed the “rich” countries, ‘M’ asked why the rich African people don’t help the poor African people. I love the way her mind works. :)

Anyway, thought you’d enjoy hearing about her reaction. ‘m’ is a bit young yet to really understand the whole situation but she is excited because ‘M’ is excited. Thanks so much for letting us do this.
Oh how that made me smile. To think that two little girls in Iowa were sitting in their kitchen conversing, pondering and learning about their two now 'sisters' - continents away - that warms my heart! Yes these sponsorship funds will make a huge impact on the lives of needy children in Asikuma who are on the receiving end. But what an awesome viewpoint to also catch a glimpse of the impact that sponsorship can make on the giving end!

I had my own personal moment like that a few weeks ago when on my Facebook I was tagged to this photo….

That is Juma….a little boy in Uganda who my Mom is sponsoring through Children’s Hope Chest in our name. His sponsorship was one of the Christmas gifts she gave to our family last year. Let me tell you, seeing Juma holding the picture of us caused my world to get a little smaller that day. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh, you’ve been to Africa a million times….this sort of thing probably doesn’t even phase you anymore.” But I pray that I never become unmoved or numb to need, no matter how much poverty my eyes get to see and encounter. I have never set foot in Uganda. And yet, when I saw Juma holding our picture like that it was like I heard him say I’m depending on you each day of my life. Depending on us to get food. To have access to clean water. For the opportunity to attend school. For medical care, discipleship, and the list goes on. When you really let that sink in, it is absolutely shocking…..and real…..and convicting…..and inspiring…..and perspective changing…..all at the same time.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice,
freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain,
rejection, hunger, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand
to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you
with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make
a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others
claim cannot be done...
To bring justice and kindness to
all our children and the poor.
~Franciscan benediction~