Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why Africa?

For the adoption, it was recommended I read "There Is No Me Without You" by Melissa Fay Greene. It is the true story of a poor widow in Ethiopia named Haregewoin who is ready to give up her life when she stumbles into the job of being a foster mother for what started as 2 children and quickly grew to over 40, and then to 80. In a small little compound mind you. She started housing the children and babies in railroad cars on her property with no government support or assistance. Here are some of the excerpts from her amazing story:

"Who is this?" Haregewoin cried in surprise. (while looking down at a small infant wrapped in a blanket)
"We found her," said the taller officer. "She was left on the road, under a bush."
"Sometimes when Haregewoin opened the door of her compound, she discovered that the adult who had banged for attention had already fled, leaving behind a small child besieged by flies, squatting in soiled diapers."
Heregewoin greeted a spectral young woman in a dusty skirt. Her face was drained, her eyes were dilated, and she seemed disoriented. With an abrupt move, she displayed a pretty curly-haired boy nestled within her dirty shawl. "Please keep my baby I'm going to die he is twenty days old" she said breathlessly. Haregewoin accepted the baby and prepared to ask the girl - no more than nineteen or twenty - to come into the house and have a cup of tea. Perhaps she could be assisted in keeping her child; with just a little help, a few coins, some food, she might gain a footing in the neighborhood. But the girl turned away instantly and dropped. Her breast had burst open, Haregewoin saw in horror. She fell sideways onto the rocky road. Haregewoin screamed for help. The two oldest boys ran to lift her (she weighed nothing!) and bring her into the compound. She was dead... The dying mother had given every cell of her being to the baby, but had been too weak to speak his name.
Haregewoin stood on her outer threshold early one morning drinking a cup of coffee.... then Haregewoin glanced down and discovered a cloth-wrapped sleeping newborn beside her wall. She was flabbergasted. "Oh, dear God, oh dear God," she cried, gathering the child. "Thanks, God, thanks, God," she said, discovering the child was still breathing. In the coming months and years, she wold find another newborn outside her door, and another, and another, and another.
"You see that one?...... She was a bushy-haired little girl of about six waiting at the table for lunch.... She was an only child. She and her parents shared one bed. She slept between them. She woke up one morning and discovered both her mother and father had died in the night. Every day and every night, the death toll mounted, and more children staggered out of their houses and villages in fright and hunger and grief. Behind the ghoulish depletion - of families, of villages, and of farming communities by AIDS - the well-known grim reaper of famine leered. Famine was made more dangerous and powerful by communities too weakened by illness to prepare for it and to survive it in the old ways."

Stories like these in this book only solidify my intention to adopt from Africa. While I am still getting off easy, Tony is taking even more flack from co-workers who just don't understand what compassion or even goodness is. I wont even post some of the crude comments he has received. And I'm sure this is just the beginning of the rest of our lives. The gist of it is - why don't you adopt a white kid? and why don't you adopt from America? Why?

I read a wonderful post today about international vs. domestic adoption and those who adopt are drawn to the perfect, God-designed place and child for them. It was perfect in timing and content. We both needed to hear that God didn't call us to take the easy, the cheap, or the quick road. He called us to take the road he wanted us, the Wages, to be on.

And what resonates with me, is I know others are thinking this journey is too expensive. Especially for a family of 5. I know others are thinking that this really isn't missions and is just us trying to be selfish and get another cute little munchkin. But how can you look at these little faces and think God would not be talking about them when he says:

Matthew 10:42
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

James 1:27
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and
widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

So you know, it may take a long time before we see Olivia's little face. But if we don't go to get her, who will? Even if she isn't born yet, God knows who she is and knows she is our daughter.

One baby sounds simple when I compare myself to this saint who has already taken in 6 orphans, has 2 of her own, and is praying about a 9th as they just found out one of her sons has a brother still alive. AND, they are missionaries. Which means I imagine they are making a lot let less than a speech therapist. And in her blog she said:

"Also, we are seriously praying about fostering/adopting Ethan's brother--he is around six years old. Before you call us crazy, please remember the words of the Lord, "He places the lonely in families." The boy is currently living with an uncle who already cares for eight other children, most not being his own. Because of twenty years of war and devastation, the people are just beginning to re-farm and re-plant, however, they have very little to work with as far as tools and supplies. The people have nothing. They survive off of maize and millet--Zane said there is no fruit to speak of and very few, if any, vegetables. There is no opportunity for education. And most importantly, the village is full of spiritual death. We believe that adoption is evangelism and that each child we bring home has been redeemed for this purpose, to know God! Pray with us. Believe with us. And trust with us that God wants to do much more than we could ever think or imagine."


Saturday, September 26, 2009

They told them not to go

They told them not to go. It's too dangerous. Too much history. Too much news. Find somewhere else to minister. Don't take your wives. Don't take your kids.

They went anyway. They loved.

We wondered, should we go? We wondered, should we take our kids? We went anyway. They loved - Us.

Today I was blessed watching my shy little (big) boy. Kicking a soccer ball over a ragged piece of grass. A clearing in the midst of old, dirty trailors and American poverty. My little boy, often too shy to join in on a playground, running and laughing with the children of African Americans, of Hispanics, of poverty. And loving every minute of it.

My little ones dropping clover into a chicken coop, standing on tip toes to see the rooster. Helping a little Hispanic toddler climb a huge inflatable slide. Eating hot dogs, cookies, and popsicles with those often overlooked and forgotten. They told us not to go. Thank God we went. As the poor community was not the only ones who were able to learn of the love of Christ today in the misty rain. Sometimes you have to leave the church pew and put your tennis shoes on to learn what love is. Thank God we went.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

2 down and 5478 to go

For the second time today I got the standard adoption question:

"So, you adopting like Angelina Jolie??"

Yeah, exactly like that. Except it will take us 2 years and probably took her 20 seconds. And it will take a good bit of our assets. It took her pocket change. But other than that, it's exactly the same.

I still have to say that I have been getting off easier than Tony has. Most everyone I have talked to has been very positive and encouraging. Some of the comments he has passed on to me:

"Why all the way to Africa when there are white kids you can adopt here?"

"You need to wait until you are making more money. Quit putting all your trust in God and man up. It's your job to take of YOUR family."

It's not about black or white. Yes, I do realize, here in the South, I will be getting some nice grocery store stares. I have even started prepping my oldest that he may have to face some prejudice of his own as the brother to a black sister. But as I read in another adoptive mom's blog today - it's not about us.

To have my children, my biological children, be inconvenienced because of another family member. To have them picked on because of our decision. To have them do without the latest and greatest gadget because of a larger family. That is not cruelty or thoughtlessness. That is a gift.

To have my children, my biological children, grow up seeing there is no difference in a person because of their skin color. To see that we are all God's children. Being white doesn't make one better. To see how cruel the world can be, and want to change it. To learn that life is not all about who has the most toys. To learn how blessed we are to have a roof over our heads, food in our cabinets, and clothes in our closet. To learn that God gives to us only so that we can give to others. That is a gift.

So yes, there are white kids here I could adopt. If I was only looking to adopt. And I have been told that it isn't about 'saving a child'. It is about expanding my family. And I agree to an extent. But I also think it is more about the path God is placing us on.

When I was pregnant I was addicted to "The Baby Story". Why I wanted to watch women push babies out while screaming in a pool of water, I don't know. Now that I am semi-paper pregnant, I am addicted to adoption blogs. To see babies who were referred as little scrawny and unhealthy infants, become little chubby faced cherubs in the arms of their mothers and fathers who love them. One such couple (who were not through my agency) recently went to pick up their first child and were handed their little girl covered in a rash and told "we think she has the measles". The baby was burning up and they immediately went to try to get her medical attention. It turns out the little 8 month old had 2 ear infections that were so severe that her immune system was shutting down and causing her rash. Thank goodness her parents were there to get her help. I haven't met anyone in America almost die over an ear infection.

Another picked their baby up and after a couple weeks, have found that her left arm and leg have trouble bending and moving. In the US, that baby will get physical therapy and early intervention. How would she have faired in Africa, where the disabled aren't fed or given a chance at an education? Where they end up in the middle of traffic, begging for coins while dragging themselves between the honking cars.

So that's why we are going all the way to Africa to adopt. That's why we are risking traumatizing my kids, putting us in the poor house, having Tony called less-than-a-man. That's why I don't care if I get stares at Wal-Mart like I just cheated on my husband and got caught. Cause it's not about me, as I've quoted before "this life is not my own." It's not all about me. Or Angelina for that matter. It's about these kids, and how they are just as deserving of having parents and love as the kids of my flesh and blood.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prayers Please

Endurance - persistence - boldness - strength. All of those things I would like to have. All of those things are avoiding me at the moment. We finally got around to putting the sign in the yard for the house yesterday, and it doesn't seem monumental. A couple weeks of delay was just enough to distract me from our goal that I feel kind of like I'm just wandering around the woods wondering which way to go. Add that to busyness, illness, and everyday life and the enemy has done a wonderful job of knocking me off my faith pedestal where I was so sure about all things involved with this adoption and its financing.

I know this is the point where I should be deep in my prayer life for large portions of the day - but my head is kind of in a fog. It's almost as if the adoption really isn't going forward, like my mind just gave up even though my heart is yelling to get going. And I know this is only just the beginning of our periods of waiting.

So I'm asking my friends and prayer partners to lift me up. Lift us up. We are at a standstill with the clock ticking away on our application and needing God to move in a major way to take another step forward. Please pray that I would find the commitment and drive to regain the passion and faith I needed to start this journey. Please pray that our house would come together into a perfect model (vs. the state of home repair it is in the moment). And pray that God would bring the perfect person to us to purchase it, all in his timing. And that we would be o.k. with whatever that is. I know that God puts good Christian friends around you to lift you up when you are feeling down. And I thank God that I have you all as those friends.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Life recap: A Prayer and a Postcard

I wrote this for my Compassion Coordinator this week and thought I would share with any new readers too. May be old news for you, may be a wake up call that someone needs, so I'm sharing:

Two years ago, I was the mother of three children under the age of 7. My youngest had just turned one. My husband was involved with our church band, the local Christian radio station, and numerous other outreach projects. I was a mom with a part-time job. A really glorious calling, but one that can often feel very monotonous. In addition, I was a mom who kept the church nursery. Again, a valuable job, but often very lackluster. While I saw others as the hands and feet of Christ. I was feeling like I tagged along as the little toenail. I’m there helping, I just didn’t feel very important. A little toenail doesn’t seem to make much of an impact on anyone’s walk, much less my own.

I specifically remember telling my husband that I was going to pray for God to lead me to my purpose. That selfishly, I wanted to have my own ‘outlet’. Something I could do occasionally on the weekends by myself, while he stayed home and watched the children, of course. A chance to be an adult and speak to other adults. So selfishly, with only my own desires involved, I prayed for God to give me a new calling a little higher on what I considered to be the totem pole of service. A couple days later, I received a postcard in the mail asking me to consider being a Compassion Advocate for children in need. We had sponsored a little boy for about two years and I loved the work Compassion was doing. So why not? It just seemed to be an affirmation. I immediately called and asked to be considered.

To recap, I am a mom. I am not a public speaker, or a writer, or a salesman. I am just selfishly needing to escape the house for ‘me’ time. But yet, God saw a chance to grow me. To bring me out of my shell and challenge me to step out in faith in ways I had never been asked to before. I started out small, working concerts and events. This volunteer stuff was fun, it was fulfilling. But soon it was time to put my big girl pants on and try to save the world on my own, one child at a time. I write up my nice little presentation, have my pictures and videos ready, and spend 10 minutes in front of some of my church friends at a home study group, in terror, with my knees knocking louder than my voice was shaking. But I got through it. With no children sponsored but several accolades of “good job” and “really interesting”. But hey, it was just my job to plant the seed. I shrug it off and think, “next time will be better”.

I try again, this time with my Dad’s Sunday school class. I travel two hours to present in front of 15 people who magically have invited every other Sunday school class and now appear to be about 100 all staring at me shaking in the front of their sanctuary. I present, I play my videos, I show my pictures. I get no children sponsored. Again, “good job, very interesting.” I travel home wondering where I went wrong. Lord, you must have picked the wrong person for this job. Others don’t believe things can change. They don’t see the need. I see the veil of distrust rise as soon as I mention the words “child sponsorship”. There must be another way to help your children. Somewhere along that two hour drive, and amidst those two shattering disappointments, God had changed the focus from “me time” to “His time”. And I hadn’t even gotten the memo yet. God was planting the seed but it wasn’t in my audience, but instead was growing inside of me.

So in September of 2008, this little toenail started feeling the call to go to Africa. I tell my husband, “I think God wants me to go to Ethiopia.” To which he replies, as the father of my three children, “absolutely not.” For a couple weeks, Ethiopia is everywhere I turn. In every news story I read, flipping through the channels, and occupying my daydreams and quiet times. Again - “I think God wants me to go to Ethiopia.” And he responds, “Well, if God wants you to go, I guess you’d better go.” I pick up my teeth from the floor and realize I am going to Africa. We pray together, “God, if you want me to go, you need to provide the funds. Because we don’t have them.” So I write that $350 check, my first ever step out in faith, and wait for it to grow, preferably within the next month, when the balance was due. With support letters written, we watch as God provides my needed amount of $4080. In one month, with $10 to spare. I book the airline tickets and my knees start shaking.

Just to recap again. I am a mom. I have never traveled west past the Great Smokey Mountains. I have never traveled east past Myrtle Beach, S.C. But I’m boarding a 16 hour flight, on my own, with about 25 other Compassion sponsors, to Ethiopia. Because God wanted me to. Wow. And that seed grows a little more.

In Ethiopia, I meet laughing, smiling, Compassion children singing praises to God within the block walls of their safe, little grassy compounds. The centers reminding me of little Gardens of Eden in the midst of the dirt, the dust, and the tin-roof shacks. Round faced Compassion babies, healthy and happy, tightly holding the fingers of their smiling mommies. I meet Compassion college students, counting the gift of Christ as their most precious gift, above the food, the clothing, or even their education. Children smiling as they tell us about their sponsors or run to show us their letters or pictures, hidden as treasures in the midst of their small, one or two room shanties. Praising God for the blessings he has given them. But on the other side of those block walls, I see the hunger in the street beggar. I see the pain and blood on the scraped up knees of the disabled baby, dragging himself around as his mother is out working at the flower plantation for less than 90 cent a week. I see the hopelessness in the child living on the street, hiding in the shadows of a shade tree.

I return from my trip a changed woman. Realizing that this world is so much bigger than baseball games, PTO meetings, or trips to the grocery store. Realizing that even as a small appendage of the body of Christ, He is big enough to equipt us to bring His light even to the darkest places on Earth. If we just step up and allow Him to “send me, I will go.” Whether we ever step foot on a distant soil, or just allow our words to travel across an ocean to inspire another of His children. Those children are given the hope that they can do more, be more, and achieve more – all with the help of the One who needs no help. Made strong with the strength of the one who fashioned every distant star and galaxy. And how awesome it is that He allows us to be the carrier of that message. It’s not about how many children I get sponsored this month, or even this year. It’s the fact that God is able to change a little child from scared and timid to strong and bold, ready to proclaim His power and His love. And that little child was me, I just hadn’t gotten the postcard yet.

** As an addendum: the journey that God has placed me on continues. I will be returning to Ethiopia, God willing, within two years. This time with my supportive husband beside me on that 16 hour plane ride. But this time I will not only be introducing him to the land and the people that God allowed me to fall in love with. But to also bring back our infant daughter, another gift that the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear that He has prepared for us. So please pray for our continued journey and God’s provision in bringing our daughter Olivia home to her family soon. And to think - it all started with a prayer and a postcard.

Das Not Funny Friday - Rude and Crude

I had to share two quick ones to let all of you parents of adorable little baby girls just turn green with envy that you don't have boys to make your lives more exciting. Go ahead, I know you are completely jealous of the amount of bathroom words, flatulence, giggles, and unspeakable messes that little boys can make.

Two examples from this week which made me chuckle:

Seth and Braeden were on the couch watching cartoons last Saturday morning. Both covered in one thick flannel blanket. Heads at opposite ends of the couch. Got that picture in your mind?

I hear someone obviously rip a hole in my couch and look to see both boys turn to each other at the speed of light with wide eyes and Seth says, "I pooted."

Braeden, "let's SMELL it!"

Both boys, in a synchronization that must have been practiced many times, lift the blanket simultaneously to cover their heads with the blanket. Ewwwwwwww.
We had chili beans the other night for dinner. Seth went on and on about how much he loved them and could we have them more often. He wolfs his down and runs back outside to play.

Approximately 30 minutes later he shoots in the door flying toward the bathroom with the passing message "NO MORE BEANS FOR DINNER...... EVER!!!!!"

I know you want the excitement that is the Wages household.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Public Announcement

So yesterday I spent the entire day hanging out at our local Christian radio station helping in their Compassion telethon. Sadly, the phone only rang about once every hour or so. And with three phones sitting, it made for a pretty slow day (but great conversation among the volunteers!) They ended the day with 29 kids sponsored which is not too bad considering it takes me a good 3 months to convince one person to help one little child in need.

With a slow call response, the radio personality asked me if I would come in and tell my story of how Compassion changed my life. Sure! I can talk in a microphone to 10,000 people, as long as I don't have to look into their eyes and imagine them naked. (I really hope you get that reference to public speaking or else that last line just looked a little warped.)

As we are walking down the hall, I ask her if she is going to tape it, and she replies, "oh no, we're live in about 4 minutes". Oh still my beating heart.... We start by talking about when I first sponsored (4 years ago), when I became an advocate (2 years ago), and what I love about being a sponsor. We could have talked for an hour on that subject but she pressed on. She then asked me about what happened to me a year ago and my feeling called to go to Ethiopia with Compassion. And then went on to - "and what new news do you have THIS year?" to which I was able to answer that I felt God leading me back to Ethiopia, but this time to take my husband, and bring back my little daughter. Wow. I just announced it to Columbia. Guess that would be considered a bit of accountability now wouldn't it??

The point was to show others how sponsoring a child can completely change your life. Which is completely true. You go into it thinking that you are helping a little child, but later realize that the entire experience was meant by God to open your eyes to His will and your own purpose to be the hands and feet of Christ, as we are commanded. The blessings you receive from sponsoring far outweigh what you think you are giving. And this isn't just me talking, this is every sponsor I have spoken to who allow themselves to totally give themselves to the sponsor process through letter writing vs. just writing a monthly check and forgetting about helping the child through encouragement and love. It's Christ's love God wants us to give to these poor children, not the check. (But the check helps too..)

But as I exited the booth and was chatting with the other station employees and discussing the interview. We laughed that now people would NOT be sponsoring as they would be scared it may lead to the adoption of another child from across the world. Which also may explain why we had a meager phone response yesterday. I am SO sorry Compassion International.

On another note, I have started drawing some girlie art and finished my first display piece for Olivia's nursery. Man, if this girl keeps getting people to draw for her, she may not have an inch of paint showing!