Archives For adoption

To Die or To Diamond

November 25, 2014 — 3 Comments
Arrival home, 2012(Photos by Erin Witkowski, eveswishphotography.com)

Arrival home, 2012 (Photos by Erin Witkowski, eveswishphotography.com)

The nine weeks we spent in Ukraine were some of the toughest for me, personally. In fact, I posted a blog last year on how God took me halfway around the world to expose sin in me. You can read that post HERE. Then throw in the moments where Christie and I agonized over the difficulties we perpetually faced in Ukraine to get our daughter(s) adopted. Follow that by the last two years (joyful, but hard years) of going from a family of four with two boys to a family of six with two girls (and one of them only three years old), navigating the emotional trauma and survival skills that they had learned as orphans.

Early on in the adoption process, and by God’s grace, I came upon a passage of Scripture that has kept me grounded to this day: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Compare the grain of wheat to a 14kt diamond…. If both are placed side by side in the palm of my hand, which would you choose? That’s a no-brainer. Yet a diamond is lifeless. It exists to be seen and alone. How miserable. A wheat grain is not sexy in the least. Yet it is full of life. It will give life to countless people after it enters into the soil. The legacy of the wheat grain will feed generations upon generations. The question I asked myself in Ukraine (and now) was something like this: “Do I pursue more of a life of the grain or the diamond?” How about you? Adoption is glorious, but hard. Everyday it’s a decision of “dying” or “diamonding.”

Is God calling you to die to yourself, your potential dreams, travels, trinkets, freedoms, to be the gospel to an orphan(s) through foster care or adoption? Or, might God be leading you to sacrificially give resources to families who seek to provide foster care or adopt orphans?

Adoption is the gospel. So, to die? Or to diamond? What will it be?

***For more information, contact Lifesong for Orphans, Justice for Orphans, or email Grace Community Church’s Foster and Forever Family Ministry at GFFF@graceoc.com

Jubilee's first experience at the movies

Jubilee’s first experience at the movies

Summer, 2014

Summer, 2014

An orphan no more….

November 19, 2014

IMG_2996“Veronika has a little sister in a different orphanage she doesn’t know about?” What were we to do? Could we handle Veronika AND Larissa (she was three years old at the time)? In addition, the cost of adopting them both was nearly double what we had saved for, not counting the extra weeks we would have to pay for housing and food to remain in Ukraine. But… what if? What if the Lord wanted us to trust Him to make a way? What if the Lord wanted to blow our minds?

We decided we would reach out cold-turkey to our family and friends via social media to try and raise the funds to adopt Larissa. Due to the cost, it would take a miracle. And the full amount would have to be raised in the span of days. It just simply felt impossible. We went live with a blog post to family and friends asking for the funds on a Friday afternoon from Ukraine. Saturday morning, I made it to a local coffee shop in Kiev to see if anyone had contributed. When I checked it (less than 24 hours later)… wait for it, wait for it…the full amount for Larissa’s adoption had been given. To say I wept would be an understatement. photocjphotocj1

How God loves the orphaned…. And I bless God for those who may never adopt but sacrificially gave to make Jubilee Larissa’s adoption happen. If God isn’t calling you to adopt, opportunities abound for you to financially help families who are called. They need you. And you’ll feel the pleasure of God as you do.

But know this too: He loves you, child. He did whatever it took to pursue you, rescue you, and call you His daughter or son, even when it meant He gave Himself up on the cross. Yes, on the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father and got no answer. Jesus reached up His hand for His Father and only got the air.* He did that for you. On that cross, Jesus was orphaned for you, so that you would be an orphan no more. He was orphaned for you so that when you cry out you can know the Father hears; and when you reach out, you can know He’s there to take your hand.

I get to be that to my little girls. They once were orphaned, now they’re rescued. When they cry out for a daddy in the night, I am there to answer. When they reach out their hand for daddy to help, I am there to hold them close.

Adoption is the gospel.jubsjj

* Pastor Tim Keller

When she said, “Yes!”

November 12, 2014

Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Pump Up the Jam” was blaring over the small radio box in the Orphanage’s assistant director’s office. It was the day we were to meet 8 year old, Veronika (pronounced “Veer-oh-NEE-kah”). This was the little orphan girl we would call “daughter” forever. The only picture we’d seen of her was outdated. So we had no idea what she looked like at eight.

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The wait inside the little office was excrucating. Would she like us? Would she be afraid of us? Would she want us? Would she let us be her family?

Josiah was having a “moment,” so I walked him into the hallway to get some air. Still, my thoughts were on Marni. We’d come so far. What if she didn’t want us to adopt her? Suddenly, a little girl whizzed by me in a bright orange dress and in flip flops that were hanging on by a strap. She was carrying an unpeeled banana in her right hand. Abruptly, she turned back and looked at me. I knew in that instant it was Veronika. Her long black eye-lashes and those big brown eyes took my breath away. She smiled that precious gap-between-her-two-front-teeth smile.

I was smitten like a shy schoolboy. So smitten that I turned away like I didn’t recognize her and sprinted into the AD’s office. “It was Vernoika, Christie! I think I just saw Veronika!”

Moments later, Veronika was escorted into the office by one of the orphanage workers. She was seated before our family of four. We couldn’t help but gawk at this beautiful creature of God. Right then I thought, “Dear God. How does this child not have a mommy or daddy? Who could give her up?”

Candy and stuffed animals are a cross-cultural language, of course, so we drenched her in that. We learned her favorite colors, games, and the like. We did all we could in the few minutes allotted us to drink in the lifetime of this little girl, and to share ours with her.

Then it was time to pop the question. In our presence, with all eyes fixed on Veronika, the assistant director asked: “Veronika, do you want to be adopted by this family?” All the air was sucked out of the room. While we held our breath, Veronika looked down at her hands, smiled, and in Russian, and in her cute raspy voice, answered: “Yes! Very much!”IMG_2224

That moment changed all of our lives forever. A little girl who faced a potential future of doom was not only rescued, but given the life many orphans will never know–a life with a mommy, daddy, siblings, pets, days at the beach, her own clothes, plenty of food (and candy), and most of all, the practical love of God through Christ through a family to rescue her, give her a new name (Marni Veronika Jones),and a new life.

Adoption is the gospel. It is the gospel in living-color. Every day Christie, the boys, and I, and even Marni and Jubilee see, hear, and feel God’s passionate rescuing love through adoption. It’s hard at times. It’s glorious at times. It’s the gospel at all times.

Could God be leading you become the gospel-in-living-color for an orphan? For more information contact Lifesong for Orphans HERE. If you are a Grace Community Church family or friend, email our Grace Foster and Forever Family Ministry at: GFFF@graceoc.com
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I love you more….

November 5, 2014

FullSizeRenderA couple of months ago, within a span of two hours, Jubilee had a freakish three seizures. Christie and I were in separate cars when she experienced her second. I turned the corner onto the on-ramp to get on the highway. Christie had the van over on the curb with Marni frantically waving me down. Christie was in the grass on the other side of the guard rail and holding Jubilee in her arms as Jubilee seized. I fought fear. I held back tears. Finally, we got home. After getting direction from a doctor, we laid her down to rest. Unbelievably she seized again as I was walking out the door to preach our weekend services. I quickly hurried to get Jubilee the emergency rectal-shot of Valium to curb the seizure. Thank God it worked. Thank God. And thank God she recovered and has been doing well.IMG_2261

During the above, I asked myself out loud, “Did Christie and I sign up for this?” Yes. Yes. And yes. Not only did we sign up for it. We chose it. We chose our girls. We sacrificed for our girls. We wanted our girls. With all of the past trauma their little lives have experienced and the baggage it brings, they are our daughters… till death do we part. I love them. My God, how I love them. As I have told Marni before, I would cross the ocean again ten thousand times to make her and Jubilee mine. Every single night I tuck Marni and Jubilee into bed, I whisper “I am so glad I get to be your daddy. I love you,” Marni always smiles, pulls my hand close to her chest and whispers back, “Oh, Dada… I love you more.FullSizeRender-3

It’s adoption month. And I can’t help thinking how the world is one big orphanage. We are all orphans. And we are orphans with serious issues–regrets, pain, sin, and for some, seizures. Yet God crosses the oceans of space and time to come to us. Imperfect US! Broken US! Yet He signed up for this. More so, He chose this. He chose us. He sacrificed for us. He actually wanted us! This is what makes His adoption of us, and the adoption of our girls, so glorious. We feel the pleasure of God. We see the goodness of God. Adoption is the gospel.

I look at the cross and behold the truth that God would cross space and time ten thousand times to make us His own. In Christ, I hear Him whisper, “I’m so glad I get to be your Daddy. I love you.” Oh, Dada… I love you more.FullSizeRender

A gift two times over: One, the adoption of our girls, Marni Veronika and Jubilee Larissa, from an orphanage in Ukraine a tad over a year ago; and two, our dear and incredibly talented friend, Austin Abbott, who was waiting at our home with other friends and family to capture the girls homecoming on film. Thank you, Austin, for this wonderful gift to our family this Christmas!

And thank you, family and friends, for taking the time to watch this six minute film and enjoy this gift with us. If you want the back story, details, struggles, joys, tears, and miracles of God as we experienced it during our adoption journey, click HERE

(To view more of Austin’s work go HERE.)