Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two Years Ago....

Had you asked me more than 2 years ago if I would be celebrating the 2nd anniversary of my very own advocacy blog I would have called you crazy to say the least. I would have never believed you. Never in a mission years did I think I would be an advocate for orphans waiting world wide for families. It was not on my two do list. But God had different plans that is for sure. This is also posted on SWW.

How did SWW Start?
Well Still We Wait (SWW) didn’t start out as SWW. I was 17 years old and I had no intentions of every starting my own advocacy blog. Yes I prayed that children would find families and that their families would find them and I was satisfied with that. SWW was a seed that God planted many years before I ever became acquainted with adoption and orphans.
In January of 2010 we traveled for my little brother Jacob who was classified as “Special needs” he didn’t really have a special need he was just older than the 2-3 year old the average person sets out to adopt. In our travel group there were children who had special needs and those are the children who planted the seed of me thinking I could do more. In our group was a little girl, K, who had developmental delays. I fell head over heels in love with this darling little girl. She was one of the sweetest children I had ever met and had so much love to give. When I met K I didn’t see her disability, I just saw a little one who was aching for love. There was also A, who was a little boy with CL/CP, M who was a healthy older child like Jacob, and there were L and D who were older children with CL/CP and an Ear Deformity. This group of children started stirring my heart for special needs orphans.
Thankfully, all of the children that planted the seed in my heart now had families and were no longer orphans. I was overjoyed that these precious children were coming home to families who loved Jesus.
Side note, for those who have never adopted from China most of the time you are with other families who have children waiting in the same province but not always, most of them become lifelong friends and that is what happened in that hotel in Beijing China. Our travel group to this day still keeps in contact and we live all over the USA. Well at the end of a 3 week trip to China we all came home and I settled back into daily life and got back into the routine of school. At this time I was a junior in high school and didn’t think that I could do anything to help those children that still waited for families. I mean honestly, what can a 17 year old girl do to help the 163 million orphans in the world? It feels helpless sometimes.
Right before we traveled for Jacob, God started stirring my heart and leading me to volunteer with orphans in China. I began researching places and came across Starfish Foster Home which is in Xi’an China. I talked it over with my parents and they agreed to let me go. I was thrilled. So it was set. I would do volunteer work in China during the summer of 2010. We got home with Jacob and God once again started to work on my heart for the Orphan. He showed me what love could do for a child, which left me inspired. I was able to watch six children who were once orphans thrive with the love and care of a family. I decided I wanted to do more than just volunteer, but I didn’t know what to do at the time.  School ended and it came time for my trip. I was leaving for Xi’an China June 21st 2010 with my friend Hannah and Step Dad, Jeff. After 28 long hours of traveling we finally made it to Xi’an and were on our way to Starfish. We didn’t meet the babies until Wednesday June 23rd. (You can see that post HERE) During that first meeting we acquainted ourselves with all the babies and started learning names.  The first room we went to was the room that we ended up spending most of our time in. This particular room was where I met a little boy named James. James was a little boy that I feel head over heels in love with from the day I met him. He touched my heart in so many different ways. He was a little boy who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palette. The saying 'Love at first sight' couldn't be more true than for James. but for me it was Love at first smile! He had the best laugh and anytime I walked into the room he would reach for me. He had my heart in his hands and I would have brought this little boy home in a heartbeat! James and I had several days where it was just the two of us in the volunteer suite. We became very acquainted during my stay and I learned his schedule, what made him happy, what upset him, etc. The other room I spent quite a bit of time in was on the 5th floor where a little boy known as Jack was. Jack was the foster home singer and sang anything he could to anyone who would listen. I would hold Jack and sing to him until he would fall asleep and then I would take him to his bed for nap or bed time depending on when I got to his room. Jack is absolutely precious and he touched my heart in so many ways. He was one little guy who had a thousand reasons to be mad at life, but instead showed us 10 million reason to love life. He was and still is the happiest little guy I have ever met. He loves life and lives it to the fullest.  Thomas who was roommate with James was another little guy who took part of my heart during that first summer in China. Thomas was born with a list of needs all of which were correctable. He was born with a major heart defect called TOF and he had an exposed bladder. He was such a sweet little guy who just wanted to be held and he loved going outside. We had one day where it was just the two of us and we had a mini photo shoot. He loved being outside form the moment I picked him up until it was bed time he would point to go outside. Thomas was not a child that was really allowed to go outside much but anytime I was allowed, I would take him. His heart condition put him at greater risk for infections and sickness so the nannies tried their best to protect him and keep him healthy.  These 3 precious boys put their finger prints all over my heart while I was in China and the 3 weeks I was there flew by way too fast.  Every child I met during my stay that summer has a special place in my heart and many of them I still get to have contact with and I am so thankful to their families for that. Many of their families will never know how much their little one means to me and how drastically they changed my life. No one can ever truly understand how much one child changes someone’s life until they look into their eyes and know their names. It is something I will never, ever forget.

July 13th 2010 I arrived back on US Soil. I was happy to be home, but so much of my heart was still in China. There were the babies half way across the world that I loved dearly and my heart was aching for them. I missed being able to walk in and have 20 plus babies rush at my legs and try to tackle me to the ground. I missed lying on the floor and having them jump on me. I just flat out missed them. I did however stay in close contact with the foster home director, Amanda, and she kept me up to date on all the little ones and many of their families I have since found and keep in contact via facebook with many of them.
In July of 2010 I found precious Jack waiting on a list for his family. I couldn’t believe it! Jack was the sweetest 2 year old boy I knew and I couldn’t believe he was still waiting for his Momma and Baba! (Father in Chinese).  July 26th was the day that I did my first waiting child post
At the time I never thought that I would have to make an entirely new blog and dedicate it just to waiting children, but God knew that this post was the step to so much more. Jack was the first little one I ever advocated for, because it blew my mind that someone so sweet would still be waiting for his family. Yes, Jack had significant needs for your average family but that by no means held him back. His biggest need was for a family and I knew that his family was out there. I would just have to help find them. Myself and many other individuals did a rally for Jack’s family and they finally stepped up. Kelly, Jack’s mom, is an amazing woman. She and her husband have adopted many children from China and every one of them is precious. While I was in China, Jack told me through a translator that he wanted many big brothers and sisters and a Mama and Baba. Oh my did God answer that little one’s wish. Jack is the baby brother to many precious little ones and I couldn’t be happier for this little guy. He has a wonderful family that loves him to heaven and back and he looks like the happiest kid in the world with his family.
James was the second little one who made his appearance before SWW was SWW. I was looking through an agency list that I normally look through and I saw this face of a little one who I recognized. Long behold it was James, the little guy who stole my heart. He was still waiting for his family and I couldn’t believe it much like I couldn’t believe Jack was still waiting. James had in my eyes very manageable needs. Yes he would need surgeries in his future but his need was one that many families considered so I couldn’t understand why someone hadn’t just scooped him up.  I messaged the foster home director the picture I had found and she confirmed what I thought to be true it was him. After hearing back from her I went into full swing doing a post for James so that his family could find him . I advocated for many months for James and would get so discouraged because he had not found his family. I had so many individuals email me asking me for more information about him but no one seemed to proceed to bring him home and then one day he was gone from every list I could find access to and I knew at that time he had found his family but I didn’t know who they were. I was so happy that James was coming home but at the time so upset because I had no idea who his family was. Then around his second birthday I got the best email ever. James’ family emailed me and I was ecstatic. I remember the day so clearly I had tears in my eyes because this little guy was coming home and I finally had heard from his family. I had been praying for so long that they would contact me and that if God would allow it he would come to the US and preferably close to where I live. God answered all three of those prayer requests. He came to the US, his family contacted me and he was less than an 8 hour drive away. James name has now been changed to a name that fits him wonderfully and I still love this little guy dearly. I have gotten to see him on a few occasions since he has come home and his family loves him dearly and are the perfect match for him. I am amazed at how God so perfectly orchestrates families! 
Thomas (click here for his picture) was the last little one who stole my heart and finding him on a list still waiting for a family broke my heart even more. Thomas was precious and needed a family so badly because the final heart surgeries he needed he could not get in China. Knowing that without a family he wouldn’t get his final heart surgeries broke my heart and I went full force advocating for this little one and eventually his family was found but sadly Thomas passed away in April of 2011. I know he knew what love was on this side of heaven which does make things easier but knowing he never had his own momma tuck him into bed is very heart breaking. Sadly this is the case for so many orphan children throughout the world and what encourages me to fight for each and every one to find a Momma and Baba.
Still We Wait officially moved to its own blog on October 24, 2010 which just seemed fitting. We originally started out on Blogger and then later moved to Wordpress so that we could password protect our site. SWW is more than I could have ever imagined it would be. In 2 short years we have gone from just Ashton and I posting waiting children a few times a month to Taylor, Ashton, Mellissa, Rachel, Lija, and Claire and between the 6 of us we post 20 or more children each month who are waiting for families, we write about different special needs, and we even find families to share their stories on parenting a child with a particular special need. None of this would have been possible without the seeds God place in my heart months before. Because of those children and the little boys I fell in love with SWW would have never been started. Since we have founded SWW we have seen 30 or more children come home. Many of these children we followed their trips to China and their families still keep in touch. I now have agency connections I never dreamed of having and I love the agencies that I help advocate for their children. They are all amazing and work so hard to find children families. I couldn’t imagine what I would be doing had SWW not come about. I have made so many new friends who all love orphan advocacy. Every advocate counts and we all rejoice when a new one joins us because none of us advocate for the same children. SWW has since moved to a password protected site to protect the privacy of our children but we are still growing and I give all of that to God because without him I would have died of a broken heart many months ago. There are so many children waiting and it breaks my heart, but I rejoice each time a child finds a family regardless of whether or not SWW had any part in it. I am so blessed to run this site and I am so thankful to all the families who step up and adopt the precious children that are featured on SWW.
SWW was something that I never intended on starting and I fought tooth and nail about it telling God not me, not now. I don’t know how many times I sat there and told him I was not the person for this I was too young, not educated enough, I couldn’t make a difference. However I am so glad I said yes. I now have lifelong friends in the adoption community and so many people that I love dearly. My friendship with Ashton has flourished and we are very close now and both have hearts for orphans and waiting and hurting children. God used many different things to plant the seed of adoption, orphan awareness, and advocacy in my heart. At the end of the day I know we cannot find homes for every child that is an orphan, but in the words of Amanda de Lange, "For this ONE I will make a difference" and that is just what SWW plans to do, making a difference for this one, and this one and this one, too. 

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