Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Leave No One Behind"

posted by Kenney

I have the privilege of being the son of a US Army Veteran that served in the Vietnam era.  The brother in law to both an Army and Marine soldier.  The grandson of an Army soldier.  The nephew of a Marine, Navy, and Army servicemen and friend of many who have served.  One thing that has always stuck with me each time I hear it in speeches or movies is how our military "leaves no one behind."

When I examine what that means in my civilian life and how I can apply that honorable "code" of living in Northwest Indiana - where there are corn fields all around us and the closest military action I ever will see is sand bagging around my house to deal with floods- I've decided this is as close as it's gonna get.


When we started the Chinese adoption process nearly two years ago, we were given "access" to a database of some of the waiting children.  Each child on the list was given a pseudo name in English for child protection and easy identification.

Laura and I have always adored the name "Charlotte."  In our history, we talked about naming a little girl by that name.  If Tommy was a girl, that's the name we were going to use. Then Noah came along, and obviously was not a Charlotte. Then Audrey, who at the time it felt right to name her Audrey as a namesake to her Grandmother "Nanny" and my Aunt Audrey.  Two women of impeccable character and women we looked up to.  Caleb, obviously not a Charlotte, and Isabell, who again, Charlotte just didn't fit.  In fact Laura has told her sisters that if any of them ever have little girls, the name "Charlotte" is off the table for them.  Period.  She means business.  Don't go there. (You gotta know Laura to get the seriousness of this statement. Seriously)

Back to the database of waiting children.

There was a girl on the database with the name "Charlotte."  We found out her Chinese name was Yawen.  A little girl with a cute round face, full of life eyes, and a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. Of course Laura gravitated to her file and requested information on her (this was before we had even looked at the files of our Isabell and Caleb) however she was not available at the time, some other family somewhere had her file and was possibly adopting her.  Since her file was not available, Laura prayed for her.  She prayed that a family would care for this little "Charlotte" and prayed for her to find a forever family.  We continued to look at children on the waiting list and eventually found our Isabell and Caleb, locked in their files and proceeded to bring them home to be a part of our family.

Fast forward 1 year.  

Laura and I are in China for a week at this point.  We have our Caleb and we are now in Guiyang, China picking up Isabell.  We arrived in a small office in a part of China that MAYBE has two-four adoptions a year.  We are chatting with Isabell's foster family.

Here is where the story starts to connect.

Through all the questions we had for the foster family we find out that Isabell has a foster sister that lives with them too and she's available for adoption.  Her foster sister's name... Yawen.

Knowing Yawen was Isabell's foster sister and the odds of 2000+ children on the waiting list in a country with over a million orphans, knowing these two girls were actually living together in a remote part of the country. Knowing they grew up together. Knowing all of this, well,  Laura knew one thing.....God was moving.

I on the other hand did not feel the movement. In fact, any form of "movement" I was feeling I chalked it up to indigestion and jet lag. Once we got back to Indiana, I suppressed any knowledge of that feeling, I hid deep in the recesses of my heart what I knew. I denied what my own heart knew. I was overwhelmed on many fronts; knowing we now had five children - five and under, some with special needs, some with a misdiagnosis that was way more complicated and difficult than what I had planned. Knowing this information, put much fear and much trepidation in my heart.  How would I continue to lead our family? How could I provide for all of our children in each of their unique needs? All I could think about was our small-mustard colored house that we lived in that needed repair and remodeling for a, gulp, wheelchair.  I would wake up at night scared not knowing what lies ahead for us.  All I could think about was the unique needs each of our children seemed to have and  I as the leader of my household had no idea how to guide them or direct them or help them. I felt that I was not leading very well at all, so to add more to lead was surely a bad idea if I couldn't even manage these five. It was all about what I felt was best.  All about what I wanted.  All about what I knew I needed to control.

I went into a season of "enough".  I reached my "enough".  Circle the wagons, it was time for internal focus on what I was living for.  By July of last year, Laura had brought up to me several times "Charlotte" and it broke her heart.  Weeping like I never saw, she would stand before me saying her heart breaks that Isabell's sister is there and we can't bring her home.  She just cried over and over again, that she felt like there was just to many "miracles" that this was our Charlotte.  I would just think to myself, someone else can handle that. I can't handle another little girl, let alone another little girl with Cerebral Palsy.

I would just look at her with a cold stare and even colder heart.  Refusing to see the hurt in my wife, refusing to help her deal with this, refusing to partner with my partner....I didn't just build a hedge....I built a wall stronger than Fort Knox.  Discussions on the topic of "Charlotte" turned into arguments and then to fights.  I refused to listen to Laura, or even talk with her about it-  I kept my wagons circled.  I failed Laura as a husband during this time.  One Saturday afternoon; it got bad.  Really really bad.  

Laura and I argued for the morning and into afternoon and to make a long story short, her parents got involved in our "conversations."  Her dad took me out for a drink to have a "guy to guy" talk.  I explained to him about "Charlotte" and the story, except the story was my story, and only a half truth of a story- and after the conversation He agreed we should be on the same page, because based on what I told him (the lie that God wasn't calling me) we weren't on the same page.  I won that battle; for whatever worth that was. We came back and shared I had told Laura's dad about Charlotte.  When Laura heard I told her dad about Charlotte, and told him a story that wasn't all true she knew the "conversations" were over.  I watched a piece of my wife die that day, and I knew it.

We didn't talk about "Charlotte" anymore.  I didn't pray for her anymore, I didn't pray about what God's will for my life was. I felt like I won.  I felt it was time to really begin living my life.  After all I had done enough.

I didn't speak about this to anyone.  I didn't tell my accountability partners. I didn't share about what had happened with any of my Christian friends.  I knew I was a "fake" Christian.  I knew I wasn't being honest with anyone.  I knew what God wanted of me, though.  I just knew it.

...and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. Matthew 10: 3b-4

Then one day I remember praying.  I remember being on my knees.  I remember opening my hands and asking God what he wanted of me.  It clicked.  My eyes became open through the Spirit that I was being called to pray for "Charlotte" again.  This started slowly.  I prayed for a good month or two.  Then one day I remember being on the phone with Laura and the words just slipped out, "we need to go back and bring her sister home."

So, Laura and I talked about it with each other. We can't bring every orphan home. We don't know what the future brings. We had no idea how all the details were going to work out or if they were even going to work out. We might be making a huge mistake.  This may be one of the most difficult things we do.  This may be a bigger challenge than we can even imagine. But one thing for sure, it has taught me than living with open hands is the best way to live. Letting God use me, however he pleases is the place to be.  Putting the focus on what God wants instead of what I want is where peace and comfort are found.

This means six children ages six and under.

So with that, China is in our destination again.  In fact, I leave tomorrow to go back to bring "Charlotte" home and forever be our Charlotte.

I can now look back and see some of the ways God moved.  In the very beginning, in something as simple as a name planted in our hearts. In meeting her foster parents, In bringing Isabell home first, In the therapists we have, in the time we've spent getting used to heading to Shriners all the time, in the drawing me closer to Himself. 

We've decided to apply the motto "Leave No One Behind" and not leave our little Charlotte an orphan any longer.



Saturday, June 8, 2013

We too, Choose Life

I was barely up, eyes barely open as the sun was not even nearly up-  "She didn't make it through the procedure."

And my mind knew what my heart felt. 

On February 29, 2012, this sweet little girl sat in my lap, while I listened to her sing "Jesus Loves Me" in Chinese.  In a home for orphans in China, while we were picking up our son Fengfeng (Caleb) this little girl sat with no mommy or daddy and with extreme medical conditions. 

From that day forward I have had the privilege of watching a family choose life.  Her life.

Their story is long and complicated.  It is full of twists and turns.  Full of setbacks and problems.  From the beginning, pain and suffering were commonplace in this story.  I watched every plot twist unfold and have had the privilege to first hand witness the orchestrating of God's mighty hand in their lives.  The family chose life.  At all costs.  The financial burdens, the paperwork, the stress, the hours and hours on their knees in prayer, the questions, the hard answers, the extra work, the extra time, the extra everything it required of them to make that decision. They even chose more life. That arm and leg and one quarter of head in the picture- that little boy is part of the story too.  They chose his life as well.

Last night, that little girl, Zoe, had Jesus call her home.  In the midst of a complicated and trying surgical procedure, all the medical intervention couldn't sustain her life here on earth, and Jesus chose to call her home. 

The pain and intense heartache I can't even begin to fathom.  The tears I've cried over this little girl are nothing compared to the mama who chose her life, to the family that fought for her life. 

Many thoughts flood my mind.  Almost every thought brings me to my knees and to tears.  May this little girl's life remind me why we live the way we live.  May her life remind me why we have the children we have.  Why we support the ministries we support.  May her life remind me, human life, is precious and to be celebrated and to be chosen.  Always.  Made in Christ's image each life is, and HE is always to be chosen, always to be celebrated, always to be praised.  Every single sacrifice, every financial burden, every amount of suffering is always worth it.  Life is always to be valued.

Zoe's mama chose life.
Zoe's daddy chose life.
Zoe's family chose life.

They penned these words to remember:  (click here to read the full post)

So how much is a life worth? Ask Jesus. He gave everything. This tiny bit I'm giving right now?!? It pales in comparison. I pray that I'll remember that when this day is done.

I pray for this family- that
"the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
I pray that it may be true of me, that I choose life.  That this family chooses life.  No matter the cost, no matter the suffering, no matter the ridicule, no matter the culture, no matter the expense, even if it costs our own lives, I pray it to be true.
We choose life.