Thursday, December 13, 2012

Safe in My Father's Arms on a Toolbox.

Me and my buddy Jimmy sat in the back of Big Red as he looked at me and said, "well, my daddy's truck is a 4-wheel drive too." I wrinkled up my face as I looked at him sideways and said, "no it's not, all 4 wheels have to pull for it to be a 4-wheel drive." He leaned into my face and said, "well, it has 4 wheels, and it can drive!" I had to laugh and smile as I broke my Whatchamacallit candy bar in half, allowing him to choose which piece to take, and we shared a perfect summer moment can be known only to two 10 year old buddies sitting in the bed of a big red pick-up truck.

Big Red was my dad's truck and I was very proud of it. I can remember sitting on the edge of the side with my legs inside the engine compartment as I watched him make repairs with Craftsman wrenches and oil soaked into the lines of his hands. I never felt so alive as when we load up in 4-wheel drive and crunch it through the woods loading it full of firewood from fallen trees. Dad was the chain-saw man and I was his swamper. 

I remember riding in the truck bed with our dog Rebel as we made our way to the Beechwood Market that sat on State Route 122 about 5 miles west of Middletown, Ohio. The warm summer air would blow through my hair as I faced the wind. Nothing could stop us... it was like being a superhero in flight with my loyal sidekick.

But by far the best thing about Big Red was riding up front next to my dad. He would sit me on the top of his big silver tool box with his arm resting across my chest. I have never felt so safe. We would bounce up and down those Preble County roads with country music playing on the crackly speakers and warm wind blasting through the hard to crank open windows. The knob was loose and the arm was bent, it didn't turn in a smooth circle. 

Even after all these years... these moments easily surface as some of the best memories from my childhood. Even now, I can remember the sounds of the creaky truck as we navigated those crooked roads.

I have a 12 year old son now and the time we share together will either be the memories of his future or simply days long forgotten. My father and I make memories even today, and his gaze into my own eyes when I misspeak or I rush through the day reminds me of the importance of the young life that looks up my way. I want to be as good a papa to Caleb as my dad was to me. It is my job to show him what it means to be a man.

I have always known that I was loved and safe when my father's arm rested across my chest. I have always been able to sit at his side while he works and learn what it means to face a problem head on and solve it. My dad has been married and faithful to my mom ever since the day he said, "I do." Their commitment to each other reminds me of the responsibility that Kellie and I carry as our 3 children watch our life together. 

What does it mean to be a man? To have vision in the face of adversity. To have the willingness to stand for what you believe in, even if it hurts. To find joy in everyday life. To live faithfully. To love my wife and to always have my arm securely across my children. 

These are the lessons that I learned, safe in my father's arms on a toolbox.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Year Ago (We Didn't Even Know Her Name)

Christmas lights, a Pack'n Play, and a cardboard castle. These are the things that I see from my bed every night. The black and gold clock on the wall was a wedding gift to my parents from my mammaw Maxine Shepherd. I am struck by the realization that it now measures our days and how her presence watches over our little family.

Sterling is in her crib as I type and I can hear the steady rise and fall of her breathing through tiny stuffy nostrils. Today was a tough day for her as she battled chills and a 102 degree fever. Even sickness could not dampen her smile and her spirit. The playpen in the center of the picture held her brother Caleb, her sister Aleksandra, and now her. Well, honestly it has never held her... she easily climbs out.

A year ago tonight... we didn't even know her name.

We were over 5 years into a process that seemed never-ending. We endured delay after disappointing delay. Tonight she struggles to sleep, tossing restlessly as my wakeful sleep listens to her breath. The night shatters with the sound of her crying out and she then is lifted into the comforting embrace of me her father, or Kellie her mother. We hold her close as her head rests on our shoulder and the cry calms back to soothing breath.

Sterling Mei Shepherd oh how you have changed our lives forever. You have reminded us what it means to love, to feel compassion, to find joy, to reconnect with the important parts of living. You remind me to cry out to my God and to be surrounded in His embrace.

It is no mistake that we find ourselves with you, my daughter Sterling at this point in our life. You are here to show us the way... we are to approach our God the way you reach to us. 

A year ago we didn't even know your name. And here we are tonight, convinced you have been with us forever... and you point us the way forward as you fit so neatly into the past that has brought us this far.

And so now you again rest in your bed as I type in the glow of Christmas lights eclipsing a cardboard castle. I close my eyes in the embrace of my God and in the glow of childhood wonder. Yes... this is where I belong.

185 days to our arrival in Guatemala. Thankful. Excited. Ready.

A year from now... I will see farther.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (39) No Greater Love

My incredible mother holding Kenya, the child who showed me that God  holds our names in His heart. God speaks to me by the way he brought these two together.

No poverty is greater than the poverty of a soul without God.
 No suffering so miserable as worthless self pity. 
No disease so debilitating as eyes that cannot see the truth of God's love. Why do we fear suffering or loss or death? 
Why do we think anything depends on us? 
Why can't we just come to God like a child sitting on the lap of Jesus 
and look deep into His eyes? 
How do we miss the beautiful simplicity of His love? 
This God who parted seas and tore down walls, 
who created us, breathing life into us,
 and came to earth and suffered all these things to show us the way. 
He is waiting for us: 
to follow Him now, 
to love Him with all we are, 
to share this love with those we encounter, 
and He waits to embrace us fully as we pass from this earth.

I stare the number 187 down as a gunfighter at noon in a frontier western town. The clock tolls the hour as I ready my gaze and aim yet again. My eyes are always on the date of June 13th, 2013. It is the day that we begin our life mission in Guatemala.

This past fall my mother, along with her brothers Stephen and Gary travelled to spend a week with the mission to which we have dedicated our lives, Catalyst Resources International. I held my breath as my mother and her siblings travelled to experience a taste of what has forever changed the way Kellie and I live our faith.

These pictures are a testament of the incredible way that God works. My mother, Krena has poured into me the truths and values of a pure heart. She taught me from an early age that integrity, belief, and standing for right even in the face of the strongest challenges are worthy of our lives. I remember a clipping that hung on the side of our refrigerator that spoke of Nazi Germany and how a reluctance of good people contributed to the tragedy of millions. 

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
-Martin Niemöller

This simple cut out quote has shaped my thinking my whole life. I have spent hours considering how different history might had been if good men and woman and stood against the evil of their day. I have faced my own demons and decided that I will stand where I am.

Maybe you have had one of those moments? Mine is crystal clear in my mind. I realized that the rest of my life was simple. I had a choice: I pursued a selfish life that would result in damaging those around me, or I fell completely on the God who had made a way. There was no middle ground. 

If I was to live my life by faith... then I was compelled to follow Him fully. 

Although my perseverance gets tested,
my patience wears thin,
my faith seems so inadequate,
and the roadblocks seem so massive...

My faith compels,
my vision convicts,
and my love gives me no other option...
This is a true encounter with the Truth of God.

It is time for us to stop being scared believers. We have the maker of the universe who invites us to come to Him as children. You have been invited to sit on the lap of the God who created you and look into His eyes.

We don't have time for a religion of fear. We don't have time for a liturgy of self-righteousness or chest thumping. We only have this moment:

to love God as we care for ourselves,
to love those beside us as deeply as we protect ourselves,
and to reach out and seek those who need Him.

Reach out to the hand of the God who created you. Know that He is bigger than your situation. Know that as you reach out to others to bring them to Him... you will find that you are made closer as well. 

I am a true believer. I have experienced Him in the lives that have changed me. I challenge you to find God in your own walk. There are things you can never learn... you can only experience.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful for Un(answered) Prayers

The Miracle of my daughter is through un(answered) prayers.

All the unanswered questions of our life became the rock and sand that formed the concrete under our steps today. We now hold hands and celebrate these days of walking together. How is it that our daughter was born 5 years after we began the process to adopt her? We found each other across the years, across the multitudes, and across continents. Through all the turmoil in the world and in the struggle of life, our feet moved together in shiny shoes on  sidewalk today.

This particular moment was captured by my wife, Kellie. My mind was replaying the events of the past two days: Kroger, sleep, drive, ordination workshop, drive, Kroger, sleep, drive, preach, fundraise, drive, and Caleb's piano recital (stay awake). As for Sterling... well, she was just glad that she had a chance to move around after being held in various laps during all the preaching, fundraising, and piano recitaling.

Our hand-in-hand slow steps on the sidewalk gave our minds a chance to settle from the fray and re-establish perspective on the simple truths of a warm November afternoon. We are here in this place together now. Each step we take down this path brings us closer together in experience, and further along the plan that God has for our lives.

From this place along the road I can look over my shoulder and see the the Family-Circus-style-foot-print-dashes that mark my crazy, chaotic, and wandering path. I have driven trucks, volunteered in church, worked in mental hospitals, brokered mortgages, worked trade shows, sold shoes, trained to be a COP, butchered meat, and managed grocery stores. Memories fill my mind of the experiences along the way that unknowingly prepared me for this moment... and made me the man I am today that holds this tiny hand.

These days are beautiful. Our mission from God is breath-taking. We're finding that we love to tell our story... how adoption has changed our lives. We are adopted as children of God, we are recipients of the miracle of adoption on earth, and now we have become evangelists of God's love & agents of earthly adoption. We celebrate each time a person or a church takes our hands to walk this incredible adventure of joy with us.

There is room for you. This is your invitation to allow your heart to be filled overflowing. There are children to be sponsored, trips to be made, monthly support to be pledged, and renewed faith and hope that can change the course of your life.

I spent years questioning God and being frustrated that He wasn't answering my prayers... not realizing that He was shaping me along the way to become a holder of tiny hands. 

Wherever you are today, take heart. Your un(answered) prayers are laying the foundation of who you are to become. Come and walk with us. I can use your help to hold tiny hands.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life in the Waiting

Her name is Aleksandra and I am hopelessly and forever in love with her. She changed my life when I realized how much she loved me. Suddenly the goodness of the entire world was bound up in the strength of her eyes locked onto mine. Making this girl cry feels like the greatest wrong I could ever do. She looks to me for her place in the world. My steps matter far greater than I had ever imagined. She is beautiful and I want to give her the best shot at life possible. She is somehow altogether my daughter, my muse, my salvation, and my Mona Lisa. She is the masterpiece that I am desperate to protect.

This past October she took the knife in her hand and carved her own pumpkin. I was thrilled with her initiative and terrified by the possibility that she could slice her hand. I showed her the safest methods, told her of the risk, and then handed her the instrument. Her creativity seemed to flourish as she held the knife and began to carve her jack-o-lantern. She impressed me with her imagination and her safe behavior. I was ready to bandage and compress... but she kept the blade away from her skin.

I thank God daily for my children. They keep me focused during these days of waiting. God kept Ezekiel waiting in the wilderness, in a cave, and on the edge of a cliff. Ezekiel had to wait while the winds blew, the earth shook, and the fires raged. As his life seemed to shake apart all around him... Ezekiel simply was asked to wait. As all this chaos swarmed... the still, small voice of God spoke to him in the wind. 

I feel the wind softly blow across my back now.

This is a critical time for us. We are nearly 6 months away from our one way ticket to Guatemala. My hours at work are long and they have given me unexpected opportunity to touch lives. When I have a day off... I am exhausted and I feel guilty that I am not out pounding the pavement for our mission. And yet... I have seen that I can not force the timing of God. When I have listened to His Spirit, He has moved mountains. The timing of God has been astounding.

Kroger was meant to be simply a method for me to get through the remaining months... and yet God had other plans. I am being challenged and stretched in ways that I never foresaw. Hours of my days are spent pouring into the lives of others. Somehow... beyond my own control, God has saw fit to send many my way in order that they can unload their burdens on me. I have seen God work in lives already. I am honored to be here to be a part.

This time has become a proving ground. It is a time that I am being shown like the Jimmy Stewart character in It's A Wonderful Life that my days matter. My family is a treasure in my life and the contacts I make with those I encounter ever day are the testimony of my faith that I must live without fail. 

He is teaching me patience, compassion, empathy, and showing me how much He love us each and every one. I sit in the basement of my parent's home on my day off and I worry that I am not doing enough to forward our ministry... I should be on the phone or in someone's office... but then I look down to my arms that hold my infant daughter Sterling and I know that these days are indeed well spent.

I am learning to wait on the lord.

God places tools in our hands like the carving knife I gave to Aleksandra. He instructs us how to use it and then he steps back ready with gauze and band-aids, waiting for us to sink the blade into our own flesh. He knows that I am not perfect, and yet he loves me. He finds me to be a worthy canvas on which He can lay down the first strokes of His masterpiece. 

God cares for me even more than this knowledge that I would die for my daughter. He hands me the tools that I need to succeed and then he watches as I began to make my way through my proving ground. He has given me a goal and a worthy cause... and yet, He also places a path for my feet to follow today. I will not reach my goal unless I make the necessary steps along the way. The man whose soul bleeds with the pain of his lost love from his wife, the lady who struggles with deep depression, the young man who wrestles with self-control and anger, the  mother who is faced daily with the stark reality of the loss of her daughter and first grand-baby... all these are needs that God has placed in my path. All these are moments for me to show if I am willing to simply stand where I am. 

Am I willing to remember who I am, what is important to me, where I am going, and whose I am? I have a daily reminder.

The eagle is Caleb, my son, my first-born, a spitting image of me who will carry on the Shepherd name with his children. He is compassionate, intelligent, and a deep thinker. The bear is Aleksandra, from Russia, my strong-character daughter who will move the world to chase her goals. She is loving, charming, and persistent. The dragon is Sterling, from China, my odds beater. She survived a premature birth, an abandonment alongside a road, a 3 month stay in a incubator, and against all the odds she is a person who embraces everyday life with a smile, an laugh, and an undying enthusiasm that gives us all hope. The large bird is a Quetzel, the national bird of Guatemala. This is the place where I found faith reborn. It is the place where God got a hold of me and reshaped the way I saw life.

God has made me a new creation. He has lit a fire deep in my core. He has given me a mission to pursue. And He now calls me to be patient and wait on his timing. He calls me to be on mission even now. He sends people my way and they unload their burdens on me daily as I strive to point them to Him. I simply am aware of the incredible miracles around me and also make an effort to be a compassionate, empathetic ear to those who need to find their way.

This is my proving ground. I see the miracles. I am strengthened by the beauty. I am stretched, challenged, and made better by the needs that pour down like rain on my head. I am humbled by the nature of searching people. I am given hope with the realization that God's plan for us all has been in place since the dawn of time.

Our hope is built in His love for us... and who we can touch along the way. A life spent in service for Him is better than a life spent chasing empty goals.  This is the ground that we show our metal. Let it be known that God carries the load that is needed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Living Beyond The Stroke of Midnight

No matter where the path of our days find us, 
we will always remember that we have been blessed beyond measure.

These are the days beyond the stroke of the clock. Midnight has passed. A conversion of carriage to pumpkin allows the true magic of ever after  to begin. The slipper and the dance are nothing when held against the eclipse of a dream come true. The simple presence of these 3 pumpkins resting in the moonlight cause my world to leap from the realm of Once Upon a Time in a Land Far Away... and consume me with child-like possibility. We are beyond the toll of the midnight bell and we discover the story beyond the kiss.

We are now a mere 230 days from our first day as missionaries on the ground in San Cristobal, Guatemala. Our initial reluctance to ask folks for support has grown into a joyful invitation for the people we love to share in this immeasurable journey. It is amazing to see how God has placed us exactly where we can make a difference... even here and now.

Our networking with churches across the area has been incredible and has opened our eyes to the beauty of all the followers of His mission that surround us. Year end gifts and placement on 2013 budgets will be opportunity for so many to join us on this path. Monthly giving is the mechanism that powers our engine of faith. Prayer is the air that we breath.

I find myself pouring everything I have into this temporary job that I work. The hours are difficult and the demands are heavy... and yet the people and the needs that are here right in front of me challenge me to my core. I find myself having to daily live out the proof of my calling. My co-workers know our ministry... and they seek comfort, counsel, and seemingly even to find some peace when they look our way. Our story is a beacon.

They seem to look to us for a glimmer of ever-after type belief. Jesus told us that our light will shine and it can not be hidden. We are finding that to be true. 

May our light continue to shine brighter than the brightest flash of fairy tale magic. For now I look forward to carving pumpkins with our son and two daughters... these are truly the days beyond the glass slipper. These are the days that will warm our hearts for years to come.

Friday, October 12, 2012

These are the days of Ever After

Life has perfect moments. Maybe you've forgotten? Take a moment and remember. If you stand on the edge of the cliff of all your experiences... you know you can remember some moments when life seemed simply perfect. Go back to those places and relive how you felt... can't you hear the sounds, breath deeply and smell the air, remember the swell of the emotion? Yes... you have had moments of perfection in your life.

How is it that we lose the magic of these days? You remember who you were with, and how you were aware of the tick tick of the clock. This snap-shot of time t holds your memory... and you wonder where it went. I am here to challenge you to the simple awareness that it has never left you. It has become a part of you. Rather than remember how it was... you now need to remember who it shaped you to become.

These moments are no mere happenstance. They exist to remind us daily of who we are, from where we have come, who we are to be, and who we belong too. These are the experiences that forever shape our being... our very core... yes, even our soul. These moments that your heart clings to... they are important to you because they define you.

These are the vulnerable pieces of your days that you let your guard down and faced the naked truth of who you are. What are your reactions to what you see? Like it or hate it... you are the sum of your experiences. And so... you are left with choices. What do you become from this point moving forward?

I can share with you a few perfect moments of my life:

When on a dare I made a phone call to a girl my senior year of high school and started a nervous conversation that had me taking deep breaths to keep from freaking out... and led to a first date at TGI Friday's on the river. I hung up the phone after she said "yes" with my heart pounding, my palms sweating, equally excited, terrified, and stunned! 

Or when I later took that girl to my high school prom in my dad's restored, immaculate, and non-operational air-conditioned 1977 Pontiac Grange Prix and stepped into the Manchester ballroom with my first date on my arm as every head turned in shock to see that Chad P. Shepherd was capable of getting a date!

And even later when we took late campus walks in the blustery evenings of fall, hand in hand and whispered about the limitless future that stretched ahead of us. Our limitations and fears would be born away with the gusts of leaves as our minds soared to talk of dreams of living, and seeing the world, and maybe someday adopting.

I remember that night that I picked her up in a navy blue stretch limo and we slid smoothly down the highway to the revolving restaurant overlooking Covington and Cincinnati as I proposed to this girl when our view was perfectly silhouetted by the scape of Cincinnati and the harp held us with sounds of the masters. I remember her eyes as the sparkled as she calmed my terror with the simplest word spoken again, "yes."

Our first apartment, our first dinner, our first pet, our first Christmas Tree, and 5 years into our marriage the birth of Caleb. I was so petrified and terrified and nervous and convinced that I would be a disaster of a father. I was so young, I was so incapable, so unworthy. And yet... he was so perfect. I pressed him against my chest in the quiet darkness that night and knew that all was well.

I remember sitting in the quiet of his room as the lullabies played and the crib lights danced on the ceiling. I would silently smile as tears rolled down my face. I had so many unanswered questions... I doubted who I was, the job I was working, my place in the world... and yet I knew that this quiet moment was magic and fairy tale perfect. I held to that moment and even now I can smell the baby lotion and feel the warmth blowing up from the register with a gentle air that rocket the mobile above his sleeping form. This girl that I had asked out on my first date, she had helped me paint giraffes and elephants on his walls. 

Years later we sat in a cold orphanage in Orekhovo-zuevo Russia and received our baby daughter, Aleksandra bundled up in a snow-suit with double hats. We held her tightly to our chests as we cried tears of unbelievable relief that this life had granted us this moment. This infant... abandoned in a critical care orphanage had found a home with us and rekindled hope for us all. Our little Zaychik as the head nurse called her... our little bunny.

And then the miracle repeated again as we sat in the state ministry in Beijing and were handed another small bundled baby girl... our "crazy and dangerous" Sterling. We lived in two weeks of bliss as we carried her up and down the streets of Beijing and navigated the socialist red tape required to land wheels down in Chicago and sign the papers for her to become not only our daughter, but also a U.S. Citizen.

But perfection also surrounds us in everyday... even now during these transitional days while we live with my parents... we are sharing some incredible evenings playing, laughing, and loving together as we all soak in every moment. And the wonder of life finds us in simple everyday gestures, such as in that moment that Sterling leans her head onto mine and says, "Dah-dad." Or Aleksandra snuggles up beside me and shows me her drawing of me and her fussing back and forth (she once drew me being eaten by a tiger). Or watching Caleb gently guide Sterling off a chair  and then read to her when he doesn't know anyone is watching. Or even simply coming home at the end of the day and seeing that the girl that once made me so nervous... is still willing to look up at me with those sparkling eyes and even now say, "yes."

These are the days of Ever After. I am aware of it intensely. I am not foolish. I know that tough times may come. I know this because every single one of those magic times listed above came alongside moments of difficulty, impossible odds, foolish decisions, personal failures, disappointment, and darkness. But... which part of the story do you remember from the fairy tale? The heat of the dragon's breath, or the thrill of the victory? We would not savor the happiness so much if we did not have the struggle to find it. I thank God for the struggles.

And now we are missionaries to Guatemala. And this also gives us magical moments, hand in hand with some sorrows, some fears, and some harsh realities.

I met with my Mammaw and Pop today. They are the most cherished people in the world to me. I know them intensely, and they know every fiber of my being. We prayed together and we talked of the years gone by. They told me of their parents, of raising their children, of seeing their friends pass away... and then my Pop leaned close, grabbed my hand with surprising strength, and stared deep into me with his cloudy and somehow glistening eyes as he told me, 

"When you leave for Guatemala it will be the last time we see each other. I am old, I am not long for this world. I will die while you are gone." 

For the briefest of moments I thought I might be strong and so I opened my mouth to speak, only to find that my lungs exploded, forcing air from my mouth in gasps and water from my eyes as I could only whisper... "We will all unite at the throne of God and sing together again." I told him that I wanted him to know that he and Mammaw go with us, because the good and the God that was in their lives had been poured into mine, and that where I go, and what I do... is just an extension of what they have given to me.

Do you know the treasure you have at your fingertips? Open your eyes and see the blessings that God has placed before you. Recognize them and then know that all that He has to give you is even far greater. All of these moments in our lives that make our souls sing... are simply brief reflections of His face in a mirror that is mostly clouded over. 

There is more to this life than living and dying. 
Embrace it. Find your truth. 

Know where you've come from.
Know who you are.
Know where you are going.
Know whose you are.
Live it daily... life isn't to be achieved, it is simply to be pursued.  

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us lay aside every weight, 
and the sin which so easily ensnares us, 
and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us... 
~Hebrews, Chapter 1

Monday, October 1, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (38) Immeasurably More--Walking Together

Hugging and feeding a single child may not change the world, but it does make a forever change for the one who feels love and tastes a chance at a full life. 
What if we each could change a life? 
What if we each could hug...
a single child? 

Can you imagine how your life would change if you knew that you saved the life of a child? How do you define yourself today? Look in the mirror and consider how you would see yourself if you knew that every month you were providing a home to an abandoned baby. 

A trip to Guatemala changed my life forever. The adoption of our daughters from Russia and China has shown us the incredible potential that a single couple can have on the life of an abandoned child. We now dedicate our lives to bring these two experiences together to make an eternal difference. 

Adoption is a beautiful answer for the poverty and abandonment we have seen in Guatemala.

We are moving to San Cristobal, Guatemala on June 13, 2013. We are resigning our jobs and stepping away from our careers. We want to take our education and our skills and donate our time and the rest of our lives to live out our belief and connect orphaned children with forever families.

And yet... we know that we cannot do this alone. While we are the feet on the ground, we need a multitude of our friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances to be on mission beside us. We need partners. We need you to be our missionary partner. You care enough that you have been following our story, and you have our sincere gratitude. Your encouragement has helped strengthen us to take powerful steps of faith. 

And now Kellie and I are asking you to 
take a deeper step.

We will be reaching out over the next few months to ask:

  • Will you partner with us financially so that we can find forever homes to abandoned infant girls?
  • What amount will you promise to send our way each month?
  • When can you start giving?
We need funds now so that we can purchase a vehicle. A missionary family has one available for us that is perfect for our needs. It is a diesel powered, four wheel drive SUV. We have agreed to purchase it for $6,000. We have a house available for us to rent, and we will need to begin paying for it after the first of the year. We will have moving expenses, airfare, and fees.

Each dollar you give gets us a step closer to flooding Facebook and your inbox with pictures of 
infants that you have rescued.

Contributions that we begin to receive now are vital! We also understand that some would like to start giving once we are actually there... and if that is you, we need to know how much you want to give, and when we can plan for it in our budget.

Monthly contributions are the heartbeat of our mission. We need to be able to budget for basics and if you know that you are part of this incredible passion... we need to hear from you now.

Contact us via email and let us know your pledge amount and when you plan to start sending it:

You can also call me directly at 513-292-1521. 

If you are already giving to a missionary, or relief organization... we ask that you continue providing support to those who depend on your faithfulness. 

Contact us now.

<<click the above link to get started now>>

Have you ever heard of the Bruno Barn Moving event? This will blow you away as you see the potential impact you can make. Give this three minutes of your time:

 Now to him who is able to do 
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to his power that is at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church 
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, 
world without end.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sterling Mei: (31) Come What Mei

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!  I love ya, tomorrow! You're only a day away!

Sterling & Emme ~ together now as Daughters!
"One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying."
Joan of Arc 

February 27, 2012 was the day that changed everything. Our family had bridged the seemingly impassible gap of 6 years of waiting and we breathlessly gripped our daughter and christened her with our tears. The day seemed to be flashing by with locomotive speed... and yet, I could feel every single thump of my heart. I will never forget locking eyes with Sterling when the nannies first rounded the corner from the elevator. I knew she was forever mine.

Our daughter was born a preemie, and was left in a bush on a busy corner of a public park the day of her birth. She was weak and her lungs were underdeveloped. Her mother could not care for her and she had no alternatives. She did what she could. She wrapped her baby, probably gave her a final kiss, and somehow found the strength to walk away... giving her daughter a desperate chance for life in a socialistic society that somehow lost the idea that life is precious.

Sterling was a survivor. She spent months in a incubator and grew stronger each day. Kellie and I stood by the incubator that was donated by persons unknown to us that saved our daughter's life. We are always grateful for this kindness we can never repay. Sterling is alive today because of the selflessness of: a mother, a donor, a team of nannies, and a nurse who all work together to save the lives of some 300 babies at a time.

That day we visited Sterling's nursery at the Fo Shan Orphanage in Guandong Province, China, thousands of miles and half a globe away from home... we had no idea that 7 months later Sterling would again play with a crib-mate.

"Let us then, be up and doing. With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

These days are incredible for our family. We have taken some steps of faith that are bigger than the measure of our stride. We have leaned heavily into the foundation of our belief and the strength of our God. I write my stories down because I am often in disbelief. 

Jerry and Jennifer Bennett came across our story online. Jennifer and Kellie began chatting and discovered with increased excitement that we had both adopted from China... from the same city... the same international agent... the same orphanage... the same room... a crib apart... separated only by the time span of about a month! Our daughters played together and clung to life together in that far away place, and now we discover that we live less than two hours apart in Ohio. Seriously?  Are you kidding me?

The odds are astounding. In 2011 UNICEF estimated over 712,000 orphans in China, with over 4000 orphanages as agreed on by most agencies and as reported by MSNBC. In this country of 1.344 Billion, in a city of 16 Million, these two little girls found themselves together first as abandoned, then separated and removed from their country, and finally find themselves playing together at a museum in Columbus, Ohio now as adopted and cherished daughters of two very similar American families. Each were brought home to an older brother and sister, a Golden Doodle, and a big house in an old neighborhood. Even when they seemed so lost... a loving home awaited them both. The odds are meaningless.

"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times."
Martin Luther (1483-1546) 

Do you have questions about faith? Let me tell you about my faith. Let me tell you how God has grabbed firmly onto my life and shaken it. Let me tell you of the awe and joy that overshadows the doubt and fear. Let me tell you how every aspect of our lives has changed and how our faith has now become the driving force behind our existence. Let me tell you how you can walk with us as we take new steps to extend this miracle of adoption to the abandoned and the orphaned of Guatemala. We have encountered miracles. We have encountered truth. It has changed our lives.

See our daughters as they play together. I am convinced that deep near the foundation of their souls these two beautiful girls are bound closely together by the hand of an almighty God who formed them and has held them since that day. He holds all the children of the world and He holds you as well. No matter what the outcome, He is God... whether He holds them while he weaves their story on this earth or whether He holds them as they slip into eternity. 

Our question will always be... what did we do to stand in this world for the innocent? 

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
     I will not forsake them.     

Isaiah 42:16 NIV

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Shepherds In Guatemala
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