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!
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!