Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Stories of Yes #50 - Pool conversation

“Oh, how old is he?”
“He’s six. “
“Is he in school yet?”
“I’m homeschooling him and he’s delayed a bit, especially with speech.”
“Why is he delayed?”
“Well, he has Down syndrome and he has some institutional delays.”
“He has Down syndrome?!? But he looks so normal!”

Mmhmmmm. I’ve gotten this observation before. I’m never quite sure how to respond and I wish, wish, wish this statement wasn’t within earshot of him.

And I know there’s no ill intent when people say this, I know it’s said as if it’s a compliment or something but if you dig deeper into this statement, the observer is implying that others with DS look “abnormal”. (Even though everyone can see they are uniquely beautiful)

And I do wish that people could see, really see Lian for the miracle that he is. I wish you could clearly comprehend how he survived what he survived to get to where he is today. That he’s a fighter. That he has endured massive losses, that he fights harder, longer, deeper for every goal in his brief six years than most of us have in our decades of existence.

To reduce his existence down to how he looks, his “normal” appearance to American eyes.....I wish I could somehow communicate how he basically somehow survived a chromosomal storm in utero and made it to birth. He survived a baby drop box. He survived an orphanage for three years. He’s a fighter. He struggles to learn, to speak, but he tries and tries again. He loves with his whole stubborn heart even though he has lost not one but two mothers in the first three years of his life.

And he still loves. He still gives.

So, no, he’s not normal. He’s amazingly abnormal in every way. Look past the outward appearance to the heart.

- Cady Driver

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Stories of Yes #49 - Keeping it Real

“Are they REAL sisters?” the woman asks with a big, enthusiastic smile. We are at a new school and she runs the summer program. She has fallen in love with the girls and wants to know all about their past. She is warm and kind and my stomach sinks. I have been doing this for 24 years: educating people about adoption.
I say “of course” as she pushes on what she really means: “But were they sisters in China? Are your five girls BIOLOGICALLY related?” Hope and Ellie stand there wanting this answer, too. Listening to the “realness” of their family be dissected.
“They are sisters now,” I say firmly. “Real sisters!” She doesn’t get it. She has more questions. The snarky part of me wants to answer with: “So tell me how you were conceived. How did you end up in your family? A little too much wine on Friday night? Are you sure that’s your REAL dad?”
Because here is the thing: no one would say that. It’s nosy and unkind and none of my business. So why doesn’t anyone understand that’s how it is for adoptees? Their stories are painful. There isn’t a way around this truth: to gain a family you must lose a family. You must lose everything. And that isn’t a story to tell in the pick-up line with other kids and parents within ear shot.
Let me, once again, speak our truth: we are a REAL family. We love. We grieve. We fight. We forgive. We extend grace. Even here, we extend grace. Keeping it real..." 

- Cindy Newland

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Say Yes Spotlight - the Hayashi family

Jonathan is the Worship and Discipleship Pastor and Kennedi is the Children’s Ministry Director at Troy First Baptist Church in Troy, MO. They have two girls, Kaede (age 4) and Anna (age 2) and they are in the process of adopting Seiji, a precious little three-year-old boy living in a Bulgarian orphanage. Their girls love playing outside, and they can't wait to have a brother to play with!

Jonathan and Kennedi first reviewed Seiji's adoption file in February of 2019. They moved through the tedious process, and like so many families they feared how Covid-19 would affect their adoption travel. But they were given miraculous timing and were able to take their first "meeting trip" in February before Bulgaria shut down. And due to the way Bulgarian adoption works, their presence was not necessary in court since they had signed power of attorney documents while on their trip so that a lawyer could represent them. They passed court on May 29th, and Seiji officially became their son! And this week, they received the joyous news that the country is ready to resume the adoption service processing, and they will be flying to Bulgaria on July 2nd to bring their son HOME!! What an encouraging announcement for waiting families! There is a mandated 14-day quarantine which will extend their trip, but both of them will - thankfully - be able to travel regardless of the extension.

The Hayashis were recipients of our "Say Yes"™ Downright Lovable grant specifically for families adopting children with Down syndrome. Kennedi says, "The Lord has provided everything we could have imagined, and Open Hearts for Orphans played a big part in His plan! The greatest reason we said yes to adoption is because of the Lord’s call to “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” Psalm 82:3-4. God adopted us as our sons and daughters and we celebrate the gift of adoption by welcoming Seiji Gabriel into our family!"

We would sure appreciate your prayers for this family as they prepare for their final journey to bring little Seiji home forever.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Say Yes Spotlight - The Henderson family

If you are in the adoption community, then perhaps you've seen this Texas family in the news. They are one of our "Say Yes"™ grant recipients, and they are fiercely advocating - alongside many other families - to get their daughter home through international adoption in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. As relations become more tense between China and the US, the Henderson family is holding their hope on a provision that allows Americans to travel for humanitarian reasons, and they are working with the state department and lawmakers to see if that provision would allow the "stuck" families to travel to China to bring their children home.

"My husband and I have always said that we are never going to stand before God and repent for helping another orphan. We were not originally planning on adding a fifth child, but we felt the spirit continually prodding us to take the next step, so we said yes again. In the end, it came down to if we trusted God more than our fear and our plans. All four of our children were completely on board which helped us to take each step with more peace," Ginny says.

Trent is a pastor and Ginny is a physical therapist, which has led to their openness to adopt children with disabilities. Piper, who just turned seven, will be their third special needs adoption from China, and they have two biological sons. Ginny met Piper in person last September when she traveled on a Loving Ambassadors trip volunteering as a Physical Therapist. Ginny felt a bond and, though they weren't looking to adopt at the time, Ginny couldn't fathom leaving Piper as an orphan knowing the extent of her medical issues and the unknowns that need to be addressed and treated for her.

Ginny states that God's provision has been incredible and they have seen funding come in within 2-3 days of each payment due. "The Lord is so good," she contends. We are thankful that Open Hearts for Orphans was able to play a small part in that provision for this family. Please pray that the Hendersons, and other families waiting in limbo, are able to travel quickly to meet the children they've been legally - and lovingly - matched with. The Hendersons hope to be united with Piper this summer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Say Yes Spotlight - The Woertman family

Fred and Candy have five adult children, five school-aged children, and four grandchildren. Six of their children came to them through adoption, and they are having so much fun that they've decided to make room for one more! The family has been matched with a precious little girl who turned six earlier this year and has Down syndrome. She is living in an orphanage in Equador.

Fred just finished his 25th year of teaching middle school, and is often called the “kid whisperer.” Candy put her teaching career on hold to be with the kids and enjoys being a Teacher’s Assistant at the elementary school where all five little ones attend.

Down syndrome is not a new special need for Candy and Fred as parents, and this will be their third child rocking an extra chromosome. In 2017, they adopted their daughter, Joy, from China at the age of 7. And in 2018, they brought home their son, Timothy, from China who was nine at the time. Open Hearts for Orphans was delighted to play a small part in Timothy's adoption through our "Say Yes" Downright Lovable grant. He has been an absolute joy and such a bright light in their lives. Candy says "Timmy is so sweet. When we watch television, he likes to be near me and hold my hand or my arm. Every once in a while he will rub it. He and Joy are BEST friends and literally play all day together."

The Woertmans are so excited to give their YES one more time to adopting the little girl that has had Candy's heart for two years now. We were - once again - honored to offer them a "Say Yes" Downright Lovable grant for this extra-special adoption, and they hope to travel by the end of this year. Please pray for that timeline to remain and also for this family as they endure uncertainties in the wait to be united with their daughter.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Decade of Daniel

Can I tell you about our first hours together?  I knew - the minute I held that boy - he was mine.  The Mama bear in me didn't waste any time to jump out of my own unprepared skin and take hold of a sick and feverish child that needed so much more than love alone.  Jim and I gradually nursed him back to health in his birth country,  not knowing that the repair of his heart condition would ultimately take him from us in short time on our home soil.  Those rosy cheeks,  his milky white skin,  his cherry lips,  his Elmo-ish voice - Lord,  thank you for the most precious gift.  And now,  it hits can ten years have possibly passed since we held that boy for the last time?  I just don't know...

What I do know is that we can't rewrite the story.  We can't go back in time - ten years ago - and change our choices about Daniel's heart surgery and how his life ended here on earth.  Lord,  if we could,  I promise I would be so much smarter.  I would have known so much more.  I would have researched more...

I would have,
I would have,
I would have.

But - regretfully - I can't change it now.


Jesus has now been holding him for 120 months when we only held him for just over 120 days. Sometimes my brain screams silently in the agony that few understand, and sometimes the joyful beat of his heart is so loud and clear in my brain that it completely overtakes my sorrow.  It's all just so complex...some days tear me apart,  but then most days I find a way to look at the blessings and celebrate the fact that we were - we were able to spend a birthday together,  a Valentine's Day together,  an Easter together, a Mother's Day together.  And I delight in awe that he was born on February 2nd - 40 days after Christmas, on the Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ,  and then he died was born into eternal life on the Holy Trinity - the Feast day honoring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It felt like a great big holy God-hug saying "I've got him!"  I trust the Lord with all my heart, and I know we did what we thought was best at the time - that I loved with all I had  was enough.  I think of Daniel's first mother, and I feel the sting of tears.  Does she wonder where he is in the world?   Will she ever know he's safe with Jesus?
Since then,  I've looked to mentor devastated mamas who walk the same painful path.  It surely takes one to know one when it comes to child loss,  and adoption adds an extra layer of hard when you've survived the palpable pains of an adoption process with all the red tape and approvals and paperwork and waits and obstacles.  It seems so unfair to trek all that way across the globe and then lose everything just four months later.  But, yet, we haven't really lost, have we?  Ten years into this newly-paved road of emotional twists and turns,  I know, without doubt,  I'm changed for the better.  I'm richer in spirit and clothed in humility;  my tested and seasoned soul so much wiser.  Compassion lives in me so boldly for God's most vulnerable.  It's like part of Daniel's soul somehow melded  into mine;  like all of who he was,  is now living in me.

While we can't rewrite his story,  what we can do is keep writing the story God made for His purpose.  The beauty from ashes is evident in three more children home after Daniel.  Each additional gift from God is a sweet reminder of him and they know his name - they know his face.  We always have five children even when the headcount is four.  Ignorance is such bliss, isn't it?  If we had only known that four months after meeting our son,  we'd be laying him to eternal rest,  I'm not sure we would have been brave enough to say yes to bringing home our beautiful son.  It pains me to say that,  but it's truth.  We weren't heroes - we were just ordinary people who wanted to be obedient to God's calling and give love.  We are immeasurably grateful that we chose faith over fear, and our "unknowing" was a gift from our gracious God to help us give our glorifying YES to Daniel - surely one of the very best choices of our lives.  Sharing his story in a memoir was only the next right thing to do in order to preserve each precious detail of how he changed us - how the beauty of his soul oozed all over us.  And then, six years after his passing, our charity to bless orphaned and abandoned children was born in memory of Daniel and all the other heart warriors gone too soon.  Sometimes I wonder if,  deep down,  I do all this work in his memory because I feel guilty that he's not here.  And, honestly?  Maybe that's part of it buried in the brain somewhere. But, what I do feel is tremendous honor - that God chose us to be his parents and that my job to mother him now has become about ministering to the voiceless children on Earth who deserve to have a mama too - they are royalty in the eyes of our Father.

It's my adoptive mama friends (Daddies, too) who understand this place the most.  They've taken risks of the heart themselves and they know what it's like to dance on the edge of a cliff with a medically-fragile or special needs child.  They know what it's like to fall head over heels with an image - a dream that comes to life in a paper pregnancy and a grueling process that gives you no choice but to cry out to our Heavenly Father for help along the way.  Some of them have sent off little ones to Heaven, too,  and it's in our solidarity that we weep with grateful hearts for the immeasurable gift of our children we were given the chance to love.

Mamas out there,  I know it sounds so - I don't know - "cliche" to say hug your children like it's your last day.  I say that preaching to myself because on exhaustion-filled days,  I still fail too,  but it's so important to remember.  If I could go back and give myself advice, I'd say, "Please, Lisa, take more pictures with you in them."  I was always behind the camera snapping away,  and Lord,  how I wish I had more of them to treasure and study.  Go and do it now.  I would also tell myself to "lighten up."  As a hyper-vigilant and over-protective mama,  I thank God he has an earthly Daddy who treated him like a rough and tumble boy.  He loved that so so much.

I'm not living in the past,  because Daniel still very much IS to me.  I joke and tell people that he's the most well-behaved of our children.  How can that not be true when you are up there shining brightly in the light of Jesus?  Our love story wasn't "supposed" to end,  and it hasn't really.  It's just changed from how we once thought it would be.  My mind's baffled by the fact that we've been without him so much longer than we were with him.  But, then again, we're not without him, right?  He's still such a strong part of us, and Lord knows we're connected by the pieces of our hearts he took with him up there.  The wounds are there, but they have healed so very much and they are now faded scars that I wear with gratitude.  Ten years - I know there's people in our lives who read my writings on these anniversaries each year and wonder how and why we're not "over" this loss - like there's some sort of time limit on love.  The world tells us to "move on" to "get over it."  But,  get over what?  Love??  I think you and I both know that isn't what the Good Lord intended for our tender hearts.  He wants them cracked open and exposed so His love can seep into the crevices,  take up space,  and begin to heal our wounded souls through His grace.  And those wounds are the most tangible proof that we have loved!  Why would we ever wish to diminish that or make it go away?  I do not believe that is His desire for us. We all lose loved ones in this lifetime,  and it's our choice to either blossom from that painful experience in the loving hands of our Father, or let it stronghold us at the roots and wither away in our own grief.  This child was so loved and we will wear that love like a badge of honor every day of our lives


On this ten-year mark of our Daniel's Heaven Day,  I'm just plain thankful.  It makes my heart swell to see how our work at Open Hearts for Orphans continues to grow through the goodness and generosity of so many people who - in one way or another - loved Daniel too and wish to help us keep his spirit alive. His chapter in our lives is not one that happened,  but rather one that still happens daily through our God-glorifying work and will long as I'm alive and able.  Serving through charitable works in Daniel's memory may seem like a "consolation prize" to some - and perhaps it is compared to having him physically here with us,  but it's in the giving of ourselves to "the least of these" and laying our grief at the foot of the cross for others that we find the most soul-satisfying comfort from our gracious and loving Father.  We know that the ultimate prize is waiting for us up there, where our son is basking in glory with His Heavenly Father.  

Perhaps today we would be having a graduation party for our son. But I guess he received the ultimate graduation when he entered Heaven's gates ten years ago. And we shall celebrate our Forever Family together with him again someday.

- Lisa Murphy

Monday, May 25, 2020

Stories of Yes #48

Casey Cleveland, the Lead Pastor of The Avenue Church in Delray Beach, preaches the gospel to his congregation and also lives the gospel in his own personal life. Pastor Casey says, "We felt God calling us to adopt out of foster care. We fostered our son Cade (currently 5 yrs old) almost from birth first, and then his sister Cora (currently 4) came along about a year later. My wife and I were able to adopt Cade and Cora two years ago and have been richly blessed by having the opportunity to share the love of God that we first received in Christ. They are God’s best YES for our family, and we are forever grateful!"

The Avenue Church not only supports adoption and foster care missions, but - when not in a pandemic - they also host a monthly "Foster Parents' Night Out" providing much-needed respite care to local foster families. They say, "Not everyone is called to be a foster parent, but each of us can spend an evening per month supporting a foster family."