Long Story Long

13439066_10154402111504924_7613413241035874780_nSo, Long Story Long …

I have always had a heart for international missions. As a nine year old I was planning to serve as a missionary, with my cousin Deborah, to India. In college my heart was set on serving as a missionary in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. Even as recently as last year, we thought God might be calling us to Slovenia or Germany as missionaries. And yet God has placed us in Alabama – not at all where we thought we would end up. Once we got to Alabama, we plugged into our church and they had a local mission’s trip that we signed up for as a family. It was a mission’s trip, 2 hours away, to Bridges of Faith. Bridges of Faith (BOF) hosts ten Ukrainian orphans for four weeks, three times a year. BOF serves as a cultural exchange program, introducing the children to American culture. At the heart of BOF is a desire to show the children that they are loved and valued, to show them healthy family exchanges, and to introduce them to Christ and His Gospel. BOF is not – I repeat – NOT an adoption agency; however, there is an undercurrent of prayers that as the children interact with volunteers, they will meet their forever families. So right in our own back yard, God opened wide the doors for us to participate in international missions – in Alabama!

We came to Bridges of Faith (BOF) for a two weekend mission trip with our church. The first weekend we were there to help prepare the camp for the children’s arrival. This is when God started breaking down our walls and swooped in with the truth of His heart – we MUST care for orphans. We felt SUCH a draw to BOF and knew our lives would never be the same. No longer were we content to serve in church as usual – God had completely set our focus and heart on serving orphans. Seeing how BOF welcomes every single volunteer with all their talents and their trials, seeing how they have no stars but the orphans and Christ, seeing how our whole family had a valuable place of service – our minds were completely blown. We have been a family committed to ministry since day one of our marriage, knowing God is calling us to full-time service upon Daniel’s retirement from the military. We are both college students, committed to achieving our Masters of Divinity to extend our reach and our understanding. Though we have moved frequently with the military, God has been faithful to give us opportunities to serve Him wherever we end up. All that to say – we have never been a part of a more incredible ministry than Bridges of Faith and serving orphans. This is our new calling, our new passion, our new destiny.

We were so completely enthralled with the ministry that we could not wait till the following weekend to meet the children, we came back that Monday! We spend the entire day with the children – and we felt the call. Ours would not only be a journey of serving orphans, but one of directly rescuing them and making them our own. A sibling group. There was a sibling group of three, which we would later learn has a younger brother who was too young to make the trip. I knew in my heart they were not likely to be adopted as a large sibling group and wondered if God would have us bring them into our family – as with six kids of our own, we are not intimidated by a large family.

Then it happened. The moment was right before us. The youngest girl of the sibling group jumped into Daniel’s arms at the pool and yelled to him, “PAPA!” And I knew we would become her parents. We had already seen how her older brother so tenderly fathered both his sisters … I cannot even describe it … he is such an amazing young man. So even though the sibling group included a teenage boy, seeing his incredible character as he fathers his sisters won my heart. I cannot wait to free him of such a heavy responsibility and just let him be a kid again.

Then it happened again. A teenage girl acted as the mom to the sibling group and she quickly bonded with our little ones. She was SUCH a delight to our whole family, running up to us as soon as we would drive on to the campground. We learned that the statistics for girls who age out of the system is that six out of ten will fall into violent sex trafficking. We knew we had to rescue this beautiful, sweet teenage girl. With her age, she was close to no longer being eligible for international adoption, so she quickly became the urgency in our spirit to get through the adoption process swiftly.

And yet again. A little girl kept swimming up to me in the pool. My heart was closed off to her because we were already pursuing the four (who would actually be five with the younger sibling in Ukraine). But she kept coming up to me – and then it happened. She wiped our baby’s runny nose with her fingers, like only a mama would do. Then later she wiped his spaghetti stained face and kissed his cheek. And then I knew our five would be six.

But this is so crazy, right? Don’t we already have a large family with six biological children? Aren’t we doing enough to please God and feel good about our contribution to this world? I think most Christians would say they have a heart for orphans and may adopt “someday” – but after learning all of the statistics (10 % of children who age out of the system will commit suicide within the first year! Over 10% will end up in prison. There is no program and no future for these children once they age out – they are simply hopeless apart from adoption) – and after meeting these children face to face, having meals with them, going on outings with them, tucking them in bed at night and making them breakfast in the morning as house parents at BOF, we could no longer look away and “someday” became TODAY.

We purchased a spacious house in Alabama a month before the missions trip to BOF, thinking God would have us start a home church and a church plant in our town upon Daniel’s retirement from the military. Turns out God knew we would have 12 children and each one would need space in this house! We are just amazed at how God has been preparing us for this ‘Moses faith journey’ of adoption, even before we ever realized the path.

This is a huge undertaking, one that will require God to move in big ways apart from our own abilities. To adopt one child from Ukraine will cost an average of $30,000. Because we are adopting six children, the additional adoption fees will be $5,000 per additional child. Adopting six children at one time will actually save us $100,000 than if we adopted each child individually. We have set up a gofundme account for those who desire to partner with us and help fund our journey. Daniel has recently posted a finance update on the gofundme site that provides information on the donations and our personal contributions and our further specific financial needs. We will remain transparent in all of the aspects of this adoption process, as we are allowed. We are trusting God to provide all of our needs, as He has always been faithful to provide. Beyond the adoption fees, we are praying for God to provide at 15 passenger van, bedroom furniture for the children (full-sized beds, bedding and dressers), and clothing/shoes for the children.

When we think about the financial, physical and emotional sacrifice that this will require from our whole family, it is easy to second guess our decision. However, when we think about how these children’s lives will be if we do not rescue them – any sacrifice is worth it. We cannot continue to go about our Christian lives as usual and just enjoy our wealth when there are children aging out of the system every two minutes into a future that is grimmer than I can describe. We must act. We must use our time, treasures and talents to care for orphans and widows if we want our faith to matter in this world. The first group to be given the name ‘Christian’ was the church in Antioch that was labeled Christian by the community because of their charity and work in the community. We want to be called Christians not because we have said a prayer and put a sign up in front of a building. We desire to be called Christians because we are doing the work of Christ – caring for the least of these and making a radical difference in the world for His glory.

As Daniel has put it, “knowing that hundreds of people die every year in house fires is one thing, but looking a family in their eyes while they are in a burning building – you cannot just walk away from that, or at least I can’t. When I see a family burning in a building, I hear their voices and their cries – I cannot just get in my car and drive away. I have to do something to rescue them.” And this is the urgency behind our decision to adopt. We have met these children – looked them in their eyes – we see their despair and the light of hope growing dim. It is as though they are in a burning building and we must rescue as many and whomever we have the strength to grab!

We are so grateful that you would take the time to read our heart and support us on this journey. First, we ask for your prayers. This is so completely a Moses faith journey that God has opened our hearts to travel. We know He is the one who will open the doors, provide our needs, and sustain us in the years ahead. Second, we ask that you share-share-share our blog, FB page, and our journey with those in your world. We know God is wanting to show off big through our story – like He’s having us adopt in a big way to show others, if we can adopt six, adopting one doesn’t look so intimidating! This is our hope anyway. Last, we ask that you consider supporting us financially. We are considering various fundraising projects in the weeks ahead – but honestly I am excited to see what God is going to do apart from our efforts. Not everyone is in the position to adopt – but we can all do something. Can you jump somewhere into our journey and be a part of rescuing six Ukrainian orphans? We welcome you to our story.

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