Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sammy's 7th Birthday

Sammy celebrated his 7th birthday on Monday, the 28th. We celebrated by going to the circus on Sunday and then going to the Addis Ababa Restaurant downtown. We had a great time eating injera and ZilZil Tibs. Monday, the actual birthday, we got to go swimming at the Fun Pool with our friend David Fedder. Later we ate a checkerboard cake that Sammy picked out for mommy to make. I can't wait to see what he picks out for next year. Sammy, we love you!! Happy 7th Birthday!!

Fun with Mawmaw and Pawpaw

My mom and dad got to meet the "new" kids for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We had fun just hanging out with them. Pawpaw got to wrestle with the little girls and play some baseball with the boys. Mawmaw helped Samantha and Michaela sew two quilts, make two covers for Karissa and JoHanna, and she helped Michaela make some cute pillows. Thanks Mawmaw and Pawpaw for a great and memorable time!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

JoHanna's Gotcha Day!! #3

Well, today was a fun day of celebrating our third year anniversary of adopting JoHanna from China. Three years ago, a nanny brought her to the Chinese Civil Affairs office, checked our passports and paperwork and gave us our precious Chinese daughter. She was terrified of us and of what was transpiring. The only way that I could stop her from crying was to sing to her. That night she had her first dinner of Cheerios. She wouldn't eat anything else. For the first few days, she only wanted to be outside looking for her nannies. She would get so mad at us when we would take her inside of our hotel room. She would bang on the door and cry to be let out - so that we could go out again to look for her nanny. It took her three days and 5 hours of crying on the third day, to finally come to the realization that we were there to stay and that her nanny was not coming back. It was very heartbreaking to watch her make the transition. By the end of the first week though, she was a pretty happy little girl who was ok with her new mommy and daddy. Today, she loves to tell make believe stories, she can swim by herself, and she loves to play with anyone who is available. When I look at her now I think of how far she has come. I am so glad that God has brought her into our lives. She is such a blessing and I can't wait to see what God has in store for her life. I love you JoHanna Grace!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

July 4th

We had a wonderful 4th of July with my sister, Donita and all of our friends here in Houston. The kids loved going to the pool and then to the Bosticks house for food, fun and fireworks. The kids really liked the fireworks except for the grand finale - it was a little too much. But it was great to see our "new american citizens" having so much fun!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Karissa gets a new hairdo

Ok, we have restrained ourselves long enough! Michaela and I finally "tried" to do Karissa's hair. Karissa actually liked it. Her brother's just laughed. All I can say is that we tried (and we had a lot of fun)!!

Six Flags

Last weekend we had the opportunity to take 7 out of 8 kids to Six Flags. (Mom and Dad Wegner graciously let Karissa stay with them.) We had a great time at the park! David and Sammy rode quite a few roller coasters but most of the time, they asked not to ride them again. JoHanna rode just about every ride in the "Kiddie Park". She also rode a grown up ride, the Parachute Drop, with her Daddy. When I asked her afterwards if she was scared, she said, "No, I'm fine." She was quite the daredevil.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Training Wheels

I had to buy some training wheels for a bike for Sammy the other day. Don't get me wrong, I already had two sets of training wheels in the garage. We had one set on JoHanna's bike and one on Michaela's old bike, now ridden by David (formerly Yoftahe), we didn't have any training wheels to throw on the bike that some friends very generously donated to us for Sammy. He and JoHanna were sharing her bike, but that wasn't always peaceful. But who in the world keeps three sets of training wheels in their garage? Well, I guess, for now, I do!

I got to thinking a little bit about training wheels and the first thought that came to mind was that I felt like an experienced parent who should be able to "ride" the parenting role pretty comfortably. But when you throw in multiples, not much previous exposure to discipline of any sort, and a language barrier that is frustrating them even more than it is frustrating us, somehow, this time around seemed very different from the first five. Training wheels - that's what I need - training wheels for parents. Praise God, He is more than that for us. He supports us and when we don't have the balance to keep moving forward, he sustains us with his mighty hand. We still feel like we fall a lot and some days we feel pretty beat up by it, but we are so grateful for the sustaining strength of God's loving arms - our training wheels for now.

It wasn't but a couple of days later that David found himself complaining that his training wheels were still letting his bike lean too much. They weren't making things as easy as he wanted them. That sounds familiar right now as well. When the boys have nightmares (something that's happened about three or four times since we've had them), I sometimes wish God's sustaining arms would put them back to sleep so I can get rest instead of having to sit on the floor with them for an hour or so until they fall back asleep. He is so powerful and can communicate His love despite any language barriers. In fact, if there ever was a good time for the gift of tongues, where it could edify those who speak and those who understand, this would have to be an optimal time - yet he lets us struggle through the communication process. We knew it wouldn't all be easy and some days we wish it were easier than it is. But I guess that's the way training wheels are supposed to work. Because the very next day, we took off the training wheels and David took off on his bike, without any supports at all. My analogy falls apart here a little, because we will never not need God's support and sustaining power. But it is worth noting that we grow stronger in our faith the more God allows those tough things to come at us and to be overcome in His power.

Can God make His Glory known in training wheels? Well, yes. But He is proving Himself to be worthy of our trust and He is keeping us upright as we learn to ride this parenting bike all over again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Glory of the Lord Every Morning

So much for blogging throughout our trip. We could not access the blog except for one time during our entire trip. So I have some catching up to do.

For the most part, we saw the Glory of God appear through an uneventful process. With the exception of a couple of last minute scrambles to collect paperwork that we didn't bring because we didn't think we needed it, and the Lord's creative supply of other needs for some of other families who were with us, the trip ran very smoothly. God was glorified in both the smoothness and the moments of turmoil. Even in the way He resolved the potential meeting with the birth mother, which ultimately involved Delisa spending about 30 minutes with her and one of the orphanages in Addis giving her a job to support herself, God was making himself clearly visible to us.

We also saw the Glory of God at work in the church and in missionary/medical ministries in Addis. One church plant by SIM, which started slow about 80 yrs ago is now a denomination of 6 million believers, in part thanks to the fact that the missionaries had to leave a couple of times during the fascist Italian occupation and the communist regime in the 80's. Another church is reaching members of the leadership of the African Union, which sits in Addis Ababa. The "Fistula Hospital" for women is a charity hospital that serves thousands of women a year who are otherwise ostracized because of unpleasant consequences of complications during rural child birth. Delisa was particularly moved with compassion over the role this hospital was playing to meet the needs of these poor African women and girls.

Our daughter, Bemnet, is a bit temperamental and is willing to scream when told "no". This has presented us a few challenges. Delisa's back isn't used to constantly carrying a 2 yr old, and when her back and Bemnet's desires weren't in sync, we got screams, looks, and an elevating "frustratometer". It was really hard in Ethiopia where every experience was in full view of the public, and because we were obviously not "from there" the stares were intense as people wanted to see how we would handle it. She doesn't like me much yet - probably because I told her "no" more in a week than she has heard in her lifetime so far. But even in this, God's Glory was revealed in her willingness, at times, to go to Luke. There is a reason this 12 yr old is so big and strong - he was made for such a time as this, and served with gladness, to carry Bemnet when needed.

The trip home was long (almost 30 hours of travel). We purchased a "kids' potty" because Bemnet is potty trained (Glory to God), but she will only go in a kids potty - she will not use an adult toilet. We were successful in getting this on as "carry on" on the plane (a first for all three sets of flight attendants), and apart from one tense moment with a senior flight attendant who questioned whether it was sanitary and threatened to fire all her staff for letting us use it instead of having Bemnet urinate all over her regular seat which is what she would have done if we hadn't been able to take it on, the Glory of God was revealed in the way he allowed this to unfold. He also kept us on time (delays on a 30 hour itinerary seem like 40 yrs in the wildnerness) and he kept our bags with us the entire time.

So, now we're home. Everyone is doing well. Sammy doesn't like any of the food we prepare for dinner, so for now, every family meal ends with a reminder that he'll get for breakfast what he doesn't try for supper. So far, he is getting the message and beginning to at least try his main entree'. Bemnet is throwing fewer temper tantrums and is more wiling to go to other members of the family when needed. She even gave me a kiss yesterday morning when no one else was up. Yofta (short for Yoftahe) seems to be doing well, although we anticipate that the language barrier will soon prove to be a source of escalating frustration for him in particular as the newness of his surroundings wears off.

And if they are feeling overwhelmed, they are not alone. Every challenging disciplinary issue, every time we sit at our table for six with ten people or more crammed around, every time we walk through the house and see the remnant of not five, but eight kids' toys and litter, and every sick or hurting child, regardless of whether a doctor's visit is actually required, is causing us to fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day with thoughts of desperation for God. When Israel grumbled about their hunger and longed to go back to slavery so their stomachs could be filled, God gave Moses the promise of Manna and Quail. These were provisions of "daily" need. They couldn't be stored up for a day when God didn't show up. They were God's provision and He had to be trusted every day for that provision to show up. Moses put it this way to the Israelites, "At evening you will know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the Glory of the LORD" (Ex 16:6-7). So this morning, I am writing this at 5 am (because that's when Sammy came to tell me that he was "hungly" and wanted "blekflast"), and I'm tired. But the sun will come up soon and with it, I have the promise, that "in the morning you will see the Glory of the LORD".

Monday, March 3, 2008

Met the Kids

It is Sunday afternoon and we have just returned from lunch after visiting the Beza International Church for morning worship. Between the altitude of the city (about a mile high) and the time change, we finally got a good night’s rest last night and are getting over jet lag.

We met the kids yesterday morning and spent about 3 hours with them. They are very affectionate, enjoyed playing with us and loved to take pictures and play with our video camera. Yoftahe (the Ethiopian name for Jephthah, from the book of Judges) enjoyed a wrestling match with Luke and me. Sammy and I got beat by Luke and Yoftahe at a game of two on two courtyard soccer (we would have come back but I got tired). Beimnet (the Amharic word for “by faith”) was happy to get into whatever anyone else was into. She loved blowing bubbles and became quite possessive of everyone else’s bubbles when she ran out of her own. We were delighted to learn that she is far along in the potty training process, but covet your prayers as we begin to introduce discipline – she doesn’t appear to be accustomed to much of this.

An interesting twist was introduced to us, though as we learned some about the kids birth mother. She is indeed still living and works at one of the orphanages associated with our agency. She doesn’t appear to have changed her mind about giving up the kids, but she did want to come visit with them one final time today, Sunday. We initially struggled with the invitation to come meet with her, and about the time we decided that we would indeed meet her, the invitation was revoked by our agency as there are concerns at the U.S. Embassy of adoptive parent-birth parent meetings creating the impression of child-racketeering. A friend from our travel group did go to the home this morning and has taken pictures and video that we will be able to have as a keepsake of their final visit. We did learn that the mother was very glad to hear that we were a Christian family. It continues to be difficult for us to comprehend what it must be like for her to say good-bye to her children for a final time, especially knowing that the reason for giving them up is simply one of personal finances. Please pray for this woman who loves her children so much that she is willing to see another woman raise them and love them as her own in a distant country, knowing that this decision will give them a much better life than they would have with her here in Ethiopia. We are not sure if she is a true believer or simply “Christian” by name and tradition. Please pray that she may some day be reunited with her children, if not on this earth, in heaven.

It is interesting, as I am reading about the life of Moses here in this land so close to the Nile, to think of his mother who also surrendered the right to raise her own son in order for God to use that son to make such amazing impact on history and on God’s people. We pray that for Yoftahe, Samuel and Beimnet a similarly great role in the building of His kingdom might be made possible because of the loving sacrifice of this poor, loving Ethiopian mother.

Friday, February 29, 2008

On the Ground in Addis Ababa

We have passed an important milestone! In fact, yesterday we passed nearly 6000 milestones in almost 18 hours of actual flight time. But the most important milestone was the one that said, “Addis Ababa” on it. When the kids and I went to Kenya last year we went via Zurich on Swiss Air, and Ethiopian Airways is no Swiss Air, I assure you. Yet, the trip went without a hitch, on time, and all bags arrived unharmed. And despite being mostly unconscious the last few hours of the trip as we dozed in and out on the plane, we were all able to get a good night’s sleep last night – a real blessing since we turned out the light at about 2 PM back home. We all slept soundly – in fact, as I write this, Luke is still sleeping.

I’ve never been to the Red Sea, and I’m not going to get there this trip either. But it struck me this morning as I was reading about how God delivered Israel from Egypt and took them out to camp by the Red Sea, that I’ve never really been any closer to the Red Sea than I am now. Ethiopia is land-locked, but it is separated by a couple of small countries from the Red Sea and really it is the dominant country in what is known as the Horn of Africa which is comprised of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia.

There’s really no dramatic point to be made about this, except that in my Bible reading this morning I read some powerful words, which were delivered by Moses to a fearful nation of Israel as they had just experienced the 10 plagues and the Passover that had led to their release from 430 years of bondage and slavery in Egypt and were now camped by the Red Sea. Pharoah was on his way to kill and/or re-enslave them all and Israel had already forgotten the power God has displayed in delivering them just hours earlier. So Israel turns on Moses with its characteristic “whiney negativity”, and when I say “characteristic” I am thinking about how it characterizes my approach to hard times as much as I mean it in reference to Israel. “Bu Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent” (Ex 14:13-14).

Perfect! LORD, we are standing by…

Sunday, February 24, 2008

From the Transitional Home Director

Today we received some neat comments from the director of the transitional home that describe each of the kids. We thought we'd share them with you, so you too can get to know them a little as we are.

"Behmnet is described as strong-willed, independent, and spirited…to say the least! She is always ready to get into something, and always wants her way! She is always on the go; playful, active, and fun. She is also sweet, and if you make her sit still long enough, she realizes that it feels great to be held. She is VERY attached to her brothers, especially Yoftahe, who is very much her “mother.” They sleep in the same bed together every night."

"Sammye has a wide-eyed, innocent look on his face all the time, which is precious! He is said to be very smart…his birthmother reported that he was the best at academics. The nannies and others that have come into the transition home to give lessons to the children have also reported him to be very smart. He is playful, fun, and all smiles. He only gets upset if something is taken from him, or one of his siblings hits him."

"Yoftahe is ALL BOY! He is very active…always running, jumping, and doing karate moves. Yoftahe, the oldest child at the home, shows great leadership skills. He is responsible, and assumes the role of the caretaker for his younger siblings. He loves to practice his English, proud to say new words he has learned!"

(front row - Yoftahe, Behmnet and Samuel from left to right)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Here "I AM"

"When the LORD [YHWH] saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here I am!'" (Ex 3:4)

Talk about experiencing a flood of emotions. What do you do when God calls to you from a burning bush? What is proper etiquette or proper religious form in this setting? YHWH helped Moses out a little by telling him to take his shoes off because he was on holy ground - as if he didn't realize something sacred was happening. Moses was scared - "Moses hid his face, for we was AFRAID to look at God" (Ex 3:6b). I guess it is no small thing to really meet with God or to find Him in an unexpected place. Right now I am really scared to death about the responsibilities of being a father of eight kids and about the uncontrollable nature of so many of the things that his family expansion brings (language barriers, the kids family, education and religious history, the disruption of our present family birth order, the cultural/racial implications of a racially mixed family in our society, and even how to care for African skin and hair).

It's comforting to think that Moses was a chicken too. "Who am I that I should go to Pharoah? Who should I tell them has sent me so that they'll believe me? How do I know that they'll believe me if I tell them that? I'm really not competent to do what you are asking me to do".

"I AM" (YHWH)!

That's the answer to all of Moses' questions! I AM. Not who you are, but who I AM. You are not driving these plans, I AM. You are not responsible to convince or compel them, I AM. And, you are right, you are not competent to do what I have called you to do, but guess what, I AM.

The glory in this journey does not come from the frightened little man or woman who are barely able to say, "Here I am". No, the glory in this journey will all come from the one who is "I AM".

"The Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

God Is Waiting

This is a story about how our family found God in northeastern Africa. We haven't even been there yet, but we know that God is waiting there to meet with us and we can't wait. Although most of the story has yet to unfold, we wanted to briefly let you know how we got where we are today.

In early 2007 we got the clearance from God, through a number of circumstances, to begin the process of expanding our family one more time through adoption. We had such a positive experience with our adoption agency, America World Adoption Agency (AWAA), when we went to China to get JoHanna in 2005, that we looked to this agency again to explore our options. China was closed to us because of the size of our family already. After a brief investigation, it became clear to us that Ethiopia was the optimal program for us because of the cost, the ages of kids available, and the short travel requirements. We also were drawn to the fact that we could adopt more than one child and decided that we would pursue the adoption of two babies, 3 yrs old and younger.

We sent our dossier to Ethiopia in June and the wait began. In October, about the time we were expecting to get our referral, the agency announced to all the families who had dossiers in Ethiopia that they had a sibling group of three kids available and they were requesting that we all prayerfully consider whether we would be willing to give a home to these three kids. Our hearts were moved by the hope of keeping these kids together, so we threw our name into the hat as "willing". AWAA was then going to review all "willing" candidates and select the best match for these kids.

About a week or so later, we learned that we were the best match and were asked to pursue the adoption of these three beautiful kids, Yofatahe (9), Samuel (6) and Beimnet (18 months) - the ages were as of May of 2007.

We started through all the paper processes needed to gain final approval to adopt. We had to get approval from our case worker, the U.S. immigration office, and ultimately the Ethiopian government. On February 6, 2007 we received official confirmation that our court date was successful - the kids were officially ours.

Today we are frantically preparing to travel to pick them up. We are leaving on February 27th and will return March 9th. Although we expect to return with three new Wegner kids, we also expect to return with stories about the provision and greatness of God and with a deeper sense of how wonderful He is.

This morning in our Adult Community at church, Delisa was sharing how scary it is to follow God into a place where He has to show up "or else". We feel that this is exactly where we are right now and we have every confidence that He will show up in a grandiose way. She also shared how, once you have followed God into that place and seen Him show up, you never want to go back to how it was before you obeyed and followed Him there. God is waiting in northeastern Africa for all of us to find Him. We really can't wait!

Thank you for joining us in this journey.