Saturday, December 27, 2008

An American/Nepali/Ugandan Christmas in Texas!






The best Christmas EVER!

We are now back on the road again, but are remembering the AMAZING time we had celebrating Christmas together!  Last week, Brian and Silesia Wellbrock from Montgomery, TX called to offer their house to us for six days while they were out of town.  We jumped on the chance to spend a week with no traveling!  Their beautiful home sits on Lake Conroe, where the kids were able to roam free, be as loud as they want, and not "bother" anyone.  It was such a unifying experience for the whole to be together and just be...us.  The kids enjoyed fishing, playing ping-pong and air hockey, and having movie nights with the whole team.  All the girls were piled in their "dream room"- a Paris theme with pink and purple decor.  

I was determined to cook for the team for the entire week, and I plunged right in on our first night.  I don't know that I've ever been more proud of myself!  Everyone ate and then asked for seconds, and I discovered that I could do it just like my dad and my grandmother!  I could cook for twenty people and enjoy it.  That gave me the greatest sense of satisfaction...I've missed cooking so much since we left our house.  

There are so many blessings that came out of this week.  The kids were on their very best behavior the whole time.  There was just this overwhelming feeling of togetherness and family that we often don't get to have because the kids are usually with host families.  The kids begged and begged to help me in the kitchen, so they took turns for every meal preparing the food, setting the table, and cleaning up afterward.  They played so well together...riding bikes and playing cards and board games.

From the very first day, Ashley and Prava and I set up shop in the master bedroom to wrap presents, with strict instructions that the children were never allowed to enter Uncle Jay and Auntie Taylor's bedroom.  We had so much fun shopping for them...we are so thankful to the people who helped contribute to the Children of the World Christmas!  We put post-it notes with each child's name on it around the entire room, separating toys into stacks for every child.  Santa was very good to them this year!  We wrapped for about three days straight, but we finally got it finished, and we could hardly wait to see their faces!

The children have embraced the idea of Santa Claus, and with that comes many, MANY questions.  "How does Santa get back up the chimney?"  "How do the reindeer fly?"  "What does Santa do the rest of the year?"  That part was so much fun.  On Christmas Eve after we read the Christmas story from the Bible, I said we needed to put out milk and cookies for Santa.  "WHAT??!!!"  "How do you know he likes milk and cookies?"  "Will he really eat them?"  The saddest question is when they would ask, "What if he doesn't come?"  They were so skeptical on that part.  But when we said that Santa came if you believed, they would repeat over and over again, "Oh Auntie, I believe!  I believe!"  It was amazing seeing Christmas through their eyes.  

Christmas morning far exceeded my expectations.  Their excitement was so contagious!  They stared in awe at the stockings and everything under the tree that Santa brought.  Every present was examined with wonder as if they couldn't believe it was really theirs to keep.  They opened the gifts slowly, savoring each box and even each piece of candy in the stocking.  I was just so content watching them open everything...I never wanted it to end!  Not once this Christmas did I think about what I was going to receive.  I didn't care at all.  All I cared about was that the kids know how much they are treasured and loved.  I have never been more thankful than I was that morning.  It was completely overwhelming.  I think Martin summed it up best when he smile and said, "I don't know if I have ever been this happy."


The kids' first trip to see Santa Claus:
All the aunties and uncles on Christmas Eve:
Before the madness on Christmas morning:
We hope you all had a very blessed Christmas with your loved ones!  More to come soon on ice skating, our Christmas Eve visit to Build-a-Bear, and our trip to Six Flags!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Honest thoughts

"Oh my gosh.  You two are so lucky.  I would kill to have your job.  Those kids are too cute!"

These are words I hear almost every day, without fail.  I always tell them how thankful we are to be doing this, and how much we love and adore the children.  And that is true.  We know without a doubt that we are in the center of God's will.  We are exactly where we are supposed to be.  We understand this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which is why we chose to do this sooner rather than later.  We will never have this opportunity again.

But sometimes, it's hard.  This job is by far the most difficult thing we have ever done.  And sometimes, I look at those people who envy my life, smile at them and respond kindly, and think to myself, "If only you knew.  It's not glamorous.  Not at all."  Most days, there is at least one point where I want to pull my hair out.  I wonder to myself, "Will this day ever end?"

We don't wonder if we chose the right path.  We know that we did.  But just because God told us to do this, doesn't mean He promised that it would be easy or that we would be happy all the time.  

The traveling has lost all its appeal at this point on our journey.  I love to travel, but we understand now there is a difference between "traveling" and being "on the road."  Traveling entails choosing a beautiful location, seeing the sights, staying in nice hotels, eating amazing foods, and relaxing.  Being "on the road" means praying that the bus doesn't break down on a long drive, having all the fast-food menus memorized, and doing about 200 concerts a year (with the same songs!).  From day to day, my thoughts change from, "I can't believe it's already December!" to "Oh my gosh, it's only December??!!!"  

I miss home.  Any home.  I miss Kentucky, I miss Americus, I miss Dothan, I miss our family, I miss our friends.  I miss cooking and setting up house in a stationary location.  I miss taking baths.  I miss going to a church just to worship and I miss being in a Bible study.  I miss hopping in my car and going somewhere ALONE.  I miss having any kind of girl friends that I can hang out with.  I told Jay yesterday that I never would have made it through this if he wasn't with me.  He is the only person in the whole world who will ever understand exactly what I'm feeling and what we're going through.  That in itself has brought us closer, and for that I am thankful.

Every day, at some point in the day, I look into the face of a smiling child and know that all the sacrifices are worth it.  Every morning when Suresh yells, "Auntie Taylor, where is my hug??!!!"  Or when Rose kisses my stomach through my shirt and tells me she loves me.  Or when Martin asks who I love more, him or Uncle Jay.  Or when I think about the hundreds of children will never have to wonder when they will get to eat again, or if they will ever get to go to school.  We will never meet them, but those are the children we're doing this for.  In some small way, we are making a difference in the world.  I only hope that after this is over, we can continue ministering to others, even if it doesn't reach all the way to Uganda or Nepal. 

A verse that I've been mulling over the past few days:
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."  
2 Corinthians 2:14-15
That's what I want more that anything-to be the fragrance of Christ above all else, whether that is with Children of the World or as a teacher, a wife, a daughter, or a friend.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Great friends, great times

Last week, we got to spend seven full days in Dothan, where we used to live before we started traveling.  We could not have hoped for a better visit!  We were so busy with the kids, but we squeezed in time to see all our friends whenever we could.  It was so nice to see everyone from Covenant, where Jay used to work.  Thank you to everyone who sponsored children!  Afterward, we went out with our long-lost friends. We've missed them so much!  (Brandon, Leah, Brittany, Troy, Adam, and Monica)
Jay and I got spoiled because we got to stay with Adam and Monica all week long.  We picked up right where we left off, never missing a beat.  It was like we had never left.  We are so thankful for them.  As far as friends go, they're the best!
At Kyoto, our favorite restaurant:
The kids playing outside (notice some of the short sleeves in December!):
We also performed at Providence, the school where I taught last year.  It was extremely bittersweet for me, and such a blessing.  We received an overwhelming response from the teachers and students, with everyone wanting to be a part of our ministry.  I hated to leave!  Thanks to everyone who is donating to the children's Christmas this year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Look at these beautiful faces!

Pictures from Thanksgiving in Americus!
The boys enjoying their favorite sport:
Making pine cone turkeys at Auntie Sue's house:
Playing a crazy game of "Spoons!"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Much to be thankful for

The children had a WONDERFUL first Thanksgiving here in America!  I still don't think they get all the hype (i.e. why do we get so excited about just another meal?), but for us, it meant seeing family and not having any concerts for an entire week.  This was also the first time we'd ever spent time in a real home just being together.  ALL together.  We took over Jay's parents' house from Monday until Friday morning and I'm not sure it will ever be the same!  

I was so thankful to be off the road and in a real house (with a bathtub and hot water) and to be with family.  But I received an amazingly unexpected blessing just by having down time with all the kids.  When we're on the road, we are always GOING somewhere...to the next town, to a restaurant, to a church, to the next town, to a restaurant, to a church...and we never have time to really just be together and enjoy being our own family.  But this week, we truly savored that time together.  I was a little anxious before we arrived about how smoothly it would go and how the kids would behave with us being all together for 5 days straight.  But the kids were wonderful.  Minimal fighting, maximum fun and flexibility.  

Jay's parents live near a college, and so we took full advantage of the soccer fields near the house.  Each day, the kids ended the afternoon with a very competitive game.  They are such good soccer players!  They put American kids to shame!  

The first night, I taught the kids how to play Spoons, which is a very fast, very rowdy card game.  They think it is the greatest game ever invented.  About every two minutes, we'd hear a burst of laughter and screams signaling the end of another game.  

All in all, it was a time I will always cherish with the kids.  Jay's family was so wonderful to take us in with open arms.  We are so thankful to our families for supporting us in this crazy year of our lives.  I am already looking forward to Christmas, when we have the kids in Texas for an entire week...just us and the kids!  Half the time I feel like I'm going nuts, but the other half of the time I see how beautiful they are and my heart just bursts...and that makes it all worth it.



P.S. Just a little conversation that took place this week:

Me:   Hey do you guys know who Santa Claus is?

Ezera:   Jesus???

Me:    No!  Do you know who Santa Claus is?

Ezera:   Satan???


Friday, November 21, 2008

Coming soon to a town near you!!!

 We were beyond excited to see my family in Memphis last week!  It was so great and I'm very thankful that everyone came down to have an early Thanksgiving and see the kids perform.  I cried my eyes out when they left! 

But thankfully, we will be going to some familiar places in the next couple of weeks.  First, we're headed to Americus to stay with Jay's family where we will have THREE DAYS OFF.  That's right.  Granted, we will also be practicing for our Christmas program (we add in a few new songs in December), but still...it's gonna be great!  We can't wait to see the rest of the fam!

Then on Friday, Nov. 28, we head in to Dothan, our (old) home sweet home!  If you're reading this and you know us from Dothan, you have FOUR opportunities to see Children of the World.  That's right, people... not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR concerts in Dothan.  Here's the line-up:

Sun. Nov. 30, 10:00 a.m. - Greystone United Methodist (meets in Honeysuckle Middle)
Sun. Nov. 30, 6:00 p.m. - Covenant United Methodist 
Wed. Dec. 3, 8:30 & 9:30 a.m. - Providence Christian School
Wed. Dec 3, 6:30 p.m. - First United Methodist Dothan

WOO HOO!

We leave Dothan on Friday and slowly but surely make our way to Texas (again...).  But wait, if you live in my ol' Kentucky home, you will be pleased to know that we will be headed that way soon! Mark your calendars for January 4.  We will be performing at Crestwood Baptist in Crestwood, KY at 9:15 and 10:45.  I expect everyone I know to be there or be square.  YAY!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fall Photo Shoot

When we were in Clarksville, Arkansas last week, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall leaves and get some pictures of the kids.  I'm so happy with how they turned out!



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Happy two year anniversary!"


Jimmy:   Happy two year anniversary!


Me: Do you even know what that means?


Jimmy:   Yes.  You've been married two times.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Welcome a new child into the Kingdom of God!

Yesterday morning, Isaac decided he wanted to follow Christ and asked Jesus into his heart!  We are so happy for him and we are sure the angels were rejoicing!  We were sitting in the sanctuary getting ready to go on stage when Isaac looked at me and asked, "Auntie, why do I not know Jesus?"  
I responded, "I don't know, Isaac.  Have you ever asked Him into your heart?"
"No.  I want to know Jesus."
I wanted to jump in right then and there, but the pastor was already in the middle of introducing us so I had to say, "Well, sweetie, I really want to talk to you about it more, but you have to go on stage now.  We'll talk about it after, ok?" 
After the concert, I pulled him out of the costume room and asked him if he still wanted to talk about Jesus, to which he said yes.  Isaac is still really struggling with his English and I wanted to make sure he really knew what we were talking about, so I got Martin to come with us and translate in Lugandan.  Together, Martin and I laid out the gospel for him.  I stressed that this was a decision that he had to decide for himself, and that he didn't have to decide today.
"I want to know Jesus today, Auntie," he said.
"Ok.  I'm not going to pray for you, though.  You need to do this for yourself.  You don't have to pray in English," I told him.
We all held hands together, and Isaac prayed in Lugandan all by himself.  Martin told me that he prayed, "Father, I want to follow you for the rest of my life.  I am so sorry for all of the bad things I've done.  Please forgive my sins.  I believe that Jesus is the son of God and I love you.  I will try to do the right thing from now on.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."  It was an amazing moment for all of us...I felt so blessed just to be a part.
When we were about to join everyone else, I asked, "Ok, Isaac, do you have any other questions?"
He thought for a minute and said very seriously, "Auntie, if I sin now, will I go to the fire?"
"Oh no, Isaac.  Now when you sin, God will always forgive you, no matter what you do.  You can pray to Him anytime you want to.  No matter where you are, He will always hear you."
He mulled this over for a few seconds and I asked if he had any more questions.
"Auntie, you mean I can pray when I poo-poo and pee-pee in the restroom?!"
He may be a child of God, but he's still an eight-year-old boy!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Haircuts with Jay the Barber

Two nights ago, our chaperone, Ashley, called us from the host family she was staying in with Gift and Lincoln.  She informed us that Gift had decided while he was taking his shower that it would be a good idea to shave his head (with a razor!) in a couple of places.  When he showed up the next morning, it was so hard not to die laughing...he had a big chunk that he shaved out of the top of his hairline in the very front, and then a chunk out of the very back!  He looked ridiculous!  We were already planning on giving the boys haircuts that day with Jay's clippers, so we decided we would have to shave it all off.  

Before we did Gift's though, Jimmy wanted to go first.  Jay tried it with the guard on, but we couldn't tell that any had been cut at all.  So naturally, Jay took the guard off and decided to start at the very middle of his forehead and go back...I had no idea it would shave him completely bald!  It looked like a landing strip going down the middle of his head!  I was so upset.  Jay and I apologized to Jimmy over and over again and told him we'd have to shave it all (which he wasn't happy about).  After we'd done his and Gift's, the boys decided it was the new cool thing and they all wanted their hair "removed."  Here are a few pictures of the adventure: 
Our new bald boys:


Before we finished, we gave Isaac a new 'do: 


Hill Country on Horseback

Earlier this week, my sweet husband surprised me with a morning of horseback riding!  We were in Kerrville, Texas, which is in Texas Hill Country on the Guadelupe River.  I'd never been that far west before, and it was absolutely stunning.  It was a little chilly that day, but we had a great time...it's been my favorite part of Texas so far!  Four days later, I'm still in pain every time I sit down or take even the tiniest step, but it was definitely worth it.  I had a blast!

My horse's name was Joe and Jay's horse was Blue.  Joe and I didn't exactly click...he wanted to do the opposite of everything I asked.  If we needed to stop for a picture, he wanted to trot away.  And when I needed him to get up and move, he would stand absolutely still, refusing to move a muscle.  But my favorite bonding moment was when we were going down a really steep hill (I was terrified!) and good ol' Joe decides it would be a great time to go off the trail and have me decapitated by a tree branch.  Good times...
Don't I look so natural??  I'm a real live cowgirl now.

It was such a beautiful day!  Thank you, Jay!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Upcoming Schedule

Here's where we'll be for the next few months...let me know if you (or a friend) will be in the area!

Nov. 2 Muskogee, Oklahoma
Nov. 5 Clarksville, Arkansas
Nov. 6 Jackson, Mississippi
Nov. 11 Fayette, Alabama
Nov. 14 Jackson, Tennessee (Getting to see family- YEA!!!)
Nov. 16 Memphis, Tennessee
Nov. 16 Falkner, Mississippi
Nov. 19 Beebe, Arkansas
Nov. 20 Hernando, Mississippi
Nov. 23 Cullman, Alabama
Nov. 23 Anniston, Alabama
Nov. 24-28 Thanksgiving in Georgia (Getting to see family-YEA)!!!
Nov. 28-Dec. 4 Dothan, Alabama (Getting to see friends- YEA!!!)

Dec. 7 Gulfport, Mississippi
Dec. 7 Daphne, Alabama
Dec. 10 Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Dec. 14 Montgomery, Texas
Dec. 17 Holliday, Texas
Dec. 20 Corinth, Texas
Dec. 21-26 Christmas break with the kids in Texas!
Dec. 28 Cypress, Texas
Dec. 29-Jan. 4 Christmas in Kentucky (Getting to see family- YEA!!!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Words that will make your heart break


The other day, Yeshoda asked, "Auntie, may I call you 'Mommy'?"

"Well..." I started to respond.

"Because I don't have a mommy.  I want you to be my mommy," she said, smiling up at me.  

Sometimes it's so hard not to want to just bottle them up and keep them safe and protected their entire lives.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Are you with that slew of kids??"

This past weekend, we were in Dallas for performing at a conference.  On Friday after a very early morning concert, we looked for a place to eat lunch close to the hotel.  We found a really cute place called JG's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers and thought it would be perfect.  It was a beautiful day, and there was a nice outdoor area for us to sit down, which is perfect for us because we don't have to worry about the kids being too loud.  I went ahead and sat the kids down and then Jay and I went inside to order for everyone.  It was the kind of restaurant where you just order at the counter right inside the door and then they bring it to your table.  It was very crowded, so Jay waited just inside the door.  There was a man behind the counter who appeared to be running the show (most likely the owner) and I approached him.  And this is the conversation I found myself in:

Me: Excuse me, sir, do you have a children's menu?

Rude Man: Yes, but is it for that slew of kids out there?

Me: Excuse me??

Rude Man: Are you with that slew of kids?

Me: Yes.

Rude Man: (Shaking his head)  Can't do it.

Me: Can't do what??

Rude Man: I don't make enough money off kids.  Where are their parents?

Me: We ARE their parents.

Rude Man: Unless you have a parent for each one of those kids, I'm not going to serve you.

Me: Are you serious?!  We are their legal guardians.  WE are their parents.

This kept going until I could feel steam coming out of my ears.  There was a line forming behind me and I knew people were staring.  Finally I just said, "I can't believe this.  You know what...just forget it."  And marched out of there.  Jay followed me out and asked what was going on.  As I was telling him, the owner poked his head out the door and said, "Ok, ok.  Come back in."  To which Jay quickly said, "Forget it.  We wouldn't eat here if you paid US,"  (or something to that effect).  

We were just shocked!  Most restaurant employees think the kids are so cute...sometimes they ask them to sing, sometimes they offer free ice cream, but almost everyone is happy to have us (or at least curious enough to put up with us).  I have never been refused service before, and it made me feel like dirt.  Not to mention, extremely angry.  

In conclusion: Don't you worry Rude Man, we will NEVER be bothering you again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Weekend with Gift

We decided that over the next few months, we would try to take a couple of days each week to let a child stay with us in the RV.  We want to be able to get some alone time with them, and for each child to receive some one-on-one attention from us.  We were in San Antonio this past weekend, and we had a great time keeping Gift with us.  He is our quietest child...very well-behaved, smart and extremely witty.  On Saturday, we went to breakfast and then ventured downtown to the infamous Riverwalk (which I LOVED), where we explored the area on a boat ride and had a wonderful lunch.

At breakfast:

At the Riverwalk:
On the boat ride:
My handsome hubby and me:

Picture Update!

Here are a couple of pictures of the kids' first trip to the beach when we were in Beaufort, South Carolina.  We had mixed reactions: they either loved it, were very scared or hated it ("Auntie, so salty!").  It was not the prettiest day either, and very cold, but hopefully we'll get a chance to take them again when it's nicer.


This next one is a recent example of the boys wanting to be just like Uncle Jay!  Suresh stole Jay's sunglasses and started attempting to spike his hair.  So cute!
More to come!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mouse Kisses

When we were in training camp, many of the other team leaders would comment on how affectionate our team is.  Apparently, most kids in the choirs are "huggers," but our kids LOVE to kiss their aunties on the cheek.  Almost every hug I receive is accompanied by a sweet little kiss-something I love but, from the beginning, was informed that it was not normal.  Just go ahead and put it down in the books, Central Team COTW is a big 'ol love fest!

Soon after they started giving their little love pecks, a couple of my boys started questioning, "Auntie, why may we not kiss on the mouse?" (a.k.a. "mouth."  Their pronunciation is a little off.)  I quickly responded that in America, you do not kiss aunties and uncles on the mouth.  "Do you kiss Uncle Jay on the mouse?"  "Well, yes.  But he's my husband!"  They just won't drop it though.  They will try to physically turn your face to get to your mouth.  And when I refuse them, they'll say, "But Auntie!  That's just silly!"

In Uganda and Nepal, men and women are not physically affectionate in public at all.  And since the kids live in children's homes, they are not used to being around anyone in a romantic relationship.  They go crazy whenever Jay and I even get close to each other.  If I reach over to hold Jay's hand in the bus, it's only a matter of time before cheering erupts and all the kids start clapping for us.  They are also fascinated by our wedding pictures, particularly any of them where we are "mouse" kissing.    

One night, we were in the kids' dressing room before a concert and several boys were saying they wanted kisses when Jay walked in.  I said, "You know that's not allowed.  Talk to Uncle Jay."  They asked him, "Uncle Jay, why may we not kiss Auntie?"  To which he responded, "Because only I get to do that!"  They thought this was the most entertaining idea they'd ever heard, and when Jay leaned over and kissed me in front of the kids, you would have thought they'd been given a trip to Disney World.  They went nuts!  I've never heard them screaming so loud before.  They jumped on top of us, hugging and squealing and laughing hysterically.  Now it's turned into a reward for them.  They will ask, "Auntie, if we do our best concert ever, will you mouse kiss Uncle Jay?"  It's a difficult task, but somebody's got to keep the kiddos happy.  

  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

God's Amazing Plan

Most people who grew up in church have Jeremiah 29:11 forever ingrained in their memories.  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  I have heard this verse my entire life.  I believe in this verse, but I really don't think about it much.

We had a concert tonight at a church in Oklahoma City.  It wasn't any different than any other performance.  It wasn't our best and it wasn't our worst.  It was very well-received.  But tonight, as the children were singing "How Great is Our God," I looked around at their beautiful faces and fully realized exactly how sovereign God is.  I was so acutely aware of God's unending love and His hand guiding my life.    

It was almost exactly two years ago when Jay and I saw Children of the World for the very first time.  Like many who have never seen the children perform, we were unprepared for how powerful the concert really is.  I have never seen or felt anything more convicting in my entire life.  It was as if God had taken a blindfold off of my eyes and I saw the world truly for the first time.  I saw the hurt and the devastation of children's lives.  But most of all, I understood and felt the responsibility of the words Jesus spoke when he said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for Me."  (Matthew 25:34-45)

We introduced ourselves to the team leaders afterward and spent a long time talking with them.  I just kept thinking, "This would be my dream.  I can't think of anything I would want to do more."  I saw God's hand on this ministry.  But Jay had just begun working at the church, and I was working in a marketing job.  It just wasn't the right time.  I had never even worked with children before.

Little did we know, God was preparing us.  I was asked to work with the children's ministry at our church, and that led me to feel so passionate about children, I could no longer ignore God's calling on my life.  I had to become a teacher.  I began teaching at an amazing Christian school and realized how fulfilling it was to know that I was doing what I was meant to do.  

Almost a year and a half after seeing Children of the World perform, God laid their ministry on my heart again.  I couldn't get those children out of my head.  I "confessed" to Jay that I wanted to contact World Help, and we agreed that I would email them.  The next day, we heard back from them saying that they had just begun taking applications for the next COTW tour.  But through the months of interviews and waiting and praying, I didn't want to hope too much.  I was so scared of what was to come, and of being let down.  

Looking back now, I see how God prepared our hearts for this ministry.  If I hadn't been asked to help with the children's ministry, I never would have felt called to become a teacher.  If Providence Christian School hadn't taken a chance on me and allowed me to teach, there's no way I would have felt capable of handling a job like this.  

Even when we can't see through the fog, God prepares the path for us to walk.  Two years ago, I would never have imagined that pipe dream of mine would come true.  I remember leaving the concert with Jay, walking hand in hand and telling him, "I have to do that.  That job was meant for me," but thinking the whole time, "It will never happen.  They are leaving and that will be the end of it."  

God's plan for my future is so much more than my expectations.  I only hope and pray that He will continue surprising me with twists and turns that I could never imagine.   

Friday, October 3, 2008

Funny stories

The first time we stayed in a hotel a few weeks ago, Jay and I had decided to get two adjoining rooms so that we could stay in one room with a couple of boys and then keep the door open to connecting room to keep an eye on four more boys.  (Needless to say, it was a very romantic getaway for us!)  The night we got there, we had dinner and watched some Disney Channel and then the boys got ready for bed.  I made sure they had all brushed their teeth and gone to the bathroom, then said goodnight and told them there was no more talking allowed.  They were so excited about the hotel though, that it was difficult to get them to settle down.  When it was finally quiet, I started getting ready to go to bed myself and took out my contacts and put my glasses on (which they had never seen me wear before).  Just as I was getting into bed, I heard voices next door and peeked in to see that a couple of them were up going to the bathroom again.  Isaac, our littlest boy, was coming out of the bathroom when I scolded him and said, "Isaac, I am not going to tell you again!  Get back in bed and stay there or you will be punished tomorrow!  You have already been to the restroom twice before bed!"  He walked toward me with this very curious look on his face, pointed to my glasses, and said in all seriousness, "Who is this one??"  I died laughing...I think my lecture was lost on him.  

We have a really long drive and I've spent most of the time answering the phone and talking with churches.  We stopped at McDonalds for lunch, and my phone kept ringing.  Sometimes, I get so tired of it...I feel like that phone follows me around everywhere.  I was sitting with the kids when it rang again and I said, "Oh my gosh, why can't they just leave me alone?"  Yeshoda, our little Nepali girl, quickly answered, "Because you're beautiful, Auntie."  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Martin's dream come true!

So much has happened since our last post.  My parents and grandparents came to see us for the first time and it was so awesome watching them interacting with the children we've come to love so much.  They came at an extraordinarily busy time, but we are always so happy when someone can spend time and really get to see what our lives are like out on the road.  

We also jumped two hurdles over the two weeks: we stayed in hotels on two different occasions, and we performed at our first Extraordinary Women conference.  Staying in a hotel may not seem like a major feat, but it takes a lot of coordination to work out all the details with thirteen children.  Of course, they only care about one thing- the pool.  "Auntie, swim?  Swim?" has been the most repeated question over the last fourteen days.  They have learned to swim very quickly and that is by far their favorite activity.  

This past Friday and Saturday, we had an E-Women conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  This is a national women's conference that takes place many times each year all over the country, and can have anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 women attending.  It's a completely different ballpark than at a church.  People like Avalon, Mandeesa (from "American Idol"), Charles Billingsley from NewSong, and Richie McDonald from Lonestar perform.  Pretty much everything is taken care of for us- sound equipment, product tables, child sponsorship is all set up before we arrive.  

Martin, our 10-year-old prodigy, usually shares his testimony during each concert.  When we were still in training camp, I sat down with him and asked him to share his story with me.  This is what he now tells all the churches:

"When I was very young, I lost my father.  My mother was not able to take care of me, but she wanted me to have a bright future.  My brothers and sisters tried to provide for our family, but it was never enough.  My mother took me to Destiny Children's Home.  When I was there, I heard a song. 'There are no strangers; there are no outcasts; there are no orphans with God.'  I sang it again and again, and I began to realize God is my Father.  I have a hope now!  When I grow up, I want to become a doctor to help the people in Uganda who are suffering the way my father did. Romans 15:13 says,  'May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him!"

When we arrived at the conference, I remembered that the music group, Avalon, was there.  Their song, "Orphan of God" is the song that turned Martin's life around.  It's the song that allowed him to realize that he does have a Father and he always will.  He had told me before, "When I sang that song, I realized I didn't have to be sad anymore.  I prayed to God and thanked Him for loving me."

I told someone at the conference about Martin's testimony, and asked if there would be any way for Martin to meet them and tell them his story.  An hour later, they appeared and Martin got to tell them how their song changed his life.  I hear his testimony every day, but it was impossible not to get emotional watching this once-in-a-lifetime connection take place.  I was so proud of him.  I have no doubt his Heavenly Father was, too. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

What a wonderful weekend!

Our weekend was sooo busy, but we had a blast!  We arrived in Greenville, SC on Friday evening and got settled in to a wonderful church, Southside Fellowship, which was where we performed Sunday morning.  That night, we met some friends of mine for dinner.  We studied abroad together my junior year of college in Australia, and we became life-long friends!  They live in Georgia and South Carolina, but they all came to Greenville for the weekend so they could see Children of the World.  It meant the world to me...I always miss these girls and love them dearly.  Also, I haven't hung out with any girl friends since July when we left Alabama.  It was something I had not considered beforehand, and it's turned out more difficult than I ever thought it would.  I got to see Sarah, Jenna, and Cara again on Saturday morning- we went and tailgated with them before the Clemson game, and then they came to see the kids perform on Sunday morning.  I was so thankful they came to see us!  (I love you, BIC!  I don't want it to be another year before we all see each other!)

Saturday afternoon, Jay's parents came to see us.  They are the first of our family to meet the kids and see them perform, so this was a very special time.  The visit made us realize even more how much we miss everyone, but we had a great day with an evening stroll and dinner in downtown Greenville.  We loved having them here and we hope they make many more trips out to see us!  After they left, we started going through withdrawal and thought the best remedy would be to spruce up the RV with some family photos to make us smile.  We can't put picture frames out (this is a moving vehicle, remember), but we taped pictures to the front of our cabinets so we can see them all the time.  It reminds me of my old dorm room, but I'd rather have the happy memories and forget about any decorating no-no's!


Sunday was an amazing day for Children of the World!  We can always expect the "Day of Rest" to be our longest and most stressful day of the week, and with four concerts in a 12-hour period, yesterday was no different.  I know that if four concerts are difficult for me, it must be even more so for the kids.  The morning was incredible...three concerts and 125 people who committed to child sponsorships!  The kids were amazingly perky and well-behaved.  I was so proud of them.  

After lunch, we packed up and headed to Gaffney, SC for another concert that night.  I always worry about that last Sunday night concert because it's difficult for the children to understand that even though they've done three performances already, this last one is just as important as the first.  I just pray and pray that they will be alert and keep reminding themselves that what they are doing is so important for children all over the world.  They are very much aware that they are in America for a reason-they are advocates for Christ and for children all over the world just like them.  We had a packed house that night, and were so pressed for time we were unable to do a sound check.  The kids had their best concert to date!  They were all smiles and full of energy.  The church was so receptive-we got 30 more child sponsorships, which is fantastic! 

I have felt like celebrating all day today!  It's just amazing to think that in one day, through God's blessings and people's generosity, more than 150 children will be able to have food, clothing, an education, medicine, a loving caregiver, and most importantly, will hear about the love of Jesus Christ.  Praise the Lord!   

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can you remember YOUR first time on an escalator?


This week my goal has been to finally buy some Sunday church clothes for the kids.  They wear these clothes before their concerts Sunday mornings, and then after the concerts when they have lunch with the pastors and host families.  When we were in Hickory, NC on Tuesday night, I scourged the mall for outfits that would make the kids look like a Gap ad, and finally found the right thing.  And most importantly, the store had enough for ALL 13 CHILDREN!  I put everything on hold.

The next morning when the host families dropped the kids off at the church, I sat them down and attempted to explain what a mall was.  They were so excited for this surprising adventure!  We went and fitted the kids (yes, they look adorable) and then left the department store to walk through the mall to the food court.  Thirteen obviously foreign and misplaced children walking in two lines are very inconspicuous in public places.  No one ever stares at us ;)

As we approached the escalator, I stopped them at the bottom to explain how to step on, stand still, and let the stairs take them to the top.  I can remember loving escalators at the mall as a child, but also being a little bit anxious about getting sucked underneath the little off ramp at the top.  It was so much fun to see their reactions!  Most of them were so excited...they all squealed-mostly with delight, but several out of fear.  We had to pick a couple of them up because they wouldn't step on by themselves.  Jay and I thought they should get acclimated to it, so we rode up and down and up and down.  It didn't take too long for mall security to meet Jay at the bottom and inquire about the little hoodlums playing on the escalator!

At the food court, we had a wonderful lunch and the kids spent most of the meal staring at the carousel in the center.  I had Jay go look at the ticket cost and then we treated the kids to a ride.  They were so happy...it was such a worthwhile investment just to see the look on their faces!  These first few months are full of special "firsts."  We had such a fantastic "Family Fun" day!



Monday, September 8, 2008

Life in a 30-ft. home


We understand the reasoning behind the team leaders living in an RV for the 10 months we're on the road.  It essentially provides a home...a constant place we can come back to after a long day of concerts or driving.  We've been told, "No, it's not a camper.  No, it's not a trailer."  I guess "RV" sounds more glamorous?  It's not.  Living on the RV is extremely difficult.  Granted, we're still getting used to it.  Here are a few pictures:




We have quickly discovered the pros and cons of RV living.

Cons:
-Everytime we open the shower door, we realize the soap and shampoo has once again fallen onto the floor (because our home has wheels and moves).
-The window shades are almost always down because a)our view is a parking lot, or b)any stranger could become a too-familiar friend if he/she is walking by 
-Each day, we sort of "baby proof" the entire RV- take everything off countertops, put shoes away, etc. because if we don't store it, we know it will all be on the floor the minute we leave the parking lot.
-Showers are a constant guessing game.  Will I get hot water this time?  Will the water run out while I have soap on my hair?  Will the water keep draining or will the tank get too full to drain?
-Also a guessing game: If I turn on this light, will I blow a fuse?  Can I blow dry my hair with the air conditioning on?...I better turn it off.  
-No dishwasher.
-No washer/dryer.
-If we park on any incline (or decline) at all, the doors swing open (or closed) and we have no control over them.
-Closet space.  I'm going to have to stop shopping or begin donating to some lucky lady.
-Any kind of space.

Pro(s):
-I just cleaned my entire home with 3 wet wipes.


We really are thankful that we are not checking in and out of hotels every night.  It's just taking a toll on us, especially Jay, who needs his space and his "alone time."  Slowly but surely, we're making it work.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Our New Kids

I'm so sorry for neglecting to write for this long!  Things have been absolutely crazy.  Jay and I average about 14 hours a day, and by the time we get back to the RV, we are just exhausted.  However, training camp is over now so we're officially on the road now!  We've been in North Carolina for about a week now and have visited some wonderful churches.  Everyone is so welcoming, and they all fall in love with our kids.  It's amazing how quickly people become attached and never want to let go.  I'm already dreading the inevitable goodbye in June.  It will be so hard.

A little over two weeks ago, five new people joined our team to make it complete.  Here's a little peek into who they are:

Auntie Prabha (Nepal): Prabha is nineteen years old and she is my saving grace!  She is our chaperone for the year.  At 4' 10" and 67 pounds, she may be small but she's got control over our kids.  She is quickly learning the ropes and I am coming to depend on her so much.  She is such a strong young woman.

Zurufah (Uganda): Before the children ever arrived, we got a sheet with tiny pictures of all the children so that we could see who was coming.  Right when I saw those big eyes looking up into the camera, I said I hoped Zurufah would be on our team.  She is officially our littlest child.  She's what we would call a "Miss Priss," with a face like a porcelain doll.

Neha (Nepal): Neha is eleven years old, which makes her our oldest.  She is also the younger sister of our chaperone, Prabha.  Neha reminds me of myself at that age...she has cute little glasses and she's all arms and legs.  She is extremely obedient and always has a wonderful attitude.  Just what we need!

Ezera (Uganda): We are slowly getting to know Ezera.  He is extremely shy, but very friendly and always has a smile for everyone.  

Jimmy (Uganda): Jimmy was already good friends with Martin and Lincoln at their children's home in Uganda, so he was very happy to join our team.  Every time he hugs me, I'm worried my ribs are going to break, but so far so good!  

Please keep praying for us and the children as we adjust to our new family life.  It's difficult, but there's lots and lots of love!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Story Time!

I was talking to Mom on the phone last night and telling her a couple of stories from the day, to which she immediately exclaimed, "You need to put that on your blog!"  There are HUNDREDS of little anecdotes I could tell every day, so here are a select few:

-When we eat here at training camps, the kids drink water or lemonade that's cold but doesn't have any ice.  Last night we took the kids out to eat for the first time (that was an experience!) and they all got ice water.  Little Isaac took the lid off his cup and said, "Auntie Taylor, what?" (Which is his way of asking, "What is this?"  His English is not very good...yet.)  I thought he wanted a refill, but he said no.  Then I realized he had never had ice before!  I showed him how to take a piece out and suck on it.  As I watched, his eyes got as big as saucers and he gave me that signature grin of his.  He is now a huge fan.

-Yeshoda is our little girl from Nepal.  When we take showers at night in the locker room, I kept noticing that she would keep the water off until the very end of her shower when she was ready to rinse off.  When I asked her about it, she could not respond (again, the language barrier).  It was quickly explained to me that in Nepal there would be such a water shortage that they would go weeks without a shower.  She was scared to use up all our water, but very happy to hear that there is plenty of water in America!  

-Speaking of showers, the Ugandans will think up any scheme to stay in the shower.  That is one of their favorite times of the day!  It is amazing what we take for granted.

-All the kids have enormous appetites.  I'm not sure if they are actually hungry, or if they just want to eat as much as they can while they have the chance.  They can easily eat twice as much as I do, and still say their hungry.  They are very particular about how they eat their food (i.e. eating the hot dug bun by itself and then the hot dog, or spooning up the milk in the bowl and then eating the soggy cereal alone).  They have also discovered the joys of ketchup.  I am convinced that if we gave them a plate of nothing but ketchup for their meals, they would be perfectly happy.  They like it on EVERYTHING, including green beans.  I refused to put it in the applesauce, though.

They are such a blessing to us already.  I can only imagine how much we will love them by the end of the year.  They are the most affectionate children I have ever come across.  Putting them to bed at night is one of my favorite times...yes, because the days are exhausting and we finally get a break, but also because they are never satisfied with only one hug.  We have to circle around to each bed several times before they feel as if they've had enough.  We don't mind one bit!  

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Look at these precious faces!









































Training Camp is CRAZY BUSY!

Our lives have been taken over by these amazing children. We love them and we are slowly becoming a big, happy family, but it is even more all-consuming than I imagined. From 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., we don't stop. I am officially a full-time mom to ten (soon-to-be fifteen) children. We will have five more Ugandan kids join our team in a week. Here is a brief run-down of our team (from smallest to biggest):

Isaac (Uganda)- He is eight years old but looks about four. He is the new love of my life...Jay keeps telling Isaac to stay away from his wife! He thinks he must have contact with me at all times and is very affectionate. He's the baby of the family in every way and has the biggest eyes you've ever seen.

Suresh (Nepal)- Suresh is one smart cookie. He is tiny as well, but he would never act that way. I've taught him what "bossy" means, as it applies to him if he's not careful. He competes for my attention with Isaac. When we first started practicing, Suresh informed me that every solo in the program belongs to him. He knows every word and every position!

Jhonathan (Guatemala)- This is one of the most beautiful little boys God ever made. He is rambunctious and will push your buttons, but he was also the first to give me a kiss and tell me he loves me.

Rose (Uganda)- Rose has the most amazing smile and LOVES the camera. She is a definite girly-girl, always posing and charming the "uncles" (male chaperones).

Maria (Uganda)- Maria surprises you with this little baby voice that doesn't look like it would come out of her. She has the best English out of the Ugandan girls, and tries very hard to please and listen to instructions.

Sarah (Uganda)- Sarah seems to be having a hard time adjusting. She is testing us as much as she can and hasn't warmed up to us much yet, but she has a very nice singing voice!

Yeshoda (Nepal)- Yeshoda was shy at first, but quickly came out of her shell. She adores her Uncle Jay! She can be overwhelmed by all the energy of the other kids, but is making friends fast.

Edwin (Guatemala)- This is Jhonathan's big brother. He loves to laugh and is catching on to the dances quickly (he had never seen them before).

Lincoln (Uganda)- Lincoln calls himself "the Elder" of the group and struggles to set a good example. He can cause trouble, but when I remind him he is a leader, he immediately responds to do better. He loves to translate for the younger Ugandans that don't understand.

Martin(Uganda)- Martin is the biggest leader of all the children. He is two years ahead in his school in Uganda, and is extremely inquisitive. He wants to know about everything he sees and will stump you with his questions. He is determined to be a doctor someday. Martin will also be the first to correct us when we mess up (i.e. "Uncle Jay, you came in late to dinner and I watched you. You did not pray before you ate! You should do it now!")

The five children to come next week are Zurufaha, Esther, Eva, Gift (cool name, huh?) and Jimmy. Our chaperone, Praba (from Nepal) should be coming too...YEA!!!!

Please pray for us and all these children and the work we're doing for Him. We love you!

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Email and Schedule

Our new email address is cotwcentral@worldhelp.net which stands for Children of the World Central (because we're leading the central team). We will be checking this daily, so feel free to write!

Here is what we have of our schedule so far. All of this is subject to change and more will be added for sure! If you are within 200 miles of us, we expect you to come visit! :)

August 24 Rivermont Ave. Baptist- 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Lynchburg, VA

August 27 Community Fellowship Baptist- 7:00 p.m.
Lynchburg, VA

August 31 Oak Ridge UMC- 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 a.m.
Oak Ridge, NC

August 31 St. Peters Lutheran- 7:00 p.m.
Conover, NC

Sept. 3 New Hope Baptist- 7:00 p.m.
Winston Salem, NC

Sept. 5 Burlington Christian Academy- 10:00 a.m.
Burlington, NC

Sept. 7 The Lamb's Chapel- 10:45 a.m.
Haw River, NC

Sept. 7 Clifton Rd. Baptist- 6:00 p.m.
Greensboro, NC

Sept. 10 Hickory Community Chapel- 6:30 p.m.
Hickory, NC

Sept. 11 Grassy Branch Baptist- 7:00 p.m.
Asheville, NC

Sept. 14 Southside Fellowship- 8:30, 10, 11:30 a.m.
Greenville, SC

Sept. 14 FBC Gaffney- 6:00 p.m.
Gaffney, SC

Sept. 17 Community Bible Church- 6:30 p.m.
Beaufort, SC

Sept. 19  Greenwood Christian School- 8:30 & 9:30 p.m.
Greenwood, SC

Sept. 20 Celebration Church- 6:30 p.m.
Blountville, TN

Sept. 21 Celebration Church- 9:00 & 11:00 a.m.
Blountville, TN

Sept. 21 Son Light Baptist- 7:00 p.m.
Knoxville, TN

Sept. 26 Extraordinary Women's Conference
Raytown, MO

Sept. 27 East Side Baptist- 5:00 p.m.
Independence, MO

Sept. 28 East Side Baptist- 9:00 & 10:45 a.m.
Independence, MO

Sept. 28  FUMC Sedalia- 6:00 p.m.
Sedalia, MO

October, November, and December will take us to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama!  I will update those dates in a few weeks!