Wednesday, April 29, 2009

God's Voice

The following is a blog excerpt from an OHOH family. Jeff and Cheryl are in the process of obtaining a foster care license. Cheryl shares how God is using His word to encourage her as they move forward in the process.

After yesterday's sermon at my church, I feel led to share some verses that God has been speaking to me about concerning adoption. These are verses that have encouraged me in the past week to press forward in obedience to God's call to add a child to our family through adoption. We aren't sure where this child will come from. Only God knows. But we are certain that God has been speaking to us for several years now that He wants to grow our family, both in number and spiritually. We are trusting Him to guide and direct our paths. He has a plan for our family!

Here are a few verses that have encouraged me this week:

1 Samuel 15:22 To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better

Psalm 56: 3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.

Psalm 140: 12 “I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”

Psalm 18: 16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. 19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Psalm 10:14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. 17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, 18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

1 Chronicles 5: 20b He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. 22 …the battle was God's.

Psalm 77:11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. 13 Your ways, O God, are holy. 
What god is so great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Welcome Home Party Spring 2009

Once or twice a year, the Open Hearts Open Homes Orphan Ministry celebrates adoptions that have been completed recently. Today the adoptions represented Vietnam, Guatemala, and the good Ole USA. It is always fun to get together and be reminded of just how much God has done in the lives of orphans and His church. Pastor Daniel lead us in short devotional focusing on trusting God. A reminder to trust God with all the outcomes not just prior to the completion of the adoption but also with our children after they come home. One of the great joys today was looking around the room and seeing how many children have already been brought into our family through fostering and adoption. And to know that even this weekend, three more children came home. Two from Ethiopia and one domestically. Ephesians 3:20"...To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us."
Here is a link for photos:
OHOH Social

Friday, April 24, 2009

April Social Reminder

Just a quick reminder that the April Social takes place tomorrow, Saturday, April 25 at Bethany Baptist Church from 5-7pm. We will be meeting in the Fellowship Hall, instead of the gym.

Pastor Daniel will be sharing for a short time on the "Idols in the Heart of an Adoptive Parent".

We hope to see you all there!

Questions? contact Amy or Monica, or leave a comment here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Top 10 Questions Adopted Children Ask Parents

1. Do you love me as much as you would a biological child?

2. Did my birthparents love me?

3. How am I like my birth family?

4. How did I grow in your heart?

5. Will you always love me?

6. Can I learn more about my birth country?

7. Is adoption forever?

8. Who else is adopted like me? (It's good to introduce adopted children to other adoptees.)

9. Will you show me pictures and tell me about my adoption experience?

10.Do you think I will adopt my children someday?

As you can see, adopted children have an added dynamic to work through in order to develop a healthy identity. Open communication and lots of love and encouragement are needed in order to facilitate healthy growth. Celebrate family in order to nourish and foster security and emotional development.

This list was originally posted on a tip sheet for social workers written by Stacie Cahill, MSW. I thought they would be good questions to think about. Hopefully these questions you will be answering throughout the child's life.

Bringing Home Your Child

“For this child I have prayed and God has granted me what I asked of Him.” I Samuel 1:27

It is such an exciting time when you bring a child home. You are so ready to have the waiting over. If you have other children at home they are ready to have a real body with the name they have heard over and over. You have readied your hearts; you most likely have readied a room, and had a great time shopping for special items for this new child of yours. You have prayed for this child and dreamed of their future. Your preparation has been careful and loving. You are ready!

As you embark on the journey to pick up the child, whether from a foreign country or the local social services office there are some things to consider as you bring a child home. One of the most important things to consider is that while you feel very prepared for this next step this may be totally a new thought to your child.

The following are some helpful suggestions to consider before you do your pick-up trip.

1. When you pick up the child ask as many questions as possible about their routine. This will help you to know what is “normal” to them. If you are able to bring an object such as a blanket, stuffed animal, etc. from their previous home this will help to have some thing that is familiar. In a fostering situation if you have an opportunity to speak with a willing birthparent about this it will also help them to know that you care about their child. Visiting the orphanage a child has been living at would allow you to see how life is handled through the day.

2. Take a good look at your commitments beforehand. Because of the pace we tend to live at in all likelihood some thing or some things will need to be scaled back. While you are used to the busy pace a child trying to get used to a new family, home, food, smells and perhaps a new language will possibly find it downright scary.

3. Stay close to home. For an extended period of time it would be reassuring to the child to stay home. Give them time to explore, get comfortable, learn what is expected of them, and get in their routine. Even a very young child is comforted by routine and an older child will need time to adjust to a new routine. You may expect some things of
them that they have never heard of before. Staying home also help will help you and the child to work on bonding without them being overloaded with more newness.

4. Keep life simple. This is probably not a good time to host a party. Have family over a little at a time so as not to overwhelm your new family member.

5. Remember you are the parent. While everyone will want to hold and cuddle a younger child that child needs to know who to go to when they have needs to be met. Whether it be cuddling, food, or comfort that person needs to be you and your spouse. This doesn’t mean another child in your home can never hold them but overall you need to be the person on the frontline. Remember a child that is used to many different caregivers isn’t necessarily going to seem to mind being passed around so they need to learn who the go-to-guy is. (That’s you - the parent!). An example of this is: the new child is playing out back with an older child
and skins his knee – the older child brings the child to you to be comforted.

An additional thought to consider is that being used to being passed around is not necessarily an issue of attachment, but is just what normally occurred where they came from. It will take them a while to understand that their needs, both physically and emotionally, are going to be met by someone specific.

6. Be consistent. Find the routine and keep it as much as possible. Consistency for a child that comes from an orphanage is familiar. Consistency for a child that has come from a chaotic situation is comforting as well.

7. Expect some developmental delays. When a child comes into foster care they may have some delays that were brought on by their environment, working with them at home may bring some quick changes in those areas. A child from an orphanage is often delayed as well, sometimes due to the lack of stimulation or just opportunity. Don’t get overly anxious at first; give the child some time to adjust. In our area Easter Seals is a great place for a developmental screening, if they are over the age of three the local school district does the screening. There are many services available for children in our area that are a great help to families if they are needed.

8. Socially a child may seem behind in how they relate to others or how they emotionally respond to situations. Often children don’t understand how something is supposed to be done because they have never seen it done before. For example perhaps a child lacks table manners – but maybe they never ate at a family-type table before. Or a child may have had a very limited number of toys before so playing with them is something new not to mention sharing them.

Again these are some things to consider as you bring your child home, I know there are other things as well. It is good to remember that everyone is adapting – parents, new child, new siblings and so it takes time to find a new normal for your family.

Lastly, for some people instant feelings don’t always come. Don’t be too hard on yourself if that is how you feel. Show yourself some grace in that area and give yourself time to get to know your new little one and them to get to know you. Those feelings will come as you come together to be the family that the Lord has knit together.

Note: Michelle Gardner has written a very good book about life after the homecoming entitled, After the Dream Comes True.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Adopt...The Bennett Family

How did we come to the decision to adopt from Guatemala, or internationally for that matter? I could sum up my answer in one word: HOPE. Just as God calls His servants to serve in different fields and locations, He calls His people to care for orphans in different ways. We felt called to bring one of the fatherless into our lives to care for as one of our own. For those He calls to adopt, He calls each family to meet a need in different ways. This gives me great HOPE for the staggering numbers of orphans in the world! If we were all called to adopt from one country, children elsewhere would be without HOPE. I so am thankful that there are families called to foster and risk opening their hearts to children, even if it is only for a short time. I see families that are called to adopt domestically as one of our greatest deterrents to abortion in this country!
As a family, we are confident in our calling to be serving the body of Christ locally. We have been asked about one day serving as missionaries abroad, and our response is that God has given us a passion for the people in the Midwest and until He changes that, this is where we will serve. With that said, He still gives us a desire to see other people groups come to know Him. We pray for and support others who are called to other countries. We saw our adoption as a way to spread the Gospel to another people group that we were not currently reaching out to.
Why Guatemala? I had first started thinking about adoption when I heard stories of families adopting from China. After some research, I learned that we would not qualify to adopt from China for another two years, putting our youngest children at least four years apart, probably more. We felt that an adopted child would feel closer to our family if there was not such a big age gap. So, the search was on again. Daniel and I went on a mission trip to Spain in October of 2006 and developed a love for the Spanish speaking culture. This helped us narrow the world down even further. After the Lord ordained a meeting between a family that had adopted from an orphanage in Guatemala and our family, the adoption committee at our church began pursuing a mission trip to this orphanage in Guatemala. We met with the family again and gained a vision for the serving opportunities at the orphanage. The mother told us stories of the dozen or so families that were currently adopting from there from their church. This one church was sending families, at that time, almost every month to bring home or visit a child. Their family had even traveled together to work at the orphanage after their adoption was complete. As we first were considering starting an adoption ministry at our church, I heard stories mentioned about how churches were coming together to clear out entire orphanages. That church seemed to have the same vision!
Daniel and I quickly saw that this would be a great way for our family to minister long-term to this people group, not just our daughter. We can reach this beautiful place by just driving three hours and then a quick four hour plane ride, followed by a couple hours commuting from Guatemala City to the orphanage in the mountains…a relatively short journey given the size of the world. We are grieved about how Guatemala is now closed to adoption, but continue to pray and support the fatherless in that country. He has a perfect plan for each of those children.
Our daughter, Ellie, has been a God-ordained addition to our family. The challenges are not always as delightful as her little dimples, but the Lord has been gracious to us and taught us so much through this precious child. Ellie is a joy and ever-present picture of our own spiritual adoption!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Adopt...The McClelland Family

Our call to adopt.

Gregg and I were married previously for nearly 10 years each. When we met each other and began to talk about marriage, we talked about the possibility of having more children together. Gregg has two girls, I have two girls and they all live with us full time. After some time of working at blending our family, the thought of more children was a little overwhelming for me. I just was not interested, even though Gregg had not given up his dream of more children.

About a year and a half ago, I found out I was pregnant. It was quite a surprise and quite a shock. I did not have the most positive feelings for the first few moments. But, my initial hesitation turned into great joy of the gift God was giving us as a family. The girls were very excited. All was well...and then I miscarried. It was hard. But God had done something very special in my heart. He opened up my heart to the possibility of being a mom again.

Gregg and I decided after our "oops" that we would try to get pregnant again. After a few months trying, it happened. This pregnancy was even shorter lived. I miscarried in June 2008. I began to wonder what God had in mind for us. I knew I wanted to be a mother again, but was not sure I could go through another miscarriage.

About a year earlier I had become a part of our church's Open Hearts, Open Homes prayer ministry. I had been praying for families in our church who were going through the adoption or fostering process. It really became special as I saw our prayers to God answered as children came home to their forever families. After having two miscarriages, I began to question God as to whether adoption might be our calling. I did not talk to Gregg about this as I figured he would think I was crazy. I just kept praying.

One day a few months later, Gregg came home from having traveled to the Chicago area for work. He walked in the door and was crying. He told me he had been listening to a NPR show and they were talking about orphans in Russia. He told me we needed to do something to help. I asked him, "What?" He said, "Adopt."

Fast forward a few months and our family went to Maranatha for our annual family camp. We had switched weeks that year and happened to be there with a bunch of families from Bethany, our church. Of course, many of them had adopted/fostered, as well as many others at the camp, and we felt God leading us to make a decision to adopt. We began to research our options while we were on vacation!

We applied to adopt in February 2009. It took a while for us to sort out the details and to confirm God's calling on our lives. We also had to wait for the economy to take a downturn (ok, maybe that wasn't EXACTLY in our plans...) so that God could show us how it's not about US, but only about HIM. We have to depend on Him to get us through this or it will not happen. If it be God's will, we will bring home a little boy from Russia within the next year. If God has other plans, then we're in this for the ride of our lives.

God is so faithful and just. He brought Gregg and I from the point of broken marriages into a loving relationship. He healed the hurt in our family. He loved us unconditionally. Now He is calling us to add to our family through adoption. He's been faithful through the rest, why wouldn't we trust Him now? Pray with us that we can trust him fully and surrender all to the One who deserves all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Becoming a Foster Family

When we first began to foster we had someone ask us, “How can you make a difference in a young life when they are only with you for a short time?” As I have thought about this over the years I wonder, “How can you not make a difference in that young life?” When a child enters your home, if only for a short time, they are able to see the love of Christ lived out on a daily basis. They are able to see how parents love and lovingly discipline and teach their children; they see a secure family.

It takes a different type of commitment to be a foster family than an adoptive family. Because of the uncertainties that are inherent in fostering your faith will be challenged in new ways. Your reliance upon the Lord and His sovereignty will grow as you trust the Lord for all the details. Your hearts will be stretched to new limits as you begin to love a child that may not stay with your family forever.

“If this job is so hard than why do it?” you might ask. I think the only answer for a believing family is, "that the Lord has called us to fostering." To those families I would remind you that even when the Lord calls you to something it isn’t necessarily easy. It is perseverance that gets you through different stages of fostering, whether it be waiting for a court date or dealing with some other difficulty. Scripture tells us in James 1:4-5 that “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” Let the Lord use your time as a foster family to refine you and your family.

Getting Started

So how do we become a foster family? The process itself is fairly easy though it does include several steps.

1. Choose a local agency that you will work with.

  • Talk with the agency.
  • Ask them: How they place their children?
  • Are they in need of fosterfamilies for a certain age group?
  • What type of support do they offer after a child is placed?
  • What does the agency expect from their foster families?
  • As with anything some people you will mesh with right away, others you might want to check off your list.

1a. This would be a good time to also get together with a family/families you know that have been or are currently fostering. Ask them about their experiences - good and bad, helpful hints, etc.

2. Attend PRIDE Training.

* Requirement in our state.

*9 weeks of class, each class is 3 hours

*Both foster parents must attend each session,
possible make-up of missed class.

*Followed by 2 weeks of Educational
- only one parent required to attend.

Currently, BBC is hosting on-site PRIDE training twice a year.

3. Simultaneously, you will be meeting with your licensing representative from your agency. You will be required to do such things as, but not limited to:

-A physical on each person living in your home.

-Obtain a copy of your marriage certificate, driver's licenses.

-Fingerprinting on any person over the age of 18.

-Criminal background check.

You will also be answering many questions regarding your childhood, family history, your family's feeling about fostering. Also, how you parent, discipline, handle conflict in your marriage, etc.

The licensing rep. will conduct home visits also during this time. Our experience is that they are willing to work with your schedule. (On an ongoing basis a licensing rep will visit your home every 6 months).

The agency will walk you through each step. Often it is your willingness to gather the needed paperwork that keeps things on track. If you have questions along the way give the agency a call. If they are questions you want to talk about in person write them down so when the licensing rep visits you won't forget to ask your questions.

It is during this time with your licensing rep. you can decide the age/sex of the child or children you are willing to take. You will be given a checklist of things that you would be willing to accept in a child. Be realistic. It is much better for everyone if you are honest about what you can handle. Pray about who the Lord desires for you to reach out to in this way. Be thoughtful about the children that you may already have in your home. Remembering, sometimes things are inconvenient while other times things are best not entered into.

4. Once licensed you will wait. Be in prayer during this time of waiting for the child that will come into your home. Pray for your heart to be accepting of them and for the Lord to use you in that child's life for His glory.

There will be many questions, most have answers, but be prepared for some unknown as you foster. Each child is uniquely put together, each case is distinctly different. You may not agree with everything that you are presented with but you do need to understand the regulations that you are required to follow.

This is a ministry that your entire family can be a part of and one in which you could very possibly change the course of a child's life for eternity.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Stanley Family

Let us introduce ourselves. We are Jason, Jaime, Ali and Whitney Stanley. We were married at Bethany Baptist Church in 1997 and when we’ve lived in Peoria since then, you have been our church family. We left Peoria at the end of 2005 and now live in Des Moines, IA. We remain connected to many friends and family at Bethany and will always feel at home there when we visit. We have been so excited to watch the “Open Hearts Open Homes” ministry take off! We began our own adoption journey in March of 2007 when we applied to adopt from God’s Littlest Angels orphanage in Haiti. We prepared our dossier and it arrived in Haiti in December 2007. We received our proposal of our precious twins in May of 2008. Adoptions in Haiti are very unpredictable, leaving very vague timelines. We originally thought Jean Dany and Danise would be home this Spring, but the process has changed since we began and we are left with several months to wait. We met our kids in October 2008 during a 3-day visit to file some paperwork at the US embassy in Port Au Prince. We had a wonderful time playing with the kids and felt a strong bond forming quickly. Leaving them at the orphanage with no idea when we will return was very difficult. We are turning over the adoption into God’s hands daily, trusting in His love and Sovereignty and praying He will bring them home as quickly as possible.

OHOH Families ~ Invititation to Spring Social

Open Hearts, Open Homes Ministry

invites your family to our

Spring Social

Join us as we celebrate the homecomings of several children from the past year with cake and punch!

Pastor Daniel
will be sharing a short talk on:
“Idols in the Heart of the Adoptive Parent”

When: Saturday, April 25
Time: 5-7pm
Place: Bethany Baptist Church-gym

RSVP/?’s: leave a note in the "comments" area at the end of this post.