Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The least of these...."

The following is taken from an email sent by a missionary to some fellow DRC adoptive parents-to-be earlier this month. Check out their website & blog at www.preparingaplace.com. It is concerning the the Pygmy people of the Congo. Being at the bottom of the list in the 2nd poorest country in the world is a tough place to be, but these are God's children as we all are and He loves us all the same.

“The least of these My brethren…The least of these My brethren… The least of these My brethren.
I believe the least of these My brethren is an unborn Pygmy girl in the Efe tribe of the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I do not know her name yet.  According to my research, she has a one in three chance of surviving to five.  She will be pregnant by eight (yes, eight) years old.  If she does not die in childbirth (less than a 1 in 16 chance), she may live between 16 and 24 years (average life expectancy).  In her life she will be subject to rape, murder and cannibalism from rebel armies; HIV and other diseases, malnutrition, parasites.  She will probably grow to only about 4’6”; become a slave or underpaid worker to the surrounding taller people groups; never receive an education; never have an ID (not officially exist); and, never hear the gospel.
Except for the height of this as yet unborn Pygmy girl, can I make a difference?  Can I go there and change what would be her life. Yes.  I leave on Monday (Feb 14).
Why am I drawn to this particular, as yet unborn and unnamed child in this particular tribe? Because, the Lord has called me to the “LEAST of these My brethren” and “further north” and to go “lower still”.  He tells me this over and over and over.  It keeps me focused.
I know of no other people so low.  According to the Pygmy Fund, ‘The Ituri Forest EfĂ© pygmies occupy less than 1% of the land preserved for African wildlife. Their numbers have been reduced over the past 75 years from 35,000 to about 3,000 individuals. ”. “Pygmies are the most ancient surviving human race”.  Over a century ago, there were millions. They are subjected to enslavement and endangered by the destruction of the pristine Congo forest on which their lives depend”. “To this day, there are places where entire pygmy families are naked because they have no clothing”.  Jean Francois Mombia said, “Hunting has become almost impossible, because the animals have become rare, having fled the noise of machinery used by the loggers,” and “Pygmy hunters are often forced to walk for a week before finding game, while their families starve.”
John the Baptist said, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
And James said, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.  James 2:15-17
“Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga, governor of Orientale Province, said “…only two out of 1,000 pygmies had access to education”. Marc Mali, of the Pelican Centre NGO, said, “Girls and women are often raped or used as sexual slaves, and they do not resist for fear of being killed,” Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN’s Indigenous People’s Forum that during the Congo Civil War, his people were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. In neighboring North Kivu province there has been cannibalism by a group known as Les Effaceurs (“the erasers”) who wanted to clear the land of people to open it up for mineral exploitation. Both sides of the war regarded them as “subhuman” and some say their flesh can confer magical powers.  In the Republic of Congo, where Pygmies make up 5 to 10% of the population, many Pygmies live as slaves to Bantu masters.
That is why I want to go to help an unborn Pygmy girl in the Efe tribe of the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.   If you pray and support me, I can do more.  Either way, I am leaving on Monday, February 14, 2011.”

The missionary serves with Iris Ministries in Africa. Please keep him in your prayers as he reaches out to these hurting people. Thank you Adam & Jen for allowing me to share this and God bless you on your journey.

Monday, February 14, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 45

**This will be our last '90 days' post for a little while. Jessica & I decided, because the process is so long we thought it would be best to break it up and take a hiatus. We will continue our '90 Day' prayer focus once we reach another major milestone in the process such as sending in our dossier or once we receive a referral or something along those lines. We will still be making posts regularly but not as part of the '90 Days for Noelle'. We actually will be starting something later this week that you can find out about on the blog, and if you would like to get involved with our adoption, we have some ways to do so. So stay tuned.**

Well, a while back I posted at how I have been amazed by the response we have received from our blog. I am still amazed! Since we began the prayer focus on New Years Day we have had over 4500 different visitors from at least 14 different countries (I can only view the top 10)! For my small mind, those are big numbers. I hope that our blog has been a blessing to you all and that you have learned a little about adoption. I hope that through our posts, that maybe you have looked at yourself and your walk with Christ a little differently. That maybe you see you are part of something bigger and that you become inspired to do something "extravagant" for God. (Thanks, Scott) But most of all, our purpose is for Noelle and we hope that you continue to keep her in your prayers everyday. Today is Valentine's Day. A day to express your love to each other. I have told Jessica I love her, and Cora that I love her, but I have not told Noelle yet so here goes.... Noelle, I love you very much. WE love you very much. I can't wait until the day I can hold you in my arms and tell you that I love you more than you will ever know. Happy Valentines Day, Noelle.

Lord, thank You for loving us like no other and thank You for giving us the ability to love others. We love you Father and we ask You to send our love to Noelle this Valentine's Day. You are love. We praise You for what You are doing in all of our lives. In Your name we pray. Amen.

1 Corinthians 13:13

 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 44

My pastor's sermon today was about extravagant love.  He began his sermon with a story of a pastor who had a bus ministry and was knocking on doors one day to invite people to church.  At a house three miles from the church, he encountered a young boy.  The pastor asked if the parents were home to which the boy responded that his parents take the weekend off while he watches his little brother.  The pastor told the boys about Jesus and they wanted to go to church the next Sunday.  While at church the eldest boy noticed that they were passing around a plate that people were putting money in.  He didn't have anything to give and felt distraught when the plate passed him by.  After the plate was a few rows back, he got up and asked to see the plate again.  He sat it on the ground and stood in it saying that he didn't have anything to give but himself.  Pastor Scott followed the story with John 12:1-12 which tells of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with oil, washing them with her tears, and drying them with her hair.  He talked about our praise having worth.  You are the only one that can give your praise.  I contemplated this a long time today.  I think we all struggle with self worth thinking that we have nothing to give or thinking that what we have is not good enough.  We find our identity in our past sins, hurts, scars.  We have them all boxed up in a "safe" place, but God wants all of us.  As I was at the alter, I kept thinking... "God all I have is broken pieces."  "My righteousness is filthy rags."  "Like the little boy, I don't have anything to give but myself."  I felt like God spoke to me and said that's all I want.  God is the only one that can give us worth because he created us. He paid a high price for us by giving his son to die in our place.  He asks us to cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us.  He doesn't want us to hold on to old stuff because He wants to make all things new.  God wants us to submit to him and only when we truly surrender do we find peace in our souls.  If I give everything to this great, big God then I don't have to worry or fear because I know He can handle it.  I always wanted someone in my life just to tell me that everything was going to be okay...well...it is.

Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.

Father, Thank you for faithfulness and  loving kindness.  Your mercy is new every morning.  I praise you for all you have done in my life.  I know that you are at work, preparing me for Noelle.  Continue to make me into the mosaic that you would have me be.  I  love You. Amen.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 43

When I woke up this morning I thought I smelled smoke.  I instantly dismissed it because I always think I smell something.  Jason says I'm like a bloodhound that can smell things from miles away.  As I was washing the dishes, I started hearing sirens and looking out the window I saw a guy directing the firetruck.  I immediately went to look out the back door and saw the neighbors house engulfed in flames.  I panicked because I knew there were at least three young children that lived in the house.  I literally hit my knees on the kitchen floor and prayed for life!  I got Cora dressed and we walked around the block.  Lots of people were standing around watching the firefighters, but I didn't see any sign of children nor ambulances.  Finally I spotted a group of people huddled around watching the house beside a car with the three boys inside.  I was relieved to know that no one was hurt, but felt convicted that I didn't recognize my own neighbor by sight.  I have lived in my house for almost ten years and know that they have lived behind us for at least three.  I have realized many truths today.  1). Stuff is stuff.  Nothing is more important than life.  Yes, it's devastating to lose everything you have, but I can't even imagine if one of those boys had not made it out of the fire.  2). It's a shame that we don't do nice things for the people that live close to us until "something like this happens".  In relation to adoption matters, people talk about how expensive adoption is.  I think to myself... No, it's not cheap, but I could either use the money God's blessed us with to buy more stuff, perhaps a new car, or choose to use it for a meaningful life.  We may not have a crisis in our backyard everyday but there is a crisis going on for someone everyday.  Choose to do something that has purpose.

Mark 12:30,31
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 

Lord, Thank You for keeping your hand over my neighbors today and for helping my eyes to be opened to your truth.  Set us free from the mundane. Give us real purpose and passion for You. We love You. Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 42

I have been asked a few times about an earlier post I made, so i thought i would give a little more information about it. This is a frequent question, "For a country with $24 billion dollars worth of natural resources, why are they the second poorest country in the world?" I think the following video will explain one of the factors a little better than I can. Don't worry, this is not a "cry your eyes out video", but it is very serious. Fix this problem and we could cut back on Kleenex usage from other videos I've seen about the DRC.

Our Noelle is in the Congo and we want her home as soon as possible, but when we take action to reduce the human rights violations taking place there we help to save the "Noelle's" of the future. Orphans are one of the by-products of these mineral conflicts. "No one is asking that you boycott anything, simply that you express a desire to the manufacturers of your electronic goods that you would like to buy a conflict free product when it becomes available". It is easy to do and progress is being made. If you would like more information on this subject, check out www.raisehopeforcongo.org

1 Corinthians 10:26

26The Scriptures say, "The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord." 

God, we pray for the strife in the Congo. We pray that those funding and fueling the conflicts cease. That companies cleanse themselves and that the well runs dry for those that have evil intentions. We pray that ethical practices be used when conducting business in the Congo and that the people cry out to you, Father. Bless those who are taking responsibility to do what is right. In Your name we pray. Amen. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 41

On the phone with my mom tonight we were discussing my nephew's growth spurt and his soon need for a new car seat.  His current one had been Cora's and I was quick to offer another hand-me-down for Logan.  My mom chimed in saying, "it won't be long until you will need this little one back for Noelle".  The conversation continued with my mom and I talking about Noelle's name.  Mom had been telling a lady that she worked with named Noelle that her new granddaughter was going to have her name.  It felt so reassuring as my mom naturally spoke of her grandchild to be.  I have read endearing testimonies, but also horror stories of family reactions in various books and articles.  I am blessed to have the assurance that my little one will be loved and accepted in our family.

Colossians 2:2
2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.

Lord, We thank You for your blessing of peace and assurance.  You were rejected so that we would be accepted.   We praise You for your unfailing love and mercy.  Knit us together in unity, Father.  We love You.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 40

We finished our last Hague class today. All we need now is the certificate and our part of the homestudy will be finished. We will just have to wait for the actual homestudy document to be completed by our social worker. The classes were not difficult but very informative and usually leave me thinking. Our final class was on being a "conspicuous family". So, what does it mean to be conspicuous? It means that your family stands out. It means that your family is different. The class was referring to our child having a different ethnicity than Jessica and I do. But I want us to be a "conspicuous family" in a different way as well. I want us to stand out as a Christian family. As we discussed tonight while studying 'Crazy Love', we don't want to be lukewarm. We want to be sure we are doing all that God wants us to do and we want to raise our children to love God as we do. When people give us those extra long looks because we are conspicuous. When they stare because they see we have different colored skin from each other. I hope they see our love for each other and when they look away, they don't remember the physical differences we have, but remember us as being a very "conspicuous" Christian family.

Psalm 4:3
But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The LORD will hear when I call to Him.

Lord, let us be a family noticed because we love and serve You. When people say things to us that could be hurtful, let us always respond as You would have us to. Let our children learn from us as we honor You. In Your name we pray. Amen

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 39

Well today has been an encouragement. We have been pondering over a decision in our adoption and today, God opened doors for us. Thank you so much for the prayers we have received because today we saw answers. This is a very hard post for us because we can't say what we want to. I will elaborate more in the future but for now all I can say is... thank you. The day started with struggles and less than encouraging words from others about our adoption, but at 5:00 I received a call that gave us the "sign" we were looking for. On top of that, we received information that confirmed to us that God had shown up during that same call. It is so funny how God handles us when we face things in our lives. We look for answers, exhausting all of our human means, trying to make something happen. While all the time all we really need to do is to slow down, step back, and let God handle it. Twice in the past week or so I have talked with other Christians about problems in their lives and told them, "it will happen in God's time". I think God gave me these words to say so that I could hear it myself. I know it's another short one but, if I keep talking I will say too much. Thank you for all of your prayers.

Jeremiah 33:2,3
2 “This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Father God, we thank You for hearing our prayers. We praise You for showing up in our times of need. We love You, Father. Thank You for leading us in this adoption. We depend on You for all things and above all we give You thanks. Amen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 38

Well, I am exhausted tonight and don't really know why, but I know I need to get some sleep so I will be short. As I think about sleep, I think of Noelle in an orphanage. I wonder what the conditions are. I wonder how crowded it may be. I wonder what kind of "bed" she is in...Recently, I was doing some research on the DRC and found a picture online from Life magazine of some toddlers sleeping in a Congolese orphanage and I wanted to share it with you. I can imagine my Noelle laying there and it breaks my heart....    Goodnight, Noelle.


Proverbs 3:24 

24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
   when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 

God, as we lay down to sleep tonight, we pray for Noelle's rest. We ask that her sleep be sweet. That all the children in her orphanage rest with peace. You are peace and we love You, Father. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 37

Cora came home from school this week with a drawing she had made.  The picture consisted of five people so I asked her who they were.  I figured her daddy and I would be in it or maybe her nana as usual.  Cora started on the right naming her best friends, Jude and Lyla, then came to Lyla's baby brother, Blaine.  Next was Cora.  I asked who was on the left. Cora (with that duh look on her face) said "Noelle".  A lot of people ask me how Cora is handling the adoption.  Well...I would say just fine.  Noelle is already a part of our daily lives in prayer and conversation.  We think of her daily and ask God to keep her safe.  We anticipate her homecoming, longing to lavish her with hugs and kisses from mommy and daddy.  And I know that Cora looks forward to being the "big sister".

Psalm 86:4
4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
   for I put my trust in you. 

Lord, We trust you to bring Noelle home to us.  Grant us peace along the journey.  Help us to not grow weary, but to wait on You.  We love You and praise your name.  Amen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 36

Tonight is one of those nights of the year that Cora gets super excited about. Tonight is the annual 'Daddy Daughter Dance'. She has been talking about it all week. In fact, as soon as we got home yesterday, she had me in the closet pulling out every tie I own (which isn't that many) so she could pick the "perfect" one. This is one of those events I look forward to being able to share with Noelle as well. It will probably be a couple of years before she will be ready and old enough to go though. Cora is really starting to warm up to the idea of getting a baby sister, but she has had some "concerned" questions this week in regards to the dance. She asked, "Will you still take me to the Daddy Daughter Dance when Noelle gets here?" I told her of course I will. I will just have to go to two of them, one with Noelle and one with her. (they have 3 or 4 on the same weekend) Now, all of Cora's life she has always said, "I get to go first because I am the youngest". This time she thought about it and replied, "Well I have to go first because I will be the oldest". I said we will work it out. I have to admit, I think I enjoy the dance as much as she does if not more so. I know that these moments spent with my girls will be over before I know it and I want to cherish each one. Now time to get ready, I have a date.

Psalm 127:3-5

  3-5 Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
      the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
   Like a warrior's fistful of arrows
      are the children of a vigorous youth.
   Oh, how blessed are you parents,
      with your quivers full of children!
   Your enemies don't stand a chance against you; 

Thank you God for the blessing of children. To be able to shape and mold their lives and raise them as You would have us to. We know that children hold a special place in Your heart because of all the references of them in Your word. Father, let these moments we share with our children bind us together in Your Love. In Your name. Amen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 35

We are making a big decision about our adoption agency right now. We know that God has his hand on us and that there are different paths that will ultimately bring Noelle home. We are trying to figure out which direction we should go. Please pray for our direction and that we correctly discern the information we receive. I want to post a verse from the song 'Lead Me' by Sanctus Real.

"So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't You lead me?"

Psalm 25:4-5

 4 Show me your ways, LORD,
   teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long.

Heavenly Father, We know that You will guide us in the way you would have us to go. Speak to our spirits so that we may have peace in our hearts. We pray that we hear Your voice and only seek to please You. We love You in all that we do. Amen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 34

When we blog about Noelle, we usually talk about her current state or when we get her home. I want to talk briefly about her future. We have both mentioned about the classes we are currently taking and how they discuss common health and emotional issues associated with adoption. When she arrives home, she will probably have a few set backs, but we know our God is bigger than that. We believe she will be blessed and overcome anything that this world may say would hold her back. She will not only catch up, but even pass up. I believe she will do great things....I know she will do great things. Recently, at a church gathering, my cousin was in visiting. I don't see him very often because he lives an hour away. He is a good Christian man, but he hasn't always been that way. He has had some issues in his past, but all that is in his past. I love his testimony and he is a blessing to me. Anyway, back to my point, he approached us and said that he had heard about our adoption and that he thinks it's great. Then he said something that really stuck with me. He said, "She may just be the next Billy Graham to Africa". That's when I realized, I don't just need to pray for her in the "now" or in the "next day", but also way on down the road, deep into her future.

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

God, tonight we pray for our Noelle. We pray not only for her well being now, her current protection, and her safe trip home, but we pray for her entire life. That in her future You continue to bless her and that she will do great things for You. We pray this in Your holy name. Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 33

The recurring theme for today seems to be "Daddy". Let me explain. I am currently reading the book, 'Wild at Heart' by John Eldridge. It is about what it means to be a manly Christian, and of course talks about the roles and influence of fathers. Then at church tonight, the topic of "daddy" came up. We are currently doing a series on 'Crazy Love' by Francis Chan. We talked about the love of the Father for us. Scott (my brother & pastor) talked about our dad and how we were so blessed to have an awesome dad. I know other people have great dad's, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they are not as great as mine....Anyway, I digress. One of the study questions presented tonight was, "Do you remember when you "got it"? When you first realized you loved God with all heart, mind, and soul?" I thought about this for a few moments and realized mine. I will condense it for you. It was the day Cora was born. Jessica had a rough pregnancy and was 10 days over due. She was having contractions, so off we go to the hospital. From the time we walked in the door until Cora was born was a whirlwind. They took vitals and discovered neither Cora or Jessica was doing very good. In just minutes they had rushed Jessica back for an emergency C-section. Everything happened so fast it was constant chaos, nurses running everywhere, machines beeping, then.......silence. They were gone and I was left standing in a hospital room, all alone. All kinds of thoughts were running through my mind. All I knew to do was start praying. As I prayed, I began to feel peace. I began to feel God's love. I heard God speak to my spirit and say, "It's time to be Daddy". That was my "got it" moment. I knew to be the father I needed to be, I had to love God with everything within me. I want to be the the best husband and father I can be. I know I am/will be responsible for three (at least) beautiful girls. I want Cora and Noelle to be able to say one day that they can understand their Heavenly Father's love because of their Earthly father's example.

1 John 3:1

 1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us as our father. I pray that you lead me as the father of our household and to be strong in You. Let me be an example of Your love to Cora and Noelle and all of my children. I pray they see Your love through me and do great things for You. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

90 Days for Noelle - Day 32

Thank you for all the prayers concerning our in-home visit as part of our homestudy today.  Everything went smoothly.  Cora even offered to be the official tour guide spending the most time showing off her bedroom and play room.  Our social worker, Janet, talked about our capacity to grow inside our house.  It was heartwarming to think of our house filled with children and as I showed Noelle's room to be, I was excited about the changes to come.  The house is clean and everything is in its place.  Now we can relax...well for a moment.  We just have a few small tasks to accomplish before our homestudy is complete (my medical form and our Hague adoption courses).  Continue to remember us in your prayers as we have some important decisions to make over the next few weeks.

Psalm 5:12
12 For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
         With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

Lord, Thank You for your favor, your peace, and your many blessings.   You truly surround us like a mother hen covers her young with feathers.  You are everything that we need.  We love You and praise Your name.  Amen.