Friday, July 31, 2009

Paradise

We took the Hillside team to Zanzibar for 3 days at the end of their trip. It's one of our absolute favorite places in the world, so we didn't mind! Zanzibar is a large island off the coast of Tanzania, inhabited by about a million people, 99.9% of whom are Muslim. It is full of incredible culture, history, and beaches!


Swimming with dolphins. You see that arm in the back? That's not Gil, but that is how close he got.


I love having a photographer for a husband. :-)

This is what my little guy does whenever he finds me sitting or kneeling on the ground.

Stonetown, the main city, is full of amazing architecture...buildings made out of coral...carved doors like you see here...fascinating history.

The locals are eager to "decorate" the tourists with homemade items.

Home of Red Colubus monkeys....you can get close enough to touch them.


Dozens of spices grown here....

...and loads of exotic fruit.

Gil bought Josiah this little "Rastafari" hat...and he was just WAY too cute for words.

Our awesome, energetic, willing, flexible team....we love you guys! Thanks, Sarah, Ian, Michelle, Kristen, and Ruben!
(This picture was taken in a mangrove forest...one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Agape Children's Village

Gil is technically the Bible teacher/Chaplain at HOPAC, but we see our role as much wider than that. The local churches in Dar rarely have any kind of youth ministry; even the international, English-speaking churches aren't big enough for a Youth Group.

Which is why we hold Youth Group in our house on Friday nights. And why we put on Youth Camp. And why we are always looking for new opportunities to stretch our students spiritually.

So this year, we wanted to take some of our students on their own missions trip--even though many of them are MK's. The week of July 6-10, we took nine of our students, as well as the Hillside team, to an orphanage about 3 hours away from here. Agape Children's Village was established by HOPAC parents and is home to about 30 kids.

Great times!

Singing during devotional time in the evening.

Making crafts


Lovin' on the kids!

Ruben from San Jose won the award for the most mosquito bites on a single person that I have ever seen, EVER.

Jenai and Anja (two of our students) washing clothes


Emma working in the garden

More singing. It was a toss up as to who was the most exuberant: our team, or the kids.

Coloring

More lovin'


Grace, of course, was in heaven with all the kids.

On one day, we piled all of us and all the kids--50 people in all--into a bus meant for 25, and took them to Mikumi Game Park to see the animals, about an hour and a half away. The kids were ecstatic, screaming at the top of their lungs whenever anyone spotted an animal. It was great.

Definitely an experience worth repeating!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fourth Annual International Youth Camp

June 28-July 3

We love camp! Every year we join up with our good friend and co-worker, Kathy, to put on a Youth Camp. Half of the kids come from HOPAC and the other half come from the local schools where she works. We always bring in teams to help; this year we had 5 from Hillside Church in San Jose and 9 from The Master's College. It's fabulously fun, of course, but even better are the great times of conversations and discipleship. These pictures pretty much say it all!



Ian from Hillside and Josh from TMC: Don't ask.

















Our team won! Wearing the coveted "Champions" shirts.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finally.

July 21, 2009.

The judge showed up. The social worker showed up. We and our lawyer showed up (though that was never in doubt!).

The judge was intimidating. And nit-picky. And certainly not enjoying herself. A couple times I thought she was going to make us reschedule the whole thing (again) over some tiny detail.

When it finally came time for her to address us, she sternly asked, "Do you know the meaning of adoption? Do you understand that even if you get pregnant, you can't give him back? That even if you leave Tanzania, you can't give him back?"

Uh, yeah. I think we get it. Give him back? Over my dead body.

But at the end she announced she would issue the adoption order, and that's all we wanted to hear!

(Afterwards I asked our lawyer if there are any judges that actually take joy in issuing adoptions, and she said that yes, there are some that even get teary. That's good to know. I mean, you would think that after sentencing prisoners and granting divorces and nasty stuff like that all day, a judge would be thrilled to do an adoption.)

So I am relieved. And praising God for His timing and provision and mostly for my amazing, precious, adorable little boy who lights up my life every day.

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And now I wish I could write more. I have all these posts rattling around in my head, about camp and the Hillside team and the orphanage trip and our move and our new house and brave little Ryan, a HOPAC kid who got third degree burns on his legs a few weeks ago, and the incredible spiritual journey of his family.

But I don't have time because my house is in choas from the move. And we don't have internet there yet, so I have to wait until I can steal time away to come to school to post.

But soon. I'll be back soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Postscript

Despite the unsuccessful court hearing I wrote about last week, I really need to add that we are actually praising God right now for a number of reasons.

1. Our judge showed up again before August 3rd (which is the date we were originally given when she would return). So even though she didn't show to that court hearing, we're still doing better time-wise than we once thought. Plus, we were assured by our lawyer that there are ways to expedite the passport process...so at this point we are still pretty hopeful we'll be able to do our Home Assignment in October.

If you saw humor in my last post, that's because we did too! I should have made that more clear.

2. WE FOUND A HOUSE! We actually found it three weeks ago, but have been way too busy with the last three weeks' activities (which I still need to post about) to write about it here. Plus, it wasn't totally confirmed until yesterday. But I am thrilled. I really, really like everything about this house except that it isn't next door to school! But it's only about a half mile from school, which is still most definitely walking distance (for me, if not for the kids). It's got lots of space and a massive (and I mean massive) yard. We are moving tomorrow (Friday) and one of these days I'll get around to posting pictures.

Thanks for praying! God's grace is amazing!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Adventures in Court Hearings

So much has happened in the last two weeks that it will take me a few posts to get caught up. But I'll start with the court hearing, since many of you have asked about that.

To back up a bit, since not all of you get our email updates, we have been trying to finalize Josiah's adoption for a few months now. It needs to be finalized before we can go on our Home Assignment in October.

Our first hearing was in April while I was in the States with Grace. That hearing went well: the social worker was appointed "guardian" and told to write a report, which is exactly what we wanted to happen.

Second hearing was June 11th. Even though the judge had picked this date, our lawyer called us the night before and told us that our judge was out of the country on vacation.

Third hearing was scheduled for this past Wednesday, July 8th.

Okay. No problem. Except that we had already scheduled a mini-missions trip with some HOPAC kids last week to an orphanage. Oh, and the orphanage was three hours away from Dar.

Thankfully we've had a team of college students here helping us with our events the last two weeks. So we decided that we could go ahead with the orphanage trip and simply leave the night before the court hearing, attend the hearing the next morning, and then drive back to the orphanage when it was done.

I should have known things are never that simple. Everything went great at the orphanage, that wasn't the problem. But we had decided that instead of driving to our house on Tuesday night to spend the night, we would just find a hotel near the court building and stay there for the night, instead of fighting 2 hours of traffic the next morning from our house.

We arrived at the orphanage on Monday afternoon. We left again in the early evening on Tuesday. We hit traffic on our way into Dar and it was nearly 8:00 by the time we got in. By this point, our children (and us) were tired and cranky and very hungry. No drive throughs. How I longed for a Taco Bell.

We decided to get dinner before trying to find a hotel. We stopped at a pizza place that is supposed to be "fast food," and 45 minutes (and two formal complaints) later, we had our pizza. By this point it was after 9:00.

Then we set off to find a hotel. You know, I've heard warnings before about trying to find a hotel late at night. Not a good idea. I should have listened to the warnings. But I knew that there were plenty of hotels in the city near the court house and didn't think we would have a problem.

Hotel #1: Too expensive.
Hotel #2: Much cheaper but full.
Hotel #3: Also full. (What the heck? What are all these visitors doing in Dar?)
Hotel #4: An adventure in itself, partly involving going up 8 stories in a parking garage and coming back down without finding any parking, and a parking attendant who STILL insisted on charging us parking fees.

By this point it was almost 10:30. Our children, who normally go to bed at 7, were melting down. So we did what any frazzled person does. Went back to Hotel #1 and paid the ridiculous price.

But we all took very hot baths and had a terrific breakfast. That was nice.

Wednesday morning:
8:55 am: Got to the court house.
9:00 am: Courts open. Lawyer was already there.
9:05 am: Social worker showed up.
9:10 am: Our lawyer came over to us and told us that the judge was not there. Again. Even though our lawyer had a case before this exact same judge last Thursday and had asked her, "You'll be there next Wednesday for my other case, right?" To which the judge replied, "Why wouldn't I be?" Humph.

Packed up. Changed clothes. Drove the 3 hours back to the orphanage.

Next hearing is scheduled for July 21st.

Good thing our little guy is worth it. :-)