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Blessed by JOY

Recently, something pretty amazing happened.  Something that surpassed any expectation I ever had for any of our HOPE+ sisters.  Meet Gertrude.

I met Gertrude the first time in March 2012.  She was an HIV+ widow whose life was hard….very hard.  She often didn’t have enough to feed herself and her son and she struggled to pay school fees.

In January 2013, we launched the Uganda HOPE+ sisterhood and Gertrude was one of the first women that entered our program.  She stood out to me because when we visited her, she prayed for me.  She prayed for God to bless the program and to help me find sisters for all of the sisters.  She was so excited to be part of this program.

 

I have literally watched hope grow inside Gertrude over the past 2 years.  Her eyes speak a joy I could only dream of having.

She has been blessed with Joy.  And I mean that literally.  Gertrude has become our first foster mom to a precious young girl named Joy who was desperately in need of a mother to love her.

I often find myself stepping back and saying “is this really happening?  Did an HIV+ widow who was destitute just 2 years ago open her home to a broken little girl?”  The answer is YES….and she did it with delight.

Gertrude’s faith and YES is truly and inspiration and a personal challenge for me.  Am I trusting that God will provide for my every need.  Am I taking Him for His word?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

It was […]

Fundraising

We at Project HOPEFUL support fundraising for adoptions because we understand that many families do not have sufficient funds to adopt without help.  We believe that the God of the universe will help people who are taking a leap of faith to give a child – or children – a family.

To that end, Project HOPEFUL established the Families in the Gap Program (FIG Program) to help families raise funds for adoptions.  The FIG Program allows families or advocates to open a tax-deductible fund for a waiting child who meets Project HOPEFUL’s mission (children with HIV/AIDS and other children overlooked for adoption). All donations to this child’s fund will be tax deductible and will be used for a family to adopt this specific child.  You can use a FIG fund to raise money for your own adoption or to help another family.  In either case, funds are earmarked for a specific child and will only be used for that child – never returned to a family.

Since families who are fundraising for an adoption can be met with questions (at best) and criticism (at worst) during the fundraising phase, here are a few things for families to prayerfully consider when deciding whether to establish a FIG fund with Project HOPEFUL:

Should we fundraise or fund the adoption ourselves?

What resources do you have that you could use to contribute to the adoption of this child?  Do you have savings or investments?  Do you have extra resources?  Do you have items you could sell or repurpose?
What resources does your extended family have that they may be willing to give to the benefit of this child?  If you are expecting a large cash gift at Christmas or a birthday, for […]

Please, Take My Baby

Dawn Patterson, our Director of the Hope + Sisterhood – Uganda, continues to write about her trip to Uganda:

As we visited one sister in her hair salon, a young mother sat with her baby while having her hair braided by another young girl.  Her daughter was beautiful and of course, we couldn’t help but smile and entertain the child.  The  mother did not speak English but the girl braiding her hair did.  The mother spoke and the girl translated:  “She wants you to take her  baby.”  I would love to say this is the first time I’ve heard these words spoken in Uganda, but that is not the case.  Even after we left and moved to another shop to purchase fabric, the girl followed us and continued to say, “She wants you to take her baby.”
 
I can’t presume to know what was stirring in that mother’s heart.  I don’t know the hardships she faces in her life or the obstacles she will have to overcome.  But I do know that a myth is being perpetuated in the minds of mothers here that their babies are better off in another country….in another family.   This can not be the answer.  This is  not the solution to poverty or desperation.
 
We have to work to change their mindset and ours.  We must empower these women.  The financial commitment it takes to literally change a life here costs just 4 percent of an average Ugandan adoption.  FOUR PERCENT.  If you are a mother, ask yourself what it would take for you to give up your child.  Can you feel the ache in your heart?  I know I can.  As you feel that ache, if you knew that for $45 per month for […]

The Sisterhood IS Love

News from our Director of the Hope + Sisterhood in Uganda continues today with this message:

Today I cried.  You know those full body, all over, really ugly cries.   Yes, that was me.  Let me tell you about it!

Yesterday we gathered with all the sisters….old and new.  Our hope is that the sisters from the first round would be able to encourage the new sisters entering the program.  I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I felt when I saw them all sitting there waiting for our arrival.

As the van pulled up and we began to exit, the women started clapping and jumping and shouting.  When I ran to great them, I could feel my emotions begin to well up to the point that I couldn’t contain it.  I literally felt my body collapse into one of the sisters.  It was too much.  But too much in a very, very good way.

We sang.  We prayed.  We danced.  Sisters shared their testimonies about what God has done in their lives.  One sister shared about how she had never felt loved by anyone in her entire life until she entered the sisterhood.  She encouraged the new sisters to be strong and to be wise with their finances.   She told them not to give up hope.

We distributed letters and photos to your sisters and the smiles on their faces were radiant.  Sisters who could understand and read English translated for those who could not.  They looked at your photos and their eyes lit up.  Most of them simply couldn’t believe a woman on the other side of the world was willing to walk along side of them and bring them hope.

We are re-working our Uganda program so that the […]

Hope + Sisterhood — Uganda

Hope + Sisterhood Director Dawn Patterson is currently in Uganda leading a group of women who were excited to meet their Ugandan sisters who participate in the Hope + Sisterhood program!  Today she writes the following:
It would be impossible to put into words the transformation in the lives of the women in the Sisterhood program.  Where I once only saw sadness, anger and despair…..I now see HOPE.  I see joy.  I see transformation.

It’s amazing how God can multiply the financial support given through the HOPE+ sisterhood.  Your gift of $45 a month has been multiplied into hair salons, retail stores, poultry rearing, cattle purchases, tailoring shops, and more.

God asks us to care for the least of these.  Read Matthew 25:40.  Read Isaiah 58:10.  Read Proverbs 28:27.  Read Luke 3:11.  Read Proverbs 31:20.  Read Galatians 6:2.   Go ahead…do it now!

If you feel God tugging on your heart strings to love one of these women from the other side of the world, please email dawn@projecthopeful.org.  We are going to have many sisters available that need YOUR love, support and prayer.

Matthew 25 . . . Lives

From the heart of our staff member, Jennifer Knapp:

I’m reading this book right now that’s destroying me . . . in a good way! It’s one of those books you come across where you’d rather skip house chores, lunch dates, work, and even kid-time than not be able to turn another page.  Many of the thoughts are not “new” for me, but they are expressed in a way that is further opening my eyes.  I imagine that all of us in the adoption/orphan care world, understand in a deep way God’s heart for the least of these:  the forgotten, neglected, abandoned, marginalized, and orphaned.  And I imagine that most of us have been moved in ways to take action on behalf of children who were adopted {our own and others} because our charge is to both proclaim and embody the gospel so that others can see, hear, and feel God’s love in tangible ways.
 
The Hole In Our Gospel, {the book I can’t put down} is the story of a corporate CEO, Richard Stearns, who set aside worldly success for something far more significant, and discovered the full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change his own life.  Stearns was pursued to become the President of World Vision, U.S. for months on end.  Stearns didn’t believe that he was the man for the job, until God broke his heart in a new way: “What if there are children who will suffer somehow because I failed to obey God?  What if my cowardice costs even one child somewhere in the world his or her life?”
 
As soon as I read this quote, I immediately thought of the miracle many of us have had the privilege of participating in over […]

Parenting a Child with Down Syndrome

So what’s it like to parent a child with Down syndrome? How long do you have to read this article? Because I could probably fill a book with the myriad of answers to this question. So for the sake of blog etiquette, I’ll keep it as succinct as possible.

My personal experience only goes so far. Our son, Kirill, was adopted from a Russian institution at the age of five and he’s been home with us for 2.5 years. So a lot of our experience has been influenced by the neglect and trauma of living in an orphanage for the first five years of his life. Our experience is vastly different from many of our friends who have biological children with DS, or who have parented their adopted children with DS from birth or soon after.

First, let’s talk about the medical stuff because people are always concerned about that. Kirill doesn’t currently have any additional health complications that sometimes accompany DS. However, we had to do a lot of testing to rule out any of these common issues AND we had to do a lot of interventions and therapies (still do) to help him learn to do many age-appropriate skills. Medically, we had special X-rays of his spine in case there was any sign of instability, extensive heart testing to make sure there were no issues there, and a swallow study. At first, Kirill couldn’t swallow normally and we had to thicken all of his foods and liquids to make sure he didn’t aspirate on them. We worked with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist on swallowing skills for a few months and these issues quickly resolved for him.

Kirill also had a lot of […]

He took our ‘Yes’ – The Boulton Family

There were two main concerns my husband and I had about adopting a child with Down syndrome. How would it affect us, and how would it affect our other children? As we talked and prayed through our concerns we knew that this is what God was asking of our family and we trusted that He would cover it all. The truth is every time you add another member to your family it changes the whole dynamic. There is less time, and less money. But for us what we were to gain was so much more.

We mourned the loss of the dream of a one bedroom retirement house on the beach. We mourned the empty nest that will never be. We mourned the dreams we had for ourselves. And then we allowed God to anoint us with His oil of JOY for the dreams He has for our lives, which we know FAR EXCEED anything we could imagine.

We talked with our children about the changes that were to come. We would need their help. We would be asking much of them. They were excited! They were ready to welcome another sibling into our family through adoption.

As God would have it, He took our ‘YES’ and ran with it! God brought us TWO BABIES!  We took placement of our Ruby in August 2012, and Conner came home in May 2013.  Both just a few weeks old when we got them, and just 11 months apart from each other.  Both with Down syndrome.

I wish you could peak into my home and see what these babies have done to us. They are our little gifts. They are healers; they are joy; they are hope; they are angels from […]

The Faces of HIV in 2013

I was driving to work this morning and passed by a billboard that reads, “I am living with HIV and my brother is standing with me.” As I read it, there was this moment inside of me where I *forgot* that I too am living with people who have HIV. And just as fast, the flash was gone and I remembered my babies.The truth is, I never thought this would be my life. I mean, come on. MY life? Single and raising not one, but TWO children who have HIV?  Sheez. I must be crazy!  Here’s some more truth:  I never {okay, very rarely} think about it!  My boys, wrestling in full-nelson style on the floor?  Nope. Doesn’t occur to me. Wet beds, runny noses, coughs, vomit?  Never think of HIV.  Leah and Seth sharing drinks, food, baths, and germs?  Not a second thought. My children engaged in straight-up-mania in the jumping pool?  Zilch. Is there a chance one of them could get hurt and bleed? Um, yea. There’s always that chance! But if they bleed — hear this now — they are not going to “catch” HIV from each other.  Period, full stop.More truth? Listen up. I don’t think our friends think about it either. {gasp} That’s the thing about the truth. Once you know it, you’re not afraid!!!I pray that those of you who are considering adoption would consider that HIV is, as our founder Kiel Twietmeyer has said, a “cheater” special need.  It is medically manageable and not scary.  For those children who are in need of a loving home, could God be leading YOU to parent a child with HIV?  Are you willing to step out in faith for this? Or […]

Sometimes

I am “for” adoption.  I think we established that in my last post.  But as I referenced there, I’m only for adoption when adoption is necessary.  The last resort.  Sometimes. 

I’m FOR families.  And first families are, well, the FIRST families.  I believe that birth mothers are due deference.  I believe that wherever possible, they have the inherent right to parent their children.  We do not.  I’m not at all threatened by appropriate deference to birth mothers.  After all, isn’t that how God designed it?  We birth children who we then parent.  It’s kind of the natural order of things. 

But I don’t think that means there isn’t a place for adoption and I don’t think it means that adoption is “unnatural.”  To the contrary, I believe adoption is a necessary piece of God’s plan in this fallen world.  Sometimes, the last resort must come into play.  Sometimes, we do get to support a child who has no one else.  Sometimes, we have the incredible opportunity to love as our own the child of another woman’s womb.  The question is:  when is “sometimes”?

In the United States, sometimes happens in the Foster Care system when a court of law has determined that two parents are unfit to parent.  Once parental rights are terminated, those children are orphans under the law and need parents.  The child did not do anything wrong in this situation; parental rights are not terminated because a child is a delinquent.  Typically, bad things have happened and no amount of intervention has righted the wrongs; new parents are needed.  Sometimes, arises in the foster care system.  Would you consider being the answer for a child who needs parents in our foster care system?

In private […]

“God didn’t call us to easy” Testimony of the Knights

From our FIG Awassa Directors Greg and Charisa Knight:

The beginning: 17 years ago with a momma’s heartcry and a dad’s face to face visit with orphaned children.

The blessing: 2 crazy loved Ethiopian boys who have rocked our world and the HUGE privilege of being able to serve hand in hand with our Ethiopian brother and sisters bringing hope to children and families in Awassa through Project HOPEFUL Awassa 

There is so much more to these stories that I think I would have to have a 2 hour video. I am going to sum them up quickly with Things I Have Learned Through Adoption:

1) Don’t put God in a box.  My boxes that God busted open:

  We put under age 3 because I didn’t want to full with “baggage” (Ab was almost 6 when he came home to us)
  I am not traveling with Greg because I can’t handle it (terrified of planes!)    (God said yes, you can )
  I don’t want to meet or have any relationship with birth family. It’s too emotionally complex.  (We did and now have a beautiful      relationship with them and I can’t imagine not having it! I am sooo glad God busted that one!)
  special needs parameters.  We went from “minor correctable special needs” to wishing we had opened that up more during our    adoption to now if we were currently do an adoption would much broader and include HIV. Be sure to keep an open mind and heart for that decision.

2) Remember that God is faithful. 

When we accepted our first referral for a little guy who was 7 months old, the whole slow down in Ethiopa happened and I was a mess thinking that the […]

About to Jump…

This post is by our Waiting Child Director, Jenni Johnston:

Our home is about to be open to foster children. I keep going back and forth between being super excited and super depressed about the whole thing. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for our family. I’m excited to see the miracles and lives changed forever because we gave God our YES.  We didn’t give God our “super pumped up, I want to change the world!!” YES. We gave him our “fine, I guess… since things didn’t play out our way” YES.

2013 has been my nightmare.

Starting in 2011, I began begging my husband and God for a little girl in Russia, who had HIV. I had seen her picture and knew she was my daughter. It took 11 months of me crying, praying, and yelling for my husband to feel the same way. Those were some bad months!  I began to see my husband as the obstacle in my way rather than the love of my life. We ended up in marital counseling… Not my best moment. The problem was, I KNEW, without a doubt, she was my daughter. I no longer could focus on anything else.

March 2012: My husband came home and said God changed his mind. We started the process and got to meet our princess on November 26, 2012. It was AMAZING.

She and Josh bonded. She was so proud of her new father!

When it was time for us to leave we promised her we would be back for court in a couple months. She cried and said she would wait for us.

By the end of December there were rumors about US/Russian adoptions being banned. As the weeks passed it […]