Friday, December 20, 2013

Adoption Stories: Emefa

You may remember me introducing you to little Emefa who I have blogged about previously HERE and HERE. Emefa is an HIV orphan living in Asikuma, the little village in Ghana that Kingdom Cares International visits frequently. Our team happened upon Emefa on our January 2013 trip – all alone, lethargic and sick. With Emefa’s parents both deceased, her elderly grandmother had become her primary caretaker, but was struggling to be able to provide Emefa with the intensive care and life saving medicine that she needed. At first KCI began sponsoring Emefa to cover the medical expenses of her drug intervention, as well as taking over the responsibility to get her to her doctor visits. But eventually the Lord began speaking adoption plans over Emefa’s life. As only the Lord can do, He began setting things in motion in Emefa’s life, as well as in the lives of the family that He had picked out to adopt her - well before any of us had a clue that she was going to be adopted! That family turned out to be our friends, Tim and Amber Van Loo, who took their first trip to Ghana with Kingdom Cares earlier this year in March 2013. They had no idea what God was setting into motion that trip. You can read about the first encounter that Amber had with Emefa HERE – that account is from the eyes of another team member who had journaled out the experience because it was so touching to him. Eventually Emefa was relinquished for adoption and Tim and Amber stepped right in with a strong conviction of knowing that Emefa was to be their daughter. In the months since, Tim and Amber have faced no shortage of adversity in their adoption journey of Emefa. They’ve persevered through a country-wide shut-down of all Ghana adoptions as well as needing to switch adoption agencies which has cost them time and money. YET, God is faithful and sovereign. And this past week Tim and Amber tasted His goodness as they made a trip to Ghana to visit Emefa, and were able to actually get a court date while there and PASSED! Today I am posting Amber’s write-up from their trip and I will continue to keep you updated on their journey! Amazingly, Emefa’s adoption has not been the only way in which God has flung open Tim and Amber’s hearts (and front door) to take in the fatherless. I know I will get to share more of their story from the past year when the time comes and I just can’t wait! For now, I am rejoicing once again over the depths that the Lord will go to in defending the overlooked and ignored, and choosing to re-write their story via adoption. In Amber’s words…..

Meet Emefa VanLoo, that is her name now in Ghana! We now need to file all the papers on the U.S. side so we can bring her home!

After a week's journey to Ghana and back we are home and thankful to be, although wishing we could have brought Emefa with us. It was so very hard to leave her, but soon we will go back and bring her home! Our trip was very productive and very exhausting! We did a lot of back and forth driving all over Ghana, pretty sure one day I will die driving in a car in Africa (wow it was an experience)!

Here is a short summary of our trip...

We arrived in Accra Tuesday night and stayed the night not as planned, but had an awesome friend of a friend take care of us. Of course our bags did not come in, but no surprise there. Wednesday morning we went to Asikuma to see Emefa. Once there our first stop was to visit the site where Kingdom Cares International is building a children's center. The progress is exciting to see...

Then we were off to Emefa's school to see her!!! As we walked through the tiny dirt path my heart was racing. I can’t even explain the thoughts going through my head, holding back tears of joy and scared to death all at the same time. She was quite shy - she even hid in the middle of a group of kids. Wisdom (a pastor in the village who has helped us a lot in the process) called to her and got her to come out. Tim greeted her first but she wanted nothing to do with him.

Wisdom then brought her to me and said, “Emefa, this is mom”. She slowly looked at me and allowed me to take her into my arms. When Wisdom said those words my thoughts went to oh my goodness yes I am your mom. This tiny girl with sores all over her body and her skin so much darker than mine is now my daughter. She continued to just stare at me but allowed me to carry her back to visit her grandma and then onto our hotel.

We ate some lunch and man can Emefa eat! I am sure it is because she is not used to having a full plate in front of her. And we tried to be careful as to not fill her belly too much to hurt her. She also loves orange Fanta along with Tim. In Ghana they do not use their left hand to eat as that is the hand they use to go to the bathroom. I am left-handed and as Emefa watched me eat she switched hands and did everything I did. As more time went on I realized that everything I did she copied me. When we were done eating we went down to the fish farm that Kingdom Cares also started for the village.

Emefa was scared to death of the water! Our guess was that she had never seen a lake before and this one is huge. It is the largest manmade lake in the world. The few people that were with us got on a boat and went across the water to the fish farm - we stayed back with Emefa up on the beach. After about an hour of showing her it was okay and getting her to trust me by using the fun of taking pictures with my camera, we were able to get her by the water.

Just as she was close to putting her toes in the water this Ghanaian fisherman that had been watching us and talking to us came up behind her, grabbed her, and put her right into the water. She completely freaked out! I was so mad at this man as we had worked for an hour building up trust and then he comes and crushes it. She screamed and ran into Tim’s arms. The fisherman went back to working on his boat and we again started showing Emefa the water was okay. After a short time she decided to put her toes in and realized it was okay.

We played for awhile - skipping rocks and showing her that water was fun and refreshing.

This time was so good to build some trust and for her to know she was safe in our arms. We then went back and hung out the rest of the evening bonding more with her in our hotel room. We shared a picture book of our family and practiced everyone's names. She loved looking at the pictures of our family, each of the kids, our house, things we like to do, and even our dog.

She loved to point at each picture and look at me to tell her who it was. She then would repeat each name or anything I said. She repeats all names and English words very well. We feel she will catch on quite fast to English. Later in the evening we decided it was bath time…I went into the bathroom to start getting ready and in comes Emefa, she pulls down her underwear and just pees on the floor. I started laughing and called to Tim. I’m guessing this little thing has never used a toilet. :)  So I showed her how to sit on the toilet and go. We continued to work on this and I think she caught on pretty fast.

Thursday morning we had to be up at 4:30am to leave by 5am to drive two hours to another village to be seen in court at 8am. Emefa’s aunt had to go with us too, I am not sure why but she needed to have a family member with us. So six of us squeezed into this tiny car and headed out. We arrived at 7:30am and proceeded to sit in a Ghanaian court room that was about 100 degrees until 11ish and then were told that the judge would finish all cases for the day then see us! After Tim got yelled at by a police officer for sleeping in the court room, around 1pm we finally were able to sit with the judge. He accepted our application and we passed court! So in Ghana's eyes Emefa is our daughter! This was a huge accomplishment and helped me emotionally so much. When the morning had started, Emefa was completely fine with me but when her aunt showed up Emefa totally changed her attitude and wanted nothing to do with me or Tim. Satan was attacking me all morning with this aunt and doubt. I feared with everything in me that we came all this way and the aunt was going to say she wanted Emefa. So when the judge approved us I was so overwhelmed and felt God surrounding me saying “trust in Me and I will provide” Psalm 28:7 ~ The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song

We then made the drive back 2 hours to Asikuma, ate dinner with Emefa's aunt, and went and visited more with Emefa's grandma. We gathered Emefa's things which all fit in one small back pack and said goodbye to Grandma. We then were off to Accra for another 3 hour drive. Our friend Michael was able to find us a nice hotel with air conditioning and a shower - cold shower - but a shower :) Tim, Emefa and I were out for the night. Sometime in the middle of the night I felt Tim jumping out of bed with Emefa in his arms…he was yelling “she is going to pee in the bed!” He ran into the bathroom with her and put her on the toilet. She had woke up, pulled down her pants and was ready to pee in the bed between us. I guess we need to work on the toilet more!

Oh and we finally got our bags!

Friday morning we hung out in the hotel bonding with Emefa. It was great! She loves taking pictures with my camera and especially loves selfies. She loves to color and we worked on letters and numbers. She also caught on fast to using the toilet. She began to say to me “potty” and would go in and use the toilet. Praise God! When we said we would adopt one of the things I did not want was a baby or toddler that I needed to potty train. I hate potty training and am very thankful to be done.

We also found out that Emefa is as stubborn as I am so adding her to the family is perfect! She does not like to be told no and we experienced her first was it a fit! We will work on that once we are home :) Also, when she is hungry she gets cranky, also just like me! She likes to play hard to get with Tim. When Tim has food to offer her she loves him, other than that she plays hard to get. Although by the end of the morning she was playing hide and seek with him nonstop. She would hide behind the door, knock on it, then hide from him. Super cute…she liked when he came and “scared” her. She was good with me, calling me momma and running to me when she was scared of Tim. I enjoyed this and Tim commented on this, but honestly I was truly thankful she was attaching a little to at least one of us vs. not liking either of us. We went to eat lunch with Michael, his mom, and Daniel - another friend from Accra. Again Satan began attacking as Emefa had not completely gotten over her fit in this time and she latched onto Michael’s mom - wanting nothing to do with Tim or I. I knew this was an attack from Satan and I tried so hard to fight it. I fought back tears and wished we would have stayed in the hotel. They took us to a restaurant right on the ocean - it was beautiful! One small way for God to show me His beauty and help with my emotions.

We then checked out Michael's school he runs for unprivileged children in Accra. We made one other stop to a store and Michael’s mom stayed in the car with us. She had realized how Emefa was going to her vs. us and was trying to help. She kept telling me it will be fine and Emefa will change. I knew all of this but it was so hard when she would turn her head from me and wanted nothing to do with me after having such great bonding time. At the store Emefa had to go potty and I was the only one who could take her. This was a funny way for God to once again show me to trust in Him. Going potty made her want to be with me again. Then we went back to the hotel as we were tired and wanted to bond some more with Emefa after the rough moments of the day.

Overall I think bonding went well with her and us. I feel that each time Satan attacked me or us, God came through. There were so many small signs from Him. One awesome thing in Ghana is that it is a Christian nation and they are very open about it. Tim and I made comments about how we wish people in the U.S. were like this. Everywhere you look - on the back of cars, on signs along the road, there is always a verse or a shout out to God! I found these very encouraging and great reminders for all the emotions going through my body! One verse that I said over and over in my head was Psalm 91, to know that God would protect us and not let anything happen to us. Then we turned the corner while driving and the van in front of us had “Psalm 91” in giant yellow letters across the back window.

Then there was a group of school kids and their uniforms said “God never fails”.

Over and over God showed me that I needed to rely on Him and trust in Him.

Saturday morning we again spent time inside and outside of the hotel bonding - cuddling in bed, coloring, running around outside, playing hide and seek, and taking pictures. Michael then picked us up along with Comfort (she is the foster mother who is caring for Emefa now) and we went to the market. Again Emefa attached to Comfort, but by this time I knew it was okay and had prepared myself for this to happen…the Ghanaian women are who Emefa feels most comfortable with right now. We had bonded some and we have shown her our love. I just kept telling myself over and over that it was okay. I am her mother and one day she will know this. Tim also reminded me of this and helped my emotions throughout the day. At the market Emefa picked out a new dress - it was fun to see her opinion of colors and style. We then went to Comfort’s house, stayed for awhile, and then had to say our goodbyes. Poor Emefa. I feel she was very confused by all of what happened during the week, but we feel she is in great hands and we will be going back for her asap! Hoping in the next three months! Pray BIG for us!

Our week was very exhausting but so worth it! We feel so blessed that our friends Jake and Janel have made such great relationships with the village and people in Asikuma and Accra. It made our time there so much easier. We had a peace with who was taking care of us and translating for us.

Even though this journey is crazy, it is so awesome. There were so many times this week in airports, in lines, at restaurants that we were able to share about our faith in Christ. When people ask “where are you traveling” and “for what” the door is wide open to share. I have never been that good at sharing and I never want to offend anyone, but this adoption journey would not be happening without Christ. It naturally comes up in conversation about what we are doing. And I love it! I know Tim does too. It is also a journey that is teaching us so much about ourselves, our sin, and how we should be living for and loving Christ! That is a whole other story in itself…

Please be praying for the paperwork and steps that need to happen on this end to move quickly and smoothly! Emefa is a sick little girl and needs help. We need to get her here with clean living conditions, good nutrients each day, to doctors that can care for her, and on medicine that will heal her little body! This week we dealt with some bleeding sores and a pinched finger in a car door that was bleeding. I had thoughts go through my head of what are we doing? Why do we think we can care for an HIV+ child?  BUT, we found out that we can. It is very easy to deal with a bleeding finger and once we get her on better meds hopefully her sores will go away. Again this was another way for Satan to attack me. Then, once again God came through...on the way home we were in Turkey at the airport and started talking to a doctor from Michigan. He is a pathologist and was telling us about work he has done in Africa and how bad HIV is. But he said that in the U.S. the medicines have come so far. That bringing Emefa home to the U.S. will be life changing for her. She can live healthy and normal. It was so reassuring to hear from this random doctor all of this information. So again, God told me to just trust and He will provide!

Also please pray for the finance side of this journey. We spent more money on the trip then planned with taxi rides, money at court that was not planned, etc. But the awesome thing is we had the money to cover what we had not planned on. Again, God has provided for us and we know He will continue to do so. We have one more big chunk that is due to our agency now that we passed court, and then we are on the home stretch to bringing Emefa home!

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. ~Luke 12:48~

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Running From Your Life

Can I be real for a moment? Adoption is hard. Yes we have the cutest adopted kids in the world. But behind the cutesy pictures is a struggle. It’s hard parenting and connecting with children who are not my flesh and blood. It is draining learning to love sacrificially when the feelings inside of me scream otherwise. It is ugly having my own sin and depravity exposed again and again, day after day, via adoption. I am still as selfish, rebellious, and unlovely as I ever was. Adoption hasn’t changed that, rather it has brought it to the surface even more. I am coming through a season in which it has crossed my mind more than once of how I literally want to run away from this anointment, this calling that God has put on our lives to take in orphans into our family. It would be so much easier not to. Life would be a lot prettier and a lot less messy. Yet, through those raw emotions I hear God whisper that perseverance must finish its work in me so that I will be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). Perseverance is not one of my top qualities. I would rather run the opposite direction when things get hard and ugly and messy. For awhile now Jake has been listening to sermon podcasts while he works out in the morning and he kept telling me that I should try it. I am usually glued to my music for work outs, but the other day I was led to a boatload of online sermons and the title of one of them caught my attention ~ ‘Running From Your Life’. I listened to it while working out the other day and it brought me truths from the life of Elijah that I had never seen in scripture before. If you can relate to anything I’ve said above then I hope it encourages you too...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Invitation: Join us for breakfast on December 13th, 2013

I wanted to invite all of you to a breakfast that we will be hosting on Friday, December 13th, 2013 from 7:30am-9:00am at our Kingdom Courts facility. The purpose of the breakfast is to continue to share the vision of Kingdom Cares International. We will use this breakfast as an information platform to share about our projects in Africa as well as some local projects we are looking to take part in over the next 12-18 months. We are also going to use that morning to kick off a major fundraising campaign, The 1200 Club, in which we are looking for individuals to get behind the organization as a whole as we try to meet the needs of those locally and globally.

Below is a brief preview of the various projects that will be discussed at the breakfast event:
  1. Development of the Kingdom Cares Mission Center and Children’s Outreach home in Asikuma, Ghana. Construction has already begun and we are excited to share with everyone the full scope of the project. 
  2. Development of a youth sports center in Chad, Africa in partnership with Athletes in Action and Campus Crusade for Christ.
  3. Clearly paint the vision for the new program we kicked off locally this fall called Beyond Ball Ministries. We will paint the vision for how we see Beyond Ball making a difference not only on the basketball court but more importantly making a lasting impact for the local community of Des Moines.
We hope you will consider joining us for breakfast on the 13th as we look to take major leaps forward as an organization. PLEASE RSVP by email to if you would like to attend.

Jake Sullivan

[Kingdom Courts facility location: 6095 NE Industry Drive, Des Moines, IA 50313]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sullivan Fam Hoopsters!

Ever since Jake started coaching youth basketball he’s only had teams aged 3rd grade level and above in his program. But this year all that changed as he added teams all the way down to kindergarten on the boys’ side and 1st grade on the girls’ side! His main motivation was that JJ was really wanting to be coached by Dad! Last year as JJ played in a rec league I noticed that he was ALWAYS looking at Dad in the crowd after plays and was yearning for his feedback every step of the way. The two of them have a very close relationship, and I just had a hunch that if Jake were to coach him it would be so beneficial to JJ’s confidence and development on the court. At this age he thinks Dad knows EVERYTHING :) and he is like a little sponge, ready to absorb anything out of Jake’s mouth! So, over the summer Jake began prepping to integrate K-2 boys teams into the Kingdom Hoops program by holding camps and getting the word out. JJ was practically through the roof in excitement all summer long as he anticipated his first season as an official Kingdom Hoops player. Then, earlier this fall Jake got a phone call from a parent in his program asking if he’d consider starting up a 1st grade girl’s team. For the past 6 months Jennifer had been showing a lot of interest in wanting to try basketball, so Jake figured it would be a perfect way for her to try it out under the umbrella of his program. The team was formed in less than two weeks! Jennifer was so pumped for practice to start that she even let JJ ‘coach’ her through a preview of drills in the driveway so she would be ready to go for practice. ;)

Our little Miss Jayla, kindergartner, of course also wanted in on the action and decided to try out the first couple of practices to see how she liked it. In true Jayla style, she was a bit more concerned about the fashion aspects of the sport such as what color basketball Daddy might get her and if he could also find her some basketball headbands. :)

First night of fall skills...

As anticipated, the demanding practices ended up being a bit too intense for Jayla right now, but maybe next year it will be a better fit.

Last week was the season kick-off, and my two little 1st grade hoopsters were ready to roll! When I took the picture on the right at the kick-off event it gave me a flashback to the picture on the left from the day we first met Jennifer in Ghana of March 2012. What a transformation!

This past Sunday was JJ’s first game and my action-picture-taking skills proved to be a lil rusty! These couple of pics were the only ones that I managed to grab…

They ended up losing 20-30 but JJ’s team has some tremendous potential….a couple of his teammates have never even played before and I know they are going to really improve over the season. JJ knocked down his signature left-handed drive into a lay-up a handful of times and finished out the game with 10 points. I am noticing a MAJOR difference in his confidence and aggressiveness from last year to this year. Last year he was extremely timid and passive, especially on defense. This year already it’s like the exact opposite. Could be because Coach Dad told him that he can be as nice as he wants to be off the court, but as soon as he steps onto the court he needs to be ready to rip someone’s head off. :)

Jennifer’s first game was last night, and they dominated their opponents 32-12!! And our little Miss Jennifer has quite the athletic ability if I do say so myself. She is very strong, very aggressive, and very, very speedy! Those ingredients make for a great basketball player, and she just absolutely LOVES being out on the court! Every time she was even close to being open she was calling for the ball! She drove into the hoop numerous times, showing off some impressive control with her ball handling skills. She ended the game with 4 points, but she was everywhere. Grabbing rebounds, getting fouled, executing drawn up out-of-bounds plays (she got to pass the ball in), making key assists, even taking off for two breakaway layups that she just barely missed the tail end of. It was so fun watching her play, and even better getting to see how much she really likes it! Can’t wait for the next games!

[She made that one!]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Adoption Journey to Jennifer and Jasara and First Year Home

One year ago today we arrived home from Ghana with two new daughters – Jennifer and Jasara!!! In celebration of this day I put together a little video of our journey to them and pictures of our first year home.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gotcha! ~ 3 Years!

Today marks 3 years since Justice’s adoption was officially completed, and he stepped foot onto U.S. soil as a Sullivan! On the left was Justice’s referral picture – the first picture we ever received of him. It was off this picture and about 3 sentences of information that we were asked whether or not we would pursue him in adoption. I remember looking at the size of his shoes and thinking – “There is no way that child is 6 years old!” :) Justice’s adoption has been the gateway in which God has most clearly revealed to me His definition of love - which is NOT a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is a lay down your life action and submission to God’s will. 1 John 3:16 ~ This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. ~ I didn’t learn this through studious hours of bible study. I didn’t learn this through a well-given church sermon. I learned this from a little orange-haired African boy, living clear on the other side of the world, who was out of my preferred age range to adopt, who I feared had the potential to ‘ruin’ our family, and who would interrupt my ideal American family portrait sitting on the fireplace. Yet it was in these very circumstances that God taught me to lay down my desires, my plans, my feelings, my comfort, my grasp on convenience and control, our financial security, even my most treasured possession - our biological children - surrendering it all into His hands, for His Kingdom purposes. When Jake and I were married I had a picture in my head of what our family was going to look like. But God had a different one. And His plan trumped mine. Going with His plan hasn’t been easy. Oftentimes adoption hasn’t felt natural and has indeed felt sacrificial. Yet in the process I have been given a new picture: A HUMAN LIFE IS WORTH IT. With adoption you get to offer someone the chance to have God re-write their story. It cost Jesus His very life to do this for me…to give me the right to call myself a child of God. Yes, God’s kind of love entails sacrifice – yet it will not return void. With this kind of love, when you lose yourSELF, you gain real life…that’s because its very nature imparts eternal value. Thank you, Justice, for my first real-life lesson in God’s definition of love. And Happy Gotcha Day! I will never stop recounting what God has done in my life through yours! ♥

I made the following video of Justice's adoption journey back in 2011.  It was during my novice days of video making so no music or bells and whistles. :)  Yet, it's still vital for me to look back on how God brought us through the adoption process and that first year of him home. Rejoicing in how far he (and we) have come since then!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back 2 School

This week was a big week for us as it was back-to-school in our neck of the woods! First order of business leading up to the week was hair - believe it or not! Justice has been growing his hair out to get cornrows for a looooong time, but it was still too short for my novice hands to attempt it. Through our foster care/adoption network at church I found out about an ISU student who does cornrows for only $15! She does hair out of her apartment as a side-job so it was pretty simple to get in for an appointment and to get them done!

You can imagine that it takes some pretty skillful hands to braid that short of hair! But what you probably can’t imagine is that this only took her an hour and 15 minutes!!!!! I know Justice was thankful for that, as these ended up being quite painful to get put in since his hair was so short and she had to get each row real tight. He loved the outcome though and especially loves how low maintenance these are to care for day to day.

Jennifer wanted to go back to her long hair for school, so we set aside a day to put in extensions. This time however, I decided to use synthetic hair that you can get at Sally’s Beauty Supply as I had heard that it helps the style to last much longer than the yarn that we used previously. We used 100% Kanekalon hair…

I really, really want to do these extensions with beads on the ends some time, but when I practice putting the beads on the doll it just takes sooooo long. Doing the style already takes long enough! But I did want to give Jennifer a little color/spunk to the extensions…something different/special for back to school….so we added in some hot pink accents!  Here was the finished look!

These turned out SO FUN! The hot pink hair was also 100% Kanekalon however I picked it up at a hair supply store in the inner city…they don’t sell this at our Sally’s. I put these extensions in exactly as I did the yarn extensions, however, I had to knot and burn the ends (with a lighter) to seal them. With the yarn extensions I could just knot them, but the synthetic hair won’t stay with only a knot. Having to burn each end caused putting in this style to take longer than last time. For our next go-round I think we will need to spread out the styling over 2 days instead of our all day marathon. But seeing Jennifer swing her hair in the mirror full of giggles, and dance around the house in her excitement of having long hair makes all the hard work worth it!

And here were my babies on their first day of school which was Monday of this week! Jayla started Kindergarten (!!!!), Justice ~ 5th grade, Jennifer ~ 1st grade, and JJ ~ 1st grade.

I held it together in sending Jayla off for her first big day of school until she got on the bus, sat down, and waved from the bus window with her sweet little smile. I smiled and waved back, then turned toward the house and lost it while Kenny Chesney started singing in my mind as if on cue – “Don’t blink…”

Since then, it has helped tremendously that Jayla is SO EXCITED to go to school each day! She just can’t seem to get enough of it and is all bubbly and bouncing off the walls each morning while we get ready! Here are her first two pieces of school work that she came home with...


JJ is also pretty pumped about school right now, especially when it comes to reading! He is a memorizer, so reading has come rather easy to him which I am so thankful for. For 1st grade he has been given a reading log in which we record the amount of time each day that he reads to us, or us to him. For every 100 minutes logged in he gets to add a bead to his guitar necklace kept at school which their class will wear on special occasions. For whatever reason, this has just tripped his trigger and the kid cannot stop reading! Jake thinks it is his competitive nature and that JJ wants to beat every kid in his class and get the most beads. Well, I can tell you that he is definitely on track for that! He barely gets in the door from off the bus and he is asking if he can read to me. We set the stopwatch on the phone and he usually goes for 30 minutes straight. I have to laugh at his reading posture because he reminds me of a little old man reading a newspaper.

And did you notice what his choice of reading material is? That would be WWE character profiles and statistics. Every day this is what he reads to me. I should be able to spout off the biographies of every WWE character by the end of the month. :)

So with all the older rugrats in school now, that just leaves me and this little lady at home during the day!

Let me tell you, the girl is a HOOT! She has not missed a beat since the older ones have been gone! And having her one-on-one has helped me to appreciate her entertaining antics (and non-stop talking) much, much, more. :)


Friday, August 16, 2013

My Battle with Anger and Rage

I thought parenting was going to portray my strengths, never realizing that God had ordained it to reveal my weaknesses. ~ Dave Harvey

God has been writing this post in my heart for about the last 6 months (just take a glimpse at how long it is and you won't doubt that for a minute!). A recent sermon at my church on ‘using anger wisely’ really sparked me to know it’s time! It’s time to share about how the Lord has been disciplining me in this area, and how He has helped me to ‘get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…’(Ephesians 4:31).

I was relieved to learn the truth in that recent sermon that anger in itself is not sin. God created us in His image. God gets angry. Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5; John 2:13-17). God can use anger for good and for His Kingdom purposes. Anger can spur us to rebuke evil and sin, call out lies, stand up against injustices, and boldly proclaim the truth, all of which bring honor and glory to His name. And as I believe the prophet Jeremiah revealed, anger in the form of zeal can be the fuel that allows us to prophesy with passionate conviction, in full confidence of the Lord’s messages that He would speak through us….

I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

There is such a thing as righteous anger.

But we humans can take anything that God ordained to be used to glorify Him and His Kingdom purposes and instead turn it into something evil that becomes sin.

Anger in itself is not sin. It’s what comes after our anger, how we manage it (or don’t manage it) that can entangle us and give the devil a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:26-27)….and worse, destroy those who are in our line of ammunition. And for us moms, many times, that becomes our children.

It is my own children’s sin that provokes my anger. When I observe their self-centeredness...thinking/acting like the world revolves around them, direct disobedience to authority and disrespect of authority, self-seeking attitudes…it’s those kinds of situations (and many more) in which my anger starts knocking down the door. I’ve heard the ‘advice’ before to not get offended by your kids’ sin. For myself I consider that hogwash. Of course I am going to be offended when they sin! I am their mother. A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother (Proverbs 10:1). I have a responsibility to train and instruct them in the way they should go. It is repulsive, offensive, and grieving to me when they depart from the way of life. I was SO thankful that in his sermon our pastor pointed out that our children’s sin should make us angry. He noted that the opposite of anger is apathy….the man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing.

But, all that said, herein is where my problem lies: my anger triggers a physical reaction inside of me. I can literally feel a rush of adrenaline begin to rise up in my chest ready to explode. It’s like a power surge. If you plugged me in at that moment I could give electricity to the entire town. You can imagine what this gives way to when in those moments I am supposed to discipline and shepherd my children in love. What instead often comes out of me has been something so ugly, so dark, so sinful, so shocking, that it absolutely repulses me. RAGE. Impulsive actions. Venting my anger. Allowing words that destroy, cut down, and dishearten to come carelessly flying out of my mouth - instead of words that shepherd, encourage, and lift up. And all of that, stemming from anger. In me, anger turns into rage.

You didn’t know I had it in me did you? Yeah, me either. The fullness of this wasn’t revealed until I became a parent….and the full fullness wasn’t revealed until the past 6 months when I became a full-on mother of 5. But the other thing is that this sin is so easy to hide. Moms can hide it at play dates or on the playground or at family gatherings. But get us home alone with our kids and you’d see it all in full view. I know the devil would have me to believe that I am the only mom who struggles with this. But in my current bible study group, as I’ve become transparent about warring against this sin of rage, instead of being met with dead silence and crickets chirping or seeing judgmental looks of condemnation, I’m hearing “hallelujahs” and “amens” and seeing heads nodding yes. So, I’ve come to realize that it’s not that I’m the only one struggling with this. It’s that this is a widely un-talked about topic within the church….especially among women. It feels shameful and awful to share these things as a mom….especially to other moms. For one, our worldly culture so desperately tries to invite us to compete with each other and compare to one another. To put on the ‘I’m a good mommy mask’, keep our failures to ourselves, lest we show that we don’t measure up. It’s safer to keep these ugly things hidden and to instead share recipes and talk about potty training strategies. Second, isn’t the word ‘rage’ a long ways off from defining the essence of Mommy? I am supposed to be the warm, cuddly, gentle, sweet, patient, maternal one, aren’t I? Aren’t those the traits that are supposed to come naturally to moms everywhere?  Yes I felt those things when my children were infants.  But slam with me an 11 year old, 7 year old, 6 year old, 5 year old, and 2 year old and oh, how my inner nature begs to differ. Now I see what other natural traits are in me, and it ain't pretty. Yet, as a Christ-follower, I know the King I follow. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. God would rather have me bow down low in my failures, humble myself and confess that I need Him, and use my transparency to encourage and help others going through something similar. I hope this post can be that for someone.

So on with my personal struggle. I got to a point this summer where I was so sickened over this sin of rage in my mommyhood that I wound up in the closet (the only place in the house I can lock the door and receive peace and quiet) crying out to God that I was so weary of wrestling with this.  I told God I couldn’t do it anymore, and that it was like I had no power to stop myself. In their misbehaving times it was such a huge release to vent at my kids and respond on impulse, yet moments later I would feel awful condemnation and guilt over what I had just done, needing to apologize and ask for their forgiveness - only to know and expect that an hour or so later it would be happening all again. How can I lead and instruct my children out of their sin, when all they see in those moments is mine? The end goal of self-control wasn’t even on the radar. It was like I was stuck in this cycle of living in defeat. The devil had created a dominion of rule in this area over my life. I would wake up in the morning and say to myself “Ok. Today I am not going to lose it. I am not going to blow up on my kids. I am going to stay self-controlled and take deep breaths. I will not allow my anger to become rage.” But I’d fail by 10am, and the devil would be right there, snickering in my ear, confirming my deepest fear – that I was an incompetent, unfit mommy. “What kind of mom does that.” “Your kids don’t even want to be around you.” “They’re going to grow up to hate you.” “Your child doesn’t feel loved because you’re a terrible parent.” “They think you’re mean.” They’d go over to the neighbor’s house to play and the devil would whisper of my neighbor, “They wish she was their mom.” I had all of that and more rolling through my head as I talked with God there in the closet, trying to understand if I was going to be plagued with this the rest of my life. I told God that this sin repulsed me and I hated it. It was shocking to me that this vicious thing was living inside of me. I was becoming so grieved over it. I didn’t want it anymore. I even asked Him why I had to struggle with this sin. Why couldn’t it be some other sin that wasn’t as ‘horrible’? In my calculations it seemed that it would be a better idea if He just took me on up to heaven right then. I could not continue battling on in defeat….I was losing heart. I asked Him to rescue me from this body of death. I was ready to shed this earthly dwelling full of sin and yuck and get on with heaven. My plea was so honest and urgent that I fully expected that He may just shoot me right through the roof on up to glory in that moment. Didn’t happen. So I asked Him for a word of encouragement that would enable me to go on fighting this battle. I closed my Bible, and left the closet.

Later that day, in order to complete my ‘homework’ for a bible study I am in I was walking through verses in Hebrews chapter 11. As I often do, I started skimming around the surrounding chapters to catch more of the context. As I did, my eyes zoned in on Hebrews 12 and once I started reading I couldn’t stop. This is what I read:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,    
and do not lose heart when He rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one He loves,    
and He chastens everyone He accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:1-11).

Oh. Well that put things into perspective. I have not struggled against this sin to the point of shedding my blood as Jesus did…I’ve only shed a few tears. I can struggle and war against this more. And who else but God could lead me to a passage of scripture that spoke the exact words I had cried out to Him about…Lord, I’m weary, I’m losing heart, please give me a word of encouragement to help me press on. Those exact words were in that particular scripture. Only my King can do that….speak to my soul in such a personal way….and right on time. And God reminded me of something that I had been hoping to walk around and avoid instead of go through….His discipline is painful. He and I have places we need to go, promised lands to claim and enter, and this sin cannot go with us… was time for Him to expose this sin, rebuke me, and start the sifting process. In the end, being trained by His discipline would grant me the rescue and peace my heart was longing for, but for now I was still in His training grounds….ugly as it felt at the time.

In that set of scripture I had definitely received the word of encouragement I had asked for. But I still had one lingering question in my mind:

What am I supposed to do, practically, in those moments when that anger rises up in my chest as if it is a rush of adrenaline, an electric power surge, ready to explode?

Am I supposed to suppress that feeling? If so, then how do I suppress it? What practical steps am I supposed to take in order to deal with that anger that boils up,up,up, just waiting to make its appearance as rage? We hear verses like in your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4:26), and be self-controlled (1 Peter 5:8), and be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19-20)…..well, ok…..but how practically do you accomplish that when the physical uprisal inside of you is screaming to do the opposite? With many other sins the answer is to avoid the temptation in the first place….to actually flee from it and run the other direction. But my trigger is my kids. I can’t just flee from them every time they misbehave. :) So what do I do practically in those moments?

God would give me the practical answer that week in my bible study.

The study I am doing is called ‘Believing God’ by Beth Moore. On this particular week I was working through page 25 in the workbook which had nothing to do with anger, self-control, or the like, but actually was a message about faith being a quality of the fruit of the Spirit. However, in the author’s commentary, two sentences stood out to me like a sore thumb and spoke directly to my condition:

When we are yielded to the Holy Spirit’s authority, His personality fills us and eclipses our own. When we’re not yielded, we grieve the Holy Spirit and operate from our carnal (sinful) nature.

God spoke to me so clearly through those two tiny sentences. I have been governed by my feelings rather than the Spirit. When I allow my flesh to choose the reaction, I am smothering the Holy Spirit’s personality that wants to work through me, and I am instead choosing to operate from my own sinful nature. The practical answer in those heated moments is to YIELD/PAUSE right in the middle of the moment and submit and wait for the Holy Spirit’s response to invade me. I began to get a vivid picture of my afternoon drives to Ankeny which happen daily. One of the first parts of my route is merging onto the interstate. Many times lately I have been so lost in thought that I am literally gunning the gas pedal along the on-ramp while completely tuning out the yield sign to merge onto the interstate. More than once I have almost been knocked over by semis flying by that don’t have enough warning time to switch lanes before they see my car right there and merging….because I haven’t been observing the yield sign. I’ve just been gunning it right onto the interstate without thought. Hmmmmm. This is the exact thing happening with my anger. I’ve just been gunning it….and letting it go wherever it would take me. Not even giving thought to yield, submit, and merge with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to take me onward instead. That same week, a magazine that we receive from our adoptions called ‘Thriving Family’ actually had an article entitled ‘Women and Anger’ included in it. Of course it caught my eye because I’ve never heard anyone address the topic before! And in the article, God confirmed this idea of yielding/pausing to the Spirit. The author of the article said:

When I yell, I communicate to my family that they have the power to make me act crazy. And I don’t want my kids, my husband, the family dog or anyone else to have that kind of power over me. So, in that split second before I yell, I try to insert a pause. Pausing reminds me that God gave me emotions to experience life – not destroy it. Pausing helps me look for a little perspective. And best of all, pausing allows for the Holy Spirit to intervene in my response. ~Lysa Terkeurst~

Alright. Pause for the Holy Spirit confirmed.

Although I had finally found the practical answer I was looking for, God was going to take me even a step closer to Himself through my weakness.

You see, for weeks I tried this pause method. Some situations I could do it. But many times I would find that I would fail, even though I now knew what I should do….yield. The physical uprisal of anger inside of me was just too strong and overpowering. And coming to that reality, that now I even knew what I was supposed to do, and yet still couldn’t do it, was something that God used to give me a reality check of my own show me my desperate need for Him. I started to see something profound: God didn’t want me in a place of self-sufficiency. Because then I don’t need Him. I was going to learn that I could not rid myself of this rage on my own. It was going to take something supernatural….His all-sufficient grace.

About this time that I was beginning to see that even with a practical method to avoid my sin, I couldn’t do it, I was now weeks further along in my bible study. And the author had put forth a challenge….ask God to consecrate our give us a desire to stop misusing our mouths. Yet, I knew I didn’t stand a chance at that if the source, my boiling rage, was still stirring around in my chest. My misuse of my mouth 95% of the time comes as a result of giving full vent to that physical surge that rises up. I had that in mind as we walked through the homework for the day. As the backdrop for the challenge we were taken through Isaiah 6:1-8 ~

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
 the whole earth is full of His glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

As we looked up some of the words of the verses in the original Greek, I started to see something that I never had before. The words ‘taken away’ translated into ‘removed’ and the words ‘atoned for’ translated into ‘purged’. And then it dawned on me. I had never asked God to simply touch me and rid me, purge me, remove from me, the boiling rage that would rise up somewhere in the pit of my sternum. Could I approach Him and ask Him to touch me in the sternum, just as the angel did Isaiah’s lips with the coal, and simply remove it? Let it be gone? Let it not even be part of me anymore? The next verse we were led to gave me my answer:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).

My faith was being stirred. Over the past 6 months I had so desperately wanted this to go away. It felt like I had tried everything, and yet through it, my insufficiencies were only highlighted all the more. I, in and of my own power, could not rid myself of this. And yet, that’s it, isn’t it? That’s the whole point of the gospel. That’s why Jesus came for us. We must learn that only God can take away our sin and heal us….we are insufficient to do that on our own. I started to get a visual in my mind. Of another who had faith to believe that if she could just touch Him, touch His cloak, she would be healed….

A large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering…..He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering (Mark 5:24-29,34).”

Her need was physical. A healing from the suffering of sickness. My need also felt physical….that yuck there in the pit of my sternum. Yet also a need for healing from the destroying work of sin…as was Isaiah’s need.

This was all it took. I went back to my closet and confidently approached His throne of grace. I can tell you that in those moments I felt so certain of what I was about to ask of my Savior. I literally, honestly felt like He had already whispered that the healing would be given to me before I even opened my mouth. I went for it. But this time, instead of asking Him to remove me from this body of death, I asked Him to physically remove the body of death from me. Not the anger. Not the zeal.  But the rage. I told Him that I had faith that He could just simply touch me, as He did Isaiah and the woman, and heal me, rid me, remove from me, the filthy, destroying work of rage.

And He did.

I didn’t see angels or a vision or anything with my eyes, or hear anything with my ears. But I can tell you that in those moments I simply felt tremendous peace and stillness. I knew that it had happened. It was a John 14:13-14 moment for me. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. I truly had not a doubt that God had removed it.

And it didn’t take long to find out for sure. The next day a misbehaving scenario came about that normally would have sent me through the roof. I still felt anger against the sin, but there was absolutely no rush of rage rising in my sternum to fuel me into fury and impulsive actions. It was awesome. I can only describe it as a stillness resonating inside of me that I have never known in situations like that before.

It has been weeks since God removed this from me, and the stillness is still there. It has been so awesome, so relieving, so freeing, so glorifying to God in my life, that I have at times started to fret that the rage is lurking around somewhere, just waiting to crawl back inside of me and chain me up in the pit again. Even in the days it took to write out this post, it felt like the enemy was doing everything possible to squander and discredit what God had done. In my Bible study the author shared with us that if you start to feel threatened once again by a past stronghold that the enemy has gotten a lot of mileage over in your life, you should speak out against it in those threatening moments. Renounce it. Literally with spoken words. She said that for reasons ultimately known to God alone, He has ordained that SPOKEN words carry a power, authority, and effectiveness that exceed words we simply think. When we get in the devil’s face, by speaking scripture out loud – verbally removing all attachment from the sin, we intimidate the devil. Renouncing is our loaded gun against our enemy. Using my authority with the spoken word saying scripture out loud like, “I renounce the secret and shameful way of rage (2 Cor 4:2), I am not characterized by it anymore. God has removed it. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed my rage from me (Psalm 103:12)” has enabled me to get the devil out of my face and continue to rest in my healing.

I was not sufficient to rid myself of this rage on my own.  Nine years ago I put my faith in Jesus alone to rescue me from the eternal punishment that my sin deserves. And yet, today, I have become increasingly aware of how desperately I still need Him to rescue me from my sin. Apart from Him I am nothing, and can do nothing. Every hour I need Him.

I am able to bring beauty out of the junk of your mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride. Your failures as a mom highlight your dependence on Me. View your insufficiencies as doorways to a deeper reliance on Me. In My kindness, I am stripping you of self-reliance, of confidence in your own strength and abilities. Although the world applauds those things, I see things differently. I may choose to use your weaknesses and failures to glorify my Name. I may choose to give you ‘thorns in your flesh’ to acquaint you with My grace in ways that you have never understood before. Why? For, it is only when you arrive at that dreaded place of weakness that you will discover the place where you learn to depend on My power. (Tailored from Jesus Calling and 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Monday, August 12, 2013

More on the Children's Center ~ In Jake's Words

In Jake’s words…

Today was a day filled with sadness and heart break, but also a crystal clear vision from God. As we drove down the streets of Apeguso all I could think about was the song called “Yours” by Steven Curtis Chapman and the lyrics that say “I walk the dirt roads of Uganda and I am reminded that every child in Africa is yours.” The roads to Apeguso, Ghana were made of a rich, dark red clay that were surrounded by bush on both sides.

It seemed like we were on the road forever until we finally reached the little village tucked back away in the bush just off the red clay road.

I was on my way to meet a young boy named Israel. Israel has HIV, is an orphan, suffers from epilepsy, and was recently badly burnt by fire. I had seen the pictures and heard his story, but nothing in this world could prepare me for what I would see on the streets of Apeguso.

As we approached an isolated mud hut I was told that this is where Israel lived all alone.

As we opened the door a young boy appeared who was so ashamed of himself and his surroundings he could not lift his head to look at us in the eye.

His entire body screamed Help me, I am alone, I am afraid, and I am ashamed. My father has died, my mother has run away, and I have been neglected by this fallen world.

It was the first time in five years that I was lost for words and simply wanted to cry. I wanted to cry and ask God why? Why allow this type of suffering? Why allow this type of heart break? Why allow a child to be alone, afraid, and ashamed? 

Then I felt God reverse the same questions that were stirring in my emotions and my own head right back to me. “Jake,” God seemed to ask, “Why would you allow this boy to be alone? What will you do to meet his needs? How will you provide him an earthly family and teach him about his true Father above? How will you raise his chin and provide him eyes of hope?”

It was so clear right then. Over the last five years my wife and I have dreamed about opening a children’s center in Ghana where the most vulnerable and hurting children could be loved. Where God could provide the least of these an earthly family and a loving setting to be taught about our great Savior.

Just an hour earlier I was sitting with the Ahodwo Architecture Firm discussing the plans of the children’s center we want to build in Asikuma. Everything seemed too easy until we came to the cost of the project. The total cost for Phase 1 of the project, which is the children’s home that will provide a family to those suffering and alone, would cost $130,000.

A couple months ago Kingdom Cares International received a surprise gift from our home church, Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, of $40,000. When I received that gift I was sure that would be plenty of money to complete a children’s home. However, that would be too easy and require very little faith. I know the vision that God has given me for the home and I know God has shown up in big ways in the past. I felt as though God was saying to me, “Are you willing to take that step of faith and see Me provide once again?”

I gave a tentative yes to the architects, but yet doubt filled my mind as I made the trip to Israel’s house and village. Even as I sit here in the Ghana airport writing this post doubt covers every ounce of me. I know Satan will put those thoughts in my head and he will try to put up road blocks in our path. Tonight I got a call about someone disputing the land which now means we have to go to the land’s register office to make sure the land is clear and free. This just delays the project by a week or two and fills my mind with doubts and second thoughts.

I am sure we will face more roadblocks and question things more than once, but that is what faith is all about. I know God wants us to take a gigantic step of faith and to not just speak the verse that what seems impossible according to men is entirely possibly with God (Matthew 19:26), but to actually live it out in our lives.

The entire vision of the project is to develop five acres of land into an entire youth complex that will include the children’s center, a school, and a recreational area that will have a soccer field, basketball court, and playground. We want this to be where the children go and it will be our opportunity to impact their lives for Christ at an early age. The entire project will cost roughly $250,000 to complete. We are only focusing on phase I at this point and that is the development of the children’s center so we can care for children like Israel.

We have the first $40,000 thanks to Cornerstone Church and pray that all of you reading this post will choose to play a part in serving the vulnerable children and being the family that God intends for every orphaned child.

Below we have included all of the architectural drawings for phase I of the project. If you have additional questions please feel free to call me at 515-291-1542 or email (

I always have great fear and reservations when I look at something so big. However, I know the vision God has given me. When God started the journey five years ago to Africa some of the first words I read were from David Platt in the book “Radical”. It said when you start in on something that in no way can be accomplished by man, and the only way you will make it is if God shows up in a big way, you then know you are walking in the footsteps of God.

God Bless,
Jake Sullivan

Donations can be mailed to Kingdom Cares International – 315 Ridgewood Drive, Huxley, IA, 50124 or you can donate online by going to and click on the donate tab at the top of the screen. All donations are tax deductible and you will be sent a receipt following your donation.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Israel's Story and the Birth of a Children's Center

I introduced you to Israel in this post...

Our in-country worker, Wisdom, was able to accompany Israel to the hospital to receive treatment for his burns while Jake and the team were in Cape Coast on Monday.

Israel & Wisdom

Yesterday Jake and the team were back in Asikuma, and as promised, the two ladies from Israel’s village came and got Jake and took him to meet him. In Jake’s words he said that meeting Israel and seeing first-hand his condition and the reality of how he lives was the saddest, most upsetting encounter that he’s ever had in all the times he’s been to Ghana.

The two ladies had found Israel living here….

But have since been able to help him get into this mud hut…..

where he now lives all alone and sleeps on the dirt floor….

he weaves together these fans and sells them to survive…

As it turns out, Israel is epileptic. He was cooking for himself one night, had a seizure, fell into the cooking fire, and that is how he got the burns. His father has died. His mother, is in fact not dead, but ran away. He has HIV. Because of all these stigmas the community has abandoned him. He looks at the ground when you talk to him, unsure of his worth.

Kingdom Cares gave 500 cedis ($250) to the women who are helping defend Israel’s cause. They will use that money to get Israel to the nearby hospital in a neighboring town each day for the next weeks to have his wounds re-bandaged. Next week the mental nurse will be at the hospital to evaluate Israel’s epilepsy and write a prescription for the appropriate medicine. Today Jake recruited a woman within in the community to cook for Israel and make sure he is getting to eat each day. KCI provided the woman with funds for her help and to cover the cost of his food. The two women advocates in the community will continue to monitor Israel and ensure that all these details play out as described. Thanks to some of the teenage boys on the current KCI team, Israel now has a handful of clothes to wear which he has on in the pictures.

My heart is so heavy and burdened for this young man. This all just doesn’t seem like even coming close to being enough to help ease his suffering or the torment and loneliness he must be feeling inside.

With Israel’s situation in full view, I think it is now the appropriate time to tell you about a project that KCI has had in the works for a couple of months. Israel’s situation has become another one motivating us to break ground and get moving on what I am about to share.

Earlier this year, our church – Cornerstone Church of Ames, decided that they wanted to take up a free will offering one Sunday with a very specific purpose in mind. Every single penny from this offering would be given away to local and global organizations who were reaching out to the poor, needy, oppressed, overlooked, ignored, and disadvantaged. Kingdom Cares International was informed ahead of time that we would be one of the organizations receiving a percentage of whatever the offering was. Our pastors and church leaders had no idea what to expect….no idea how much God’s people would give. They gave the congregation a few weeks notice of when the offering would be, and they listed off the different organizations that would receive percentages of the offering. The Sunday of the offering arrived, the money was tallied that next week, and in total our church body gave over $250,000 in an offering that day. Unbelievable. I have goosebumps just typing it. That next week Kingdom Cares International received our percentage of the offering which ended up being $40,000!!! Almost immediately God specifically laid out what to use the money for.

For children like Israel.

And Emefa.

And Emmanuel.

And George.

And….the list goes on and on.

A children’s center. A place in the community where we can meet needs. Hand out a meal a day. Ensure children are getting access to medical care and help to administer the medicines they've been prescribed. A place to take in true orphans in dire situations like Israel….give them a place to live, help care for their needs, sponsor them in school, love them in action. A place to share the gospel and give out the fullness of real hope.

In addition, we need a place to house our short and long-term missionaries. We currently have two interns from the U.S. that just arrived to live in Asikuma and volunteer for KCI for the next 6 months. They are staying at the lodge in Asikuma, but it would be much more ideal if they could live and serve out of the same place….the children’s center. Same for our family. We would love to make this center a place that we could stay in during our frequent trips to Asikuma.

With Cornerstone’s donation in hand, it has enabled us to start on the project right away. Over the past few months we hired architects from the Kwahu area in Ghana to begin drawing up the plans. Jake met with them earlier this week to review the drawings and to begin picking out the more detailed pieces of the home such as how he wants the security wall done and what kind of burglar proof windows he wanted to choose.

There are two chiefs in Asikuma, both whom fully support KCI’s ministry to the community. We found out on our last January trip that one of the chiefs was considering donating 5 acres of land to KCI.  Yesterday Jake and the team went and met with him.

The chief finalized the donation of the land, the land was commissioned (which is the official agreement between Jake and the chief and is the customary time for Jake to present a gift to the chief) and tomorrow the land will be surveyed. The children’s center will sit on 1 of these 5 acres. Friday the bulldozer will come in to clear the land, and next week construction starts! I told you we were moving on this! :)

There are numerous ideas of how to develop the rest of the land in the future, but for now we are focusing on the children’s center.

Jake will be writing a blog post on more of the details of the children’s center when he gets back, but for now you can picture it as a big, giant house. There will be 6 bedrooms for house mothers and orphans, 1 bedroom for our long or short-term missionaries, and 1 guest room for non-live-ins (like our family when we visit), bathrooms, kitchen, etc.

The project total looks like it is going to be $130,000. The $40,000 we received from our church has enabled us to start right now, and will likely be able to fund the first few months of construction. We are choosing to trust God to provide the rest, just as we did in our adoptions. The good thing about Ghana construction is that everything is paid in cash. So if you don’t have the money the work just stops until you get more money. They don’t do loans or credit cards or anything – you only hire workers as you can pay them in cash. If you don’t have the money you don’t hire and the project just sits. We are trusting in faith that this project won’t just sit.