Advocate & Pray: Kamila

KamilaIt’s been a while since I’ve posted about a Ukrainian child, so I wanted to feature this new face–thirteen-year-old Kamila.  There isn’t very much information listed on Kamila’s profile, but it’s clear that she loves to perform and create.  Please pray with me for the provision of a loving family to care for and support Kamila!

Kamila is listed with A Family for Every Orphan
Ukraine

Kamila has a fun and creative personality. She loves to sing, sew, design clothes, and participate in theatre. Kamila longs for a loving family. Could you pray that she is welcomed into a forever family?

See Kamila’s profile

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Kang’s Heart of Hope

Kang's Heart of HopeLast month, a post on my friend Marli’s blog caught my attention. She shared a post about Timothy, a little boy in China who has both Downs Syndrome and a heart defect. Marli’s post linked through to the original post, written by Hannah “Jiejie,” a young woman who knows and loves Timothy. After reading the post, I contacted Hannah to see if she’d like to post about Timothy here on TIO. She replied that Timothy had received the full funding for his heart surgery, but she would love to post about another little boy. Here’s that post.

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I was chatting with my parents via Skype when my mom told me, “There’s a new little boy at the orphanage. He seems to have a heart defect.”

When you think of orphans and orphanages, maybe the first thing that pops into your mind is a row of cribs filled with babies. This is an accurate picture. But when I think of orphans I see another image; the two, three and four year-olds who are abandoned. These are the children who have known a family, and who have been loved and treasured by their parents, but when the medical needs became too much, or when the heart defect was diagnosed and a life-saving surgery quoted at way more than the family could ever expect to borrow from relatives, hope was abandoned and the children left alone at the orphanage gate.

This is Kang’s story. I know nothing of his birth parents. I know little about why he was abandoned, but I can guess.

Kang is almost three. His lips are blue, his fingertips are blue, he is weak and he is small. He has little strength to do anything. Kang has a very complicated heart defect. I can only image that his parents took him to many doctors and most of them probably said that there was nothing that they could do – only big hospitals in the city have the expertise to do a surgery that would repair Kang’s heart. Maybe they took him to one of the bigger hospitals in the city? Maybe the hospital gave them an estimation of what the surgery would cost. They must have cried-ugly that night as they watched their little boy sleep peacefully without a clue that his parents were about to make a decision that would change his life and his story forever.

Kang_1 Kang was abandoned just a few months ago. He is almost three, y’all, almost three. Think about your own two year-olds. Are they aware that they have a mommy and a daddy? Do they understand that you are there to take care of them and meet their needs? They do! And so imagine what Kang’s little heart must have done when he woke up and found himself away from the family he had known and surrounded by the chaos that is a toddler room in an orphanage. Busy nannies scrambling to meet the needs of dozens of children… crying children who just want to be held… fighting children who have learned how to get their own way… quiet children who know that no one will come.

And so Kang’s broken heart that couldn’t provide his body with the oxygen it needed, broke again.

We worked with the orphanage and they were able to get him taken in to the local hospital for some tests. The doctor said that surgery was necessary, but impossible. We took the results to some of the excellent cardiology hospitals in Beijing, and the surgeons said that surgery could be done. They suggested that they could repair his heart with one major operation, and that it would cost $20,000.

Taking a deep breath we stepped back… wow. That’s a lot of money. We looked at some other hospitals and applied for a government grant. The government rejected Kang’s application, saying that it was too late, he should have had surgery years ago and that there was no hope.

I don’t know about you, but the thing that gets me riled up the most is when somebody says that there is no hope. I think that the hairs on the back of my neck visibly stand on end. And so when the government rejected Kang’s application and refused to fund his surgery because they said he, “has no hope,” I decided that we have to do something.

Yes, it’s true, Kang’s surgery is complex and there is a chance that he will not survive. But do we have the right to make this decision? Do we have the right to choose not to give Kang his only hope of survival? Where do we place our trust?

Kang’s surgery will cost between $16,000 and $20,000 USD. This is a lot of money, but not if we stand together, a little here and a little there. It will add up. Are you willing to take the risk, to give Kang hope? His life is worth it.

Kang_2 (1)

Kang is currently being cared for by Little Flower Project’s baby home in Beijing. His fundraising page is here.

Will you stand with me?

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I hope you didn’t mind the slightly-longer-than-usual post today! If you have time an inclination, I’d really recommend checking out Hannah’s blog, Loving Dangerously. It’s a lot of fun to read through.

If you have any questions for Hannah (or me, of course!) please leave a comment. Comments are always awesome! 😉

Advocate & Pray: Quinn

QuinnThis four-year-old boy has such a cute smile!  Quinn is listed as having a “sensitive special need,” but his learning is on track–he is even getting some one-on-one English lessons.  He is curious and polite, and he loves playing outside, as you can see from his picture!

Quinn is listed with No Hands But Ours
China

Quinn, born May 2010, is adored by everyone because of his sweet smile, chubby face, and polite manners. When he sees a caretaker who has been gone for a few days, he will tell them how he missed them.

A curious child, he wants to learn and explore new things, and asks lots of “Why” questions. He often surprises adults by saying something more mature than his age, such as “How come my teacher is not here yet? Maybe she’s sick? Or is visiting her mother?” Whatever he does, he is completely focused, whether it’s a craft, playing with a toy, or listening to a story.

Read more on Quinn’s profile

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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.

Back to School Sales and Orphans

Back to School Sales and OrphansJuly and August can be great months for teens who want to help out with orphan care ministries. Why? It’s simple. Back to school sales are currently at their peak.

School supplies can be used by a wide variety of ministries that help orphans and underprivileged children. During back to school sales, you can find all sorts of stuff at huge discounts. My personal favorite is the Wal-Mart sale. Clip With Purpose is a great website to keep track of other sales. Last year I got notebooks for 20 cents and boxes of crayons for 25 cents. Most of us don’t have a lot of expendable income, so this is a great way to stretch what we have.

Okay. So you might be wondering how you can use all those school supplies to help orphans. Here are a few ideas.

1. Backpacks for Foster Kids

Those of you who participated in the group read of Orphan Justice may already know about this. Kids often enter the foster system with very few personal belongings. One way individuals and churches can reach out to them is by packing backpacks with toiletries, underwear, coloring supplies, etc. You can stock up on many of these items during the back to school sales.
Read more about this opportunity

2. Shoeboxes for Kids Around the World

This is where the majority of my back to school finds end up. Operation Christmas Child delivers boxes to poverty stricken children around the world. Though this ministry is not specifically targeted at orphans, it definitely impacts them. Plus it’s super easy and lots of fun. If you have questions, feel free to send them my way.
Read how Operation Christmas Children impacted one adoptive family

3. Donate Directly to an Orphanage or Sponsorship Program

This one can be a little tricky because international shipping costs so much. Some ministries have predetermined ways of getting donations overseas. If they don’t it is possible to raise the money to ship a box or carton of supplies. Or you could send your donations with someone going on a missions trip. That’s the route I’ve taken in the past, and this year I got to be on the delivery end of the deal!

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School supplies for our missions trip.

4. Shop for an Adoptive Family

Do you know a family who has adopted or is in the process of adopting? You could always take advantage of the back to school sales to bless them. Ask them for a list or just surprise them. Or, if you don’t have any money, volunteer your time. Maybe you know an adoptive mom who would love to take advantage of the sales but can’t find the time to go shopping.

Do any of these ideas appeal to you? Can you think of any other ways to use back to school sales to bless orphans?

Advocate & Pray: Pamela

PamelaPamela caught my eye because she is about to age out of her program.  According to her profile, she plays piano and loves to be outside, and she says that she wants a warm family who will help her grow.  I’m praying for her to find that family soon, as she gets close to aging out!

Pamela is listed with No Hands But Ours
China

Pamela is 13 years old, listed as special focus with postoperative cleft lip and cleft palate repair, blood WBC slightly elevated; and otherwise healthy. Pamela is said to be a clever, active, and outgoing child, who likes outdoor activity, games, and watching TV. She is helpful to others; she respects older people and is very polite. She is stated to have average grades but her teachers feel she could do much better if she tried harder as she has won several awards at school.

View Pamela’s profile

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Encountering the Fatherless

Encountering the FatherlessHello everyone! The blog has been running without me for the past week and a half, because I was on my very first missions trip. It wasn’t a trip for orphan care (like I expected my first missions trip to be), but it was an awesome experience, and God gave me a huge open door to work with fatherless kids.

Our team’s main purpose was construction, but the area where we were working has a huge problem with fatherlessness. The kids in the village don’t fit the stereotypical image for orphans. Most of them have a parent or grandparents to feed them and give them a place to sleep. They have homes, clothing, and food to eat. As far as I could understand, most of their father’s were absentee, not dead. But for all practical purposes, these kids were fatherless. They are growing up without the protection and guidance of a father figure. They fit into the category of kids we talked about in Who Are Orphans.

Interacting with these kids for over a week made me think a lot. Two observations stuck out to me most.

1. Orphan care advocates need to look beyond orphanage walls.

IMG_6This concept has been hard for me to embrace. Reading books like Orphan Justice and The Global Orphan Crisis helped open my heart to this reality. Meeting the kiddos on this trip drove it home even more. Especially as Christians, it’s important to realize that helping orphans isn’t limited solely to bringing physical aid to recognized orphans. Orphan care as a Christian covers a much broader spectrum and includes a wide variety of ministries.

For example, evangelism is an important part of carrying for orphans because many cultures won’t value or nurture kids until Christ changes their hearts. Encouraging good work ethic, responsibility, and fidelity can prevent abandonment, disease, and social decay that leads to fatherlessness. My brother and I were talking on the way home about what a difference just a few solid male role models could make in the community we were ministering in. Our entire team was tremendously impressed by the impact being made by one local guy who has a big heart for the kids and people of the village.

Those types ministries don’t specifically target orphan care, but they can profoundly impact the orphan situation. And that’s something we need to be aware of.

2. Ways of Life that Lead to Adoption Hardships

IMG_2275Reading books is a great way to gain a foundational understanding about any subject, but experiences is usually ten times better than book knowledge. I’ve done a lot of reading about what causes behavioral issues in adopted kids. On this trip, I got to observe a very basic cause. The kids that we interacted with had very little adult supervision. Their parents/mother/grandparent expected them to spend the majority of their time out in the village doing their own thing. According to the missionaries and people we were working with, they experience very little discipline or rule enforcement. Those comments made me think of how adopted kids often test boundaries and act surprised when they’re disciplined.

The kids we spent the week with were adorable. Some of them were more demanding and manipulative than others, but for the most part they were very loveable kids. Yet if you transplanted any of them into a typical American home, there would be struggles. Very few of them have been taught obedience, respect of authority, compassion (especially towards animals…house pets beware!), problem solving, or diligence. They’re not bad kids, they just don’t have a working understanding of these things.

So, those were my basic observations from the trip. Or at least my basic observations that apply to this blog.

Have any of you been on missions trips that gave you a better understanding of orphans or orphan care? Do you have personal experiences that deepened your understanding of orphans, adoption, etc.?

Advocate & Pray: Valera

Valera

At sixteen years old, Valera is at a pivotal point in his life.  According to his profile, he plans to attend college over the summer!  Pray for a loving family who will be willing to adopt an older child and support him as he enters the next stage in his life’s journey.

Valera is listed with A Family for Every Orphan
Ukraine

Valera is a very quiet boy. He likes to be outside playing soccer and other sports. He is open with his emotions and is very concerned about his future. He will attend college this summer and would love a forever family to be there and support him through this journey. Please pray that a family will adopt him and be that loving support!

Visit Valera’s profile

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Adoption: An Insiders Look

Adoption An Insider's View

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

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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.

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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?