February 25, 2014

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Families Adopting - The Simmons Family adopting from China

We are the Simmons Family from Texas: Jody and Julie-married 20 years, Hannah-age 17, Josh-age 15, and Caleb-age 7. We are so very grateful to Jessica for advocating for our son through TwentyLess, for encouraging our family throughout the adoption process, and for giving us the privilege of sharing our story here. 


In December of 2011, God began stirring in our hearts His desire for us to have a more "radical" faith. We began to pray, asking God how He would have our family serve Him, to further His Kingdom. We agreed that whatever He asked, no matter the cost or sacrifice, our answer to Him would be "YES". Soon after this time, my husband and I both began to feel a call to adoption.

Having supported family members and friends through adoption, both domestic and international, this was not a foreign concept to us. We already had three children: two teenagers and a preschooler, but began to sense that God was not finished growing our family. After sharing this calling with our children and a few close family and friends, we excitedly began to research both domestic and international adoption. However, God would have us wait a year and a half for the child we would adopt.

As we looked at different ways to build our family through adoption, we began to feel impressed that God would lead us not to a specific country or agency, but to the very child we would add to our family. Through the influence of friends who had recently adopted two older boys, and a family in our church who had a precious daughter with Down Syndrome, God began to burden our hearts for older children with special needs.

On April 25, 2013, through the blogs of two adoptive moms, we ended up seeing a precious boy on the Reece's Rainbow website, and we knew immediately that he was our son--the child we had been looking for all this time. He was five years old, had a lower limb difference, and had been confined to a crib in a Chinese orphanage because of his disability. We felt called by God to rescue this boy from his crib--to bring him home as a son and brother, give him the opportunity to walk for the first time, feel the love of a family, and most importantly, have a relationship with Jesus Christ. 


We soon found that we didn't meet all of the criteria for adoption from China. This didn't stop us from pursuing our son. We sought out an agency who would help us apply for waivers for the two qualifications we didn't meet. Finally, after months of working with our agency and praying with our friends and church family, we had pre-approval from China to adopt this boy--we would name him Andrew.

We could already see God moving mountains for our Andrew to come home, and we began trusting Him to provide the finances for this adoption, as our resources were few. We started a number of fundraisers, including selling crafts and T-shirts, and had a huge community garage sale; God blessed these efforts and we were able to begin the adoption process.

Even though we couldn't celebrate Andrew's sixth birthday (August 26th) with him, we began to ask God for a birthday miracle for him. We were so concerned about the conditions and lack of care at his poor, rural orphanage, we contacted Love Without Boundaries in China and asked if there was anything they could do to help our son and the other children at his orphanage. They told us they wanted to move him from the orphanage to one of their Healing Homes, but that it would be up to the orphanage director to allow this. We began to fervently pray that God would work in this director's heart, and just before Andrew's birthday, we were notified that he would be moving to a Love Without Boundaries Healing Home! God had granted our birthday prayer for Andrew, and we were overwhelmed with Thanksgiving!

Our very next update from China showed a SMILING boy, and over the months since then, we've seen him begin to blossom.


He is now in foster care at the Hidden Treasures Home, a ministry of Loaves and Fishes International. We are so grateful for God's tender loving care for our son. Our family's adoption verse is Ephesians 3:20-21 "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 glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." We see our God doing "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" to bring Andrew home, and we are blessed to have a front row seat for miracle after miracle!

So far, the hardest part of our adoption was back in the summer, for about a month, when the CCCWA in China was switching to a new database and Andrew's file seemed to be "lost". His file needed to be moved to our agency listing so that we could apply for Pre-Approval, but that couldn't happen until the "lost" file showed back up on the system. The wait seemed forever, with lots of panicky moments and nervous e-mails.

Finally, we had to trust that even though Andrew seemed lost to us, He was never out of God's sight and care. After five weeks of waiting, his file was finally found and moved to our agency, and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief!

There have already been many rewarding parts of our adoption! It's been so exciting to get to know other adoptive parents from around the country and get to follow their journeys as they bring their children home. It's been amazing to see God change and grow our family, and the way our biological children have become involved in the process (like fundraising and learning Mandarin and sign language!). Probably the greatest reward comes from the sense that God is accomplishing something that is so much greater than Andrew and our family. There is a ripple effect as others see God's heart for orphans and the bigger miracle of God adopting us into his family through Jesus Christ. 


For families considering adoption, I would say PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! And don't let fear and finances hold you back. What God calls you to start, He will equip you to finish! That goes for fundraising, parenting a child with uncertain needs, and walking your other children through the transition. 

For families who do not feel called to adopt, become part of the miracle of adoption by encouraging and supporting an adoptive family, or find out about agencies who care for orphans and or support those ministries. There are so many ways to become involved!

The number one way you can support our family is through prayer; pray that God would prepare us for Andrew and prepare Andrew to be a Simmons. Pray for the ministries that have cared for him in China, that their work would continue and flourish. You can also support us financially in several different ways which are listed on our blog. You can visit our blog to learn more about our family, Andrew, and our adoption process. You can also follow us on our facebook adoption page. We would love for you to follow our journey all the way to bringing Andrew home to Texas! 

Thank you Simmons family for sharing your story!
February 21, 2014

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We are sending a shipment of hats to LWB and Bethel!

Thanks to all of you who have bought a hat for your child or grandchild, or have bought a hat directly for an orphan in our LWB collection! We will be sending out some "1 for an orphan" hats soon.

We have been told by both LWB and Bethel, that their children wear hats far into Spring, outdoors and indoors due to lack of heating. They also said that it's important for these children to look cute and feel special, so you are giving them this gift also. 

Here are some Sprout Tops hats we are sending to Love Without Boundaries,



and here are some Sprout Tops hats we are sending to Bethel



Thank you for blessing these children's lives!

Jessica

February 08, 2014

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Families Adopting - The Williams family adopting from China

Thank you Williams family for answering our questions about adoption. 

How and why did you decide to adopt?
I was at a Men's meeting at my brother's church and was introduced to a guy who had adopted a girl from China. Frances and I had always planned on adopting after we had "our own", but God had other ideas. After 16 years of infertility, we got pregnant but lost our twins. There had been many obstacles in the way of adopting, but we eventually started pursuing it at the same time as IVF and decided we would adopt no matter how the IVF turned out. There should have been a year to 18 months between an IVF child and an adoption, but circumstances changed and we ended up having two children within 3 months who were only 6 months apart in age...so we kind of had twins anyway!

 

Why did you choose to adopt from China?
We really didn't have a lot of options - most countries require both parents to be US citizens - Frances is still only British. I'd heard horror stories from other countries, and then we met that guy in church with his cute Chinese daughter and so it seemed the logical choice. At the same time I also thought the fact that there was no chance of reuniting with a birth family would be easier for everyone overall...10 years later I know better! It also seemed to avoid the horror stories of people adopting only to have the birth parents change their minds and reversing the adoption.


What has been the hardest part about adopting?
The expense for one, all the paper chasing is a real hassle, and for me personally it was becoming a "conspicuous family". I've always preferred being anonymous and not standing out in a crowd. Once we had a Chinese daughter, we pretty much stand out wherever we go...of course God doubled that with us having a child with Down Syndrome as well. So now we really stand out, and will a lot more soon! I'm used to it now, but sometimes it's aggravating because we never go anywhere without standing out and getting stares.

What has been the most rewarding part about adopting? 
Well the most obvious answer of course is our beautiful daughter Abigail. But it's also how much we grow personally on the journey. Ultimately it's about changing a child's world and destiny. Hopefully God willing, it's for the better, but that's not entirely in our control, but at least we give them a chance at a better destiny.

Tell us about the two children you are adopting.
We are adopting a 6 year old girl with Poland Syndrome, a syndrome caused by an accident of fetal circulation where she is left with no chest muscle, or breast on one side and finger differences on one hand. She also has a facial palsy so she can't smile normally, and there is a chance she's had a stroke. She is definitely developmentally delayed and possibly intellectually challenged.

We are also adopting an 11 year old boy who is listed as having "dyskenesia of lower limbs" which just means his legs are weak so he walks with a limp and has balance issues? In both cases the medical charts are sketchy so who really knows? 
We have videos and pictures of both, which are both reassuring, and also alarming at points too.

What advice would you give someone thinking about adoption?
I would say adoption is not for everyone, not for the faint hearted, especially when talking about adopting an older child. You are also talking about taking on a child's life, a most precious gift that cannot be squandered. The decisions you make WILL change your life, the childs life, and by extension everyone else's life that knows you. This is a very serious decision when you already have other children because it changes everything. Nothing will ever be the same again. Not everyone is cut out to make that transition, so you must be very careful thinking through the impact on everyone. Friends and family will not always be helpful, and I’ve known people who have literally been rejected by their extended families. Some of our family was not very involved before, and have shown no  interest in our latest adoption. That's something you have to consider - eventually your adopted children will grow up old enough to understand that they may well be rejected by your extended family. There are so many issues to think about and prepare for. So you MUST read as much as possible, dont stick your head in the sand, but research as much as you possibly can before you commit to anything, or start spending the thousands it will cost. Get involved with Yahoo and Facebook groups, and get to know people who have adopted before. Listen to their stories, good and bad. READ, READ, READ, pray, pray and pray - and discuss. And don't proceed unless you as a couple are totally committed and in agreement. Expect doubt...but know if God wants you to do this He will work it all out. Don't do it unless you are certain and then once you commit, stay committed no matter what.
One thing to remember, it's no different to having a biological child. Most people would never dream of not dealing with whatever a biological child has or develops. Adoption is pretty much the same except the child comes with baggage, sometimes very negative baggage.

What advice would you give someone who can't adopt, but would like to help orphans?
Get involved by praying for orphans, and advocating, and advertising the need. Support those who are adopting by offering help in any way you can, helping to fundraise, donating items, or making things to sell if you are craft gifted. Give of your time volunteering whether for a charity like Love Without Boundaries or helping an adoptive family. Donating money is a very practical way to help, as adopting is very expensive and most people don’t have the resources to adopt without help.

How can we help you? Pray for us, pray that God supplies all of our needs, and prepares us and our children for the children we are adding, and also that God prepares their hearts to live with us. 
We also need financial help. On our blog there are 2 methods to donate to us. We have a 'you caring' website where people can donate directly to us. Alternatively, there is an address to send donations directly to our agency, and these donations can be tax deductible. There is also currently a fundraiser being done for us through facebook friends.

January 29, 2014

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Families Adopting - The Kamplain Family Adopting from China

I have really been taken by this family as I've watched their journey of adoption. I think you will enjoy their story. 


How and why did you decide to adopt? 
God started working on our hearts when we were pretty young, about 23. He slowly introduced us to the thought that we would have children through adoption! & there were a few times through those years I would think to myself 'there's no way this is ever going to happen, its such a long hard process & so expensive' but God kept encouraging us!

Why did you choose to adopt from China?
It was always China in our hearts! Not sure why God chose China but he did! Before we were even old enough we knew it would be China, although we did spend a ton of time praying where we were to adopt from! We prayed about foster care, we prayed about Africa, the U.S., China, Korea, Bulgaria...we were willing to go where ever God told us! 

What has been the hardest part about the process so far? 
Knowing that our daughters are without us, that they have been for so long!
Raising all the money has been hard as well but, God has provided every bit of it & still is!


What has been the most rewarding thing about the process so far?
Learning how to completely rely on God! I thought I had strong Faith & a close relationship with God before, but I have learned so much through this! How to trust & listen! & I have learned,  I'm not in control!! If our paperwork doesn't get somewhere when I thought it should...it will actually be ok lol! I do not count down days to each approval! I do not have all these dates memorized! My God is in control...not China or the U.S. I just have to trust!

Tell us about your girls and how you found them.
We hadn't done a HS or signed with an agency. We figured we would save & fundraise for at least a year then get started (back when we thought we were in control lol) we did our first fundraiser in Dec. 2013 within a week God showed us our Vivian Grace (Dec. 21, this date I remember). We continued with her adoption & were told we would more then likely be traveling in February, but then in October we saw Sheng Yue (Olivia Joyce) Vivi's friend, & God told us to pursue her as our daughter! I was in shock! I never thought this would be something I could handle! & maybe I cant but I know who can! 


What are some things you are worried about?
We are worried about our daughters health. We know Vivian Grace seems to be in stable health but Olivia Joyce will almost certainly have to have open heart surgery. Of course I also worry about how the girls will adjust & how they will bond, but I remind myself that God will help us, but I am human & I do worry! 

What are you excited about?
We are excited about everything! Having them home, getting to be the one's to wake them up, feed them, play with them, put them to bed! Even the things I'm worried about like the doctors appointments, the melt downs...I'm excited to even be able to experience that with them! 


What advice would you give someone thinking about adoption?
Pray! Pray! & pray some more! Dont wait till you feel as if your ready, do it when God says your ready! He will provide, emotionally, financially, spiritually!! He will take care of it all, you just have to trust him! Don't get caught up in the cost, or thinking how scary Special Needs are...he'll prepare you!

What advice would you give someone who can't adopt but would like to help orphans?
Sponsor a child, volunteer at you local children's home, donate to foster families or help out a family who is adopting, either with fundraising or by donating or even just praying for them...actually, especially praying for them!  There are so many things you can do even if you are not called to adopt!

How can we help you?
Pray for us & our daughters! For this process, for their health, for us all to be emotionally ready for each other & for us to stay spiritually strong!

You can follow the Kamplain family here
January 27, 2014

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Helping Orphans Feel Special

In some parts of China, children born with facial deformities are treated differently due to cultural stereotypes.

Love Without Boundaries is preparing a week-long trip in which dozens of children will receive life-changing surgeries to repair cleft lip or palate. We have partnered with Love Without Boundaries to make it easy and inexpensive for people to donate our hats to these sweet children. You can purchase a hat at 50% off as a gift to an orphan. LWB will hand deliver your hat to one of the children after their surgery. We hope they will feel special and comforted by our hats.

photo courtesy of Love Without Boundaries.
This is a photo of some babies after their surgeries on one of LWB's past trips.

There are also other ways to help. Do you know that many times in other countries pain relief is not readily available for children after surgeries? A $10 donation can help a child heal faster and have less pain after their surgery. A $20 donation will provide formula and Pedialyte for good nutrition and hydration for a child after surgery. They are also looking for colorful handmade bibs! So many ways to help these precious children. Here are the details.

We thank Love Without Boundaries for the amazing work they do every day to help orphans all over China.
January 21, 2014

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Families Adopting - The Campbell Family adopting from South Africa

The Campbell family will be traveling to South Africa very soon to adopt their 7 year old son, Naso. 


How and why did you decide to adopt?
We have been looking for a way to make a difference in the world. Because we have friends and family who have adopted, it seemed a natural place for us to start.


Why did you choose to adopt from South Africa?
I lived in South Africa and have always loved the people and culture there.  We had talked about living there for a period of time with our children, long before the idea of adoption entered our minds, so it was very natural to begin the adoption process with South Africa when the news release stated that US families would now be able to adopt.

What has been the hardest part about the process so far?
As tough as the paperwork and the many obstacles that come with international adoption has been, waiting is the toughest.

What has been the most rewarding thing about the process so far?  
Imagining and day-dreaming about Naso fitting into our family and him changing us.


What are some things you are worried about?
We worry because we know that he will grieve - for his mother he knew, for the friends he made during his time in the group foster home, and for the impact that the first 6-7 years of his rough little life has had on him.  Will we be what he needs? 

What are you excited about?  
We are excited to make him a part of our family and see how much we will learn and grow and love as we make this transition. 

What advice would you give someone thinking about adoption?  
Follow your heart.  Because this idea "snuck up" on us, we did not have the thousands it takes to adopt internationally. But because we have followed our heart, miracles have come and we take great comfort that we are following the path we feel compelled to take.

What advice would you give someone who can't adopt but would like to help orphans?  Even if adoption is not in the future for your family, there are so many ways you can help orphans.  I'm amazed at all those who advocate for these children all over the world.  If your heart is in the U.S., then focus there.  I have a strong belief that just beginning to think about doing good will turn into researching how, which will turn into discovery, which will turn into action. Never think you are too small to make a difference.

How can we help you? 
We are raising money for the last of Naso's medical expenses and some remaining travel expenses at GoFundMe

You can follow the rest of the Campbell's Adoption journey here. They are just waiting for their court date right now, and will be traveling very soon!

Thank you Campbell family for sharing your story! 

January 14, 2014

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People Helping Orphans - Robert Molloy

Robert Molloy is a student at a University in Ireland. He has a passion for helping children, especially orphans. He advocates for them and travels far to visit them, using up all of his time doing good. I have been very inspired by his determination and heart. I hope you can catch a little bit of his wonderful spirit as you read his story.

                                                        Robert with some children at Eagle's Wings Foster Home

How did you get started helping orphans?

I went on my first volunteer trip to China in 2011 and spent two incredible and life-changing weeks with Bring Me Hope Foundation at summer camps. I spent two weeks with two different amazing kids. One great thing is that both of these children are now with their forever families in America! I've seen God do some amazing things for these children, through being able to advocate for them and find them families.

Robert's first trip to China in 2011                                                Robert's first trip to China in 2011, photo by Kristen Chase

I have gone back every summer and have done Bring Me Hope camp as well as worked with some other amazing organisations!
I actually just got back from my 4th trip and was able to visit some kids I met on my very first trip in 2011 and have seen every trip since. Now that is awesome! 
With lots of help from some friends, I advocated for the first orphan I ever worked with! This was an amazing experience! Then the next year I started advocating for some more kids I had met, and found families for 3 of those kids, and since then many more. Each time a family says YES to making a child their own feels just like that very first time over again. God has given me a big heart for this work and I am now the advocacy coordinator for Bring Me Hope, a great privilege. 

What in your life prepared you for this?
I have always liked working with kids and have done lots of work like this at my church through sunday school, kids clubs and youth groups. I am also the oldest child in my family and used to being a big brother. In China I am known as Rob GeGe (Big Brother Rob) or LuoBo Gege (my chinese name)!!
For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of travelling to Africa to work with orphans and children, but then ended up going to China and fell in love there!

What is your favorite thing about it?
One of my favourite things is seeing the kids so excited when they see you return to visit them again! When they realise they haven't been forgotten but that they really are special!

                                           Robert with a little girl he loves very much and is trying to find a family for.

After the summer at Bring Me Hope we launched our first advocacy site called Defend, as God calls us to Defend the orphan. The aim is simple, 'upholding the cause of the fatherless'. We feature some of the amazing kids who have been to Bring Me Hope summer camps who are waiting for their own families. Our wish is that as many kids as possible, can find their own families.

What is one of the hardest things about it?
One of the hardest things is seeing how much some of these children really desperately desire for a family of their own. Many of them have seen so many of their friends find families, yet they continue to wait. Now that is hard. I've cried over many of these kids whose chances of finding families reduce every day.

                                          Robert with one of his favorite buddies, who wants a family of his very own.

What is one of your best experiences?
Can I only pick one? About this time last year I got to visit my first orphan buddy with his forever family! That was so so special. I was a little nervous as I didn't know how he would react but after a few minutes of awkwardness we were best friends again! We both cried heavily saying goodbye at camp, and at that stage I never imagined I would get to see him again or that he would even be adopted, but 18 months later I was with him and his family. Adoption changes lives. Fact. 

What would you tell someone who wants to help?
Please consider being part of that and seeing some amazing children who wait for their own families at Defend.
I believe anyone can change the world, change the world for one person that is. That's all we can do.
Consider adoption or volunteering at summer camp. You will never be the same, guarantee.
January 01, 2014

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Sprout Tops Fan - Kyle

This guy loves his monster hat !


His mom told me that his 24 yr old sister and 16 yr old cousin wanted to steal it from him!They said it's the most comfortable hat ever! Needless to say...he won the fight :)

Thank you for sharing your photo, Kyle!

January 01, 2014

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People Helping Orphans - Chloe Banks at Bethel

We hope to send many hats to Bethel with our 1 for you, 1 for an orphan program. Chloe Banks works with Bethel, and I have admired her work and advocacy for Bethel's children from afar. She happily agreed to answer some of my questions.


Why did you start working at Bethel China / with visually impaired children?
I’m learning that the thing that I want to do with my life is to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves. A child who is an orphan or who is born disabled can't say 'I deserve a family’ or ‘I deserve equal access to education’ and so someone has to step in and do it on his or her behalf. 

I had absolutely no experience with working with visually impaired children before I started working for Bethel China! I just wanted to work with an organisation that was involved in orphan care and that would allow me to live in Beijing. 

What in your life prepared you for this?
I went to an orphanage in China for the first time when I was 16 with my Dad, who works with International China Concern. Something clicked in my heart and I loved orphans from that moment. I started studying Chinese and International Development and did camps and programmes where I worked with kids with special needs. When I was offered an opportunity to 
work with Bethel, it made perfect sense. 


What is your favorite thing about working at Bethel?
My favourite thing about working for Bethel is being a part of an organisation that values, supports and encourages family unity. Our education team meet with parents who have a child with a visual impairment. If we reach the families first and give them the tools to teach and care for their kids, we can stop abandonment before it happens. It's the most important thing we can do in orphan care to make an impact in the long-term. I love living in Beijing and I love my friends and family and community in China. We meet people from all over the world who are doing cool things to impact their communities. I’ve spent my 
whole adult life in China – it’s home!

What is one of your favorite experiences of working with Bethel?
It is so hard to narrow it down! I'm going to have to include at least 4 favourite experiences that will stick in my mind forever.

• For the first adoption that I was a part of, my husband and I took the little boy on a train to meet his parents. That was the first time I witnessed a family become a family-it was absolutely beautiful. 


• Getting to know parents who are waiting to come and get their kids who they are adopting from China. They have so much love and commitment to their sons and daughters who they haven't met yet. They just know they are a part of their family already.

• Seeing children prove their society wrong by shaking off the label of ‘orphan’ and ‘disabled’. They run marathons, ride bikes, swim, speak 2 languages, get scholarships at school, and ride public transport. When they and their teachers believe they can do it, they truly can do anything. 

• Holding a 4 year old boy as he woke up from anaesthetic after eye surgery. I sang to him and he tapped the beat of the song on my hand as he slowly woke up. It was like we were the only 2 people in the world. 

There are plenty of difficult decisions and hard things to witness sometimes too, but there is so much hope, goodness and kindness around. I can't help but be encouraged that things will improve when we work together with purpose on behalf of these kids. 

What would you tell someone who wants to help change the world?
Sponsor a child with Bethel China and then share their story! They are not able to share and 
advocate for themselves, so it’s important that those who can, do.

If you want to change the world, I believe you need to do it one person at a time. There are lonely, broken people all over the world, including those who live next door. You don't have to move across the world to change it. Get to know people, find out their stories, open your home to someone who needs community or family. Be kind.

Thank you so much Chloe for helping to change the world!
December 25, 2013

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