Category Archives: Orphan Care

Outreach to orphans in the United States and around the world

OH HAPPY DAY shirts

oh happy day shirts collage 670 wide

Our most perfect design yet.

Inspired by the Chinese boys hosted in the Philadelphia area who sang this song over and over everyday after hearing it on their first Sunday in America.

They sang the words. Now, we’re wearing them.
Remembering the boys and all the boys and girls they represent as we do.

 All proceeds from sales of this shirt will go towards funding our orphan care initiatives.
our orphanage trips. supplies and gifts. new programs.

Details:

Shirts come in adult and youth sizes. The adult shirts are our favorite shirt ever— a super, super soft tri-blend. The youth sizes are a cotton/poly blend that is really comfy for even the most sensitive kiddos. Adult sizes come in heather grey, denim blue, or teal. Youth sizes come in heather grey, denim blue, or bright pink.

How to get some for yourself:

  • Complete the short form HERE with your name, mailing address, how many shirts you want in what sizes/colors, and all that good stuff.
  • Pay for them ($20 per shirt plus shipping) via sending money to mraudenbush@sparrow-fund.org through your PayPal account (FYI – it’s the account for The Sparrow Fund, not a personal account…promise) or by donating via clicking the donate button on this website.
  • Share, tweet, and text using hashtag #ohhappyday to help us spread the word about these super cute first day of school or birthday or adoption day or casual Friday shirts (this one is optional, of course, but most appreciated).

Climbing to Find Beauty

I write this in honor of the precious foster mom who gave me a rare gift, and for others like her, who have loved children that no one else has seen, and have believed that there is beauty to be unlocked and discovered as we journey upwards and press in for their restoration.

***

She sat at the table with me, frantically biting her nails. It was her nervous habit. And she was a very nervous child, slow to trust anyone—because her trust had been brutally, severely broken by one who was supposed to keep her safe.

He buried his head in his arms, attempting to hide his shame. He was ten, and he could not read. The book I sat on the table was like a knife, threatening to cut through him. His younger, learning-to-read years had been a storm of abuse and neglect, and letter names and sounds had gotten lost in his trial. Now he felt he could never learn.

Her arms bore scares, all up and down. The hurt in her teenage heart was more than she could deal with, and so it spilled out. And she afflicted her own frame.

She missed her two sisters, born of different fathers, but sharing her mother’s blood. She hadn’t seen them in years. Fatherlessness had separated them. Her mother and father had forsaken her, and worthlessness hung over her soul like a plague.

He threw tantrums. His five-year-old body would flail as his piercing screams sounded. He was a heavy burden that most couldn’t handle—because not many understood that he’d been the only eye witness to a violent crime, and this little boy didn’t know how to manage his inner storm that relentlessly surged.

Their harsh, orphaned histories have left them scarred children. What was meant to shine with beauty has been buried.

And is it possible to unearth what was smothered so severely? Darkness holds them back in the shadows—but can their miserable hearts ever shine again?

Has the dream God held in His heart when He knit together that one been lost forever?

We’ve maybe heard that orphans (or foster kids, as we call them in America) have tough behaviors. And truth is, a lot of them do. But on the backdrop, behind that difficult behavior, is a hard story that has forged who they are and how they now carry themselves.

Does the Father see an irreparable child—or does He see hope, waiting to be watered? Does He shield Himself, or does He come up close to the wild and withered one?

Do we see what God sees?

Beauty 1

I remember sitting with a fatherless girl one day. I’d sat before her more times than I could count. She’d forged strong walls to protect what had been deeply hurt by those who were meant to love her. Her life told stories of rejection and loss, and now she held back her heart, and even tested me, waiting for—even expecting—me to reject her, too. After all, history does repeat itself, right?

She wouldn’t let anyone in. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want help.

But on this day, for the first time, I saw her heart crack open, just a little. It was an out-of-the-blue moment. We sat together on a park bench, silent, when suddenly she spilled out one of her aches in a sullen, matter-of-fact tone. Hurt and shame mingled as she spoke. She showed me a vulnerable place that lay behind her walls—and she let me in. One of the layers that had sealed her closed heart started to peel, like one fragile petal finally gathering courage to unfold. And I saw into her. There was a small, glorious break in her wall—and when that little window raised a crack, I spoke a sentence of truth into her. A sliver of light shone in to pain’s darkness, and it chiseled away a tiny piece of her hardness. And a beauty long-buried started to seep out, even just a little. It was a truth that no one had ever spoken to her before, one that put her head on tilt, and she considered whether or not she could believe the cleansing words; for they were so foreign to her muddied thoughts.

Their lives hold a mystery. A gift beautiful, but hidden.

Beauty 2

Their broken, hardened hearts are like shoots waiting to open, hidden atop rugged mountains—like the wild flowers that grow in places high and remote, whose beauty is seen only by their Creator who planted them… and by anyone else willing to climb, to ascend steep places, to put a hand right on a jagged edge that might cut, to take a risk, and to scale up some cliffs.

I know moms and dads, mentors, and teachers who’ve embraced these orphaned hearts. And I’ve had the gift of watching love’s labor move up, up, up… wearied, aching, but believing that there is beauty to be opened and uncovered on the journey. Hurt comes with the climb, hearts bleed, wounds cut deep; but if we don’t give up, if we keep on, if we keep reaching toward them in love—even when they turn us away, again—maybe we’ll discover that beauty waits to be found, that the imprisoned soul can be set free, that there’s healing for the broken heart after all—and maybe one day, the glory of the view from up top will outweigh the challenges of the climb.

It’s a miracle— a move of Heaven, reaching the Earth.

BEauty 3

In some ways, these orphaned ones are just like us. God is the Healer of the broken—and we are all broken.

We, too, were once orphaned. We were without hope, without God, without a Father. We needed a rescue. An adoption.

And the Father reached out through His Son, who poured out His life… so that we could have life.

God in flesh journeyed up, for us. He ascended Calvary’s hill—which, though only a hill, proved to be the world’s tallest of mountains. He climbed, wearied, with cross upon His bleeding back, because He knew there was a beauty buried which would never be uncovered unless He set His face toward the summit at Golgotha.

Blood dripped down like water, quenching a parched and broken world. And from the top of Calvary, beauty would grow, and life would spring forth. For on that mountain, and around that cross, once-orphaned hearts would gather for eternity—there finding life, gaining freedom, receiving healing, and touching a power that would open them, one fragile petal at a time… until we at last, as mature flowers atop the hill, fully behold the brightness of the Son.

Beauty 4

So who will go on a journey to find the beauty that’s hidden away in a child’s broken story, reserved for those willing and courageous enough to make a laborious ascent, to carry a cross, and to pour themselves out?

What hope is there for them if the Church, the very carriers of His Spirit, doesn’t embrace them? The world cannot deliver these children. But we know the Man who can heal them.

Will we reach to see what God sees? That flower that no one has ever noticed on the top of the mountain, that one that’s never been given chance to bloom—will you notice that one?

Will you reach to believe that God, truly, has not asked the broken one to stay in his brokenness?

Can we really believe that He is Healer? That child, whose beauty has been buried, whose fatherless face is lost in a sea of millions of other orphaned ones—will you see and pray and believe for, that one?

Beauty 5Lying beneath an orphan’s anguish-tainted story, buried under the dark eyes, tough behaviors, and hopeless countenance, there is something lovely. And those who are willing to scale rough and rocky edges, and even to let their hearts bleed, will find Him there. He still has a dream for that child. He’s already on top of the mountain, full of unfailing hope. He sees the possibilities of beauty that can be uncovered if only we will join His heart in the climb, and keep climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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thurlow-55-e1421354870495Kinsey is a follower Jesus, a wife to her Husband, Jon, and advocate for the fatherless. She and husband have worked in full-ministry at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MS for the last decade. Through the years, she has spent time among the fatherless and currently works with internationally adopted children as a teacher and with America’s foster children as a mentor, tutor, Bible teacher, and friend. You can join her and her husband via webcast every Friday at 10 AM at http://www.ihopkc.org/PRAYERROOM/ for weekly prayer meetings for the fatherless at IHOPKC. Kinsey also blogs regularly at http://jonandkinsey.com/ 

What Orphan Sunday is Not

Child-with-Down-Syndrome-October-2015-1-265x398Orphan Sunday.

It’s not about a movement. Movements eventually fade with time.

It’s not about a cause. Causes are embraced by only a few and can distract us.

It’s not about providing content for pastors who preach every Sunday. There are nearly 775,000 words fully able to provide content for a lifetime of 52 weeks.

It’s not about checking a box. One designated Sunday service of 52 Sunday services even if every word and moment of those 2 hours bled a particular topic does not allow anyone to say a box can be checked and their job is done.

It’s not about telling people they need to do more. It’s not about urging the Church to adopt. It’s not even about adoption.

If it’s not about a movement, a cause, content, checking a box, rallying people to do more, or adoption, what is it about?

It’s about the heart of God. It’s about who we are as His children.

A devoted and faithful child cares about the things that his or her father cares about. As those who follow Christ, we are called to mirror His heart. And, His heart is for the one without, every single one without.

On Orphan Sunday, the Church reminds those within its 4 walls of the ones without its 4 walls who are dear to our Father’s heart—the approximately 153,000,000 children around the world who are orphans—and need to be dear to our hearts not just during a nice service, singing songs that stir our hearts, watching videos that leave us in tears, or hearing His Word preached and responding with Amens. Those things are not without purpose; they are tools He uses to grow our hearts to look more like His own. It just can’t end today because tomorrow is Orphan Monday and the next day is Orphan Tuesday then comes Orphan Wednesday, Orphan Thursday, and Orphan Friday…

His call. Our call. It isn’t about today; it’s about everyday.

Learn to do good. It doesn’t come naturally and is not easy. But, we have the best teacher to help us.
Seek justice. It can be hard to find in a broken world.
Help the oppressed. If you have been comforted, you can be comfort.
Defend the orphan, every orphan. They are His and, therefore, our little brothers and sisters.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a Master’s degree in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary and founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

Ayi For a Day {50 for 50 in 5 weeks}

They are oft overlooked much like the children they care for. They live in a place where what you do and how much you make is everything which means they have very little. Watching over and meeting the needs of children with no known roots is hardly considered a career; it’s a job. Some of the ayis do their best to do that job well despite the meager pay they’re given. They braid little girls’ hair, make funny faces to make babies giggle, pursue the child who looks different. Others simply do their duty. All of them are in the hard and obviously broken corners of our world, and they cannot help but be impacted by it.

They go by the name Ayi or, in some places, are all called Mama in painful irony of the purpose of what they do. Their purpose is to ready children for new mamas, to care for children well enough so that they can leave to be cared for by another, living in a seemingly endless cycle of nurture and departure. Surely, most ayis are glad to see a child leave as it means he has a future and will become something he could never become where he is now. We’ve seen ayis clap their hands and laugh aloud at the news that one of their children has a family coming for her. But, we can only imagine that their hearts bear scars as well from all the goodbyes. Those scars run deeper still for those who were once little girls there themselves but never got to say goodbye.

We intercede for vulnerable children, but we often overlook these vulnerable women. His hearts breaks for them as well, as should ours. It is impossible for us to truly know what their days are like, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to enter in. This effort launched today is to move us towards that and give us an opportunity to crack that door open and enter into the experience of a woman whose heart is not unlike our own.

Ayi For a Day.

ayi for a day kit 4 We’ve thoughtfully and carefully assembled 50 kits, each one slightly different in shades and tastes, to engage and unite 50 women in interceding for the ayis in China we serve at an orphanage in Shaanxi as well the innumerable ayis all over China. The kits include various items to use over the course of one dedicated day—shoe covers, sleeve covers, tea, chopsticks, Chinese snacks, Chinese money, and more—with specific prayer prompts to lead you in prayer as you do. But, the experience isn’t over at the end of one day. Enclosed in each kit will be a postage-paid envelope you will use to return the sleeve covers to us in time to be hand carried to China on October 7th. The sleeve covers you will wear and pray over on your Ayi Day will become an ayi gift and placed on the hands of an another woman on the other side of the globe.

ayi for a day kit 3We need 50 women who desire to join their hearts and prayers for the sake of 50 other women in China.

50 kits for 50 women for a donation of $50 in 5 weeks. That’s our goal. The money raised will be put into The Sparrow Fund’s orphan care and ayi care fund. And, the prayers raised will change the world.

Click on the “Donate” button below to become one of the 50. Please note #ayiday or “Ayi For A Day” in the notes field when you donate. Your kit will be sent to you next week with clear instructions on how to use your kit to engage your family and your own heart.




Only 50 kits are available, so don’t wait to join us. And, just to encourage you a little more, the first 10 women who join the effort will find a little extra gift in their kit.

The Other Mother

Since day one, many have asked about The New Chick’s biological mom. And for all seven of the months he’s lived in my house, I’ve put off writing about her. But, there is a season for everything, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

The first time I saw her it was in the Chambers County Courthouse. I looked up from admiring the five day old baby who was snug against my chest, and saw her walking toward us. I knew her by the tears pouring unchecked down her face. She humbly asked me if she could hold him, and I began to wonder at the world I had just entered.

As I unswaddled all five precious pounds and placed him in his mothers arms, I realized this entire endeavor was going to require more of my heart than I had expected. I felt all at once tremendous pain for her, and ferocious protection over him.

Those two emotions would only swell with the passing weeks. At times they were at war within my soul.

Someone commented on her right after he came to us. They posed a question, that was really more of a statement, along the lines of how could anyone do what she has done. The person went on to make her out as a total sinner, and me a total saint.

I just blinked and ashamedly said nothing. But inside was a raging inferno.

There is nothing fundamentally different about she and me. The only thing that polarizes her life from mine is that I was given a gift when I was 6.

The gift of the Holy Spirit when I got adopted by The King.

Without that gift I would have been her. I would have chased this world and let it have it’s way with me. I would have made costly decisions; looking to all the wrong things to make me feel happy and all the wrong people to make me feel loved. I would have given myself to a man way too early and gotten pregnant and had a baby.

It would have been me watching the social workers walk out of the hospital with my first born son, still sore from giving birth to him.
It would have been me wondering where they took him.
And who was holding him. And what was going to happen to him.
It would have been me facing every parent’s worst nightmare.

It would have been me.

But Jesus.

I won’t lie. There’s another side to my feelings about her. It’s not jealousy. Or competition. It’s more like looking at her and wondering if I will be her in a few months.

I fear the pain she’s already lived through.

Handing my baby over to the social workers to be cared for by strangers. Wondering where he is and if he needs me. Missing his firsts and wanting him so desperately it hurts. Fearing that he’s wants Mama, but can’t have her.

I hate the notion that her success will mean my greatest loss. And just as much I loathe the idea that if she fails, I somehow win.

Because if he goes back, I’ll curl up and die for a while. But if he stays, I’ll grieve with the knowledge that she’ll do the same. Either way, pain will be thick.

It’s true that she and I are very different. I was adopted and she wasn’t. She brought him into the world and I didn’t. I know him in ways she doesn’t.

And every time I say “Come to Mama” I am reminded that there is another.

But in this we are the same.

She and I are both the other mother.

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Beth LawrenceBeth is Wife Supreme to one good looking pastor, and Queen Mother to two awesome bio children and two darling fosters. She writes about foster care along with this, that and the other atJust Beth. Beth is slightly addicted to her morning coffee, loves talking about Alex’s House Orphanage in Haiti, and gets the biggest kick out of pulling off her hair-brain ideas. (Her husband’s words, not her own.) She’s been featured on ForEveryMom, FaithIt, and some other cool blogs that were desperate for material.

Their Vision is Valuable {After}

Starting in May, every first Friday of the month until October, the quaint town of Phoenixville explodes with activity. Streets are closed, people are everywhere, and parking is atrocious. Restaurants are all abuzz with long waits for good eats. Happy hour becomes happy hours as bartenders can’t keep up with the demand. And, there, in the middle of it all, is The Bridge, our church office, where on this first First Friday of 2015, something very very special happened.

IMG_8374Portraits of 12 children were set up in the front window, and their art filled every square inch of the rest of that space. Hundreds of people came through Friday night–the vast majority of whom just wandered in on their way to catch dinner with friends. I saw their eyes widen as I explained the story behind the exhibit and showed them the pictures of the children who created it. I smiled with them as I told them about the little boy who loves to dance and the little girl who now lives in Omaha with her new family. I saw parents pick children up and point out details in the pictures. I heard them talk about what they would name each one. I saw groups of teenage girls gushing at how cool one of the pictures was and snapping pictures on their iPhones to remember it. I heard a young woman ask her friend if the text underneath each photo’s name was “from the Bible or something.”

IMG_8405There we were, right in the middle of all the activity, showing people the faces of children with special needs who don’t have families, who call an orphanage home. There, in the middle of the bar scene, were 30 incredible pictures of hope and beauty and life. There, in the middle of crowds of people, were Bible verses next to each one of those pictures that drew those crowds in.

I was all alone in that space at the end of the night. While the sound of several different bands playing throughout the streets could still be heard, it was quiet in there. As I swept up cracker crumbs and packed up brochures, I thought about how at that very moment, the children who created all that beauty were probably sitting in their classroom together–all but the one sweet girl who was likely sleeping in her new bedroom in Omaha. Whatever they were doing right then–reading, learning math, staring out the orphanage window, holding hands with their friend–they had no idea how they had just changed the world on the other side of it. I can’t wait to tell them all about it. I can’t wait to tell them again how valuable they are.

We set out to change the picture some may have in their head of a “special needs orphan” and what he or she is capable of. We set out to make louder the voice and impact on the world that those children who we have grown to love have. We set out to honor them and honor the One who created them. At the end of the night, I believe that happened; I really believe that happened.

We believe this show isn’t a once and done thing. We believe it should happen again, maybe again and again. Who knows. It will cost something, and it won’t be easy. There’s work that would need to be done to make it happen. But, I think it should because the world change is simply not limited to one night in one town in Eastern PA.

If you want to hear more about that, if you want to be part of that world change where you are, if you want your church or ministry to host this in the middle of whatever activity you are in the middle of, email me at kraudenbush@sparrow-fund.org. We’re working on putting information together for whoever else may want a part of this.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a passion for supporting adoptive families, specifically to encourage parents to be intentional and understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for their hearts of their children. Kelly cofounded The Sparrow Fund with her husband Mark in 2011 to serve adoptive families. After a long time using her Master’s degree in counseling informally, Kelly recently joined the team at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA as a cotherapist. Married to Mark since 1998, they have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed by the experience of adoption, and what life for them looks like on Kelly’s personal blog, My Overthinking.

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We’re building the nest this month!

Head right on over HERE to find out more and learn about the 40+ businesses that support adoption and the work of The Sparrow Fund!

Their Vision is Valuable

What if…

A whole lot of greatness starts with those two words. When Ben Leaman, a professional photographer and personal friend, joined our team for the second time to serve at an orphanage in Shaanxi, China where 300 children, most of whom have some sort of special need, call home, we asked a few questions that started with those two words.

What if…

What if we used our giftedness to offer something that had not been done there before? What if we offered children an opportunity to capture the world…their world…in an image? What if we offered some sort of workshop to call out their creative spirits while teaching them about life in the process?

That’s how it all started. We asked what if and then we slowly moved forward step by step as doors opened before us.

In October 2014, only 7 months ago, our team of 15 in partnership with America World traveled clear across the world to serve children without families and those who care for them day in and day out. At 4pm everyday we were there, we paired up one-on-one with 12 children the orphanage selected for our special class and saw a miracle happen.

Ben spoke truth about how shadows serve as a reminder that we make an impact on the world, how colors reflect emotions and how emotions are part of who we are, and how we are created beautifully simply as we are and that beauty is all around us even when it may seem hidden.

Those children’s lives were changed through this workshop as God spoke through Ben and the rest of our team and affirmed each one of these children that their vision is valuable and they are valuable. And, our lives were changed too as we got to take part in it.

What if…

We came home from China asking those words again. This time, they led us to something in our own neighborhood rather than to China.

This Friday, only two days from now, we will be hosting the premier exhibit featuring a sample of the images these children captured. 30 large-scale pieces of art will be on display as well as pictures of the artists themselves. We are fully expecting to have a crowd show up to take it all in. And, we can’t wait because we know that miracles don’t just happen during a weeklong workshop on the other side of the world; miracles happen right here too. And, we trust that this exhibit is going to change the lives of those who come as they enter into the beauty and the stories of the children who captured it.

printsinframes

therevisionisvaluable

We’re already thinking through what it would take to make this exhibit a traveling one. While it seems like a crazy thing as I look at the sheer volume of the 30 large framed pictures in my living room all ready to meet the world on Friday, we can’t help but ask…what if…

If you want to be on that list to first hear about what would be involved in bringing this exhibit to your hometown or your church or ministry, email me at kraudenbush@sparrow-fund.org, and I’ll be sure to send you information as soon as we put it together.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a passion for supporting adoptive families, specifically to encourage parents to be intentional and understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for their hearts of their children. Kelly cofounded The Sparrow Fund with her husband Mark in 2011 to serve adoptive families. After a long time using her Master’s degree in counseling informally, Kelly recently joined the team at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA as a cotherapist. Married to Mark since 1998, they have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed by the experience of adoption, and what life for them looks like on Kelly’s personal blog, My Overthinking.

A few good men

It’s significant. As a team, we step out in faith, some traveling across oceans for the very first time. It is a big deal with lots of preparing and lots of money, team conference calls, and coordinating. We don’t do it to “give back;” we can’t possibly serve for essentially a week at a Chinese orphanage and come remotely close to giving enough to warrant the phrase. We go for relationships, to enter into life with people–the children who are alone in crowded rooms, the women whose lives are about caring for children so that they can become someone else’s son or daughter, and the men responsible for leading and making decisions that change other people’s entire worlds. We go so the bridge between us can get a few more planks. It’s what He is about, so it’s what we want to be about too.

On February 18th, registration opened up for our next trip scheduled for October 7th-18th, 2015. 3 hours later, registration was closed. In just a few hours, 11 women who had heard about the trip and prayerfully considered the trip opened their hands up and said yes, jumping right on in there. We have room to take 15 people total, but I closed registration with those 11.

Why?

Because we need a few good men.

china125 china172 I have served alongside women on previous teams who are 110% present. I’ve seen God use those women to meet the needs of those children and caregivers in such specific ways. Sometimes I have gotten to be a part of that, and sometimes I have gotten to stand back and simply watch God’s hands around someone using her as His instrument.

But, there is something men are able to do there that women simply cannot. In the orphanage of 300 children, there is not a single caregiver there who is a man. There are men on staff there, but they are the directors, the executives. The ones charged with the daily role of feeding, changing, wiping noses, calming the crying child? They are all women, a good number of whom grew up there themselves. The staff is amazed when a team of Americans is willing to come across the world to build relationships and serve alongside them. When that team has a few men, their amazement is multiplied, more questions are asked as to why we are there, more smiles are exchanged, more pictures are taken of the foreign men who were willing to play with children…and God’s work is magnified. All because a few good men said yes to being used by Him on a team full of women.

If you want to learn more about the trip, email us, and we’ll reply with more details for you. If you think your husband or your son or your nephew may be interested, send this link to him and tell him you think he’d rock it loving orphans and those who care for them.

Our first team conference call is next week. If we don’t get a few good men to join us in the next week or so, we’ll open those 4 remaining spots up for other women.

We can’t wait to see who is on this next team.

chinajpegs091

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a passion for supporting adoptive families, specifically to encourage parents to be intentional and understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for their hearts of their children. Kelly cofounded The Sparrow Fund with her husband Mark in 2011 to serve adoptive families. After a long time using her Master’s degree in counseling informally, Kelly recently joined the team at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA as a cotherapist. Married to Mark since 1998, they have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed by the experience of adoption, and what life for them looks like on Kelly’s personal blog, My Overthinking.

Go & enter into their story {October 2015}

You read THIS POST as the October 2014 team was just starting out.

You read THIS POST about one of our if-only-for-just-this-one-moment moments.

You read THIS POST about the heart behind the work, why we do it.

You read about team members’ experiences HERE and HERE and HERE.

table top banner orphanage 3 table top banner orphanage 5 It’s significant. As a team, we step out in faith, some traveling across oceans for the very first time. It is a big deal with lots of preparing and lots of money, team conference calls, and coordinating. We don’t do it to “give back.” We can’t possibly serve for essentially a week at a Chinese orphanage and come remotely close to giving enough to warrant the phrase. We go for relationships, to enter into life with people–the children who are alone in crowded rooms, the women whose lives are about caring for children so that they can become someone else’s son or daughter, and the men responsible for leading and making decisions that change people’s worlds. We go so the bridge between us can get a few more planks. It’s what He is about, so it’s what we want to be about too.

Today, registration opens for our next trip. October 7th-18th, 2015 seems so far away. But, we are starting now because there’s a good bit of planning to do. And, honestly, we’re pretty excited to get started.

We can take up to 12 women and at least 3 men. Some of the spots are already filled since previous team members are encouraged to go again. So, space is very limited. If you want to learn more about the trip, email us, and we’ll reply with more details for you. And, if you have a heart to get involved in any other way, feel free to email us too.

We can’t wait to see who is on this next team.

 

Choosing to be Uncomfortable #top10ofalltime

I realize something lately. I have been getting way too comfortable. See, it’s been almost 3 years since we adopted Hope, and over a year and a half since we brought home Sam, and things are settling down (relatively speaking).

When first home from China, the thought of your child having lived in an orphanage, having gone hungry, or having suffered, is so heavy that it sometimes it seems hard to breathe.

The enormity of it is overwhelming.

You look into the eyes of your scared and fragile child, and they are still so haunted by what has just transpired. They are scarred by what they have gone through, and most times will never form the words to tell you just how bad it was.

You are confronted with it like a smack in the face every single day.

Every single time they look at you.

The gut-wrenching fear when you leave the room.

The eating hoards of food as if there will never be more.

Or in Sam’s case…the not being able to eat since you were never given the chance and you just don’t know how to swallow.

The scared, distant look, or silent cries with puddles of tears that go on for weeks, months, sometimes longer.

It is easy after you have a year or more under your belt to see your now 33-pound toddler–laughing, playing, and loving…

to forget.

It is easy when your now 5 year old gets a glowing report from preschool at how “advanced” she is and how she is a leader amongst her friends and doing so well that she is sure she will excel next year in Kindergarten…

to forget.

To forget that your toddler was skin and bones and couldn’t walk, talk, or eat. That he was hosed off in dirty water and slept in a snowsuit because of the cold–and no heat at his orphanage. To forget that most pictures sent to you he had blue lips, despite their best efforts to keep him warm.

To forget that your daughter was once so petrified when she was handed to you that she actually caused other parents to cry at the pain she felt at being separated from all she has ever known. To forget that she had to be pried away from her caregivers at the orphanage–and that she screamed until she passed out. That she came home hyper to the point of where she couldn’t sit still for more than 3 seconds at a time.

It is easy to get comfortable. It IS easier to push all that unpleasantness far away in your brain and live in the now, relish in how they are doing now, forget what they went through. It is easy and comfortable to do that.

But it is so important NOT to do that.

You see, when you “forget” or “move on,” you forget that there are millions of kids out there–millions of Hopes and Sams. You are ignoring the fact that just because your kid is okay now, that many others are continuing on in that existence who we try and push to the far recesses of our brain.

So I will choose to forever be uncomfortable.

When my babies are sick, and I am holding back their hair while they are vomiting, and nursing them with ginger ale and crackers, and running them a hot bath, cuddling them into clean, cozy jammies…

see the baby in the back?

I will remember the baby I saw in pictures from Sam’s orphanage–face burning with fever, tied to his/her crib in an upright position, probably sick with a cough of some sort. I will look at that picture and the sadness in that baby’s eyes…

and I will feel uncomfortable.

While we are out to eat as a family, ordering appetizers, meals for each kid, and dessert–and most food doesn’t get finished…

I will think of the children who hoard their food, saving for the next pang of hunger to strike. Or think of the babies with prominent ribs, malnourished and waiting for any morsel…

and I will feel uncomfortable.

When we have a birthday party, inviting friends, family, spending money on cake, food, decorations, and most likely a blow-up thing of some sort….

I will think of the children who never have their birthday marked with any special recognition. I will think of the fact that two of my children had birthday’s “assigned” to them since there is no real record of their birth. I will think of the pain of that day for their birth parents…

and I will feel uncomfortable.

When my 6 kids are digging for sandcastles on the beach, frolicking in the waves, and screaming with joy as they do on vacation, getting ready for their 5th night of ice cream…

I will remember the children who have never, ever, left the four walls of the orphanage. Never rode in a car–except when they were brought there. Maybe they will get some time to play outside once and again…but their days, nights, holidays, are all spent within the confines of those walls. Some of them aren’t babies; some are 11, 12, 13 years old and have never left their orphanage. I will remember them, and, yes,

I will feel uncomfortable.

When I snuggle in front of the fire on a bitterly cold day, I will think of them.

When I fill readily available prescriptions,

when I sign kids up for sports,

when I browse the aisles in the grocery store filling my two carts with food,

when I tuck my kids into bed, kissing their sweet smelling heads goodnight,

and when I greet their sleepy eyed, bed-headed selves in the morning…

I will think of all the beautiful children waking to no greeting, no morning kisses, cuddles, and hot breakfast…

and, yet again, I will feel uncomfortable.

When I stop those feelings, is when I am forgetting. Forgetting means orphans do not exist.

To be comfortable is to be ignorant.

And in this case, ignorance is not bliss.

Ignorance hurts children and their chances for a better life. For even one person like myself, sitting and staring at my computer screen in my slippers, can make a difference to them. If only by caring and remembering they are there.

On this very day I urge you…

FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.

Remember them.

Do something to make a difference.

Think of them every single day.

They just might change your life. They sure did mine.

________________________________________

Amy Dinello

My name is Amy, and I have been married to Darrin for almost 16 years. We have 4 biological kids (Hannah 12, Joseph 8, Caroline 6, Charlie 5) and two children from China (Hope 5 and Samuel 3). Both of our blessings from China were born with limb differences. We are incredibly blessed by the miracle of adoption and would love to talk to anyone about adopting a child with a limb difference. I am a stay-at-home mom who also is a volunteer for Love Without Boundaries. I am the Fundraising Coordinator for their Orphanage Assistance Program. It is an incredible way to remember those children still waiting for a family! I am just happy to be living an amazing life with my family and sharing a bit of our continuing story on our blog.