Friday, August 30, 2013

Ohio

visiting Craig and Kathy, former pastor and wife of our church in So. California




at the Creation Museum (which is technically in Kentucky, not Ohio)






 at the Air Force Museum






visiting Ben and Melissa and their five kids, friends from Dar



Melissa has two Liberian daughters, and a African-hair-stylist-extraordinaire.  Not only did she give me a lot of advice, but she even braided Grace's hair for me.  Grace wanted it "just like Felicia's."  Aren't they cute?


visiting my friend Kate, who was a wonderful blessing to me in Tanzania.  God's given her a husband and a baby (who will make his/her appearance any time now) since the last time I've seen her.  




Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Craziest of Love

His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.
His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.  

This story started two years and four months ago.


When I first visited Forever Angels orphanage to meet Lily, another story began.

I didn’t remember the names of all the kids I met that day, but I remembered Zawadi.  Almost everyone who meets her does.  Five years old at the time, fluent in both English and Swahili, bright, amusing, and affectionate, with an infectious joy despite her very difficult circumstances, Zawadi is a child who makes an impression. 

Lily (age 2) and Zawadi  (age 5) at Forever Angels

And she was desperate for a family.  Zawadi saw child after child from Forever Angels picked up by relatives or brought home by adoptive parents.  And she wanted a Mommy and Daddy too.  In fact, she would tell this to Amy H. (the manager) quite often.  “When is my family coming for me?  When do I get a Mommy and Daddy?  Why does Lily get a family and not me?  She is only two, and I am five.”

The truth is, Zawadi would have been selected for adoption years ago, but she had an unusual family background that made social welfare reluctant to release her for adoption.  But finally, right around the time we picked up Lily, social welfare agreed:  Zawadi could be adopted.  She could finally get her family.  But would it be too late? 

We even considered Zawadi for our family, but eventually knew that it was Lily that God had chosen for us. 

However, I talked about Zawadi whenever I talked about Forever Angels.  And I remember clearly when I told Lauren, one of my very best friends. 

It was on a Friday night, at Youth Group, and I had just returned from my trip to meet Lily that afternoon.  Lauren and I sat with our backs against the living room wall, a swirl of teenagers laughing around us.  I told her about Lily, about the orphanage, and about the other children, including Zawadi.  About how she always asked Amy for a family.

I had no idea that would be the seed. 

Lauren went home and looked up Zawadi on the Forever Angels website.  She couldn’t get her out of her mind.  She told her husband, Ben, about her, and soon he also couldn’t stop thinking about her.  On Monday I got a text message from Lauren, “Can we come talk to you sometime about the adoption process in Tanzania?”

Two years and four months ago, they started the adoption process in Tanzania.  

When you are in love with a child, and that child is desperate for a family, two years and four months is a very, very long time. 

In October of last year, they finally got to meet her.  They spent a glorious two days together.  They all fell in love.  Zawadi, being quite perceptive, figured out that Ben and Lauren were her prospective parents.  And being the precocious child that she is, and knowing how this process works, took it upon herself to sit down at the computer and write her own letter to social welfare, print it, sign it, and seal it in an envelope.  It reads, ““Ples can loren and ben be my mom and dad.”



 It was at that point that I first posted about this story.  Back in October, we thought that it would be "any day now."  But instead weeks and weeks went by which turned into months and months.

Instead of getting easier, Zawadi's story got more and more complicated.  Harder.  Unprecedented among adoptions in  Tanzania.  Yet her need for a family never went away.

Many, many times, it seemed totally impossible.  I wept and wept with Lauren and prayed and begged God to help.  Even writing this now, the tears flow as I remember those times of utter despair.  

Finally, a few months ago, circumstances arose that meant that Zawadi would probably never be adopted, by anyone.  

That's when Ben and Lauren took the craziest step of love ever, and declared that they would be willing to be long-term foster parents.  Long term, as in, Zawadi's entire childhood.

People do that in America all the time, but this is Tanzania.  And they are American.  They knew the future would be uncertain and risky and there would be no guarantees.  

But they loved Zawadi with a crazy kind of love.  A never-stopping, never giving-up, always and forever love.  

Back in February, at our amazing spiritual retreat, Ben taught the students that song:
His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.  

During the past few days, those words keep running through my head.

Because two days ago, the day before school started, Ben and Lauren brought home this little girl.  


To love unconditionally, now and forever.  

I can't stop smiling and I can't stop crying.  

How they love her.
How He loves us.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Away


I took this picture on the last day of school.  I was already crying, and seeing these boys just put me over the top.  Because this is why I love HOPAC.

Today was the first day of school at Haven of Peace Academy.

And we weren't there.  

I didn't make muffins the night before for the Welcome Breakfast for the new parents, we didn't buy new uniforms for Grace, Gil didn't give the first-assembly message.  

It would have been Josiah's first day of kindergarten, Instead, his first day started a couple of weeks ago when I slapped his math book down in front of him and said, "Let's whip out 10 pages of math so that we don't have to take this giant book on our road trip."  Yep.  Happy First Day of School, Josiah.

There was a time in my life when I couldn't imagine a life after HOPAC.  And now it has come.  Life always does that, doesn't it?

Thinking about you and praying for you today, our dear friends.  You are in our hearts, forever and always.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Indiana

Of all the states we are visiting, I think my kids were most excited about going to Indiana.  That's because our very good friends live there, who had just left Tanzania in February.  Not just Mom and Dad's friends, but their friends too.  

We did all kinds of life with this family in Tanzania, from beach trips to HOPAC strategic planning committees and long talks at the playground after school.  It did our hearts good to see them again.  







Then we traveled to northern Indiana to visit Sameer (who had already left for work when we took this picture) and Whitney, friends from our college days.  Gil went on two summer missions trips with Whitney, and she was a part of lots of ministry we did back then.  She was the pianist for our wedding.



Do you understand how amazing it is to reconnect with all these wonderful people?
Ah, we are so blessed!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Illinois

Bethany was a teacher at HOPAC and a leader in our youth group many years ago.  We kept in touch, and a couple years later, she and her brand-new husband led a team that served at HOPAC for a few weeks.  She and Matt stayed with us during that trip, and on their very first night with us, I burned down my washing machine. (Not burned out, burned down.  Literally.)

I thought about linking to the post which tells that story, but since it wasn't one of my best moments, I'll just leave it to your imagination.  If you are terribly curious, go ahead and look for it.  Good luck.

Thankfully there were no fires during our visit to their house.  And it was wonderful to catch up.




In California, we don't have pools that look out over cornfields.  It was pretty cool.


Meet Me in St. Louis

First of all, as a side note, the title of my previous post came from Field of Dreams.  Really?  You didn't get that?  If you haven't seen it, you either are younger than me, not American....or maybe you just have really great taste in movies.  After all, I'm not really sure why a movie about a baseball field in a Iowa cornfield was so popular.

Ahem.
Anyway.

Onward to Missouri.

In St. Louis, we met with Ed and Janet, wonderful friends who date back all the way to my first trip to Tanzania in 1998, when they hosted the short-term team I was on.  They've been encouragers and cheerleaders for us ever since.


We got to spend a whole day being tourists in St. Louis, visiting Grant's Farm (as in Ulysses S. Grant), the Arch ("Gateway to the West"), and the Zoo.  








at the top of the Arch (over 600 feet), which you get to by riding in a very tiny little claustrophobic capsule.   They only give you a few minutes at the top, but I was totally fine with that!   

 Mississippi River




Saturday, August 24, 2013

Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa.

Unfortunately we were not anywhere near the Field of Dreams.  (Gil checked.....because, of course, I really wanted to see a baseball diamond in a corn field.) (Umm...that was sarcasm.)


But what we did see was a whole lot better....our wonderful friends, Peter and Becca and their kids.


We've known Peter and Becca since our college days, when Becca and I lived in #9.  In fact, the prank war that I mentioned in that post?  Peter was one of those guys.  

Later, we both joined the same mission, but went to totally different parts of the world.  Now they are in Iowa.  We hadn't seen them in 8 years.  Feeds the soul to spend time with old friends.  The amazing corn on the cob helped too.  





Sunday, August 18, 2013

Colorado

I met Melodie in first grade.


We were the only two white girls in the class (I am on the far left).

Melodie and me in second grade sewing class

I had not seen Melodie since our freshman year of high school.  But we've stayed in touch, as MK's often do.  We have millions of shared memories that only other ELWA kids can relate to.

So it was very special to see Melodie again and to meet her family.



At the Y with Melodie's kids.  Shoot...I want a Y too.


We also got to visit with a wonderful mentor from my college days, Marlene.  Marlene taught me so much about ministry and is partially responsible for who I am today.  


Another family to visit in Colorado was of a high school friend, Maria.
1993
(Please nobody kill me for posting this picture!)
Junior girls from our high school youth group.  I'm in the front and Maria in the back.

 And that's us yesterday.


Our last stop in Colorado was in a little town near the border of Nebraska, to visit our friend Eileen.  We've known Eileen since she was a little girl, and 8 years ago, she was on the very first team we hosted in Tanzania to put on our very first Youth Camp.   


Eileen gave the kids each their own horse back riding lesson, and the kids were super excited to meet a real live Cowgirl!





Colorado was significantly more interesting than the previous states....partly because it is far more beautiful, but also because the company was wonderful!