27 February 2011

More than Labels.

Gary Schneider, founder of Every Orphan’s Hope, used the term at IdeaCamp: Orphan Care in talking about programs to care for kids with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Though I understand the term – it means the child has no mother or father – it lands hard on my heart. I fight back tears.
There are so many labels in this whole “orphan care” space.
Biological Orphan
Social Orphan
Single Orphan
Double Orphan
Special Needs
With every label, there’s a statistic.
More than 165 million orphans in the world, over 18.5 million double orphans in the world, 500,000 adoptable orphans in the United States, less than 1% of all orphans adopted. 38,000 orphans age out every day, 20% will commit suicide in the first year.
Lomonosov Baby Home
In Lomonosov, Russia, there is a beautifully ornate three-story home sitting on a wooded acreage. I remember walking down an icy road to visit the children from the ages of birth to three who lived there.  I fell in love with my first orphan there – a sweet bundle of blondness named Ulla who looked a bit like my dad and a whole lot like love. While I played with her, my husband held a little baby boy in an area of the home designated for infants with HIV/AIDS. Lomonosov was the only orphanage in the region that would take in those infants to care for them. Some of the children at Lomonosov would be adopted, but the overwhelming majority would remain there until they “aged up” into a larger facility in a different city with more orphans who would live together until they “aged out.”
My sweet Ulla. She now lives with a forever family in Russia.
I returned to Russia, and asked about the babies living at Lomonosov. “Lomonosov doesn’t exist anymore,” a sweet friend who works in-country shared. “The government appraisal of the house and land was high, so the orphans were sent to other orphanages and hospitals in the country.” To the government, the building was far more valuable than the contents inside. The orphans living there were simply numbers – something easily divided, subtracted, added. 1 million orphans in Russia. Only 20% eligible for adoption. 90% will never leave the orphanage. Only 1% will have a viable life 5 years after aging out.
The labels and statistics are meant to stir charity in the hearts of all of us. Even I use words like “discarded” and “rejected” in describing the people who are the focus of my personal passion. But labels and stats tell an incomplete story. Because there is something deeper, something more profound in each child labeled “orphan.”
Each orphan, no matter their location or their circumstances, is known by God. Each child is made in His image and His likeness, made for His glory. Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls them beloved. He calls them blessed. He calls them family. He knows every hair on their head.
Every single one. He knows them all.
And He knows them by name. Each one. Without exception.
None are accidents. None are misfits. None are statistics. They are His.
And because they are His, they are mine. And they are yours.
“Every number is a child that God loves and we are called to love.” ~Jason Kovacs, ABBA Fund

12 February 2011

(musings) desperate

I'm learning what it means to be desperate for Christ. It is not about having no options but Christ. Being desperate for Christ is about choosing Him fully in the midst of the options - even when they are pretty and good. 

Pondering the Definition of Discarded.

It’s been a week since I returned from my journey to Romania. I’ve drunk countless cups of caffeine at planning meetings about a worship conference in Russia and weekend church services here in Austin and mission trips in Guatemala.

Left: My sweet students bake cookies for others. Right: Cupcakes and brownies baked by NomNom Global for a special event. The proceeds go to help orphan care efforts in Guatemala.
I’ve baked cookies with my 10th grade bible study girls, made tarts and brownies and delicate mint marshmallows dusted in cocoa for a special event at Austin Christian Fellowship, and cooked dinner for my sweet husband. There has been good food savored with my family, good work done with my best friend, and good time communing with the Lord. Work and grad school and life are all swirling together in a common paisley pattern.

It feels normal. But I don’t.

It would appear Romania still has a tight grip on my internal clock as I try to adjust to a life that differs by 8 time zones. Then again, perhaps the struggle makes sense – she also still has a tight grip on my heart as I think about the country and her people.

I knew so little about Romania prior to July 2010. Yes, I had worked at a nonprofit which had at one time served the country’s orphan population, and had heard stories from those who had both travelled and lived there – but I didn’t fully understand the country’s plight. A request to attend a meeting with several Texas ministers in Abilene changed everything. It was in that west Texas town I was introduced to both the challenges facing the people of rural Romania, and to the individuals and churches with a passion for providing life-changing assistance in 31 villages in the westernmost region of the country. I learned about the House of Joy, the vision of pastor Ovidiu Petric and his wife, Adina - a facility in Susani, Romania, that will serve the villages with sports camps, after-school programs, life skills training, and the Gospel.

And it was in that town Red Page Ministries was first given life.

Now I’ve been there. I’ve seen the cities, visited the countryside, seen the poetic contrast between Romania and her western European neighbors. There is a gallery of faces brilliantly displayed in my mind,  story after story painted in my heart, and a fire inside me to affect change in a country that is beautiful in such a rough-hewn way.
80% of those living in rural areas in Romania are classified poor. Unemployment is high. Residents who rely on agriculture eke out livings doing seasonal labor while storing up for long, harsh winters that render fields useless. Parents who want a better life for their families are sometimes forced to live apart from them as they work in larger cities. And it is common to find rural teens living alone or with strangers in larger communities, in the hopes of having greater access to higher education once they graduate from high school. While the country is now part of the EU, little has yet been done to provide improvements in systems and processes for those living outside major cities. Romania isn’t considered a developing country, yet clean, safe drinking water is a need in her villages. She’s not on the priority list of most nonprofits or foundations, yet her needs are as significant as her neighbors to the east or west. Her people may not be “third-world,” but they still struggle in a world that looks the other way.

Is it possible the term “discarded” could apply to not just people, but a place?

Ovidiu Petric shares construction details of the House of Joy. The facility is being funded by individuals and churches.
A week ago, I stood in the snow as the sun rose over a maze of red brick walls. I closed my eyes and imagined the sounds of children laughing, imagined the aroma of soup cooking, imagined the lives that would be impacted when the House of Joy becomes more than a construction site. I imagined the teens I had met at WinterCamp serving others there - teaching, playing games, leading sports camps, talking about what it really means to be a Christ-follower. I imagined teams of people dedicated to caring for communities in need of a brighter future. I imagined hope taking root, and love growing - and the word “discarded” being destroyed in Romania.

A week later, I still imagine it. I believe it will happen, with the help of people who see Romania and her people as precious and beloved. I long to be there when it does.

06 February 2011


The following formula is true, at least for today.
5 am + 5 minutes + 5 tram rides + 5 smiles = better than before

The city of Budapest glows on the Danube.

04 February 2011

Walking on the Common Ground

“You are the highway I travel, because I watched You carve streets out of sand and gravel. I gave you brokenness – You gave me innocence, and now this road leads to glory. You are my deepest longing, and so I see You everywhere; it’s You I’m chasing after. I’m captivated by who You are and how You move. I’ll follow You forever.” ~Audrey Assad, For Love of You

Iosif (Joseph)

An impromptu sermon in the hotel hallway.
Iosif (Joseph) has the rugged look of an athlete, and a deep voice that is easily recognized in each worship service and prayer time at WinterCamp. He clings to every word spoken, every song sung, with passion and conviction. Iosif graduated from high school years ago, and even spent six months working in Australia. But now, at the age of 23, he has returned to his home town of Faget (Fah-jhet), one of the small villages in Western Romania that will be served by the House of Joy.

02 February 2011

Joy and Cold Feet.

My feet are cold, and my slightly frizzy hair is in pure rebellion against the blow-dryer that feels more comfortable on the warm setting. The internet has decided it would rather sleep on this snowy evening in Romania, so there will be no uploading pictures or answering emails. A dog is barking outside, and another freight train is sure to pass soon.
And I’m filled with complete joy.