Teens in Action: Blueberry’s Bows


This post has been a long time in the waiting. Allie graciously agreed to write a guest post several months ago, and actually sent this to me soon after I arrived in Texas. Thank you, Allie, for your patience in waiting for me to get this up!


Hello! I’m Allie and am so excited to be sharing how ‘Blueberry’s Bows’ first started. I am sixteen years old, have five awesome sisters, and am a daughter of the one true King!

In August of 2013, I sat there and stared at the computer screen. I look at her face. Her big brown eyes jumped out at me. She wasn’t smiling and deep down I could tell she was longing for a family. Longing to be loved and treasured. Longing for someone to know her name. This is my sister Rosie. Abandon at five days old with a severe heart defect, Rosie was sent to the nearest orphanage in Zhongshan City, China. There she spent the first five years of her life. She suffered from lack of oxygen and had no intervention for her heart. We saw her picture and knew she was meant to be ours. So we began the paper chase. For the next six months we prayed and prayed and prayed. Each day her heart continued to grow worse. Finally on February 24, 2014 Rosie was officially ours. It was such a beautiful day!

We arrived home on my parents’ anniversary and began our lives as a family of six. Rosie fit in wonderfully and it was as if she had always been here. Her joyful smile and contagious spirit filled our house with many days of fun. On April 25, 2014, Rosie underwent heart surgery. It was a complicated surgery and the next day she started having issues. Rosie was then put on ECHMO (Heart/Lung bypass machine). She spent the next month fighting for her life. But on May 21st, 2014 (the day after her sixth birthday) she gained her angel wings and took her last breath here on this earth. We weren’t there for her first breath and heartbeat but we were there for her last. She didn’t die an orphan, she died as a treasured sister and a daughter. She was so LOVED.


After Rosie became an angel, I knew I wanted to do something to help other orphans like her. The fire had been ignited. So I started a blog. It began as a way to document and share Rosie’s story, but it has blossomed into so much more than that! Then my older sister {Marie} and I got to thinking. While Rosie was so sick in the hospital, she never had clothes on. So Marie and I began to make bows for her hair. It was something simple that would make her look more girly and cute. We then knew what we could do, sell bows and donate the money to orphans. With the money we’ve made from Rosie’s celebration and other events, we’ve been able to sponsor a little girl at New Day Foster Home. It makes my heart happy to see another little girl with complex CHD actually get the care she needs. Marie and I have set up an Etsy shop. I invite you to check it out. Here are some pictures from the bows we currently have for sale. We named our shop Blueberry’s Bows because Rosie’s fingers were always so blue and a nurse nicknamed her ‘Blueberry’. This shop is to honor her legacy by supporting other orphans who are like her.


Because of Rosie, my eyes were opened to see the need of orphans around the world. I now have two more sisters who were also from Rosie’s orphanage. It’s been over a year since Rosie left this earth, but I feel like her legacy continues to grow. As I hear from people who are touched by Rosie, I know this is just the beginning of the story that God is writing. I don’t know all the chapters, but I know that it’s all going to work out for HIS glory. Thank you for taking the time to read our story. I invite you to check out our bows and share them with others.

Beep, Allie



Goers, Senders, and Bringers – Which Are You?

Goers, Senders, and BringersMissionary mail stacks up quickly at my little church. As a member of the missionary committee, one of my jobs is to sort the missionary mail out from the bills. Sometimes it also falls to me to read the mail. Several months ago as I read through the newsletters and personal notes, I came across a brief comment that stuck with me.

Most Christian ministries currently lack two things: long-term workers and adequate financial support.

Since reading that, I’ve thought a lot about the need for senders (those who provide financial support to missionaries) and goers (the people who actually go on the mission field–whether that be in the US or abroad). In the realm of orphan care, there are also bringers (the people who bring orphans into their homes and families).

Each of these roles are of great importance as we try to serve orphans. As members of the body of Christ, each person has a different role that contributes to the overall purpose.

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. –Romans 12:4-5

Which of these roles do you fill or can you see yourself filling?

Right now I’m a sender. I’m not currently in the place to be a bringer, and I’ve only been a goer for a very short missions trip. This blog provides a support role to orphan care, and I love financially supporting orphan care ministries whenever possible. In the future, I could see moving into any of the three roles. Each have their own unique importance.

Does one role appeal to you more than the others? What do you see as the pros and cons of the different roles?

Orphan Care in Times of National Disaster

Orphans & National DisasterOn October 3rd, as the news began to swell with reports on Ebola, I made a post about how Ebola is affecting orphans. I didn’t actually have a lot to say on the subject. I shared the few things I’d learned about the impact of the virus on orphans and reminded you that the yellow journalism that makes up our news can’t be blindly trusted. Despite my unoriginal content, that post has been getting quite a few hits. That’s not really surprising. Everyone is thinking about and therefore Googling Ebola. It’s been interesting to track the search terms that lead people to TIO. Here’s the phrases used today and yesterday:

  • How to adopt an ebola orphan
  • How to adopt african orphans from ebola
  • Children of ebola how to help
  • Ebola orphans adoption
  • Ebola orphans pictures
  • Adopt ebola orphans
  • Ebola orphans
  • Any groups helping ebola orphans

Like I said. The post has been getting quite a few hits. I’m sure that you noticed a trend as you read the search terms listed above. Over the past two weeks, the searches leading to my blogs have increasingly been about adoption. It’s wonderful that people are aware that Ebola orphans need help, but helping during times of upheaval is a delicate process.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that international adoption is near and dear to my heart, but I wrestle with seemingly opposite ethical issues involved in the process. If you follow me elsewhere on social media, you might also know that I’ve been (very) slowly trying to slog my way through The Child Catchers. To be quite frank, I wholeheartedly dislike the book. I disagree with much of what the author has to say and find her manner of presenting her content frequently offensive. However, as I mentioned to my brother this week, she raises some very valid points.

One of the stories shared in that book gave me a lot of food for thought. The author shared how, after the earthquake in Haiti, the US went into a Haitian adoption frenzy. The efforts to airlift orphans out of the country and onto American soil were spearheaded by well-meaning, but often uninformed individuals riding the wave of media attention. Now, sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures. When a situations like the Haitian earthquake or Ebola occur, it’s entirely appropriate to pull out all the stops to save lives and minister to people in need–especially orphans. That wasn’t the part that got me thinking. What did bother me was reading that many children with surviving parents were whisked out of the country without proper documentation. Children whose biological parents still wanted them. Some of those kids were adopted into the US and never returned to the parents who never surrendered them.

My point is, by all means, search for ways to help Ebola orphans. Be persistent about it. Don’t let children suffer and die and go uncared for. But at the same time, learn from the mistakes of the past. When a country is in turmoil, mistakes are easy to make. Mistakes that can permanently sever families and do children more harm than good.

If you’re one of the people coming to this blog after searching, “how to adopt an Ebola orphan,” please keep this in mind. Adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But handled in the wrong way, it can cause a lot of pain and grief. Please, do not grow weary in well doing, but be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove in your quest to help.

What do you think? Have you found any ways to help Ebola orphans? Does your church support a missionary in a country affected by Ebola? Have you learned anything about this “national” disaster or any other disaster that could guide you in helping orphans in an informed way? How has the Ebola scare affected you personally?

Video: I Like Adoption

I found it! Last week I mentioned a video clip that was part of a series my chapel used for adult VBS this year. I couldn’t find it on YouTube, so I shared a different video. Well, yesterday I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and an adoption page I follow shared the video I originally wanted to share with you guys. Check it out!

Video: The Wahl Family Adoption

This past summer, our church did an experiment with an adult VBS program. I was helping with the kids program, so I didn’t see most of the videos shown. However, the week before VBS, we previewed one of the adult lessons. It just so happened that the one we watched featured an incredible story about a family who had adopted several children. As I was trying to come up with an idea for this post, I thought of trying to find and share that story. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it yet, (I’ll let you know if I do.) but I did find this story from Focus on the Family. 


P.S. Not quite sure what a CASA is? The initials stand for Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as a Guardian Ad Litem. You can read more about it here.

DR Congo’s Orphans With Families

Ben DillowThis morning I woke up to find this little guy’s picture in my inbox. That adorable smile makes you want to smile back at him, but I didn’t. The title of the email made me dread to read the words around the picture. The headline read, “Rest In Peace, Ben Dillow.”

Ben Dillow was a five year old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He wasn’t an orphan. In this picture sent out by Both Ends Burning, Ben is holding a picture of his parents. He was legally adopted with approval by both US and Congolese courts. Everything was ready for him to travel to his new home until the Congolese government stopped issuing exit permits.

Last Saturday, Ben was buried in the DRC because his medically fragile condition could not be sufficiently treated in the DRC.

Over the past few months, 350 legally adopted children have continued to wait, living without their families. The situation has caught the attention of lots of people.

I personally have been trying to “not get involved.” With a crazy busy schedule and concerns within my own family as my mom fights cancer, I didn’t want to get sucked into figuring out another political issue concerning orphans. It seems like situations like this are always messy, complicated, and chock full of heavy emotion.

Getting this email today made me jump online and start doing some preliminary digging. The Congolese government claims to be refusing exit permits because of concerns about the health and well-being of previously adopted children. As I’ve stated before, international Adoption is not without problems (read 3 Problems of International Adoption), but whenever I hear about countries closing to adoptions and listen to the arguments of adoption skeptics, my thoughts return to children like Ben Dillow.

If governments are really concerned about the “health and well-being” of children, what about the children like Ben. The kids who are dying because they’re alone. Because the people who love them–or who would love them–are not allowed to reach them. What about the kids who grow up in orphanages and enter adulthood only to die young and continue the vicious cycle of the fatherless.

International adoption might not be the ideal solution for these kids, but until a better system is put in place, why should they be condemned to lives without the hope of a family?

I still don’t understand the details of the politics and reasons surrounding the suspension of exit permits from the DRC. I might not have the time to look into it further. I do know from past research that many situations like these start with a concept that is intended to help kids “in theory.” But all to often the very children supposed to be helped are harmed.

Want to learn more yourself? Read the details on Both Ends Burning, or read personal stories on Blessings & Raindrops and in the post Why I Called the White House Today.

What was your first reaction when you read about Ben? What are your opinions on the current situation in the DRC? What would you like to see happen next? How do you think teens can get involved in this situation?

In closing, I’d like to share this letter Both Ends Burning sent from Ben’s mom.

To Anyone Who Will Listen:

In memory of our son Benjamin Chase Dillow.

I write this letter imploring, pleading, no, begging that my son’s death not be in vain. Benjamin deserved life, he deserved to be united with his family, but was denied that by the senseless suspension of exit permits. He was one of the many critically fragile children that have families waiting helplessly to bring them home.

Benjamin was critically ill but his doctors in the DRC knew and had stated that his health could be greatly improved with more advanced care offered in the US. His story could have been about the life of a young child that was given a chance, a hope of growing up with his brother and sister, a life of birthday parties, and first loves, graduations, memories with his loving family. But instead Ben’s life ended because the DGM failed to see my son as a life. This orphaned boy was not worth the consideration to give him a chance at life. Benjamin’s death should be a warning to the reality of this suspension.

When I look at the eyes of these other critically ill children, I see sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. These children have families that want to give them their home and hearts. We as parents want to hold our children, to comfort them while they are sick. We want to give them the care that they need and deserve, even if it’s only to hold their hand during their last breath. My son passed away on August 4th at Mutumbo Hospital with his care taker by his side.

As my son took his last breaths, he cried for his “Mama”. I cannot tell you the pain of not being by his side; the pain of being helpless to do anything. Please do not let this happen to another child. Give my son’s death meaning! Give these children a chance! Give them life!

Through Tearful Eyes,
Morgan and Grace Dillow

Read the email from Both Ends Burning here.

The Orphan Trains

Orphan Train AdLearning about the orphan trains was one of the experienced sparked my passion for orphans. In case you’re not familiar with them, the orphan trains were the brain child of a New England minister who wanted to help the thousands of destitute children populating eastern cities. He knew that children were valued by western farm families and decided that shipping the children west to be fostered would be mutually beneficial to both the children and the families. His idea caught on and started a practice that lasted from 1854 to 1929.

The movement of orphans in such a way was made possible by the looser laws of the day. Children weren’t as closely monitored and families weren’t closely checked for suitability to foster or adopt. This led to some children falling into negative situations, but it also lead to many children finding suitable families.

It’s a very interesting part of American history to learn about. Especially for a history buff like me. It’s also interesting to compare the days of the orphan trains to modern methods of handling orphans. Many people applaud improvements in the protection system that helps keep foster children out of abusive homes and trafficking situations. Other people condemn practices that make it harder for children to be placed in permanent families.

What do you think? Was the end of the orphan trains a good think that helps protect vulnerable children? Or would it be better to snip away some red tape and make it easier for families to accept “wards of the state” into their homes?

Personally I think the ideal lies somewhere in between. Checks and balances are important to make sure ill-meaning people don’t take advantage of kids, but the processes could definitely use some streamlining.

If you’d like to read more about the orphan trains, check out the Orphan Train Depot. Also, we’re currently celebrating reaching 200 followers on Leah’s Bookshelf (my other blog) by hosting a giveaway of a fictional orphan train story. Check it out and leave a comment for your chance to win.

Baby Will You (a poem)

As I learn about adoption and orphan care, I often try to imagine how I would feel standing in the shoes of various people living through the circumstances that lead to a child being orphaned or adopted. This poem is the result of trying to imagine what a birth mother must think as she chooses adoption for her baby.

Baby Will You

Baby Will You

Baby will you know I love you?
When you hug a different mother.
Will you think of where you grew?
Nine months before you knew another.

Will you miss me as you grow,
The way I miss you here at home?
Will you ever even know?
Your birth mommy loves you so.

Will I ever hold you tight?
The way I did on your birth night.
Will you think I did what’s right?
To help you live a better life.

Will you ever love me back?
Dare I even hope for that?
Will you forgive me what I lacked?
Can we ever sit and chat?

Love the ones who tuck you in,
The ones I chose to raise you up.
They’re the ones who call you kin,
At their family table sup.

But save a place within your heart,
For the girl who gave you life.
For even though we live apart,
I think of you each day and night.

Adoption: An Insiders Look

Adoption An Insider's View

Today’s feature is a guest post from Spencer Rothfuss. Hope you enjoy! 😉


Adoption. When Leah first asked me to do a guest post on TIO about adoption I wasn’t sure what I’d write about. There are many facets to adoption that would each take volumes to cover; everything from the legal requirements of adoption to attachment and bonding with the child you adopt. I guess I’ll start by telling about my experiences with adoption. My family first got involved in adoption in October of 2009. We submitted our application to a local adoption agency for a domestic infant adoption program that was predicted to take 9-12 months; similar to a normal biological pregnancy.

However, my family’s process was unusually, well, dramatic. Our adoption agency went bankrupt and we were moved to a new one a short time after we began and the process stretched on. Finally, in December of 2011, two years later, we received the call; we were matched. The baby we were matched with was a boy and was scheduled to be born by C-Section in about a month; mid-January. Mom and Dad met the birth parents. We were talking about details like his name, his room in our house, and then God decided that the time was now. Just two weeks after we had heard of this precious little boy, and four days after Mom and Dad had met the birth parents, we were at the hospital and Michael Joseph was born on New Year’s Eve, 2011. We spent four days in the hospital and were visited by an average of five grandparents from both families each day. God miraculously provided for us in many ways. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard, truly it was. But if God wants something to happen, and Oh does he want adoption to happen, it will happen and he will be able to accomplish it.

Adoption is truly the full realization and ultimate end result of a pro-life mentality. And just as Jesus came to give life and life in all its fullness, so our enemy is bent on bringing death and removing the beautiful symbol of our adoption into Christ’s family. As Russell D. Moore says in Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches:

“But adoption is contested… The Scriptures tell us there are unseen beings in the air around us who would rather we not think about what it means to be who we are in Christ. These rulers of the age would rather we ignore both the eternal reality and the earthly icon of it. They would rather we find our identity, our inheritance, and our mission according…to what the Bible calls “the flesh” – rather than according to the veiled rhythms of the Spirit of life. That’s why adoption isn’t charity it’s war.”

When we set out to adopt we defy the powers ruling over our fallen world. We roll back the clock to before the fall and bring a little slice of that intimate perfection with God back into our day.

Michael lived and grew with us for about a year and half before we decided we wanted more. We wanted more of this picture of God’s love in our lives, more children in our family. In August of 2013 we started our second adoption process. This time through Lifeline, based out of Alabama, to do an international adoption from China. We were matched with Lucy Joy Haiyan “Sparrow” Rothfuss in January (for those who know about this process, we are now LID and are hoping to get our LOA by the end of September). Lord willing we (or at least some of our family) will travel around October and spend two weeks in country. We are absolutely ecstatic. To stay up to date on our process, please visit our family blog.

Adoption is really a marvelous thing. It has been a great experience for our whole family. Adoption has really changed me. In a good way. It has really given me an appreciation and awareness of something I had only passing knowledge of before. And I got a new brother out of the deal so it was a double win. One of the greatest ways you can contribute to the cause of adoption if you can’t adopt yourself is by doing awareness like this blog. Spreading the word about children who need to be adopted really can make a difference.


A Note From Leah: Learn how you can support the Ruthfuss’ adoption of Lucy Joy Haiyan by visiting their Puzzle Project.

3 Positives of International Adoption

3 Positives of International AdoptionThis post is part of a series on International Adoption. Part One was 3 Problems of International Adoption. The introduction and explanation for the series can be found on that post.

1. A Brighter Future

Children raised in institutions around the world face a grim future. Life without a family does little to prepare and equip them to support themselves. The statistics are grim. In many countries 60% of female orphanage graduates end up in prostitution while 70% of boys become hardened criminals. In Orphan Justice, adoptive dad Johnny Carr relates his thoughts when a friend asked what would have happened to his daughter had she not been adopted.

 If we, or someone else, had not adopted Xiaoli, her future prospects would have been no different than Xiao Quing’s–living on the streets, sleeping wherever she could find a dry spot, unable to communicate, and addicted to drugs. More than likely, Xiaoli would have been trafficked–taken into custody against her own will, her body sold for men’s dirty pleasure over and over and over again.

There are many valid concerns about international adoption. It certainly is not a journey safe for the faint of heart. But when people cite a child’s right to maintain their nationality and remain in their country of birth, I can’t help but think what that will mean for the Xiao Quing’s of the world.

In an ideal world, of course, children would stay in their own culture and maintain their birth language. But are those things really more important than a family? I don’t think so.

2. Not All Negatives Are True

International adoption has come under heavy fire for abuses of the adoption process. Many concerns are valid, but there are also many accusations that are not valid. For example,

Supporters of international adoption are quiet about the children who are not adopted and left behind. —International Adoption Problems, minute 2:45

I can’t speak for secular adoption circles, but I know that Christian adoption advocates are most certainly not quiet about the children left behind. Bethany Christian Services, a large adoption agency, runs a sponsorship program designed to keep poverty-stricken, biological families together. Christian Alliance for Orphans offers webinars about international orphan care ministry, malnutrition in residential care, and how to help orphans aging out of the system alongside webinars about both international and domestic adoption. Adoptive father Johnny Carr wrote an entire book of how to care for orphans beyond adoption.

Another common argument cites the UN Rights of a Child statement that the right to,

…preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.  —Convention on the Rights of a Child, Article 8

I tend to cringe at the mention of the UN Rights of a Child, but even under this statement, international adoption is not a violation of a child’s rights. A child living in an institution has already experienced severed family relations (before adoption entered the equation). Above board, rule following adoptions are not unlawful interference. And an adoptive family moving their child to a new country is no more a human rights violation than a biological family moving from one country to another.

3. Demonstrates God’s Love

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father. —Romans 8:15

This overflow of joy is what makes us desire to protect and care for children in need. We want to do a little bit of what God did for us. When we do, we don’t just preach the gospel–we embody it. We give a picture of the fact that we have been adopted by God and that he takes us on as his children. –Francis Chan in Becoming Home, pg 80

Of course, all adoption does this, but International adoption seems to do it in an especially strong way. We were far, far away from God. We could never reach him on our own strength, but he came and rescued us us anyway. Nationality and patriotism means so much to us now, but as Christians our true homeland is heaven, and our goal–in adoption and otherwise–should be to bring others into that homeland, regardless of their earthly nation of origin.

And he came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. —Ephesians 2:17

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on both the problems and positives of international adoption. There’s so much to think about, and there are certainly more than three points in both direction. What are some that aren’t covered in this two posts?