Video

He took our ‘Yes’ – The Boulton Family

There were two main concerns my husband and I had about adopting a child with Down syndrome. How would it affect us, and how would it affect our other children? As we talked and prayed through our concerns we knew that this is what God was asking of our family and we trusted that He would cover it all. The truth is every time you add another member to your family it changes the whole dynamic. There is less time, and less money. But for us what we were to gain was so much more.

We mourned the loss of the dream of a one bedroom retirement house on the beach. We mourned the empty nest that will never be. We mourned the dreams we had for ourselves. And then we allowed God to anoint us with His oil of JOY for the dreams He has for our lives, which we know FAR EXCEED anything we could imagine.

We talked with our kids about the changes that were to come. We would need their help. We would be asking much of them. They were excited! They were ready to welcome another sibling into our family through adoption.

As God would have it, He took our ‘YES’ and ran with it! God brought us TWO BABIES!  We took placement of our Ruby in August 2012, and Conner came home in May 2013.  Both just a few weeks old when we got them, and just 11 months apart from each other.  Both with Down Syndrome.

I wish you could peak into my home and see what these babies have done to us. They are our little gifts. They are healers; they are joy; they are hope; they are angels from heaven. They have given us compassion and patience. My big kids are undone. They would do anything for their babies; and they will defend and guard and protect them always. They walk around wearing Ergos; they hold them and feed them their bottles. They change diapers; they sing songs; they cradle and rock, play hand games, and are learning sign language together. I had no idea how God was going to use our YES and these two blessings to change each of us so radically.

As evidence of how these changes have affected our children, our 12 year old son was given an assignment to creatively express what “inspiration” is to him. His inspiration is his family. This is the video he created.

His video won 1st place in his school, and was entered into the district competition where it also won First Place. Now it moves on to the County competition where more people will see how our family chooses to follow Jesus.

It is wise to pray and discuss and seek counsel before making an important decision like adopting a child, particularly one with special needs. We all worry about how growing our family through adoption can negatively affect our children. The truth is adoption is always hard. It is the result of brokenness. And in the hard, each of us, including our children, have the power to choose how we are going to respond. I choose to trust that God is faithful, and that even in the hard and the broken, the successes and the failures, He is ever changing each one of us to be more like Himself.

— Lyndsay Boulton, U.S. Liaison to Village of Hope

The Faces of HIV in 2013

I was driving to work this morning and passed by a billboard that reads, “I am living with HIV and my brother is standing with me.” As I read it, there was this moment inside of me where I *forgot* that I too am living with people who have HIV. And just as fast, the flash was gone and I remembered my babies.

The truth is, I never thought this would be my life. I mean, come on. MY life? Single and raising not one, but TWO children who have HIV?  Sheez. I must be crazy!  Here’s some more truth:  I never {okay, very rarely} think about it!  My boys, wrestling in full-nelson style on the floor?  Nope. Doesn’t occur to me. Wet beds, runny noses, coughs, vomit?  Never think of HIV.  Leah and Seth sharing drinks, food, baths, and germs?  Not a second thought. My kids engaged in straight-up-mania in the jumping pool?  Zilch. Is there a chance one of them could get hurt and bleed? Um, yea. There’s always that chance! But if they bleed — hear this now — they are not going to “catch” HIV from each other.  Period, full stop.

More truth? Listen up. I don’t think our friends think about it either. {gasp} That’s the thing about the truth. Once you know it, you’re not afraid!!!

I pray that those of you who are considering adoption would consider that HIV is, as our founder Kiel Twietmeyer has said, a “cheater” special need.  It is medically manageable and not scary.  For those children who are in need of a loving home, could God be leading YOU to parent a child with HIV?  Are you willing to step out in faith for this?

 HIV Blog 1

Or this?

 HIV Blog 2

Because this is the face of HIV today:

HIV Blog 3

And this:

 HIV Blog 4

What are you waiting for???

HIV Blog 5

Sometimes

I am “for” adoption.  I think we established that in my last post.  But as I referenced there, I’m only for adoption when adoption is necessary.  The last resort.  Sometimes

I’m FOR families.  And first families are, well, the FIRST families.  I believe that birth mothers are due deference.  I believe that wherever possible, they have the inherent right to parent their children.  We do not.  I’m not at all threatened by appropriate deference to birth mothers.  After all, isn’t that how God designed it?  We birth children who we then parent.  It’s kind of the natural order of things. 

But I don’t think that means there isn’t a place for adoption and I don’t think it means that adoption is “unnatural.”  To the contrary, I believe adoption is a necessary piece of God’s plan in this fallen world.  Sometimes, the last resort must come into play.  Sometimes, we do get to support a child who has no one else.  Sometimes, we have the incredible opportunity to love as our own the child of another woman’s womb.  The question is:  when is “sometimes”?

In the United States, sometimes happens in the Foster Care system when a court of law has determined that two parents are unfit to parent.  Once parental rights are terminated, those children are orphans under the law and need parents.  The child did not do anything wrong in this situation; parental rights are not terminated because a child is a delinquent.  Typically, bad things have happened and no amount of intervention has righted the wrongs; new parents are needed.  Sometimes, arises in the foster care system.  Would you consider being the answer for a child who needs parents in our foster care system?

In private U.S. adoptions, birth parents can choose to place their child for adoption for a host of reasons including their age, health, poverty, number of children, the circumstances of their conception, the health of the child, and innumerable other reasons.  Or for no reason other than, “We don’t want to parent.”  In those cases where coercion or pressure is not a part of the adoption placement decision, children may need parents as a result of a private placement.  Sometimes.  The key here is to ensure that none of the parties was coerced into agreeing to relinquish their parental rights.  Their rights.  It’s no surprise to me that at least 50% of mothers who *think* they will place their child for adoption before the child’s birth, change their minds once the child is born.  And thank God.  No mother should be forced to say good-bye to a child that they want to parent, absent abuse/neglect and subsequent intervention by a court.  {I know well the devastation that comes from a lost adoption placement.  This paragraph is not at all intended to be insensitive to those prospective parents who have lost referrals.  We grieve with you.}  Once a social worker and a court of law have determined that the child has been freely and voluntarily relinquished, a child becomes available for adoption.  Sometimes can happen through private U.S. adoption agencies.  Would you consider parenting a child through private adoption?

International adoption has recently been highly criticized in both the media and through popular literature.  In many cases, appropriately so.  Sometimes children born in other countries need to be adopted by families in the U.S., but many times, they do not.  The world of international adoption is fraught with challenges and, unfortunately, corruption.  But even as I say that, please hear this:  I have two children who were born in Uganda.  They needed a family.  Sometimes international adoption is appropriate.  And necessary.  However, I believe that we, Church, have to be thoughtful about when “sometimes” happens

Of the estimated 17.9 million double orphans worldwide, many of them are not available for adoption because they are being cared for by extended family of their deceased parents, just like they would be here if tragedy struck.  I’m deeply concerned when I hear the Church criticize this method of caring for orphaned children, particularly when it is precisely how we would do so.  Why do we believe that we, strangers from a different culture, can parent better than a biological relative of an orphan in the absence of evidence of abuse or neglect?

Even children who are in orphanages are often not available for adoption.  In fact, far less than half of the children in orphanages in Uganda need a home or a family.  In many developing countries, like Uganda, families may place a child in an orphanage because they cannot support the child financially for a season of life.  While I do not support institutional care for any child, {indeed, we stopped the use of institutional care in the U.S. decades ago} I also cannot support the adoption of a child who has family and may even have family who regularly visits him/her at the orphanage.  And yet, I know first-hand of instances where children who were not placed in orphanages for adoption were offered to interested-Westerners for adoption.  This is not okay.

I am devastated each time I hear that a child who has been matched with an adoptive family dies while waiting for a family to arrive.  It’s heartbreaking on so many levels my brain cannot process it.  Nevertheless, I do not favor speed in the International adoption process because the system is ripe for corruption.  I think of it like this:  would I be willing to sacrifice my child to strangers in another country thousands of miles away so that other children in need could find homes?  No, I would not.  That is precisely what we are asking the victim of child trafficking to do when we place the value of her child and her relationship below the value of other children who may need to be adopted.  Above all, adoptions must be ethical, even if it means that the process is slower.  Because imagine that was you.  Imagine you were tricked or duped into relinquishing a child.  Imagine if you thought your child was going to school and later learned that he was living in a different country and calling different people mom or dad.  Imagine being told your child was leaving for HIV treatment and learning that instead, she had been placed for international adoption.  Or imagine how you would feel if you learned from the child you adopted that he has a mom.  And a dad.  And that he remembers the day he was taken from them.  Heaven help us.

Sometimes international adoption is necessary and appropriate.  We, Church, cannot be involved in the grey areas because devastating a birth family in our quest to address the orphan crisis (largely made up of older or special needs children) is not what any of us set out to do.  Let’s not allow our love, passion and emotion for children to cloud our understanding of which children need families and which do not.  In those situations where children do need a family, are you willing to be their sometimes?

–Deb Steiner

“God didn’t call us to easy” Testimony of the Knights

From our FIG Awassa Directors Greg and Charisa Knight:

The beginning: 17 years ago with a momma’s heartcry and a dad’s face to face visit with orphaned children.

The blessing: 2 crazy loved Ethiopian boys who have rocked our world and the HUGE privilege of being able to serve hand in hand with our Ethiopian brother and sisters bringing hope to children and families in Awassa through Project HOPEFUL Awassa 
There is so much more to these stories that I think I would have to have a 2 hour video. I am going to sum them up quickly with Things I Have Learned Through Adoption:


1) Don’t put God in a box.  My boxes that God busted open:
  •   We put under age 3 because I didn’t want to full with “baggage” (Ab was almost 6 when he came home to us)
  •   I am not traveling with Greg because I can’t handle it (terrified of planes!)    (God said yes, you can )
  •   I don’t want to meet or have any relationship with birth family. It’s too emotionally complex.  (We did and now have a beautiful      relationship with them and I can’t imagine not having it! I am sooo glad God busted that one!)
  •   special needs parameters.  We went from “minor correctable special needs” to wishing we had opened that up more during our    adoption to now if we were currently do an adoption would much broader and include HIV. Be sure to keep an open mind and heart for that decision.
2) Remember that God is faithful. 
When we accepted our first referral for a little guy who was 7 months old, the whole slow down in Ethiopa happened and I was a mess thinking that the our child might wait a year or more (the thinking at the time) to come home. A friend emailed and told me this “God has told me to tell you that your son will be home by the time he is 9 months old.”  Now you have to know that this friend had never told me things like this before and she is not the person to proclaim things such as this. In fact, she told me she was nervous about saying it but God clearly told her to do it.  I posted her email on my fridge and read it. over and over again.  Then the phone call came that this first little guy’s mother had taken him home to raise. (which was a good thing but my emotions were in a whirlwind!) and I promptly balled that paper up and through it in the trash in a fit of despair.


Fast forward to receiving Teshale’s referral and bring him home. At exactly 9. months. old.  Greg reminded me that MY son would come home at 9 months old. God is faithful and true to His word.  Remember that in times of doubt.


3) God did not call us to easy.  


There have been many times when I have wondered about the easier path.The paperwork and governmental hoops can just about do you in sometimes. The emotional complexities of adoption are daunting. Trauma is hard. Blending a family together takes work. Sometimes exhausting and emotionally draining work.  Is it worth it?  As I look into the faces of my kiddos…yes. yes. yes.   Is it easy?  Not at all.


 But in the words of my husband  “God didn’t call us to easy”


About to Jump…

This post is by our Waiting Child Director, Jenni Johnston:

Our home is about to be open to foster kids. I keep going back and forth between being super excited and super depressed about the whole thing. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for our family. I’m excited to see the miracles and lives changed forever because we gave God our YES.  We didn’t give God our “super pumped up, I want to change the world!!” YES. We gave him our “fine, I guess… since things didn’t play out our way” YES.

2013 has been my nightmare.

Starting in 2011, I began begging my husband and God for a little girl in Russia, who had HIV. I had seen her picture and knew she was my daughter. It took 11 months of me crying, praying, and yelling for my husband to feel the same way. Those were some bad months!  I began to see my husband as the obstacle in my way rather than the love of my life. We ended up in marital counseling… Not my best moment. The problem was, I KNEW, without a doubt, she was my daughter. I no longer could focus on anything else.

March 2012: My husband came home and said God changed his mind. We started the process and got to meet our princess on November 26, 2012. It was AMAZING.

She and Josh bonded. She was so proud of her new father!

When it was time for us to leave we promised her we would be back for court in a couple months. She cried and said she would wait for us.

By the end of December there were rumors about US/Russian adoptions being banned. As the weeks passed it became a reality. I was a wreck! There was some time where we jumped through hoops making flight arrangements, getting more medical work done for court, paying waaaaayy too much money for last minute visas, thinking, and praying that we would get special treatment and get finish our adoption because we had met our child. We fought publicly, trying to get the American people to care.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pizAaJEIt-Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6DYr-q-ndY

I spent the early part of 2013 so stressed that I was physically sick. Then I moved on to being angry with God. After all, HE chose when to change Josh’s mind. Why did HE wait sooooo long? During those months, when I made it to church, I would stand with my arms crossed mocking HIM, taunting HIM, and throwing temper tantrums. All the while, knowing what HE wanted me to do next… FOSTER CARE.

I honestly don’t know how or when Josh actually agreed to fostering. It was always something we were going to do “in the future… down the road, when our kids were older, when we had a bigger house, more money and time”. But, I began taking steps to make it happen and it all just fell in to place.

We are now almost to the year mark of meeting our daughter. (We are still fighting for her.)  But now we are about to jump off a new cliff into the unknown. The scary waters where we are just saying, “Welcome!” We don’t know the age, gender, special need, or even how many. We don’t know how long they will stay or if they will be newest Johnston. We gave God our YES even though we have no clue what the heck HE is up to. We are heart broken and excited. Will I be able to handle more children on top of my three children? Can I handle more children from hard places while dealing with the one I already have and fighting for another one?

I don’t think God cares what YES you give him as long you give it.

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of each and every staff member at Project HOPEFUL.  Thank you for following along through our Adoption Awareness Month series!  For more information or if you have specific questions about any post, please reach out to us at projecthopeful@projecthopeful.org

The Orphan Crisis Without Adoption

We could spend hours or days (or longer) debating the question of whether everyone is “called” to adopt or whether it is even a call or a command or whether the Church is necessarily failing because everyone hasn’t adopted.  Today, we set those questions aside and talk about non-adoption options for supporting orphans, or maybe even preventing them.  Let’s discuss “caring for widows and orphans in their distress.”  James 1:27.

Project HOPEFUL operates a number of programs specifically designed to address the needs of widows and orphans in the countries where we operate.  For example, our Hope + Sisterhood program in Uganda, Ethiopia, and soon, Guatemala, partners women and families from the United States with women who are HIV positive from these countries.  The goal of the program is to give the women a “hand up” out of poverty and to help them become self-sustaining as a family.  Many of the women in our program are widows or have been abandoned by husbands upon learning of their positive HIV status.  Most have children, some of whom are positive.  Rather than continue the cycle of poverty and relinquishment for adoption, the Sisterhood seeks to empower these women to start businesses and use the financial support they receive for six months to plan for the future and family sustainability.  For more information about our Hope + Sisterhood, check out our website:  http://projecthopeful.org/hope-sisterhood/

Village of Hope cares for special needs orphans in San Lucas, Guatemala and teaching them about the love of Jesus Christ.  VoH welcomes families and children into its “Village” where these individuals are loved on by house parents, provided food, shelter and education.  The goal is to create a loving home where the people we serve are safe.  Two families from Project HOPEFUL serve at Village of Hope:  The Kiel and Carolyn Twietmeyer family and the Todd and Amy Block family.  There are many ways to partner with Village of Hope, including being a part of the sending team for the Twietmeyers, assisting with the salaries of staff, and partnering monthly in the work being done there.  You can read more here:  http://projecthopeful.org/village-of-hope/

Our Family in the Gap – Awassa program is growing like wildfire! In just a year of operation, our donors are supporting over one hundred families or children in Awassa, Ethiopia.  We have assisted the community in providing education, animals, health care, food, clothing and more.  Like our other in-country programs, Awassa seeks to keep families together and enable the independence of the people we serve.  You can see the details here:  http://projecthopeful.org/awassa/

Project HOPEFUL will expand into Ukraine in 2014!  Our programs in Ukraine seek to provide mentoring, support and education to families living with HIV.  Project HOPEFUL also has the opportunity to participate in providing a summer camp for families living with HIV and provide staffing for children in the hospital who are left alone for more than eight hours every night.  We hope that you will step up to support this program:  http://projecthopeful.org/fig/fig-ukraine/

Last but not least, for the first time this year, Project HOPEFUL is offering CHRISTMAS WITH PURPOSE.  Our in-country programs have put together a list of items you could purchase as your gift to a loved one this holiday season!  Give a cow to a family in Ethiopia; provide malaria treatment in Uganda; contribute to the salary of a nurse in Ukraine; or how about a mosquito net?  It’s all right here:  http://projecthopeful.org/christmas-with-purpose/

In our home, the kiddos each get an animal in their stocking for Christmas.  This year, we can purchase our animals through Project HOPEFUL!  We hope you will join us in this amazing Christmas with Purpose.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

{Isaiah 9:6}

 

http://projecthopeful.org/christmas-with-purpose/

Addicted to God Through the Orphan

This post is by our staff member, Jen Knapp:

Two years ago today, with great anticipation, I boarded a flight for Accra, Ghana. My husband stayed back with our other two daughters. I was finally going to bring Juliana home! The last six months of our second adoption had not gone at all how we expected. Not a surprise…now that we’re veterans! It was like a bad dream you couldn’t wake up from. Everything that was supposed to happen didn’t. Every promise that was made was broken. Every extra
documentation the Embassy asked for wasn’t enough.

Friends fasted. Neighbors cried. Government officials petitioned. We could not find favor in getting Juliana her Visa to come home. Thirteen weeks felt like thirteen years.

Until. God showed up.

He showed up in a very unexpected, powerful way through the organization I am writing this post for. Out of no where, I was reminded about an article I had read the previous winter. The article was in People Magazine about the founder of Project HOPEFUL. God prompted me to remember this article SO THAT I could find them at the right time. It seemed like God wanted to manifest his power and presence through the favor of this organization. And He did just that. Project HOPEFUL was used by the Lord to bring justice to a part of our adoption case that was unjust.

I was reminded again this past weekend of the responsibilities I have as a follower of Christ to grow up. To mature. The bible says in 1 Peter “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” [1 Peter 2:2-3]. Spiritual milk is supposed to be the experiences you have with God when He
shows up and makes himself known to you. Those moments you can’t deny when you got out of the way and it was all Him! Those moments that take your breath away and leave you asking “how did you just do that, Lord?”

To taste and see that the Lord is good, is drinking from that presence of God. And it leaves you wanting and craving more. To be told to crave spiritual milk, is actually a command to be addicted to God!

I’ve never experienced the real, tangible presence of God on a more consistent basis than I have with the global orphan care community. Through our two international adoptions, I’ve seen God’s power, protection, mercy and help so closely I could touch it. And the more I saw it, the more I wanted it. With Project HOPEFUL, I’ve seen babies literally given life saving surgeries in the last minute because God showed up. I’ve witnessed hundreds of complete strangers come
together and secure the funds to pay for an HIV+ woman to be transferred to a hospital that could save her life. I’ve stood in awe as I’ve watched brothers and sisters via social media sacrifice what they had to finalize the travel arrangements for a husband in Illinois to fly to Ukraine and help his weary wife bring home their newly adopted children.

Every time I’ve seen God show up on behalf of the orphan, I’ve found myself wanting more. Believing more.

Like when we find out a sibling group of three from Ethiopia needs a family and it has to happen soon because the oldest is getting close to aging out…in the past I would’ve gotten discouraged quickly thinking “alright, God, how are you going to do this?” But now! Now that I’ve seen and tasted that the Lord is good in the midst of orphan care…now I find myself saying “alright, God, here you go…show yourself off!”
And I want more. And more. And more.

Project HOPEFUL

 

 

 

So glad you’re home, sweet girl!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of each and every staff member at Project HOPEFUL.  Thank you for following along through our Adoption Awareness Month series!  For more information or if you have specific questions about any post, please reach out to us at projecthopeful@projecthopeful.org