Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Very Special Day

"Six Years Ago"
Six Years ago this morning, 
God gave the world a gift.
it was wrapped in a little 
pink blanket, in an orphanage 
she'd sit.

For Five long years, that baby girl, 
was stuck in that place there,
in an orphanage, where life was
tough, a place filled with despair. 

But God's plan for this little girl, 
was hardly over yet. Her deep blue eyes, 
and joyful smile, God would not just forget. 

God knows what thoughts
that baby had. All that time she sat and spent
in a few small rooms in an Orphanage, 
but her story wasn't over yet. 

One cold winter, not too long ago
two families came and went
to that tiny little orphanage,
that little girl, they met. 

She changed the lives of all of them, 
with whom she laughed and played. They prayed 
a family would bring her home,
and rescue her one day.

And then one day, it WAS her turn!
The nannies came and scooped
a little boy, and that little girl, out of their cribs, 
and LOOK!

A family waiting 
down the hall
to love and hold them close.
Two orphans less, forever more, 
O Praise the God of all! 

And now they live so happily, 
in their new family life.
New brother, sister, mom, and dad, 
and not for temps, for LIFE! 

So on this day 6 years from then, God gave 
the gift of you, 
and one thing I can say for sure, 

Happy Birthday little miss Sonya! Your winning smile captured my heart and put me on fire for the least of these. Because of the miracles that have happened through and around our chance meeting on Christmas Day 2010, I am changed forever! God Bless you, Dusty, and your new family I LOVE!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Of Happy Dances and Plugging Causes

My blogging of late has been weakest of weak sauce. I promise I'm not going to post about every two weeks on a regular basis. This month has been consumed with prepping for PSAT's (which went well) and then transitioning into "normal" school life.But just because my little part of the Orphan World has frozen, doesn't mean the rest of it has. Indeed, I have had plenty of reasons to do a little happy dance in the last few weeks, and plenty of causes and families needing prayer.

In the world of exciting news, blessings abound in every which way. Two families I've prayed and longed to see home have been home- one for almost a week, one for almost 3.

More recently, I had the joy of seeing a family who labored for two long years to bring their little girl home, finally get to see their hard work come to fruition. The Moreno's, who adopted little Baby J from the same region as Tori's little sister Evan, got to bring their baby girl home. Congrats Moreno Family. You were one of the first families we put on our "praying home" page, and now you're home. God Bless you :)

Shortly before, at the beginning of this month, the fantastic Maddex Family  brought home their precious Zeke, formerly Danil on RR. This family was a joy to experience the journey with. Despite the fact that their trip went longer than planned, they remained so joyful and energetic throughout. And the fact that little Zeke is from the same region as my little sister Julia makes it even better. God Bless you, Maddex's, you guys amaze me.

In the mean time, however, we also have two families ALMOST home! The Gibson's, adopting PRECIOUS Carter, have met and loved on their boy, have passed court, and are waiting out their 10 day waiting period as I type. If you've followed me for a while and HAVEN;T checked out their blog yet, I highly recommend you do. The posts are funny and realistic at the same time, the photos and videos are gorgeous, and they're a gorgeous family! And just to ice that cake, they have a comrade of mine in the Orphan World, Rachel, along for the ride. We can't wait for them to wrap 'er up and bring their boy home.

Also in that post-court-almost-home slot, the Rogers family are wrapping up their process in-country! Insanely happy for them, AND for the two adorable little kiddos they're bringing home! Praying for you Rogers fam!

And in other news, it seems to be a giveaway season of late! You can check out our buddies the Guardian Angels doing one here for the Morriss family, who we happen to have on our "Children We're Praying Home Page!" But go enter QUICK! You've only got 5 or 6 days!

You can also check out our buddy's the 4Girls4Christ doing one for the Dellevoet Family bringing home a little sweety named Angela! There's still a month to enter, but hey, the sooner the better! :)

Finally, I ask you to pray for a large portion of RR's families whose wait for a travel date has been lengthened. One of the main countries RR facilitates adoptions through is in the middle of a power transfer that has halted everything for a long bit. Pray for these families AND for the children they long so passionately for, that they may be kept safe in the Father's arms until that fateful day in the near future when they get to meet. In particular, I ask you keep the Eubanks and Spitz families in your prayers. And finally, continue to keep our special three Orphans in your prayers. We pray deep down in our hearts that their families may come soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

They Deserve Happiness

So firstly, foremost, and above all, my deepest apologies for not writing for 2 1/2 weeks. Life's been NUTS, and unfortunately, blogging has gotten sidelined as I prep for PSAT's, try and keep up with school, and just life in general. I was hoping to launch a big campaign/movement this month, but I guess it was God's plan for it to wait a month. So here I am, typing away again after a LONG time of no blogging.

While my life may be dominated by school and schedules of late, Orphans, Orphan Ministry, and Adoption are never far away from my heart, mind, or life. So many of the families I've had the privilege of meeting as they sign papers, complete their homestudies, and mail their dossiers, are now in country or getting close to travel. It ROCKS. Right now, the Gibson and Rogers families are IN country, loving on their sweeties. The Eubanks family, Whiteakers, Spitzes, and Lindquists are getting close. I'm pumped for all of them. I'm also insanely pumped for the Maddex family, who just got home with their precious Danil (now Zeke) from the same region that my family adopted Julia from. And finally, I'm REALLY excited for the Moreno family, who, after two long years of trusting God, are finally getting to bring their baby home.

I've mentioned before how much I love working on the ground amongst fellow Special Needs Advocates and people with Special Needs too. This weekend I got to experience my first buddy walk, a blast of a fun time for sure.

I love events like the buddy walk and the Reece's Rainbow get-together earlier this summer. A time for people with special needs and their families to get together and celebrate each other. A time and place where we can be ourselves and not be afraid we'll be judged for our differences. I wish I could say all places in the world were like that for everyone.

When I got to meet the Hinz family earlier this summer, all of us older kids took the little ones in the pool. At one point, my friend Molly got out to take pictures of Mr. Dusty's laughter when I would raise him up into the air. Needless to say, the turned out adorable.

 As me and Molly scrolled through the pictures (after the rain had forced us inside) Molly looked at me and said "every child deserves to be this happy. Every child should have that smile on their face at some point in their life."

At that moment, it dawned on me what besides feeling Called drives those of us in nonprofit work on a daily basis: the happiness. The happiness it brings us, and the happiness we pray it brings to others, that it forever changes their lives. And so I ask you to continue to pray for our 3 lovies we're praying for here at S4TS. Illya, Liliana, and Brigita.

I want to see them laugh with joy as they jump around in the water. I want to see somebody wrap their arms around them and never let go. All 3 of them are in or close to the red zone of soon-to-be-transferred. When I started S4TS back in January (almost a year ago!?!?!?) I was honestly afraid I'd watch Sonya, Shawna, and Lindsay all be transferred in one foul swoop. Yet by God's grace, Sonya's been home since May, and Shawna and Lindsay have a mommy and daddy eagerly awaiting their chance to travel. I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that if we all band together, we can see these three rescued before that fateful car ride as well. Because they deserve happiness.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Want to Be There

It's been almost 9 months to the day I picked up my little sister from the Orphanage she had called "home" for the first four years of her life. The day I met a room full of Orphans that inspired me. In a lot of ways, I guess you could call it Speaking for the Silent's birthday. And hey, if you share a birthday with the savior of the world,  you're on a pretty good starting point!

Ever since returning, I've stayed in my home state of NY. And while that may sound boring, it's hardly been that way. I traveled up to Jellystone Park Campgrounds and Pathfinder Village and partied with some seriously awesome adoptive families and individuals with Down Syndrome. I met the family that adopted two of my little inspirations. It's been the summer of the orphan-no-more, to say the least.

And yet there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Ukraine.

I admit that my "Mission Work" there wasn't very extensive. Besides taking pictures of two of my little lovies, and visiting Julia every day, I didn't do much to further the love of God in that orphanage.

Yet the foretaste was enough.

It only got worse after the Reece's Rainbow get-together. Here I was helping families and loving on Special Needs people who know love and have love and it makes their day, imagine what it would mean to work with the least of these, showing love they might have never experienced. I've yearned for a mission trip, to say the least.

I'll often talk with other friends in the orphan ministry about the things I feel and go through. Because fact is, most of us know the same joys, hurts, happy's sad's, and everything in between. One close friend of mine has a HUGE heart for Peru. She's been there three times, she's done so many things to help and change lives there, it really is the place where she feels God the most. For me, I can feel God wherever the least of these, wherever or whoever they may be, are. I see Heaven in the eyes of people with Down Syndrome and other special needs, whose innocence is channeled the most in beautiful, selfless love. I see God in countries that need Him most, a large part of the reason Ukraine will always hold a place in my heart.

There's a scene at the end of the final Lord of the Rings movie, the Return of the King, after all has been won for good and the nations are restored to their normal lives. We see Frodo, the small, good-hearted Hobbit who carried the accursed One Ring across the world, pacing his small Hobbit House. The quote the narrates the scene is a stunner for sure.

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things time cannot mend, some hurts that go to deep, that have taken hold."

While Frodo's journey might have been far more perilous than 16 hours stuck in an airport, and my greatest wound was falling flat on my back on the icey sidewalk, there is no way to accurately describe the change of a journey made for adoption. Experiencing a culture so you can tell your son/daughter/sister/brother about it, and falling in love with it yourself. Saving one orphan, but realizing this won't be the last orphan you raise the shout for. Knowing the hurt an orphan feels will change you. And just like Frodo, you know there is no going back.

In so many ways, I would do anything to journey back to Ukraine. Endure 15+ hours of travelling, just to see the country that introduced me to international travel. To a different culture.

To the plight of the orphan.

I have no idea the next time I'll be able to go to Ukraine. I don't know the next time I'll travel internationally to follow God's call. It could be 6 months from now. It could be 6 years.

But if mission trips are the roaring wind of discipleship, we must also hear it in the still small voice. Carry that same vigor and closeness to God wherever we go.

I.E., the here and now.

 A friend once told me, "Honestly, "missionary work at its fullest" is wherever you go. We just refuse to see it. Germany or Ukraine or China need missionaries just as much or more than Haiti or Africa or Peru."

We live in a society today that's in need of God. Anywhere between Albany, NY, and Albania, someone needs the good news of the Gospel. That their sins have forgiven. That a second chance is right there waiting, and all they have to do is embrace it. And it's our Job to be missionaries not only where the need is most visible, but everywhere. That man on the street in NYC may be in just as much need as a Leper in Ghana. Your baby sister with Down Syndrome needs just as much love, care, and attention as that little lovie across the sea who's captured your heart.

So with all these thoughts in my mind, I offer a simple prayer: "God, you know my heart lies in the Words you inspired and the Work that comes with it. Help me to see the need for You just as much here as there, so I not only say, 'I want to be there,' but 'I'm glad to be here.'"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Help Me Speak

Shortly before going back to school, I got to see the big cinematic phenomenon of late, The Help. A story of a couple ordinary people with an extraordinary passion for telling a true story, no matter the cost. Of what it meant to stand against segregation in the mid-60's, in one of the most segregated areas of the U.S. Well acted, well written, just a fantastic film.

In the movie, there are a couple scenes that center around the sheer amount of courage and bravery it will take the three main women- Skeeter, Abilene, and Minnie- to write these stories of what it was like to be hired help in the houses of wealthy white families. To violate some unjust laws that were in favor of segregation in order to preserve the amazing yet heart-wrenching stories they're putting in ink. Through thick and thin, however, their goal remains clear: to do everything in their power to raise a voice not yet heard.

As I watched, I couldn't help but think of our own mission. Raising a voice few heard. But in stead of those violated for their race, for those who are underestimated because of their limitations in the world's eyes, which usually add up to qualities that far exceed whatever "handicaps" or  "Special Needs" they may have. Unconditional love. Beautiful Innocence. The ability to bring out the best in people, if people are willing to see the best in them. In the same way, the women who help Skeeter write her book in the movie are women of extravagant beauty, inside and out.

When I met the orphans at Julia's baby house almost 9 months ago, I saw kids with potential. Kids who could change hearts, lives, even the world if they were given the chance. Those aren't qualities signature to just that baby house, however. It's something you see in all people that never got the chance they deserved, to shine and have the light of Christ, through them, shining on others.

For the rest of this month (and most likely onward) we will be lifting these three beautiful Children in prayer, in hopes they can find families.

Illya P, Lilianna, and Brigita. Brigita has been a long-time love of ours- she has been waiting SO long. Little Illya is probably the most asked-about child in our promo video. I love him to bits- look at that little face. And last but certainly not least, Lilianna. We posted about this precious sweetheart and our story with her here, and we fully intend to keep our promise to go on a full-blast campaign for her here. In a much larger, up-scale project come next month, these three will be joined by many fellow orphans, causes, and advocators as they are lifted up in prayer. But more on that in the near future. For now, look at these faces, pray for them. Hear them begging you, "Help me speak."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Always More, Always Beautiful

If there's one thing I've learned in my 8 months of orphan ministry, it's that there are always beautiful new adoptive families, and there are always new advocators joining the group.

In that second category, we've got two new entrants! First is the "Defending the Fatherless: God's Heart, Our Hands" crew. 3 girls- Ashley, Mackenzie, and Kaleigh, working for Orphans and fundraising too! A fantastic group indeed- Ashley is like the big sister in most of the Orphan Circles I'm a part of, and I've only recently gotten to meet Kaleigh. But more on both of them and their families in a little bit!

Second, (drum roll please) I could almost cry tears of joy, an Orphan Advocating GUY!!!!! YES!!!!!! A fellow teen guy, advocating for Orphans. His name? Gabe, writer of the Brother to the Fatherless blog. Gabe is Alyssa(of 4Girls 4Christ)'s cousin, and I am SO glad she brought him in! I am always inspired and amazed by the Women of God I get the chance to work with, but a fellow dude is awesome too. So go read his two fantastic posts and help give him an awesome start!

Now, Families! Ah, where to start...

Well, why don't I start where I left off with the Quinn and Anderson Families. These are Ashley and Kaleigh's families, and both of them are going for absolute cutie pies!

The Quinn's are adopting Donna from Reece's Rainbow, who they've renamed Autumn. Isn't she just PRECIOUS!?!?!?

You can follow the Quinn Family's Story here, and their Family Sponsorship page is here. At this point, they are anxiously awaiting a homestudy appointment, and we're so excited for them. Please consider financially helping them, and at the very least praying for them- We here at S4TS are SO honored to know them, and we too wait with excitement for them to bring home their precious Autumn!

Kaleigh's Family, the Anderson's, are adopting two precious little girls from Ecuador, South America. Just LOOK at them!!!

We here at S4TS have a soft spot for adorable little girls in South America- my life might have been tipped over the edge into orphan care by a little girl (or girls) in Ukraine, but I myself have a little sister from Guatemala, and Tori's heart was most definitely plunged into orphan care by her precious Carmensita, who you can see on the Our Orphan Loves page. We are praying over and for this family,  as their process is only just beginning! Their first home study appointment is- tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this!)! So go over and check out their blog here ;)

Slightly farther along in the process, we have 4 (yes, FOUR!) fantastic families. Our steadfast Spitz Family has sent their dossier off to their beautiful Gavin's country! Praise the Lord! And the energetic Gibson Family, are AWAITING A TRAVEL DATE!!!!!! HALLELUJAH!


We also have two new and equally awesome families joining the mix- the Rogers and Whiteaker families!

The Whiteakers are adopting this little sweety- we're just over the moon for this little pumpkin!

This family is eagerly awaiting a finger-print appointment, and we so hope they get it soon! You can follow their journey here. Our thoughts and prayers are with them!

And last, but definitely not least, the Rogers Family, adopting Oscar and Christine from RR! you can follow their journey here. They're SO close- they too are awaiting a travel date!

                      Ah, adoption and the families therein are beautiful things, are they not?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Full Blast

When I originally started S4TS with my compatriots, we were advocating full-on for kids out of Orphanage 3 on Reece's Rainbow, and more specifically, Sonya. Ever since the Hinzes committed to and brought home Sonya (and Dusty!), we haven't really done a "full-blast" campaign for anyone. We heavily advocated for Shawna, Lindsay, and Jonah, all of whom at families now. We continue to pray for Brigita, Charity, and all the other little lovies we have on our respective pages. We'll be updating the pages with even more kids shortly.

But we are about to hold another full-blast campaign for another little Girl.

I've mentioned my dear friends the Spitz Family. The story of their first and now second Special Needs Adoption is amazing. But it is not my story to tell. So pop on over to their blog (linked in their name above) and read it for yourself in the post "Lucky to love LYLA!." Pretty amazing huh? Their devotion to Lyla (now Lilianna)  amazes and humbles me. Not many people would continue to advocate for, care about, and pray for a child they lost two adoptions earlier. But they are. And so we here at Speaking for the Silent want to help them- as friends, as fellow advocators, as fellow orphan-lovers, as fellow human beings.

Please pray and spread the word about this precious Daughter of God. I know God has an amazing plan for her and the situation surrounding her- no matter who she comes home with, or when she comes home, this little wonder has changed lives already. If it weren't for her, there would be two more orphans in the world. If it weren't for her, an amazing Husband and Wife might have never known the call of God in their lives to adopt internationally.We want to see Lilianna find a home, and we are Speaking for this Silent one. Please join us! God Bless You!

Proverbs 24:12: "If you say, "See, we did not know this," Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prayer and Care

Well, after over a week of being Incognito, I'm back! So refreshed, renewed, the list of positive adjectives goes out the door! Camp Veritas is always an experience I relish- the spirituality, the people, the places, the overall experience is just life-altering in the best way possible. Being there since the first year it ever took place always makes it special too.

Every year we get a little bigger. the first year, we had 60 campers. The next, 120. Then 200. then 260. We continually grow, and numbers alone change the experience from year to year. But one thing that was going to be especially different for me, and in the end for everyone else, was that I was giving a testimony about Orphan Care. I had cemented myself  into Camp history by being there the first year and playing guitar come talent night. I rode that wave for every year thereafter, playing Guitar at talent night. But this year the sheet music was being left behind for sheets of notes. Shortly after returning home from Ukraine and feeling blessed by the experience, I got in touch with Director and Founder Ryan Young, somebody I have the privilege of knowing personally and admire so much. I asked him if he thought the story sounded like a cool idea to share. He said yes, and told me to prepare notes and be ready come the week of Camp.

Camp rolled around faster than I realized. I had my notes typed up a week before I left, and I felt ready and pumped. Despite the fact it would rain for the first two days and it's an outdoor sports camp in the mountains, I had high spirits. Veritas people are my second family, in the same level of love and friendship as my Orphan Care Friends. When I arrived, however, I was greeted by quite the surprise. Ryan had originally planned two weeks of camp. The second week, however, hadn't filled to capacity, and Ryan had decided to merge the two weeks into one. so our little over 200 turned into little under 300. Que the emphatic hammer dropping. I had not been expecting a 300 (close to 400 once you add in counselors and other volunteer staff) person crowd. I wasn't about to chicken out, but my mountain had just shot up a yard or two, metaphorically speaking.

Monday afternoon, after having endured about the first 24 hours of rain,  a good chunk of us were crammed into the cafeteria building (Which, for the record, got struck by lightning when we were there last year). Ryan called me over, and we talked for a bit about the talk, what advice Ryan could offer, and then (drum roll) when it would happen. Ryan calmly told me he was giving a pro-life talk Wednesday night and wanted me to follow 'er up. Cue the second emphatic hammer drop. I smiled and gulped down my nervousness and said great. Wednesday night- that was, like, 36 hours away!

Needless to say, the rest of Monday and most of Tuesday blurred by. I prayed every spare second  I got. I employed everyone from the petite little nuns to the 6 ft. tall priests for prayers. I would read scripture and review my notes. I wanted to be prepared.

Wednesday rolled around. Thankfully, God gave me the peace I needed to relax and enjoy the day, and worry later. After Praise and Worship, my talk would come. We got through the day and went to adoration after dinner. During that time, I must have just said "Help me God" about 500 times. I knew this was gonna take gut and the Holy Spirit. After Adoration ended, Ryan motioned for me to come over. Ryan must have prayed over me for about 5-8 minutes straight, just pouring his own Grace and love of the Lord into me.  From there he told me I could go up to the basketball court and get ready. Cue 3rd (and final) hammer drop. In the past, our testimonies had always been either out on the lake, where the light of a bonfire barely illuminated anything, or up on the Tennis Courts where lights were dim. The B-Ball courts are lit from every corner within reason. I went up to the courts, where I was promptly handed my mic and waited for the masses to flood in from retrieving their night-time essentials for activities like Volleyball, or just the cold mountain weather. As the campers started coming, I was nervous to the point I would grab my friends for one last good-luck hug. Ryan gave me an insanely kind introduction and with that, my talk began.

I can honestly say the talk itself is a blur. I remember brief moments, but I turned the mic on and God basically shot the words out of my mouth double-time. I finished the talk and was almost instantly flooded with hugs, congrats, and compliments.

Mission accomplished.

The rest of the week I was always bombarded with more hugs, and compliments, and awesome people. I even met a little child a family is trying to adopt out of foster care! Being on the ground, working with people, that's where my heart is.

I could nitpick about my talk. That I didn't always hold the mic super close to my mouth. That I talked 25 minutes after my limit. But the fact is God spoke that night. People heard. They listened. They wanted to help in some way. And God knows what seeds were planted that night. Prayers led to Orphan Care for me. In the same way, Prayers led me through my talk. And I still had the blessing of being spiritually renewed by the week and the many memories, friends, and experiences I enjoyed.

Camp Veritas 2011 Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beautiful Overflow

I admit there are times when I feel overloaded with Orphan Care-related projects. I've been blessed to get to know a lot of great Advocators. I'd love to give them a shout-out. All of them. Adoptive Families? Blessed to know many. At LEAST two I'm going to post about. Both close to travel- right when you need your prayers and spirits up the most.  Kids? SO many I want to put raise a shout for, like this little girl:

This is Anastasia. Isn't she sweet? That look in her little blue eyes just grips me- a look that says "I've kept my hopes up this long, will you fulfill them?" Older kids like her are especially close to my heart- because so many of the lovies I met at Julia's Orphanage were close to transfer. I REALLY want to help more of them- but there are just so many hours in the day. And after having two big events in the last month- 2 Weeks for 200 and my family's joyous meeting with the Hinz Family with Sonya and Dusty, there hasn't been much room for the usual. On top of that, I'm leaving for a week-long Catholic Youth Camp this Sunday through Saturday, where I'll have the opportunity to speak about Orphan Care, spend time with Our Lord and hang out on the beautiful sandy beach we have by the lake. I'm majorly looking forward to it. At the same time, leaving the blog dormant for six days (with Tori starting School and Josh rehearsing for a big play) kinda bums me. I LOVE you guys and writing out my passion here a LOT. At the same time, I'm REALLY excited for what God will inspire me to write about once I get back. It'll be great.

Just the other day, Tori did a phenomenal post on Shining City Teens about suffering. I admit I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to suffering- I rarely do a good job carrying my cross with a smile. But to hear Tori's perspective, it really lays suffering out for what it is- a test God is giving us to test our mettle and show his love for us. He knows we can survive- He just wants us to see. How lucky we are to be considered strong enough to endure losing something or someone we care about. Or dealing with a situation in life that we feel is too sad, too hard, or too large for us to brave. And the miracle is that god will be behind us 120%. And it got me thinking, how lucky am I to have the surplus of friends in the orphan world I do. to have adoptive families that want my prayers, my presence, my friendship. I may not have the time or energy I always want, but God will guide me to do what He wants for His Glory. And I am honored. Never was there a more Beautiful Overflow of things to do, people to love and Orphans to speak for. It's a true blessing, without a doubt.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Giver of Miracles

It's been quite a 24 hour+ period since yesterday morning. I have been in constant motion since then.

And I've never felt more energized and joyful.

Yesterday, August 9th, was the magical day that my beloved Hinz Family dropped in for a visit. The day for me started around 8 a.m.- cleaning my bedroom, myself, getting a good breakfast in me, the usual morning chores. I talked to some members of the Hinz party via Facebook early that morning and they were planning on coming around shortly before noon. My Partner in Crime, the one and only Molly, was coming slightly prior. The time between when I finished preparations and Molly came was brutal. You could have cut my anticipation with a knife, I tell no lie. Once Molly came though, my waiting felt far less painful. 10 extra RR people are fantastic, but 1 out of the 10 is still fabulous. It seemed like we'd only been talking to Molly for a minute when mom saw the Hinz's van pull up in our driveway.

If I had been a volcano at that moment, I would have been Mt. St. Helen's. My Cool cover exploded.

I nearly killed myself bolting across my living room floor (hard wood, no less) and tried to bring it down to a nice stroll out the door to greet our guests. After the pleasure of meeting John (Mr. Hinz) and getting a first-reaction photo as I met Dusty from Amy, I quickly realized John was getting Sonya out on the other side, and pulled a stunt something bordering on sliding across the hood of their car. And at that moment, reunions, fantastic pictures, and purest joy commenced.

  I could NOT contain my joy when John put Sonya in my arms again. For the first few seconds I just held her close and took it in. Whether or not she remebered me, I'll never know. But it was definitely the same happy little girl I met on Christmas Day 2010.

I really can't even describe the rest of the day in it's fullness- laughter, connecting. Playing. Loving. LOTS of loving. the weather really tried its best to bomb us out- and honestly, we STILL made the best of the day. But pictures do speak louder than words, right?

The Joy of the day lasted into the late hours for hour tiny ones. Plenty of food going around the Dinner table, and good conversation with it. And all the playing. and snuggling. Good grief the snuggling. And the pictures- the click of mine and Molly's cameras were near harmonious as we clicked away. Having Sonya, and Dusty, and all of this beautiful group here at my house together was surreal. A few times I would blink and shake my head, much relieved to see a smiley baby Sonya still cuddling on my chest. And my dear Mr. Dusty- I can't even describe him. When I met him in the orphanage, his condition SCARED me. I so hoped he'd survive until his family got there. To see him now, you'd hardly know that child ever led a somber existence.

Throughout the day, I could NOT get over the change in him. Sonya was glued to my side whenever I could snatch her off the million other admirers she had (Elizabeth Molly Josh) but Dusty's change in overall demeanor and appearance was just jaw-dropping. His walking is sensational. His level of interaction is heart-warming. What a little miracle child.

Here's our entire group (minus Little Johnny, who's hiding behind my little brother Addisu and Dad). No better group of people. So from bottom to top, left to right, here we go: in the bottom left, we have Amy with Carolyn, Dad with Addisu and Julia, Molly+Dusty. Grandam C (Amy's mom), Aunt Diane (Hinz's sister-in-law) Gabby (my sister by adoption! :D) Josh, Grandpa C, my mom, John, Elizabeth+Sonya, and Me :) defines the Word Milestone as "a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the like of a person, nation, etc." Speaking for the Silent has had many milestones- 200 likes. The fact we started. The Eubanks Family contacting us. All show that God is guiding us on our own little pathway- no matter where it leads. But as I talked about this with everyone in my living room as the rain poured softly outside, this was different. This is one small example to show the children we advocate for, are more than just a picture. More happens then prayers that lead to commitment by a family. We meet these kids. We love these kids. They're REAL.

Glory to God, Giver of all Miracles. IF it weren't for him, none of this would have happened. I wouldn't have gone to Ukraine. I wouldn't have met Sonya. or the Hinzes. OR Molly. I had a fever that literally broke 24 hours before the Hinzes arrived. The kinks that seemed like huge earthquakes smoothed out for a picture perfect story beginning to end. And I couldn't be more thankful and Joyful for the opportunity.

"Glory to God in the highest from down here below. Jesus, my Savior, your Name is the sound of my home. So I'm singing out from the depths of my heart, I'm singing out, from the top of my lungs, lifting you High I'm in LOVE with YOU, theses Canyons will echo my voice, singing HALL-E-LUJAH! Oh what a beautiful noise."

Hinz/Lococo/Conley Family get-together from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Life Worth Saving

"If I see one more life that's fading, it's one too many"

Brandon Heath, "The One" 

Recently my friend Kaitlyn of the 4Girls4Christ blog started a facebook group for all of us advocators to connect. It's been great to catch up with and meet so many awesome young people who share my passion. If you want to get in on that action, feel free to contact any of us so we can add you!

One of the many things that's awesome about teaming up with each other has been learning about all of the different little kids we each advocate for. So many different countries, needs, ages, it's awesome. Some of them are kids I know so well and love like crazy. Others are ones I've never seen before. But no matter how much I do or don't know them, I think we all fall in love with them instantly.

Case in point: I want y'all to meet Josh. My friend Ashley Quinn of "Defending the Fatherless: God's Heart, Our Hands" started raising the shout for him a few days ago. Isn't he just a little chunk o' love? While he technically isn't due for transfer until December of next year, he's still in urgent need of  a family? Look at the light in those eyes. The wide smile. The bright, alert eyes. Those aren't things you can keep for long when you live in most Ukrainian institutions, be it Baby Houses or Mental Institutes. I seriously admire Ashley's dedication and love for this little tyke she's never even met. Really momma-like dedication right there. She's even said that if she was married, she'd get to work adopting him without a second thought. Isn't that sweet? Serious commitment right there.  Want proof in ink? Here's a letter Ashley was kind enough to let me share here:

"Dear 'Josh,' 
The first time I saw your picture, I fell in love with you. I haven't "known" you for long, but the love I feel for you in my heart is extreme. I told my big brother that I just want to kiss your face. It's just so sweet and looks so cute and soft. You have the most gorgeous eyes and your smile could make anyone melt. I can't stop looking at your picture. I may only be 19, but I would love more than anything to be your mommy. Did you know that if I was married, I would be legally able to adopt you? I feel as if you were meant to be MY son, even though that's crazy thinking on my part. How could you be meant to be mine? I'm not even married. I don't know why God put this longing in my heart. Maybe it's so that I can help find you a family? I honestly don't know. I do know that anyone who gets you as their son will be so extremely blessed. You are only 3 years old. Born almost exactly a year before my soon-to-be sister. I wish so badly that I could save you from that orphanage. To show you what it truly means to be loved. To show you what it feels like to have a mommy and daddy. To take you to church. To tuck you into bed at night as I sing you sweet songs. To kiss your boo boos. To tell you that "I love you". Like I said, you are only 3 years old. Such a precious age. But, do you know what breaks my heart? If no one saves you by time you are 4 or 5, just less than 2 years away, you will go away to a horrible place.You will be tied to a crib and left to die if no one saves you. You will be alone. What breaks my heart even more is knowing that you do not know that this is coming. You are just a have no idea what your future holds if you are not rescued. I wish that I could rescue you. But, sweet baby boy, since I can't, I have to pray that someone does rescue you.....soon. Before it's too late.
Sending kisses to you from across the ocean...."

Speaking for the Silent was started to help spread awareness for that small group of children who few know need care. There's approximately over 2,000 Special Needs Orphans in Eastern Europe alone. A small group in populations that span millions. But one life saved is one less lost. Pray about him. Pray for him. Do all that you can. It makes a difference.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Not About Age

When I teamed up with the Lindquist Family almost a month ago, one of the first ways Mrs. Lindquist described me was following I Timothy 4:12, which reads, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." Little did she know I had come to respect that verse a couple years previous after reading the book "Do Hard Things" by Alex and Brett Harris. For those of you who haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Just an awesome, honest look at the lack of high expectations most teens are given today, as well as real-life examples of teens who are doing amazing things, and ways you can change the world around you. 

One of the many things I love about being in Orphan Ministry is the fact that so much of it today is teen/young adult-oriented. Student Mission Trips. Student Groups. Student activities. You get my drift. Beyond the fact that so much is being offered for young people, though, it's so awesome to see so many of my fellow teens getting involved. Some of my generation that's getting involved aren't even teens! Some are already through High School and inspire us with their "Big Brother/Big Sister" example. In some cases, I literally have friends that are twelve or thirteen who are striving to make a difference. 

As the Harris Brothers, or me, or Tori, or just about any devoutly Christian person will tell you, the expectations set for the teens today are far too low and underwhelming. "Just don't do anything bad," many people tell teenagers. When young people stand up for their beliefs that may not mesh with what culture wants to feed them, they're told they don't have the ability to make those decisions on their own yet. There's not  a whole lot of "Do the right thing even when it's hard" type of morals going around. But Orphan Ministry, I humbly believe,  is the special group of people to say "It's not about age, but heart. It's not about whether you're sitting in math class or saving children from starvation in Africa. Great things can be done at all ages. Because we are all called to be extraordinary."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chronicle of the Craziness

Once again, I want to thank each and every one of you who helped make the 2 Weeks for 200 project a success. I am still in awe of what we accomplished!

I kind of recapped the short version of the last 6 months in my last post. If you go back through my posts you'll see the longer version in bits and pieces. But I didn't recap the last 24 hours, because, well, it had been the last 24 minutes at that point! :D But as a little breath of fresh air from our usual advocating/heart-pouring posts, I figured I'd tell a story. One of God. Of Friends. Of prayer. Of hard work. Of Triumph.

2 Weeks for 200 had been going on for, er, two weeks. We were wrapping up, and we were still about 30 likes short. At one point on Monday I had posted a shout-out on our Facebook page, saying if we got roughly 1 like per hour, we'd make it. Some hours we got a Like. Some we got 5. Some we got 0. I had NO idea how on earth, on the LAST day of a project, with a little over 12 hours left to the day on Tuesday Morning, we'd make our 200. So in the true spirit of what I promised to do in my "Five Loaves and Two Fish" post, I turned it over to God. If it  wasn't His Will, it wasn't going to happen. And on that same note, if He DID will it to happen, we'd get a miracle. Knowing God and His hand in Orphan Ministry, I was hoping and praying for a miracle. We got to about 6 p.m. EST. 6 hours left and we still needed 20 likes. I had seriously been trying to stick it out and keep my enthusiasm up the whole day. I really did. But I was on my last legs. I had NO clue how I'd make it. Posting a couple last-ditch efforts, praying super hard and celebrating every like we got with a new status, I was keeping things moving. But at the rate I was going at, there was no way on Earth I'd hit my goal. Que miracle time.

We had had a TON of friends and accomplices plugging S4TS all over FB and blogger the whole two weeks. People have been grabbing our button like nuts. And like the final battle sequence in the second Lord of the Rings movie, at the last moment, our long lost allies came in with the sun behind them to shine a light on our last stand. Our new friend Ashley Quinn, formerly of To Love the Unloved and now part of Defending the Fatherless, brought in a good 5+ more people. Ashley Gibson, Carter (formerly Antonio)'s Mom, another 5+. 10 Right there. Sammy of the 4 Girls 4 Christ came in 4 us. :D And in the final moments, Taylor of Defying Prevalent Notions came in with her Social Networking Guns a-blazing, with at least 10 more likes! And by the time the counter caught up, we hadn't just hit 200.

We hit 214.

Including myself, we're technically 215, but specificity isn't the point here; we had made it.

God really showed His hand for me that night. In the final hours, not only had we reached our goal through Friendship and Prayer, we had surpassed it. Was it NUTS trying to keep up? Absolutely. Was it Frenetic? No more than it was Phenomenal.

I honestly have no clue when or what we're gonna do next. Honestly, if I type the tag-line 2 Weeks for 200 one more time, I think I'm gonna get Carpo Tunnel. And if this has taught me anything besides to trust in God when my chips are down, it's that fundraising is a full-energy experience, emotionally and physically. I've got a TON of things to do between now and when School starts. But one thing I can say for sure is this: 2 Weeks for 200 was an awesome experience, if not a Chronicle of Craziness!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"I can do all things, through Christ who gives me STRENGTH!!!!"

There's something awesome about the number 200.

It's a popular focal length (200 millimeters) in Photography.

200 Bucks is a nice chunk of money.

It's also the amount of Likes we have on Facebook.

To tell the story of how all this has come about in full detail, it would take a novel. But I'll try and shrink it down to the most important bits.

One flight ticket to Ukraine was a ticket to a life-change. One trip to a Ukrainian Orphanage planted the seed of Orphan Care in one guy's heart. That one teen came back with an idea. He turned that idea into a ministry called Speaking for the Silent. They got to meet some awesome people. Make some awesome friends. In short, it was just awesome.

Then they went out on a limb and wanted to try and spread the word. Que those awesome friends and partners, supporting them like crazy all over the internet. Was it always a clear, trail-blazin' trail ride on well-groomed Stallions getting to that 200 likes? hardly. But it was WORTH it.

And now they sit in awe at the fact they hit 200 likes literally through sheer will-power, God Power, and friends that love 'em.

If I thanked literally every single person that has supported us, I don't know if I'd fit it into a post. Frankly, I'm willing to bet there are people I don't even know supported us that prayed us through and helped us a long the way. And to all those people  I don't have the pleasure of knowing, thank you. You've lifted one teen's spirits and kept me going.

Thanking all those that I do know.... Where do I even begin? God. "From the Rising of the Sun to its Setting, the name of the LORD is worthy of praise." If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here, in more ways than one. I wouldn't have gotten to go to Ukraine. I wouldn't have met Sonya. I wouldn't have started Speaking for the Silent. I definitely wouldn't have made it to 200 likes alongside my teammates. Heck, I wouldn't even exist. Soli Deo Gloria.

If God's my Heavenly Parent, my next thanks easily go to my earthly parents. My supporters when I had no idea that I'd ever even consider letting orphan ministry into my life to now. In it to win it. Sticking it through with me to the end. If I didn't have their backup, input, and morals instilled in me, I'd DEFINITELY not know what Orphan Care really means.

There are so many friends I can and will try to thank. My sister Elizabeth, Taylor, Molly, CareBear (Shawna and Lindsay's Momma!), Sarah, the Lindquist Family, John and Amy Hinz, TONS and Tons of family and friends. My cup overfloweth.

And last but certainly not least I have you to thank, my beloved followers. If it were not for YOU this would not have been possible. Thank you for continuing to speak with me, for those who have no voice and not only need, but deserve to be spoken for and loved. Let's keep moving along and doing what we love, and I know that through Christ, we will do GREAT things!


Well Everyone, today is the LAST DAY of 2 Weeks for 200! And boy did we go up within the last two weeks!

Out of the 130 facebook "likes" we were aiming for, we went up about  100 of 'em! Which is GREAT!

And the best part?

You still have about 15 hours left to share!

Share it our URL ( on blogger!

For a double whammy, share it with our Promo!

Speaking for the Silent Promotional Video from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Easiest way? Recommend the page to your friends on Facebook or share it in a status!

Come on everybody, lets go out with a BANG!

God Bless!

The Speaking for the Silent team!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Five Loaves and Two Fish

I always love meditating on scripture in Church every Sunday Morning. It's like a perpetual gold mine, always finding some new nugget of golden knowledge to make you think a little. Today's Gospel reading was one of those days.

Almost every Christian (and even a good amount of non-Christians) know the story of the Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus has been preaching to the crowd for quite some time, and everybody's ready for a meal. One problem: They don't have any food. OK, well, maybe that's not entirely true. Somebody brought along 5 loaves and 2 fish. But this is 5,000 people we're talking. And scripture tells us that's not even including Women and Children. How on Earth are they going to feed 5,000+ people?

Jesus tells them to bring that small amount to Him. and by the time he's through and everyone's fed, there's 12 wicker baskets of leftovers. That's a LOT more than 5 loaves and 2 Fish.

As my Pastor was talking about the scripture in his homily, he raised an interesting point: Jesus had taken something VERY small, one little meal, and turned it into a feast. Something big.

Within the last couple weeks, I've had the pleasure of seeing a lot of fellow advocators reaching fantastic goals. Tori just completed the first Worthday. My friends at the Guardian Angels have raised over $300 for a family in need of some funds. I am INSANELY happy for all of my friends who are reaching these incredible heights. But then I think back- what have I done?


We prayed a couple kids home, didn't we?

We've made some slideshows, gotten a healthy crop of followers...


I'm VERY proud of those goals I have reached. But at the same time, they can seem a little on the short end of the spectrum in comparison. We haven't raised any money yet. We haven't changed the lives of 900 orphans. But then I think of whoever it was on that day 2000 years ago that brought their five loaves and two fish, that small amount of food. They couldn't have fed 5,000+ people with that! They couldn't have fed 50. But they willingly gave it to Jesus. And He gave it back 1,000 fold. So for now, I'm willing to trust that if we give Jesus our little ministry, we can do even greater things than we already have. Things that will Glorify Him even more.

With 2 Weeks for 200 coming to a close on Tuesday, I'm fervently asking everyone between here and Heaven to pray and share. Share and pray. Anything you can. Thank you for following us on this adventure. Now that we have truly trusted Jesus to multiply us as He will, what will happen?

Speaking for the Silent Promotional Video from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Girls and Hearts

In the past, I've talked about how I wish more guys would turn their heart towards Orphan Ministry. I'd love to see more "spiritual big brothers" in the same way that girls are like these children's "spiritual big sisters." Trying to stand up for them and protect them like a big brother would save his little sibling from a bully, or a big sister would kiss their baby brother's boo-boo. But far be it from me to ignore the tons and tons of fantastic girls out there who ARE doing their best to make a difference and are already leaving a greater legacy in their teen years then some do in their lives.

One of the reasons I LOVE doing big collaborative projects like my Slideshow with the Lindquists or 2 Weeks for 200 is just that: the collaboration. I love meeting/working with other people in the orphan world who in turn are willing to support you.

I'd like y'all to meet the Guardian Angels, or more specifically, (L to R) Caitlin, Amanda, Madison, and Genesis. Amanda and me are acquaintances within the Advocate community, and she's great. She makes some pretty kicker slideshows too, and she LOVES her adorable little brother from Russia, Mr. Vahnya Josiah!! What I love most about reading their blog is the sheer amount of energy, vigor, and passion these four have. After literally starting less than a month ago, they've already done a fund raising event and raised 105 smackeroos! THAT's gut and gumption right there. Check out their blog! They were kind enough to mention the 2 Weeks For 200 campaign on their Facebook page, so we wanted to return the favor and show the sense of community all of us advocators have!

Next we have John 14:18-4 Girls 4 Christ! 4 girls who have banded together to help save orphans. And being as that's the same team #'s as Guardian Angels, I guess the best things come in fours! :D I met Kaitlyn and Sammy-Kate (Bottom left and Top right, respectively) a couple months ago, and both of them are fantastic! Kaitlyn is about one of the most joyful people I've ever met. She's constantly writing how much she loves the life she is blessed with, and I LOVE that attitude! You can check out both her personal blog and her personal advocacy blog there. Sammy-Kate has her own blog too! You can find it here.

While my next compatriot might not be a team, she is her own one-woman-advocating army. I had the pleasure of meeting my awesome friend Molly at the Reece's Rainbow get-together this July. That week, we all officially agreed she was the "Big Sister" of us all. We all loved her to bits. Me and Molly have totally different political views. We have absolutely different views on Religion. We acknowledge it. But in a way, Orphan Care and Special Needs is a funny type of glue. Despite those differences, we respect what we believe and put our heads together for some seriously huge plans for our future Orphan and Special Needs gigs. For all you want in passionate writing on orphan care, special needs, and LOTs of other things, check her out! She's a blast.

Another friend within the RR Teen Girl community who deserves a TON of credit for her endless efforts is Sarah B. I had the pleasure of meeting her mom, "aunt," and precious little brother Elijah when I went to Ukraine in December. Sarah blogs, knits, and fundraises more than anyone I know. And for somebody who's only 13, she's got the maturity and strength of character waaaaaaaay beyond her years. Through the blog I linked in her name, you'll find your way to her other blogs and ways you can contribute to her work!

Finally, it wouldn't be a "Girls who love to advocate and blog" post without mentioning two insanely talented girls I have the honor to know. My sister Elizabeth is really getting into orphan care and the community therein! She was really interested before, and after the RR reunion, she was officially hooked! And you might like to get a taste of her writing since I hope she'll be posting here in the near future! Finally, but certainly not least, my awesome friend, fellow advocator, and fellow team-mate here on S4TS, Tori. As of right now, Tori is on a mission in Peru, lovin' it up with all the kids at her beloved Segrada Familia, I'm sure. All of her posts are just so on-the-nose, honest, and passionate. Don't pass up the chance to read about all of the awesome things she does/discovers!

Wow, 4....8....9,10......11,12 girls blogging for Orphans! Wow, that really is a TON, of orphan blogging girls......

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Chance to Begin Again (redemption of adoption)

I have heard adoption be called many things. I have heard it called Ransoming a Child. I have heard people say (and I personally believe) it is a call from God. Whether or not all people who adopt or are in the orphan world are Believers, God has a plan for us whether we believe in Him or not. But one word I had always kind of been puzzled by when describing adoption was Redemption.

I knew adoption could save a life. I knew it could change it. Both through my own experience and watching those of others, it's pretty awesome to watch a child come out of their shell and realize this isn't another pit-stop on the road of life. That they are there to stay. But redemption seemed like a verbal overdose. I mean, Redemption? Being redeemed?

Within a short period of time, I'll have the golden opportunity to meet the first adoptive family ever to grace Speaking for the Silent with their presence: the Hinzes. John, Amy and their fantastic four kids mean a world and a half to me. At a time when I seriously questioned why I had felt called to start a blog for little kids no one was adopting, they stepped in and gave me hope. Their adoption of Dusty and Sonya wasn't just the saving of two Orphans-no-more. It gave me encouragement and the strength to feel God telling me that Sonya and Dusty would not be the last two orphans Speaking for the Silent would have the pleasure of watching come free of orphanage life and into their forever families. Indeed, at this moment we have both the Eubanks family and the Lindquists on the way to their sweetest lovies. The Eubankses for two more girls out of Sonya and my sister Julia's group, the Lindquists for Josh's prayer warrior child. God really does bring the people that will bless and teach you the most into your life.

If you know me personally, you know I get REALLY hyped for momentous occasions such as these. It races through my mind. Visions of what it will be like play out over and over. I'm an eccentric, and I know it. But sometimes my OCD eager anticipation brings about thoughts. Deep thoughts.

Example in said momentous occasion is as follows: One night, just as I was about to go to bed, I got a hunch. With all of the things that meeting these awesome people signifies, I figured a trip down good ol' memory lane was in store. I went to their blog and started back at their first post from across the sea. From there I fanned through every post and looked at every picture. Words cannot describe the difference.

And even my own little Julia, in the 7 months she's been home.

Seeing those photos and the changes in these three children that will soon be reunited nearly brought me to tears. For these three children, adoption wasn't just saving a life. It was a chance to begin again. It WAS redemption. From a place where their full value and potential was not or could not be realized, they are loved. They are valued. They laugh. They smile. They know what it means to love and be loved. To take a meal at a normal pace and savor the food. So who is to say adoption ISN'T redemption? Here's one more who believes it is.