Short answer part 1: Facebook.
Now if someone would have come up to us sometime in the past years and let us know that we would be adopting two children from Costa Rica, one who is 16 years old and happens to be deaf along with her 5-year-old brother AND that we found out about them on Facebook we would have never believed them. Mostly the Facebook part.
But again, God reminds us of who He is and who we are in Him with the roots and the branches. This is a story we never could have written. As we were growing deeper into Him, He was doing His own work and growing this tree that we could have never designed ourselves.
Short answer part 2: the Wienke Family.
Depending on what part of our life you are from, you may already know about this amazing family. Our GBCC fam from back in the day certainly will! Even now, many of you know them or have heard about them through our story (hope that is okay Tollef and Sheila!).
We first met the Wienkes when we were in youth group (as in, like, attending as high schoolers…) and they were two of our leaders when they were a hip, young, married couple and before they had any kids. And they were lovely then, but to be honest, we had fallen completely out of touch. But, like He does, God was working His Roots and Branches story in them as well.
Fast forward 15ish years and this young couple we once knew now captain a crew of TEN children, SEVEN of whom entered their family through THREE different adoptions. Their story is a story of bravery, of trusting God, and of #extravagantlove. We have followed their story with this most recent adoption and are blessed by their willingness to share so much of it.
It’s basically Facebook stalking, but in the best way possible.
So then one day, the Wienkes shared a post from their (and what is now our awesome) adoption agency that was advocating to find a family for C and J. We (Ann and Brian) both read it, as we always look at these types of posts. Every story of every kid matters, and we often feel that when we read other adoption stories. But this one was different. The story just stuck in our head and in our hearts, and both of us felt we needed to do…something. We talked about it and prayed about it and felt like we should at least make the call. So we did! We were honestly expecting the agency to tell us that they had found another, more-qualified family. Or a family that was already in their system. Or…
But they didn’t. They kept wanting to talk to us. And we wanted to talk to them.
With each call, each email, and each step of any sort, our prayer was just that God would lead us with that very part. We didn’t instantly know “this was it.” That’s just not how He spoke to us in this time. But gradual steps led careful hearts to the point of, “yes.” Eventually, we felt very strongly that He had led us to the point where we are now.
And so here we are now, in the middle of our “yes,” and trying to navigate what comes next, and trying to trust God every step of the way. Success is being wherever Jesus is. So we are choosing to trust.
Facebook. The Wienkes. God’s guidance. The help of wonderful people like you. One heck of a recipe to get us to Costa Rica.
[And side note to all my friends who have been Small Group Leaders over the years...See? You'll never know how you might affect someone's life! See? I TOLD YOU.]
You people are incredible! As we prepare to send out our dossier in the next few days, we are beyond humbled that God has provided, through so many of you, the payments needed to be able to submit it. That’s right friends, we just passed our financial goal for this stage of the process, right in time!
There is still so much to go and so much work to do, but today we want to pause and rest in His provision and leading of each one of us; it is Kingdom work happening right before our eyes and we are honored to be a part of it and watch you take your part in it as well. It truly is beautiful.
This puts us at $20,294 which is 45% of our goal! Celebrate with us!
Around Christmastime, trips to the mailbox are more fun. We LOVE getting Christmas cards from family and friends. But yesterday, we got a bonus load of joy. That's because, many weeks before we were expecting it, we got our approval letter from U.S. Immigration. This is a major piece of moving ahead with our adoption, and we are so very thankful!
Maybe the best way to put this into perspective is to consider that the process of getting approved for our international adoption basically expands as we continue on. First is the agency (1), then the state of Minnesota (2), then the U.S. (3), then Costa Rica (4). After receiving this letter, we have now been approved for the first three! Woohoo! Once we've been approved in all of these areas, we will be ready to be officially matched with C & J.
Our next step is to submit all necessary documents to Costa Rica (this is called a dossier). We should be able to submit the dossier fairly soon.
In short, this letter arriving means we are closer than we expected. God is good, and we appreciate greatly this sweet blessing at Christmas.
May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Savior, whose birth we celebrate in this season, fill your hearts and minds. And may we all reflect on the incredible blessing and beauty of Emmanuel, of God choosing to be with us.
How Is ASL Going?
Most notably, WE LOVE ASL!
Okay, so really, this is a lot of work. It is so good, but it takes a lot of time, energy and focus. ASL truly is another language, not just a set of vocabulary words with signs attached. Many times throughout the day as we are talking with each other or the kids we are reminded that we are nowhere near able to communicate those things in sign. And signing will be THE way we communicate with C. So obviously it is so very important that we are able to. We are working hard, and will continue to do so.
We have always had such an incredible amount of respect for people who learn a new language, especially as adults, and that respect is only growing. It grows each and every time we thought we understood something and then yet again were humbled by our inability to communicate. Looking at each other with confused expressions, only to have our 8 or 6 year old (or sometimes the 2 year old) easily fill in the gaps of our understanding. What we would give to have their ability to learn a new language!
How Are We Learning?
We have been using a number of different ASL programs at home, both online and DVD. We also have an incredible amount of resources that so many of you wonderful people have loaned to us in this time. Once again, thank you for all of your support! All of these things have allowed us to be learning constantly while at home and we are so grateful for these.
Once a week our family goes to the Minnesota Academy for the Deaf in Faribault. There we attend a free ASL class for families of deaf individuals. They have so graciously allowed us to be a part of the class as we prepare to adopt C (& J). This is a highlight of our week! Our teacher is Deaf, and can I just say that she is wonderful? There we get to put into practice what we are learning at home while she is teaching us the very many aspects of the language that are much easier in person. She kindly corrects our poor execution and answers our very many questions. The kids are in the class for the majority of the time with us, but near the end we allow them to go run around in the gym before heading home. There they play with both deaf children as well as hearing children with a deaf sibling. They sign away and play together and just make it work. It is beautiful.
When we think about the first week we attended class and how little we understood, we are amazed at how far we’ve come. Of course, we have so far to go and will keep pressing on with every bit of our energy that we can. We hope and plan to learn as much as possible in this time so that we can be best equipped to teach C what we know, and obviously so that we can communicate with her. And continue learning, forever learning.
So if you are wondering what we are doing with our time, there it is. If we have any spare time in our day, and even when there really isn’t, it is quickly filled in with this aspect of the process.
Why This Learning Process Is So Important
We couldn’t write about our process of learning ASL without bringing it back to C. As much as we love all of this learning and are loving the language itself, it is all with the heavy heart of knowing that she has never been taught a sign language (until very recently). Our level of struggle to grasp onto a new language is nothing compared to how hard she has had to work to live in this world without a language for so long. So we are fighting for her as we learn - fighting for what a language will give her. Will language fix everything or resolve the trauma from the past? Definitely not. But we hope that it will allow her to know and understand more of what is going on around her. And for that we will fight.
C has been able to recently start learning LESCO (Costa Rican Sign...which is not the same as American Sign Language) and for that we are incredibly grateful. We are told she is loving it and we couldn’t be happier for her! We will have to transition her to ASL but are thrilled that she is learning to communicate and being poured into in this way.
Ann and I want to extend our deepest and most sincere gratitude to all of you for your support throughout this journey. The amount of encouragement, financial support, response to the blog, and prayer we have received throughout the last several weeks and months has been so amazing. Basically, YOU are amazing. Thank you for being our people.
We’d like to extend a special thank you to our dear friend Jana Pecinovsky (with support from Carl, of course!) who has generously given her time and talent to help us fundraise through her beautiful hand-made signs. Jana and Carl are small-business owners as well, and so at this time, all sales of her signs will continue to support our adoption, AND (and this is new, friends!) proceeds from their honey and beeswax will also go to supporting us. WOW! I can’t believe what a gift this is! You can learn more and find the links to all of this information below.
Our next major payment will be in mid-to-late January totalling about $7000. In the past few weeks, we have continued to receive generous donations, including those from the sign sale mentioned above, so we are making progress. As it stands today, we still need about $4800 in additional funds.
For our part, we have been busy applying for grants and hope that those will help us get to our final goal. However, even if we are chosen to receive funding, this next payment is due before any of these grants pay out. So we are sharing the need at this time.
We are praying that God will provide for all that we need, and choosing to trust that He will.
Thank you for your part in this process, whether that has been through giving, through prayer, or by supporting us in whatever way you have!
Know also that we will be sharing lots of thoughts on this adoption through the blog, not just money updates. Thanks for hanging with us through this one.
To learn more about signs, honey, or beeswax, visit Our Bright Acres website:
You can see pictures of the signs on the Psalm 82:3 Project facebook group here:
(Jana will be continuing the fundraiser, called The Psalm 82:3 Project, for other worthy causes in the future. So...support local business AND good causes even if it’s not this one!)
Yesterday, millions of Americans self-induced themselves into a turkey-coma. It was a glorious day for eating and merriment. And, as one of my friends recently said, it's a holiday with a unique place in our culture since it has no religious element or political element to divide us (at least, not overtly); it's just the food that brings us together.
Yesterday was also my birthday. Woohoo! (Gosh, I'm now squarely in my MID-thirties.) It's about time that it was recognized as a national holiday... :)
The thing about birthdays and adoption is that emotionally speaking, they are a weird, mixed bag. Not my birthday so much as much as the birthdays of our eventual kids. This fall, one of the two kids we are planning to adopt had his birthday. Ann and I were struck with some mixed emotions about this. On one hand, we wanted to celebrate this little guy, even from far away, and look forward to next year when, hopefully and God-willing, he will be blowing candles out at our kitchen table.
On the other hand, a birthday means another year has come and gone with him still celebrating - if he even did - in an orphanage. And not with us. And very far away. And so, we weren't quite sure how to feel. I think in the end, we felt determined to continue our process, and to fight every day for one more box to be checked, one more form to be completed, one more task to be done that gets us one step closer to him and to them and to the adoption being completed.
I don't want this little boy to celebrate another birthday without us. I want to bring him and his sister home. I want his birthday to be a special day that is a part of our family forever.
But for now, I have to wait.
With Black Friday coming up, I have something I'd like to say: Things that are valuable are also costly. In one way that may be obvious, but we often don't think of it that way. In fact for many people, the whole point of Black Friday is to get more than a great deal. What people really want is to feel like they got a higher value than what they paid for.
As followers of Jesus, we have to believe that our relationship with Him is the thing of greatest value in our lives that has ever been. This is why the man in the parable sold all he had to buy the field that contained the buried treasure [Matthew 13:44]. He was willing to give up everything else in his life (no matter how valuable it seemed) in order to get this thing that he knew had greater value.
Our conviction of late is that following Jesus is costly. We can join a country club in the likeness of a church and feel okay about ourselves, or we can try to pursue to Gospel in a fuller way, and a costlier way. But here's the thing: Values are really only values if we....value them. And thinking something has value means that you are willing to pay the price, even if it is hard and even if the price is steep. If it's valuable enough, we find a way.
For us, adopting is about following a Call despite the cost (not just monetarily but in time and mental energy as well) . We don't assume that it is everyone's call. But if we truly value Jesus and what he values, then we cannot deny that following is costly, and we should be willing to pay the price no matter what. We also know that these children, made in the image of God, have immense and real value. Every child does, and every child deserves a loving home. We cannot solve that problem for every one of the millions of orphans worldwide, but we are trying to solve it here, for these kids. And that value means we are willing to work through the cost and the risk.
A prayer of our heart (and it's a little bit of a scary thing to pray for, I'll admit) sounds something like this : God, what are you asking me/us to do in this season, even if it is hard? The answer to that prayer is why we are writing this, why we are trying to adopt, and why you are reading it here.
"Lord, may we always be willing to value you enough to pay the cost of following you."
What’s interesting about adoption is that it represents so much of what the gospel is about. God makes a promise to humanity that, through a repentant heart, He will welcome anyone into his family. Even though they were once strangers, and even enemies to Him, he still is willing to welcome them forever. And there is no limit to His love or His invitation. And because He loves this way, He wants us to love others in that way, too.
One thing that has struck me of late is that, by adopting, we are literally bringing strangers into our home. Of course, there are lots of circumstances in which you might welcome a stranger into your home. But, when you do and they have stayed for a little while...they leave. However, by adopting, we will be welcoming strangers that will never leave.
Leviticus 19:33-34 says “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
The Bible has a lot to say about orphans and about how and why it’s important to care for them. What’s interesting to me is that you can care for orphans in many different ways. You can create social programs, give money to a charity that cares for orphans, sponsor a child’s education, or maybe dig a well in a community where many orphans reside. You can also support someone else and help them successfully adopt. All of these are wonderful ways to love and serve orphans, and everyone's call is different. One can certainly care for orphans without actually welcoming them into their home. But the fact remains that we are all called to care for orphans.
This Leviticus passage is a little different, and interestingly more invasive in its implication. There is an implication is that when there is a sojourner, you should welcome him into your home (a common ancient practice...and one that maybe we should do more to emulate in our culture!). There is also the demand to treat the one who is not a native just as those who are natives. The direct implication here for adoptive families is clear; you need to love and respect your adopted kids the same way you love your bios.
But thirdly, there is this beautiful piece of acknowledgment that God knows all about non-natives being in a foreign land. In fact, he had His People become strangers in a foreign land in Egypt so that his purposes could be fulfilled. He used a group of Strangers to do his work. He wanted His People to have the opportunity to be strangers - maybe, for the very purpose of inspiring them to be kind to strangers, foreigners, and those who “don’t belong;” both physical, geographical strangers as well as spiritual outsiders (gentiles).
Right now, they are strangers. With time, and God's love and guidance, they will no longer feel like that. And this is one of many reasons we are excited that they will be coming into our home! However, of this much I am convinced: no matter how long it takes for them to not feel like strangers, we are called - a Holy and Divine calling, no less - to treat them with all the love and care we would any other child in our home. The fact that we haven't met them yet, or that we won't speak the same language when they arrive, or that they are going to disrupt everything about our family rhythms forever, bears no weight on how much we are to love them. We are to love them. And that is really what matters.