Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Left Behind

You had to know it was coming. It is not possible in my heart of hearts to know that there are children in this orphanage who do not have a family and to not advocate or beg, really, that you take a second look at them and to share their stories so that one day they too go home. Many of the children, especially the babies, have families who are waiting to take them home. I thank God that he has provided for them. But the hearts of His people are closed to the older children and children with special needs. I would like you to see four children in particular. See them with your heart and pray for them, support them financially, and share their story so that near or far the right family will hear God's calling to take them in.

A note before you read, adoption research has repeatedly indicated that grown-up adopted children prefer that their adoptive story and history not be aired piublicly without their permission. This is a little bit of a catch-22 when you are trying to create sympathy but I want each of these kids to own their story and not feel violated when they find it on the internet when they are 20. Instead, I mostly will share who this child is that I met. 

Shadrach age 5 1/2
Shadrach groped his way towards me. As soon as he heard my name he would call out, "Aunty Anna. Aunty Anna," until he found my lap. The second time I came, he knew I was there before I spoke. "Aunty Anna, Aunty Anna" as he pushed his way past the other children to be near. When there was space to sit on my lap he would sit on my legs facing me so that he could feel me better and know my breath and movement. He would defend his position but otherwise seemed content to just listen and enjoy. Later a group of men from Nigeria had heard about Shadrach's stunning singing ability and came to visit the orphanage. Without the nervousness or anxiety that I would feel, he quickly found one man out of 10 that he felt comfortable with. He leaned against his leg and listened. He held his hand then refused to leave.  From what I understand he came from another orphanage who did not treat him well. But that doesn't keep Shadrach from opening up his heart to people. Shadrach is a smart cookie but there is not an available school of the blind for him here. With a little time and investment in his education, I think we would be looking at a future leader.

Emmanuel age 8 approx
It is impossible to miss Emmanuel when you enter the orphanage. He is always, I mean, always smiling and his smile is infectious. Emmanuel, God With Us, moves his chair next to me and asks for his picture to be taken. He was quick to pick up on the idea that the younger children could find a space in my lap, he could find a space in my camera lens. His smile moves from his lips to his mouth and it is clear that this boy really does feel joy deep down that transcends his physical limitations.  He wants to be near and engage with you. One Sunday I visited the orphanage to join them for church. For some reason, that Sunday they did not take Emmanuel and the minute he was aware he was being left behind, he cried. Then I cried. He loves deeply and wants to be loved and included in return. He is a kind, pure soul. The cause of his physical condition is unknown; they suspect a stroke in the womb. While he is leaning forward in this picture he has use of his upper body and arms on one side of his body. He cannot speak clearly with his words but he does speak loudly with his gorgeous eyes. I think (unprofessionally) that with a bit of training in sign language he would be able to communicate well. Emmanuel is also not educated as there are no schools for kids with special needs.

Success age 5 approx
I first encountered Success as he was being carried into physical therapy. At first I thought he was Emmanuel because of those amazing bright eyes and because of his wheel chair. But he quickly distinguished himself as I watched him suffer through physical therapy that clearly stretched his pain. He would grimace and then look to make sure that I was still there near by and just as quickly switch to a smile. He can speak well (in Liberian English) and loves to talk. He is sitting in a wheelchair here but he spends just as much time moving around on the floor. He is thought to have mild cerebral palsy but he does have some limited control over his legs and full upper body control. His neck is stiff but just look at the light in his eyes!! These kids with special needs have an incredible level of patience but need engagement with people and stimulation that just cannot be provided when you never get outside of the four walls of an orphanage. He is not be able to attend school because of his physical limitations but I assure you he is smart.  He has no opportunities here and leaving him in an orphanage with no education and no family to help him just ensures that this promising boy will be a beggar. I can't bear it.

I've seen Mokonjay's picture before. The shy 11 year old whose name appeared on the same list of kids that mine did nearly two years ago. She watches me with a mix of hope and grief. My own kids off playing with others in this awkwardly secure feeling knowing that they have been chosen and are leaving, but Mokonjay finds openings when I have a free hand or am not carrying a baby and she holds my hand leading me from place to place. At church they wanted to sit me in the front row, but I asked to sit with the children. Mokonjay asked me in disbelief if I wanted to stay with the kids...translation read in her eyes and emotions, "You find me worthwhile to sit with me?" If I could have brought home another child, I would have brought home Mokonjay. She is an only child and I don't know her history at all but when you meet her you don't care. She is seriously the kindest, sweetest, young lady I have ever met. It would break my heart to see such an amazing child left behind to age out of an orphanage.

This is a privately run orphanage and it receives no government assistance. Furthermore, the government knows that this orphanage takes good care of their kids with special needs and so places children here but they do not provide aid for them. Everything from the physical therapy to the rice to the security guards to the clothes are provided for by donors largely from America. Recently the main sponsor organization has withdrawn its support to open another orphanage in Liberia. While I commend what it is doing, there is a big gap to fill.

I feel as if this is the most important of all my blogs and yet I also feels that it conveys so little. God loves these children the same as he loves my children.  Please help these children know that they are not left behind!

Give a one time donation.
Sponsor a child for $40 a month
Pray for them.
Spread their news so that someone will take them home.
Visit them!
Go to: Americans for African Adoptions 

There are many others that I haven't mentioned. So if you know an interested family, have them get in touch with the agency and see the beautiful children I didn't mention.

**I KNOW this blog has major tense shifting issues. I am sorry all my writing and English friends.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Africa, I Carry You Back

For everything that seems out of the ordinary or snaps a heart string they say, "This is Africa." It is both an explanation and an excuse.

Every Liberian or Lebanese* that I get a chance to interact with asks me to carry them back to America. They will hide in my bag, but preferably carry their own. They will come be my nanny so they can send money back to their families. They will send their young children to me to go to school for the first time. They lecture my children to behave so that I won't send them back to hell after coming to heaven. (As a side note, after this lecture I reassured my kids that I would never send them back to Liberia for their behavior!) They ask for my Facebook so they can find me in America and introduce them to a good woman they can marry to make them a citizen...they will be good husbands.

And so, this is my way of carrying you back, Liberia.

She sleeps on a bamboo mat under a lean-to with pieces of aluminum patchworked to the top. Nine children huddle against the wall as the rain comes down. Their father has abandoned them again or at least the father of three of them. She knows that this child she carries will not survive in this house were there is no food. She is ill, nearing 40, and has lost her job. She gives birth that night alone on a mat with nine children watching unsure what this new child will mean for them. Who will have to make room for it? Who will give up their rice for it? Who will take care of it? In the morning, new baby boy in hand she takes him to an orphanage and begs for them to take him in. With praise on her lips, she is relieved and hopeful for him when they take him in. The orphanage comes to her lean-to to establish that she really cannot care for him and they are sickened by what they see. The director buys her a new mat and brings the family rice. She leaves the mother with money to buy meat for the night. Neighbors start shouting, "Why are you selling your baby? You are evil! How can you sell your child?" They shun her. They harass her. But her child lives with food and an education. This is Africa.

He is here from South African working with the fishing industry to stop human trafficking and the stealing of oil. The Liberian Coast Guard is only allowed to patrol 25 miles from the coast but the large fishing boats can go many miles with their permits and so they go out 30 miles off the coast. These are the former child soldiers displaced after their role in the vicious coups and civil war with no skills but death and left with drug addictions they were forced to take in order to be the dramatic killers the coup leaders needed for their child army. They arm themselves with semi-automatics and they raid oil boats for oil and people or other fishing boats. Chose death by gun, drowning at sea or be pressed into slavery for sex, for fishing, for sale. This is Africa.

She was taken in by a neighbor couple. Her biological family history not revealed from shame or mystery, I don't know. She was the 20th child and the last. The neighbors loved her as their own, fed her, and sent her to school (not free in Liberia so many don't go). She grew to be a woman of hope. A woman who understood the value of being cared for and who understood the costs of being without a family. She got a job working with the displaced children during the civil war. They stopped paying her but she loved the children and continued to work for seven years with the children for no pay. Risking her life in streets of machine guns and ebola to walk to the kids an hour each way. And then one day her boss "ran away" to become a refugee in another country and God blessed her with the paid position he left behind. Today she lives a nice life with a stable salary, a good education, a reputable position in the community and the joy of Jesus in her heart. She has travelled abroad many times and loves her country and her children. This too is Africa.

We drove through a crowded marketplace and she saw a man she knew. She waved to him and asked what he was doing but did not want to stop. As we drove away she told me her story with dry eyes as if stating facts.  Many days she begged for food. And then she met a man who always kept rice in his room. On days when she could not find food, she would go to his apartment and he would feed her. Then the bombing of her neighborhood began and she was displaced and scared. She went to his house for food that night and he told her it was time she stayed to sleep with him. She began to cry and he berated her for being too childish. "I may not be a child but I have never been asked to sleep with a man before." Thereafter she slept with him for food and a room. One day they were in the market when the soldiers shot a woman in the face. She watched as the bullet entered her eye and somehow exited her mouth leaving the woman alive. All the people were distracted by this woman and she saw her chance to run away. She ran away as far as she could. Were she went and how she managed to survive the war she never said. But she was adamant that she never crossed into that part of the city again until the war was over. This was the first she had seen the man who she slept with to save her life. Now, though, she is a successful business woman who manages a front office. This is Africa.

He went to church every Sunday. Two hours of hot and sweaty praise. Pressed tightly against one another with his children quietly in his lap or dancing by his side. Dripping in sweat and shouting words of praise to the mighty God. Worried, every second, that the ebola virus was among them and spreading through the sweat and touch. But there nonetheless because this God is worth the risk. This is Africa.

I carry you back, Liberia. Your stories of fear and survival a testament to your hope and strength.

*The Lebanese have been in Liberia and Sierra Leone for a long time. They came here as refugees starting in the 1930's and 40's. I'm not sure how they did it, but they bought up a lot of beach type resorts, expensive hotels, supermarkets, etc... and they have continued to increase as the wars in Lebanon and surrounding area increase. They establish themselves, buy up more property and send for their families to come work them. Most Lebanese are wealthy but not all. But, this is still a poverty country and they would rather be in the US.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Meet the new Taylors!

One year and nine months in the making, I introduce you to...

Gifty: 11 years old and in the 4th grade. She loves to dance and has taken a liking to the song "True Colors." If she isn't smiling it is because she has some intense idea that she is about to wrestle to the ground or challenge she is about to overcome. Gifty is helpful without complaint and wonderfully outgoing. She likes pink and purple. If you sit still too long she will braid your hair. (I had a hard time getting just a picture of Gifty. She is always surrounded by other kids.) I'll try for a better one.

Kai: 8 years old (almost nine in January) and in the 2nd grade. He has insatiable curiosity and is active. If there is a door he must open it or a hole he must look in it. He loves soccer and basketball and his favorite colors are blue and red. He makes the third left-handed Taylor! He asked me for a remote control car so don't tell him that one was already hidden in the closet at home for Christmas.

Kumba: 7 years old and in the 1st grade. She also likes pink and purple. She plays well by herself but is easily distracted by other things. She is the most shy of all of them but when she feels comfortable she is goofy and fun-loving. As the baby of the family, she is used to being pampered. Kumba loves to eat and an eat more than me and definitely eats more than Gifty.

More about them

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, their orphanage has no running water so when I brought the to the guest house they were amazed by the showers, sinks, and toilets! They had never seen a shower, didn't know how to flush the toilet, and didn't know how to turn on the faucets in the sink. Kumba loved the shower and giggled through the whole thing. They each took two a day and I had to force them out. They washed all their underthings with the soap and hung them up in the shower because that is what they thought they were supposed to do.

Their diet consists mostly of eggs, rice, chicken, or fish at the orphanage. Everything is spicy. But they specifically were excited because they love sausages (hot dogs) and wanted them for every meal...which I did not give them. They don't use buns but Kai will fit right in with Shiloh because he licked all the ketchup off his plate and then asked for seconds on ketchup only. After being introduced to ketchup they wanted it on everything including hardboiled eggs in the morning. They are also big fans of peanut butter but think jelly is too sweet. They have never had butter or cheese on a sandwich but ask for just mayo on bread. I introduced them to spaghetti (meatless). Gifty ate it to be polite but Kumba and Kai both thought it was great. Liberians as a country refuse vegetables and the only sell it in supermarkets to foreign visitors. Apparently they are expensive. I did try some frozen veggies and I will never do that here again...yuck! They hated raisins. But give them a good biscuit (cookie) and they will eat the whole box before you turn around.

Everything is so new to them and they are not afraid to touch, take or ask about them. Kumba wanted to know what was inside the light covering and Kai asked which bag I brought the lamp in from America. They never shut a single door because they have never had one to shut...and that includes the bathroom. Kumba seemed scared of the stairs but got over it pretty quickly. Kai started carrying the TV remote with him everyplace he went. They had seen more TV than I had anticipated and Kai instantly started flipping channels to find his favorite on. Not surprising, they had never seen a Kindle and insisted that it was a big phone. They DO understand phones and can use them very well. They instantly found the music and the games and started playing them like they had one of their own.

The wanted to see pictures of their room over and over and over again. And at the orphanage that was the picture they wanted to show their friends.  They also wanted to see pictures of Daddy and more Daddy.

We took a day and went to the beach. The kids LOVE the beach and, I think, will be disappointed to feel the cold Pacific. None of the kids know how to swim but that doesn't stop us from chasing the waves.

I also went to church with them. Church is a whole other blog (that I probably won't write) but it was the fact that the kids sat silently and still for two hours while sweat drenched them. Church was loud, small, and full of dancing-but not by the kids which I thought was odd. They looked bored but never talked, fidgeted or complained.

Liberian English doesn't sound like English at all. The educated adults can switch knowingly back and forth between more proper English and Liberian English. Every sentence is said in one big word and no words seems to actually complete themselves. They use a lot of idioms that make no sense to me whatsoever (but then again I doubt they would understand if I asked who cut the cheese). So while the kids speak "english" they don't speak in a way that I understand a lot of. Sometime Gifty can rephrase what the younger kids are saying so that I can understand. For example, we read a book and Kai kept asking, "Readiaback". I got "read" but no idea on the rest. I thought he wanted me to read the back. In a sense I did understand his words which were "read it back" but Gifty translated that to mean "read it again."

They use a lot of terms that we understand but don't apply daily or use differently:
all girl's shirts=blouse
hot dogs=sausages
Vasaline= grease
to take with me = carry on
pack it= fold the laundry

At the orphanage, they are very social and after the first day they spent their time mostly with their friends instead of with me.  The love to swing (Jason you better get that swing set secured) and play group games. They played something like duck-duck-goose only with singing and more hitting and  they played a dance game.  All the kids have once a week chores of washing dishes, sweeping, collecting trash, etc. And apparently they know how to slaughter a chicken but thankfully I haven't seen that yet. At night before bed they have a Bible devotion, watch one TV show, and then off to bed with no talking.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Every joint, I thank you.

I know that not everyone who reads this is a Christian, but it is a part of who we are and why I am here. And all of you, Christian or not, have lent me the strength necessary to make this happen. You all working as one large body of Christ from New Mexico, Kansas and Missouri, to Oregon, even Kentucky or wherever you are have put your prayers together to call out the action of God and his strength.

Verse after verse sent by you has washed over me to make me clean and strong. I cry. I want to quit. I worry. And then you are there behind me letting me know that I am not alone and that neither you nor God have left me stranded. Then, I rejoice. I hope. I trust. Some of you I have never met but we share the same heartbeat of Jesus Jesus Jesus as we wade through our days.

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." 

But the church has not functioned as the church ought to be functioning- as one body in Christ. Somehow, though, at this juncture in our lives, the church has fused itself together as a true body moving and breathing with one goal. We often consider the people we see in church as our church family but God doesn't work that way. We are one, joined together by every joint, working properly. I am very literally holding together because of you.

When I have been too upset to pray, you have prayed in my stead.
When I have stood like a lost child, you have sent me scriptures to give me hope and wisdom.
When I have been too shocked to praise, you have sent up praises on my behalf.
When we didn't have the money for this adoption, you have been generous.
When we needed clothing and furniture, you gave to us.
When I was discouraged, you called or met with me or sent me an email.

I have never, in my 40 years of church, felt God's people come together with such love and compassion. I know it has happened and I know it does happen, but it hadn't happened to me. Sadly, I had never been involved in it happening either...or perhaps I just didn't know. And so, I want to make sure that you know. Every prayer and every breath. Every scripture and every FaceBook encouragement. Every. Single. One. You, the Body of Christ, with him as the head directing your prayers, have held me together. Without you I would fail. God has called you to our side to support me and build me up. Thank you, every joint.

We are not done. Double your prayers and be on your knees as God asks. Jesus is good and his path is being made straight. His steadfast love endures forever.

PS. I say this in first person because I am the one writing. These are my feelings and vulnerability that I don't want to impose on Jason.  But never for a minute think that Jason is less thankful than I.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Song in my Soul

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the orphanage that our kids have known as their home and their family. As we all know, there are certain experiences and exchanges that are impossible to display in words, they are as a song meant as much to be understood in vocal lyrics as in the thrumming of the soul. This orphanage dances literally and figuratively to a song of love, joy, and gentleness. But the dance slows upon the recognition of sorrow, loss, and fraying hopes. Unfortunately, this blog will mostly be description that cuts the heart out of the song.

All compounds of any sort, hotels, and nicer houses are all walled (a remnant of war becoming a staple of expected culture), so I arrived to a bland wall and a locked gate printed in the simple title of Americans for African Adoptions. The car honked and cheers went up inside the gate...the director was arriving! The presence of a white lady as well as the understood mother of some of their own, caused quiet apprehension among the young kids and the special needs kids who weren't at school. And then, little Sarah, probably 1.5 years, opened up her arms to be picked up.  As she happily took claim to my lap and defended her territory, the rest gathered around to touch my hair, get their picture taken, and to touch my soft arms. Emmanuel wheeled his chair over to me and started the chorus of "take my picture" that resonated throughout the rest of the day from one tenor of voice to another.

Oretha (the lovely director and my case worker in a sense) took me and little Sarah who wouldn't budge from my hip, on a tour of the relatively small compound that holds 35 kids.
The Kitchen is used for storage of cooking items. Actual cooking is done outside over coal. The sink there has no running water in it. There is a freezer that you cannot see that is run by the solar panels installed by Psalm82:3 Mission team last year.

Their playground is quite nice, actually. The ground is sand and the equipment is in nice condition. Clearly loved and used by all.

The blue is the gate to come into the compound and there is really enough room here to park one car between the gate and the building. It looks bigger in the picture than it is. The black tank is their water system and the pump is their only water source. The kids and adults use buckets to collect the water to pour over their hands and feet.  

I included this picture because this sink does not have running water in it and is misleading. The large bucket there is filled with water that someone pours over your hands into the bathtub while you wash. 

This is the boys dormitory. The kids all sleep in bunk beds just like this one. A thin mattress with a fitted sheet. No pillows, no sheets. Note that their only personal belongings are in that small pile at the head of the bed. Then the mosquito net obviously comes down. There is no a/c and it gets hot and stuffy. I didn't get a picture of the girls 

A pretty self explanatory picture. I'm not sure how they get the laundry dry when it keeps raining outside. But, the children wore three pairs of clothes the day I was there and most of them were clean and in excellent condition.  They wore their school uniform, changed into play clothes, played even while it rained until they were wet and filthy, and then into a dry set for the evening.
Not pictured is a common room for the kids to be in that holds meager books and bathrooms with usable toilets but not running water.  I didn't try it out but I assumed the put a bucket of water down the toilet to "flush" it. I would say that the inside of the compound is about the size of an American house. The outside space is nice and there are two large porch-like areas for eating and laundry.

Seven of the children get physical therapy three times a week. All seven kids, and three adults piled into a Toyota van that seats only seven and travelled down dirt roads headed to the office. Most of the kids could not sit on their own and were propped up against one another. One beautiful girl needed to be held by an adult.

Being somewhat familiar with physical therapy, I was pleased to see so much being done for the kids: occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy. They allowed me in to take pictures of the kids despite the posting saying that for privacy no pictures or visitors are allowed. I was careful only to take pictures of the kids from the orphanage. Those kids were strong in their weakness and brave in the face of their obvious pain. The rooms had no air-conditioning and with the many bodies quickly heated up and then the crying began. Oretha and I left to the outside to spare ourselves the pain of their cries as the therapists did what was necessary to keep those precious little bodies flexible and functional. Oretha explained to me that the doctor told her on the first day not to stay inside that it would be too hard to hear the cries. She also explained that the government brought these special needs kids to the orphanage and then provided nothing for them. All the physical therapy is done because Oretha knows it is necessary and carves it out of her meager budget.

After two hours of therapy we returned to drop off the physical therapy patients and then to go get the kids from Effort Baptist Church School.  17 kids and two adults piled into the van. Yes, 17, and it actually moved. Luckily it was only a few blocks fact, the kids collectively counted to 117 and that is how long it took to get back to the orphanage.
I didn't get to go into the school building but here it is attached to the main church. Effort Baptist. School in Liberia is not free but is cheap by American Standards. If I remember right it was $350 a student for the year. But that is a high sum for most working class Liberians. There are no sports and activities here.

They quietly piled out, went automatically to their rooms, changed out of their uniform, washed their hands, said a prayer, and sat down to potato greens and rice without a word. They ate quietly stealing looks at me maybe to see my soft white arms or maybe to see if I would eat all my food. They quietly put their food away then returned to move the chairs from the table. At this point, I was worried that this was a strict orphanage that allowed no personality or freedom.

The kids eagerly went to the playground and I went with them. They quietly took up familiar posts and played meekly with each other. A young girl named Francis decided that I was hers and she let me hold her quietly. Then...a chicken got lose and their pet dog Rex chased it frantically around the playground. The children erupted into laughter broking the tension and the real music of the orphanage began.

Hold me. Play with me. Push me on the swing. Lift me up to the bars. Take a picture of me. Can I touch your hair. Handclap with me..."double, double, this this." And punctuated through it all...Mom, watch me.

A blur of faces and hands moving here and there. With steady Francis refusing to be deposed. My own kids old enough to want to play with their friends but still want my attention. They made faces and posed and called for me to watch.

We had been told that our girl Gifty loves to dance and she does, oh, does she move! But, they all love to dance and dance. In both an effort to show off and in obviously practiced repetition they began a collective dance routine where they chanted in a circle and called out each kid to dance in the middle. Oh! Their joy! My joy!

They all wanted their picture taken and faced in my direction so that I could capture them as they feel inside. (I'm hoping to put pictures here but because these are not my children I cannot do so without permission I have not yet been granted. So check back later to see if I got permission because it is beautiful and brings meaning to what I've been saying.)

They played like this for on an hour when Oretha called me to sit and rest. The kids disbanded to play alone some more while Francis continued to regale me with her dance and song while Mardea sat on one of my legs and played "double, double" hand clapping and Ophelia on the other leg just wanting to be near but now and then hand clapping too. Finally, as my time to leave was approaching, the tune turned to sadness and Oretha explained that the children felt the pain of seeing their friends finding a family and them not having their own. Their hope fraying.

Francis had started to call me mommy and wanted to leave in the van with me. She insisted that I hold both her and Ophelia and just repeatedly said she would come home with me. How do you tell a four year old no I'm not your mommy? How do you tell a four year old she doesn't have a family yet? How do you tell a four year old you have to leave her? How do you tell a four year old that you don't know what will happen to her? How DO you leave?

And when I do leave, Francis hid in the back room and Ophelia cried. And my children, my three, have the hope of today and they repeatedly verified that they would see me for the weekend.

And when I do leave, my determination is renewed that I will not give up and I will not be discouraged and I will wait as long as it takes. They deserve it.

And when I do leave, I hold my tears until I am alone and then I cry for the children.

And when I leave this whole country, I will always have that song in my soul for this orphanage and this country who is singing a song of lament and a song of joy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Arrival in Africa

My flights and arrival went smoothly but exhausting. For those airplane nerds among us I flew on two Airbus 330 (Delta and KLM). Despite my hope that the seats would be a little more comfortable to sleep in, I was disappointed and got little sleep on the planes. But I did get to enjoy as many movies as you can pack into 36 hours of travel. Every flight was on time and one flight actually left an hour early because everyone was present; I hope. Customs was quick chaotic then the ride to the guest house was uneventful even if slightly frightening.

My first impression of Africa is how dark it is. Flying into two African cities (first Freetown, Sierra Leon then Monrovia, Liberia) the only lights you could see were at the airport itself. The drive to the guest house proved that as well. The only lights came from cars and an occasional club scene where the lights were consistently blue and red. I was surprised this afternoon to find out how many huge building I passed last night without being able to see them.

There are few traffic laws here. So far I've only seen one traffic signal. Every one just slightly slows down near the intersections and then whoever can edge in first from whichever direction goes...usually at once around everyone else...driving on the wrong side if necessary. Lots and lots of motorcycles with multiple people on them. There are plenty of cars too, just double or triple the motorcycles and plenty of rickshaws (don't know the local name for them.) Plus, there are no sidewalks and the majority of people seem to be on foot-ladies with baskets on their heads, men peddling random wares: pillows, dust brooms, plastic buckets. On the bright side, they do drive on the correct side of the street and the roads are in good condition as far as I have seen.

My guest house is nice. There is air conditioning in each room that keeps the humidity from being overwhelming and I have a private bath as well as a huge closet. The people are very friendly and many of the guest are staying for several weeks like I am. One couple is here from Boston (she is a native Liberian) working at a Christian school that they started and they made me a traditional Liberian dinner of fish (head and tail included), chicken, rice, okra, and some kind of deliciously spicy paste. Additionally, there is a sweet preschool here that I was surprised to see was equally mixed with several different skin colors. The kids were a-dor-a-ble doing art projects, having music lessons, and eating snacks. Addison and Shiloh would have loved it.

Today I spent the day resting and tomorrow I meet the kids!

The plan is that the kids will come to my guest house late morning and spend lunch with me. At 2, our social worker is picking us up to take us to the lawyers office for the adoption decree. Then I can post some public pictures of the kids and me!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Adoption Blog Begins Again

I am going to try and commit to writing an adoption blog as I travel through this new experience. We would appreciate your prayers as you read through the blogs and your patience as I don't know how often or how complete they will be. Because we believe in the great work of our Lord, please share our story with others so that they may see His glory worked out in our actions. Let us start now in this journey.

Being naturally shy and not naturally inclined to share my pain, I ask for extra patience in writing as I hope to be vulnerable but also responsible. Nevertheless, here I am, weary and frustrated as I begin getting ready for this trip to Liberia again. Honestly, this time around is easier. Easier because I already did the hard work and stress for our last thwarted attempt. Now I will just pick up my bags and go. But, now that I have less "busy" details to keep me occupied I have more time for fear of what I cannot control. I've put my nose to the grindstone and, to mix my metaphors, crossed my t's and dotted my i's. These things have kept me hyper focused on my part; "I'm holding up the end of my bargain, God." Now those things are done. What do I do now but wait and worry and worry and worry.

And worry I have done all night long for the last four weeks. What do I say when I get there? How do I interact with kids I don't know? What is my responsibility? How do I convince government officials of a different country to be timely? Am I culturally prepared? Will my girls at home be ok? Am I safe? Do I have enough money? Why am I going alone? What do I tell people when they ask...? What do I do while I'm waiting? How much time do I get to spend with the kids? How do I get from place to place? Am I taking the right clothing? What if the clothes I'm taking for the kids don't fit?

What a powerful name it is.
The name of Jesus.

Until I started this journey, which is completely out of my comfort zone and cannot in any way be accomplished by a task-checker like me, I only understood that emotionally. Now, I have to put all of my being into that statement. I have to breathe in at night in the midst of my tossing anxiety that it is the name of Jesus that is in control. Wise mother that I have, told me many months ago that God loves these children more than I do- that I can stop trying to be God in their lives. My box checking opportunities are over (like it or not). Now, I release my need to save and be God and remember that Jesus has power. Jesus will bring me home to my girls. Jesus will work in the hearts of the government officials. Jesus will help my family bond. Jesus.

Join us as we step back and see what the name of Jesus will do. I have no guesses. Let's go find out!