Thursday, June 27, 2013

From Lesotho to Legoland

The past two weeks have been weeks of extremes for our family. I cannot begin to tell the stories of how blessed we have been by the families who have hosted us and shown us around (special thanks to Jenny, Steve, Renzo, Nanja, Andrew and Jane).

We have seen some amazing sights, told some tough stories, made new friends, rekindled friendships that began in Lesotho and so much more. We have been on planes, trains, subways, boats, and in automobiles. We have been in 6 countries since June 11th. And through it all, we have observed some things.

In Lesotho, there are no rest areas around and when one of us needed to use the toilet, we just pulled the car over and went. In England and the Netherlands, we had to pay to use public toilets, 50 cents in Euros or pounds. 50 cents in Lesotho is all some people earn in a day.

Yesterday, we got 2 free adult and one free child ticket to take our kids to Legoland. It was their first amusement park experience. It brought Bryan and I great joy to see their smiles, hear them laugh and watch them reading the map and telling us where they were taking us next (quite a change from being dragged around on our sightseeing day, not the kids were in charge)! Bryan and I were sitting at a picnic table and saying how amazing it would be for our staff to see a place like Legoland. What would they think of the rides and sculptures of lego creations. What would they think if they knew that people could make a living out of making things out of toy blocks and people would pay lots of money to see them? We are not saying it is bad, just curious what our staff would think.

Yesterday while sitting at the airport, we listened to people whine and complain about delays and missed flights, etc which really is a big deal, when most of our Basotho friends in Lesotho will never be able to even afford a plane ticket to go anywhere. Hearing the entitled attitude that was being used toward the airline staff made me feel bad that these people have no idea how privileged they are to be able to travel. 

I am sure there are many other things which will stick out to us and I hope that you do not find me being judgmental, that is not my goal. I want to use this time as an opportunity to see the world through different eyes. I want to appreciate people and their struggles and I want to understand, but I also know that it will be difficult not to compare things with what I know of Lesotho and my precious friends there.

Friday, June 21, 2013


How do I even begin to describe the last few days? Adoption days at Beautiful Gate have always been my favorite days. Knowing the desperate situation that a child comes to BG in and seeing them grow, laugh, learn to walk, etc, and then watching them join their new family does something to the heart that us really indescribable. When we get to be in the meetings with parents when they meet their child for the first time, seeing their smiles and the tears streaming down their cheeks, it also creates a special bond with these parents. As much as I know I will miss the child who is leaving, I LOVE that they are leaving, that their biggest wish in life has come true.
This week, I learned something new about myself. I absolutely love seeing our former BG kids living in their new country, playing together, speaking their new language, running to their moms and dads when they get hurt, and seeing their absolute joy. On Wednesday I got to be a part of a get together of former BG children here in the Netherlands and it was indescribable. These families have agreed to love these kids for the rest of their lives and they are doing it well. The kids were confident, loving, carefree and so much more because they have the love of their family. That in no way suggests that these parents have an easy job. There are so many adjustments that have to happen and some children handle those in ways that can be very draining, but the parents are loving them through it. I admire adoptive parents so much and while some people think that our family has given up a lot and sacrificed a lot to live in Lesotho, it is nothing compared to these families opening their hearts and homes to welcome a new member of their family for life. For better and worse, through all the transitions in bonding and all the other emotions involved in being a family. Thank you so much Dutch families for welcoming us and sharing your stories with us.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

England update

Saturday turned out to be a bit rainy as we began our journey. We stopped by the town of St. Arbens. We visited a very large and very old church which was absolutely stunning. The artistry that was used to make all the sculptures and moldings is so admirable. We were going to go and look at some Roman ruins after that, but it was "chucking it down" as our English friend, Jenny, described the weather (aka raining). We then went to visit our friend Margaret who has been sending many parcels of knitted sweaters and hats to Lesotho. She, along with several friends, have been making these knitted things in order to keep the kids at BG warm. We have been writing back and forth for the past 2 years and it was very nice to be able to meet her in person.
Sunday, Bryan had the privilege of preaching a little sermon for Father's Day. We then had a brief shopping trip with Jenny in the afternoon where we convinced Bryan to wear a pajama onesie after he was finished trying on his jeans. Jenny and I had a great laugh as he posed wearing his very lovely, dark blue. one piece pajama. In the evening, Jenny had invited many friends over to have a BBQ so they could meet and greet the directors of BG. We had a great time seeing some friends who had visited BG in August last year, we met many people who have been supporting Jenny in her fundraising efforts and we even met someone who is planning to come and see us in Lesotho next year.
Yesterday we had a lovely walk through the Beeches (a wooded area where we took the kids for a walk along the trails). We saw an area that was used in the filming of Robin Hood and later saw some very large cows. I had a bit of a realization that there is a large difference between a starving 3rd world cow and a cow that was living and grazing in a nature reserve. We enjoyed a lovely lunch with our friend Fiona who visited us in Lesotho last August. Her husband took our kids and us to a nearby park and they had such a fun time playing and then we spent our evening sharing about Beautiful Gate with the Girl's Brigade where our friend Jenny is a leader. It was really nice to meet the leaders and girls who have been helping Jenny spread the work about BG and who have been doing fundraising for BG as well. At the end of the evening we had a chance to dig deeper with some of the older girls and dispel a few of the myths about HIV/AIDS.
Our time in England is finished for 6 days and we have now arrived in the Netherlands. We had such a fabulous time with our friend Jenny and I am so glad we decided to make this "layover" on our way back to America because it has strengthened the already wonderful friendship we have with Jenny and we now have a much better idea of the school and church Jenny has told us about. It makes a huge difference to see England and to meet people and it really helps solidify my beliefs that no matter what I say in MI to my friends and family, I will never be able to fully describe things in Lesotho to do justice to the experiences we have had. Seeing really is believing.
I will update about the Netherlands soon.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sightseeing in England

We have been busy keeping up with our fabulous tour guide, Jenny Dobson! She has taken us to Windsor to see the castle, feed the swans, and enjoy the sights in that area. She took us to school with her where we spent a day in school and our kids and us got to share about our lives. Jenny and Bryan also went to a dinner with a Rotary club in England and were given a check for 2000 pounds for Beautiful Gate. This money will be used to help purchase some much needed new furniture for our baby houses!
Yesterday we toured around London were we saw Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abby, London Bridge, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace to name a few.
Here are a few pics of our trip so far...

So that is a brief photo journal of our English adventures! Today we are of to see some Roman ruins and then I will be meeting a nice woman who has a knitting group from her church that has been knitting sweaters  and hats for the Beautiful Gate children. She has sent at least 7 parcels since Bryan and I took over as directors of Beautiful Gate and I look forward to saying thank you in person today!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Our good-byes

Yesterday, we left Lesotho at 9am so we could drive to South Africa and catch a plane to England. I spent some time on Monday helping feed the BG kids lunch and dinner. It was so relaxing and I even had the joy of getting pooped on one last time before we left :) Tuesday morning our family went through the playgroup, office and baby houses to say good-bye to all our friends. My kids kept describing it as bittersweet. They so badly want to go home (MI) but they will miss the staff so much so saying good-bye made them sad.

There were a few moments in our farewells that really touched my heart and I want to write them in my blog, which is my personal journal, so I can remember them if I ever feel unappreciated. Monday night I was sitting down to dinner and got a phone call from our nurse. She was upset because I was in a meeting until 4pm and she did not get to say good-bye. She was worried I would leave before she arrived to work on Tuesday. We had a conversation the day before and shared with each other about how much we have appreciated each other and how much we would miss each other. Due to some issues with the labor department, we are being forced to hire a different nurse so unless there is a large intervention by God, she will be working somewhere else before we return from our furlough and we are really going to miss each other.

As we were walking through the houses hugging each house mother and relief worker, there was one staff who has been one of the most vocal staff in encouraging me since Bryan and I took over. As we hugged her, her eyes flooded with tears. It felt special to know that she would miss us, but it also made me feel bad to leave her knowing that one of the biggest fears of all our staff is that Bryan and I will not return. So many volunteers make promises that they will return, but then they never come back.

I was proud of myself for keeping my emotions under control during these good-byes, but I was not to make it without tears. As I was leaving the final baby house, one of the house staff ran out and put some money in my hand. I asked what the money was for and she said it was for drinks. I knew that not accepting the money would be offensive, but taking it was very hard. We do our best to provide a good wage, but it is not enough for them to share with us. I know it may not seem that big of a deal, but to me it was one of the most thoughtful gestures of giving. I feel unworthy of such a gift and it brought me to tears as I reflect how much I love the staff and how much I will miss them and the kids at BG for the next 5 months!

We have made it to England and I will share more of that with you next time I blog. Also Elijah is feeling better, just not much of an appetite yet.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Prayer Request for Elijah

You all know how this goes, it is only 2 days before you have to travel and suddenly, someone in the family gets sick! Well, that is what has happened today. Poor Elijah is feeling extremely nauseated and is lying in bed. He has always been pretty tough and it takes a lot to keep that guy in bed so he must be miserable. We were supposed to go to church today to say good-bye to all our Lesotho friends, but we had to stay home so he could be by the bathroom. Elijah begged us to take him to church at first, because he was desperate to say good-bye to his friend Kyle, but later he said he knew he needed to stay home, but his eyes were full of tears. Please pray that he feels better very soon and that none of the rest of us get sick as we are leaving on Tuesday morning. The thought of any of us having the flu while flying is enough to send me into a panic (not only for us but for the poor people sitting anywhere near us!!!
Please also pray for his heart, it is difficult to feel like you've not had a good good-bye with a friend and it was out of his control, but I know he is sad. We are mostly packed and ready to go so here is hoping for good health on Tuesday! Thanks for your prayers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hello again everyone! We are back from our trip (have been for 2 days but I was buried under dirty laundry and never found my way to the computer). We had a fabulous time! Saw some wild animals, ate good food, hung out with great friends and relaxed. I think I could get used to vacations like that, but it was a once in a lifetime experience so I will just have to cherish the memories!
                                          Little family fun at the border.
                                         Terp at Carnivore
Elijah and me at Carnivore.

I am thankful for the time away. I have not been that relaxed in a long time and now we have to get focused and busy with planning and packing for furlough and emptying our house so that others can stay here while we are gone. We leave in 5 days!