Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meeting the Rest of the Family

We just got back Sunday from a great weekend with my family celebrating my sister's wedding to the man we now know as Uncle James (welcome to the family!). It was a great way for us to get to introduce Malachi to some more of his new family. Here are videos of Malachi getting to meet his Aunt Nikki (my sister), Uncle Matt (my brother), Aunt Kristen (his wife) and cousin Grayson.

We also got to take Malachi to the beach for the first time. He was absolutely fearless, walking straight towards the ocean as soon as we set him down on the beach. There have been so many moments since we returned that I am struck with the contrast of what he is experiencing and what the orphans we met in Ethiopia experience every day. They'll likely never see the ocean or anything like it. I wrestle with what to do with that other than to encourage anyone and everyone to pray and consider whether God might be calling you to bring one of these sweet kiddos home and give them a life they can't imagine today. Enjoy Mally enjoying the beach.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gladney Foster Center & Our Adoption

The second day we were in country in Ethiopia, we had the chance to go to the foster center where Malachi had stayed the bulk of his time. It was such a great thing to experience as we got to see the house he knew as home, meet the kids who were his friends, and especially get to spend time with the caretakers. Each of the kids has one or two main caregivers who call themselves the kids' "special mother." Malachi's "special mother" was a wonderful lady named Geti (sp?) who you see in the video. It was clear how much Malachi loved her from the way his face lit up the moment we walked into the compound and saw her. This was probably the first time we got to see his playful, happy personality (though it is on full display in our home today) as you could tell he was so much more comfortable.

While on the trip, I had the chance to read Dr. Russell Moore's book "Adopted for Life" which is an absolute must read. In it he describes his experience of taking his boys from the orphanage in Russia by saying, "They'd never seen the sun, and they'd never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door slamming or felt like they were being carried along a road at 100 miles an hour. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance . . . I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, 'That place is a pit! If only you knew what's waiting for you -- a home with a mommy and a daddy who loves you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates and McDonald's Happy Meals!' But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point. It was home." He goes on to say, "My whispering to my boys, 'You won't miss that orphanage' is only a shadow of something I should have known already. Our Father tells us that we too are unable to grasp what's waiting for us -- and how glorious it really is. It's hard for us to long for an inheritance to come, a harmonious Christ-ruled universe, when we've never seen anything like it . . . We must learn to be children, not orphans . . . [but] we don't fully believe that our new Father will feed us, so we hang on to our scraps and long for the regimented schedules of the orphanage from which we've come. And when our Father pushes us along to new tastes, we pout that he's not good to us. But he's readying us for glory, preparing us to take our place on thrones as heirs."

I read this with the image of Malachi with the workers fresh in my mind, how he latched on to them, how he playfully ran from us to the safety of their arms, and how in that moment, he chose the care of orphanage workers over the care of his mommy and daddy. It was so much fun to watch the slow transition that week we were in Ethiopia when he stopped reaching for African women, any African woman, rather than staying in Brandy's arms, and to think of where he is now, where those same faces you see in the video that he made with those workers are the faces we see every morning when we walk in to get him out of his crib.

My prayer is that I will increasingly grow in my love for my true Father, rejecting the old ways of the orphanage of my sin and flesh, that my life will delight in walking in His ways even when they don't make sense to me, and that I will grow in my longing for the day when my adoption is complete.

Enjoy the video!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Favorite Videos

We took a lot of video the week we were in Ethiopia and I'm determined to get some of my favorites up this week. I'll just start with "The Moment" for now. This was when Travis, who works with Gladney, brough Malachi to us at the house and we met him for the first time. Wagayu, our host at the guest house where we stayed, is filming and his hands were less than steady, shall we say, but he caught the moment for us which was great.

It was such a surreal moment for sure . . . this was less than an hour from the time we got out of the airport in Addis, and we were shocked that this moment happened so soon, but obviously overjoyed. Enjoy the moment.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pictures from Week 1: Getting Settled In

It's been a good first week and we're starting to get settled into a bit of a routine. Mally is doing great and seems to be taking everything in stride. He's moved from sleeping in our room the first few nights to sleeping in his new room with Josiah the last few nights. We've had the chance to introduce him to many of our friends and took him to church this morning and shared some sweet moments with friends praying for him and thanking God for him. Then this afternoon we got to join our friends, the Fournets, for a birthday party and Malachi got his first chance to take on a swimming pool. He was very chill and relaxed with all of the kids. Here's a few pictures from our first week.

Josiah and Selah love their new little brother. They're like two kids with a new toy at Christmas. Most of the time that's a good thing.

PawPaw and Malachi, plus Vanna with the sign in the back.

MawMaw and Mally . . . what a great couple!

Enjoying his first bath at home

Now that's a smile!

Daddy and Mally in the pool.

Just chillin'

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God Spoke to Me

OK, so I've never heard the audible voice of God, to the best of my knowledge, but one of the coolest moments from the trip was about the closest I think I've ever been to it.

As we made plans for our time in Addis Ababa, it was really important to us that we take in as much of the sights and sounds of what God is doing for orphans in that city as possible and towards that end, we hooked up with Children's HopeChest who recently started doing sponsorships of orphanages in Ethiopia. So, as I said in one of the posts on the trip, we spent a considerable amount of time with Peter Abera, their country director and loved hearing his story, his heart, and then getting to see what God was doing through their ministry in the lives of orphans. We also set aside funds especially for the purpose of blessing those orphans and their caregivers in whatever way God would have us.

The first day we met Peter, as I said, the orphans were not at the orphanage because it was a holiday. This particular orphanage, the Kichene orphanage, is a private orphanage that is very much Christ-centered. The kids do not live at the orphanage, but live either with a legal guardian, a single parent, or perhaps even both parents who are simply too poor to care for their children adequately. They come to school every day where they are fed breakfast and lunch and sent home with a snack in case they don't get dinner that night. The school is led by great Christian men and women with a passion for children and a commitment to teaching them about Christ in addition to their school learning and life skills training.

As we toured the school and saw the classrooms, at some point, Brandy asked about their books. We saw some lying around, but mostly old and worn and not very many of them. Peter said in response, that yes, these were their books and that they needed new ones. For whatever reason, I remembered that moment vividly and remembered thinking, "I wonder what we could do about that." When we returned for the party the next day, it was clear that the Lord wanted us to use some of the money we had set aside to purchase some books for the children. I approached Peter and asked about where we could get books and when we could do it before we left. He spoke with Nicodemus, the director of that orphanage, and his response blew me away. He said that just that morning, the government had dropped in on the orphanage to do some kind of inspection. During that time, they mentioned to him the shortage of books and told him if they didn't get new books, the orphanage would be shut down. He then said, "You must have been listening to God!"

That was it! I'm telling you, not one person there mentioned this to me prior to it, nor did Peter in some manipulative way point out the pitiful collection of books. God in His providence laid that on our hearts so that we could be used of Him to meet that need. What an amazing moment! We went Monday, bought a ton of books and had the joy of delivering them to the children that morning. Their hugs and kisses and shouts in Amharic-accented English of "Thank You!" were far more precious than any book we gave, so we walked away the blessed ones.
I was reminded of one of my new heroes of the faith, a guy named George Mueller. I beg you to take some time and listen to John Piper's biographical sketch of this great man of God (you can find it here http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1531_George_Muellers_Strategy_for_Showing_God/). Mueller said that his primary aim in caring for orphans was not first and foremost the care of orphans in and of itself, but rather to show believers, all of whom discouragingly struggle with trusting God, that God can be trusted. That was it! That was his main reason for caring for orphans, because if God could take a poor man like him and care for the very least of these in ways only explained by God, perhaps it would increase the faith of others so that they might begin to take God at His word. O how my faith was increased this week, even as it has been increased each step of the way through this journey. Take some time to watch and listen to the songs of these children in the video below and pray that the Lord will increase your faith as a result.

Home with My Family of 5

Well after 28 hours of security, airplanes, buses to the next terminal, more airplanes, immigration, customs and two claims for lost bags (got one back this morning and another on the way this afternoon), we made it home last night. The remainder of our time in Ethiopia was full of adventure that I'll catch you up on in posts to come. We enjoyed great time with the families from Gladney, took in another orphanage where we threw another party for them and the workers, returned to Kichene to drop off a delivery (post to follow this one and likely the coolest story of our trip), and took one day (Sunday) just to do nothing but love on Malachi and try to relax before what we knew would be a long trip home.

Our flight yesterday left Addis Ababa at 4:05 a.m. local time, which meant our driver picked us up at 1:30 a.m. so we could make it to the airport by 2:00 and get checked in. Fortunately, both the BMI flight and the American Airlines flights we took coming home were much better than the ones we endured on the way there, so although we spent about 20 hours of the day yesterday in a plane, it wasn't too bad. Once we arrived in Dallas, everything went about as smooth as it could through immigration and customs, and though they lost two of our bags, it wasn't that big a deal and we finally got to step through the international doors and onto U.S. soil with little Malachi for the first time.

We were greeted by a great cheer from family and friends who came out and stayed long last night to welcome us home, which was so sweet. We especially loved Josiah and Selah's reaction to Malachi as well as all the other kids who were there to welcome us home. The video below captures the moments where Josiah and Selah got to meet Mally for the first time. The quality of the filming is awful as I had my hands full and was sleep deprived, but you get the best moments in between the other stuff.

All of that to say, we're home and we're now officially a family of 5. I am certain that Brandy and I have no clue what is ahead of us, but we couldn't be more excited to find out. Malachi is doing great, and responded really well to both Josiah and Selah. No hesitation in this boy as he continues to get more and more comfortable. We can't wait to introduce him to so many of you who have played such a huge role in this process.

We also pray that our continued pursuit of adoption (this won't be our last) will compel others to consider the same and to take on this most joyfully holy task of bringing orphans into families. It was only fitting that this morning in my time alone with the Lord and as we continue on The Journey, that our reading was from Psalm 68, quoted on the front page of this blog. He does in fact place the lonely in families. The question is, will He call you to be the family for a lonely person and if He does, will you respond by saying, "Not my will, but Yours be done?" I cannot begin to tell you the joy of responding that way to His call.