9.08.2013

Until the Whole World Hears

Tucker holding the photo album we sent him
I have been thinking a lot lately about how many people have come to know our family's story...to know about our sweet Tucker. First, our close friends and family found out, and we announced it on Facebook. Then, Lisa and Andy spread the word to their friends, family, and coworkers through their fundraiser. Most recently, Ryan and I were given an awesome opportunity to share our story at Emmanuel Church of Greenwood where we have attended for the past 6 1/2 years. Our church recently built its first campus located at Banta Road and Harding Street in order to reach more people. The attendance with both locations is probably around 3,500 people, so when we were invited to speak, we were excited that more people would hear how God has changed our lives.

I spent several hours one night, staying up until about 2:00 a.m., writing out our story. Fortunately, my mom and her husband had already planned to have the boys Friday overnight, so I would have all day Saturday to practice. Ryan and I went to a wedding that night, and when the best man started to give his speech, he said something about how nervous he gets talking in front of people. I almost got sick right there. I do NOT like public speaking, and the thought of standing in front of hundreds of people with balcony seating, speaking into a microphone made me want to faint. I fell asleep that night with butterflies in my stomach.

When I woke up, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish that day. It is VERY rare that the boys are not with us, so the to do list was LONG. Ryan and I grabbed a quick breakfast at Einstein Bagels and drove back home. I gave the speech to him, and we talked about different areas I could cut because I needed to cut it down from 7 minutes to 5 minutes. I ended up running through the talk at least 20 times that morning and afternoon...going over it and over it until I rarely needed to look at my notes. Ryan got a great app to on his tablet to help me with the timing. He really was like my coach that day! Ryan hung some shelves in our garage, and I got nothing done on my list except for practicing this talk. When I apologized for using all of our time on practicing, Ryan said, "There is nothing more important in the world right now than this talk."

He was right. This was something I had prayed about for at least 7-8 months - that God would open a door for our church to somehow hear directly about God's desire for us to care for orphans. While I love our church and its mission to relentlessly pursue friends, family members, and coworkers who are far from God, I so badly want this relentless pursuit to be applied to orphans, who in many cases do not know God. I have prayed for our pastor's heart to be open to the brokenness of our world and to guide our church to be the hands and feet of Jesus...to start living life following God's will for their lives rather than just pursuing their own happiness, as my friend said it best. This talk was an opportunity to share my passion for orphan care and to encourage people to get involved in whatever breaks their hearts.

Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Ryan and I went back to church to practice. Because Ryan had to play guitar at our Banta Campus, I was going to give the talk by myself. I got so tongue tied and lost my place after the first couple of sentences during that practice round. My heart was beating out of my chest. Ryan so quietly and confidently said, "Keep going. You're fine." Then, I got on track and rolled through the rest of my talk. Phew...one practice down. People started to arrive, and my stomach was filled with butterflies. Ben was facilitating that night's practice, and he has such a gentle, calm demeanor, which really helped keep my nerves under control (Thanks, Ben!!). Seeing friends and family in their #runningtuckerhome shirts was unbelievable.

Our pastor pulled Ryan and I aside before the service began. He shared with us that he did not want to preach about the night's subject - God's desire to overcome injustice in the world. In fact, when Pastor Danny and other staff members started talking about possible topics for the sermon series, someone mentioned this one. He did not want to talk about it. In fact, they actually took it completely off the list of possibilities. However, God kept putting this topic on Danny's heart over and over again. Finally, Pastor Danny submitted and started preparing his sermon on God's will to overcome injustice in the world. I am more hopeful that God is really stirring the hearts of leaders at our church to prioritize discussions about orphans, widows, sexual slavery, poverty, hunger, and disease in our world. We have an army of Christians at our church, and so many are willing to be God's hands and feet. They just need the information and encouragement to act.

Pastor Danny spoke that night about the dark parts of our world that everyone knows exist. One of the most heartbreaking statistics is that 26,000 children die everyday due to starvation, hunger, and preventable disease. The author of The Hole in Our Gospel wrote that it is like 100 airplanes filled with children crashing EVERY SINGLE DAY. Somehow that number 26,000 comes to life when you think about it like that. Meanwhile, we have so much food, medicine, incredible farming practicing, water treatment businesses, etc. What is wrong with our world?

At the end of the service, Pastor Danny invited Ryan and me to come on stage and share our story. For the next five minutes, I looked into the eyes of members of our church and had the privilege of sharing how what started as obedience to God's will for our lives turned into my life's passion. All my nerves, butterflies, and fears were gone, and the words flowed. When I finished, I sat back down and just cried on Ryan's shoulder. It doesn't matter how many times I tell the story, it still brings me to tears. They put Tucker's birthday picture on the big screens for everyone to see, as well as a picture of Ryan, Noah, Liam, and I holding a framed picture of Tucker. It was hard to believe that a little by on the other side of the world was getting ready to eat his dinner while people in our church were hearing all about how God led our family to him. If you are interested in watching the sermon follow THIS VIDEO LINK. If you don't have time right now to watch the entire sermon, you can still click on the link. Push pause until the video loads completely, and then you can move the video forward until about the 34 minute mark, which is when we speak.

Tucker seeing our pictures for the first time
Although I woke up nervous again Sunday morning, I was more excited to share our story again. Ryan played guitar at the Banta campus (where they were playing the recorded service from Saturday night) and rushed down to Greenwood in time to stand on stage with me. It meant so much to have him there, to look in his eyes and feel his support. Ryan's parents, Gloria and John, also came to ALL three services, to support us and take care of the kids on Sunday. As I spoke that second time, I felt more comfortable, letting myself feel more of the emotion rather than being so concerned with the timing. When we stepped off stage, Ryan went directly back to the Banta campus while I cried on his mom's shoulder. Two down and one to go...

The third service was HUGE! During the worship time, everyone was singing their hearts out. Sitting in the front, middle row allowed for me to feel the voices of the hundreds of people singing around us. It was amazing! God was in that room, and you could so clearly feel Him. I got on stage one last time, and Ryan once again made it just in time to stand by my side. I shared our story one last time, and the crowd was amazing. They applauded a couple times in the middle of my talk...celebrating what God has done and what He is doing in our community. We walked off stage, and I again cried...sobbing and thanking God for answering my prayers. I have no idea what seeds were planted that day, but I know God would continue to work in the hearts of people attending our church that day.

After each service, so many people thanked us for sharing our story. One woman shared that she had a miscarriage a couple months prior, and she was still heartbroken over her loss. However, she shared that adoption had always been something she had considered, and she thanked me for reigniting her desire to start a family, however God rewarded her with one.

A young guy, probably in his 20s, came up to Ryan and me and introduced himself. He shook Ryan's hand, and said, I know it's not much, but I hope it will help you. It wasn't until we were in our car 20 minutes later that Ryan handed me several folded bills. I opened them one by one...$1, $1, $1, $5, $10, $100, $100, $100, $100. Ryan and I both just started crying...it still brings tears to my eyes. We couldn't believe that a stranger had just handed us $418.

A woman, her husband, and their 9 year old daughter walked up to us. The mom was crying, and said something like, "I just want  you to know that your life will never be the same. God is amazing, and He is going to change your lives." I looked at her daughter for the first time and realized she was Chinese. I started to cry. Years earlier, their biological sons were 10 and 12 years old when they felt God say, "Go get your daughter!" and led them to China. They felt too old to be parents again to a young baby, but God had made it clear. Her husband was in tears. It is amazing to see what God does to the hearts of daddies when they adopt. Oh my word. I'm crying again just remembering this memory. We talked a bit more about adoption, and I talked to their beautiful little girl, who has been home for over 8 years. My friend, Kerri, was standing there, and she said that the father stood up and applauded us we walked off stage. The adoption community is incredible you guys.

I got several messages on Facebook, thanking me for sharing our story. They each meant the world to me! One woman wrote and shared that she and her husband adopted from Africa a year or so ago. They had just that week started questioning if God was leading them back to adoption. Her husband made a comment like, "Well, as long as they don't talk about adoption at church on Sunday...so it looks like we have some talking to do!" Is that crazy or what??

More than anything, I want God's will our lives to impact other people. I don't want this story to end with our family. I want other people to figure out how God wants to use them and then make the decision to act. I want to see God's light shining in the darkest parts of the world, and the only way it will happen is if people go to those places. I so badly want more people to get involved in orphan care whether that is adopting, hosting an orphan, fostering a child, paying for surgery/food/education for orphans, or helping those who will never be adopted. This is the passion of my heart, and I want other people to feel the joy and fulfillment that God blesses you with when you take this journey.

Through Facebook, I met a mom who adopted a little boy from China and named him Samuel. Last night, she wrote, "Breaks my heart...as I sit here on Samuel's bed tonight because he needs mommy close as he sleeps...that there are 147 million kids out there who don't have the same opportunity....these kiddos need mommies and daddies to sit close when they are scared, to love them no matter what, and show them Jesus." It broke my heart in two reading that, but she is right.

I can't wait to visit the orphanage where Tuck has lived his entire life, but at the same time, I am going to look in the eyes of children who have no parents, and I am going to walk away at the end of our visit. How will I ever walk away from these babies?? Although this year has been filled with hard work and heartache, I pray that God will lead us back to China...or wherever our other children live. I am broken by the 13 year old boys and girls in China who will age out and will no longer be eligible for adoption. The majority will end up on the streets, doing whatever it takes - selling drugs/their bodies - to stay alive. Please, Lord, break our hearts. I am broken by the babies whose smiles caused their parents to abandon them in bathrooms, bus stations, and hospitals. Please, Lord, break our hearts. I am broken by the pictures of children in orphanages who are starving, skin and bones, lying in their cribs. Please, Lord, break our hearts. I am broken by the children with heart conditions, who if they are just adopted will be loved and receive life saving surgeries and will thrive in miraculous ways. Please, Lord, break our hearts. I am broken by the children who are blind or deaf or have a sensitive special need and are not desired by adoptive parents, so they wait and wait and wait for someone who will love them. Please, Lord, break our hearts.

These kids need a family. We are a family. It's simple.
 
Please, Lord, never stop breaking my heart.
 
Tucker kissing our picture

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