Sunday, May 30, 2010

Video of the beach day...

I tried to get this video posted with the last blog...

Please see below for the most recent blog post from our trip!

Glimpse of Glory

Each day that we were in Sierra Leone we were faced with a multitude of emotions, but as I look back on each encounter I can see those small glimpses of glory in the middle of a whirlwind. The one I would like to share first is Fallah's birthday. He was the only one of the three kids that we were unsure of his birth date. Mckenna was really anxious to know because she wanted to know who was older and she just turned eight on April 29th. I asked Fallah on our first day when his birthday was and he told me on May 21st he was going to turn eight! Not only did I learn of my son's birth date, but I was going to be with him on his birthday! For those who know me well, you understand that I really enjoy my children's birthday celebrations so to have the chance to provide Fallah with his FIRST birthday party/cake was amazing to me. The 21st was our beach day so I arranged for Osseh to pick up a cake (to feed 100 people) on our way. After we enjoyed fresh lobster and mango from the mango tree on the beach (which was another great moment) we celebrated Fallah's life and sang to him the "Birthday Song". Malachi was included in this celebration as his birthday was the following Friday and I must say that I was a happy mama. Fallah was unsure of how to respond, but I thought Betty and Sam were going to come out of their skin with excitement for him. I know Fallah was super excited though because the next day I met their sister Olive and the first thing he told her was that he had his first birthday cake.

I believe the smile says it all...on both of our faces!

This is the cake which fed all of the children and staff.

This is the lobster and mango...Erica says that she doesn't eat things that look like it could eat her first. She is not afraid to open a children's center across the world, but she is afraid of this lobster and a few lizards in our room. I just ate my lobster! :)

This is the mango tree...

This beach day turned out to be one of my favorite days for sure. Typically I would be so disappointed if it rained on a day I was planning a beach outing, but in Africa it was very much a blessing! The kids didn't care so neither did I. My last experience in Sierra Leone, when I first met Sam, Betty and Fallah, they were not able to have any kind of childhood so compared to this day when I watched them be kids and play was a wonderful experience. I saw Sam, who was so serious last time just trying to find survival for he and his siblings, play soccer and play in the water with all of the other kids. I watched as he laughed and pretended with Malachi and Jordan. I taught Betty how to do cartwheels and we introduced American football. I played soccer with the girls and it was such a happy day.

The boys playing soccer...


The children when they first arrived at the beach...


I cannot speak of "glimpses of glory" and not mention little Lucy! For those of you who followed my last trip, you will recall that Lucy was the little girl that actually sealed the deal for me to travel. I was going to help transport the blankets that McKenna and her group had made for The Covering and I was going to provide some communication support for Lucy who exhibits some disabilities. Given the nature of our last trip I really was never able to make much of a difference with Lucy other than provide love and attention to a little girl who otherwise sat on a carpet unattended. On one day this trip we were able to see Lucy! There is no reason why this little girl should even be alive much less interacting and remembering who I was. No reason other than the grace of God that is! The condition we left her in last time was so desperate and I was sure that I would never see her again. Lucy has a wonderful family here in the United States that loves and supports her, but I know must also pray for her continually. I got to see Lucy stand and clap with the other kids, reach out to hug my neck and even vocalize as we played together.

Thank you Lord...for ALL of your blessings!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Only You God Part 2

The joy we all experienced by just being with all of the kids at The Covering quickly turned to grief as we entered the children's hospital. This hospital holds a very tender place in the heart of TRS as it was where the team in December 08 brought many of the kids they found from the other orphanage for treatment including Festus and Adama. I posted a few pictures in a earlier blog from the hospital, but as I recount that day I am once again saddened by what we saw. I work with children with special needs in the areas of speech/language/feeding in one of our local hospitals, but I have never felt as inadequate as I did that day. What could I have possible offered to the mom's of these dying children. Not from incurable disease, but from starvation and unintentional neglect. I tried to work with the caregivers on ways to best facilitate feeding, but really did it matter at this point...the baby's mom had abandoned him at the hospital over 3 weeks ago. I was devastated at this reality. I was remembering back to how excited the generous kids in Malachi's class were as they brought in jar after jar of peanut butter to put into the care packages we passed out on this day. How can I share with them that our efforts were not enough to bring joy to every person in this hospital? Please understand that our work does not go unnoticed. I watched as women paid very close attention when Malachi, Jordan and the team passed out bread, water, and these care packages just wondering if they would be overlooked. The smile that followed the presentation (even if for a short time) expresses a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to this outreach.

After a long day at the hospital, we could not wait to get back to The Covering for a dose of joy from all of these thriving children who could have at any given point in their life traded places with the children we just saw. It's only by God's grace that any of us are spared from the suffering we saw today. I continue to question why I am so lucky that it's not me they are serving instead of the other way around. What did I do to deserve my life? God help me to process this information with understanding of your grace and gratitude for my life. I have heard people say "they are used to this life" cannot do what we did today and EVER really believe that!

One of the best things for me to watch was Malachi and Jordan finding their way in a culture very far away from their own. They both jumped right in there to play soccer/football with these children whose blood flows everything "football". It shows me that kids just want the opportunity to be kids and really "playing" can cross many cultural boundaries. Many of these kids could not speak English, but put a ball down and it's a game.

Malachi shared with me that each time we passed out suckers to the kids, they would save the sticks. One day our team provided a workshop for the caregivers at the center and our boys just played in the bedrooms with the other kids and got to experience what they do when they are bored. He said they had probably 100 sucker sticks and they played a game opposite of "pick up sticks". Now anytime my kids say "I'm bored" I will say "go have a sucker and play with the stick".

I will continue to post over the next few days highlights from our trip including: the boys passing out soccer balls at Kroo Bay, a day at the beach, finding Lucy (the little girl I went to help in September), pictures of our friends sponsor kids, and a final farewell with the kids...not one I am looking forward to.

Much love and thank you for joining me on this journey with your thoughts and prayers.

Only You God

Only you God can show your grace in the middle of such devastation. I am going to attempt to share our trip in an effort to express and process the love, joy, pain, heartache, excitement, and yes devastation we have felt over the past two weeks. Only you God can change my life so drastically over the course of less than a year that when I look back to last May, my life is hardly recognizable as compared to today. Only you God can share in our pain as we watch starving babies dying as their mothers sit by and watch. Only you God can can bring hope to Sam, Betty and Fallah as they look deep into my eyes to see if what I am saying is real and true. Only you God can reveal characteristics of strength, courage and compassion within my son, Malachi that the realities of a third world country could bring out of him. Only you God can make it so evident for me to see that this place in my life you have brought me to of traveling to Africa and knowing I have 3 more kids there was perfectly designed by YOU. Only you God can fill these three holes in my heart that were created upon leaving my children across the world from me. Only you God can bring all of these pieces together that look like chaos and devastation and strategically place them to create our beautiful life. Please take a look back now at our journey on my second trip to Sierra Leone.

Oh, the airport...We had 18 bags of luggage to be checked from Springfield all the way to Freetown. We were only over 9 bags and over the weight limit on everyone of them. I was so stressed out before we ever left, but we made it and of course I got stopped by security.

It is such a long journey, but so worth it. I had prayed very hard that Malachi would be able to handle the long, long flights because anyone who knows him would realize that he doesn't sit still EVER so to expect him to sit still for 24 hours of travel seemed impossible. We had not even left the runway from the Chicago airport and he is beginning a melt down. He says his throat hurts and guess what he is running a, we are going to be on this plane for the next 8 hours. His sister had strep throat just prior to our leaving and so after much prayer and a handy extra antibiotic I packed, he slept the entire first leg and I never heard another word about it. The above picture is on the helicopter after leaving the Freetown airport. He was a great little traveler and I'm a little scared of how much like me he is...he kept us entertained to say the least.

I believe this might have been one of the most joyful experiences I have ever had. Betty held a sign greeting "mom Lori" and Fallah held a greeting for "brother Malachi". I would have traveled another 24 hours just to feel that again.

The kids were so happy to see us, but I could tell they were not 100% sure if it was ok to let their love pour out. They didn't smile for every picture and didn't wrap their arms around tightly...yet! The reason Betty is smiling in the above picture is because I caught her hiding and watching me...I'm sure she was just trying to figure out how this "mom from America thing works".
My first impression of Sam, Betty and Fallah was WOW! I was totally amazed and speechless at how charismatic their personalities are and what leaders they are. I want to share some very special video that demonstrates what I am referring to.

Yes, I realize you are crying as you watch that, too! Only you God!

This is of course Sam playing and singing for Fallah to dance. Fallah does not say much, but he is so expressive...reminds me a lot of Fran! (once again, only you God)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Children's Hospital

I wanted to post some pictures of our day at the children's hospital. That was such a hard day emotionally for our team. For those of you who don't know, I feed babies with swallowing difficulties in my job as a speech therapist. I have not, however, ever fed a child who would probably not live for more than a few more days. It was a very humbling experience as I worked with the mothers who just waited for their children to die.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More pictures

I wanted to post more pictures of the kids. I had the amazing opportunity to meet their mother, Matilda, sister, Olive and brother, Victor. I feel so blessed to be a part of these people's lives.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We Have Arrived

We have made it to Freetown. We should be leaving in the next hour to go see the kids at The Covering. I will blog whenever I get a chance, but our internet is not consistent. Malachi is doing great! He had one meltdown when we started out from Chicago as he was trying to imagine being on the plane for the next 8 hours, but after a nap and dinner he was fine. The next 8 hour flight was a breeze for him. He and his cousin Jordan are hanging out with Quami running around the hotel. He stated to me last night "Mom, I am already falling in love with this country". He had some new adventures as soon as we stepped on ground...I will have so much to write about. I hope we keep a good connection. Keep praying for us.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 days and counting

Malachi and I leave in 5 days for Sierra Leone! On one hand it feels like it has been forever since I have seen our beautiful children over there, but on the other I can't believe it's already here. We are a bundle of emotions right now. I have so much to write about. We did a huge fundraiser last month called the 163 Formal Affair (to note 163,000,000 orphans in the world). I will post pictures as soon as I get them, but I cannot express how God's hand and favor was all over that event. From the the turn the final amount earned. We raised almost $30,000 for adoption, travel, and sponsorship for The Covering. Awareness of the orphan crisis is spreading through the Springfield area and I could not be more thrilled. We have so many close friends who are now sponsoring kids and chomping at the bit to have a relationship with them. We will be able to initiate that bond starting next week. Several of Malachi's friends are investing their hearts and their own money. I hear it when they talk. One mom shared with me that two of Malachi's friends Cole and Jackson were talking about the orphanage and the kids that they now sponsor on the way to baseball practice. Jackson personally emailed TRS to sponsor a child. His plan is to work on the farm with his dad to make money to support his child at The Covering. I am amazed to say the least. Malachi's class is doing a peanut butter, shoe, and sock drive for us and his teacher continues to be a blessing to us. We have so many donations that we are having to pay overage fees to ship it on the, we had $250 donated within 45 minutes of posting the need on facebook. What can I say but, wow...God is moving!
During such exciting times when God is moving we can also see the forces of darkness trying to work against us so please be in continued prayer for us. We feel tired at times and scared at others. We sometimes feel like we don't understand how we will ever accomplish all we are called to do, but you know the answer...He is never surprised by what the enemy throws at us!

Special request: Please pray for a dear friend of mine who was just diagnosed with melanoma. God cares for these sweet people across the waters, but he also cares for His people right here in the great USA. I am praying for a complete healing...please join me.

I will be blogging while we are in stay tuned!!
Much love to all of you,