Small Update and Prayer Requests!

There have been hours of discussions and pages of details, but I’ll just share the most important things…

One, we need connections and prayer regarding getting Orlanka to a TB specialist this week in Haiti. Our agency representative, who has been very proactive in this situation, will be there this week and wants to take her somewhere to have our own x-rays and tests run. Of course, doing a sputum culture (the 8 week test) is not on the agenda, but there are other shorter tests that could give us some clue as to whether or not she is sick. Also, just to see a doctor who can combine all we know and give an informed opinion would be amazing, as we medical un-professionals (bless all the visitors to her creche who give me eye witness reports) are just speculating all over the place! We do have a few people with contacts in Haiti who are generously trying to help us, and we have the name and address of a clinic/lab.  We are so thankful for this, but through the weeks as we dig into possibilities, we learn things that are so discouraging, such as certain hospitals in the capital being on strike?! You can’t make this stuff up!

If you know anyone doing medical work in Haiti, please contact me…yesterday! 🙂

Please pray our rep will be successful in her long list of tasks this week! 

Two, our advocate at the Embassy was able to get an answer from the panel physician who ordered the test. In short, he is not allowing her to come home now because her chest x-ray was so bad. However, the good news is (as crazy as this sounds), now that we have translated versions of her past three years of radiologist reports, we know that her chest x-ray has always been bad. She has extensive damage to one of her lungs, scarring from the past case of TB and I don’t even know what else. If the panel physician (a doctor the Embassy hires to do medical visa appointments) had seen those x-rays from the past, he may have had a very different opinion, as he could have compared them and likely would have seen no change. We have learned that from an x-ray you can’t tell the difference between disease and damage. This is hopeful news! Our rep is going to try to see this physician and share the information we now have.

Please pray the panel physician will be available and willing to re-consider, with this new information, or that our rep would be able to get an opinion from a second panel physician.

Either way, our hope is that by this time next week, because of our rep being in Haiti, we will have many questions answered about Orlanka’s past and current treatment, how she is feeling now, and Lord willing the results of a current sputum smear which could give us a good idea of what is going on. We also hope to learn what steps would come next, should we end up on the 3rd and 4th case scenarios. Tomorrow, I’ll be calling an Infectious Disease Dr. in Louisville, thanks to a connection someone made for us, and our pediatrician here is also busy answering questions and helping us start on the Form 601 Waiver of Inaccessibility if she tests positive and is denied a visa. We won’t know until the end of August, I am told. 🙁

 

Please pray with us for a good report and knowledge that would help us get through the next 6-8 weeks of waiting. 

I do want to say: God is so faithful. I was scared of this kind of ordeal happening, and spent many hours in the past year praying it wouldn’t. But God does give exactly what we need once we find ourselves in this place. The fervor to investigate, make bold phone calls, become experts (not really but you know what I mean)…He has allowed a few other issues in our lives to calm down a bit so we can focus on this. The Body of Christ is praying for us and growing in ways He wants. All of our hearts for Orlanka and Woodjina are doing The Grinch Who Stole Christmas heart bursting out of the box thing. Our agency representative has proved to be a strong and persevering advocate who is taking this situation personally. And even as I am writing this blog, I received an email back from a doctor/director of a medical ministry in Haiti, who is trying to get an appointment for Orlanka.

We can get stuck on why this stuff happens in the first place (yes, I was there for a few days for sure) or we can see Jesus’ words come to life: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world! 

The Whole Story…Sort Of

Oh, friends. I haven’t written much since March because I can hardly stand to share information that will make others feel as sad and stressed as I have felt! But it is time to share with you all who have been so kind and generous to walk with us these almost three years. Thank you! You have blessed us, and we will all share in the victory someday!

So, as you know, last summer we received a referral for Orlanka and Woodjina Auguste, biological sisters, ages 4 and 3 at the time. We met them right away and knowing it would likely be 10-14 months before they could come home with us, thanks to another dozen or so legal steps, we decided to go visit them in Haiti every three months until homecoming, which we have done. We’ve developed a good relationship with them, and I have dedicated myself this year to learning at least a beginner’s level of Haitian Creole so that I could communicate better with them. We’ve also been blessed to spend our year learning a lot more about parenting children with a history of neglect and loss. And we’ve been praying. Lots of praying.

Things went well, in regard to the typical timeframe, until around March 2016. There were small delays, but then one important step in April set us off course for a good 6 weeks. We believed we were finally on track again at the end of May. Our visa appointment was set for June 6, and we heard that the medical appointment (a necessity for a U.S. visa) had happened, too. I packed the girls’ suitcase with their cute outfits, new pajamas, and toys, because anytime that week we expected to get the green flag to travel! But when the week of June 6 had come and gone, only Woodjina’s visa had been issued.

We knew when we received our referral last year that Orlanka had had TB in 2015, and we were told she had received the full treatment. Plus, we have seen her four times in the past year, and saw that she was doing well! We expected that at the medical appointment for her visa they would ask for a chest x-ray to prove she didn’t have TB now, since her skin test would definitely come back positive (as all former TB patient’s would). But we were shocked to find they had asked for a sputum culture test, which would take 8 weeks in which to receive the results. This test is the reason why her visa and homecoming is delayed. We have been told NOTHING. We have no idea why the doctor chose to do this test. Our creche director has not taken her to another doctor to get her checked out, despite two weeks of asking for this action. Jack will probably be traveling in the next two weeks to see what he can accomplish himself. We are praying for connections to a good doctor there. We have a few leads but no appointment yet.

I see this ending in four different possible ways-

Best Case Scenario: CDC protocol is that children under 10 can travel into the U.S. while awaiting these results as long as they are not showing signs of active infection. We have an advocate at USCIS Haiti as well as the Senator’s office trying to get her home using this information.

2nd Best Case Scenario: That her 8 week sputum culture test will come back negative and she’ll get her visa in late August!

3rd Scenario: If her culture is positive for TB, we have to apply to get Orlanka out of Haiti on a medical visa, proving she needs treatment here in the U.S., and establishing a case against the care she has received in Haiti. (Because the fact is, if she does have TB again, no one has been proactive in her medical care and her 2015 treatment failed.) If this fails…

4th Scenario: If her culture is positive, then she has to go through a couple more steps (taking most likely a couple of months), and we can apply for a Waiver of Inaccessibility, which if approved is a way she could come home, eventually, to finish her treatment.

*I do want to say to those of you that might be feeling nervous about this: First of all, the Center for Disease Control says that kids under 10 are extremely unlikely to spread this illness. (I have seen our daughters share the same spoon multiple times, for goodness sake, and our youngest just passed her TB skin test at her visa appointment with flying colors.) Secondly, we will be going quite directly to the doctor upon arrival to the U.S. whenever that happens, so a full work-up of tests can be done on both girls and then we’ll follow whatever treatment necessary if there is any. Just know this: if you see Orlanka out and about, you can trust that she is not contagious. Our government is very serious about infectious disease control!*

 

As I said in the beginning, difficulties and detours are hard to share with others. But the fact is as the Body of Christ–the hands and feet, the very extension of Jesus’ heart on earth–we are all called to see and feel, and even intimately experience, the dark and seemingly hopeless circumstances people around the world are facing. This journey I’m finally talking about isn’t just about Orlanka and Woodjina…we are just one family, they are just one set of vulnerable little sisters. We’re just one picture representing thousands of people out there fighting for the weak and sick, and speaking for the voiceless. My girls are going to get here someday, no doubt about that…leaving millions of orphans, refugees, enslaved, hungry behind who will still need someone’s eyes, ears, hands, and heart turned in their direction.

That’s why I’m sharing–to be a witness to what I see and know both of the need and the heart of God…and He will take it from there, as He is doing with us, and will continue to do in His church worldwide. (Translation: You want to help? Get to know the Lord and get to know the need. He will absolutely guide you as you surrender to Him!)

Thank you for going there with us, for being uncomfortable, grieved, and restless with us…may God use this part of the journey too to reveal His heart and glory more and more. It is His story!

Teach us to number our days rightly, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Relent, o Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on Your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May Your deeds be shown to Your servants, Your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands. (Ps. 90:12-17)

 

Some Good News for Struggling Hearts

It really doesn’t matter the exact circumstances. We all have hard things in our lives; we are in limbo about this or that, we are all waiting for something. We all have people in our lives that we pray for; we watch them bobbing out there on the waves that only Jesus can calm.

And sometimes WE are those people bobbing out there on the waves that only Jesus can calm.

That has been me for a while. I’ve been feeling a little untethered from the boat, a little unglued.  It’s exactly what I fear: That when especially hard times come, I will not be able to keep it together. So, I’m coming to this blog today with such honesty…and with some good news as well!

  1. John 15. Jesus says, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself…” Let me just stop there. I’m a branch. I can’t bear my own fruit. Right now, the fruit I want to bear is: a steady heart, believing God is good, simple trust, patience, joy. But “it must remain in the Vine. You cannot bear fruit unless you remain in the Vine. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The whole chapter goes on to explain this thought: “remain in my love and your joy will be complete”. My heart has sort of been in shut down mode with others and a little with God, too. I don’t want to “Be still and know that He is God!” (Ps. 46:10) But until I do, there will be chaos in my soul and the fruit that I long to bear and benefit from will not be there.
  2. Psalm 51. David says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” When you’ve been under stress or grieving or just having to surrender again and again (and of course I’ve just described life here), it does not take long for a spirit of disappointment, bitterness, and distrust to sneak in. We begin to see life from a defensive position, trying not to be hurt again. But the pure heart I long for would be void of that response…where there is now disappointment, bitterness, and distrust, this bold and honest prayer asks for a pure heart. Think white, clean, open…pure. We’re asking in this prayer for a steadfast spirit, a spirit that doesn’t go up with the good news and down with the bad, but is set on something, Someone, that keeps it steady. When we ask for the joy of our salvation to be restored we are really saying, “Lord, all these other wants and hopes have taken precedence over the gift of your salvation. Help me remember again, in awe and wonder, that my greatest need has already been met thru Jesus.”
  3. Luke 8:22-25, the story of Jesus and His disciples in a boat when a big storm came up. Jesus was sleeping through it. (Gosh, that feels familiar…”God, are you asleep? Don’t you SEE what’s going on down here? You could do something and You’re not!”) The boys say: “Jesus, we’re going to drown!” Like, “Hello!? Don’t you care?” And Jesus wakes up, meets their need, and says, “Where is your faith?” I kinda wish Jesus had done a “re-do” with them at that moment, so we could know exactly what response to the wind and the waves they should have had. Were they not supposed to wake him? Were they supposed to rebuke the storm themselves? Were they supposed to get tossed overboard and at the bottom of the ocean still be hanging onto stubborn faith that He would take care of them? I’m not going to pretend to know the step by step process of what to do when you’re scared and wondering what God is planning. But I do know this: Jesus was in the boat with them. And He is in my boat with me, too. When I say I’m going to drown under all this, He says, “Where is your faith? Don’t you think that me (the Master, the great I AM) being with you is worth something?” We are going to rock on these waves awhile. This is life. But He’s holding us while we rock; He’s that close, and He’s whispering in our ear that He knows we’re afraid but that learning to trust Him, learning to relax into His chest and hear His heartbeat, is worth something…may be worth everything…may be the very reason we’re here. Perhaps if the boys were to do a re-do they would wake Jesus and say something a little more like this: “Jesus, we hate storms. It feels like it’s going to hurt us more than we can bear. Please make it stop, but until You do, can we lay down there with You?”

Our Words

So…anyone who knows me knows that I am not a sports person. I don’t play, I don’t watch, I don’t care! I don’t understand the rules, and if I was on the field or court, I would be the one who gets hit in the head with the ball or runs the wrong direction. I was lucky enough to marry a non-sports person as well, so we’re just blissfully ignorant together. But something we didn’t think about was that we would have offspring, and those offspring might actually want to play sports.

Enter 9 year old, 4 ft. 10 in., sweet and sparkly Selah Taylor, playing basketball for the first time ever.

After the first couple of practices, I knew it wasn’t going to be the experience I had hoped for her. I had hoped she would get on a team of kids who wanted to just have fun playing, learning the game, taking turns in the different positions, etc. I’m such a girl, I guess? I don’t know…I still don’t think I was entirely crazy with those hopes! What she ended up with instead was a team of very close friends, all guys, who had known each other forever and apparently had been playing basketball forever as well. Then there were three beginners tagged onto the group. Two of them were girls, and the other was a shy boy. You can imagine how this has played out. They have equal playing time, and that’s about the only positive thing I can say! The crowd goes wild when the same boys play after play after play drive the ball down the court single-handedly for a lay-up, or maybe a pass to their friend. Maybe once a game, a newbie will accidentally get the ball. Usually, they don’t know exactly what to do with it, they may dribble a little too high and lose control of it, they may break a rule, they may run to the opposite goal. It’s like they’re thinking, “Oh, wow, this is what a basketball feels like!” and by the time they’re done with that thought, someone has stolen it. And the worst thing that I sensed from the beginning is some of the adults who are “encouraging” their children from the sidelines or even the bench. This “encouragement” comes in the form of belittlement and phrases like, “What were you thinking?” My sensitive heart beats out of my chest. The kid’s face is red and he’s trying not to cry. No one does anything.

Okay, so all of that was to set up the story. This blog isn’t going to just be a bunch of complaining. I know God is doing something in me, God is always doing something on a deeper level and as I dig, there it is! I needed these truths and reminders, and this lovely basketball season was just the way for God to show me.

1. Sometimes our kids will do embarrassing things. Maybe its a sin they commit, bad behavior in a public place, or maybe their skill level in a certain area will be low! We’re watching them, we’re seeing the disappointment others may have in them, and it hurts. We don’t want them to feel ashamed, and quite frankly, we don’t want to feel ashamed. But I think God is saying to parents, to me, that if my self-confidence is so low as to care what others think of my child, I need to spend some time with Him remembering what matters, remembering my identity and who I am is wrapped up in who I am in Christ, not what I do or have to show for myself here on earth. Only when we remember that, and nail that down, can we teach our kids to do the same. We need to be bold and extravagant in our encouragement to our kids so they can hear what God wants to say to them about who they are! Also, they can accomplish great things, but they are also going to fail… a lot! We need to show them how to do that gracefully, with a firm grip on how much they are still loved and exquisitely designed for great purpose. So there’s a pit in my stomach on that basketball court. I don’t know that I want my daughter to get the ball. Who will be mad at her when she messes up? Maybe some parents, maybe some kids? Well, who cares? I love my daughter and I’m proud of her for trying. Anyone who thinks we are silly for still being happy after a mistake is missing out on some very good living.

2. If that embarrassment or frustration at our children leads to saying belittling things to them like: “What were you thinking?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, “Are you ever going to get this?” or “You drive me nuts”, we are flat out bullies. We’re standing over these little people and saying in essence the most ridiculous thing in the world: “Why aren’t you as good at this as I am?” We have 30 extra years on this earth! We may have gotten better at cracking eggs and solving math facts, but apparently we haven’t matured in character in all that time if this is how we’re acting. I am so convicted about this! That father at the basketball game made my heart hurt, and while I’m very sorry for the little boy, I am glad I could see my own wrong so clearly.  I’ve asked forgiveness and God is giving new phrases that are kind and patient: “It was so cool how you learned that concept, I know you’ll be able to get this one, too!”, “One day, we’ll look at this book and it’ll seem so easy!”,  or “Let’s dig deep and do our best, but if we don’t get it today, it’s ok!” Again, sometimes our frustration toward our kids isn’t even about them and our hopes for their improvement, it’s about us. I’m not any better than that dad. And we all have the daily moment-by-moment choice to be who God is calling us to be in the relationships we have with others, especially these little people.

We have the power to change the atmosphere and the atmosphere for future generations. We will either pass on the ability to gracefully make mistakes or pass on a policy of being harsh or ignoring failure completely. We will either pass on self-confidence and a deep sense of significance given to every creation of God or perpetuate the belief that we “are” as good as we “do.” We will either pass down kindness, security, and patience which sure does go a long way in helping a person of any age learn anything, or pass on the nerve-wracking demands that never gave anyone character or quality of life.

For anyone who is learning this and wants to pray with me…

Lord Jesus, You always spoke with kindness and love. Even when you corrected people, You spoke to their heart in a way that still cherished them as a creation of God and always let them know they had a safe place in You if they would be willing to leave their sin behind. You do not look at us as we deserve. After all of our sins, but also failures and things we aren’t good at, You look at us directly, in the eye, and just love us so much. Thank You! Help us receive this love and acceptance so that we can easily and freely give it to others!  I acknowledge my behavior as sin and I ask Your forgiveness for the times I have said things and acted in ways that were not loving and accepting. I have been frustrated, embarrassed, and at my wit’s end over this particular person and situation… Please forgive me. I will go to this person and ask their forgiveness… Holy Spirit, will You be like an alarm clock in my heart, warning me when I am beginning to think and feel in an ungodly way so that I will stop and not allow myself to do any more damage. Lord, I seek complete and total freedom forever from this attitude and way of interacting with this person/these people. Give me a new way to think of them and speak to them, in Jesus’ Name. You are so powerful and the only way I can be changed, and I praise You!

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sister Bridge 2014: Why We Do This

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Hello Friends!

I am really excited to be kicking off our fourth season of Sister Bridge. Can you believe in three short seasons we have sent back over $35,000 to these women overseas? I am so grateful for giving this idea a try…Several years back, I ordered some product and kept ordering more and more as women in Kentucky absolutely loved it and wanted so badly to help women in much different circumstances than their own.

This year, my health has been pretty rough again, but I was still led to order these products and say, “Lord, it’s Yours. Sell it if You want! I’ll do the little I can.” I was so compelled because of the stories I have heard this year. I’ll share a couple with you.

First, when I contacted the women who runs the ministry of Beads of Java in Indonesia about ordering some more jewelry and ornaments this year, she told me that last year our order literally kept the ministry afloat. She said it may have closed down if it wasn’t for that order. And mid-Spring 2014 as sales were low, one beadmaker decided to take a job in Macau instead of stay in Indonesia working for BOJ where she was safe from human trafficking. The missionaries were so sad to see her go, because it could very well be that she was walking into a terrible situation. This ministry exists to keep women from having to turn to slavery to have food on their table, and we are proud to support them and all they do. You can help BOJ by going to their website and purchasing Christmas gifts, booking a party, or ordering and selling mass amounts like SB does.

Second, I read a book by Holly Prosser, about her life story, her adopted daughter, and her adopted daughter’s birthmother who is still living today in Ethiopia. To make a long story short, I feel like I saw a movie as I read that book; I watched a birthmother who had already run away from an abusive husband have to take two of her children to an orphanage because the only job she could get was prostitution and she refused to let her daughters grow up in that environment. As a lover of adoption, I have to say what any of us who love adoption would say: Adoption is redeeming a bad situation and helping a need. It is beautiful and we are honored to be a part of it, but adoption is only fixing something that was never meant to be. Mothers were meant to be safe, loved, and able to take care of their children, period! But since so many are not, adoption exists. Anything we can do to keep mothers safe, loved, and with their children, we will do with all our hearts…And ministries like BOJ, Timbali Crafts, Cooperative Outreach of India, and Rahab’s Rope are doing that!!! They are keeping women from having to work degrading jobs with tyrant bosses, they are providing safe and godly community and friendships, they are offering hope in the gospel of Christ and counseling, and they are changing lives.

I could say more but I’ll save it for another day…

May God bless these precious and sacrificial missionaries and ministries around the world who are taking care of Jesus as they take care of the most vulnerable women and children in our midst. And may we stand alongside them in this calling!