Friday, August 18, 2017

Handmade, with Love, for Maggie

It's incredible to ponder that our friends have raised $6,000 for our adoption so far. There's no way we could be where we are in the process without this help. There are few words to explain how grateful we feel. THANK YOU, precious friends!

It is with great excitement that we kick off our next fundraiser to help bring home our baby girl! We want Maggie to have something personal and handmade when she comes home and we would love for you to be a part of it. Our idea is to have a quilt made in a very unique way, and a local friend has offered her quilting expertise as a gift!

Here's how it'll work. We have chosen material for the quilt, and squares have been cut. Our idea is to sell a square to anyone who would like to be a part of her homecoming quilt. Each square sells for $50. You will receive a permanent, black, fabric marker to write anything you want on your square. It can be a Bible verse, words of love and encouragement, anything to make that square personally yours and filled with love for our daughter. After you complete your square, you will return it to us and the squares will be sewn together to make a beautiful patchwork of love! If you are an out-of-towner, we will happily mail the square to you.

Our goal for this fundraiser, based on fees due over the coming weeks, is $4,000. We would love to hit this mark by selling 80 squares. Will you please help us do this? Beyond the fundraiser itself, it would be such a gift to have lots of love branded all over her quilt!

We are selling the squares now and will continue over the coming days. I'll let you know when we get close to our goal of 80 squares sold. Once this has happened, we will let our friend begin sewing the quilt together.

You can pay for a square through PayPal (please click "send money to family and friends" to avoid fees) to lauraloman@yahoo.com, or you can mail us a check (email me to request address), whichever is easiest. Please put a note on your payment that it is for a quilt square.

We think this quilt will be such a treasure for years to come. We look forward to reading her the names and notes of so many who helped bring her home. It will be a constant reminder of how cherished she is! Please, please purchase your square now. You'll be helping to bring Maggie home and it'll be a great way to show her she's loved!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

We Haven't Forgotten

We were so blessed to attend our local "Run for One" event last night. Wonderful people came out to support Lifeline's ministry and specifically to rally for "Rafe," the little one we continue to advocate for. The Pounders family organized the entire thing and it was a huge success! You can read more about "Run for One" HERE. If you weren't able to join us last night but would still like to register, in order to support the work of Lifeline and receive a really cool t-shirt, you can click on "run where you are" and sign up.

As I mentioned, last night's run was in honor of Rafe. This is an opportunity for me to share, again, who this amazing child is.

Rafe is a little boy who lives in an orphanage in China. He has no one to call "Mama" or "Baba." He was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect, left abandoned, and remains in this circumstance with little hope. The Lord put his precious face in front of us last year and has called us to be his voice. We pray for him often. We beg for a family to step out in faith. Until a loving home is a reality for Rafe, we trust that his little life is in his maker's hands. Please read about him HERE and share with anyone who may consider praying for or adopting this child of God.

Because no family has chosen to pursue him, his file has returned to the shared list in China. There are many implications for this but notably that Lifeline no longer has his file and there is not a designated agency who can be a voice for him. We are, essentially, the only ones putting his face out there. His file sits with thousands of others, going unnoticed, the same way Fuyi's did. We can't stop posting about him. We can't stop praying for him. We can't stop telling the world that there's a dark truth about too many kids silently yelling for help. If you are interested in learning more about this child, please contact me. I have his medical file as well as some (adorable) recent videos of him.

We have been asked why we aren't adopting Rafe. Why have we chosen another child to adopt? Our answer is not simple but we want to try to give some clarity on our decision.

When Seamus and I knew we were being called to adopt again, we prayed many times over Rafe and the possibility of bringing him in to our fold. God made it very clear that His plan for Rafe was not one that included our home. It was the same message we received when hosting Fuyi. It was confusing because we adored her and truly fell in love with her. We knew she needed a family and we had one to offer, but we just knew Fuyi wasn't our daughter and that God had other plans for her. The same is true for Rafe. He needs a loving family. We have one. We are willing. But again, God is making it clear that He has other plans. We can't rely on God's plan being one to suit our desire... to find Rafe another family, the way He did for Fuyi. Nonetheless, we know God's plan is perfect, that His will is always better than ours and that His sovereignty over this child's life should never be doubted.

So, we move forward. We begin a new journey to bring home our own child, a different child with Down syndrome and a sick heart, one who was also going unnoticed. But we never forget Rafe and what God has called us to, on his behalf. We continue to pray. We continue to advocate. We ask you, once more, to please consider the joy that would come from embracing this child.

"I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." (John 14:18)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Where We are in Process

You may be wondering where we are in the process and when we expect to travel.

We are wrapping up our home study this week! The home study is always the longest part of the process but we have a rock star social worker and we are pretty familiar with all the paperwork and checklists. The past few weeks have looked a little like this...


Really.

This week we will be submitting our Letter of Intent to China, asking for pre-approval to adopt this particular little girl. God-willing, they will respond in a couple weeks telling us we can proceed. It's at the point of receiving pre-approval that we will be able to share her picture!

While we are waiting for pre-approval, we will submit our I-800a application to Immigration. This is requesting permission to adopt an international child. The entire 800a approval takes about 2 months from the time of application.

A little side note on funding... When we receive pre-approval, we will have fees of $1,210 due. Part of this goes to the orphanage and the rest to another department in China for a liaison fee. We also have to submit $945 to USCIS (US Immigration Dept.) with our application this week. That's a total of $2,155 due over the next couple weeks.

Will y'all please help us reach this amount by purchasing raffle tickets HERE? We were so amazed yesterday when our friends called to say they had set up a fundraiser for us! The love we are feeling is incredible. And y'all. The raffle item. It's a Mom's fantasy... dinner cooked and delivered for your family for an entire week! AND! There isn't just one winner. There will be 5 winners picked on August 25th! So get your pony in the race and let's bring this baby girl home as quickly as we can! Y'all are the bestest.

If there aren't any major snags in the process, and we raise each fee in time for the due date, we could travel in early spring!

Prayer warriors, please pray for protection over our girl while she waits. Pray for her heart and for miraculous healing before she comes home. And if you would pray for our family, we'd appreciate that too. The process can be taxing and we truly need endurance, perseverance and patience only given by the grace of God.

More fun news... We'll be sharing her name soon! EEEEEK!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fundraising Information

I'd like to make a few points about our fundraising goals, in order to be clear and transparent.

This adoption will cost approximately $35,000. This includes all agency fees, immigration, China fees, legal documents, required post-reports, and travel expenses for 2 people.

We had a balance from previous adoption efforts and were able to use it for our immediate fees due. We paid $1,200 for our home study update and $2,812.50 for our first agency fee. Praise God we had that left over and didn't have to wait to start the process! This leaves a balance needed of almost $31,000.

We have created a thermometer on this page so you can see our progress. We will update it often and will share on FB periodically. It shows the $31,000 still needed and any donations we've received.

If you feel led to give but would like to donate directly to our agency, on our behalf, you may do that. Unfortunately, the donation still is not tax-deductible but you may prefer to give through that route and we will still receive the benefit. If you choose to do so, our agency is Lifeline Children's Services. Please indicate "Seamus Loman family adoption" on payment (check memo, etc.).

Any funds that we are able to set aside and save will go toward our adoption expenses and these amounts will be reflected on the thermometer as "raised."

We will share soon about our first upcoming fundraiser, as soon as the details are ironed out! Thank you for taking the time to read this and for all the encouragement we've already received! Please let us know what questions you have along the way. We are so grateful for your willingness to help and we want to be completely honest and open about everything we do!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Yes.

I'm so eager to get my heart on paper, yet I fumble to find the right words. My only goal for this blog, beyond simply releasing my emotion through writing, is that God would receive glory and praise for His wondrous work. Our witness of His gracious saving of souls is never to be hidden. Lord, let these words never be my own, rather your Spirit testifying to the love you so freely offer to a hurting world. God continues to work so mightily through us and we never grow weary of giving thanks for such a humbling privilege. We are entering a new season of ministry, another call that is so clearly from the Lord. My hope is that through my writing, through your reading, only Jesus would be given all praise due.

Our hearts burn for the orphan and God has been so faithful in using us to be His hands and feet for these vulnerable souls. He has accomplished so much and continues to work in amazing ways. I can't wait to share some of the "smaller" things He's doing! But for now, we have some pretty big news to share. And while everything He calls us to is exciting (and sometimes overwhelming), this definitely tops it all. We are beyond excited, nervous, and completely relying on the grace of Jesus. He's calling us back, y'all. Back to China. Back to those precious faces that are forever imprinted on our minds and our hearts. We have begun the process to adopt another. There are too many waiting. There are just too many who don't know love. There's too much room in our home. There's too much joy in bringing the gospel to another nation. There are so many more who need to learn about our adoption in Christ. No, we can't change the world, but for the child who will soon enter our home, her world will change forever. God seeks one lost, while leaving 99 behind (Luke 15:4) and we are humbled to be His feet that go for that lost sheep. He has called us and we answer, "Yes."

There is an image-bearing, child of God who lives in an orphanage in Jiangsu Province, China (the same province our Samuel is from!). She is only 1 year old and to no fault of her own, was born in to circumstances that would change the course of her life forever. She was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect. The story of her abandonment is tragic. It has wrecked us and drawn us to love her all the more. God can and will use her story and that extra chromosome of hers to shed light on His overwhelming love for us (Romans 8:28). We will be her voice. We will go for her. We will adopt her. God-willing.

We don't know how any of it is going to happen but we know a great and powerful God who says that all things are possible in Him. We think about our current life circumstances... our 5 children, keeping a home, schooling our children, our careers outside of the home, our lack of time to adequately care for a child with special needs, our depleted savings account, and Jesus faithfully reminds us that this journey is all His. We have a hundred reasons why this doesn't make sense. But God. There's nothing more important than living out His word through a life that reflects His love for us. We may not have the future figured out (or even today, really) but we know God is faithful and always provides through His will. I never, in a million years, thought I'd hope for a child with a sick heart or Down Syndrome. And now I find myself wanting more and more to see through the same lens God sees through. I find myself praising God for the many ways I know He'll bless us through it.

That being said, we need our village. More than ever. We have learned over the years to ditch our pride and let people help. We have learned that this ministry of orphan care is OURS, meaning yours and mine. God has given us all different gifts to live out His command to care for the orphan. We are so thankful for our gift to GO, to open our home, and share life-saving, Gospel truth to the weakest on earth. By design, God hasn't given us every gift, and what a beautiful design that is! We rely on the rest of the body to see this through. Without our community, she will never come home. We are taking one more step forward, remembering all the support we had through and after previous adoptions. The meals, babysitting, prayer, financial gifts and encouragement... these make it possible for us to go again. Your gift and your role in this adoption is not less important than ours.

If you would begin to partner with us by praying for our family, we'd be grateful. Please share our story. Please share our need to raise approximately $35,000. Everyone can be a part of bringing her home! We will be aggressively fundraising over the coming months and taking one step through the process at a time, as we raise funds for that particular step. Fortunately, we did have a small balance from our previous adoption efforts so we have been able to pay for our home study and first agency fee. We are planning our first fundraiser now and hope to announce it soon so we can make our second agency payment and send fees due for immigration approval. For now, if you feel led to contribute, please do that through the "donate" button on the right side of this blog (if you are on your phone or tablet, you must click on "view web version" at bottom of page to see the link). We could potentially travel to get her in 6-9 months but it will depend on how quickly we are able to move to the next step.

Thank you for your prayers and for considering a donation towards bringing this baby girl home! We are forever blessed by this community and know that together with God's provision, we can do this. We look forward to sharing more soon!


Friday, April 28, 2017

A Partnership with Eternal Consequence

In February, Seamus and I had the privilege of spending a weekend with the leadership and "family" of Lifeline Children's Services. We were invited to President's Weekend in Pointe Clear, Alabama and humbly accepted, wondering why us and how God would further His kingdom through our weekend.

It was a weekend like no other. This is true for many reasons. We were blessed to be able to leave our 5 children with family and have an entire weekend of worship, rest, and encouragement. When we arrived, our hearts leapt for joy. We knew we were with family, fellow believers, like-minded brothers seeking hope for the orphan and the expansion of Christ's name. There is an unspoken closeness between brothers in Christ and this weekend was an amazing testimony to this. We worshipped together. We laughed together. We prayed over each other. We mourned upon departure. It was a small glimpse of heaven, this beautiful bond we experienced and still share. Our weekend was restful, joyful, and edifying. But it was even more than that.

During the weekend, we were led in to the heart of Lifeline's ministries. We've loved Lifeline for years, since friends introduced us to their agency for our first international adoption. But this weekend enabled us to really see Lifeline in a new light, to dive deep into its mission and methodology. They are sooooooooo much more than a terrific adoption agency. We learned so much about who they are and what they do. After praying about how God may use this, I am overjoyed to share, here, their purpose and some of the many ways they fulfill it. I'm also excited to share how you can be a part of their vision in bringing the Gospel to the corners of the earth. I pray this post is exhilarating and inspiring, and that by hearing what Lifeline does, you would be driven to be a part of their story, motivated by the love so generously poured out on us. We also want to share some exciting news that has transpired since our time spent with Lifeline... keep reading!

"Lifeline's mission is to equip the body of Christ to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children." While this mission is always at the core, the ways this mission is fulfilled is multi-faceted.

LIFELINE BELIEVES IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF BIRTH FAMILIES. This means loving the vulnerable child but also the biological parents who carry and birth them. This organization is not simply pro-birth, rather pro-LIFE, in the sense that they are loving every member of the family in need. Ministry doesn't halt once the birth child's basic needs are met. Birth mothers often come from very broken places, with little hope. Furthermore, the #1 reason women in the U.S. choose abortion is that they are not prepared for parenthood. Lifeline offers amazing support for these parents in crisis. One way they do this is through a maternity home in Alabama called Lifeline Village, where birth mothers receive services including medical care, mentoring, job-coaching, and Christian counseling.

In addition to Lifeline Village, Families Count is a program designed to promote family restoration and preservation. It targets parents who are at risk for having their children removed from their homes and placed into foster care, and parents who have lost custody of their children and are working toward reunification. Lifeline equips local churches to see families through the program. They refer birth mothers to partner churches, who are trained in the program, and it is the church who uses the program to minister directly to the families in need. Families Count is a 6-week program that offers Biblical parenting education and hand-in-hand mentoring. Churches often provide meals and transportation through the program. In addition to experiencing the program itself, the families have now formed a relationship with a local church family! If this is something you think your church may be interested in, the program can be offered in any part of the country, with no expense for the training.

LIFELINE BELIEVES IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF CHILDREN. In addition to adoption, Lifeline serves orphaned and vulnerable children locally through fostering and globally through (un)adopted. The gospel can transform a child when that child realizes their value and realizes they are loved by a heavenly Father. This happens when a child in a foster home is loved as if they are a member of the family, providing calm and comfort to a traumatic life. It happens when a teenager who will soon age out of his orphanage is able to attend a life skills camp in Monrovia, Liberia, where he learns how to farm and begins to believe he has potential. (Un)adopted provides LSET (Life Skill Education Training) in 8 countries. They use a structured 21-day program for aging out kids, where they receive training plus discipleship. We also learned about a school opened for deaf children in Uganda. Since the success here, a local church has helped open a school for the blind!

LIFELINE BELIEVES IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COVENANT FAMILY. We attest, firsthand, to the loving commitment of Lifeline, to adoptive families. Through both of our adoption processes, social workers carefully walked us through paperwork, prayed with us, cried with us, and answered the many hard questions we had along the way. Lifeline realizes the difficulties of adoption and foster care and equips families, with compassion and expertise. Lifeline is there before, during, and after a child comes home and joins a family forever.

One of the tangible ways Lifeline supports adoptive families is through a training program called Crossings. This is an extensive curriculum that helps to prepare adoptive families for parenting children from hard places. It is thorough and effective. Lifeline parents are well-prepared for many possible scenarios upon arriving home with a new child. We have personally used much of the knowledge and tools from Crossings, with our own adopted children who come with a background of trauma.

Equipped to Love is a resource to help family and friends support the adoptive and foster families in their church. Because God’s people have stepped out in obedience we have many children in our churches who come from foster care and adoption. Often, children who have experienced neglect, abuse, and trauma have challenges and differences that can cause them to not fit well in many of our traditional church programs and settings. The Equipped to Love training curriculum is designed to help individuals learn how to understand the needs of these families and provide them with practical support. Topics in this training include: caring for families, interacting appropriately with children with compromised beginnings of life, demonstrating sensitivity for adoptive and foster parents, understanding the unique needs of children from hard places, exhibiting language sensitivity, and managing challenging behavior. This is another free resource that is readily available for any interested church family!

I've shared with you only a glimpse of the beauty and love Lifeline exudes locally and globally. We have prayed about how God might want us to further partner with such a gospel-centered ministry. Upon praying, we were invited to dinner with the executives, simply because they were in our neck of the woods. Then God led us to President's Weekend in February and our love for their work only grew. Most recently, we've been asked to be on Lifeline's Alumni Council. We are humbled and over the moon excited about this opportunity to be ambassadors for Lifeline and Christ's work through them. It is a privilege and an honor to be asked and we can't wait to see how the Lord works through this for the benefit of vulnerable children and families.

God is so gracious in gently and patiently moving us through his scheduled timeline of events. We have been on the front lines of what burdens His heart. He showed us the need and command to care for orphans. Then he meticulously revealed to us each ministry opportunity He had planned for us. Adoptions, hosting, advocating, ministering to families and churches, it's all from Him. Now He faithfully brings us to this new chapter with Lifeline Children's Services. It is a gift to be a voice for such a worthy organization. Over the coming months and years, we will share more about Lifeline and the gospel work they pour themselves into. Raising awareness and ministering to families are two of the many responsibilities we've accepted as Alumni Council members. We humbly ask for your help in this new endeavor.

Will you pray for us? Our first council meeting is in May and we are asking God to use our council of 10 families to bring glory to Jesus' name. The council members are from all walks of life, who care for vulnerable children in different ways and from different parts of the world. Please pray for Seamus and I but also for the work of the entire council. Please pray for Lifeline and the work they do for Christ's kingdom. Pray that funds would be no issue, that their ministry would continue to expand and grow, that more and more children and families will hear and believe the gospel, through Lifeline's tireless commitment.

Will you pray about the possibility of joining us in our plight for the orphan? This could mean a financial gift. It could mean helping to organize an event or simply collecting items for an auction. It could mean mentoring a birth mother. It could mean committing to pray daily for a specific child or circumstance. It could mean adopting or fostering. It could mean sharing information about Lifeline's ministries and needs with others. Whatever God has gifted you with... will you please pray about using this gift for something He may have in store through Lifeline? Pray about partnering with us, with Lifeline, in whatever God reveals? We would be incredibly grateful for your commitment to this first step of praying.

Once again, we stand humbled and grateful that God would choose to use us for His glory. We are excited to see how He continues to work through Lifeline and we are excited to be a more intricate part of this amazing ministry! Please stay posted for ways to rally around us in our mission for Lifeline and ultimately for Christ's Kingdom around the globe. Blessings to you, friends!

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Voice for Rafe

It's been 5 months since Fu Yi left us to return to her orphanage in China. In case you weren't following, Fu Yi is a beautiful 6-year-old little girl who was abandoned at the beginning of her life. We had the privilege of welcoming her into our country, into our home, for one month. We weren't okay with the oppression taking place in her life. This precious soul, who was born with Down Syndrome, would be left to figure life out on her own. She was "file ready," waiting for a family for too many years. Her chance at adoption was slim but God had miraculous plans for her. While she was virtually forgotten by the world, God hadn't forgotten.

We prayed, worked, and fought to find her a family. The Lord was faithful and provided just that! We are forever grateful that He used us to shed light on her worth. An amazing family in Maryland has assumed the fight on her behalf and currently pushes through the process to get her home.

We fell in love with Fu Yi. You fell in love with Fu Yi. She captured hearts and woke so many up to the reality of the injustice happening to vulnerable children all over the world. Fu Yi represents so many orphans in China and across the globe. While hers is a story of glorious redemption, too many others wait to be loved. Who will answer them? Who will answer God's call to love 'the least of these'? We give thanks for Fu Yi's story. Simultaneously, we ache all the more for so many others. Our participation in God's plight for the orphan continues. We want to shed light on other vulnerable children who wait to know love. We'd love to introduce you to one of these amazing kids now.

Meet Rafe! This little angel stole my heart the moment I saw his picture. I pray his adoptive Mama and Baba are out there and that they quickly recognize him as their son. Rafe is 3 years old and has been waiting too long for a family. Like Fu Yi, this precious child was born with Down Syndrome. He also has a congenital heart defect, which often accompanies DS. Here is the description of Rafe given by his orphanage caretakers when he was younger. “Rafe is a smiley boy! He is described as talkative and likes to babble. Rafe enjoys sitting up, playing with colorful toys, and looking at himself in the mirror. Rafe can follow a noise and looks when his name is called. He giggles when he is kissed!”
 
The family who adopts him will go through Lifeline, the same agency we used for our adoptions. I can promise you’ll be in phenomenal hands! Also great to know is that Rafe has a $1,500 grant available for the adopting family! We also have some video of Rafe for interested families! Please let us know if we can answer questions about Rafe, Lifeline, or the adoption process in general. We want this child to be adopted into a loving family, God-willing. We are happy to help make this happen in any way we can.
 
Our family has partnered with Lifeline Children’s Services, as we advocate for Rafe. We are committed to pray for him and will work hard to find his family. Will you join us in prayer for this worthy soul? Will you share this post on your FB page? Will you share his picture and story with your church? Will you then pray that Rafe's family will step forward with hearts wide open? Let's get this boy home!
 
I am so thankful we have the opportunity to introduce him today. He is not forgotten. He is loved by us and I know he’ll be loved by so many of you. Most importantly, Jesus loves you, Rafe. He is your hope today and forever. I pray you will know that reality one day soon.

Please follow Rafe's progress on our FB page at www.facebook.com/lomanadoption


Please keep in mind that several families may be reviewing this child's file at one time. At any given time, this child's file can go on hold or be taken back to the Shared List by the CCCWA. Please contact your Lifeline social worker or Lisa Kelly at lisa.kelly@lifelinechild.org for more information.






Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advent: Hope for the Forgotten

It's Christmas season, the most beautiful and miraculous time of year. If your family is anything like mine, you are soaking it in... the lights, the live nativities, the Christmas music, children's pageants, fires on cold nights, hot chocolate and eggnog, plans to be with family, the excitement brewing over all the gifts under the tree, evening advent readings with the kids, too many sweets. It's wonderful and magical, nostalgic and peaceful. Yet beyond all this earthly cheer lies the greatest reason for Christmas joy. Christ in a manger. What a gift it is that God gives us this season of advent to enjoy and reflect.

God becomes the least. He humbles himself to servant, in order that we would have living hope. Our long awaited King comes to us in the most unexpected, yet glorious way. His humble entry foretells His message that the last shall be first in the Kingdom of God. My eternity hinged on this baby's destiny. Wow. Indeed, Christmas is a time to marvel and relish in this goodness. I give thanks for all of it, the seasonal jubilance and especially the reality that God has come to save. Simultaneously, my heart aches. 

There are orphans, too many orphans, who know nothing of Christmas. They've never experienced the wonder of the season or even the mention of baby Jesus. I can't forget so many of them who I met and held in China. Many of them starving and silent. Silent because no one responds when they cry. Others silent because they will be physically punished if they make noise. They certainly don't know what a cozy fire is. Only 3 days ago, I read news that the temperature dropped to minus 40 degrees in Inner Mongolia, China's most northern province. This is where our Emily is from. Y'all, these orphanages have no central heat. I remember Emily and the other kids being so sick during the winter months. Many of them don't live through it. Every day life is dire and Christmas is no different. These children deserve to be heard. They deserve to be loved at Christmas time and throughout the year. They deserve hope. Upon lamenting, I turn my focus back to the babe in a manger. This babe who is the only hope of man.

This hope that God freely offers, is it just for me and you? Are we the only lucky ones who can look at the beauty of the season and know we have been saved, will be saved? Can we trust that God offers hope for the orphan too? God himself became a vulnerable baby, destined to be abandoned by His very own Father. He knows the pain of abandonment and it's the entire reason He came as a baby, lived among us, died for us, and lives now for us. His hope is for them too, for those precious souls shivering alone in a crib. His perfect will can not be thwarted and He bids us all to take part of His plight for the orphan. He alone offers hope but we must be obedient in loving fiercely, so that His love may be realized. WE are God's instruments in reaching out to the lost and abandoned. It is a privilege He grants us to be a part of His redemptive plan.

While my heart aches over the reality that is here and now, the birth of Christ reminds me that we are not left here to save ourselves. His life, death, and resurrection remind me that I am free to love the least of these, with no reservation, no fear, and no doubt that He will always provide.

During Advent, we wait expectantly for the birth of Christ, our King who came to save. But we also anticipate His return, His final reconciliation of all things. We long to be made whole again. We yearn for the orphan to be made whole. Until this consummation, let us not grow weary in doing good. Let's be vehicles of God's grace. Please friends, let's be the hands and feet of Christ this season, for the fatherless. While it's beautiful to offer our worship in sanctuaries and even by our warm fires, may we never forget the helpless ones who wearily wait for hope. Let's pray, go, tell, give, adopt, hold, bless, love. Oh come, Emmanuel.

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." (Psalm 82:3)



Not able to go, adopt, physically be there for orphans in distress? Give. I recommend Lifeline Children's Services (www.lifelinechild.org). They go. They love. They serve. They equip churches around the world. They bring the hope of Christ to orphans. Your donation will directly affect a soul who needs this hope. God has blessed Lifeline with gifts of organization, physical hands, and relationships with local and international governments where they can make a difference. They simply wait for the financial resources to move forward with each ministry opportunity. Please let me know if you would like more information.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The End of a Road, the Beginning of Life

Her time with us is nearing an end. In 4 days, I will fly to Chicago with Fu Yi to meet up with her host group, where they will depart together for their return to China. While we are sad to see her go, God has been preparing our hearts for months. From the beginning, we were fully aware that her travel visa allows her here for 30 days. This hosting experience gave us an opportunity for Fu Yi to stay in our home for one month. We knew this time would eventually end. We knew it wouldn't be easy. But it's what God called us to. And for good reason.

First and foremost, our goal through this hosting program was to show her the love of Jesus. We vowed to pour in to her, showing her true love that she's never experienced before. We promised to love her fiercely, leaving our hearts exposed and vulnerable. By the grace of God, this love had a visible impact. We've witnessed physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive growth. The impact of physical touch, soothing voice, strenuous activity, nutritious food, affection and attention are astounding. There's no doubt these experiences over the past month have had miraculous implications. We give God all praise for this work in her life!

Our second mission, as we felt God intended, was to find her a forever family where she could continue to know the love of Christ. We prayed that her identity as a helpless, voiceless orphan would change to that of adopted, protected, and cherished child. Our prayers have been answered! Her family now fights through the process to bring her home. She no longer waits on a list for someone to notice her. She now waits for her Mama and Baba to bring her home. The paperwork, home visits, training, approvals, and reports will take about a year and at the end of the adoption process, she will be home where she belongs.

This story is nothing short of miraculous. Please stop and thank God now for the privilege of witnessing His amazing work. There was a little girl half way around the world who was abandoned and sat in an orphanage, for 5 long years. A file was all she had to identify her. As far as the world was concerned, she didn't exist. But God, in all His mercy, plucked her from the pit. He called our family to simply say "yes" to one step at a time. We didn't know what He'd do with it but we were willing. He gave her a voice, a face, an opportunity to know love. Then, He called another family to answer the call to love her forever, the way He has loved them. "We love because He first loved us." (1John 4:19) This once nameless orphan has been deemed worthy and forever loved. "Praise be to the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him." (Psalm 28:6-7)

The miracles that have occurred through her visit have gone well beyond what is currently visible. What we do know is that hundreds of seeds have been planted, seeds that God will faithfully water and produce fruit from. People have seen the face of the orphan and hearts have been softened. There is a greater awareness of the reality of the orphan crisis around the globe. Fu Yi's light is so bright and shone for so many to enjoy. Without words, she explained to every person she came in contact with that God is good. She is an image-bearer who reflects His glory from within her eyes. May her memory always point us back to how faithfully God provides for His beloved.

So while you may be tempted to feel sorry, to be sad, to regret what has to happen next, please don't. God's promises are real for Fu Yi. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18) God has worked mightily on her behalf and we dare not doubt His love for her, now that the tide rises. He draws closer as we need Him more. He never fails, He never leaves. Do we believe that the God who currently holds her in His hand will no longer hold her when she returns to China? Yes, Thursday will be hard for many of us. But we choose to trust the creator of her life, who never disappoints. We give Him praise and worship for all He has done and for all He promises to do. There is no sadness in His sovereignty and the love He pours out through it. There should be no regret in a journey that He has clearly ordained and promises to complete. Our faces are turned to the One who always comforts. We have asked God to guard our hearts, and of course Fu Yi's. He is already providing in this. We now ask for your prayers of gratitude. Let's storm the gates of heaven with our praise and thanksgiving for all that He has done!

We love you, Fu Yi. You are a treasure and we give thanks for God's redemptive work in your life. "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever." (Psalm 30:11-12)

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Princess is Crowned

About 3 months ago, God presented an opportunity to us. He made it very clear that it was His will that we follow through and live out what He had planned. We had no idea how faithfully He would provide through our obedience in simply saying "Yes." We had no idea the heartache it would cause us. Or the joy.

Almost 6 years old, Fu Yi arrived to us on a Monday. She came with Down Syndrome, scared, exhausted, confused, hungry. She would be staying with us for one month. Our goal, as we felt God intended, was to love her fiercely and pour in to her in a way she's never known. Our secondary mission was to find her a forever family. We would post on FB, tell friends, pray over her, hold open houses where people could meet her, BEG God to soften hearts. She immediately stole our own hearts. Her sweet little stature, that body that appears to be owned by a 3 year old. Her smile and belly laugh that came out in spurts, more and more as time went on. The Mandarin babble she fills the silence with. Her heavy body hanging straight as we hold her tight. She doesn't know how to be loved this way, but she would learn. The nervous chewing of fingers. The eyes that told us so much. All of it. It stole us. So much trauma. Even more beauty. We fell in love.

But would another family fall as hard? I know God has a plan. I know he'll produce fruit from this scenario He's called us to. But what? When? Can we really trust?.....  One, then ten, then a hundred, more messages every day. "Please tell us how to pursue Fu Yi. Can we meet her? When? How much will this cost? How long will it take to bring her home? Can you help us? Have other families inquired? Are we too late? If Fu Yi is not our daughter, still we choose to adopt because of her. Please tell us how to proceed." They flooded in. My personal, heartfelt responses turned in to a game of copy and paste. We couldn't keep up. How can this be? How would God determine who it will be? It was beyond us. It was bigger. It was more than I could keep up with or even comprehend.

Before others, 2 families had contacted the agency at essentially the same time. Both families submitted an application to move forward with the adoption process. 2 families fell deeply in love with Fu Yi. We fell deeply in love with both families. When it became clear that both families were sure Fu Yi could be their daughter, the agency ceased all advocacy efforts on Fu Yi's behalf, as did we. For about a week and a half, the pain was searing, the anxiety was intense, knowing that in the end, one family would not be chosen to parent her. The agency insisted that both spend time with her, that we spend time discerning who would be a better fit. We gave our unbiased opinions of both families and strengths of both. 2 amazing, God-fearing, beautiful-beyond-words families. Please Lord, don't let this be a contest. Reveal to us quickly who her family is. Nothing. Until today.

I received the phone call. "We've made our decision, one of the hardest ones we've ever had to make. Ben and Michelle will be her parents." The family from Maryland who we fell head over heals in love with wouldn't be chosen. This family who we prayed with numerous times, laughed with, cried with, worshipped with, went to the beach with. This family who flew their entire family here to be with Fu Yi, to be with us, most importantly to do what they knew God was calling them to. Not them. Oh the pain. The grief. The feeling of loss and confusion. It's all fresh right now, almost more than I can stomach. God will heal. His plan is perfect and we are so thankful for the rock solid faith this family has in God's sovereignty. We mourn with them but we mourn with hope, knowing His plan is better than ours. Gently God, you break us, all for the glory that you promise to reveal in time.

Ben and Michelle. This other family who we also just met and love so dearly. From the moment they laid eyes on Fu Yi, I am sure they knew. They knew they would love her forever. And we knew we loved them too. Gentle, compassionate, kind, faithful are only a few words to describe this amazing couple who has decided to stand in the gap for Fu Yi. They saw Fu Yi and just knew they had to say "Yes!" They did. Out of beautiful obedience, they are trusting the Lord with each step forward. We are humbled and awestruck by their faith in His plan for their lives and Fu Yi's. Among all the other miracles we have witnessed, it happens that this family lives one hour from us! Yes, Fu Yi, we look forward to watching you grow up in south Louisiana, where you will cheer for the Tigers, sip sweet tea, maybe even suck some crawfish heads.

Oh, my God. You are more. More than I ever imagined. You are beyond my comprehension and my finite faith. You, who are blowing our prayers out of the water, the one who so clearly adores this child, is the God who walked on water, the God who commands angels, the God who rose from the dead, and granted salvation to your enemies. Your miracles are countless and you put them on display for the world to see. I want to see your face God, the face of the One who has not only redeemed Fu Yi but literally hundreds of lives through this ministry. Why us, God? Why do you love us so much that we get to hear your call? Why do we get to sit on the front lines of your unending miracles for the most vulnerable lives, the ones you adore more than any? I am not worthy. I fall at your feet, in awe of the glory you so willingly display.

Fu Yi's story has only just begun. Already she's affected thousands of people. Because of her life and her time here, seeds have been planted, hearts have been encouraged, and quiet longings have morphed in to cross-carrying action for the orphan, the very heart of Jesus. Fu Yi has a family who is fighting to bring her home. Her life has been redeemed and the fruit of that will bud beautifully for all to see over the years to come.

Fu Yi existed as a mug-shot photo orphan with no voice to give life to her generic, inaccurate paper file. God, in all His mercy, has lifted her from that and set her upon a pedestal for all to admire. This beautiful, image-bearer has received the crown she deserves... a Christian family who will love her forever. More importantly, the crown of an heir... heir to her heavenly father, the crown only a princess to the One true King can wear. She has received the promise of eternal riches from her creator, who has pulled her from the pit of despair. May her life here be a beautiful example of what God has done for each of us. From rags to riches, orphan to heir, it's her story. It's my story. I hope it's yours too. Faith in this story is the only requirement to make it so.