Saturday, July 30, 2005
Yesterday in the mail we received a HUGE packet of information from AAI, the agency we're adopting through. YIKES! It's all of the things we need to do for our dossier (essentially a packet of certified documents that will be sent to Ethiopia.) I am in disbelief---every single thing has to be notarized. A letter from our bank, Kevin's employer, our doctor, two letters of reference---it all has to be notarized! Sheesh! Just when you feel like you're making progress....:) The good news, however, is that once all of THAT is done, we'll be completely good to go! We won't be eligible for a referral of a child until our homestudy is approved anyway, which should take maybe 8-12 weeks, so that gives us plenty of time to get this dossier done (I think you can be eligible for a referral before the dossier is finished but I'm not positive.)
What a crazy process! We are so excited though, and obviously it will all be well worth it. I look at Anna and know without a doubt there's nothing I wouldn't have done to have her as my daughter.
So until next time, please be praying that we'll be able to get all this crazy stuff done! :)
Thursday, July 28, 2005
So Kevin, what on earth does this have to do with your Ethiopian Adoption "journey" (as the people like to call it)? Well, it's like this... Okay, did you really think for a split second that I was going to tie it in? You have a lot to learn.
Now for a paragraph that does relate to the topic at hand. God is so good. Can I just start off by saying that? I think I just did. I mean seriously, though. He loves every single person on this orbiting globe with a love that can't even be described. That can only be approximated with allusions to shepherds, and husbands, and fathers. But the moment we say that He loves everyone, we've most likely already missed something. If you're like me, you've probably subconsciously replaced the "everyone" with a picture of "everyone that you know" or "everyone that you like" and maybe in addition to that a fuzzy, vague idea of the rest of the world's strangers in some indefinite form. But for God, there's nothing indefinite about it. For Jesus Christ who hung on the cross and bled for each and every person He created, there's nothing fuzzy or vague. I think it's good to at least acknowledge that. I think it's only natural that our mind pictures work this way, and perhaps it's only even possible to be otherwise for the most right-brained and imaginative among us. But the point is that God doesn't see the world the way that we do. God doesn't spend 98% of His time intimately concerned with the details of your own life and then with the remaining 2% throw some blessings around to the rest of the world's people. Nor does He only spend 2% of His time on you because it's spread between six and a half billion living souls (or whatever the world's population is up to these days). No, He spends 100% of His time intimately concerned, lovingly in tuned, passionately engaged with each and every person. (One of those neat things about being God: being above and beyond the whole mathematics thing.)
So if Jesus cares so much for everyone, and if we're supposed to be followers of Jesus, then why do we so blithely accept the fact that most of the time we really just don't extend care and compassion beyond the people in our immediate circle?
These are some of the ideas that God used to first start softening and changing my heart. A message by Gary Haugen was instrumental for me in God growing my heart outwards. He is the president of an organization called International Justice Mission and you can learn more about them at http://www.ijm.org/. To read straight off their website: "International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression." The work they do is truly amazing, and I wholeheartedly recommend you check them out and maybe even consider how God might use you to advance His cause of justice around the world. Brianna and I first heard him speak in September 2002, and we were blown away by what he had to share. I strongly encourage you to take 45 minutes sometime and listen to that message we heard. You can still access it at the website of Santa Barbara Community Church.
Then click on: "CLICK HERE FOR SERMON DATABASE"
On the Speaker pulldown, go to Guest Speaker.
Scroll down and it's just called "Gary Haugen" and the date is 9/8/02
(He was also a week-long guest on a Christian radio program last month and you can hear those messages and interviews as well at:
In recent months, we've revisited the subject and while the topics are not directly related to adoption, I have found that God has used the same eye-opening experiences to open my heart to serving the "least of these" in other ways -- for us, namely adoption.
And in referring to orphans as the “least of these”, I feel the need to add a disclaimer. (I know that I am probably the least concise writer ever but supposedly that's okay in a blog, right?) Lest I be misunderstood to be saying that I look at our decision to adopt as some noble endeavor where we're just "selflessly serving the Lord" and then I can't even explain further because my pride is so puffed up that it is smothering my face... Let me be clear. I do think that caring for orphans is a noble cause. God's Word says so. And not noble in the sense that only a few wonderful souls take it up but because it’s so important and because God is so passionate about it. But I've heard people (mainly reading written accounts on others' blogs etc.) describe their adoption experience as this wonderful thing where they were able to "save" a child, etc. And while I don't even think it's necessarily wrong to say that, for me, that doesn't describe my outlook. And by way of confession, if I did see it that way, knowing myself, I think my pride would puff up. So yes, it is a wonderful thing to adopt a child who needs parents, a family, and unconditional love for a lifetime. We're incredibly excited at the privilege and opportunity to do just that. And, irrespective of adoption, God calls all of us to care for the orphans. I do think God is in the business of saving children, both spiritually and physically. It's a cause near and dear to His heart. And I think He looks to accomplish His purposes through His people. And I firmly believe that He will be accomplishing some of His purposes through us as He moved us to make this decision and as He continues to move us to love and care for this precious child or these precious children that He will place under our protection and care. So I find kind of a dichotomy (and I think I'm misusing the word but it's such a cool word and, by gum, I'm going to use it in my blog!) between the philosophical outlook at the general principles involved on the one hand and my own practical outlook towards the specific situation on the other. (Okay, I couldn't stand it -- I looked up the word and it turns out I'm using it properly after all. At least properly enough.)
The philosophical outlook, which is what I've been largely describing, is very important. It's the "big picture" that God uses to melt your heart and make it useable in His service. It contains the truths that I would use to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters to get involved (in some capacity) in God's work for the orphans around the world. It holds the sobering reminders of just how small my heart really is but also the hopeful encouragement of what is possible if I place that small heart into God's skillful hands.
So what about my own practical outlook about this very specific situation, that of adopting a child or children from Ethiopia? Well the mood shifts. It's like so many of the things that God wants me to do. As soon as I get behind Him in obedience, He shapes my desires in such a way that now I'm doing it because I want to. I'm downright jolly! It's exciting! (Now granted, right now the process of filling out forms and getting millions, yes millions, of things done for the applications and home study makes the jolly part seem a little distant but I know that's only temporary.) I'm excited to see God at work. To see Brianna and I take a step of faith together. To meet that precious kid, our newest family member. To get to know him. (And I will here employ the "PC" method of alternating gender references...) To see what makes her tick. To invest my life in him. To make her laugh and smile. To learn more about Ethiopia and about adoption and about the challenges involved so that I can be the best father possible and love him with an unconditional and effective love. So I can be a place of safety for her. I so look forward to seeing Anna as a big sister. To watching her dote on him. See them playing and getting into mischief together. Hearing them giggle in the other room. Seeing the daily reminders of the truly beautiful thing that God has accomplished through our family. I'm excited to take further steps along the path which God has shown me is my primary life passion: that of being a Godly husband and father and pouring my life and love into the family God has given me.
And maybe I've stumbled on something here, at least something that I didn't really understand before. We really do live on two different planes (not like the airline kind but like the geometric kind -- just thought I'd clear that up). The abstract ideas are important and necessary. Without the realization that God cares so much for all people, maybe I never would have found myself on this road. Without the humbling awareness of the need, perhaps we would have never looked to love outside our immediate circle. The philosophical ideals and the abstract values that God imparts to us motivate proper day-to-day living. But the real life itself is not lived there. There's no fire in the fireplace, no steaming hot food on plates. No Christmas trees or laughter or kids begging to lick the beaters. No knowing glances passed between parents over oblivious children. No racing on the beach, no flying kites, no campfires, no reading together under the shade of a tree on a cool summer day. Those are the things that excite me, that fire me up. That is what I think of first when someone asks me why we’ve decided to adopt. The ideals and the philosophies that are so important need the hard edge of reality in order to be lived out. Without it, they remain cold and lifeless and ineffective. But once they are lived out, they gain potency as living testimonies to their inherent truth.
I look forward to seeing the seeds that God planted in us as ideals and passions and particular giftednesses grow into the fruits of that wondrous and amazing-sounding everyday life.
Wherever and whoever you are, I can't wait to meet you. I promise to love you with all that I am and to be the best father I can as my Father enables me. Hold tight...your new family is on its way...
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
This homestudy thing is a lot of work! So many documents to get together for the INS, we have to do two seperate fingerprint scans each, we each have to get a medical, get Anna a medical, fill out detailed questionnaires about our lives, etc. I think this will be the most work we will have to do in the process (at least I hope so!) Meanwhile we are waiting to hear back from AAI to find out what we'll need to get together for our dossier, to be sent to Ethiopia.
We'll hopefully be sending in our homestudy application/fee agreement/fee tomorrow. I'm not sure at what point we'll actually meet with a social worker.
I'm enjoying reading the book AAI sent to us, "Raising Adopted Children." It's very interesting and gives a lot of good things to think about.
Anyway, that's the latest. Until next time...
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Well we heard back from AAI today and we are officially "pre-approved!!" We received a large packet in the mail from them and the book "Raising Adopted Children" by Lois Ruskai Melina as well, which we are both supposed to read. We now must send AAI the following items:
- Photocopy of our marriage certificate
- Insurance letter (a photocopy of the part of our insurance booklet verifying coverage of adoptive children)
- Letter of commitment (stating what we will do to assist orphans who are still unadopted)
- Family photo
- Family Questionnaire (a huge list of various health conditions stating whether we would or would not consider taking a child with that condition.)
- Communication form (letting them know the best ways to keep in touch with us)
- Release of homestudy form
- Adoption processing (contract and fee)
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Many orphaned children test positive for HIV. Because there is so much misinformation and superstition surrounding HIV and AIDS in the Ethiopian population, relatives are often reluctant to take in children whose parents have died of AIDS.
Adoption Advocates International (AAI) screens all of the children who come into their care for HIV. ONE in SIX children tests positive, so AAI established a special facility to care for these children. The executive director of AAI encouraged a friend to establish a non-profit organization in the U.S. to fund the home for HIV orphans. That is how AHOPE came to be.
AHOPE for Children provides:
- Pleasant and well staffed children's homes that care solely for children who have tested positive for HIV.
- A loving and stimulating environment for the children as long as they live.
- An ongoing community program to educate about how to curtail the spread of HIV and how to live safely with a person who is HIV positive.
The website has a wonderful, short video on these precious children who are just happy as can be, singing Bible songs, etc. They need people to be sponsors ($30 per month to sponsor a child and you receive photos and info on the child, plus you get to correspond with them, etc.) or you can also make a one-time, tax deductible donation. And of course they need your prayers!
I was not aware that there were so many orphans living with HIV and AIDS. We're hoping to travel to Africa to get our child (when the time comes) and if we're able to do that, we hope to spend some time with the beautiful children at AHOPE.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Friday, July 08, 2005
The mid-sized agency is located in Port Angeles, Washington. They have been licensed since 1983, and were approved to work in Ethiopia in 1997. After children are medically screened, they live in AAI facilities in Ethiopia while adoptive families are guided through processing the necessary paperwork required by both the U.S. and Ethiopian governments. This agency also places children from Thailand and China.
There are two AAI-run homes in Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia.) The babies and young children are cared for at Wanna House. The young children attend preschool, play with toys and sometimes go on field trips. Babies are held during each feeding and loved on by the staff members. School age children live at Layla House, a compound of four buildings. Teachers instruct children in English, math, science, geography, music and sports. The children play games, go on field trips, do chores, etc. All of the activities are geared to prepare them for life in America.
All of the children are given emotional support to help them deal with losing their family and also to prepare them for being adopted. They recieve a healthy diet, medical care and immunizations. (AAI is currently preparing to build a larger Layla House complex where children of all ages can be housed. This should be completed by September.) Needless to say AAI is doing an amazing work in Ethiopia!
The website for Adoption Advocates International is www.adoptionadvocates.org
Ethiopia is a fascinating country with an impressive history. With records dating back
5, 000 years, it is located near the Red Sea with a population of 53 million. It is the only African country to have never been colonized and has remained predominantly Christian. It was home to the Queen of Sheba , and the empire beginning with Sheba's son (Menelik) continued until 1974 when the death of Haile Selassie marked the end of the 3, 000 year dynasty. Following Selassie's death, there was a civil war in the country until 1991 when a transitional government was formed. Due to war, poverty, drought, and HIV, there are millions of children without homes in Ethiopia.
Amazingly, these children tend to have a cheerful outlook despite their difficult lives.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
I guess I just really didn't have a "global perspective" on life---I'd never gone on a missions trip or really thought much about what goes on in other parts of the world. In February we attended a missions dinner at our church where different missionaries spoke and gave updates on what they've been doing. I was particularly moved by the missionaries to Romania and the stories of the millions of children there living on the streets and in orphanages. I think God planted some seeds in both our hearts and minds that night, even though we didn't know it at the time. In addition, some close friends of ours had gone to Sri Lanka on a missions trip last summer. Seeing their hearts open to these people a world away was an amazing thing to see.
Initially, the whole concept of international adoption challenged me in terms of thinking about what a family is. It's not all "neat and tidy." As members of an adoptive family, we won't all look alike. We'll be asked some tough questions here and there. We will have to face and overcome some stereotypes. Yet God's kingdom isn't always "neat and tidy" by man's standards. He loves variety and we see that everyday in all aspects of His creation. And often He calls us to do things that challenge our more narrow ways of thinking. At this point I am just plain excited to get to take this child as my own and count it a privilege to get to raise a little one from another part of the world. What a blessing he/she will be to us, to Anna, and to our friends and family. I see what a precious creature Anna is and cannot wait to meet the child God created to be her brother/sister. (And I can't even begin to imagine the mischief they'll get into together!)
As for why we're specifically adopting from Africa, we were instantly drawn to the children of Ethiopia. Located in East Africa, it is an amazing country with an amazing history and a truly strong people. While adoption isn't always "neat and tidy," we are just so excited and we know the Lord will give us the grace, strength and love to give to one of His precious children in Africa.