Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Eye of the Storm

The wind whipped and the thunder roared. They huddled together in fear and their eyes spoke the same words, “how are we possibly going to get out of this situation?”

And then the impossible happened when they looked through the fog and saw their savior walked towards them. Right into the eye of the storm he walked- refusing to remain safely on shore when his disciples were afraid and alone. And in the midst of that storm Peter wanted to be with Jesus. He wanted to feel the wonder of joining God in a miracle. He wanted to have an experience with Jesus. He stepped out of that boat and he did not fear because he was on top of all the turmoil that raged beneath him. His eyes were fixed upon his savior… until the wind slapped and dragged itself around him and he lost that focus. He looked around him at the dark sky, vicious water, and threatening wind and he began to sink into the storm. In that moment when everything raged around him he cried out for Jesus and his savior was there to pull him up out of the storm.

Peter failed. Peter doubted. Peter’s faith was small. But Peter experienced a miracle with Jesus. Peter had the faith to step out of the boat right into the eye of the storm in his eagerness to get to his savior. Peter got to grow in his faith. Peter sunk into the darkness and learned that Jesus will always be there to catch him.

But what of the disciples still in the boat? All they got to do was witness a miracle- their eyes straining to see through the fog and the rain. Their fear kept them in their seats and kept them away from God. They missed out on the opportunity to be with Jesus, to grow in faith, and to venture into the heart of God’s wonder.

I don’t want to just watch from the sidelines as Jesus does great things. I don’t want to be safe. I don’t want to just sit in the boat. I want to walk into the eye of the storm with my eyes fixed on Him. And I will fail and fall and feel as if I am sinking right into the storm but I know Jesus will always be there to catch me. And though my life may be one series of storms I will get to have an experience with Jesus with each and every one. I will get to feel His strong hands catching me when I sink and I will see miracles walking on the water.

I want to live in the eye of the storm.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mama Joel

Shyly and somewhat awkwardly we smile at each other. Through a translator I try to share the words I want her to hear. Words that just grasp at the surface of the love I have for her, the depth of what she has taught me, and my ignorant desire to take away some of her pain.

But words here always fail.

We don’t speak the same language and yet somehow we are connected. I held her baby for the first twelve hours of his life… hours that should have been hers and I wish so much that they were. When that baby went to be with Jesus we wept together. It was a terrible and ugly moment and yet the beauty of it overwhelmed me. I loved her son with her and together we grieved. Ugandan style we knelt in the dirt and screamed and sobbed. We didn’t have words because language and culture tried to keep us apart but the love of Christ drew us together as we wept. Who needs words when grief is the same in every language?

In such a vulnerable ugly part of her life she invited me in. And I am forever grateful.

As I drive to the airport with the usual dread in my heart a friend asks me what the highs of this trip were. To my surprise I say, “Baby Joel.” And I don’t just mean the days he lived. The day he died is a memory I will always cherish. Because I’ve never felt more like Jesus’ hands and feet then when my hands were rubbing the back of a grieving mother and my feet were covered in dirt as we sat in the hut preparing her baby for burial.

Anyone can bring money to try and save a child’s life… run to hospitals to find blood… but only Jesus can bring the comfort a mother needs. I am wide eyed that he chose to use me as a part of his plan to do that. In the moments after Joel died I grabbed onto the hope God has promised us and I have never felt so close to heaven and so sure of our God’s faithfulness.

Tears fell in that car. A baby lay in parent’s arms with no earthly life left in him. Sobs came and went in waves. Prayers were whispered in breaths. And I remember clearly looking over the scene and knowing more than I had ever known before…

Jesus was there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Ethics of Adoption

A year ago I wanted Ugandan babies to be flown to the US to live the life I thought was best. A year ago international adoption was my favorite thing in the world. A year ago I didn't realize the importance of culture and I didn't understand the ethics and corruption involved in the international adoption world.

But now I have grown. I have seen children who I thought had no future but to be adopted to America home with grandparents, fathers, or uncles who LOVE them. I have seen children thrive in the village. I have seen moms who we wrote off as incapable of caring for their children step up to the plate and do marvelously. I have seen fathers who people just assumed couldn't do it love their children back into healing.

I see our kids smiling, laughing, and running to their grandparent's arms and I realize I got it all wrong. My ethnocentrism went to the extreme. The extreme where I actually believed a life in the United States would be better for these children then a village life with their biological family.

Because adoption is beautiful- seeing a child and parent linked not by blood but by love is miraculous. But we cannot forget the hard parts. We cannot think away the day when our adopted kids ask, "why didn't my first mom and dad want me?" When that day comes we HAVE to be able to say we did everything we could to try and resettle them, to try and empower their families to care for them. Every adoptive parent should know their child's story, should know the details behind it, and should do the research themselves to ensure the adoption is ethical.

Before adoption is even considered every effort should be made to reunite a child with their biological family. If it’s a matter of money offer them sponsorship or job training. If it’s a matter of ignorance about parenting come along side them and help them learn. If the child’s been abandoned every effort should be used up to find their families. Too many people assume because a child was abandoned that every member of their family doesn’t want them. It only takes one person to abandon a child and you don’t know the full story or what aunt, uncle, grandparent, father, mother is waiting and wondering what happened to their child. Don’t write a father, mother, care giver off until you’ve given them a chance.

When reunification is not possible the next step should be domestic adoption. We cannot make the dangerous mistake of believing we can give a child more than their own culture and society can. We cannot be ignorant of the identity issues adopted children can face and why it is so important to give them a chance at growing up in their original culture. I love Uganda and it hurts me to see American parents come in and bring children out of this country with no intention of ever bringing them back or even trying to maintain their culture and language.

It is my opinion that is only after all these options have failed that a child should be adopted internationally and I believe it is because these options have not been exhausted that so many countries have shut down their international adoptions. I fear that for Uganda it is coming all too soon. I realize these opinions of mine are not popular. I realize they could make some people- even close friends- mad or offended. But I can’t stay silent because I’ve seen the disastrous results of people’s ignorance when it comes to international adoption.

I believe it is all our responsibilities to ensure that adoptions are done ethically- those working with orphan care, those adopting, those supporting others who are adopting, orphanages, adoption agencies, etc… There are millions of orphans sitting in orphanages and just waiting and they need us to act but we HAVE to make sure we act in the way that is best for them… not the easiest way or the way that makes us look the best. We have to put aside the mentality of the American life as being the best option. We have to forget the white savior mentality. We have to stop being selfish and truly ask ourselves: what is best for these precious children?

Important note: Many of you know I work closely with Amani Baby Cottage. My comments on unethical adoptions in Uganda are NOT a reflection of my work with them. I have found Amani to have some of the most ethical adoptions in all of Uganda. Amani does the research every child deserves into their families and encourages domestic adoption as well as processing international adoptions.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Life is a Gift

Life is a gift.

The ability to dream about your future.

The ability to make plans.

The ability to breath in and out.

The ability to laugh and sing and never wonder if today was your last.

The ability to love and build a life with someone.

The ability to take the simple things for granted every single day.

We teach our children good manners because we believe one day they will need to use them at their job. We send them to school because one day they will go to college. We joke with them about their futures- telling the toddler with her baby dolls that she will make a wonderful mother. We expect children to have a future- we take this for granted.

But what if they didn’t? What of that day when the doctor sits you down and says, “we have done treatment after treatment and test after test and there is no use.”

What if the doctor tells you the amount of money you must pay to save your child’s life is more than you will make in a year? What of that moment when your dreams about your child’s career, success, wife, children, college all fade away when you realize they may never happen.
You took life for granted and now it is slipping away.

His name is Ajuma and he is not a fictional character to make you care about the poor. He is not a statistic for governments to write in their books. He is not a child we use to get sympathy and funds from you. He is a real live boy who has held my hand and whispered greetings into my ears. And he is dying all because the money is not there.

His father sat in the hospital with the doctor shaking his head sadly and he called us and told us, “they are saying he needs a kidney transplant to live and it will cost more than 6 million shillings ($3,000)”. We gasp and ask him to repeat. We don’t have that kind of money. We’re trying to fundraise for so many other things- we don’t have a clue how to stop and fundraise for this. For one surgery, for one boy.

But this is a life. A child’s life. And money is just paper. How can we even think about saying no?
So we said yes. Yes we will fight for your boy. Yes we will strive for the day he graduates school. We will work for the moment he welcomes his child into the world. We will do all we can to give him a future.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your help.

If you know ANYONE with contacts in the medical world PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE e-mail me and let me know. We have been advised that the best course of action would be to try and get Ajuma to the states to perform the surgery. We have a copy of all his medical records that we can send to any doctor who might be able to advice us in how to proceed. You can e-mail me at or e-mail my friend Kelsey who is also working with Ajuma at

And of course we welcome and love your prayers.

Ajuma’s father has left his farm, family, and home to stay by his son’s bedside for over a month now. He has not given up hope even when no one can promise him his son will be okay. Ajuma’s father is still fighting… and so are we.