Thursday, March 18, 2010

Traveling to California

We've been able to travel together this week, as a family, because the kids are on Spring Break. So, we visited PLNU (Point Loma Nazarene University) in San Diego, CA where we attended chapel; met with some of our ministry team leaders on staff at the university [Brian & Kelli Becker; Melissa Tucker; Christina Pacheco; Mary Paul]; and connected with a great group of MK's (Missionary Kids) who are studying either at PLNU or other area colleges. [MK's/PK's = Julie McKeithen; David McKeithen; Kathryn Louw; Jocelyn Vasquez; Jessica Bird; and Casey Brough].

Besides getting to be "spectators" in an amazing chapel service where we heard our friends, Brian and Kelli Becker share about their recent trip to Haiti with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries; we were able to meet up with a group of students on Spring Break from MNU (Mid-America Nazarene University) at Balboa Park. [MNU group included: Emilie Beckum; Barrett Alexanader; Mitchell Cloud; Randy & Loretta Cloud, and others].

Oh - and today (March 17) was my 39th birthday...along with St. Patrick's Day. Great chapel service, great Mexican food for lunch, great time with friends, great fun at the park and the Fleet Science Museum, great Panera Bread for dinner, and great chocolate cake at the "Extraordinary Desserts" restaurant = a pretty great day.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mommy's Girl


Today, when we took Pam's parents to meet Paulina, we walked through the door and I heard her crying. Now, don't be to emotionally charged just yet - it appeared as if she was crying because she had gotten into trouble and was in a short time-out...which led to her unhappy moment.

As soon as she saw me, she cried, "Pa-paaaaa!" and I of course, ran to her rescue. She clung to me for just a moment until she saw Pam. When she noticed Pam coming, she cried, "Pa-paaaa!" again (slight confusion on who is Papa and who is Mama) and grabbed immediately for Pam.

For nearly 30 minutes, Paulina clung to Pam - with her little head pressed into Pam's neck and burrowed in her Mommy's protective arms. The moment was priceless.

Then, without urging, she was fine - and proceeded to play with Pam's dad and some of the other people in the room.

It was a perfect day.
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

MK's 'r us!


We recently met with a great group of kids whose families are in a similar vocation as ours. During the week, their parents were involved in a time of spiritual formation. Pam and I were privileged to host this group of kids for a time of retreat.
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Adoption Involvement

Some common responses to our story of adoption:

1) You guys are so amazing!
2) We have always wanted to adopt...hopefully we can some day.
3) Oh my word! How can you afford that? I thought adoption was really expensive!

A few responses to those responses:

1) GOD is amazing...we are simply privileged to be able to join in with what HE is doing. There's nothing amazing about us...just God.

2) Well? Who's preventing you from adopting? There are over 143 MILLION orphans in the orphan is too many. See on how you can get involved - even if you can't adopt, you can still impact the life of an orphan. It's actually pretty easy and fun to love on an orphan!

3) Ummm...yes - adoption is costly. However, we didn't ask "How much is this going to cost?" when God lead us into this journey. Practically, however, we need approximately $12,000 to bring Paulina home. We have sold our VW Jetta and are in the process of pursuing some grants. We've been told that most adoption grants are gone now, due to the economy.

We have also started a fundraiser at So, if you like coffee or know a human who does - consider buying a few hundred pounds today! Each pound of coffee provides $5 towards our adoption fund.

Thanks for checking these links out - thanks for your help in bringing Paulina home!

We're adopting!

Paulina - Eyes of God

Have you ever walked into a room or interrupted a conversation when you instantly knew you weren’t supposed to be there…or you at least felt like you weren’t? At times, it seems as if that’s what happens with me in my journey with God – God is obviously at work and I walk in on what He’s doing; feeling like I’m intruding or invading some sacred event that’s not intended for me. That scenario is what happened when God introduced me to one of His most beautiful creations, a two-year old orphan named Paulina.

In 2008, we made the investment for Nicolas and Allison to take a few painting classes from a sweet Mexican lady at our local Hobby Lobby craft store. One evening, the teacher introduced me to another student in the class because she knew of our missionary work with the Nazarene Border Initiative along with the fact that this other Mexican lady and her husband were opening an orphanage in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The director of this orphanage is Patricia Silis – how na├»ve I was to not recognize then how God was bringing me into His plan.

For several months since meeting Patricia, I had been intending to visit the orphanage to see how the Nazarene Church could possibly connect with them – potentially a NCM Child Development Center; a site for youth group mission trips; Youth In Mission teams, Work and Witness teams, etc. The orphanage, “Los Ojos de Dios” (The Eyes of God) has tremendous potential of being a vital connection in the community for some of our Nazarene churches in Juarez – as well as a good “draw” for people interested in serving with the Nazarene Border Initiative. With all these appealing factors, I simply wanted to make an initial connection with the orphanage to begin exploring how we could partner together.

Los Ojos de Dios is one of the most intriguing ministry centers I've ever visited...very holistic – ecologically green – utilizing reusable resources; providing jobs for handicapped adults; caring for special needs/abandoned children; and ultimately the spiritual development of the children that are in their care. It's a Christian orphanage that is not tied to any single denomination; however they are very interested in partnering with anyone who shares their mission for caring for abandoned children and for taking care of all of God’s creation.

After months and months of good intentions, I finally made the 45 minute trip to Los Ojos de Dios. Another missionary had intended to go with me that day; however, he got tied up with several other projects he’d been working on and I ended up going by myself. I later would learn that this was a blessing from God – He wanted to position me to be in a place where I could silently listen to His voice.

Now, take a jaunt back in time nearly 17 years ago...Pam and I, before we were married had both made it a life priority to adopt a child some day. We knew God’s Word was clear to us in our responsibility to care for orphans and in particular, He placed a desire within us to open our home through adoption…some day. "Some day" was always far away down the road, I think. Throughout the years, we became experts at allowing too many life excuses to get in the way - 1) we have three biological children that are "enough" responsibility; 2) we need to wait until we're more financially stable; 3) we need to wait until we're in a stable living place in our ministry...and the list could go on.

Especially since being in El Paso, God has clearly laid on our hearts His command to minister to the widows and the orphans – feeling that this could be a special niche in the Nazarene Border Initiative. By ministering to widows and orphans – even kids living in broken homes (sometimes kids live in abandonment even with "parents" in the home), we could minister to the very people that God wants to pour out His grace upon. So, this conviction we’ve had has actually begun to play out. We've even rationalized THAT by recognizing the broken families we've already ministered to - the single moms, the kids whose parents are disconnected; the troubled teens; etc. Those "count" don't they? James chapter one’s “test of true religion” certainly would allow those ministry connections to “count,” right? This part of the story is actually a very intimate part of my personal questions/issues I've been wrestling with as I learn to understand more about what it means to serve others as Christ did.

Well...there's nothing like visiting an orphanage filled with children – to grip your heart. The children in this particular orphanage, Los Ojos de Dios, have nannies and "brothers and sisters," but no real home. No mom. No Dad. Not only that, the orphanage is filled to capacity. Every time a child is adopted, another abandoned child receives a new life at the orphanage. Many of the children at Los Ojos de Dios (orphanage) come from the Raramuri Indians of Chihuahua and are abandoned because they have what are considered to be “special needs.” In many places throughout the world, children with special needs are sometimes seen as “cursed” or a result of some terrible sin – and as a result; they are not seen as viable members of the community and are merely thrown out as rubbish.

Imagine. God’s perfect creation – a child – tossed out as if he or she were a piece of rotten food. God’s gift – discarded.

Los Ojos de Dios is the only orphanage in Chihuahua (the largest state in Mexico) that provides specific care for children with “special needs.” All of the children who live at the orphanage have some type of physical, neurological or medical special need.

The time had come; I was finally able to carve out the time to visit Los Ojos de Dios – to explore some possible connections for the Church of the Nazarene. Nothing more.

That was my only plan.

I didn’t intend to walk in on what God was doing that day and I certainly didn't intend for 2 ½ year old Paulina to steal my heart. Several of the children were so eager to be hugged and loved on. It was Paulina who kept running to me and hugging me and wanting me to hold her – then, at once she looked at me as I was holding her and asked, "Beso, Papa?" Now, I’m not typically the guy who is easily swayed, at least emotionally. I’ve worked with children long enough to know that they can be masters at manipulating your heart strings. However, in those moments that day – it was as if God began asking the questions: When are you going to be serious about caring for orphans? Are you willing to choose an orphan to be a part of your very own family? Are you going to move beyond child sponsorship to truly investing in the life of one of MY children?

It was one of those moments when God questions your heart and you inescapably know it’s His voice.

Paulina is from the Raramuri Indians, indigenous people living in northern Chihuahua – connected to the Aztecs. She was born with her right arm developed only to her elbow, missing her forearm and right hand. To some, this condition may be perceived to be a handicap, however that has not crossed Paulina’s mind. She is a resilient, active and very capable little girl – with a smile that will melt the most unsuspecting person.

At just five days old, Paulina’s birth parents brought her to a hospital and left her there.

This is a significant detail in Paulina’s young life.

The Raramuri believe that if a child is born with any type of perceived defect, it is a curse from the Devil – and the remedy is to simply throw them out. It is not unlikely for a child born with Paulina’s profile to be discarded like trash. In fact, some of the children at Los Ojos de Dios have been rescued from dump sites.

This is why Paulina’s story is so significant – her parents cared for her for five days. For five days, they most likely toiled over the difficult decision on what to do with their precious baby. This precious child who they longed to care for after waiting for nine months was now visibly a liability within the community – they would be forced to do the unthinkable and throw her away.

Courageously, this young couple chose life and they carefully took Paulina to a hospital where they new she would receive care – and a future.

The southern gospel singing family, The Isaacs, have a song written about families who adopt entitled, “Heroes.” In the chorus of the song, part of the lyrics sing, “Someone else's burden was their blessing in disguise.”

The hour and a half on the bridge back into El Paso gave me time to listen to God closely enough to know that I needed to talk with Pam about the experience I had. When I got home - it's all we could talk about. We talked about Paulina; we talked about how God has been directing us in Scripture; we talked about the financial factors that would inhibit our ability to adopt; we talked about the impact this would have on the people God allows us to minister to; we talked about the impact it would make on ONE child; we talked about the potential of having our organization either permitting us or even not permitting us to move in this direction; we talked about everything we could think of...and it all made sense. It made sense for us to see how God was leading in this open door. We walked into this unintentionally, yet sincerely and with the peace that passes understanding, sensed God leading us in this journey.

As I was originally writing this memoire, an email popped up from a dear friend of ours. She and her husband are pastoring a Nazarene Church in South Carolina and have two adopted children of their own. Having gone through a similar journey themselves, we wrote to them asking them to pray with us. Here is her response to our story:

"Oh, Joel, your story made me cry. You can have all the excuses in the world until your command from God has a name and calls you Papa. We will be praying for you. It is such a wonderful journey and you will be far more blessed by this little girl than you will bless her life. Money, paperwork, the people around you, etc. are simple details in the hands of our God. If this child is meant to join your family He will take care of it. Here is a scripture that God sent me when we received the call about our daughter and I was seeking wisdom about her adoption:

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing" Psalm 68:5-6a."

By the time I was able to read our friend’s letter, I was miles away from Pam and the kids - sitting in a hotel, preparing for a weekend speaking engagement. As I read this familiar Scripture once again, the tears flowed openly because of God’s grace in my life. You see…this story is not about Pam and me; it’s not even about this precious little girl who is waiting for a family. This story is about God’s grace – His willingness to dwell with us through the lives of the fatherless.

Well, most adoption stories are full of unanticipated twists, turns, roadblocks and victories. We have experienced each of those elements…and we’re still waiting for Paulina to come home. Please pray for us as we wait, fulfill our part of what is known as the “paper pregnancy,” and wait some more. This story is in God’s hands.

International adoption laws are constantly changing and we’re finding ourselves becoming experts in navigating this new world. Meanwhile, every chance we get, we find ourselves making the 45 minute trip from our house to Paulina’s house to visit.

There is so much more to say – these past few months of waiting have unveiled countless stories of God’s confirmation in our lives intertwined with His sovereign plan to use this part of our journey to draw other people closer to Him.
I am so glad God let me walk in on what He was doing that day in October. He had intended for me to invade His plan all along.

This is His story.