Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cries of An Orphan

(The title of this post will not make sense until you read what Justin writes. Just a warning, when you get to his part you might want to have a tissue handy).

It has been overwhelming to see God at work in all of this. I KNEW He would provide and it's amazing to see how the pieces are starting to form together. Yesterday Justin and I had our fingerprinting done in South Carolina. One step closer. Our DRC consultant called and told us to send our dossier paperwork even though we still have not received i600a approval. We came home to an email that stated our lawyer in DRC already has the boys' abandonment paperwork, commune approval, and birth certificate judgement! We were super excited! Things are moving faster (and more smoothly) than we anticipated over there. We should get updates (and new pictures!!!!) soon. Now we are waiting on the United States government to send our i600a approval and fingerprint results. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of the waiting game.

Now for more "only God" stories. The past week I received a Facebook message from a friend who I have not seen in a long time. She and her husband moved up north and we stay in contact through Facebook. Her message stated that she had something coming our way. Justin said, "she's probably sending a check in the mail." I decided to check our adoption accounts anyway. In our paypal account there was a deposit for $1,500. I was taken back. I immediately sent her a message to make sure the amount was correct and she didn't accidentally type in a few extra 0's. She told me that the amount was correct and she and her husband wanted to give us the money from their tithes while her husband was waiting to find another job. Her husband doesn't have a job right now. My emotions were full. The faith of this family were remarkable to me. They trusted God enough to keep on giving even when their resources have been limited. . .  and even cut short.  In an instant, there was almost half of the $3,500 that we needed to wire to the Congo.

The story gets better. . .

Tuesday night we had a fundraiser. It had been rescheduled so I was anxious to see if we would have a good turnout or not. The total from the fundraiser. . . right at $2,000. Within a week and a half God provided the $3,500 we needed to wire to the Congo. I sent the money to our lawyer today. Since we have started the adoption in September we have paid around $12,000 to date. There has not been one instance where we did not get the money someway somehow. We could have not done it on our own.  I am taken back at how friends, family, and people we don't even know have joined in raising the money. We don't deserve it. We don't deserve their time, money, or efforts with this endeavor that we have taken on but they do it anyway. Thank you.

Canaan and Neema will probably be moved to foster care within the next week or 2! Hooray! Please pray that they are receiving care physically and medically.  My heart aches to be with them, to comfort them, to change their dirty diapers and clothes, and to love on them. Also, please pray specifically that our paperwork will be processed quickly and smoothly so that we can go get them sooner than expected! 


One generation shall commend your works to another, 
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Psalm 145: 4-9

Now for Justin:

Since this is my first post let me take a minute to thank all of you for your overwhelming support.  This is definitely a journey of "unexpected" and "how in the world are we gonna make this happen" moments.  Through the faithfulness of God and His people we have been given the privilege to take part in some pretty amazing things. I know these coming days will be filled with more moments to trust that faithfulness than I even care to think about.  But with that said, this is becoming a journey where God is teaching me more about myself than ever expected.  

Just the other night Alana and I were given a few moments to share with the one person who really planted a heart for the Congo in our lives.  She shared a specific part of her adoption story with us, and in doing so brought into light just how much my adoption  mirrored the one of my future sons.  

You see, most orphans don't cry like normal babies.  They don't cry like us because no one comes to them like us.   No one to cuddle, no one to cradle, and no one to sooth the  needs of an infant who has no way of comforting themselves.  But comforting themselves is exactly what they must do.  Instead of crying they begin communicating.  Communicating with each other in the darkness of a lonely orphanage.  As they lay down at night, to break the defining silence, their small voices begin to moan.  One at a time their moans fill the emptiness in search of comfort from one another.  Each baby echoing the other just to know there is someone there.  Orphans learn to self sooth because they know there's something they need, but they're totally unaware of what that is. Crying is so foreign to them because nurture is so foreign.  

It's mind blowing and a bit overwhelming to think I have the opportunity to teach my sons to cry.  Not just to cry for the sake of tears, but because they know someone is waiting to hear.   To know they are thousands of miles away and they have no idea how good it will feel to be held in the arms of a mom and dad who really want nothing more than to love them is beyond their capacity to comprehend.  I don't even think I fully understand it yet.  What's even more amazing is they have done nothing to merit that love.  No task, no words, not one thing have they contributed to make me love them.  Yet I would already risk everything to let them know their worth.  

It's not often in life something mirrors so succinctly the beauty of what Christ has done for us.  To know my state of worthlessness is to magnify the gospel beyond my own comprehension.  I, along with the rest of the world, was completely satisfied with a self soothing crib that turned out to be nothing more than mere illusion.  Just like my sons I had nothing to contribute.  God loved me merely because he chose to.  Knowing we are given the opportunity to mirror the gospel through adoption should press our hearts toward this purpose.  What better banner for the church to wave than that of teaching those with no cry how to find purpose in the cries they were meant to have.  May they know we are united by comfort and purpose through those same cries only because a gracious God has granted us with that gift.  

                                                       John 15:16-17
16 You did not choose me, but zI chose you and appointed you that you should go and abear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that bwhatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you,cso that you will love one another.

With much Thanks 
Justin and Alana

Saturday, January 19, 2013

More Than a Statistic

For the Update:
We are getting fingerprinted January 23rd! We also owe another $3,500, yuck. Our lawyer in the Congo is continuing to work hard on moving our process along and our adoption advisor said that we could expect to travel around July or August...which we hope will be sooner, God willing.

The beautiful snow that came on Thursday provided me with a wonderful four day weekend! It also gave me the opportunity for some quiet time in the house. At night I often wander if our boys are being taken care of. Are their diapers being changed? Does someone come to them if they are crying or hungry? Justin said I can't think about those things because at this moment there is nothing I can do about it. He's right, but now that we have names and faces I can't

There are statistics that surround everything. Statistics about marriages, divorce, rate of poverty, abortion, orphans, deaths... the list goes on. Why do these numbers not mean anything to people? Is it because we don't care? Is it because the numbers are too great and we feel helpless? Or is it because we are too consumed with OUR needs, OUR wants, and what consumes OUR life. Perspectives change when you see a face that is one of those numbers. Our boys are two of the 147 MILLION orphans in the world. They are two out of the 5 MILLION in DR Congo. Every number has a face. Every number is a life. 

I've heard many people say that if there was a God who loved us then there wouldn't be innocent lives being lost. If God loves His creation then why does He let people die just because they don't have clean water? Why is there poverty? Why do half of the children in Congo die before they reach their 5th birthday? Because His plan is US. He chose to use His church to redeem creation. I'm convinced that too many of us sit back, play on our iPhones while we watch cable tv, and sit in the luxury of our homes while we hear those numbers and choose to ignore them. I am convinced that Christians could radically change the world if we lived the way Christ has truly called us to live. He didn't call us to comfort. He didn't call us to an easy life. He didn't call us to safety. He calls us to a life changing pursuit of Him. And in that, we make His name known and glorified. How do we do that? In every way we can. No excuses. I'm tired of excuses. I'm tired of people patting me on the back and saying "that's great that God has called you to do that." No. He's called ALL of us to that.  For you, it may not be adoption, but He has called us to something that is greater than what we are capable of on our own. 

When Justin was a youth pastor he challenged the youth to memorize these verses in James and they have always stuck with me:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)

I do not want to be just a "hearer" of God's Word and of those statistics. I want to be a "doer." I can't save all 147 million orphans but I can save 2. I can't help everyone in poverty but I can help some. I think we should heed the words of Mother Teresa who said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one." 

There is no way that Justin and I could financially adopt. That is why it's so beautiful that God is providing it the entire way. As stressful as it is, He gets the glory in the end instead of us. God is so much bigger than ourselves. Money is no limit for Him because He has none. We praise you Lord for providing the way even when can't see now how you will.

So what will you do? What's the difference you are going to make? I promise you won't ever regret being a doer of the Word instead of just a hearer. 

"He who calls you is faithful, he will surely do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The journey started here...

We always knew we wanted to adopt. It was something we talked about before we were even married. I had a heart for Africa then and I don't know why. My feet hadn't even touched ground there. Maybe it was the country. Maybe it was my desire to travel. Maybe it was God already beginning a work that I would have no idea about until years later.

Fall of 2011 our church gave us the "ok" to plan a trip to Africa. After talking to some friends, we knew that we were to go to Sanyati in Zimbabwe, Africa to help rebuild a hospital, and a community. So we planned and fundraised. God provided my husband, brother (in law), and me with over $9,000 in just a few months. I still can't figure out where all the money came from. I just know it was God. The country and people were more beautiful than I ever imagined. The work was hard but the experience was wonderful. When I left, I knew it wasn't goodbye. I knew I would be back.

We returned home and tried to get back to normal "American" life. I couldn't get back to normal. Something in my heart was not content. In July 2012 I taught JumpStart Kindergarten at Alpha Primary. We were able to meet our new kindergarten students and help them get ready for school that began in August. That is when I met a special little boy. I immediately asked him where he was from. He had a sparkle in his eye that was familiar. I asked, "are you from here?" He said, "No! I'm from Ethiopia." I immediately talked to his mother, Chrissy after school that day. She briefly told me of his adoption journey and how they were adopting another child from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She told me there were waiting children in DR Congo. My heart immediately ached. I went straight home and researched DRCongo. I found out that there are 147 million orphans in the world and 5 million in the Congo. Almost half of children there do not live to see their 5th birthday. I knew God had placed Chrissy in my path and I knew Justin and I were about to take a huge leap of faith.

Justin and I had just bought a house which we are completely renovating so our funds are pretty (extremely) low. I knew at the same time that the God I serve can close the mouths of lions and hold back raging waters of the Red Sea can provide a way for us. We may have limitations, but the God I serve does not. I began reading the Word to make sure this was what He wanted for us and it wasn't just my discontent heart. It finally clicked. Why would God not want us to adopt? He calls us to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27) and defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9). I knew it was time. 

We started the adoption journey at the end of August 2012. Our kitchen remodel held us back in the home study process because we completely gutted it out. We decided to go with an independent agency, which God completely directed. After the long process and looking over all of the expenses we decided it would be cheaper in the long haul if we adopted two now instead of doing two separate adoptions. I emailed Amy True with DRC Services to let her know. When we finally got the home study completed we sent it off to DRC Services and sent the i600a with the money we got for Christmas. The last week in December Amy True (from DRC Services) called and asked if we would be interested in a little boy that was 12 months. My heart leaped and I immediately said yes and that we would really like to have two. She said that she would email the lawyer in DRC and would hopefully get back to us by Friday (January 4th). 

School had started back on Thursday, so on Friday I checked my email every free chance I got. Nothing. My heart sank a little as I anticipated a picture. Maybe I was expecting too soon. After all, we hadn't even got appointments for fingerprinting yet. Sunday morning I got up early before church and check my email. There it was! The subject said, "Carroll Family 1st Referral." I opened it to see the most beautiful 2 1/2 year old that my eyes had ever seen! Dieu Merci Bisala was his name. His eyes were soft and looked unsure in the picture. I was in love already. I grabbed the laptop and ran upstairs to wake up Justin. It was hard to contain all of the excitement. We weren't sure if we should announce the news since we had not officially "accepted" his referral. When we came home from church there was another email...."Carroll Family 2nd referral." I opened it and I met my second son, Neema who was 12 months. In the picture he was sitting on the ground in a dirty white onesy. Absolutely beautiful. 

Later that night Amy called and asked if we could sign the contract for our lawyer and wire $7,000 the following day. $7,000???? I laughed at the thought of having that much money on hand. I told her we didn't have it and there was no way we could do that. I felt tears fill my eyes. She said if we could get her at least $3,500 then she could start the process. I didn't want to lose these boys. I had already fallen in love with them. I knew they were meant to be ours. Through God's provision some very close friends of ours let us borrow the $3,500 that we needed. Who does that? People of faith, that's who. I am forever grateful for friends and family who continue to help us when we do not deserve any of it.

So here we are. Our journey to get Dieu Merci (new name will be Canaan) and Neema into our arms. We have $35,000 to raise which seems impossible to raise by this summer, but I know He will make a way. I am anxious and somewhat fearful to imagine how we can possibly get this money. I trust that our Father has a perfect plan and He is sovereign over all. 

"All nations whom You have made shall come 
and they shall glorify Your name.
For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.
Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify your name forever."
Psalms 86: 9-12

May this be our prayer today and every day.  Justin and I covet your prayers. Please pray for Canaan and Neema and their health and safety. The Congo is an unhealthy and often dangerous place. My heart aches to be with them and hold them in my arms. Pray for us that God continues to mold us into the parents He desires us to be. And pray that He will provide a way financially for us to get these boys home to us.