Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ava Update

Well our family has adjusted to having a baby around. All the kids are very proud of her and love showing her off. She's a very good baby and just a joy to have. Elizabeth and Kim are going to have a difficult time giving her back when that time comes. Tomorrow we get to meet the adoptive couple. They seem very nice and will be joining us for dinner. And on Friday Kim's driving back to our agencies office and will get to meet the biological mother. Continue to pray she stays the course and gives up Ava for adoption. The adoptive couple has had their heart broken 4 times previously - being referred for a baby, only to have the mom change her mind. But wish you all could see Ava - she's a gem!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ava Has Arrived - Part 2

For the benefit of those of you who don't know, Kim and I foster with ECFA (Evangelical Child and Family Agency - see our links). It is an adoption placement agency that provides support and counseling for pregnant mothers, but also places children into adoptive homes. We have been foster parents for 9 years, but because our own family is still growing, we've only been available to foster when we didn't already have infants of our own. Because of our relationship already with ECFA, they did our home study for our current adoption with AoH. So each child that we get already has been placed with an adoptive couple. Since it is a domestic adoption, we provide foster care for these children until the legal side of things is taken care of. Up until that point a biological mother can change her mind. Depending on the county for which the adoption is taking place and the backlog of cases going through their court, there is some variation in the duration that we will foster. But ideally this is 6 weeks. Our worse case scenerio was 5 months - but that was extreme. Most have been 8 weeks or less. ECFA does an excellent job ministering to these women and adoptive couples, so it's been a complete blessing and privelege to work with them.

Ava Has Arrived

Our little foster daughter has arrived safe and sound this afternoon, but unfortunately due to legal constraints, we can not post any pictures of her. Perhaps after she is adopted and with the permission of her adoptive parents, we may be able to, but until then, if you'd like to see her, you'll have to come visit us. She is absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way. It seems like it's been a long time since an infant was in our home (over 4 years) so our kids are very fascinated with her. Even baby poo-poo seems to be a novelty. But it will be a blessing to be distracted with her as we wrap up the home stretch of our own adoption.

The Blessing of Hope

We attended the funeral of an 11 yr old boy this weekend. It turns out he's just 2 days younger than Joshua. And as funerals have a way of doing (at least for me) they make you reflect and evaluate your life a bit. Because this boy was so close in age to Joshua, my heart greived at the thought of losing him. Losing any of our children would leave such a hole, because they have become such an intregral part of our family that our family would be incomplete without any one of them. Ironically, Joshua has been staying with his grandparents since the funeral, so we've been able to experience what our family would be like without him - and I really miss him. But what I really wanted to share was that in death, our Hope is the resurrection. Joshua even asked about this boy "Did he know Jesus?". And I said, "I don't know but God does", but the assurance I have, is that Joshua does, and our goal in raising each of our children is to point them to Christ. To raise them in the knowledge and instruction of the Lord. I was reminded of a great verse..

"The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life. " 1 John 5:10-13

So although the loss would be great, we cling to the hope that this life is not all there is and one day we would reunite with them in the presence of our God.

Hope is such an incredible blessing. Similarly, the AoH orphanage is a refuge of hope. The children that make it inside those walls have hope. They have hope of being fed and cared for, the hope of a forever family, and the hope of a future that is bright. Outside those walls is a lot of despair. So I'm excited to be a part of God's instrument of hope for Josiah and Gabriella and just wanted to share that blessing with you.

On a side note, Kim and I are the proud foster parents of a little baby girl named Ava born Saturday. We bring her home today so I will post some pictures tonight. But please remember her birth mom in your prayers. She has brought much joy to an adoptive couple who has been praying for a child, but please pray God would give her peace and comfort surrounding her decision to give up her child for adoption.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cheeseheads of the World Unite

The boys and I had the opportunity to go to the Packer game tonight. Even though we lost 21-13, we had a great time together screaming and cheering and just enjoying the atmosphere of Lambeau Field. I couldn't help but thinking that some day I would be there making memories with Josiah. In time, when he's ready, we'll be able to enjoy the camaraderie of cheering for our favorite team together.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Each Day is a Blessing

I was reminded again this week how precious life is that it is too short to get upset over spilled milk or scratches on the van. Old friends from a former church lost their son this past weekend in an accident. The boy was only 11 years old, the same age as our Joshua. They had adopted him because there were unable to conceive on their own, yet during the early stages of their adoption, they became pregnant and so their boys were only 6 months apart. Caleb and Joshua are 18 months apart, but I know how close they are and how very difficult that would be on the other were such a tragedy to strike our family. Yet Job experienced even greater loss and yet in Job 1:21 he stated "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD". These children we are adopting, though not flesh of our flesh or bone of our bone, are being grafted into our hearts. And though we've committed this whole process to God, their care and their well-being, they are emotionally a part of our family. Anything other then us bringing them home to grow and nurture and teach would be a great loss for us. Yet again I say - if the Lord wills...

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." James 4:13-15

So I'll squeeze my kids extra hard tonight when I tuck them in, and Thank God for the Blessing of Today. And I also thank him for this journey we are on known as "Adoption". It's taught me a lot about trust and patience. God is able to all these things and so much more, if we will just trust him.

Friday, August 17, 2007

New Pictures of Our Children

We received a quick update today on our children.

Boimah (Josiah) had a great time at the Independence day party last month and it turns out he's a great dancer! (must take after his dad) Boimah is very outgoing and emotional (must take after his mom - at least the emotional part). He thinks crying is a good way to deal with anything he doesn't like. Kimberly (Gabriella) is quiet and even tempered. She has a very matter of fact attitude towards life. She hardly ever cries.

Check out the pictures below of Josiah dancing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God is Faithful

We give thanks to God tonight for his grace and faithfulness. Patty Anglin, the Executive Director of AoH met with the new Consular at the US Embassy in Liberia, and the report from her visit is attached below. We are still not quite sure how the changes will affect our process in bringing home Josiah and Gabriella, but I am hopeful that we'll still have them home by Christmas. Ultimately we trust in God's timing for all that, and we will continue to faithful with what he has entrusted us with.

I know you all have been anxiously awaiting news about my meeting with the Embassy today. I am happy to report that our discussions were positive and the Consulate took several suggestions I made about making the process perhaps a little less stressful. She acknowledged the unfortunate families who have been caught in this new transition and express that she hoped not too many more families would be in this position. One of the concerns shared was the increase in adoptions and why that was happening. My explanation was simply.........20 years ago before the war Liberia was a peaceful and relatively prosperous nation and with the African culture that supports extended families caring for each other, adoption was a rare occurrence. Then with the many years of war the nation was left with thousands of orphans. NGO's and Organization like our saw the need to respond. Now while the orphans may be for the most part semi orphaned or children with single mothers, the need for these children to find loving forever families is just as great. The war left poverty at such a all time high, that extended families in many cases are no longer able to care for the vulnerable children. I had the opportunity to share what Acres of Hope was all about and the many programs we have that are serving the children of Liberia. That we are committed to serving all the children of Liberia. In the big scene of things only a few will be lucky enough to find the loving arms of adoptive parents, but because of those few.......... thousands of others will be served in Liberia. They were impressed with the humanitarian outreach Acres of Hope and that was a real plus. The Consulate was quite socked to see the 22 page album that we put together just showing our special needs miracles. She assured me she would consider the needs of some of the most fragile children and applauded Acres of Hope in meeting the needs of this special group of children. After discussions of the latest venture my staff had to make driving 200 miles on terrible roads with life-threatening conditions, crossing bridges washed out by the rains and needing to be re-built, I informed the Consulate I would not ever put my staff in that position again and that her request certainly appeared as if she was trying to put blockades in the process. Again she assured me her intentions were not to stop adoptions. At that point I suggested we pre-approve the children for visa at the beginning of the adoption process at the time the parent signs the relinquishment. That way the investigation should not be so involved as the part of verifying the orphan status would already be complete. She agreed to this. So what does this all mean?There will be a new order to adoptions that would include a pre-approve of the orphan for adoption by the Embassy much like the I 600A is for the adoptive parent. This should ilimenate the fear that at the end something could go wrong. Time wise.........well that is still yet to be known, but I truely believe that this will improve what has already been in place and probably cut the process down in the end. We also discussed that it was necessary to allow processing to be 2 days per week with Thursdays being the day to drop off papers and schedule appointment. The result will be much more order, still the same amount of time, but with some strick guidelines. In conclusion, our new Consulate is very willing to work with us to improve the system. She encouraged me to meet with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to discuss all these issues and concerns I have in educating others in the country on adoption including NGO not in favor of adoption. I gave her a stack of information on articles you all were so good to research and I know she will have lots of reading materials and hopefully learn alot.All in all it was a positive and productive meeting and I went away with good feeling realizing that changes are always hard and take time to get use to, but in this case I am convinced it is for the better. Too many agencies have done short cuts or been dishonest and this is what has caused the issues we are dealing with now. Acres of Hope is committed to setting the standards for how adoptions should be and with all of your help I believe the Lord will bless our efforts.Thanks you all for your many prayers and patience through this growing experience. I want all of you to know I personally along with our wonderful staff are here to do everything in our power to remain a voice for the children and support to you as adoptive families. THREE CHEERS FOR YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *Note: I will give each of your children a big hug and kiss !Blessings, Patty Anglin, Exective Director Acres of Hope

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Discouraging News

Friends and Family,

We received discouraging news coming out of Liberia on Friday regarding adoptions from Liberia. We will need your help in writing letters to Senators/Congressmen to help us get the word out. I will get you information in the next couple days if you are interested. But for now I'll just share the e-mail we received.

The consular is requiring adoption agencys to make an appointment for a pre-visa interview. That can only be done on a certain day and only for a couple hours that day.After the petition has been filed; the consular requires 3 weekss to conduct a mandatory I-604- Determination on Child for Adoption. Due to security concerns; the consular staff is requiring that agencys Bring in the relinguishing birth parent for an interview with the consular. Families within the city will be required to come in as well. Furthermore DNA testing will be required for all cases which consular staff cannot determine parentage by interview. Adoption providers can drop off documents pertaining to adoptions on Thursdays from 2-4:00pm. Adoptive parents should not schedule return flights to the U.S. until the consular provides the date a visa will be issued. Parents cannot meet with the consular unless they have a visa interview which can only be thursdays from 2-4.The embassy gets its directions from the state dept. in Washington. They dont want to stop adoptions. They just want to slow them down to such a point that parents will be discouraged and not adopt from this country. They are now considering requiring parents to stay in country for a month. If the agency cannot locate the parent to your child; then they will not issue a visa. Parents need to be Very concerned and get involved now. We need families to write letters. Use statistics. Child Institutional care is not what is best for kids no matter what country. They want the kids to be kept here ( what kind of culture is an orphanage?) yet we just read last week how they are closing orphanages and returning kids to parents who cannot care for them. Letters need to be written reminding the state dept of the Geneva convention- a child's right to be adopted. This goes far beyond clothes, food, medicine, and education for kids. Institutional care is not the answer. Patty is making plans to go to the embassy early next week with other people. She needs your help. She needs as much as we can find on research/statistics/studies/ proof - what happens to children raised in institutions. What has happend to the kids growing up this way in other countries where they have closed adoption./ We should be flooding Patty with as much information as possible to take with her. We need doctors reports, psychologist, and the like imput on this. We know that 70% of kids in private foster care in the U.S, alone end up in prison. And that is in the U.S.! what is this doing to the children in Liberia? Realize that this affects everyone adopting. No one is left out. This will cause the cost of adoptions to rise again as it will take so much more longer for the kids to come home. Families whos kids are home- take action. Dont think that because your children are home you can breathe a sigh a relief. You have an obligation to get involved for your adopted childrens sake. This is their home country and many more children need your help. My 2 cents- UNICEF is a driving force. They fund the social services department of Liberia. They are convincing them that adoption is big business and all these kids are going to leave the country.I hope this stirs everyone into action.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Put One Foot In Front of the Other

We received exciting news last night that Gabriella is standing on her own now and is very close to taking her first steps. How exciting that would be to be able to cheer her on to her first steps. The really great news about all this is that she is healthy and gaining strength, and doing all the things a normal toddler her age would do. We look forward to chasing her active legs all around our home.

P.S. If you have 6 minutes, watch the following video titled 99 Balloons. We found it from another adoptive parent's blog. It really speaks to heart of why we are adopting, because each life that God creates is precious. Take a moment to squeeze those you love and celebrate the blessing of today!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Happy Birthday Josiah

Josiah turned 3 today. We sent the orphanage some beach balls, and balloons, so we trust he had some fun today. We also look forward to next year when we can celebrate with him. Please remember him in your prayers today!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Festival of Hope

We were privileged to attend the "Festival of Hope" this weekend at the Acres of Hope campus in Mason, Wisconsin. It was awesome to see so many adoptive families who have their children home and are where we want to be. They brought in some Liberian drummers and it was just a great celebration.
Kim and I bought a drum while we were there, because we didn't want to have to carry one of those home all the way from Liberia. Besides every child at the orphanage learns how to play one, so it will be something familiar for Josiah and Gabriella when they get "home" to Wisconsin. I got to talk at length with one couple who picked up their 3 children in late May. It was so cool to see how well their children have attached to them in a relatively short time period. They have 3 grown children and adopted 3 siblings under 6 (their daughter Siah is pictured above eating a cracker). One of the workers from the orphanage in Liberia shared "his story" of how he came to Acres of Hope Liberia, and some of the difficulties he's witnessed living through the Civil War. The stories of families abandoning their children for survival was very difficult to hear. But the orphanage is bringing hope, and the children are the hope. One of my purchases from the African store was a bullet shell made into a cross. You can see from the picture above that in some places bullets litter the countryside. Patty Anglin, the director of AoH, pays youth to pick up the bullet shells, not only to help clean up Liberia but to turn destruction into hope. They make them into crosses (like the one I bought below), angels, and other symbols to help people to remember to pray for Liberia.

At the conclusion of the festival they gathered all the children together for one group picture. It is very important to the Liberian government and to the families of Africa to know that their children are doing well and not being sold into slavery, or abused, or worse. Below are just some of the kids.For every child helped, there are hundreds less fortunate that still need hope. And Patty Anglin's (founder of Acres of Hope pictured above) vision is to see a Pediatric hospital built in Liberia. The adoption ministry is just a small part of what Acres of Hope is doing. So if you'd like to become involved or someone you know has a heart for Africa please check out their website ( ). Wish you could have been there.

P.S. I learned some facts about Liberia this weekend that I did not know previously:

Liberia has a population of 3.5 million, but 1.5 million of them live in the captial of Monrovia which was designed for about 400,000. Most have no water, sewer, or electricity so many families have many children because many will die and they need them to support the family.

The infant mortality rate in Liberia is 130 dead for 1000 live births. That is in the top five in the world. (compare that to the US which is about 5)

Life expectancy in Liberia is 47 (compare that to the US which is about 78)

80% of the people are unemployed and thus below the poverty level. (compare that to the US which is about 5%)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Up in the North Woods

Greetings from Ashland, Wisconsin. We are at the Hotel Chequamegon ( ) in town to attend the "Festival of Hope" tomorrow. Our agency holds a festival once a year to celebrate Liberian style and to help network families who have or who are in the process (like us) of adopting from Liberia. They will have Liberian drummers, hay rides, and an African store where we can buy items from Liberia, as well as an auction. We visited Copper Falls State Park and enjoyed a beautiful sunset after dinner. On a side note, we received a call today that we may receive a foster baby this week. But we've received many of those in the past that have never come to pass, but if the Lord wills, we may receive some early diaper re-training for our Liberian children.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Please Pray

We received some discouraging news yesterday that we would appreciate your prayers regarding. Here is the excerpt from an e-mail we received:

"The new consular at the US Embassy in Liberia is an African American Women who has decided it is her mission to Slow Down Adoptions. She said there have been too many complaints about it so that is her solution to it. I know that there has been numerous problems with other agencies. I asked why they didnt reconsider AOH as there has been no complaints about them and our staff there said that she is lumping all adoption agencies together. She didnt care. Charles who handles the visa processing for families said that she will not just let them come in on a Thursday and process a visa either. If you dont have an appointment; she wont allow you in the door even. She will no longer except emails from our agency or parent agencies, or even the INS of your state about your I-600 approval. She will only accept the cable sent by the National Visa Center as proof that you have I-600 approval. (this is for traveling families) She has a 2yr term in this position.This person is in MUCH need of prayer. She needs her heart softened dramatically. And she must not be used as a tool to prevent adoptions of children who are in much need of families. Lift her up in your prayers. "

I was reminded in church this past weekend that God ultimately is in control, and there is nothing we change by worrying or that this person can do to deter God's plan with regard to Josiah and Gabriella. So we will continue to wait, and trust, and to pray. Thanks for joining with us!