Change of Mission

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. – Psalm 82:3

But those are our kids…

Thursday, August 9th

Team Nicaragua’s last full day in country, we were exited to be heading back to Tipitapa to work with the kids of Cristo Rey.  Our interaction with them the day prior had indelibly stamped love and compassion on our hearts for this remarkable community.  Jason,  the Gracespring youth pastor aptly motivated our teens at breakfast by telling them “this is your last day in Nicaragua, hold nothing back, leave it all on the field today.”  As our bus turned off the main thoroughfare onto the uneven dirt road past the landfill towards our destination, I smiled as I heard the various comments emanating from the back of the bus:  “I can’t wait to see Heidi again… or Adrian… or Anna… or Marco…”  It was very apparent these kids had worked their way well into our hearts.

But as the bus rolled to a stop beside the el Faro church, we noticed a flurry of activity was already taking place there.  Another ministry group was on site and was doing a presentation for the children.  For a split second I thought it myself, and then I heard it from the back of the bus, “Hey wait, those are our kids!”  Realizing that this surprise was definitely going to change our plans for the day, I stared out the bus window and sized up the other group, who were now staring back at us, likely thinking the same thing.

So the leaders of both groups quickly gathered to discuss each other’s plans and what to do next. We both obviously wanted to help, but how could we with such increased numbers without causing undue stress on this struggling community?

I recalled a story I once read about an elephant and a mouse who were friends and decided to throw a party.  Each invited their own friends, and planned a huge event with music and dancing that was sure to be fun for all.  The party went just as planned and at the end, the elephant went to find his mouse friend to tell him about the wonderful time dancing he and his friends had.  The elephant found the mouse and his friends crushed, no doubt under the weight of the dancing elephants during the festivities.  To often, Americans are the elephants on short-term missions.  With the best of intentions, we come in with our grandiose plans and unwittingly trample even those we wish to help.

I was glad to hear our group come to the conclusion that, though it may not be exactly what we envisioned for the day, we would ask the church leaders in what capacity we could help with minimal disruption to their activities.  So that’s what we did; we helped separate barrels of rice from soy, prepared food, washed dishes, and helped out in the child development center.  And when our counterparts departed a bit early due to heavy rain, we still got to spend time with those amazing kids.  In the end, I think we all learned something from the day’s events.  It’s not about us, it’s about them.

Soli Deo Gloria,



Cristo Rey

Wednesday, August 8th

This day would be one of the most moving and enlightening days of ministry during our trip.  We traveled to the village of Cristo Rey, just northeast of Managua and a few miles from the shores of Lake Managua.  Translated, Cristo Rey means “Christ the King.”  It is a place of extreme poverty, yet remarkable things are happening there everyday.

Several years ago, hundreds of families’ homes were destroyed by flooding from Lake Managua.  The Nicaraguan government moved the over 2,000 desperate and displaced families to a small plot of land of about 560 acres on the outskirts of the town of Tipitapa, adjacent to the town landfill. The families were given a small plot of land (roughly 27′ x 82′ or 2,200 sq ft.) to build a home.  The government gave them 90 days to build a home, or be evicted. Most survived initially by creating shelter from tree branches and plastic from the trash dump.  The government eventually gave each plot owner two sheets of corrugated zinc, and some framing material to aid in the home building.  Still today, most of the homes in Cristo Rey consist of these materials, supplemented by debris found in the landfill.

Typical homes of Cristo Rey

There is no running water.  Homes have a small area out back blocked by a sheet or debris that serves as a makeshift privy.  There are several small wells in the town, and the dirty water drawn forth from them is sold back to the residents.  Someone procured a bootleg transformer and wired it into a local electrical line and now a spiderweb of rigged lines crisscrosses the village to some of the dwellings to light a single lightbulb.  Sticks and branches keep the lines just feet above the pocketed dirt roads, requiring a broom or stick to raise them up for vehicles to pass.

Many of the residents spend their days scouring through the landfill, searching for food, or items to sell or recycle.  We saw one small storefront selling the most basic of necessities.  There is an elementary school; just a rooftop over a cement pad, no walls or furnishings.  The kids must carry their desks and/or chairs there everyday if they have them.  The secondary school is in Tipitapa, but most children cannot afford the bus ride there.

The el Faro Christian church is probably the most developed building in the village and the central hub of activity.  Construction missions over the last several years have built a multi-use L shaped cinderblock building which is currently being used as a child development center, an attached kitchen with a water storage container, and a large covered awning over a concrete pad that is used for their feeding program and some educational programs.  The location and ministry there is truly a beacon of hope for the desperate community.

Our visit to Cristo Rey focused on several things.  We completed a number of home visits within the community to spread the Gospel, hope, and encouragement; we worked in the child development center; we taught some of the mothers and young women crafts on how the make bowls out of discarded paper found in the landfill, we prepared food and assisted in administering the daily feeding program, and we had an absolute ball just playing with and showing love to the many children there.

The one thing we all came away with from our day in Cristo Rey is how happy the children seemed to be.  Despite the calamity of their situation, their lack of so many things that we take for granted, and not knowing where their next meal would come from, they were nothing but all smiles.  It is truly a miraculous place.

Soli Deo Gloria,


The children of Cristo Rey

Tesoros de Dios

If you know me or my family well, you know our link to special needs children.  Ours have profoundly changed our lives and opened our eyes to a whole world that we never could have understood before being blessed with these remarkable souls.  Amy and I frequently say that every family should be so fortunate.

Monday, August 6

Team Nicaragua awoke from our slumber in the CEPAD (Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua) hostel and dined on their wonderful breakfast of butter-laden pancakes before departing on the day’s mission.  We boarded the bus and headed toward the Tesoros de Dios center in Managua, Nicaragua.

Tesoros de Dios is a development center for special needs children from the most impoverished areas of Managua.  In Managua alone, there is an estimate of more than 6,000 children with developmental disabilities.  These children rarely have opportunity to go to school, and services are limited for them, so Tesoros de Dios provides invaluable care to this special population.  They currently  serve 80 children with a wide variety of disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Hydrocephaly, Autism, Brain Damage and others.  Most of the children come from low-income families, many living in very poor conditions that are not conducive to their health conditions. A small but dedicated Nicaraguan staff provide services for the kids which include:  Hippo Therapy (on horse), Physical Therapy, Special Education, Early Intervention and/or Palliative Care.  Children attend weekly with a family member.  Since many of the mothers are single and struggling to make ends meet, they are encouraged by the community of support at the center and training classes that are offered, including disability education, home economics and bible study.

World Orphans and Gracespring Bible Church are regular partners with Tesoros de Dios and our day on site allowed the group to see first hand the beautiful work being done there as well as play with those wonderful children and provide music and testimony for the entire center.

Soli Deo Gloria,



My plan for nightly updates from Nicaragua just didn’t work out as I had hoped.  Overcome by intermittent internet access, equipment malfunctions, and a few other issues, I journaled the daily events the old-fashioned way so that I could blog them later from home.  The next several posts won’t be as timely as I had hoped, but the memories are still very vivid and I’ll describe them as best as I can over the next few days.

Sunday morning August 5th, we arose and departed from our hostel on the way to Pastor Henry’s Verbo ministry in Juigalpa.  Upon arrival, we unloaded the bus while closely being watched by a handful of curious kids and adults from the community.  We divided up into teams of 5-6 people and prepared for home visits in the community.  My group was paired with a young couple a bit younger than myself and their niece, whose house we were going to visit.  We walked nearly a mile off the main road, away from the bustling traffic, shops, onlookers, and skinny stray dogs.  We passed a muddy makeshift soccer field lined by old car tires and the kids paused their play to gawk and wave, just as we did.

We arrived at the small home, nothing more  than possibly a 14 x 16 shack, with a cinder block wall forming the front side, and sections of boards, plywood, and scrap sheets corrugated zinc forming the other three.  We were cordially invited in by a young mother and graciously introduced to her parents, sister, and special needs son, Adrian who lived there with her.

We talked through our interpreter about her story and her son, Adrian’s medical needs, and her efforts to obtain more education so she could better care for her family. Standing there on her sloping dirt floor I was struck by how positive she was despite the many hardships she endures on a daily basis compared to some of our own lives.

One of our group shared their testimony for encouragement and we invited her to come to the church in the afternoon for the special needs training.  She could not attend due to work but promised to send her son with friends of the family.  We all prayed together and said our goodbyes and headed back to Verbo.

The afternoon consisted of a community lunch, a short message by Pastor Henry, worship songs and music, and then the special needs conference training and encouragement.  We finished the afternoon with everyone conducting a variety of sports activities (soccer, volley ball, tag, hill climbing, etc…) with the local youth.  Instant friends we made and I cherish the opportunity I got to play with Ardian and help him kick around a soccer ball for a few hours.  The smile on his face alone made the trip worthwhile.

Soli Deo Gloria,


Grace under pressure

Yesterday proved to be another day marked by unexpected events, yet one that ended on a positive note and a promise for today.

The rest of Team Nicaragua arrived as planned yesterday just before noon without incident. Jacques, Amanda, and I picked them up at Managua International and we all loaded up transportation to Juigalpa, several hours east of Managua. Introductions were made over bag lunches and we were enjoying the beautiful countryside when we rolled to a stop about an hour into the ride.

Up ahead, a group of Nicaraguan ex-military were protesting the government and had blocked the road with wire, burning tires, and debris. They were in a standoff with just as many police in riot gear. We watched and waited for several hours as the demonstration continued and more and more police arrived. After a bit, Jason the youth minister with us pulled out his guitar and began playing to pass the time and entertain our youth. Before long the kids joined in and it was a sweet and remarkable sight to see a bus full of American kids singing worship songs on a rural Nicaraguan rode in such close proximity to a potentially explosive situation. What an example to the curious and growing crowd!

After several hours, the protest was shut down, with the aid of tear gas I might add, but thankfully no shots were fired and it appeared no one was hurt. We continued on to Juigalpa and arrived just before dusk.

The day’s full schedule now off-kilter, we checked into our lodging and made dinner arrangements at a nearby establishment. Pastor Henry and his wife, Jonaira of the local church rode over on his scooter to share dinner and meet the team. It was a nice evening of fellowship with him telling the group his personal story and the history of the local ministry as well as asking and answering many questions from the group.

Though yesterday proved, just as the day before, to be full of twists and turns from what we had planned, it was still a great experience and the entire team has kept a great attitude and is patiently awaiting our opportunity to serve. Today, we’ll meet and interact with the local children, conduct a number of home visits, and provide some training with the local families of special needs children.

Soli Deo Gloria,



Today’s the day… or maybe tomorrow’s the day

This spring, as I began transitioning out of the Army, I also began laying the groundwork for coming on staff as an orphan advocate for World Orphans and this trip is one of the last several steps in that process. The trip is a new experience for me, a training trip if you will, to cut my teeth as a team leader on one of our ministry´s key missions. Sure I´ve been a team leader in some form or fashion in some interesting places over the years, but just not in this context. Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

Last night I departed out of Denver at midnight, arriving in Miami before dawn to link up with another advocate from World Orphans and nearly 20 young teenagers and their chaperones from Gracespring Bible Church out of Michigan. The plan was to head to Nicaragua for the week to work with several indigenous churches in their orphan and special needs care programs.

But what is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? As I was waiting on my team to show up in Miami, I got a call informing me the other members were stranded in Chicago and would not be able to make it in country until tomorrow. We decided it was best for me to continue on and link up with them the following day in Nicaragua.

So after my own three hour delay for lightning on the airfield, I made my way to Managua. Jacques and Amanda, our in-country team picked me up and we headed to our lodging for the night. It’s not exactly what I had in mind for my first day in country, but I have to say it’s been a nice evening sharing dinner and conversation with two new wonderful friends (and Truxton, the Springer/Shar Pei mixed hound). Tomorrow we’ll pick up the rest of the team and get back on track out in the countryside. I can´t wait.

I have faith that our mission will be successful, the relationships between church partners on both ends will be strengthened, and God’s command to aid the fatherless and widows will be dutifully and effectively honored. Your prayers for the same would be greatly appreciated.

My intent is to provide a nightly update on our day-to-day activities here (when internet access is available). Please check back in on our progress.

Soli Deo Gloria,


To military folks, the term “change of mission” has special meaning.  It signifies the completion of a successful mission or campaign, a change in overall strategic and/or operational goals, or the assignment of a totally new and different mission from that which you had previously been working on. Whatever the purpose of receiving this new directive, you must now close out what you were doing and begin preparations for your new task at hand.

I’ve received probably what is the most significant change of mission of my life.  It didn’t happen suddenly, as it often has before, but in more of a gradual, yet inescapable manner.  It started with the adoption of our first daughter Raeya.  When I think back to the decision process Amy and I went through in deciding whether or not to move forward, we knew it was a big leap of faith, but we had no idea of the change we had just set in motion.  Raeya’s adoption not only changed our family dynamic (for so much the better) but also changed the way we looked at family and future goals.  Just a short time after we brought her home we were pondering adoption again, a consideration that I had laughingly discounted just a few months earlier. Never-the-less we found ourselves in 2010 on our way to pick up Chloe, and astonishingly enough, with hopes for two of her friends as well, Noah and Rhys.

Alas, bringing those boys home was not to be (for now), but looking back, that experience was what really made the change in mindset for Amy and I.  We realized it was time to make a choice.  Now with these two wonderful additions to our family, would we try to get back to normal and continue to pursue our original career and lifestyle goals, or would we follow the passion that had undeniably been growing in our hearts?

The choice (at least for me) wasn’t as easy as I would have liked.  I loved the Army, and often think of what might have been, but none of my experiences or memories from the last 24 years comes close to the feeling I get from knowing what we were able to do for Raeya and Chloe.  And I am unbelievably thankful to God for calling Amy and I into a position to help far more orphans, in often far worse conditions.

The new mission?  I’ll be coming on staff as a Director of Advocacy with World Orphans, an orphan care ministry that seeks to equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.  With millions of orphans throughout the world in danger of starvation, slavery, forced service as child soldiers, prostitution, disease, drug addiction, and/or crime, I cannot think of a more worthy endeavor than to assist these children through Christ centered, effective programs.

So there you have it.  It’s not what I expected or could have even imagined just a few short years ago.  But here it is.  Change of mission.  The orders are published.  I am prepared and I not only accept it, I embrace it.

The Road Ahead

It’s been nearly nine months since I wrote my last note detailing our family’s efforts to adopt Noah and Rhys, two of Chloe’s friends from her orphanage in Fujian Province in China. Much has transpired since then. It’s not what we had initially hoped for, but I believe God has used this experience to open doors that we never even thought about walking through just a few months ago. If you know the background on this story, I won’t bore you with reiterating all the details up to present. But if you don’t, I’d be honored if you’d read my two previous notes titled “Our Story and a Prayer Request” and “Adoption Update” and that should bring you up to speed if you are so inclined. If not, I think you’ll get the gist of the whole story with this post. This outlines where we stand and what path ahead we’ve chosen to follow.

Since last October we’ve had a number of setbacks with Noah and Rhys. The meeting our proxy had in Fujian with the director of the CCCWA did not produce positive results. Again, we were told that because of the boys’ “trafficked” status, the current policy does not allow for their adoption. We’ve attempted several other avenues since, but those have fallen short as well. Additionally, we’ve recently seen a general diminishing role of international adoptions in China and a lengthening of the process for those already in the works. There are many reasons for this, so I won’t get into that now because it’s a much larger subject worthy of a much larger conversation. Needless to say, we realized our prospects for bringing these boys into our family were growing dimmer and dimmer.

Still committed, Amy and I continued to look for ways to push forward and keep the dialog open. We were still sending donations to the orphanage to help with the boys’ care and schooling, but wanted to do more. Thankfully, through a previous contact, we were able to establish a program through another agency that assists all of Noah and Rhys’ class with new clothes, food, and individual tutoring for their classes they attend with other Chinese children. It’s a pilot program that we hope will catch on, incorporating other classes and other orphanages. After receiving pictures of the kids every month in outgrown, hand-me-down clothing, it certainly warmed the heart to see them now posing with big smiles in their new clothes and coats.

It’s bittersweet though. So while we’ll continue to support these kids materially and educationally to give them the best possible chance at success, we’ve come to the resolution that our goal of adoption for Noah and Rhys may not be realized. We did the best we could, and though not fully successful, we have made a positive impact on their lives. That should be good enough, shouldn’t it? No. For the little we’ve done, and all we’ve tried to do, that’s not enough. Though I enjoy seeing the pictures of their smiling faces, and try to think we had some part of that, it’s not enough. I know these kids’ physical needs are being met as best as possible, but deep down inside of me there is a gnawing pain caused by knowing these kids will likely never be exposed to the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that, I think is unbearable.

Until recently, Amy and I had been solely focused on China and individual adoption, but as we prayed, discussed, and researched this situation, our eyes were opened to the much larger orphan problem throughout the world. There are an estimated 153 million orphans throughout the world today and that number is growing. Millions of which are destined to be sold into slavery, forced to be child soldiers, forced into prostitution, subjected to HIV/AIDS, drug addiction, and/or crime. With so many governments unable or unwilling to address this calamity, what can be done? Scripture is very clear: “A religion that is pure and stainless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27.

I personally believe that placing an orphan in a loving Christian adoptive family is the optimal situation, but our experience has helped us realize that while the miracle of adoption is a wonderful life changing experience (for all involved), the worldwide orphan problem is much too large for adoption to be the sole answer. Another facet of the solution, that can reach a much larger percentage of orphans, is strengthening the local indigenous church to respond to the problem at the grass roots level. Local churches all over the world are Christ’s front line of care and outreach. With so many abandoned souls in the balance, it’s imperative that we as Christians reach out to do this.

To this end, I have sought out and accepted a position with an international orphan care ministry called World Orphans that does that very mission. The World Orphans ministry is committed to rescuing orphaned and abandoned children, strengthening the local church, and impacting communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through church-based, family focused programs, and seeks to equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. In the coming months I’ll be coming on staff as a Director of Advocacy and working to build a support team, educating others about the worldwide orphan crisis, forming Orphan Advocacy Teams, facilitating church to church partnerships, and leading short-term missions all for the purpose of aiding orphans and glorifying God’s name. I’ve been tackling some of the initial training over the last several months which will continue throughout this summer and in August I’ll focus full-time and immediately travel to Nicaragua for my first short-term mission trip. While this will be a big life change from my career in the Army, Amy and I are thrilled to be called for this opportunity and cannot wait to work in a field so close to our hearts. I’ve just created this blog and in the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing our first newsletter and I’d love to add you to my mailing list to keep you updated on our work. I’d be honored if you would take an interest in our efforts and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to support or get involved with World Orphans.

Jumping back to Noah and Rhys – Though we are not now where we wanted to be in our quest to adopt these young boys, we have not given up. Those of you who know Amy and I well, know that is just not part of our DNA. As we’ve made this decision to accept this new calling, we’ve seen new connections appear here and in China that we hope will open a new opportunity for them. We know not what lies ahead, but it’s very apparent to us that God is working his Will, and we are committed to trust in Him.


Greg and Amy

World Orphans

Adoption Update

–  This note was originally written and posted on October 13, 2011  –

A few months back I shared our adoption story here and elsewhere and asked for prayers for our endeavor to adopt Noah and Rhys, two young Chinese orphans from Chloe’s province that have touched our family’s hearts.  There have been several developments since then and I feel compelled to provide an update on what has transpired since I clicked “share” on that note 75 days ago.

From the beginning we knew this was going to be a difficult task and were told that no such request has ever been granted in China before.  The bottom line is their policy is that no children considered “trafficked” are available for adoption.  Because of this, we have been told “No” from the very start.  Yet, Amy and I cannot abandon the belief that what we are doing is what we are called to do.  Whether we are successful in the end or not is not up to us, only the level of commitment we put into this task.  And I can assure you, we will not waver in our commitment, even though our goal may not be realized.  At this point we can only reassure ourselves that some good will come of this, and we have already started seeing it.

Despite the orphanage director being unable to help us (although I believe she would if it were within her power) and several adoption agencies turning us down when they learned the specifics of our request, Amy and I decided to press on by another route.  As you can imagine, petitioning the Chinese Government for something that has previously been settled in their mind is much different from in America, especially considering how extremely delicate this matter is.  No one is under any obligation to help or even readdress our request.  Additionally, it’s  conceivably not without some personal risk to those from whom we are asking assistance. The last thing we want to do is be those pushy “Ugly Americans” that jeopardize the position or livelihood of someone helping us or a future adoption for another family.

Diplomacy not always being my strong suit, we prayed over the drafting of our request and sent it to our adoption representative and guide from our last trip for translation.  We also just wanted to make sure we struck the right balance between politeness and persistence. She wrote back immediately and was very touched by the letter and agreed that it was as appropriate as could be in this case.  Additionally she had other good news.  We had a special bond with her in country and talked several times on the subject of faith and religion even though she was a non-believer, so we were pleased to learn that we’ve inspired her to begin reading the Bible and studying with a Christian friend.  Again, however this turns out in the end, we are convinced that God’s hand is at work.

So we sent our request to the provincial adoption director, whom we had met during Chloe’s adoption and waited.  In just a few days, “Jack” as he is known to Americans, agreed to assist us and forwarded the request to the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA).  Thrilled that a new door had been opened we waited as patiently as we could for a response.  Three weeks later we were notified by Jack that the CCCWA still deemed the boys were not available for adoption, but the CCCWA attempted to soften the blow by saying they were currently working the issue, but they did not expect to resolve it any time soon.  I recognized this as a door being closed.  Crushed, we considered contacting the CCCWA directly but were still hesitant for fear of alienating Jack and destroying any of the other inroads we were trying to maintain. We elected to sit back for a bit, review our options, and pray for another opportunity to present itself.

While we were reflecting on the situation, we decided to contact Love Without Boundaries with whom we had been sponsoring the boys on a monthly basis and reconfirmed our commitment to them up through college.  We informed them of the latest status of our request and reasoned  that even if we had failed, we wanted the boys to be taken care of and for them to know that the parents of their friend Chloe love them and are praying for them.  We also contacted the orphanage director again to give her an update on Chloe and reemphasized that as a family we remain committed to sponsoring Noah and Rhys.

Not really knowing where to turn next, but still committed to finding a way, we continued probing various adoption agencies looking for assistance and information.  After numerous attempts, we stumbled onto Small World, a Christian adoption agency, and contacted their director and discussed our situation.  Fortunately, he is traveling to Fujian province next month to meet with the CCCWA director and he has graciously agreed to readdress our request with him in person.  Additionally, earlier this week we were contacted by the orphanage coordinator at Love Without Boundaries and told that our efforts have opened new dialogue  with the CCCWA about what can be done to support these trafficked children.

Are these new doors opening where there were none before?  We certainly believe so.  Time will tell.  As I have said before, I believe prayers are answered (whether they satisfy our earthly wishes or not), and I believe something good will come of all this in the end.

Rhys and Noah

Our Story and a Prayer Request

—  This note was originally written and posted on August 2, 2011  —

I believe in prayer.  I’ve seen it work in others’ lives as well as my own.  If you’ve followed Amy’s blog, or if you’ve heard our recent adoption developments from me, then you know we are in the midst of stepping out on faith again and could certainly use your prayers if you are so inclined.  But first, a little background information (actually a lot) on our story and why I believe only prayer can be the answer.

In 2003, I had just returned from Iraq and relinquished command.  I turned away from a potential assignment in Italy and requested to come back to Fort Bragg instead because mom had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  We thought it best to get as close as possible to family so she would get plenty of exposure to her grandsons in her remaining good years.  As fate would have it though, mom had a series of multiple strokes right after we moved back to Fayetteville.  She was never really fully lucid again for her last 7 years.  This had a profound effect on me and though family had always been important, I began to see it in a different light than I previously had the decade before while bouncing around the country from assignment to assignment.  I read a few things about adoption and intrigued by it, discussed it with Amy.  We both thought we had been very fortunate in our lives and felt some additional responsibility to share that in some tangible, unique way.  We agreed to keep an open mind on the subject and to explore the idea more in the future.  As often happens in the Army though, no good deed goes unpunished.  I was moved into a key position within a soon to be deploying brigade that consumed more of my time and effort than I certainly had been planning on.  The adoption idea was shelved out of necessity for the next few bumpy, yet rewarding  years.

Fast forward to 2006.  Now stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, my job there, though requiring a lot of in-country travel, was not nearly as demanding, and the chances of redeploying again soon were slim.  I looked forward to a relaxing, enjoyable tour for a few years.  Almost immediately though, Amy brought up the adoption subject again.  I was surprised, having nearly pushed it out of mind, thinking we had missed our window of opportunity.  She wanted to explore it again though.  I acquiesced, since this was really the first time we really had the opportunity, and agreed to start the process  with the caveat that we could back out at any point if either of us got cold feet.  Were we too old for this?  Could we afford it?  How would this affect the relationship we have with our boys?  How would we adapt to this major lifestyle change?  All very valid questions with no way to know the answers until we’d committed.  So we elected to just step out on faith.

Nearly a year later, when working on my laptop in a remote spot in Montana, I opened an email forwarded from Amy by our adoption agency telling us we had been matched with a child and they wanted to know if we accepted her.  When I opened the small picture of Xing Fu Wa, I knew she was our child.  The rest of the process did not unfold nearly as soon as we wanted, but before we knew it, the whole family was flying into Nanchang to meet Raeya.  In a meeting room with an agency official in Beijing, I remember him telling me “We’ll see you back here in a few years, when you’re here to pick up your next one” and me nervously laughing and saying “I don’t think so; this is it!”  In hind sight, I suppose the seed had already been planted.

After a few months back with Raeya, we found ourselves on our way to Colorado Springs for what I thought would be a quick payback tour of a year to the Army for moving us and then retirement.  We were enjoying the beautiful new location, working on our fixer-upper retirement home, and getting to know and love our new daughter.  Everything seemed in order and then, I’m not sure who brought it up first, but adoption became a topic often discussed again.  We agreed to look into it again and though the same old questions still applied, this time we came to a decision to move forward very rapidly.  I decided I would put off retirement until we could complete the process.  There are always obstacles and distracters to pull you away from your path however.  I was soon offered another command but despite it being a career-long goal, I declined as that would have required yet another move and would have negated our long-term plans. As a kind of peace offering to the Army for turning them down, I volunteered for a tour to Afghanistan.  Amy agreed to work the adoption paperwork while I was deployed.  Because we had trusted in faith before and our experience with Raeya had been so overwhelmingly positive, this time we decided to step out a little farther on faith and adopt a child who had a medical special need that gave her very little chance.  We knew that my military benefits allowed us to take on a much more serious special need than most folks could, so we put in our request and waited to see what our agency came back with.  We were matched with Jiang Yujun on the day I deployed.  Again, we knew immediately this was our child. Thankfully, the process was expedited, we think because they were anxious to turn Chloe over to us because they knew she had limited time.  By the time I redeployed, we were making travel arrangements to go get her.  The trip was wonderful, just like Raeya’s and we brought Chloe home and began our adjustments as a new family.  There have been trials for sure; several weeks in the hospital over Christmas and we nearly lost her during her recent corrective surgery, but we could not be more blessed.  She has had a miraculous recovery that has astounded her doctors and has blossomed into so much more than we ever expected.  So again, I know prayer works.

Chloe, because we got her at nearly 5 years old, unlike Raeya, has vivid memories before joining us.  She remembers her caretakers, her stints in Chinese hospitals, and most of all, her friends from the orphanage.  She speaks of them often and asks if she can have them come visit.  When I was in Afghanistan, Amy would forward me pictures that Chloe’s orphanage would send periodically, and almost always pictured with her were one or two of her friends, nicknamed Noah and Rhys by the orphanage.  Every time the pictures would arrive, I enjoyed seeing these two boys nearly as much as Chloe.  Half way around the world, Amy was developing the same affection for these boys that I was, but left it unsaid, just as I did.  When I redeployed, as we prepared to travel to pick up Chloe we discussed these two boys and how difficult it must be for the children left behind in the orphanages as time and time again they see their friends leave with their new families.  Again we decided to step out on faith and see what we could do for them and if there was a possibility of bringing them home as well.

When we inquired with the orphanage director about this possibility, we found out that these boys are actually trafficked children.  They were kidnapped as toddlers and were to be sold, but the Chinese police broke up the trafficking ring, and when the parents could not be found, they were turned over to an orphanage to be cared for.  The Chinese government has deemed them un-adoptable (both locally and internationally) in hopes that they can eventually be returned to their parents.  While this is certainly a good intention, it is almost an impossibility.  The remoteness of the province the boys are from, poor communications, and inability of the parents to find them, likely sentences them to remaining in the orphanage’s care.  The harsh reality: at the age of 13, many Chinese children age out of the orphanage system and are farmed out to various work programs or elsewhere to fend for themselves.  This is a tragedy we can hardly bear to imagine.

This is where we ask for your prayers.  Our ultimate goal is to bring these boys home as a part our family.  We have exhausted a number of avenues to help Noah and Rhys and have been unsuccessful thus far.  We know that we are up against seemingly insurmountable odds.  But Amy and I are not ones to take “No” for an answer and know that if this is to be, it will be.  We’ve drafted a letter to the province adoption director, who we know from our last trip, pleading our case and requesting special consideration in this matter.  We pray, as we hope others do, that it turns the heart and allows for an exception to policy or opens another door.  If adoption is not possible, we’ve agreed to foster these children at no expense to the Chinese government.  An adoption certificate is not necessary; we’d just like the chance to offer them a better life.  The world is not fair and we know there are no promises.  We also know that this prayer will be answered; maybe not how we want it to be, but hopefully in these boys’ best interest. God’s Will will be done, whether we understand it or not.

On the bullet train to visit the orphanage in Fujian and Noah and Rhys

Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully I’ve feebly inspired you to join with us in prayer in this worthy quest.

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