Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–A Day To Relax

Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

Here was our day in convenient bullet form:

  • Pretty quiet morning.
  • Said goodbye to our friend who lives in our city. She’s on her way back with her son!
  • Pastor Peter’s wife gave Blake a piece of bread. He’s only seven months old and I didn’t know how that’d work, but he just gnawed at it for a long time.  He was a hot mess.
  • Played would you rather?  Learned some funny things about our new friends!
  • We’ve been skipping lunch. We’re just kind of tired of rice w/ meat and sauce. We’re just eating the Clif bars and dried fruit we brought from home. 
  • Took a nap with the babies on our chests. Precious!
  • We went over to TASOK (The American School of Kinshasa) in the afternoon. It was a nice change of pace. We watched a soccer match. The Congolese team that they were playing didn’t have all the necessary equipment. Some played barefoot and most didn’t have shin guards.


  • After watching the game awhile we walked to a playground. It was wonderful just watching the kids play a little.
  • One of the guys played us a song on his iPhone that had us cracking up.  It’s called Business Time and it’s quite odd.  But it made us laugh. :)
  • We played tetherball and I got the giggles again. (I always get the giggles during tetherball…it’s really such an odd game.)  Hubby and I both knocked over one of the little guys. Lauren got hit in the face. After that, we decided Tetherball with babies wasn’t such a good idea.

IMG_1736IMG_1743IMG_1745IMG_1749IMG_1751IMG_1757Congolese women can carry anything on their heads.  They are amazing!

  • We played Phase 10 after our community gathering. We were cracking up. There were lots of jokes about business time, band camp, etc.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–Our 2nd Trip to The Orphanage

Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010

We met with Pastor Peter early this morning for him to go over our paperwork to get originals to DGM. He kept inspecting two documents very closely and finally handed one back to Hubby and told him to keep it. Hubby looked at it and it was her birth certificate. He said, “You don‘t need it?” Pastor Peter said we had two and then looked at the one in Hubby’s hand and said, “This one good.”  Then he pointed to the one in his hand and said, “This one very good.” : )

We said goodbye to some of our friends from Group 1 as they headed out for the airport and then we got in the van and headed to the orphanage where Blake and Lauren were taken again. One of the dads (I’ll call him Jake), Hubby, and I were crammed in the back of the Jeep and ohmygoodness, Jake had us rolling again. He was sitting over the bar on the side of the back seat. Not exactly comfortable.  Hubby got the privilege of riding in that spot on the way home.  I hope five kids is enough! :)

We got to the orphanage and there weren’t nearly as many children there this time as last time. That place is just very depressing. The walls are dark. There’s hardly any natural light. There is nothing for the kids to do all day. I mean nothing. There are no toys. There was one little boy just playing with the scrap pieces of wood thrown off to the side. I got a picture of nails sticking up inches away from the walkway up the stairs. It’s truly no place for a child. The mamas are sweet, and I think they’re doing the best they can (at least that’s what I want to believe), they just don’t have much at all.

While we were there, though, we ran into a Swedish lady named Jane. She has been supporting the orphanage for almost 10 years. She was there now because she bought them a bus that they can use to earn income. She was so happy to meet us and she had tears in her eyes as we introduced our kids and told her why we were there. I pray God will use her to do great things for those precious children.

I picked up and held a couple of little ones. They just seem so lifeless. There is no expression to their faces. Their bodies are covered in bug bites or skin irritations of some sort. Their clothes are filthy. It absolutely breaks my heart both for these children, but also to know that Blake and Lauren lived that life for awhile before God brought them to us. No child should have to live like that. It’s really hard to visit for 30 minutes when you know that you’re leaving soon and going back to a comfortable life, but these kids have no escape. God, be the Father to the Fatherless.

IMG_1679IMG_1690IMG_1696The kitchen.

IMG_1699Blake was scared of anyone with something on their head.  He’d act terrified if I got out of the shower and had my towel wrapped on my head. : (


After the orphanage, we headed home and ate some of our snacks for our lunch. We gave the kiddos baths (which they HATE!) and took showers ourselves and then tried to Skype home. We got to talk to Hubby’s mom. The connection wasn’t great, but it was great to talk with her. Then we fought and fought the stinkin’ thing to get in touch with the kids and it just wouldn’t work. Finally Hubby found the lady who runs the guest house and we were able to use the internet phone to call home. Oh, it was so sweet to hear the kiddos’ voices. We miss them so much. They’re having a great time, though, with Gaga and Papa and seem to be doing really well.

After that, we hung out with the group in David and Barb’s apartment playing truth, truth, lie and asking all sorts of favorites, what would you do kinds of questions…what super power would you have, what spot would you sail to, what do you want to do before you die, etc. etc.  Funny quote of the day came from one of the moms,“We’re all adults here…except for the kids.“ : ) We count down all day long for meal times. They’re like the highlight of our days. Tonight at dinner we got to try Fu Fu. It’s made of some kind of flour and water and really had no taste. While I didn’t really care for it, I’m glad we got to try it.

After dinner we had a pretty short community gathering and then headed upstairs to watch a movie. The husband of the lady who runs the guest house had a pretty sweet setup with a projector on a screen. They made popcorn for us and we watched Bolt. Lauren was falling asleep and Blake was pooped, so we didn’t get to watch the whole thing, but it was a nice change of pace.  A little touch of home.  Popcorn and a movie!

**It was suggested that perhaps I should explain why we’re dressed the way we are.  To respect the Congolese culture, the ladies wore long skirts and the guys wore khaki pants and usually long-sleeve shirts.  Yes, it was very hot.  And yes, we make quite the fashion statement.  I found my lovely skirts at Goodwill.  I knew I’d be leaving them behind, so I just took what they had!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–Just a Few Things

Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

A bulleted list for the day:

  • Group 1 got their DGM letters! I’m so excited for them, and encouraged to see that the process does happen the way it’s supposed to! 
  • We played lots more Bananagrams today, and took care of babies while group 1 was at Ethiopian Air getting their flights home arranged.
  • Jason and I got in our first disagreement here, but we worked it out this evening. I guess one disagreement in this stressful of a situation isn’t bad. : ) I’m so glad we have each other to go through this journey together.
  • I finished my Adopted for Life book.  I found it really encouraging, especially after reading some adoption books that ironically don’t seem very pro-adoption!  It did an excellent job of explaining the Biblical view of adoption, and how adoption is a beautiful example of how God chose us (out of nothing of our own doing!) to be his own children.  I loved it!

Here’s some cute pictures from the day:


I guess that Lauren didn’t like getting kisses from her buddy.  : )

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–Another Orphanage Visit

Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010

Pastor Peter came early to go through our documents for DGM. He was going through our stuff and asked Hubby for one particular form for Lauren. He looked through the stuff the Embassy gave us, but there wasn’t one.  In fact, we had never seen one for her.  Pastor Peter looked very concerned and got out his phone to make a call. We were so nervous. Here we were, thinking we were all set and then there’s a document missing. He hangs up the phone and says that she doesn’t have one. We were gearing up for more hurdles, and feeling more tummy flip flops, but then he says, “Not a problem. She doesn’t need it.”  Evidently, because of the way her birth certificate was created, we don’t need that other form. Whew. That was close. Thank you, Lord!

That afternoon, we headed out of town a little to visit another orphanage.  It was not easy to get there. It was quite a long drive and we had to go down some very narrow dirt roads. At one point there was only one lane carved out of some hills. At two different points on that road, there were other cars coming and we had to back up the entire road to let them through before we could go! But, getting out to Jean Marie’s where there was fresh air, some green spaces, and some pretty views was wonderful. We had seen so much of the dirty city, and it was a blessing to get to see the true natural beauty of Africa.


I’m so glad we were able to go Jean Marie’s.  The kids are well cared for there and loved. It’s a medium-sized orphanage (maybe 50 or 60 kids?) and Jean Marie treats them like family.  None of the children there have been placed for adoption.  When we first got there, there weren’t very many kids there because they were at school, but soon they started trickling in. They were very shy and reserved, but once I got out the beach balls I brought, they began acting more like kids. The totally sweet thing is that they sang for us and prayed a blessing for us. They were very appreciative of all we brought - the books, the balls, the food, etc.


The children are well loved, and you could feel the difference between this orphanage and the one that Blake and Lauren were taken to, but this orphanage has so many needs.  Our group was able to do some painting a few days ago and we were working on finding mattresses for them.  This is what the children sleep on.  : (


I waved at one little girl and she came over by me. She didn’t leave my side after that. I asked her what her name is and she told me Claire. I told her my name and I just put my arm around her and rubbed her shoulder and arm. She didn’t really smile much, but wouldn’t leave. I had James ask her how old she was and she said 7. I told her I had a 7 year old at home, and everyone seemed shocked that I had other kids. I told them that Blake and Lauren made 5 kids and they were so surprised and kept telling me how great I was. That always makes me feel awkward.  I said that we just love kids.


It was time for us to go and Claire and I walked out together. I told her that she was very pretty (I wanted to say so much more, but my French didn’t go very far.)  I gave her a squeeze and then we had to go. She smiled at me and then stood by our Jeep. They all were out there just waving goodbye. I just pray the Lord watches over them and meets all of their needs. Especially Claire, God. I got tears in my eyes as we left.


The rest of our afternoon we hung around MPH, playing some games, looking at each other’s family pictures from home, and finding each other on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–We Have Visas!

Monday, Oct. 25, 2010

Blake woke up happy!!!! This is a big thing for him.  He definitely has some food issues and usually wakes up screaming bloody murder until he gets his bottle.  Today, we saw some definite improvements, though!

It was our day to head back to the Embassy to pick up Blake and Lauren’s visas.  We were expecting it to be a smooth process, but of course we were there for 3 hours!  At the end of the day, though, it is what it is.  We got what we needed and that’s all that matters!  Praise God, we have their visas!!!!!

Just a couple other interesting moments today:

1.  We headed to the market that is just down the block from the Embassy and were entertained by some interesting chip selections!  They’re normal brands we have here in America, but some super odd flavors (of course I didn’t journal what the exact flavors were, and now a year later I can’t remember!)

2.  While driving through the city today, our driver’s door kept coming open!  I can’t imagine how freaked out I’d be if my door flew open while I was driving down the road!  He just kept slamming it shut, and then drove with his left elbow out the window to try to stabilize it.  It was wild.  Thankfully, he didn’t fall out or anything terrible like that!

3.  We saw Mama Grace again today at the Embassy.  She held Lauren for a short time, but Lauren was sobbing. As soon as she went back to Hubby, she stopped crying.  Pastor Peter said in English, “She reject old mama.”  I felt terrible for Mama Grace, as I know she loves Lauren, too, but at the same time, that was a good sign for attachment with us and we were grateful that she feels so comfortable with us so soon.  (That, and Pastor Peter just makes us smile.  He does a great job with his English and it is just adorable to hear him speak.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–Church and Another Orphanage

Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010

It was a good day! Hubby was feeling better and I didn’t feel as nauseous as last week after taking my antimalarial, so we got to go to church as a family. It was an awesome time of worship! I had tears in my eyes, just thinking about how this was a glimpse of heaven when we’ll all worship together, from every nation, tribe, and tongue. David did a blessing for Pastor Peter and I cried through that, too. 

It was different from American church – hardly anyone was there when service started and the entire time people just trickled in.  They worship with freedom – hollers, whistles, dancing, clapping.  It was awesome.  Their offering time was truly joyful, as well.  They all walk (or dance) up to the front to put their offering in one or more of several different offering baskets (one for men, one for women, one for children, one if you are thankful for something, etc.)  It was very hot in there, and the benches are far from the cushy seats we all think we need in our American churches, yet you won’t see them complain.  They did a receiving line afterwards, and it was cool to greet everyone. They treated us as honored guests, providing us with resin chairs and having us sit in the front, as well as  insisting on giving us all cold Cokes or Fantas after the service. The Congolese are some of the most generous, giving, serving people I’ve ever met!

IMG_1565IMG_1566IMG_1571Blake and Lauren were quite popular!

IMG_1576The men sat on the right, the children in the center, and the women on the left.


At one point when I was standing in the back of church with an antsy baby, for curiosity’s sake, I counted the people there. There were 79 including our group. We found out after church that one of the head guys of DGM was there. What are the odds!?!? God is so cool! The guy said he’d get our stuff done on Tuesday. We are hopeful and optimistic, but ultimately trusting God, not men.

We had lunch and then sat around hoping to go to another one of the orphanages. We sat in the sitting area and shared about all of our church backgrounds, which was cool to hear how God has worked in so many lives. We were able to go to Mama Ruth’s orphanage. It was a million times nicer than the orphanage Blake and Lauren were in. It felt more like a family home and there were no more than a dozen kids living there. We had a meeting with the lady that runs it – she’s a widow. She was very appreciative of the gifts we brought. We asked her  if we could hang out with the kids and she said that we could. They were not as ready to play with us as the kids at the other orphanage. Some were downright scared. There were two little boys that we tried to play hide/chase/tag with. One of the boys really got into it. There was an older girl (maybe 16?) there who was beautiful. I thought she was working because she always had a baby with her, but I found out that she’s an orphan, too. Heartbreaking. I had James translate to tell her that she had a beautiful smile. She just blushed and grinned. Precious soul.

IMG_1584IMG_1586IMG_1591IMG_1593Here’s the sweet girl I mistook for a caregiver.  I didn’t get a picture of her smiling, but she could light up a room.  I pray for her future…I don’t know what will happen to her once she “ages out” of the orphanage.

IMG_1594IMG_1599Trying to get him to play.

IMG_1600I ran around all silly and played tag with Hubby and then the boys followed suit.

IMG_1601IMG_1602 He busted out into some cartwheels.  He’s so stinkin’ cute!

We headed back then to our Sunday night fried chicken dinner at the guest house. Yum. That’s my favorite of the week. We played more Bananagrams, too, which is always lots of fun. We’re excited for tomorrow! (We are picking up their visas and possibly starting the DGM process, the last step before we can bring them home!) Praying it goes well!  Blake fought sleep again tonight for about thirty minutes, the little stinker. : )  I guess he just loves us so much he wanted to spend more time snuggling and walking the halls with us!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–Forever Family

Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010

Today was a very long, boring day. We got a good night sleep, though. We didn’t have plans to go anywhere today so we just hung out playing games like Farkle, Bananagrams, Mafia, and Rummy.

We did have a little fun with one of the Dads with us.  We took his iPod touch after the lady who runs the guest house had repeatedly told him not to leave it lying around. Hee hee.

We got to Skype with Mom and Dad. That was the first time Dad has seen the kids and it was cool to see his face light up. We Skyped with the big kids, too. It was SO good to see them all. We miss them lots. It’s still really surreal that we’re in Africa. We feel so far away and so removed from our normal life. I commented to Hubby today that it really feels like Blake and Lauren are our kids. We like to call them Monsieur Blake and Mademoiselle Lauren (or we chant her entire name to her...because she has her name they called her in the orphanage, a first and middle legal name our Congolese attorney gave her, as well as the first, middle, and last names that we gave her, she has about a billion names.)

It’s so beautiful how God brings families together and how two white people from the middle of America and two black children from Equatorial Africa can be family. 

Forever family.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–The Day That Rocked My World and Changed Me Forever

Friday Oct. 22, 2010

Uh oh…Hubby and I are both starting to feel ill. His tummy is bugging him and I have body aches. I took a nap this morning, and that helped a little. We had lunch here - more rice, meat, and greens. Pastor Peter came to have a meeting with group 2. He said that things with one of the Congolese offices were getting difficult. Or as he said repeatedly, “Very complicated.” He had us all totally freaked out. Turned out they just needed $20 from us to process our paperwork.  NO big deal.  Whew.

Mama Grace visited today.  I wasn’t sure how the kids would do with her. They really couldn’t have cared less. They looked at her, looked at me. Looked at her, looked at me. We did find out that they called them Benedicte and Moise.  Benedicte was the name they called Lauren in the orphanage, but I have no idea where Moise came from. In the little French I could understand, I got from Mama Grace that Lauren is happy and Blake cries.

We had just sat down with Barb to read through David’s journal and James got back and said the driver was available and we could go to Blake and Lauren’s old orphanage. We scrambled around to get ready to go. Hubby’s tummy kicked into yucky drive, but thankfully we were still able to go. Barb, bless her heart, kept both babies for us so we didn’t have to take them out in the heat.

It was a long, dirty drive there. I’ve been here a week and a half and it is still amazing to me how many people there are everywhere! People are selling anything and everything…even individual packets of Kleenexes.  There’s dirt everywhere. It even feels dirty as you’re driving – you can feel it in your lungs, eyes, etc.

As we were just about there, traffic got insane. We needed to turn left to get to the orphanage, but there was a car blocking the road we needed to turn onto. We just did a five point turn around to get over there. We ended up perpendicular across the road and had traffic stopped in every possible direction. It’s not just traffic, though, it’s all the people loitering around and walking in the streets.  It got ugly quickly.  The guy blocking our road got out of his car and came over to yell at us. Our driver and James were yelling back at him. People all around our car were yelling. We just sat in our car with our hearts pounding, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone. A traffic cop came and did absolutely nothing. One of the guys in our group said what we were all thinking…”It’s okay, we don’t have to go to the orphanage. We can just go back.” Eventually, the guy blocking our road agreed to move and we passed on through. Oh my word, that was scary. Come to find out, the orphanage is only about a block away from all of this.

We pulled up to a much smaller building than I was expecting. There were a couple of kids looking out an upstairs window. I waved and smiled and they did back to me. Soon there were more kids looking out at us. We got out of the Jeep, stepped over the open sewer, and walked through the doors to a very run down concrete building.


My journal entry for the day stopped there.  The visit that day was incredibly hard.  I wanted to just break down then and there.  NO CHILD SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THAT.  You wouldn’t leave your pet there for ten minutes, yet around 100 children call that place home

I somehow managed to hold it together, put a smile on my face, and spend our visit loving the children.  We passed out some toys, and shared lots of hugs.  Their faces lit up when we showed them the things we brought for them.  They also loved having their picture taken and getting to see themselves on our cameras.  Several children asked me, though, if I had food with me.  Balloons, beach balls, and toy frogs bring some joy, but only go so far.

We toured the building and were heartbroken to see the living conditions.  No indoor plumbing, so no bathrooms.  A kitchen with one pot of rice cooking.  That’s all there was…no extra food anywhere.  One room for the boys.  One room for the girls.  One other larger open room that evidently serves as dining room, play room, and sleeping room for the dozens of children that there wasn’t room for in the bunk rooms.  There were two workers.  Two.  For that many children.  No wonder our call about Lauren came at 3:00 in the morning.  In my sleepy fog, I  just remember hearing Diana say, “A baby girl was just brought to ____ orphanage.  Can you take her?”  Children die here all the time and babies don’t have much chance of survival.  I can now see why.

It was just so hard for me to process the reality of these children’s lives and futures.  It still is.  I still see the hopelessness in their faces.  I still long to make life right and fair for them.  I still don’t understand why.  This side of heaven, I probably never will. 

I can’t forget them, though.  I confess…sometimes I get all cozy and comfortable in my life here.  It’s not fun to think about the injustice, pain, and poverty there.  But I can’t forget.  I can’t.  I must remember.  I have to keep them in my prayers.  I have to raise awareness and support for them.  I can’t ever forget, because the day that I forget the things I saw…well, I just don’t want to go there.

I took some pictures that day.  I’ll post them here, but I just feel like they don’t even begin to capture the true environment there. 

(I feel like I should note that I removed one of the pictures of a large group of kids.  I realized that it showed a toddler boy with no pants and no diaper, only a shirt.  Keep in mind that no diaper = mess on child and mess on floor.  The same floor they’re all sitting on now.  The same floor they eat on, sleep on, and spend most of their day on…usually barefooted, no less.)

IMG_1524IMG_1525IMG_1526IMG_1527IMG_1529IMG_1531IMG_1533IMG_1535IMG_1536IMG_1539IMG_1542IMG_1545IMG_1551IMG_1552IMG_1553IMG_1554IMG_1557This is the one picture we have of the streets of Kinshasa.  Because it is illegal to take pictures in public, we could only take this from the safety of the orphanage.  This is a small side street and yet here are still lots of people milling about.  The blue and yellow vans are the taxis that I mentioned.

IMG_1560This roof is inches away from the stairs where kids go by multiple times a day.  It was full of rusty nails and sharp edges.  Certainly not a safe place for children.

IMG_1563I should never again complain about my “small” laundry room.  I have a laundry room.  It has a washer AND a dryer. 

IMG_1522Stay strong, sweet boy…stay strong.

As I write this entry one year later, tears flow from my eyes.  I just wonder if these children are even still alive.  It’s just heartbreaking.  Simply heartbreaking.