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 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.

-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.

-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!