Amy to Africa

Amy is eight years younger than me.

Amy is a high school senior and was voted “Best All-Around Girl.”

Amy is athletic and smart and beautiful.

Amy has a tender and gentle, compassionate and loving heart.

Amy is shy but hilarious, quiet but confident.

 

This is a post about my youngest sister.

This is a post about Amy.

 

sarah+spencer-44

 

I have loved watching my youngest sister’s heart grow more and more fond of Jesus.  She has fallen in love with the Gospel and with our Savior; it has been a beautiful thing to watch over the years.  These have been things she’s made for me as Christmas, birthday, and wedding gifts:

IMG_8684

 

I love looking at this wall because it reminds me of how her heart has grown towards the Lord over the years.  She’s been making the burlap wall art with custom verses to raise money for our future adoption.  You can check out more about that here:  http://amy4orphans.webs.com

More recently the dream of spreading the Gospel in Africa has grown in her heart.  And the more the Word has nourished that dream, the more she has talked about it and looked into how to make it a reality.  She’s reached out for help and advice, and she’s anticipated the day when she could tell everyone she would get to go overseas.

Well, last week she contacted our old church back in Orlando.  Turns out they are going to Burundi, Africa (a nation they have been connected with for several years now) in March.  Amy excitedly asked if she could join them on the trip and after sweet conversation that can only be arranged by God, she will be headed to Burundi in less than two months!

She cannot contain her excitement to live out this dream, experience the Church abroad, and share the Gospel.  Her heart is overflowing.  I am so proud of her and am excited to see what the Lord has in store for her.  I know He will use her, but I also know He will teach her more than she can imagine while she is there.

She would be so honored and grateful if you would join her in this journey.  Prayers are essential, especially as she travels on a trip like this for the first time.  And she is in need of financial support.  If you have something to give, it would bless her abundantly.  To hear from Amy and donate, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/sendamytoAFRICA  She would appreciate any amount.  And she most definitely appreciates your prayers.  Thank you for considering supporting her!

I am beyond proud of my little sis.  It will be a joy to see where to Lord takes her (spiritually and physically) over the coming months and years.  May the Kingdom grow because of Amy’s faithfulness to the great commission!

Advertisements

Some Thoughts on Adoption and Foster Care

Recently I had a conversation with some friends about adoption.

It is something I have been passionate about since high school.  Even when Spencer and I had our first real conversation I brought up adoption and how he felt about it.

Taking care of orphans is part of the Christian’s calling.  Adoption is so intricately woven in the gospel; they cannot be separated.  Believers have been adopted in the family of God.  We were lost, helpless, alone.  We needed the Father’s love, discipline, grace.

Spencer and I get so excited when we talk about adoption.  Whenever we are able to start the adoption process it will be a joyous day.  Even as we are about a month away from welcoming our first daughter into the world, we can’t help but anticipate the other children that will join our family.

So recently as I talked with a couple friends about adoption, it was encouraging to hear others share their hearts for orphans and hope to adopt.  A young girl was around us as we discussed this, and she was quick to say, “Wait, so you can’t have kids?”  We tried to explain that there are millions of children around the world who need families, but she didn’t quite understand why we would want to adopt if we can have “our own kids.”  It reminded me of a time last year when Spencer and I were discussing adoption with some people.  Someone asked, “So you don’t want kids of your own?”

Those words hurt my heart.  When you are adopted into a family you belong there.  You were made to be there.  You are the parents own.  I loved how a friend from church said he explained to his son that he was adopted.  He said that even though he was in a different woman’s tummy, he was meant to be part of their family, to be their son.  He came from someone else’s tummy, but he is theirs.  Completely.

As much as adoption is just a sweet thought to many, foster care seems to be even more of a distant thought.  Believers need to be in the foster care system.  Desperately.  This article from the NY Times yesterday shares that 30 percent of the homeless in America were once in foster care:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/fashion/Just-Holding-On-Through-the-Curves-modern-love.html?_r=0  There is a huge need with children and teenagers here in America.  Christians need to step up and be willing to step outside of their comfort zones and open their homes and hearts to this group that desperately needs love, discipline, training, hope, families.

As much as I believe Christians should be at the forefront of orphan care, the reality is so many have distorted views on it and so many still don’t even think about it.  Hopefully Spencer and I can share our heart for orphans with those in our life and help others realize the need to care for the least of these.  I absolutely love seeing churches have orphan care ministries.  It encourages my heart so much.  And I love reading others’ hearts about this topic.  My friend has a wonderful blog that I encourage you to read and let it challenge you:  http://waitingonaword.blogspot.com

I can’t wait to see how the Lord grows our family.  I know it will be a long process, filled with joy and heartache, hope and longing.  But I pray our growing little family will point others to Christ and expand His Kingdom.  May our hearts beat for the needs of the orphans.

 

Passing along a few good articles…

I have stumbled upon some heavy articles recently that I wanted to pass along.  These are definitely worth the few minutes it takes to read them.  Enjoy.

About the Russian anti-American adoption ban:

Dr. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote this after a Russian saw his posts and responded with a bit of national pride:  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/01/08/the-answer-to-russias-orphan-crisis/

Just yesterday I saw this http://m.voanews.com/1582953.html and it made my heart so glad.  That picture of thousands of Russians standing up, not for Americans, but for orphans brought such a smile to my face.  I am thrilled to see people being the voice to those who can’t speak up for themselves.

And then sign this petition to help the 46 families that were so near to bringing their Russian children home.  And then pass it along.  https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/help-46-families-wchildren-caught-politics-bring-their-court-approved-adopted-child-home-russia/SgvPTKR2?utm_source=wh.gov&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=shorturl

On the recent Louie Giglio and inauguration scenario:

This is an article from Ed Stetzer posing the question, are evangelicals no longer welcome in the public square?   http://www.edstetzer.com/2013/01/evangelicals-and-44-of-america.html

Here is one from Russell Moore concerning this situation and the new state church. http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/01/10/louie-giglio-and-the-new-state-church/

This blog shows resemblance between what is going on now and what George Orwell wrote about.  http://greatriversofhope.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/an-inauguration-to-make-george-orwell-proud/

This article I found most interesting. To sum it up, the author argues the point that if you have this much power are you really the ones being oppressed?  It is very insightful. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2013/01/11/help-were-gay-and-were-being-oppressed/

Along the same lines:

This is a letter from the CEO of Hobby Lobby about his business potentially being fined millions of dollars everyday they do not comply with certain health legislations concerning abortive contraceptions. http://thebrennerbrief.com/2013/01/03/tragic-letter-from-the-hobby-lobby-ceo-results-of-personal-freedoms-slipping-away/

While Louie Giglio is in the news recently for a sermon he preached 15 years ago calling sin what it is, he is usually known for his stance against human trafficking and slavery.  The Passion Conference took place in Atlanta at the beginning of this year to shed light on this horrific situation.  These provide information about that:

This is from Compassion providing some awful statistics about human trafficking.  http://blog.compassion.com/human-trafficking-awareness-day-what-is-a-childs-life-worth/

President Obama declared January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/31/presidential-proclamation-national-slavery-and-human-trafficking-prevent

And then you can go to this site  http://enditmovement.com to learn more about what you can do to stop modern day slavery.

This article has a different spin to it, but was written to those who attended Passion 2013.  In it the author quotes Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  It is a subject I wrestled with in college.  Why would I spend so much time and money getting an education when I can be starting a ministry or just be out in the world with hurting people?  This article has a wonderful answer to that.  It reminds me so much of C. S. Lewis’ “Learning in Wartime” essay, in which Lewis writes about the importance of staying in school even during such a time as war.  If you are in school and have passions that you are ready to make a difference with, read this and know your education is not in vain:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/01/did-you-go-to-passion-2013-heres-what-fyodor-dostoyevsky-would-say-to-you/

And then we come to health:

I was so glad to see an article about the dangers of fast food from TIME this morning.  Often Americans talk about different fad diets or the increase of disease in our culture, but for some reason people, including doctors, do not talk about whole body wellness.  There is a definite link between what we eat and disease.  http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/15/fast-food-linked-to-asthma-and-allergies-in-kids/  What we give our bodies affects them, and in America it seems to be more negative than positive.  We would do well to bring more things like this to light.  I talk about what wellness looks like for us a bit here: https://spencerandsarahc.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/living-well-together/

On a lighter note:

This blog was written about the show Duck Dynasty.  The author provides evangelical insight into why this popular new show is good for this country.  They are simple points, yet they are true.   http://truthmattersblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/5-reasons-america-needs-duck-dynasty/

That’s all for now folks.

Three Years Ago…

Three years ago when my life forever changed.

Three years ago I was in Israel.

Sunrise in Israel

Three years ago I was standing on rooftops in old Jerusalem watching the sunrise.  I was surrounded by a few fellow believers who traveled from Union with me to share the gospel in a place that desperately needs to hear about Jesus.

It was one of the best weeks of my life.  Yet it was one of the hardest places to deliver the gospel.

I will have to save sharing about that trip for another time.  I could talk about it for days.

While on that trip, three years ago, we watched the news coverage of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

 

Three years ago today the earthquake happened.

Three years ago God grew in me a heart for the Jewish people and Israel; three years ago God grew in me a heart for Haiti.

 

As I watched the news and learned more about the earthquake after returning home, I knew I had to go.

I longed to be amongst the rubble and ruins, dust and ash.

I so desired to hold children in my arms, bandage wounds, pass out food and water, and rebuild houses.

I yearned to offer hope amongst the despair, peace amongst the chaos, joy amongst the grief.

I needed to be with the poor and helpless.

So I spent hour upon hour figuring out how I could go.  I knew spring break would arrive in just two months, allowing me a week off from school.  It took some time to figure it all out.  But just three short weeks before spring break I had found a ministry to go with (Adventures in Missions http://www.adventures.org), booked my flight, and even convinced my mom and two friends at Union to join me.  Unfortunately, my grandmother became very sick, and so my mom stayed behind to be able to spend time with her in California before the Lord called her home.  We trusted the Lord and knew he had a purpose and plan behind the timing of everything.  He was in charge of our family and He was in charge of Haiti.

There is no way to accurately put into words what we saw and experienced.  It was one of the best weeks of my life, yet it was one of the hardest.  (That seems to be a recurring theme.)

Sleep was a luxury amongst the heat and noise.

tent life

My heart was constantly grieving, yet constantly giving…a strange paradox to persevere through.

These people had nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  They used whatever they could find to concoct some sort of shelter.

housing

So much devastation.  So much grief.  So much death.

What could we possibly do?  How could we help?  What words would be adequate?

I quickly learned that we didn’t have to heal the nation.  All I had to do was share Jesus.  My Strength, my Rock, my Refuge, my Healer, my Joy, my Help, my Provider, my Provision.  Share Him.  My mission in Haiti was not to rebuild the whole nation, but simply help the few that I could.

What did that simple help look like?

Some days it was teaching English to a small community since they were still out of school.

school

 

 

Some afternoons we helped rebuild a church.

church

And some in the community quickly joined in to help.

church

 

We packed bags of rice and beans for pastors to hand out to their communities.

rice and bean bags

 

We spent time visiting churches and hearing their stories.  The testimony that “my life was spared from the earthquake, so I know that there must be a God and so I will follow Him” was heard often and struck me hard.  What peace and hope we encouraged them with was tiny in comparison to the way their just months old and yet solid and seasoned faith impacted us.

There were times when letting them love us, in their own unique way, was the best thing we could do for them.

braids

the girls

 

Most importantly, the name of Jesus was on our lips.  The gospel was shared.  Men, women, and children were prayed for.

 

Each face we looked into told a powerful story.  They will never be forgotten.

DSC_0786

DSC_0800

DSC_0832

DSC_0883

DSC_0344

DSC_0345

DSC_0350

DSC_0983

Three years ago, those faces changed my life.

 

Three years ago, a part of me was left in Haiti.

Daril

Three years ago, God literally shook the Haitian grounds out of spiritual darkness and into revival.  He is moving in mighty ways in Haiti.  His church is growing there like never before.  Light now shines in a place that was covered in darkness.

Praise be to God who can use any chaos, catastrophe, tempest, and trial for His name’s sake!

on this day of thankfulness, don’t forget about the least of these

Americans tend to get swallowed up in themselves.  Food, toys, tv, cars, phones and data plans, and so much more engulf us quickly.  Materialism is an epidemic.  That is obvious by how crazy people get on Black Friday.  Stores are even opening tonight, which we have heard called Greed Thursday.  People can spend a day, or part of a day, in gratitude, and then just a few short hours later can literally run people over in the name of a good deal, and greed.

But there are major crises going on around the world right now.  As much fun as gathering with friends and family, cooking, and parades are, the body of Christ cannot lose sight of what people are enduring outside of our kitchens and homes and stores.  Don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to day people need to take time to be thankful.  Gratitude is something that has also been lost in our American culture.  I’m thankful people are thankful today.

But it seems crazy that there is a parade going on in New York City when just miles away are people who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  What would happen if all the money that went into the parade and all the people standing around watching it went and helped those who were left homeless and hungry and cold?

What would happen if the church started to intentionally pray for the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo?  So many are even oblivious to what is going on there right now.  It is horrific.  Read about it here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20427682  I have dear friends who have been in the adoption process and are so close to bringing home their son, Tyson, from the DRC.  They just await the final ok to jump on a plane and get him.  He is in the city of Kinshasa, which is where the rebels are threatening to go next.  Please join us in praying for Tyson and the people of the DRC.  If you would like to financially help our friends be able to travel to the DRC, you can buy these wonderful ornaments.  100% of the proceeds go to their adoption of Tyson.  http://www.adoptionisgood.com/?p=439

 

 

 

What if Gentiles reached out to the Jewish people?  Israel has always been in turmoil.  And since I traveled there with a team from Union in 2010 it has gained a special place in my heart.  Recently, they have endured much.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20444499#TWEET384692

Part of my heart was left in Haiti when I went there after the earthquake.  And it constantly astounds me how the poorest country in the world can be so very close to the richest country.  This article talks about how Americans make up half of the richest 1% of the world:  http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/04/news/economy/world_richest/index.htm

As we give thanks today for our lives of abundance, let us not forget to fall on our knees and offer these hurting people, these dire situations, these tragic events to the Lord.  May we not forget the least of these.

Adoptions

Recently we have had so many conversations about adoptions, been involved with fundraisers for adoptions, or been researching for our own adoptions.  It just seems to be an abounding topic these days.  It brings so much joy to my heart to learn of people in our community of Jackson adopting.  And I love learning about the creative ways they are all raising money to fund their adoptions….cookbooks, clothing swaps, earrings, and all sorts of wonderfully creative things.  In fact, some friends in Montgomery, AL that are very dear to my heart are coming quite close to bringing their son home from the DRC!  And they have a friend selling these awesome ornaments as a fundraiser for them.  Definitely check them out here (and buy some!):

http://www.adoptionisgood.com/?p=439

Adoption is a topic that we are passionate about.  Hopefully we can start the adoption process in the near future.  And my sweet little sister has started a fundraiser for us.  I cannot describe how proud I am of her.  She is selling some really wonderful burlap wall art pieces with Bible verses.  She gave one to me last year for Christmas and I just love it.

Check out her website here:

http://amy4orphans.webs.com

It will be an exciting journey these next few years as the Lord unfolds His plan for our lives and family.  He is good and faithful, and we will proclaim that no matter how hard circumstances get.  It is a beautiful thing to see the church working together to look after the orphans of the world.  May the Lord continue to stir a love for the least of these in His people.

Kisses From Katie

I just finished reading the book Kisses from Katie.  (You can follow her blog here:  http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com)  I could probably write a lot about Katie’s heart, the things she has done and continues to do as a young, single woman, and how you should definitely read it.  But I won’t drag on and on about the obvious.  It is clear the Lord is using her ministry in Uganda in great ways for His Kingdom.  You should definitely read her book. I do truly believe her vulnerability in writing the book will open up the hearts of American Christ followers to see how much adoption is part of the heart of God.  And that is something I get so excited about.

KFK cover 2

For those of us in Christ, we have been adopted into His family.  And once you get out into the world and see orphans, hold their hands, and feed them, you begin to see what it means for us to be adopted into the family of God.  My mission trip to Israel in 2010 opened my eyes drastically to what it means that we are “grafted in.”  There is no other reason for us to know God besides Him choosing us.

I will always tell people they need to travel.  There is absolutely nothing that compares to serving the church in different nations, praising God with brothers and sisters of a different culture, and experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit among His people everywhere.  But, some people won’t or aren’t able to…and they need to read this book.  Or one like it that will open their eyes to the reality of what the rest of the world goes through.  I read A Hole in the Gospel by Richard Stearns a few years ago and it was an incredible book along these same lines.

As those adopted into God’s family, we are required to take care of the orphans, widows, poor, and hungry.  The Bible is filled with talk about the poor.  There is no way to separate following Christ from taking care of the poor.  I loved reading Kisses from Katie, because she allowed her readers to see how she follows Christ’s mandates of loving the poor, taking care of the sick, and looking after orphans.  I just love having conversations about traveling and being with the Church in other places or reading others’ stories about their experiences living out Christ’s mandates.

In one of our first conversations, I asked Spencer what his views on adoption were.  (Seriously.  We jumped right into the big issues.)  We had already talked about how we are both passionate about other cultures and missions, and then finding out that he and I shared a passion for adoption as well was exciting and relieving.  And as we start this journey together of displaying the gospel through marriage, I am excited to think about how our story will impact others.  We want to care for the poor and hurting.  We want to travel and worship with the Church around the world and encourage disciples wherever we can.  We want to adopt and have a house full of children that we can raise in Christ.  We want to love as Christ calls us to.

We have only been married a month and a half, but we know the Lord is working behind the scenes to bring about His plan in our life together to glorify His name and build His kingdom.  It will be quite a joy to see how it all unfolds!

-Sarah