Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Opportunity Part 4: Prayer, Orphan Care, Southern Food and Rain

When my Dad told me to go to sleep at 3 a.m., I thought it sounded ridiculous. I felt fine! I could run a mile! I was clearly running off lack-of-sleep hyperactivity, adrenaline, and a honey-barbeque-chicken-biscuit from Whataburger. 

 I had told my dad I would only sleep from 3 to 4 in order to try and miss as few people as possible, and be around for as much of it as I could. When my dad came to wake me up at 6, however, I realized I had needed more sleep than I thought. While part of me felt like careless for sleeping that "late," I was glad to have gotten a few solid hours of sleep in before I got into a busy Saturday, filled with manning the prayer station, and meeting up with adoptive families.

 When I came back to the main lobby, CM told me that a Men's Breakfast was going to take place in the adjoining cafeteria area, and he wanted me to meet Mr. Groom, the man who runs the breakfast and the Mission Trips at Compass. Mr. Groom introduced himself, and then, in the most polite manor, asked me if I wanted to speak to the group of men about Orphan Care. This would be a group of grown men, probably about 60 of them, who were total strangers to me. My first thought was to kindly say no. How on Earth would I, a teenage "advocate" for Missionary Work and Orphan Care, come across to a bunch of grown men 2 or 3 times my age? Regardless of my own doubt, I said yes and had breakfast with the guys before getting up to give the short version of my story and encouraged them to come visit the information table. To my utter surprise, I managed to carry out exactly what I meant to say without any slip-ups whatsoever. Praise the Lord!

After the breakfast finished, CM and a couple of the other men came over and patted me on the back and told me what a good job I'd done. Some of the men came over to ask questions, hear more of my story, and grab a brochure. It was both extremely satisfying and a major relief that a group of men I had never met before respected me as a fellow man and admired what I was doing.

For the next few hours, things remained pretty quiet, with almost no one coming or going. Around noontime me and Dad decided it was time for some lunch, so we decided to get our first ever Chick-fil-a meal. My adoptive family friends were supposed to be arriving within an hour or two, so I figured it would be better to be running on a full tank before they arrived.

Shortly after Dad left, however, I began to notice the color of the pavement in the parking lot was growing darker. And puddles were forming. And that there was a steady, driving ripple sound on the roof. It was rain. Torrential, pouring, driving rain. Looking at my watch, I surmised that the Moreno family, who was travelling from about an hour away (who adopted Baby J from Russia), probably hadn't left yet, and the Eubanks family (who adopted Shawna and Lindsay from Julia's room) was probably about half-way through a three-hour trek. Not the weather I had hoped they'd be traveling in.

I decided to go into the worship center and say a prayer or two for my friends who were traveling in this crazy weather, as well as for my family and friends back home. When I came back out, Matt (the youth pastor from the 7-3 shift) had dropped by to make sure we were doing well, and I met the other youth pastor who had been working with CM to get me down to Texas, Shawn. As Matt left to get himself some lunch, Dad came back with the Chick-fil-a, which forever changed my standard for fast food.

Thus the waiting continued. Matt eventually came back, as did a few other teens from the night before. After contacting both of the families to see where they were at, I realized the waiting was going to last even longer, due to traffic and weather. That afternoon of waiting taught me to patiently wait, pray, and enjoy where I was and what I was doing while it was happening, and to trust God with whatever experience He intended me to have.

Within an hour, the Eubanks Family arrived, amidst much hugs and hellos, even in the pouring rain. Both of the girls, from when I had last seen them over a year ago, had grown so much. Both were healthy, happy, growing little girls, far beyond my wildest dreams for what I hoped they would become. Naomi (formerly Shawna) was quite the snuggle bug, cuddling with anyone and everyone she could. Hannah (formerly Lindsay), on the other hand, loves her running around and exploring. The Eubanks' three biological children, Sarah, Nathan, and Joseph, clearly love their little sisters and were a joy to meet.

An hour after the Eubanks arrived, Marj dropped in to meet the Eubanks family and the Moreno's, who were on their way. Ashley, Ethan, and Juliana arrived in an hour or so, and the joy continued to build as the Reece's Rainbow population did. We were quite the site for all going in and out of the prayer vigil, but there were few better ways to prove the cause I was advocating for then to have 3 children adopted from that situation sitting right there in the flesh, a living proof of the miracle of adoption.

       I feel the need to caption the photo above. Junie decided she wanted to be a photographer like her new buddy, and luckily momma had a camera on hand that she traded her in place of mine. As you can see, she was clearly trying to copy my intense concentration :D

   Dad, all four of the Ochs (Colvin's the mysterious blue rain boots and coat) And Junie+ camera. Love it. 

After the Moreno's had been around for about a half an hour, me and Dad had to quickly bow out for Mass down the road. Luckily, Marj, Ashley, and Ethan (the Eubanks were heading out when we were) were more than willing to run the table and keep the video running while we were gone. I was beyond grateful for their understanding, support, and willingness to fill in for us.

After braving torrential rain to and back from church, we got back and hung out together with everyone for another 45 minutes or so before Ashley rounded up her crew to head back home, as it was getting pretty dark. I couldn't thank all 3 of these families enough for braving the rain and traffic to come and see me. As I was quoted as saying this summer at the RR reunion, On the Internet we're close friends, in real life we're family. It really has proven to be a true statement :)

After everybody had left, Marj and Ryan were awesome enough to bring us some hot barbeque briscuit to fuel our tired bodies as the prayer vigil was done by then. It was AWESOME. I had hoped to get a real taste of southern food while I was down there, and little did I know there was even more awesome southern home cookin' to come.

Thus a 24 hour period of endurance, love, prayer, advocating, friendship-making, and so many other great things came to an end. It really had been an amazing, powerful, growing experience that I will never forget. I was still excited to get back to the Ochs' house and get some rest though, as tomorrow would bring an awesome opportunity to go with Compass on a Mission Trip around Dallas.

Little did I know the fantastic experiences that awaited.......

Monday, March 19, 2012

An Opportunity Part 3: Of Toddlers and Prayer Vigils

After a great night of solid sleep, I woke up to a gorgeous Friday morning, as well as to the sounds of excitement coming from down the hallway, where the Ochs' two youngsters, Colvin and Georgia, were waking up. After briefly cleaning up, I joined Marj and the two littles out in the playroom. Both were quite excited to have me and “Mr. Tom” (Dad) visiting, and we played trains before going downstairs for breakfast.

 After breakfast, we played in the living room and visited some more. It was a morning well-spent, laughing, playing, sharing stories, and relaxing for a little while before some of the big events of the coming days came into action. 

 After pouring over some scripture for a while in the afternoon, I got ready for the prayer vigil and had a quick dinner with Marj, the kids, and Dad before me and Dad would be off for the prayer vigil. Getting to compass was pretty easy, and we arrived at Compass Center in perfect time.  Things were pretty quiet when we arrived, but one of C.M.'s fellow youth pastors, Matt, was there to welcome us and help us get set up.

 Things were pretty quiet after we set up, and initially it looked like it was going to be a long 24 hours. But by the grace of God, a group of fantastic teens came to keep vigil from 7PM to 3AM, and we quickly got caught up in introducing ourselves and talking for hours. There has only been one other time in my life when have I felt so instantly and warmly welcomed by a group of Christian Teens, and I will never forget how great that feels. They all proved to be such smart, nice, funny, Godly teens. At 1 in the morning, me, Matt, and two other teens guys decided to read scripture and sing praises to our Savior by the light of a few dim lamps. Later, when we all got a little hungry, they even went out at 2 A.M. and got us all a bite to eat. I could already tell they were a great group to be with.

  That night, from 7P.M. Friday to 3A.M. Saturday, God had blessed me with some of the best opportunities to share my story, advocate, and meet fellow Christian Teens. Around 3 A.M. Saturday morning, after C.M. arrived and I got to meet him in-person, I went back to the “green room” behind the stage of the main worship center to catch some sleep. “So far, so good,” I thought to myself. Almost half-way through the prayer vigil, I had already been blessed by so many people, and prayed that God would help the words I had spoken and would speak to be wise, used for His greater glory, and to inspire others to advocate and consider missionary work. All that was left was to persevere and lay it all in His Hands.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Opportunity Part 2: Departures and Arrivals

The morning of March 8th, 2012, was a gorgeous sunny morning in New York, and unusually warm for March at that. Me and my dad left home around 11:30 a.m., to make the 2 hour drive to John F. Kennedy Airport, and then make full use of the extra 2 hours before our plane departed at 3:30 in the afternoon. The drive to JFK went off without a hitch, we breezed through Airport Security, and then grabbed some lunch while waiting for our flight at our gate.I had done some research into what the weather was going to be like in DFW upon our arrival, and from what the weather channel said, things weren't looking good. Thus it was with little surprise that they announced our flight would be delayed an hour due to all planes in and out of DFW being grounded until the worst of the weather had passed.

After boarding at 4 P.M., we sat on the runway for another hour before take-off. At that point, I had thought that the flight would be totally smooth sailing. I was wrong. Mild turbulence buffeted us the whole way, and at one point we even saw a lightning storm in the clouds a few miles out. While I couldn't say the weather was trying to get in our way, I would say it was an early sign of God telling me I'd have to trust Him more every step of this trip. Being as I had never been on a bumpy flight in my life, I did. Furthermore, I was reminded even as I watched a lightning storm on one side of the plane, but saw a deep red sunset on the other side, that there is beauty, safety and glory, even in the storm.

We landed safely and quickly got into DFW Airport. We stopped for a minute to grab a bite to eat, and then caught a shuttle bus to go get our rental car. After getting our car, we began the journey to the Ochs' house. We quickly realized, however, that the DFW airport complex was quite large, and that a lot of roads were redirected or closed because of construction. Luckily we found our way out and onto the main highway after a short while and found the Ochs' neighborhood pretty quickly. Marj was waiting for us outside, and met us with hugs and warm welcomes. We went inside and visited for a while before going to bed. That night I was already feeling blessed twofold: 1) in the fact that God had led us to such a wonderful, welcoming family, and 2) that a packet of about 200 brochures, our key hand-out to spread the word about Reece's Rainbow, had arrived the same night as us, after being lost for quite some time in-transit from the printing factory. While it hadn't been without its bumps and trials so far, the trip was already being blessed. For that, I was thankful.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An Opportunity

Figuring out where to pick up after 3 months of being gone from blogging is a tough thing to decide on. So many different stories to tell, Orphans to advocate for, amazing people doing amazing fundraisers......

where to start?

I'm going to start with the story that has taken up the last two months of my life. An amazing one, a crazy one, but a beautiful one.

So here goes.

A wise man once said that God closes some doors so He can open others. While we as humans on one side of the veil see things one way, God sees them in the master-plan, not the narrow view we perceive things from. My life changed forever when I went to Ukraine in December of 2010 to help my parents finish our 3rd adoption journey. The trip not only gave me a deeper understanding of adoption, but opened my heart to outreach and advocacy for Special Needs, Orphan Care, and Missionary Work. I decided to start Speaking for the Silent shortly thereafter, as a way to advocate and share my passion for Orphans.

 This blog, the opportunities it has given me, and the people I have met through it, have changed my life forever for the better.

But for all of the good and amazing things God worked through me and this blog, I still wanted more. While it is only natural to want to go further and further into something once you've found God's love and your own heart in it, there was one major opportunity I had been hoping for that hadn't come yet: a chance to travel somewhere new to spread God's love and find a deeper understanding of where God might be calling me to work in the Missions field. I'd hear about a trip to one place or another, or a group that was doing something, but either schedule conflicts or money always got in the way of it. I felt like the Israelites in the desert at times, praying for a new call, a new sustaining message from above.

January 30th, 2012, was a regular day in my life. I was wrapping up schoolwork and got a couple alerts that a lot of friends I had gained through Reece's Rainbow were in an active conversation on the RR Facebook group, and that my name had been mentioned. When I clicked on the conversation and read through it briefly, I came to understand that a mom from the Dallas/Fort Worth Area of Texas was looking for a teen advocate to speak on Orphan Care at her church. This talk, if someone stepped forward, would involve manning a “station” at a 24 hour prayer vigil anticipating the church's spring break mission trip. This mom felt that the message of orphan care and missionary work would tie in well with the trip since much of it would involve reaching out to Sudanese refugees (and their young children) who now lived in Dallas.

My first reaction to this trip was despair. How on earth could I get to Texas? Would my message affect anyone? Would I really do anything that would have a lasting affect? Nevertheless, I went out on a limb, half of me thinking it would fail, the other half of me praying it would work, and asked the mom some questions about the trip and some other details. The mom, whose name was Marj Ochs, said that they could both pay for my plane ticket and host me in their own home. Right there, even though I had been a “doubting Thomas,” God had already moved two of the biggest mountains- the expense of traveling and lodgings. Marj told me she needed to talk more in-depth with her youth pastors, Shawn and C.M., about making this a reality, but once they had cleared the idea and it had been cleared by the other Youth Pastors on staff at the Compass Church Campuses, we could begin planning flights and other important events.

I was extremely blessed in the fact that both of my parents supported me 100% and were willing to pray with me, help me plan, and even have one of them come down with me. I kept the matter among my family and a few confidants before Marj told me it was looking more and more like a reality, and then I began to quietly spread the word about a missionary opportunity I had in the works.

Finally, the week arrived when, on a Tuesday afternoon, Marj told me all the Youth Pastors would meet to finally set things in stone, a definite “Yes” or “No” answer. I prayed, thought hard on it, prayed more, and then waited. When I finally got the courage to ask, it was a “YES!” God had blessed me with both an amazing opportunity and a great group of people working with me in Texas.

The next few weeks flew by with phone interviews, travel plans, and getting hand-out materials and a video presentation together to show at my Prayer Station. On top of that, 3 adoptive families I knew in Texas (besides the Ochs family, who were adopting from Eastern Europe) wanted to meet up with me, either at some middle-point or at their own homes, so we could finally meet in person. With all of these plans and conversations being made, it didn't seem like too long before I was packing my bags and getting ready to go.

.......To Be Continued......

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still Here!

Hey Everybody! Sorry It's been another 3 months since we last posted- alas, life has been crazy, but still FILLED with Orphan Care! Over the next week, I'll be plugging giveaways, sharing what I've been up to, and continuing to SPEAK FOR THE SILENT! I also ask you to continue to pray for our last Silent One of our "Three Musketeers," Ilya P. IF we band together, we CAN find this little dude a family!!!

Talk soon!