Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Special Friends

On Friday we said good-bye to some of the closest friends we have made as a family, the amazing Munger family. It was not easy to watch them go, and it was made harder as my 2 youngest daughters had tears rolling down their faces. Their first friends, since joining our family, were now leaving Lesotho. Then I looked at Mercy and was reminded of how lonely she was until her friends moved here. There have not been very many missionary families with girls around Mercy's age living in Lesotho. These 2 girls changed Mercy's life because she learned so much more about friendship. We have been neighbors with the Mungers for the last 16 months (they were in Lesotho for 2 1/2 years we were just living on campus for part of that time), and Mercy went to school with her friends for 2 years. It was so sad watching them go, and knowing the hole it would leave in our hearts.

There is something special about having friends who are also running a similar ministry (we also have a close friendship with the managers at MAF). There are so many obstacles and trials that come up, and it is not appropriate to share those publically. Having friends whom you can let down your guard with, and who don't work in your same organization is priceless. We were so blessed by walking through the joys and trials of running our organization with such good friends. We also enjoyed weekly dinners and game nights to help us all unwind from our demanding schedules, and our girls would play for hours during these nights. What a gift to our family this was. We are so grateful that God answered our prayers for a friend for Mercy, and prayers we did not even ask, in friends for our whole family.

We thought we were getting a bit numb with all of the good-byes that are required for this missionary lifestyle, but we were wrong. Lorna found a way into my heart, and began to feel like a sister to me. I feel like I lost a dear sister, but I am trying to be positive and thankful for the time we could all hang out together. I am also thankful for internet so we can stay in touch, but it is not the same as just dropping by your neighbors house for a cup of coffee :(

We wish you all the best with your transition, and we pray that God will provide you with wonderful friends when you get settled. You have been amazing friends, (I know you were just born that way Lorna ). Elijah and Bryan will keep up their game stats for you Matt (thanks for starting the game nights), and we look forward to a time when God will cross our paths again! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

6 Years

I stepped off a plane and entered the country of Lesotho with my husband and 3 (of my 5) children, 6 years ago today. We had no idea what we were walking into. We only knew that we were walking in obedience to the Lord who had clearly called us to this little country. We knew that He wanted us to care for His children. We walked off that plane with absolutely no idea what God is store.

Had we known He wanted us to run Beautiful Gate as directors, we never would have walked off that plane. If God had told me that I would help start up a school for my children and other missionary kids, I never would have walked off that plane. Honestly, if He had told me that I would be the mother of 5 children 5 years later, I probably would have stumbled out of the plane. Wanting to take that step, but being terrified that I could not handle what He was asking me to do (little did I know that my youngest child wasn't even born yet). He has unfolded His great plans very slowly, which gives us the right amount of courage and trust (and sometimes a small level of blindness) to take one step at a time. Looking back just fills me with wonder at the greatness of our God!

In August, we hit a pretty awesome milestone at BGL. Karen and I were just working on the newsletter when I saw that we had our 200th adoption in August. That is just too amazing. 200 adoptions in 15 years. 200 children who have found love, hope, and a second chance through adoption. Not to mention parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, etc, whose lives have also been changed through the blessing of adoptions. This is just one small thing I never could have fathomed the day I stepped off that plane 6 years ago.

I will be forever grateful that we took this step of faith. It has been anything but easy, but it has been rewarding. I am thankful that we will still have the opportunity to serve Him in different capacities into the next year as well and that our journey is not finished yet. There are many days it almost feels harder now than it did those first years, but we know that God is still slowly unfolding His wonderful plan for our lives. I know that the next year will fly by quickly!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I was fortunate enough to spend the last weekend at a missionary ladies retreat. It was a nice time to relax, spend time with God and put the worries of my life back into perspective. I had a new roommate (already a good friend, but her first time at retreat) for the retreat this year and I spent so much time laughing, that I think I burned more calories than I took in during my meals :) It is a shame that she is going to be leaving Lesotho soon though :( One of the worse parts of missionary life, the constant leavings of friends who feel like sisters. I also enjoyed some tennis with another wonderful friend, and we are already making plans for many more matches together once we are both back in MI. Besides not having my husband and kids around, I really look forward to this retreat because I can just let down my titles as co-director (BG and KCAL), mom, teacher, and wife, and just be me. If I want to skip the main course at dinner and eat dessert, I will. If I want to do nothing at all, it is ok. I can be selfish with my time (I know that sounds kind of unchristian, but one weekend a year of selfishness can hopefully be forgiven).

I enjoyed meeting with other women who are serving in Lesotho and hearing about ways they are seeing God move, or ways they are struggling in their work and I can be intentional with prayer. Sometimes hearing the struggles of others can really put my own struggles into perspective. Things may not look as bad. We can encourage, and uplift our fellow missionaries. We can also be encouraged by people who flew to Lesotho, just to serve us (so weird when those who serve daily are being served, it feels unnatural sometimes). It is nice to have that break and I think if I didn't have 5 kids and a husband, I would try to do this once a quarter, not a full retreat but a day away, but maybe it is because I have 5 kids and a husband, that I need the break! Hahaha.

I look forward to the week ahead now that I am feeling more energized.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Unforeseen Blessings

I titled my post today as unforeseen blessings because I have been reflecting on God's surprises in our life over the last 6 years. I can't even begin to count the new friends I have made through teams, volunteers, staff, neighbors and missionary families in Lesotho. I can honestly say that I had never known nearly this many people when I was living my quiet life in Zeeland, MI. I have grown in my confidence and in my ability to talk to people (I am still shy in large groups, but I can talk when I need to which is new for me). I have learned how to manage conflict better, and how to be a peace maker, all skills that have come from our move to Lesotho. These skills and blessing could be somewhat expected though, so I am not really talking about those.

This is me giving a speech at a funeral and being translated by Ntate Moribe. I never thought I would have the strength to do something like this, but with God all things really are possible.

I have already shared 2 unforeseen blessings that NEVER would have happened if we did not choose to follow God's path to Lesotho, and those blessings are my youngest daughters. I would not have seen the plight of orphans firsthand, and I don't really know if Bryan and I ever would have adopted. Yes, we talked about it a little, but we were not committed to it like we were after moving here. We would have missed the blessing of a larger and more fun family life. We would have missed the chance to daily love little girls who didn't get enough love and attention for many years of their lives. But we didn't miss a thing because God showered us with His blessings.

Polita and Nthabeleng on our long car ride to Port Elizabeth last August. They are really good sports, even when we threw a 9 hour car ride on them. They decided that the ocean and elephants were worth the long ride, I agree!

Now I want to share another COMPLETELY unforeseen blessing. I never thought my brother would come and see me in Lesotho because of the cost and his busy work schedule. I wanted him to come so badly and my friends, Terp and Tyler decided to surprise me and pay his way to visit me last April. We had a great time together and enjoyed traveling, and he got to know his new nieces, but God had an even bigger plan. During my brother's visit, he met a wonderful young woman who works at Beautiful Gate, and my shy little brother shocked me because he began to pursue this young lady. They only met 4 days before he left Lesotho, but kept in contact over the last 7 months, and she has just returned from a trip to America as his fiancĂ©!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My brother Robert (or Bob or Rob depending on who you are) and his future bride, Tsili, during her 2 weeks in October. 

Yes, you read that right. my brother is getting married to one of my co-workers (I am technically her boss which is super weird now, hahaha) Motselisi (Tsili as we call her) works in the finance department at Beautiful Gate and she is such a great woman. She loves the Lord, is super fun, serves in her church, tells the best stories, loves my brother with her whole heart, and she is going to be my sister. I have been praying for years that God would help my brother find a godly wife, but NEVER did I expect it would be due to his trip to visit us in Lesotho. What a blessing! What a gift! God is amazing at weaving lives together, and I am so glad we followed Him to Africa because He had some pretty huge blessings to pour out on my whole family!!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Elijah's Gift

I remember several years ago where I worried that living in Lesotho might be ruining my kids. I think it had to do with them losing their innocence due to witnessing the hardships of the Basotho. I couldn’t shelter them or sugar coat the truth. It broke my heart and I struggled, as most parents do I imagine, with self doubt and fear. I really don’t write this as a pat on the back for my kids, or my parenting because anyone who really knows us, knows that we are a very flawed family ;) I want to share this because it is a huge encouragement to me about the way God works through children growing up surrounded by poverty and hardship.

I have written in my blog briefly about a family from our former church in Maseru who are struggling with poverty. They have lost their jobs and now lost their temporary housing arrangement and were almost on the streets. I have committed to a certain amount of money that I felt I could share with them during their desperate struggle, but I knew I couldn’t help them with more than that committed amount. I prayed for them, pleading with God for someone to come alongside and help them. I didn’t expect the way God provided…

Last week during recess, Elijah came up to me and said that he had been feeling the Holy Spirit prompting him to give away his savings. (Side note- Elijah has been saving for months by doing chores and babysitting because he wanted to buy himself something special for Christmas.) He had been counting his money the night before and realized he was almost at his goal, but that goal was also the exact amount this family needed to pay their first month’s rent. He knew that this family needed the money more than he did. We met with the mother of the family and Elijah shared his gift to her. She was beyond grateful, which I am thankful for, because it was a real sacrifice for a young teenager.

Later that night after he had shared his money, Mercy came to me and asked if she could do some extra chores and earn some money to buy him the gift that he had given up with her own allowance. My heart just about burst at the sweetness of such an offer. I am so grateful that their hearts have been broken for those who have less then themselves. I am so grateful that Elijah has learned to discern what the Holy Spirit wants from him. I am in awe of the obediance of a 13 year old boy as he seeks to serve His Lord. I am humbled by the love of a little sister who has watched her brother give away a goal, and seek to come alongside and make that goal a reality.

This moment was so inspiring to my own faith as I reflected about God, and what it means to follow Him. What am I willing to give up as I put my faith into daily practice? I love that the Lord can use children to continue to show us His ways…love your neighbor as yourself!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The blessings of rain

I wrote this last week Thursday, but I am noticing that BG's internet doesn't work on Thursdays for some reason! Then I forgot to post over the weekend, so here are my thoughts from last week.....

Today we celebrate the rain because last year there wasn’t any. The famine was severe, and many have gone hungry, near starvation, for months. It will take some time for the crops to grow, but there is relief on the way. A really cool God moment is that the Baptist missionaries were able to get seed out into the mountains a few weeks ago when there was a light rain, and now we are having some very heavy rainfall in Maseru, and that rain brings great hope.

I have learned to appreciate rain so much more now that I live in Lesotho. I have always seen it as something that is needed, but is more of a nuisance than a blessing. It was something that ruined picnics, BBQ’s, and days at the beach. In MI, many farmers have ways to irrigate their crops, so I never had a real appreciation for rain. Now I see rain as a blessing. It brings life. Life is restored through food growth, life through drinking water, and life through cleanliness to wash away germs and bacteria.

 I am praising God that He has heard the prayers of His people. He has sent the rain. He has restored life and hope to the Basotho people. God is faithful and He is good. Last week the ponds were the lowest I have seen them since being at BG, and as I sit in my office, I watch them bursting with water. I am thankful. None of our staff complain as they are walking through the mud, and the rain to go and get their tea today. They are smiling, and they are thankful because God is pouring down His blessings onto the land!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The called are falling and need prayer

This blog post is for all of you who have a burden to pray for pastors. It is officially pastor appreciation month, and I completely appreciate my pastor. He has welcomed us as full and appreciated members of our church family, even though he became our church's pastor after we were in Africa. He has visited us several times and checks in with us often. He is a good leader, a caring man, and a humble servant of God, and we are blessed to call him our pastor. It is through his support that we have remained strong here in Lesotho. Thank you Pastor Art!!!!!! Can't wait to see you in December!

Unfortunately, we have not had that kind of love and support from the pastors of the churches in Lesotho. We have been hurt over and over by watching these leaders fall. Power and prosperity have snuck their way in where God should have been. Lust and greed have woven into hearts that have become weak. Satan is winning the battle in taking down the leaders, those called to lead their flocks, and it is terrifying. We have attending 3 churches in our time in Lesotho, and in all 3 churches, the pastors have fallen. I realize that all of us our human and have a sinful nature, so I don't say this as a judgment to them, I say it from brokenness. When your leader falls and does not repent, your church, family and community could fall too.

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Acts 20:28

"It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money."  1Timothy 3:1-3

Please pray for God to humble them, turn them from the path of destruction, and restore them to His side. Pray for their heart to be like the heart of David, a heart that saw the error of his way and turned, brokenhearted to God. I am praying that we can all be encouraging and loving and not full of gossip and spite. Please pray for the pastors in Africa, but also for those all over the world. The temptations and trials are harder for those in leadership, but with the help of God, all can walk an upright life.

Please encourage your pastors, not only this month, but every month.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Thankful for BG

Greetings from Lesotho everyone ;)
I have just finished reading 2 great books over the last 2 days, sadly, it was because I was sick for 2 days, but at least I got to read ;) It has been awhile since I have read a good fiction book and I really enjoyed reading AD 30 by Ted Dekker. It was written as a story that takes place while Jesus was starting His ministry. I enjoy thinking about what it must have been like to live when Jesus lived.

We are about to get into a busy time at BG. We have a friend from Belgium who is returning to volunteer at BG, then a team from England with our friend Jenny next week, and a new church from West MI is sending a team in the beginning of November. We are also full with volunteers so we are back on track in being fully busy. It is enjoyable to have so many people interested in BG, but it is definitely full days of work ;)

The kids enjoyed a nice week off of school last week for Spring Break. It was nice because we went to BG with Polita and Nthabeleng and they got to play with the kids and see the staff. It melted my heart seeing them hug some of their favorite people. I love that BG is part of their story and it warms my heart when they tell me stories. I keep thinking that part of the reason their transition into our family went so smooth is because of the love and care at BG. They already began to feel worth, love, and affection before they came to us. They had begun to heal a little from the hurt of abandonment during their time at BG. Now they can go back and see the ones who loved them, and they can have good memories of how they met them in their need and loved them. I am thankful that I do not have a jealous heart, but a heart that loves these staff so much, I am honored that they got to be the mothers before me.

There is no place I would have rather had my girls be if they couldn't be right with me. I have read a lot of article that really bash orphanages and care centers and I completely agree that some are terrible, but it is unfair to lump all of them into the terrible category. If BG wasn't around, there would be 71 kids under the age of 6 living on the streets. There is not a good foster system here, it is extremely flawed, so the best place for kids in Lesotho is a care center. I only say this because the articles I read said people should never give their money to an orphanage. How sad it would be for the country of Lesotho if everyone took that advice and these precious babies were left out on the streets. For those of you who have been faithfully following our journey, thanks for your love and support for the work we are doing at BG. We could not run this ministry without the prayers, financial support, and help of friends around the world.

Sorry my blog post jumped around a lot. It could be because I am recovering from the flu and my brain may not be at 100%.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Welcome to This World

Welcome to this World

You probably have no idea
how special you are.
For years and years you
will carry a scar.
Unwanted, unloved, abandoned
at birth,
People will tell your story with
careless mirth.
Was it a pit toilet, a garbage bag,
or buried alive?
Unwanted, unloved, until at our gate
you arrived.
Our eyes well with tears as we
hear your story,
Knowing you will be safe now-
we give God the glory.
It breaks our hearts that you came
to us this way,
Unwanted, unloved, and abandoned
until today.
Welcome to this world, my sweet
little child,
This day of your birth has been
anything but mild.
We will give you love, care, and even
your first meal,
As you wait for your new family,
we hope you will heal.
                     Anita Geurink

I wrote this in honor of the many babies who have been brought to BG these past 4 months. Some are even brought to us the day they are born. It is incredibly heart breaking to hold a tiny newborn baby who was just found in the trash. It is horrible to walk away from a child who screams because the last person who left the room never came back. We welcome them into our family in hopes that someday, they will have the hope that comes through adoption. Until that day, we will show them that they are not unwanted or unloved and they will never be abandoned again!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


I have been waiting to come out of a kinda dark spot, but it really hasn't happened yet. It is strange the things that are bothering me and making me cry. One of the strangest things about it is, that these things were the things that bothered me 5 years ago and shouldn't be the things that bother me now...but they do. It is rather unfortunate really. I thought I had built a more steady wall around my heart in the years I have watched hard things happening.
There are people begging me to help them EVERY time I go to town. Pleading their cases, desperate for a job, and unwilling to accept a no for an answer. I have people coming to my gate, and they look desperate. Again begging for a job, a little money for food, transport to the hospital for ARV medication..... It is constant and it has gotten worse, and I am only one person. I can't help them all and still pay my rent and feed my 5 kids. What is my responsibility? What does God want me to do? I HATE being the rich white person who is supposed to solve everyone's problems. I am already providing jobs to 45 people at BG. I am caring for 65-75 kids, plus my own family. I have hired a widow to clean my home, paying the school fees for an orphan, and trying to help a family eat as they are one step away from homelessness. Yet, I am not even scratching the surface. The need to far greater than I could even dream of.
I am just tired. I don't want to go to town because I know what is coming. I don't want to look at my gate because I know what is coming. I turn people away and I just cry because I really felt horrible for their situation, but I couldn't help. I am stretched as far as I can go emotionally. Then other things come up, so many things that I can't even begin to describe; death, sickness, loss of friends, unexpected situations, uncertainty, abandonment, apathy, inexcusable medical "mistakes,"  fighting among Christians, and so much more. I used to give Bryan such a hard time for being a pessimistic person, but I can understand how it all adds up over time.
Lesotho is my home and I have always loved it here, but there are seasons where it weighs very heavily. One of the things that Bryan and I have discussed is how hard it must be for wealthy people. Always being asked to donate to this cause or that cause, they must get exhausted and feel like no one even sees them anymore, they only see a pocketbook. I hope that in all our fundraising efforts, we have never made anyone feel that way, but if we have, we are deeply sorry.
All these feelings are just a small part of what has been going through my head for the last 6 weeks, and while I thought it might not be best to blog about it, I just feel like I need to get it out. I apologize for a venting post, and ask that you would pray for the thousands of Basotho who lack work, food, and proper health care. Also, if you could pray that I could hear clearly from God in who I help verses who I am just meant to pray for, that would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Amazing Art Prize Exhibit - you don't want to miss it!!!!

"I first became intrigued with the children of Beautiful Gate through their images. I fell in love with their innocence and their incredible stories through my friends who moved to Lesotho in early 2015 from Holland, MI to serve at Beautiful Gate for 2 years. Beautiful Gate is a haven for orphaned, abandoned and neglected children in Lesotho, a country in southern Africa. Some of these children have been found in garbage dumps or roaming the streets with no place to go and no one to care for them. Thankfully Beautiful Gate exists today to give these precious children a Christian home to nurture and guide them through their early years. The ultimate goal is to unite these children with a forever family that will love them as their own. It has been my privilege to paint the faces and images of these children where they can play and be happy in a safe environment. It is my hope that others may join me in celebrating this wonderful place called Beautiful Gate Lesotho."
Mary Westrate

This link is for Art Prize in Grand Rapids, MI  September 21 - October 9, 2016.
I am super excited about this exhibit and really want to encourage all of you who live in West MI to please, go out of your way to visit this exhibit. This amazing woman is showing such support, and she has not even been able to come and visit the kids at BG yet. Bring your friends and please, come and show your support for BG at Art Prize this year. I am so bummed that I will not be able to go, so feel free to post a picture on my (Facebook) wall so I can feel like I was a part of it too ;)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Good-bye my dear Friend, I will miss you

There are moments in life where things take you so off balance, there is no where to go but down. I hit a moment like that on Monday and I am still reeling in shock.
I know this kind of thing happens to people all over the world every single day, but I guess you just never get used to it.
A dear friend of mine has very suddenly passed on into the arms of Jesus. Just last month she was messaging me and we were making plans to have her come over for tea. She hadn't been to my new house or met my new daughters yet, so she said she would let me know when she was back in town. This friend used to be our nurse at BG. She was a great nurse, and I think I have blogged about it before, but we were required to let her go (labor dept wouldn't give her a work visa) because she was not a Masotho. As soon as we let her go, the government of Lesotho picked her up as a nurse for a clinic up in the mountains (don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of that decision of the Lesotho labor department). Her new clinic was in a mountainous area of Lesotho and the only way to really get there was through MAF flights. When she had time off, she would go visit her husband and son in Zimbabwe (her home country), but on her way back, she would stop by and see us at BG when time permitted.
Her precious daughter died a few years ago, and my friend missed her daughter so much. My one comfort right now is that they are united in heaven and her longing for her precious daughter is healed. But for those that remain, it is just heartbreaking. We didn't even know she was sick, and now she is gone. I hate that I didn't get to visit her, or pray with her when she was sick. She gave up so much to come to Lesotho in order to find work and provide for her family, and it feels so unfair that this is how it ends. I know that God's timing is always the best timing. I am grateful that He blessed Lesotho with a woman who knew how to love and serve others more than herself. I am grateful that I could call Patty my friend. We could talk about what it was like being foreigners in Lesotho and share fond memories we had of our home countries. I admired the love she had for her family and what she sacrificed to help them thrive. This country has lost a beautiful angel of love and mercy, but God has gained a very good and faithful servant.
I miss you terribly, Patty and I look forward to worshipping our Father in heaven together one day. You made me feel loved and appreciated as your boss even when we cried together because I had to let you go. You cared for the children and staff at BG with great patience and grace. You handled frustration with grace, and confronted in love. I am blessed beyond measure to have been lucky enough to call you my friend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sad Good-byes

Today has been a reminder of how hard it can be to be an ex-pat/missionary overseas. I watched as a family had to separate as they took their son to boarding school, leaving his younger sister and brother behind. Oh my heart, as I saw the tears of everyone involved in saying goodbye. I know that there comes a day when you have to let your kids "leave the nest," but 9th grade just feels harder than college age. Here we are in this little country of Lesotho with no high school, and families are forced into leaving, sending kids to boarding school or online schooling which isn't the best option for many kids who want to join clubs or sports.
Elijah is the last boy in our missionary community who is in middle school and had to say goodbye to his best friend today (they have been friends for over 5 years). It is sad to see these good-byes, and it is a stark reminder of the same hard decision that we will be forced to act on a year from now. The battle within a 13 year old (this is where Eli is) who wants desperately to be challenged more academically, play sports, have friends his own age, and join a club that will help him in his desire to invent things, yet he has NO desire to leave his family. It is just one of those things that we cannot control, but we have to trust God as we learn to let go of the imagined control we have, and embrace the future God has already planned for our kids. That being said, it still brings tears to my eyes as I watch...knowing that I am next.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our last few weeks in Pictures!

We have celebrated birthdays, climbed mountains, had a snowball fight (P and N's first time seeing snow!!!!!), played countless games and even made snow globes thanks to Aunt Amy! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Interview with Mercy

Bryan, Faith, and Elijah are in Jo-burg today bringing home Bryan's sister and brother-in-law. Polita and Nthabeleng were not allowed to come to BG today cause the BG kids are on school holidays and we were asked not to bring them until a year after adoption, so.... I brought Mercy to work today. As we drove into the gate she sighed and said, "Ahhhhhh home sweet home!" Watching her come on campus and go from kid to kid or staff to staff, it is so heartwarming. She loves them all so much, and they genuinely love her so much too. Anyway, I thought since she is here, I can interview her for a blog post.
This picture was taken at Mercy's medieval birthday party last Sunday.

Me "Mercy, how do you feel coming back to BG today?"
Mercy, "It is lovely and it is my home. I will always miss it, and I will miss all the staff. I will also miss the tree I used to climb all the time, but I will miss the kids and staff most."

Me "What is one of your favorite memories with a staff member?"
Mercy, "I have two. One was with my friend Thato, and we were eating mulberries. We liked to see the faces the staff made when they ate the unripe mulberries we shared with them. I also enjoy painting her nails and she enjoys it too. Me and Thato have a lot of fun and we are great friends. Another memory was when Ntate Francis told me there were sharks in the water tank. He pretended to go inside the tank, and I screamed all the way home thinking that there really were sharks in the water tank. Now I know that there really are no sharks, but I was 3 or 4 at the time."

Me "What is a favorite memory of Beautiful Gate?"
Mercy, "I enjoyed collecting tadpoles from the middle pond (by the way there are 3 ponds) and climbing the big tree."

Me "If someone wanted to come and visit BG, what would you say to encourage them to come?"
Mercy, "BG is the most wonderful place. You get to play with orphans whenever you want. You get to hear birds sing in the morning. It is so beautiful here so please come."

Me "Anything else you want to say today?"
Mercy, "My family has been a little bit harder since we adopted, but I am happy that we adopted. I have two little, wonderful, sisters and I love them with all of my heart. I love my mom, dad and siblings with all of my heart. My aunt and uncle are coming today and I am really excited. Love, Mercy"

By the way, this little cutie just celebrated her 9th birthday!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Really Good Day

I cannot really put everything into words, but today was one of the best days I have had in several months. I think it is a combination of so many things really. Yesterday, we decided to adopt a dog, a great dane named Bali, from one of our good friends. Her daughter is terrified of dogs, and she tried having a dog for protection from robberies, but she was robbed even with the dog. She decided to make life easier for her daughter by adopting out her dog (please pray for her cause she has been robbed 6 times in 7 months and it is exhausting and scary). All that being said, I am not happy about her loss, but getting a dog has been the dream of my 3 oldest kids for years and they had even convinced Polita and Nthabeleng that we should get a dog when we move back to America. Imagine their incredible joy when I surprised them all with a dog, now instead of when we move. They were so happy and spent tons of time outside with her today.

Then I got to sneak over to BG for 2 hours today so I could see one of my absolute favorite friends (Meredith) who is with a team for the next few weeks. We had a really nice conversation - despite the interruptions of my cute kids. I was able to share some deep feelings I have been working through with a friend who has known me for 18 years. It was pretty incredible and I thank God for that gift. Since I wasn't really supposed to have Polita and Nthabeleng there, I decided to take them out on a date to Spur while the rest of the family remained with the team and had dinner together.

Anyone who knows the BG kids, knows that they same the same prayer at every meal. Polita and Nthabeleng have been praying that same prayer every time they pray for the 51/2 months they have lived with us. Today at Spur, Polita prayed the most amazing prayer ever. She prayed for Kim, our friend who was robbed, for Bryan, Elijah, Faith and Mercy to have a good dinner and to get home safely and for us also to get home safely after we ate. I literally just started at her for a minute and then gave her a huge high five. Normally she says, "Father we thank you for the food, in Jesus name, Amen" Wow, so cool that she has been listening to the rest of us praying and that she is feeling comfortable enough to try her own prayer. The 3 of us had such a nice dinner full of smiles and laughter and I just stopped, thought about my life, and thought, "wow, I am so incredibly blessed."

There are many days that don't turn out perfect, but days like today make up for some of those bad days. Days where I can soak up the joy my kids have, and feel such peace that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am doing exactly what I was meant to do, raising up 5 absolutely fantastic kids to know and love the Lord and to love each other.

I will leave you with something that really touched my heart. As we left the restaurant, we had decided to take a balloon home for Faith and Elijah because Mercy, Polita and Nthabe already had ones at home. When I got home, Bali was a little too excited to see us and the bumped Polita into a tree and the balloon popped. Polita started sobbing. I asked if she was hurt and she said no, she was just sad because she really wanted to give Faith something special. Wow, what a beautiful moment. Almost 6 months of being sisters and she wanted to be thoughtful and it broke her heart that her plan failed. Nthabe made sure Eli knew to share his balloon and all ended well. Adoption is a really big adjustment, but moments like this let me know that we defiantly made the right choice.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Waiting in pain

5 1/2 years later and medical apathy is still one of the most frustrating things about living here. I honestly don't know how most people are still alive in Lesotho. We had a child who was struggling to breath on Saturday so I had to make the call whether we take the child to the government hospital or the private hospital (government one is free for kids in care centers, private is not). Thinking of what I would want for my own kid in that situation, I went to the private one where the wait is usually minimal. After a short time the child was on oxygen and getting medical help, and another hour later, the child was admitted. I got back to BG and there was another child who was having some pretty bad symptoms, but not immediately life threatening, so I took that child to the government hospital. We waited for a couple hours just to be seen by the triage doctor. Then a couple hours for an x-ray and admission. I thought to the first child and really began to think that had we not taken them to the private hospital, the child may have died. Waiting several hours could be the difference between life and death, and every time I am in this situation, my heart is sad. Most people in Lesotho can't afford the private hospital. I was informed by the nurse that the oxygen alone was going to be M8 a minute which is M480 an hour. Many people make less that M1000 per month so they could never afford to give their kid private health care.

The amount of pain and suffering I witnessed in my 5 hours in the government emergency room was really heartbreaking. The blood, the moaning, the seizures, the coughing, the crying, and so much more. Seeing people in their deepest hour of need and knowing that they were going to be suffering for many more hours, it just hurts. Everyone waiting for their turn no matter the depth of their pain. What I do know is that the Basotho are a very strong group of people, to suffer as they do, and yet they still praise God. To walk through that kind of pain must force them to lean closer to God. I am grateful for the health we have been fortunate enough to have, and I am reminded to pray more faithfully for those who are hurting in Lesotho. Please pray for our 2 kids who are in the hospital and for the people who are providing their health care. Pray for the health care professionals to see their patients as people who desperately need their care, and not as a bother.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Encouragement through retelling our story

If you read my last blog post, you would notice that I was feeling a little bit lost. So many questions, but not near enough answers. God's timing is always right and after I posted in my blog, our friend Tim asked Bryan and I to do a podcast for his new ministry, Oceans. We worked out how to be at BG at the same time so we could do the podcast (usually Bryan or I am home with the kids).
We were asked to tell the story of how God called us to Beautiful Gate, how our family was impacted, and the story of our adoption. As we retold these stories, ( http://ourbeautifulmission.blogspot.com/2010/06/brief-history-of-our-family-and-our.html )it was like I was hit over the head with God's faithfulness. Why do I let satan beat me down with doubt and worry when I see what God has done. I see where He has taken us and I see clearly that we are far better off having followed Him. Just listening to the things my kids say as they share with teams or our friends, shows me how much God has impacted their lives. Just the fact that I have 5 kids, shows how God moves and paves a way for our future to be good. We would not be so close as a family if we did not come. We would probably not have adopted if we did not come here, at least not the 2 precious little girls who are our daughters now. Our love and desire to serve God would probably not be as strong if we had not come because I don't think our faith would have been tested the same way where we were before. I know it would have been tested because all of us all over the world face trials and testing of our faith, it just would have been different. I don't regret for a single second coming here because of how God has shown up in our lives.
So why do I freak out when I think about going back to America? If He carried us through everything here, will He not do the same for us there? Sometimes I am so disappointed with myself because I see how much like an Israelite I am. Trusting and singing praises one minute, and complaining the next. He is the same God here that He is there. Why can't I trust that? Just like forgiveness has to be a choice, I am seeing that trust has to be a choice. I need to let go and trust that He has what is best for all 7 of us in His heart and in His hands. He did far more than anything I could have expected or imagined in the last 5 1/2 years, and I know He is not finished with us yet. So anyone who reads my blog already knows that I can be fickle, trusting one week and panicking the next, but I am going to be trying my best to trust Him. Whether our timing is shorter or extended, whether our family has to live apart for 4 or more months, whether Elijah has to leave as an exchange student for a year, whether we have a job or car lined up when we get home, whether we have anything at all planned or figured out, our God already knows what is BEST and He will carry us through whatever choice we are faced with, as well as any lack we are faced with.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Feeling a little lost

For the most part, everything is going well in our lives. The children and staff at Beautiful Gate are pretty healthy and happy. One really sick child has made an amazing recovery, and we have all been praising God for His goodness. 3 of my 5 kids have colds right now, but they aren't too bad. They should be feeling better in another 2 - 3 days. We have been blessed by watching some high school teens be broken for the kingdom of God through their outreach to Beautiful Gate. Our youngest daughters are adopting us as their family. We chose them, but now they are showing that they chose us too and it is beautiful to witness. Days are not without conflict and confusion, but they are still good.

So with all that good, why do I feel so lost right now? I have this really overwhelming feeling of being lost and unsure of the future. We are starting the training for our friends, Peter and Lindiwe to take over BG, and I know it is the best. They are such a perfect fit. Maybe I am feeling lost cause my purpose is switching? We are starting to plan for the future education of our kids, but we don't know what kind of job/ jobs we will have when coming back to MI next year. Where and when do we enroll them in school? Should we split our family up next August so 3 of them can start school on time while the other 2 have to wait out the 2 years before they can enter American soil? So many people are asking questions, and I have no answers and now I am beginning to feel worried. God has brought us this far, and I know I need to trust Him.

My girls have shared more of their past, and it just sucks. To not feel wanted and to be left alone, those are emotions that will haunt them for a long time. I feel so lost in how to help them. Then there is Mercy who is trying her best to be an amazing big sister, but she struggles so much with not being the youngest. She struggles desperately with controlling her emotions, and I feel so lost as to how best to help. These struggles are nothing close to what other families face, but it is hard to try to help and to know what is the best. I guess all these things are showing me and pointing to how much I need to depend and rely on God to help us figure it all out. He planned our 7 years in Lesotho. He knew who and when we were supposed to adopt. He knew when it would be time for us to start letting go and raising up the new directors. He knew, before we even said yes to come here, where my kids should go to school and where they will thrive and serve Him the best (He just hasn't shown us yet). We long to do all things well and we know with God helping us, we can work through all of these situations and questions. Your prayers would certainly be appreciated though!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

First Family Vacation as 7

One month ago we took a trip to South Africa with my brother, Bob and a few friends. I have not done a good job getting the pictures off of my camera so here they are a month late. Highlights of the trip were... Polita and Nthabeleng seeing the ocean for the first time. They were amazed at the size and sound of it. I was amazed at how hard it is to get sand out of their hair! Elijah, Faith, Mercy and Bryan went zip lining for the first time ever and it was a crazy big and high gorge that they went over (Oma - you are next for the zip line!!!). I can not believe how brave my 3 older kids were with the zip line. I would have gone too but.. someone needed to take photos and watch the younger two cause they did not weigh enough to try it, even if they were brave enough (which they weren't cause they take after their new mommy who is a chicken)!!! I just loved being with my family and some close friends. Polita and Nthabeleng fit so well into our crazy family and they did super amazing on our first of many family adventures. Here are a few highlights in picture form:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My son

There are days that I feel like I am the luckiest mother in the world. Today E was working on a school assignment, and he came to me for advice. It involved some moral issues that many people don't agree on. He shared the opinion that his friend had shared with him, and some of the arguments that were in several articles he had read, but he came to me very confused. I helped him lay out the pros and cons of the issue and then we took a step back and looked at it from a biblical perspective. I helped him back up some of the arguments with scripture, and we had a really good and in depth conversation. In the end, E said something that really touched my heart. He said that in his devotions it has been telling him that he is of the age to start making his faith his own, but then he said that while he knows that is true, he really respects my opinions in the area of faith.
To have a 12 year old son saying those words to me, wow, what an honor. I am so lucky to have a son who respects me and desires to grow in his faith and understanding of the world. He has been growing in his maturity, and I am so proud of the young man he is becoming. We have had some great moments of laughter and fun, as well as moments of mature conversation. Thank you God for blessing me with one of the most amazing boys in the world!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Adoption reflection

I have had many reflective times this week as I have considered our adoption of 2 older children. The word older being taken lightly as I am referring to the oldest age at BG, not the oldest age people can adopt. There is just so much history that we will never know or understand. There are times when a very simple thing will invoke sobs, or a comment will produce unexpected anger. There are triggers that we can't understand, but if we are patient and kind, we can work through them. Sometimes, when I am tired, it is hard to be patient, but I am learning that it pays off.
Last week I was having a conversation with one of my younger daughters and it took a turn that I wasn't expecting. Soon, she was sharing some super painful experiences from when she was younger and broke down sobbing. All I could do was hold her and tell her how sorry I was for the pain she was reliving. It was so sad to see her so vulnerable, but I was so grateful that she opened up because the experience she shared with me helped me to understand some of the behaviors I had seen since she moved in with us. Having a moment like that created a very special memory for us. I can't change what happened, but I can do my best to keep her safe, help her feel loved, and give her hope that her future can be different from her past.
While I was driving last week, both of my younger daughters were in the car and began discussing the day I took them home from BG. N was so scared when we pulled up to the house and she began sobbing on our first day. She reminded me that when she was sobbing, I began to cry and she asked me why. I told her that I cried because I felt sad that she was afraid of us. I knew that she would be safe and ok with us, but I was sad for her because she didn't know that yet. It was very cool to talk about that day with them both. One advantage of adopting older kids is processing some of the stuff we did when they only spoke Sesotho. They are almost fluent in English already which makes things so easy. I praise God for fast language learners.
I have begun to keep a journal for the girls to read when they are older so I can write down the details of the hard stuff they share with me. I don't want to share their pain publically on my blog, but I want to remember the details so I can go back through it when they are ready. My sweet little daughters have walked through a depth of pain that I cannot imagine and it breaks my heart. I know that God allowed them to be in my family so I could be the one to walk them through it, but it is hard as a mother. I have worked hard for 12 years as a mother to protect my children from horrible pain, and there was nothing I could do to protect my youngest 2. I don't know if I will have the strength or the wisdom each time a new memory is shared, but I will put my trust in God.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

He is in Control

Looking out the window as the breeze blows the swings around, and all the children are napping peacefully, but my heart is sad. There is a beautiful precious, baby girl who will never get to be pushed in the swing. We won't get to tuck her in for a nap or snuggle with her, or see her learning to crawl or walk. She has been taken into the arms of her heavenly Father, and those of us who remain here at BG are sad for what we had hoped for her life to be.
Putting the casket of a little baby into the ground feels wrong, yet it is what we did at Beautiful Gate today. She passed away in her sleep last week. We praise God that we have not had to walk this road for 3 years, however our hearts ache for the loss of one who was so very small. Please pray for our staff as they loved her like their own, and for our volunteers who also loved her. When people sign up to work or volunteer here at BG, it is because of a deep love of children and desire to see them grow up to be happy and healthy. They don't take into consideration the anguish that could come when a tiny life is taken unexpectedly, so please pray for them.

As I placed some flowers on her grave, the Lord gave me a song to bring peace and remind me that none of us are walking through this alone.

"All is well
With my soul
He is God
In control
I know not
All His plans
But I know
I'm in His hands"

Farewell sweet little one. There is no better place than in the arms of your creator, but we will miss you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Over Privileged

Can I just share an experience that bothers me so much. So, I am at the grocery store and I needed to get food for 8 people and 2 extra meals with guests so it was a bit bigger than my normal grocery day (I am having Faith's friend stay with us for 4 days while her parents are at a work conference and we have a few guests coming for dinner this week). I take my cart up to the counter to pay for the food and the bill comes up to about R1700 ($120 roughly). As I wait to pay and my groceries are being bagged, I have to endure the looks from the lady bagging my food and the lady who scanned it. They look at my items and talk amongst themselves about different items I bought (I am quite used to this and have just rolled with it for 5 years). This time as I stand there I begin to think about my shopping. I just spent R1700 for only one weeks worth of groceries and many people, probably even the ones who just checked me out, don't even make that much in one whole month of working.
There is so much injustice and it is not easy to face. I am so privileged to be born in America. I am so blessed that I never have to put my 5 children to bed knowing that they are hungry or lacking the basic necessities of life. My acquaintance from church is not so lucky. Her husband has been out of work for a year and they will soon be kicked out of their home with no parents to depend on and no place to go. They have 2 young children who they cannot send to school, no electricity for warmth or even warm water, and they knowingly send their kids to bed hungry because there is no other option. This is only one family that I know, but there are thousands of families in Lesotho who are facing the same things. And yet, here I am standing at the store spending an unbelievable amount of money so we can eat "a balanced diet." Being an over privileged and "rich" person living in a land of extreme poverty can sometime eat at your conscience even though you know all of the arguments about "what you sacrificed to be a missionary." Please pray for me to use what I have wisely, to give generously, and please please pray for my acquaintance and her family so they can have a job, food, shelter and education.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Poem to my girls

Becoming your mother is something that I chose,
A need to grow our family arose.

Your past and your family I know nothing about,
But our love for you, I hope you never doubt.

Not a day will go by that I don't make a mistake,
But trusting me is a risk I hope you take.

The pain that you hold so close to your heart,
Give it to me, so you can have a fresh start.

Not that I want you to forget the past,
Because those memories, I know they should last.

So you can remember the mother from which you came,
Without her none of our lives would be the same.

There will be tears, fun times, and laughter we share,
Our life without you, just would not compare.

So let us begin our life's next adventurous ride,
No better place to start than by each others side.
To : Polita and Nthabeleng

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pictures of cute kids

N playing with her friend R

E lost an eating contest, so P made him read a princess and unicorn book to her. She thought that was super funny

Coloring Easter eggs for the first time together as a sibling set of 5. They shared pretty well.

P was very confused about the concept of hidden candy and a few small toys. 

Daddy is good at hiding candy :)

Yeah, a coloring book with her name on it!

N wanted to see the rainbow so E decided to help her out, then turned around so I could get their picture.
Life is a little loud, chaotic, and tiring at times, but it is also rich with moments of love, laughter and first time experiences. We enjoyed our first Easter together and look forward to making many more wonderful memories together in the future. We are so blessed!