A Surrendered Heart March 20, 2012
Half of My Heart March 16, 2012
I dont think it has completely sunken in yet that this time tomorrow, I will be well on my way to the other side of the world. It kinda takes my breath away to think about stepping off the plane and being in China after almost 2 long years. Every time I think about it, I feel complete. Whole. Like part of me is missing when I’m not there.
I’m just going to be honest and say that so much of that has been because of Theo. As joy-filled as I am that he will soon be with his forever family, I still feel like I’m losing a part of my heart. And I guess that’s ok. Because that was the Plan.
I guess I’m writing tonight to let you know how to pray this week. Pray that the moments that Theo and I spend together will be full. Pray that God will grant me the peace I need to be able to say goodbye to the relationship that I have had with him and transition into what it will be like from now on. Pray for his heart, that he won’t be confused. Pray that he will understand that I will always love him.
I have to admit that I don’t know what kind of emotions this week will hold. I know that it will be different. I have always believed in Hope. Hope for Theo. Hope for all of these children. But it is more than an idea for him now, its a reality. One that will soon come true when he is welcomed into his new family! This is what we have all prayed for all along.
Pray that God will be intentional with the children He places in my path. That Theo might pass that part of my heart onto the next little one who needs an advocate…who needs a team of prayer warriors like Theo has been so blessed to have.
I can’t wait to walk into that big blue house and take this little boy into my arms. It has been too long…I keep thinking in my head that I feel like I’m going home.
Pray for our team as we travel. For good health. For those who have not been to this incredible place, that God will touch their lives and reveal to them things that they have never experienced. I pray that all of their hearts will be moved in a way that makes it impossible to forget.
Pray for us by name:
Can’t wait to keep everyone updated on the trip…and send pictures of these beautiful children! This is going to be incredible!
Love from Nashville…soon to be China!
Mark 11:24 March 12, 2012
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. -Mark 11:24
So up until this point, I have only asked for prayer from you. And your prayers have been answered! Theo/Ezra is going home to his forever family…VERY SOON!! As I have been in contact with his family, and asked them what they needed, I have learned a couple things.
1.) They are in need of size 8 catheters. As I am leaving on Friday for China, this will be a very difficult request to fill…but I believe it is possible. If you know of anyone who has access to having these donated, please let me know. This would be a HUGE blessing!!
2.) The family who is adopting Ezra is about $8000.00 short of their adoption costs. As you can imagine, being teachers and caring for 8 other children does not leave a lot of ‘extra’ money. However, they are walking in faith and trust that the Lord will provide. I have seen Him do it too many other times to not believe that He will also do it here.
If you are interested in helping with either of these needs, no matter how great or small, any contribution is a blessing and another answered prayer for getting Theo into his mother’s arms.
Please email me at email@example.com
Feel free to pass this blog along!!
Love from Nashville!
Ezra- God Has Helped January 10, 2012
I really don’t even know where to begin. As I said to someone earlier today, I am ‘joyfully overwhelmed’! It has been on my heart to post a new blog soon. It has been so long since I had updated anyone on the situation. When I wrote in August about Theo being taken to the state run orphanage, I was amazed at the outpouring of prayers and support. I was overflowing with gratitude at the generous offer that was made by a friend to fund my adoption. I was ridden with the burden of how to respond to that. Some of you who are close to me know that I prayed ferverently and sought council, even going as far as to calling the adoption agency to find out if it was possible for me to begin the paperwork to bring ‘my little boy’ home. I prayed before I picked up the phone that day that God would reveal His peace to me with the answer the adoption agency gave me. Due to my age, they informed me that I couldn’t even start my paperwork until April. I felt a sense of relief in knowing that I had 8 months (from that time) to seek more clarity. A week later I received a call while I was at school informing me that Theo had been brought back to Maria’s from the State Run Orphanage. There were no answers as to why this had happened but I was told not to make it public on any form of social media. So while I rejoiced and thanked each of you in my heart for your prayers, I was not allowed to let you know that he was back in the arms of the nannies who love him so. In September, I began planning a trip to China for my Spring Break. I will be traveling with a team of ten and spending a week at Maria’s House. I was anxious to arrive there at that time because I felt that I would receive some answers about what God’s role for me in this was before I could potentially begin the adoption process in April. I had a great peace about the word “WAIT”.
The past 3 years of my life have been an emotional roller coaster as I have loved, prayed for, grieved for and longed to be with this child. I have often times been confused and shed countless tears with friends and family as I tried to understand why God would place this little boy in my life and not let me be with him. I began to understand that perhaps I was to love him like a mother while he was waiting for his mother. I put pictures all over my office, my home, on my cell phone, screen saver, where ever I could to insure that he wasn’t just a number, but a child who is dearly loved and has a name, and to serve as a constant reminder to pray for his forever family.
I was sitting in my office today on my planning period and received a text from my friend at the ShowHope office asking me if she could give some one my number. I said sure, assuming it was someone who wanted to hear about my various experiences at Maria’s House or even about Theo. She told me to answer my phone when an unknown number called. Moments later, I answer a call and on the other end of the line I hear ‘Hello, is this Joanna? My name is Amanda. I am Theo’s mother’. I immediately began to choke up and shake. There is a fine line between a feeling over of overwhelming joy and unexpected shock. Countless hours have been spent praying for this moment, yet I was not prepared for it at all.
It was difficult for me to comprehend these words. I have spoken with numerous families who were interested in Theo but for various reasons had been unable to follow through with the adoption process. She must have known that I was immediately wondering about the finality of his placement with them, b/c she soon told me that they had been officially matched and he was their son. Amanda and her husband are Americans who are teachers in China at a private school where Theo will attend preschool next year. They had met him at Maria’s House last year. Amanda and her husband have 6 biological children and Theo will make their fifth adoption from China. They have felt a specific calling from God to love the least. They had fallen in love with him when they met him but kept feeling like adopting this special needs child would be ‘impossible’. Their children had also fallen in love with him and one of their girls became particularly burdened about who would be his family. As Amanda tried to explain the difficulties and obstacles that would present themselves and used the word ‘impossible’, her daughter responded that “Mommy, you tell us not to use words like ‘hate’ and ‘boring’ in our house. I think Jesus wouldn’t want us to use the word ‘impossible’ b/c all things are possible through him”. Hearing those words from her daughter, Amanda and her husband opened their hearts to this POSSIBILITY. Several weeks passed and they felt God’s peace to pursue Theo as their son. They began the paperwork on July 1st and it is now in its final stages. Amanda continued to explain what the last few months had looked like for them as they have traveled on this road to Theo. Only God could have had a hand in this. While I was calling all prayer warriors and agonizing about him being taken back to the state orphanage for this short time, it was only so that his paperwork could have been prepared for adoption. His mother knew where he was and God had never left his side.
What a blessing and a miracle this bittersweet news is! Theo has a mother and a father and brothers and sisters who will be his forever family. I cannot help but humanly have a selfish part of me that is a little sad that he will still be on the other side of the world. However, his mother shared with me today that when they come to visit their family in the states, I am welcome to visit him. I will replace referring to myself as his ‘mama’ to his ‘aunt jo’. I can’t imagine what it will be like to enter the doors of Maria’s House in a few short weeks and not be greeted by that sweet hug and unforgettable smile. I know that I have fulfilled God’s purpose in His plan for me and Theo. Please know that his new family recognizes the faithfulness of all who have followed his story and prayed for him. You have all played an integral part in bringing him home.
Theo’s name will now be Ezra. After hanging up with Amanda today, I looked up the meaning of the word ‘Ezra’ from the Bible. It translates to “God has helped”. I cannot think of a more fitting name for him. God has indeed helped. God has blessed. Blessed not only this beautiful orphan boy in China, but eternally changed and blessed my life. I pray that this story has blessed yours as well and that the power of prayer will be constantly realized. That the calling for all of us to care for the orphan will be answered. That being willing to open your heart to an impossibility can allow God to flood your life with unimaginable blessings.
I don’t know where my story goes from here. For the past three years I have poured my soul into making sure Theo was headed to his forever family. It has given me a purpose in the giant scheme of the orphan crisis and for the undeniable calling that God has given me to care for the fatherless and motherless. I will now begin to pray that when I return to China in a few weeks, God will place another precious one in my path to advocate for. Theo has represented so many and given a name to what so many people did not understand. As I go to bed tonight, I can sleep with a peace that I have not had since I met him in July 2009. A peace that Theo is no longer and orphan and that Ezra has a family waiting with open arms.
Greater than a Mustard Seed August 10, 2011
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
First of all, there is not enough thanks and appreciation in this entire world to adequately express how overwhelmed and grateful I am for the response that has been shown to this little orphan boy in China! If he only knew how many people were loving and praying for him. He would seriously laugh so hard. His laugh is infectious. There is a part of me that believes he has to be feeling this love! I pray that it keeps him warm and from feeling lonely!
I never thought when I wrote on Friday that by today over 2500 people would have read the story of Theo. So many people that I don’t even know! But it is because of this response and because of all the messages that I Have gotten from all over the world (seriously) that I am continually encouraged.
It is in circumstances like these, where I feel there is nothing ‘I’ can do, that I am humbly reminded that there is nothing ‘I’ can do. This is entirely about what God can do. And I have faith…that God is moving mountains. I can’t see where they are being moved to just yet but I am starting to grasp just how big they are. And I know that only my God can do anything about moving them.
Every person who stepped out in faith and shared Theo’s story with someone has made a step to answer the cry of the orphan. Please!!! Continue to share this story!!
Pray specifically for the following things:
1.) That God will stir in the heart of a family. That they will feel that their current family is not complete and have a willingness to open their home to a child without one. Pray that this will overcome a family in a way that they cannot ignore.
2.) That Theo is safe and cared for in the place that he currently is. Continually pray for kindness and love from the nannies assigned to care for him. Pray that he will endear himself to them in an undeniable way. Pray that he has strength and continues to laugh and experience joy on a daily basis.
I know that God is good all the time. This situation cannot be any different. My faith is so big. Much greater than a mustard seed…and I believe in the promise that nothing is impossible with God.
I am attaching some links that have been on showhope.org that have feature Theo over the past couple years.
Again, please continue to share this story! It is because of everyone who reads this and prays that hearts and mountains will be moved!
A Plea for Theo August 5, 2011
As many of you have probably gathered from my facebook page, the past 17 hours have been filled with many tears and many more questions.Last night at about 11 o clock (noon in China), one of his nurses contacted me to let me know that the state came to take him from Maria’s. While there is never any known rhyme or reason to that process, I cant help but want answers. I have to choose my words very carefully, so instead of telling you all the things that he won’t have , I’m gonna tell you about all the things that I know he had at Maria’s.
First of all, I know that he had 3 meals every day. He had an ayi that always wrapped a cloth around his neck so he wouldn’t get messy while he was eating. When he didn’t want to eat, I taught her how to do an airplane with the spoon to make it fun for him. He liked that. He was never hungry…Thats obvious from how much he has grown and changed in the 2 years that I’ve known him. He has the best chubby little cheeks.
He had his own bed. Funnily enough, he even had Louis Vuitton bed bumpers on it. He slept there soundly every night, tucked in with a blue and white star blanet that I sent him as soon as I fell in love with him. His ayis had laminated pictures of us together and they were always surrounding him in his crib. My favorite part of the day when I would visit, was going in there at night after he was asleep and kissing those cheeks and saying ‘Wo Ai Ni’.
He had the BEST ayis in the world. They love him and play with him and hold him…and as much as I always hated saying goodbye, I knew he was happy with them. Safe with them. They would always promise me that they would take good care of him when I was gone. And I never ever ever doubted that they did.
He had great medical care. 5 nurses and a Dr. right there with him all the time. I never had to wonder what would happen if he got sick.
There were incredible possibilities for his medical future under the care of MBHOH.
He had joy. Theo loves to laugh. Which is so incredible b/c so many of you remember what he looked like 2 years ago when he came….inches from death. And now he is a beautiful, bright-eyed healthy little boy. He is so funny and has such a personality. I can’t help but attribute that to all the love and laughter that he has been surrounded with in that big blue house.
I knew that I could get him clothes and toys whenever I wanted to. There was always a way to let him know that I never forget him, even when I can’t be there.
I always had a peace knowing the love and care that he was being shown there.
And now I don’t know any of this. I don’t know how to find out. I don’t know if he is crying…but I’m sure he is scared. How could he not be? He has had to leave his home and the people he trusts and loves.
I hurt b/c I want whats best for him. Selfishly, I greive b/c I don’t know when/if I will ever see him again. But when I can push back my tears and my anger long enough to think about what has to be done, I know that all I can do is pray. Pray for the nanny that will be taking care of him. Pray that she is loving and kind and that she will open her heart to Theo and see what an extraordinry child he is. Pray that HOPE is not lost! He can still be adopted. Pray that a family will open their heart and home to this little miracle. Pray that beauty will come from these Ashes! This cannot be the end of Theo’s story. I need my friends and family to pray. Tell everyone about this little boy. I want to shout out his name from the mountaintop. He cannot get lost. He cannot become a number. He’s Theo and he has changed my life.
The image that was described to me by the nurse was that he left holding my pictures and smiling. I pray that he knows that no matter what changes, his mama loves him. But I know that no matter how much I love him, Jesus loves him so much greater than that. That’s why I have HOPE. As faint as it feels right now, its there. I hope that someone reading this will be moved to tears. Moved in a way that burdens their heart. That begs them to open their home and step out in faith.
I’m going to repost ‘My Theo Story’ that I wrote about a year or so ago…some people who are new to reading this, may not know the history. After you read this, please remember to keep him in your prayers. ALWAYS! This is my love story with my little boy:
I can remember the exact place that I was on Interstate 24 when I very clearly heard the words “Go to China” in my heart. I was really confused by this because China was never really a place that I had intended to go or desired to see. I just know that I was in a place in my life where I was frustrated. I was a college graduate, beginning my career as a teacher. I was not married and had no children. I knew that I would have summers off from work and did not want to spend them laying by the pool or hitting up the honky tonks in downtown Nashville. I wanted to do something more than that. I had prayed and asked God to show me what to do with the time off, as I was in a place in life where I could just pick up and go. And that’s when I heard “Go to China”.
My first mission to China was in Hong Kong. I went there for a couple weeks in the summer of 2008 to do Vacation Bible School with some of the local kids. Hong Kong was an incredible city with amazing people. I instantly fell in love with Asia and knew that I wanted to go back to the region if I was given the opportunity.
In May 2008, Maria Chapman, daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman, was tragically killed in a car accident in the driveway of their home. She was a beautiful little five-year-old girl, adopted from China. Steven and his wife, Mary Beth, through the organization Show Hope (www.showhope.org) began their dream of building a special needs orphanage in Luoyang, China to honor their little girl’s memory.
I was invited to go to Maria’s Big House of Hope in the summer of 2009. I had no idea how my life would be impacted by this trip. It was a 2 weeklong adventure from Beijing to Lang fang to Luoyang. Our team spent time at an orphanage for cleft pallet babies…at a home for osteogenisis imperfecta (brittle bones)…and each of these places seemed to be filled with faces that were unforgettable. However, the place that I hold so dear to my heart and where I know that I have left my heart is at Maria’s House. It is a 6-floor building that towers into the sky. By a mix up in translation, it was painted bright blue with clouds. Hand painted Daisies are sprinkled along the front of the building, a memory of the flower that Maria had drawn the day she was taken to heaven.
The thing about Maria’s House is that it is filled with precious children and I have always loved children. I had never really been around special needs children, however, and that is a whole new experience. I was drawn to a room on the third floor because there was an adorable little girl up there named Jenny. Her only special need was that she was born small. She was capable of much more than many of the children there. She could laugh and play and interact on a ‘normal’ level. But there was this one little boy in there that could not do any of that. He was in a chair in the corner that he kind of had to be strapped into due to his deformities. His legs were limp and twisted and crooked. His head was abnormally large and you could see the shunt in it that was used to aid his hydrocephalus. He was pitiful. My prayer was that I would be able to bring myself to pick him up by the end of the week. I was playing on the couch with Jenny and rested my arm on the armrest when I felt these tiny fingers wrap themselves around my pinky. I looked down and the pitiful little boy was smiling at me. I picked him up and did not put him down for the next 5 days. I cried thousands of tears and stood over his crib at night and prayed for Theo. That’s his name, Theo. A name that I have uttered a thousand times since that day through stories that I tell and through prayers that I send up to God. People ask me all the time ‘Why don’t you just bring that child home?!’. Well, in China you have to be married and 30 to adopt. I am neither of these things. So until I am, I must pray for what’s best for Theo. That there will be a family somewhere who wants to take him in and give him the medical care that he needs…that there will be a doctor somewhere who wants to do an unknown surgery to heal his legs. Saying goodbye to Theo at the end of that week was excruciating. I wept over him and promised him that I would come back.
On March 17 of this year, I came back. But he had heard from me since then. I had sent him clothes and pictures of the two of us together that his nannies hung in his crib. His nannies refer to me as his mama. And I really feel that in some strange way, I am. I thought of what it would be like to see him and hold him after 8 months had gone by. There is not one moment that I doubt he knew who I was. He looked at me as if I must be a dream. I spent every day with him that I was there. Every free second that I had, he was in my arms. He was not the same boy that he was when I had left him in July. He is now expressive and healthy looking and he can blow kisses and play peek-a-boo. When I would tell him that I loved him in Chinese, he would answer back with the word ‘yes’. I love you is really the only phrase that I know in Chinese. Theo can’t understand my English…and I can’t understand his Mandarin babbling. But we both understand that we love each other deeply. How incredible is it that God created love and it is one thing that is universally understood?? Just as I had suspected, our time together was too short. 3 days flies by so quickly and then I had to say good-bye again. This time was harder than the last. There was much crying and weeping. But I was not alone. His nannies cried with me. They don’t understand me and I don’t understand them but they know how much I love this little boy and it broke their hearts too.
On June 22nd, I’m going back to China. Back to the big blue wonderful house of Hope! Every day I struggle with my calling there. Why am I so drawn to a place that is so difficult to get to? 14 hours in a plane…10 hours on an overnight train. But so worth it once I’m inside. I will be spending my summer there, doing whatever they need me to do. I look forward to serving them in any way possible. Of course, I look forward to spending time with my little boy as well. Sometimes I sit and think about my experiences, about the faces of the children who have been abandoned, about the floor of palliative care babies who may not make it through the night…and I become so overwhelmed. There are so many! I can’t help them all! But I can hold one tightly and I can love one like the mother he may never have. My challenge to anyone who reads this is: Love one. It doesn’t have to be a child on the other side of the world. It can be a child on your street, at your school, in your home. Love one. And that love will grow and spread to others…and your story will reach the hearts of people you may never meet and inspire them to love outside their comfort zone. I thank God for the opportunities that He has given me, the heart that He has blessed me with and the little boy that I love and that has chosen to love me back.
So long, Mzungus!! July 25, 2011
so after my blog post yesterday…things really went downhill here. We cannot decide if a stomach virus circled through room 11 at Gately on the Nile…or if it was a bad reaction to the food we ate at the roadside restaurant called ‘Try and Trust’. I will spare the details but lets just say, we tried and we do NOT trust. Little David got the worst of everyone and for a little while it was pretty touch and go. We were afraid that we would be visiting a Ugandan hospital but thank God, we met up with a nurse here at the hotel from Texas and she was here during research on infectious diseases and was able to get us some medicine for David. Overnight, it seemed like a miracle…he was the same ol’ David when he woke up this morning and kept us all on our toes, running around all day. We were truly grateful for the divine placement of the Dr and always recognize that there are no accidental meetings.
All that to say, there was not much excitement for us as far as ‘African adventure’ goes yesterday….unless you want to classify the ‘Try and Trust’ as an adventure…
However, today we got to partake in 2 of the most endearing parts of Africa, its beauty and its children. We began our day by visiting Ekisa. It is a small, special needs orphanage run by a 21 year old girl named Emily with a passion for the overlooked and abandoned. As you can imagine, pulling up and seeing the faces here for the first time, left an instant impression on my heart. We were greeted by 3 boys about the age of 7, one suffering from CP, one an unidentified need and the other with such severe burns on the right side of his body that it was difficult to look at. We were told that his mother had thrown something on him to burn him and then he was abandoned. Walking onto the porch, I was immediately drawn to a little boy sitting with his ‘auntie’ (African nanny). He was propped up against her with an instantly recognizable disability. After falling in love with Theo, I can’t imagine that I could ever walk past a child with hydracephalus without stopping to touch him/her and let them know how special they are. He looked up and reached out to shake my hand, asking me how I was. His speech was not clear but I could make out what he was saying. His head is so huge that it undoubtably weighs much more than the rest of his body, filled with fluid that will never go away. He told me that his name was ‘Arafat’. His nanny told me he was about 8 years old. When you see pictures, you will see how shocking this is. We played for a while and he would keep saying ‘Oh my goodness’ over and over again….it was hilarious. We laughed and he sang and then he kept saying ‘I love you’. It is always so amazing how forgiving and open children can be. How does a child know who to trust and who to love after being neglected and abandoned? Yet, this precious little boy so freely was ready to give love. I can’t help but believe it is because these children are the truest and purest form of angels. I feel closest to God when I am holding them. I feel how thin the vail between heaven and earth is. I have felt this 4 times now, with a little boy named Jacob at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. With a little boy named Timothy at the Home of Loving Faithfulness in Hong Kong. Most famously with a little boy named Theo at Maria’s Big House of Hope in Luoyang China. And today, with little Arafat at Ekisa in Uganda Africa. What a journey God has taken me on. I never know if I will see them again this side of heaven. But I do hope that when that day comes, that God will grant me the gift of seeing them all healed and running and full in His glory. If there is no earthly reward for loving the least, surely that must be it, when we can all SEE!
There were others, little Jojo, 4 years old with Downs Syndrome and HIV. Rachel who had polio as a baby and left unable to walk. Joshua who is so new to Ekisa that they have been unable to diagnose him. Zeke, 8, and joyful….with the sweet spirit that seems to be typical with children who have Downs. As close as I feel to God when I have the opportunity to spend time with these incredible children, it is so hard to try and comprehend why there is so much suffering. I go to bed tonight burdened by this thought. Again, wondering why it is always so heavy on my heart. It just never seems like I have enough time to give everything I have to them.
I honestly didn’t mean to go off on all of that. I had planned on just writing briefly to wrap up this indescribable mission. I guess since it is the last night of the trip, it would be difficult not to feel reflective. We spent the afternoon sightseeing at the Nile River. I don’t think I ever thought I would be standing at the Nile River. Its one of those places you read about in 7th grade geography but never really think about going. I’m thankful to be able to see another part of the world.
I feel that the past 17 days have just been a preview. A glimpse of the incredible things that God is doing in Africa…a taste of future opportunity that I may be given to be the Hands and Feet here. Have no doubt that my heart is always in China but I am more than open to being brought back here as well. This children have left a handprint on my heart.
When we drive through the streets of Africa with the windows down, the children all look at us. I don’t think it is a frequent ocurrance for a vanload of white people to travel some of these dirt roads. They line up, waving to us and shouting ‘Mzungu! Mzungu!’. That’s what they call white people here! I think its pretty comical. I hope that as we travel to the airport tomorrow evening, we will see them saying ‘So long Mzungu!’ I also pray that we will see the children of Africa again soon.
Pray for us as we travel home!
Love from Africa!…for the last time…for now