A Weekend with Our Girls!

The past week has been surreal.  About 3 years ago we heard about an organization in Sunday School called Parental Care Ministries (www.pcmonline.org).  I could spend a ton of time telling you about the ministry, but they do such a great job on their website and in their blogs that I will just tell you that it’s an organization started by a pastor and his wife in Uganda to minister to children.  Apparently it is very common for parents to abandon children in Africa due to not being able to support them economically, HIV and AIDS among other things.  A pediatrician’s wife from Tyler met the pastor in Africa at a missions conference, and she and her husband began to support what he had started.  They now have 6 schools and over 1800 children they support.  They also help equip about 40 rural pastors to teach the gospel and serve their people.  One of the main ways they ask for help is by sponsoring children.  This is not unlike many other great organizations out there, but we connected with this one so the week after they presented at church we began to sponsor Adrine.  We were asked to pray for her, write to her and send packets with teams that visited a few times a year.  She was 14 when we started sponsoring her, and all the information we knew about her was on this sheet that I received from PCM.

AdrinePg

Every time a team goes to Africa, they write on the blog on the PCM website about the kids and things they see.  KJ laughs at me because I pretty much sob through each one.  I couldn’t imagine the lives these people were living, and the situations they had come from-and were currently in.  The thing that is so remarkable though is their JOY.  They are the picture of the Joy of the Lord.   They are able to love and rely on him in a way that I don’t think we ever “get” over here.

Anyway, we wrote to Adrine, prayed for her and loved getting her letters back to us.  I enjoyed getting to know a little of her, and watch her grow through the letters.  I would still love to go to Uganda one day, but I knew from the beginning that the likelihood of me meeting her was slim.  Well, a few months ago Christie, a sponsorship coordinator with PCM, sent me a text telling me that Adrine was scheduled to visit the US with a choir tour!  I was beside myself that I was going to get to see with my own eyes this girl that I had fallen for.

Last Tuesday those sweet African feet hit Tyler pavement, and I got the privilege of seeing it.  I was an absolute mess, as you might imagine, but I hugged on that girl until she all but ran from me in fear!

photo 2

This was the day I first heard she and her friends sing and worship the Lord.  He could have come on back right then and there, because I just don’t know much that would be better.  They speak pretty good English with a strong accent that I love listening to, and even when their songs are in their language the looks on their faces tell the story.  The dancing-oh my lanta- the dancing!  These people have a bounce and sway that this blonde white girl just won’t ever have!

The best part of this whole thing was that we got to keep Adrine and one of her friends at our house for the weekend.  We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, but I was thrilled!  We ended up with Adrine and another younger girl named Sherinah, and they are the most darling things I’ve seen.

Cookie2

Sherinah requested bike riding as our activity, so that is just what we did.  Adrine’s bike was a little too small, and she couldn’t quite figure out that you had to keep your feet on the pedals, but those girls had a blast! Listen, I know these aren’t our kids and I am fully aware that their time with us was finite, but watching KJ help those little girls ride a bike just about did me in.

Bike3

The first day was a little tough to communicate since I felt like I was asking lots of questions and getting short answers.  I later found out that in Uganda children are not supposed to talk to adults, only answer when asked.  Also, women are encouraged to be mostly quiet in public.  I think they were just still unsure of what to think of everything about the US, including talking freely with an adult.  Sherinah enjoyed bubble baths, and was still young enough to want my help.  One night while I was sitting by the tub watching her make a “dress” out of bubbles, Adrine came up behind me and just wrapped her arms around me in a sweet hug.  About that time, my heart broke into about a million pieces and I again prayed for the Lord to just come and take me.  She kept running her hands through my hair, and we talked about how I wished that I could have volume like hers 🙂  I tried to tell both of them at every chance how beautiful they are, how much we love them and that we pray for them often.  I wanted to somehow impress on them in our short time together that they were so loved and cared for even from across the world.  Adrine’s father died of AIDS, and her mother does whatever she can to feed her family.  Sherinah’s parents abandoned her and her siblings when she was still too young for school.  They are both very loved and cared for by the PCM staff in Uganda, but I wanted their time here to mean something.

Of course we introduced them to some US staples…

IMG_0188Oreos

IMG_0189 and Shipley’s donuts!

We laughed at the way they experienced new things.  Sherinah’s eyes got as big as saucers when I opened a can of biscuits for breakfast.  She still doesn’t know what to think about that!  Adrine came in the bathroom while Sherinah was taking another bubble bath-filled up the sink and started scrubbing her socks with bar soap.  She had no idea that we have a machine to wash and dry her clothes-Bless it!  They laughed at my attempt to learn some of their dance moves-bless my heart!

Our last morning with Sherinah was her birthday!  I told her we could go and get a cake to share with her friends to celebrate.  She was thrilled to pick out a chocolate cake.  I mean can you even stand this face?!

IMG_0193

She wanted to hand out the pieces of cake to each of her friends before she would eat hers.  I think she was happy to be able to share this treat with them.  She loved her cake, but I can promise you that I loved watching her more!

Sherinahbday2

The truth is that I will probably not get the chance to hug those precious necks again on this side of heaven.  I hope at the very least to get to continue to know them through PCM and letters.  There is no way I could tell them all the ways they have changed me.  I want to always remember their smiles and pure joy at life.  I want to never forget their sweet prayers and how they thanked “Father, King of Kings” for helping them to “pass through this day when many do not”.  Oh that I could be thankful for the gift of simply living through each day.  I want to worship the Lord fully and with great joy like they do.  I’ll never get over Adrine telling me that she used to walk 4 hours barefoot by herself at age 4 to school-can you even imagine that?  I want to remember their jubilant dancing for the Lord like their feet just couldn’t help but to move.  I’ll forever love the memory of going into their room to wake them up, and seeing their arms immediately go up for a hug.  I got to stick my finger into the icing on the cake of motherhood this weekend.  I didn’t get to fully experience the joy of eating the cake or the pain of having to wash the plate, but I did love getting to love on those precious girls for a little while.  Supporting this ministry is the best $35 a month we could ever hope to spend.  I pray that these girls grow into the great plans I know God has for them, and I hope that someday in heaven they will come to my house for bubble baths and Oreo cookies again.

This girl is our first child, and we will never be the same-Thank you Lord!

Adrine

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen.  He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”     1 Samuel 7:12

Disclaimer: This has been in my drafts folder for over a week now.  I have come back several times to add and edit, so it might be a little disjointed.  Also, the hours of uninterrupted/untroubled sleep for me over the past month or so have been few.  So, my ability to focus and be coherent is affected-negatively!  Finally, I don’t know how to adequately describe a miracle with the written word.  Like most things God does, my mind doesn’t completely comprehend it much less know how to tell all about it.  All that being said, I want to have this recorded for my memory as well as to tell our child (if we get one).  Hopefully it will be an encouragement.

So, the BIG garage sale came and went.  I don’t know that I can tell of a true miracle any other time in my life.  I know God has worked out things on my behalf and in the life of those around me many times along the way, but I’m not sure many would consider those full-on miracles.  I’ll do my best to hit the high points of the experience.

About a week before the sale I started checking the weather on my phone regularly.  There was rain forecast for all of the evenings we were planning to work and heavy thunderstorms for the day of the sale.  I think the percentage for Saturday was around 70% when I started checking.  As I tend to do, I started to panic a little inside.  I was already worried about people showing up to shop, but heavy rain, lightning and thunderstorms were sure to keep even the dedicated garage salers away.  There was no way to move the sale to another day, so we just had to press on-and PRAY.  One of my friends texted me almost every day with the rain chances as they were lowered throughout the week.  She said each time she was praying to see 0%!  I was also nervous about the rain forecast for the nights we were planning to work transporting stuff and sorting at my aunt’s house.   Several friends had offered to help and brought trucks for transporting.  A truck bed full of soggy cardboard boxes and wet clothes would not make them ideal for selling.  Y’all.  Not one drop of rain fell on us while we worked or during the sale.  There were clouds and cooler weather sometimes than expected, but we stayed dry.  Saturday night when we finally collapsed in the bed after a long week of work it rained-HARD.  In fact, there was flash flooding in many areas of our town.  We asked God to hold the rain, and He did!  That would have been enough for me to call it a miracle, but there was so much more.

This is where words and pictures can’t truly show how overwhelmed we were…The stuff!  As I noted before, I was nervous about getting enough stuff to make a decent sale.  I believe this would be a show of the sense of humor of God.  I can only compare it to the miracle of the loaves and fishes; only our loaves were boxes and bags of stuff and our fishes were clothes!  People were donating things right up until late on Friday night, and my dad brought more with him on Saturday morning.  The garage was so full that we couldn’t move around, and there were tables all the way down the driveway with stuff.  We had a storage unit full of furniture that we couldn’t even bring until Saturday morning because we had to use the yard for it.

GarageSale1 GarageSale2

Even these photos don’t truly tell the story of all that was there.  Before the sale, I thought we would organize everything like a department store.  Clothes would be sorted, items would be in sections etc.  I’d even seen on Pinterest a suggestion to “stage” items.  I thought we might be able to pair a lamp with an end table and possibly an accessory.  We had so much stuff that not only was it not sorted or staged in any way, there were bags and boxes that didn’t get opened until during the sale.  Thankfully some of the shoppers were even willing to go through unopened bags to look for treasures!  This is where I have to say that almost none of this stuff was ours.  It was all donated!  People were so very generous to us, and I’ll never be able to thank them enough.  It wasn’t just their kids outgrown clothes and shoes, we had furniture, jewelry, baby toys, sporting equipment, automotive equipment and everything imaginable except for live animals!  Some was “junk”, but a lot of it was really nice stuff!

Another thing that was just amazing to us was the people who shopped.  We expected a rush on Saturday morning, but we had been told that in the late morning the crowds would thin and probably be completely dead by the early afternoon.  We had our first paying customer on Thursday night while we were unloading.  She was willing to dig through the yet unsorted stacks and find a few things she wanted to purchase.  On Friday we had our most entertaining customer, Mrs. Horton, who made many purchases and came back for more on Saturday.  She even asked if I would go home and clean out my underwear drawer for her to purchase.  I declined that, but she still found things to buy!  People started showing up in droves before our “official” opening time Saturday morning, and kept coming and coming and coming.  My aunt and uncle live about a block from the entrance to their neighborhood, and cars lined both sides of the street to the entrance and around each corner all day.  We were supposed to shut down at 2pm, but there were still at least a dozen shoppers at 2:30.  When the Goodwill truck showed up to collect the unsold items at 2:45 there were still shoppers!  My dad made the final sale of the day to a man as the Goodwill workers were loading the last boxes.

Every bit of the experience was a miracle to us, but the thing that I will never recover from is the people who helped us.  People I don’t even know donated stuff and promised to pray.  Our friends and family gave up their nights and a Saturday to help make it happen.  I know that busy lives make time the most valuable gift you can give someone, and many gave a lot of time to us for this.  When I say we couldn’t have done it without the help, that is the biggest understatement of the century!  My grandmother drove in to help with the sale and feed everyone working, my aunt and uncle gave up their garage and truck and week to help make this happen, our friends spent their evenings and weekend hauling stuff and sorting stuff, my dad drove in at 4:30 AM on a Saturday to help and bring stuff to sell, our family showed up to help when they had so many other things to do, my friend from college left her husband and small kids for the first time to spend the weekend helping (and highlighting my hair).  Every time I looked up, someone from our team was carrying something, unloading a box, bringing racks and tables for us to use, making a sale, refilling a table.  THEY NEVER STOPPED.  I know everyone was exhausted, but they kept going-for us.  Every person that helped in any way was the hands and feet of Jesus to us, and we will spend the rest of our lives grateful.  We can never repay this kindness, but we will try, and we know God will bless those who have blessed us.

GarageSale3 GarageSale4

When the day was done, I felt it was a stretch to hope for $1000.  That seemed like a lot of money for a garage sale to me-and it is.  I wish I had taken a picture of the island in my aunt’s kitchen-it looked like something out of a movie where drug dealers have stacks of money lined up.  The Lord brought us over $5,600! 

To every person who prayed, donated, shopped and worked-you were part of a miracle to us.  I am trying not to place meaning without clear direction from God, but we do feel this is a confirmation from Him that we are doing the right thing in seeking adoption.  The money will go a long way in helping to cover the costs, but the love that was poured out on us has changed us forever.  We knew we were blessed with great people, but there are no words for what this experience showed us. Thank you is such an inadequate phrase, but it’s all I have so a million times-THANK YOU!  Baby Lamb, if you ever read this, know that so many people helped you when there was only a hope of you.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!    Ephesians 3:20-21