When I went to Ethiopia to bring Havyn home, our 14 year old daughter Addisyn went with me. I have had a lot of people ask me how she did and what her feelings were on Africa so I thought I would share some of that here.
For about the last 5 years I have sat back and watch Addisyn's heart grow passionate about orphans. I find it so interesting how our children really are listening and watching even when we don't realize they are. In the past I have often seen Addisyn reading the blog posts I write. Yet if you ask her who her favorite blogger is and #1 hero in this world- it is Katie. If you have never read Katie's blog you don't know what you are missing. The girl is AMAZING. Katie is a 20 year old, beautiful girl living in Uganda and is raising a house full of precious kiddo's while serving the Lord there. Her story, her life, will just touch you at the core. I am so in awe of people like Katie, and so thankful for the example she is to young girls like my daughter.
Addisyn has been dreaming for the past couple of years of going to Africa. In 2007 Addisyn and I went on a mission trip to Guatemala with a group of awesome people- (we love you Jenny, Raegan, Debbie and Angel) and it was life changing. I have seen it over and over in Addisyn's thought process and her view of the world. Something there changed her. Changed her wants. Changed her needs. Changed her heart. Just like it did mine. And I knew, without a doubt, that Africa would do the same.
While obviously our biggest reason for going was to bring home Havyn, we were also blessed by being able to take supplies to a variety of different orphanages. PURE JOY. But even more than that, we had the privilege of taking a day trip to Ziway and spending the day with missionaries, Peggy and Gary Ifft. Peggy and Gary have worked along side Lifesong for orphans (who I adore!!) and they are beyond precious. We were blown away by all of the work they have done in Ethiopia and they made Addisyn's dream come true by letting us go with them to one of their feeding programs.
Once again- life changing.
Once home we were asked at church to share our experiences in Ethiopia. I thought I would let Addisyn in her own words share here. I am so proud of you my sweet daughter. I know God has big plans for you and I cannot wait to see them unfold. Keep being who you are- it's perfect. :0)
By Addisyn Block
There is a quote that reads : Preach the gospel always, and when necessary use words. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times this quote went through my head on our mission trip in Ethiopia. Because of the language barrier- I knew the best way I could ‘preach’ about Jesus was through my actions and through my love. I pray this lesson stays with me always.
We went to a preschool in Ziway, Ethiopia. The kids there were literally wearing rags, they walked miles to school in shoes that were falling apart, yet here in America, everyday at school I see kids in their hundred dollar jeans and new Nikes- but their joy for life doesn’t seem any deeper then these children in rags. I have found that people often try to fulfill their happiness with more, more clothes, more toys, more boyfriends or girlfriends- always searching for someone or something to make them feel like they are enough. It may work for a little bit, but then there’s something better that they want and they run off chasing after that ‘thing’. What I noticed was that the children in Ethiopia have nothing- and yet somehow I couldn’t help but notice they possessed a joy like I had never before seen.
For a long time I have felt God calling me to missions. I don’t know what the future holds, but I having the privilege of spending the day with missionaries in Ethiopia was like a dream come true for me. The work they had done ranged from building a school and feeding program, to constructing a bridge so that the people didn’t have to wade across a river to go to the trade market. What I loved about what these missionaries did was they would see a need, get the project started and then equip other individuals to see the project to completion. In an amazing way this ‘bridge’ became a symbol of connecting God’s people for His glory.
Another place the missionaries took us was to one of their medical clinics. My new baby sister had a rash on her neck and we were going to have it looked at. Trust me when I say it was nothing like the doctors offices here in America. There wasn’t even glass on the windows and their supplies were very limited. As we pulled up to this tiny little building I have to admit, I was wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. We walked in and saw a sweet Ethiopian man, with a huge smile on his face, ready to treat my sister. He looked over my sister and then gave my mom some medicine to treat the rash. Then, I was blown away by what happened next. He wouldn’t accept any payment. This sweet man with obviously nothing would not take payment. My mom pleaded with him and he shook his head no explaining that “we were in this together – we were brothers and sisters in Christ and this is what we did for each other”. As I watched my mother weep I learned something important that day, no matter how little you have- you always have something to give for God’s glory.
I post on here a lot about my family so today I wanted to do something different and dedicate this post to YOU.
Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about the Lord and passionate about children. Especially children who are hurting and in this world alone.
And so I got to thinking how many AMAZING people there are out there who share the same heart for children as I do and what a difference TOGETHER we are making.
Sometimes the problem seems so huge- almost overwhelming. So today I want to celebrate our success. Today I show proof that we ARE making a difference.
While adopting or fostering ONE child might not seem to be making a huge dent in the world wide problem- when you hear about one family and then another family and then another it's gives me so much hope.
Hope that we are getting somewhere together.
So, if you have a heart for children... whether you have adopted, fostered, taught, worked with, supported, sponsored, prayed for, or are interested and educating yourself (we TOTALLY appreciate that) I want to celebrate YOU today.
I want to say THANK YOU to YOU today.
I want you jump up and down and cheer about the difference you are making.
I want to sing God's praises over the work He is doing through YOU.
So come on, don't be shy.
SHINE big for God.
Don't let me down.
Tell me something about the heart God gave you for children.
Often times I have heard mothers of large families express hurt over the fact that when child # 5, 8 or 12 came along there no longer seems to be the support or sense of excitement from others around them. Actually, often times it is even the opposite- a roll of the eyes, questions of "AGAIN?" or even jokes made- that are not so funny.
This makes me so sad.
EVERY CHILD is a gift. EVERY LIFE should be celebrated. It doesn't matter if you are #1 in the family or #18- YOU COUNT.
You matter to God.
He created you with the same amount of care as he did child #1. He loves you with his whole heart and so does your family. So even if having a large family is not for you, that's okay, no one is forcing you to parent. But please be thoughtful and considerate of the jokes. Just look and you will see that each child is special and unique and worth celebrating. A hug, a smile, or expressing your congratulations is all it takes.
We have felt so blessed by the encouragement we have had since announcing adding Carson and Havyn to our family. Knowing what I know makes me appreciate even more all of the texts, emails, comments, calls and visits you all have showered upon our family. This is my wish for every large family. Our extended families and friends have been beyond supportive and I know that both Carson and Havyn feel extremely loved- as they deserve to be. So, I just wanted to say thank you for that. Thank you for realize the value of another child being placed in a family- no matter what number they happen to be. And thank you my sweet sister Jenny for driving 12 hours to meet your new niece. We love you all!
Ever since coming home from Ethiopia it feels I cannot get myself grounded.
I have heard it said before that Africa changes you.
I totally understand that now.
I feel like I still have so much to process. So much that I need God to reveal.
For now though, I will share with you what I can about our time in Africa in this video.
I do wish though that somehow I could share more... the beauty, the smells in the air, the sound of voices singing, and the sweet touch of the orphan reaching for your hand. Because it's going to take more. More of us caring, more of us willing, and more of us working to make a difference.
We used Celebrate Children International for Havyn's adoption. I cannot say enough good things about them. Several friends we know have used them and had wonderful experiences as well. Havyn's adoption went extremely smooth and actually moved quicker than we thought it would. CCI was there through it all answering all of our questions and we really feel they went above and beyond what we expected. The director Sue was professional and we could tell truly cared about the children and families she worked with. She obviously pours her heart and soul into her work and we are forever grateful for what she did for our family. I cannot recommend CCI enough.
While in Ethiopia there were several other families adopting through Celebrate Children International staying at the same guest house as us. There was one precious family who were adopting 2 three month old babies ,a boy and a girl, and they had been Havyn's crib mates. The husband was a pastor and we just fell in love with him and his wife. They were able to meet their daughters birth mom and spend some time at the orphanage. That was such a gift to them to get answers to be able to share with their daughter one day. Because of them we were able to find out a lot about Havyn's birth father (her birth mother died during child birth) and we are going to get a picture of him for Havyns life book. The orphanage director told us that her birth father knew about our family and had seen our photo when he showed up at court to relinquish. It meant to so much to me to know that he was happy about where his baby girl was going. Havyn's birth father named her Meneyahush- which means "I expect good things in you". I love that gift that he gave her.
Havyn Menayehush- we love you with all of our hearts and we are in awe that God allowed us to be your forever family. We do not take this privilege for granted.
Thank you CCI and Sue Hedberg for all that you have done for our family. We know your job is not always an easy one and we know you do not always hear it said- but we appreciate you. Thank you for the long hours you put in to make sure these children find their way home.
I love how each of our lives are a story- a story of God's goodness and a story of His faithfulness. Sometimes our story begins before we even realize it is a part of who we are and how we ended up where we are. But through it all, God knows and it is always beautiful.
As I have stated before, on a public blog there are only some things I will share. My children's stories are theirs to share- when and if they are ready. But what I will tell you is that without a doubt when I look back over each of our children's stories it is more than clear that God was working- and all we had to do was let Him. We had to not get in his way with our worries, our plans and our ideas. We had to just simply let God be God- and trust.
In the past I had often heard people say that God gave them a 'vision'. But secretly I admit, I was somewhat doubtful. I know visions are biblical, and yet often I am embarrassed to say, I questioned. What if the vision was something they had just dreamed up on their own, or wanted pretty badly and got it confused with what God had? Because after all, often our wants are not what God ends up giving us right? And so when I finally recognized this vision God had given me, it was beautiful... and I wanted it more than anything- but I was afraid. Afraid that maybe it was just something I had dreamed up on my own.
Last summer I spent of a lot of evenings walking and talking with God. I could sense He was leading us somewhere and I wanted to spend as much time with Him making sure we heard Him clearly. Often times I struggled wondering why I couldn't hear him clearly... yet over and over He gave me this 'vision' of a toddler boy and infant girl together... and behind them were many children standing in a group with smiles on their faces, cheering. A few months later we stepped out in faith starting our 'pickle jar' praying that God provided the funds for us to adopt-assuming both children would be from Ethiopia because of the strong feeling we were to start an international adoption.
So, we updated our international homestudy and began to pray and to search. God had put a certain special need on our hearts years before, something I am passionate about- and my heart breaks for those who live with it. Todd and I had both decided that we were not to wait on a list for a child, knowing there were children already waiting. We were both very open to a child with special needs so decided to just let God lead us to our child. I had spent some time calling around to many different agencies and asking if they had any waiting children with this specific need God had laid on our heart- but nothing ever fell into place.
And then, came Carson.
As I have shared in the past, his adoption was not something we saw coming, or had planned- and yet Gods hands were clearly all over it and we could not deny it. I was a bit confused because his adoption didn't exactly fit at that time with the vision God had given us- He wasn't from Ethiopia and he didn't have a baby sister in tow. Yet we loved this little boy with a love so fierce- and God moved Him into our home in a way we never could have planned. I am so thankful that God knows more than we ever could. I cannot even begin to tell you how perfectly Carson fits into our family and what a blessing he is.
The days moved on and with our focus on Carson- we sort of put the idea of an African adoption on the back burner. That is, until the day we got the call.
One of the agencies I had called months before had an infant baby girl they were looking for a family for. This baby girl had previously been referred to another family, who had backed out due to her possible special need. They wondered if we were still interested. We decided a long time ago to always be open to what the Lord had for us. We decided long ago that our lives were not our own and that we would use the days we were given to open our home to children who needed one of their own. We decided a long time ago to quit limiting God with our time frame. We decided a long time ago to step out of the boat no matter what the cost. We decided a long time ago to say Yes Lord. So, we did.
As the months wore on, we prayed for this baby girl across the world, yet used every minute of every day to make sure Carson felt securely attached and that He, as well as our other children, we getting everything they needed and more. God is just so awesome. When he placed Carson in our home he gave us a son who bonded almost instantly, who felt at home the day he moved in and who fit in easier than any other child we had ever adopted. Yet He also gave us something more- he gave us the gift of watching our new son pray for a baby sister he had yet to meet with such a tender heart it almost took my breath away. All of our children were excited about their new baby sister- but with Carson it seemed to be something deeper. Something I couldn't have known- but God did.
Just yesterday I looked across the room and saw part of the vision God had given me last summer come to life. There sat our precious Carson leaning over his new baby sister gently kissing her forehead. And I was reminded once again of God's love and faithfulness. He is good.
We are out of here! Be back next week and promise to blog about something more exciting than my broken down washing machine. :0) Oh how I am going to miss my hubbie and my babies (well, all except for Addisyn who is going with me) but also so excited to go on this journey the Lord has called us to.
The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. " Matthew 25:40
I'm still packing... but wouldn't you know it, my washing machine picked today to bite the dust. (Get behind me Satan! ;0) Anyway, I decided to take a little break from hand washing (not) and share this awesome video our Children's pastor (who also happens to be my good friend) sent me.
For the past couple of years we attended a church that was what you would call picture perfect. On the outside it appeared to have everything you could ever want- and maybe for some it really is. But for us, for some reason we felt like something was always missing and I think it's crucial for people- especially adoptive families to have that place where they fit in.
A few months ago we found a really small church that has that exact thing we have been searching and praying for- BIG FAT HUGE AMAZING HEARTS that accept us just the way we are. And as the video below talks about... "A place where it's okay to not be perfect because there is such a culture of acceptance." This is exactly how a church should be. It's not about perfect music, a beautiful building, things being done a certain way, or perfect people- it's about being yourself and loving people exactly the way they are- even when they are nothing like us.
I am so thankful for this little bitty church and it's people who have more than opened their arms and just accepted us- they have embraced us- our imperfections and all. I am so thankful we finally found a place where we belong. My kids are growing in leaps and bounds because of this and it is awesome to see.
Blessed mommy of nine- 4 the regular old way, 2 adopted from Guatemala, 2 adopted through the foster system, and one adopted from Ethiopia. Our family is serving the Lord in Guatemala at Village of Hope- a home for special needs children. I'm passionate about adoption and being a mom. I'm a work in progress, utterly reliant upon God. I'm easy-going, until I freak out. Organized, until I lose something. Laid back, until someone hurts the ones I love. I love taking pictures and writing. I adore big families and people who are willing to live life in an unordinary way. Come along on my journey and watch 'as my blessings grow'.
You can contact me at blockamy at hot mail dot com.