Sunday, May 31, 2009

Priceless...

As we wrap up the end of the tour, it seems like we're looking back and realizing how much we've done over the past 10 months.  It is completely surreal that it really is almost over.  A lot of the time it seemed never-ending, but now that the end is in sight, I really can't believe it.  We've been counting down for a while now.   The kids ask every day, "How many days left?"  They are not ready for it to be over.  Every hour, someone is saying, "Only 8 days left!"  And, "Only six more concerts!" The past few months, we've been saying goodbye to states we know we're not returning to.  As we cross over the borders we yell out, "Goodbye, (insert state here)!"  I keep thinking about the miles traveled, the churches visited, the people we've met, etc.  I thought you might enjoy a little breakdown:

***All numbers are approximate after calculating as best as I could.

39,000.... miles driven

60,000... adoring audience members

195... concerts

160... different cities/churches

160... church parking lots I have slept in (in the RV)

160... different host families that have spoiled the children

390... number of times I have directed and the children have sung "Global Hallelujah"- once for each sound check, once during concert  

720... meals eaten in restaurants (Thank the Lord this is part is almost over!)

440... different gas station visits

70... games of Phase 10 the Aunties have played

20... bottles of Dramamine purchased for all our kids who throw up regularly on the bus

50... number of times the Dramamine hasn't worked and children have thrown up into plastic bags on the bus (always pleasant!)

800... number of emails from the World Help office I have received

800... children who have gotten sponsored (food, clothing, medical care, Christian education until they're 19 years old!) by our team

13... smart kiddos who will now receive full college scholarships from World Help

25... number of times I have tripped the electrical breaker at the churches from trying to turn on too many things in the RV at once (Jay loves it when I do that!)

560... bathroom trips with all 13 kids

1,000,000... number of times a child has asked me to go to the bathroom (you do the math on how many times I said to hold it!)

400... phone calls to my Always-There-When-I-Need-Her mother

7,200... hugs I have received from my affectionate children (THE BEST PART)

40... fried chicken & green bean dinners churches have provided us with

5... the longest time (in days) we have spent in one place

120... different parks we have visited for the kids to play

5... number of times I have survived tornado warnings while in the RV by myself

1... number of nights Jay and I slept in a church lobby

4... broken bones (all Ezera's fingers)

6... doctor visits (I'm really proud of this one... such healthy kids!)

240... hours spent watching kids' movies

1,000,000 number of times someone has asked, "So, how did you get involved in this?" 

1,000,000,000... number of times someone in a gas station/restaurant has looked at our group and said something like, "Now, what exactly IS this???"

5... children on our team who have prayed to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior

Spending 10 months getting to know, cherish, and adore thirteen beautiful children of God... PRICELESS






Sunday, May 24, 2009

Singin in the sun

I know our kids look nuts in this video, and even if they're not totally synchronized (AT ALL), they're definitely enthusiastic!  And each one has their own VERY unique style!  This dance is supposedly from "Hannah Montana," but I have my doubts.  If it's supposed to look anything like this, there's no way she'd be famous right now!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

For my amazing husband

I'm sure it doesn't come as news to anyone that I was the one who wanted to venture on this journey.  When I initially told Jay that I thought we should seriously look into it and contact World Help, he said, "Well, you can email them.  I don't think anything will come of it, but you can see.  As long as God opens doors, I'll walk through them, but I'm not going to do anything to help it along."  A little reluctant, huh??  If you know Jay, you know he comes from a small family.  They are extremely close-knit and so supportive and loving.  But Jay is the baby of the family.  A 28-year-old baby.  Before we were married, he hadn't spent any significant amount of time around young children and was extremely apprehensive around them.  Enter the Hampton (my maiden name) clan!  I have seven nieces and nephews, all of whom (with no encouraging from their new uncle) quickly attached to the new addition to the family.  My nieces view Jay as a jungle gym- when we're in town, climbing all over him is their favorite activity.  

That being said, even though I may have sprinted through those doors that God opened for us to be here, I found myself running back to tug Jay along every step of the way.  He couldn't believe this was happening.  When we were offered the job, we took a few weeks to pray about it.  Suddenly, I had cold feet.  I knew if Jay wasn't happy, I would be miserable.  We would be giving up our lives.  But in the end, Jay thought it was what God wanted for us.  We accepted, and went from ZERO to THIRTEEN children in one day.

This year has definitely been a journey.  The first few months were extremely difficult for Jay.  While we were in training camp, we essentially had no freedom (every minute of every day is accounted for) and for my laid-back, go-as-the-wind-blows husband, that was hard.  The minute the kids arrived, I jumped right into my role as "Mommy in America," and Jay had to warm up to it.  When we began traveling, Jay felt like all he was doing was driving a bus, and that was another hurdle to jump over.  Eventually though, he settled into this crazy life.  It has been the hardest thing we have ever done or could imagine doing.  But we have learned so much along the way. 

I have learned that I need Jay to keep me sane.  When I am being OCD, he helps me take a step back and teaches me not to sweat the small stuff.  Because I am not legally able to drive the bus and have no mode of transportation, he has taken me to Walmart/Target/the mall hundred of times because he know how difficult it has been for me to have given up that independence.  He has let me take over much of the RV with my clothes and shoes and books.  He doesn't feel neglected when I am surrounded by thirteen children that all require my attention.  He lets me take my shower first in the morning and doesn't complain when there's no hot water (WE LIVE IN AN RV!!!).  He doesn't mind that I call my mom on the phone fifteen times a day.  He lets me read for hours at a time on the bus while he's driving 400 mile stretches.  He loves me even when I'm inflexible or demanding.  He left everything he knew- his job, his friends, his family, his tennis/jiu jitsu/running, his house, his dogs- to do this for me.  And now I am going to be there for him.

I will be devastated to say goodbye to these children.  But there is a season for everything, and this season is quickly ending.  We will pray for them every day, we will be reminded of them every hour, and we will miss them every minute.  But we are ready for what is in store.  Jay is officially the new worship pastor at New Covenant Church in Greenwood, South Carolina (www.newcovenantlife.org).  We are so excited about what is to come, and can't wait to be SETTLED in a new place.  We are looking forward to joining this church family and getting to know the people there.  When we visited, everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and we knew we could so easily "fit" there.  YEA!!!  God has answered so many of our never-ending prayers!

We have a little more than TWO WEEKS until the tour is over, and only TWELVE concerts left.  That is so surreal.  Please be praying for us as we prepare the children (and prepare our hearts) for their departure.  We will leave to fly them back to Uganda on June 17th.

I'll leave you with some pictures from a recent excursion to D.C.  We decided to take Martin and Gift because we thought they were the only ones who would really appreciate it.  We had such an amazing day!
 
The whole gang in front of the Washington Monument.   I always wonder what people think when they see such an eclectic group together!
Martin said he wanted to see the Capital more than anything in America.  He wanted a picture to be able to show his mom he'd really been there!
Priceless.

Doing their "boy" thing

Standing in the Capitol at the exact center of the city. (If you're wondering why the grown-ups are all wearing sweatshirts and they're in shorts and flip-flops, it's because they think we're babies and they say they're "not freezing."  It's not because we neglect them!