Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! Our family is counting down the minutes till it is officially the new year, well 3 of us are as Faith and Mercy are sleeping on the couch. 37 minutes to go :)
Looking back at 2013 and all we have done as a family and it is hard to imagine that all of this really happened in the same year!!!!!

The first 4 months were extremely hard and sad because we had to say good-bye to 5 of our precious babies as they went to meet Jesus. My kids still reflect on that time as a very bad time to be at Beautiful Gate and now whenever a child gets ill and needs to go to the hospital, they get scared and ask if the child will die. Learning to trust God and accept His timing has been an area of growth for our whole family in 2013. Those precious babies will not be forgotten and neither will the other 2 who have passed away since we have been in Lesotho.

We have some statistics about our time from June 11 till December 4; We started off by fundraising in Europe and then in the United States and Canada.
Number of countries we visited : 7
Number of country boarders crossed : 11
Plane flights : 11
Number of hours in a plane : 51 (does not include layover time)
Train rides : 2
Boat rides : 2
Number of states visited : 16
Number of church presentations : 8
School presentations : 5
Small groups/ bible studies : 5
Fundraisers : 3
Overnights with other families/ individuals : 18
Hours in a car : Enough to make our family CRAZY!!!!!!!!
Days alone as a family : 10

We arrived back on December 6th and have been relaxing a little and getting back into the swing of Lesotho living. It has been good to be back. We miss our family and friends, but it is good to be here, serving God with our precious staff. May God bless each of you as you look forward to 2014!
Elijah reading the Christmas story to the staff for our Christmas party.

And a big happy birthday tomorrow to our friend Aaron, Lucky did not come for Christmas this year so I am looking for another kid who will be blessed by the soccer ball you gave me for Lucky!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Unexpected Reaction

Thursday took me by surprise. It took us all by surprise and I have been trying to figure out how to describe it in a way that makes sense. Last week I shared about the new care center where our older children will be transferred to if they are not adoptable, or if no families are looking for children in their age range, or with special needs after age 6. It is a fantastic organization and I know in my heart that they will give excellent care and love to our children, but, to be honest, it was torture to let them go.

As a mother/father, when you have a newborn child, you immediately begin to dream about what his/her future may look like. You may think of the fun days where you will teach them to ride a bike or play catch, you may think of those milestones of their first steps or first words. Suddenly you find out that the child has special needs and will not be able to fulfill those dreams and desires of your heart and you have to mourn those. The child is no less special and often, I have heard, the new realities are even better that the dreams. I feel like this analogy is the best I can use to describe the feelings of our staff. I have NEVER seen so many tears or heard so many sobs among our staff, volunteers and even one of the children during our farewell ceremony. Each of us longed for these children to have a family. When a new child comes in, we begin to imagine what it will be like one day when they are reunited with a family member or adopted. It brings us such immeasurable joy on those days, but now we are in the process of mourning those dreams.

It is because we grew up in families and wanted it for these 4 precious kids. It is because for 5 years, one boy watched his friends all be adopted and begged us, "When will it be my turn?" It is because of the several times we rushed to the hospital to save one girl's life, and we longed for her to have a mother's touch because her time on this earth is likely to be short and it has been a hard life. It is because of one boy who fought and fought to live despite years of being malnourished. He is so young and has never known the joys of a real family, only the neglect of a relative. One girl, whose history is unknown, and who has struggled to bond with the staff at Beautiful Gate, and now that she has, she sobbed that she was given away.

It only hurts because we are all comparing our dreams to what we think should be their reality, but God's plan is better than ours. 8 years ago when a sweet little boy was born, God knew that the best place for him to grow up was going to be in care centers in Lesotho, Africa. Maybe he will grow up to be a man who brings great things to this country and needs to stay here so God's will can be done. I cannot do God's job and I cannot worry about this because God's plans are always better than we can imagine.

So I end this with the words of God Himself:
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Water Experiment

After 2 1/2 years of boiling and then filtering our drinking water, Bryan and I did a little research back in America to try to make it easier. While we were staying with Bryan's parents, one of their neighbors came over to talk to me about a water filter that he knew a lot about. He works with water treatment and has been recommending this water filter to missionaries and short team volunteer teams in order for them to have safe drinking water on their journeys. I went online and looked into it and it sounded too good to be true. The water filter is good up to one million gallons!!! Yeah, everything else we looked into required filters every 3 to 6 months and the filters were close to $100 each. This filter also gets out 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa/cysts, also a major bonus. The cost of the water filter is $116 (US dollars) and it is small and very easily fits into a suitcase and can be put on the tap or built into a bucket.
We have been experimenting as a family for just over a week and the good news is, we are all doing great. It should have hit within the first 3 days if we were going to get sick so I think we are in the clear. Unfortunately one of our volunteers had a very bad flu bug when we arrived and Bryan has appeared to have picked that up ( started yesterday with the runs, fever, chills and aching all over) but we do not think it is water related at all. I am not sure what we will do with all our new found free time since we are not wasting time boiling water, although I can think of about 68 other ways to distract myself and use that new time (yep, you guessed it we have about 65 kids on campus plus my 3 not to mention staff I'd like to hang out with more)!
I am attaching the link in case anyone else has been looking for a good water filter :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

A New Care Center

While we were on furlough, there were countless times we were asked what happens when you have a child at Beautiful Gate that is over the age of 5. Our answer has been that we do our very best (or should I say our social worker does her very best) to get the children reunified to an appropriate family member or we try to get them adopted either locally or internationally. In a few instances, these options just do not work. Since I have been here, we have only transferred 3 children out of our facility. One to another care center where he had some siblings and two to foster care (which is not really set up well in this country yet). All others we have held onto longer than their 5 years until they have been adopted.
Unfortunately, we have several children who are over the age of 5 and have reasons that they are unable to be cleared for adoption or because of their age (7 and 8) and special needs they have not been matched after several times of being in a matching meeting. It is painful to realize that our care facility cannot provide what these kids need. They need a mother who can care for them, help them with school work and meet their growing emotional needs. Our house mothers are very busy working with all the infants and toddlers in their homes that the needs that our older children have are having to be overlooked, not by choice or lack of caring but by lack of time.
While Bryan and I were away on furlough, plans have been worked out through a local church and a local ministry which has a good relationship with Beautiful Gate and they are opening a care center focused on children 6-18 years old. They are working very hard in trainings and getting their home ready for some children and will be opening officially next week. 4 of our children will be transferring into this new care center. Benno (who took over for us while we were on furlough) has been working with them to help this transition to go very smoothly and has some plans for visitations in the next few days so they can meet their new mother and see their new home.
We are excited to have another wonderful care center that we can trust to give the same quality care to our children. We are sad for them that they will never be adopted into a family of their own, but we trust God that He will help this new mother to be the mother that can meet all their needs physically, emotionally and most importantly spiritually.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Safely home to Lesotho

We made it home to Lesotho late Friday afternoon! Yeah!!! We had some fun adventures as usual to get here. Our first 2 flights were delayed, but thankfully we were able to catch our connections. In Chicago we were told that our (Bryan and I) carry-ons were too big for Lufthansa so we had to do some serious reshuffling so that none of our electronics or other expensive items were in the 2 we needed to check because they refused to gate check them and had them checked all the way to Jo burg and last time that happened we had things stolen from our luggage. We got that sorted and then got to Germany for our 7 hour layover. We did some sleeping and walked around the airport as we waited and then 1 hour before our flight, Bryan took our tickets to the counter to make sure everything was in order and we were told that we would not be allowed to get on our flight to Jo-burg because we did not have a Visa. We have always flown into Maseru before and since we had no proof that we would be driving to Lesotho (despite our Lesotho Visa's) we were not trusted to fly to Jo-burg.
We did not know what to do and so Bryan and I circled up our kids and I prayed about our situation. We did not want to have to purchase tickets to Maseru because it is way to costly for our family of 5, but we did not want to be stuck in Germany either, so we prayed for God to make a way. Immediately after our prayer, Elijah said, "Don't worry we will be on our flight because God says that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:240." I had to agree with his reasoning and 10 minutes later, Bryan went back to the desk and they worked out a way for us to buy refundable tickets out of Jo-burg in February so we could get into Jo-burg and then all we had to do was cancel the tickets at the Lufthansa counter at the Jo-burg counter (we did all the steps involved so we are praying for no problems in the cancelling and refund of our tickets). Now we know a lot more information in case we ever desire to fly through Jo-burg again and it only applies if you have no flights out within the next 90 days so it does not effect short term teams, volunteers or adoptive families, so now we know :)

Now we are getting settled into our home again and we have had the chance to listen to some of our staff trilling and shouting in happiness of our return as well as hugging all the staff, hugging and kissing all the children and playing in playgroup yesterday. I missed it so much and it feels so good to be a part of the Beautiful Gate team again. A massive thanks goes out to Benno and Wendy who helped in the day to day running of Beautiful Gate along with Kristen. The 3 of them did so many good things for the staff and kids while we were away and we have come home to find everything in good order. I thank God for volunteers like them who made it possible for us to have a furlough.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Send Off Service

On Sunday night we had a very special "send off" service at Haven CRC our home church. We have had two opportunities to share at church about our experiences in Lesotho and also on furlough and Sunday night was a time to just get together and share a meal. We had a pot luck and I brought along some papa and chakalaka for any brave souls who were willing to try new food (African food). Then Bryan and I were able to share about Beautiful Gardens and about our furlough and to have a time to thank our church family. They have been so supportive over the last 3 years and Bryan and I are so blessed to be a part of such a loving church.

Our pastor shared some verses and then each table shared communion together. It was a great way to spend time together, remembering why we do what we do and remembering God who gives us His strength through His beloved son Jesus who gave up everything for us. When we stop and think about all that Jesus has done for us, it is always a good reminder that what we are doing is nothing compared with what He gave up for us.

We finished off the night by singing my favorite new song Great I AM and then they circled around us, laid hands on us and prayed for us. I thank God for all this love and support from our church family and it was the perfect way to be sent off to do God's work over in Lesotho. We are not worthy of the call we have been given, but God is always there equipping us and giving us His strength.

Today is our final day in America. It is hard to believe how fast the time has gone. I feel sad to leave those I love, but I feel eager to reconnect with our Beautiful Gate staff and kids that I love. Doing mission work is such a strange mix of happy and sad with all the hellos and good-byes but God will keep giving us just what we stand in need of.

Here is a link to the Great I AM song on youtube if anyone wants to listen.