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?