Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Mother Bear's Heart

I'm mad this morning...and righteously so. There are a number of reasons what has triggered this. Maybe it's because I thought I was pregnant for the second time and I wasn't...maybe it's because I spent the weekend with my nieces who are adopted from China and I miss them...or maybe it's because I can't seem sometimes, no matter how hard I try, to get the Church of Christ to GO and help orphans. I do know this...all of this has stirred my mother's heart and I feel like a MOTHER BEAR and my children are in harm's way!!!

I commented on a friend's Facebook page yesterday that I have always felt pregnant with orphans. Both of these women were adopting and talking about how their lives and bodies are mimicing natural pregnancies. How about carrying multi-millions in your womb?! 147 million as you go to bed and labor to get up each day?!

I KNOW the reality of this number. I have traveled to multiple countries and seen countless orphanages. Add the number of faces I have met in each orphanage over the years and try sleeping at night, knowing what you know. Knowing what you know, but not having the megaphone you need to get this reality out to the church? Or maybe you have had a megaphone at times, and yet, the church is deaf or involved in their own "AGENDAS" that they think your missions to orphans are threatening or competition to their congregation's hearts and money. That will break your heart!

So, I am here this morning in particular knowing that there are one million orphans in Ghana alone and yet, no one is signing up to go and help these children in Ghana. Or the fact that there are two particular orphanages in Quito, Ecuador who are looking forward to our team coming, yet our team is not forming or coming together.

When I decided, 13 years ago to go on my first mission trip, I decided that if I was going to get out of my comfort zone, then I was REALLY going to do it. I didn't want to go to a country that was easy..so I chose SIBERIA! :) I wanted a REAL experience! And look where I am now because of what God started in my heart on that first trip to Russia. I was amazed at their culture. Everything was new and exciting. The food was rich, the showers were ice cold, the colors were bright, the people were fascinating and the experience was unforgettable.

My favorite day was ministering to the street kids. It was the first time I had ever shared my testimony while someone translated and I was talking to teenage boys. What in the world did I have in common with teenage boys?! But, I just opened my mouth and God filled it. I told them about how once I gave my life to Christ I had no more desire to party or drink as I had once enjoyed. I had no idea that alcoholism was so prevalent in Russia...but these boys had felt the affects of it their whole lives and they eagerly rushed to give their lives to Christ. I will never forget that. The rush and joy I experienced seeing these boys with nothing whose faces lit up as they received the love of their Abba Father for the very first time. God is faithful.

I share all of this this morning with a heavy heart. One that longs to be a mother personally and so I can desperately relate to the longing of these children with no mothers and fathers. I am the bridge God needs right now to hopefully inspire and move you to finally GO and make disciples of all nations. If you don't go like I did when I went to Siberia, there may be children, orphans who will never know the love of their Abba Father. They will never become disciples of His. And this I know Church, we are ALL CALLED TO GO! Matthew 28:19: Therefore GO and make disciples of all Nations...

We need you especially to go to Ecuador and Ghana. If you don't go...who will?! They are lives, forsaken, alone and abandoned. Their hearts cry out each day and night for the love of a mom and dad. If they cannot have a family one day, GOD, their ABBA FATHER is the ONLY ONE who can meet this need. If we do go and introduce them to this loving Father, adopting them into His amazing family and inheritance, how will they ever respond to this invitation? Please go....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thank You from PANI of Costa Rica

Below is an email from the Director of PANI of Limon, Costa Rica. PANI is basically the Children and Family Services office of Costa Rica. The Director, Mirabell, and her daughter spent almost every day with our team. She was a very Godly woman who was SO thankful for our support. The photo above is of Mirabell hugging one of our team members, Jason Crossman on our last day at the orphanage. I see Visiting Orphans having a long term partnership with these orphanages and even this morning I received a call from a church who is interested in partnering with them long term! The Lord is so so good...

Hello. I would like to thank you for the wonderful moments that I could spend with you and the group, along with the children at the orphanage. It was a beautiful experience and the first of its kind for PANI's orphanages.

I think this type of activity in the orphanages is significant and Visiting Orphans has demonstrated that it is possible. Thank you for choosing us. God knows what He is doing; these are not random acts; God is the one who gives us these opportunities. Thanks to people like you, the work is bearable. Sometimes due to the daily chores, we don't stop to give these kids affection. Through this opportunity, these children were given the love they so desperately need.

I hope you have a good trip. May God bless you for everything I have shared with you. On behalf of the nannies, the PANI staff, and the children, thank you for your generosity. May God guide and bless you and your families always.

May God return you well to your families.

Maribell Urbina Oneil.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Images from Costa Rica

Here is a quick blog post about our amazing first trip to Costa Rica. I am currently on a plane home as I type. Can you believe there is now wifi as you are in the air on a plane?! Very excited about this as it gives me a great time to upload pictures and blog and just catch up!

This first team to Costa Rica was so sent by God. Each person was so called and it was obvious as they interacted with the children. I've been on many mission trips. I don't usually see children cry when we leave. Most orphanages we visit have already had visiting teams, and they understand that the team will come and then have to leave in a few days. The orphanages we visited here in Limon had never had a team visit them. The girls at the second orphanage all cried as we were leaving. I have noticed that I've really had a heart for the pre-teen girls I meet. In Gulu, it was Faida. In this orphanage, it was another girl. She is 13 years old and she cried the hardest and the most. She was in the orphanage as her step father had been abusing her. This is where my heart is... I will write more and show you her beautiful picture tomorrow...for now, please enjoy some photos from our time with these children God so esteems!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Here's a great blog post by Alicia Jordan, a team member on our Costa Rica trip...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Day 4 by Art Wasem

This is a blog post from one of our Costa Rica team members, Art Wasem:

Well today was our last day at the Coco Orphanage. We brought presents for the kids. We were able to spend about 6 hours there. We painted faces and shirts, played all kinds of games and just loved on them again. I didn’t realized how hard it was going to be. Of course the women were wrecks when we left. Jason and I are use to touring and saying goodbye to people. Myself I know that there will be another time in a better place called heaven when we will get to love them again. I look forward to that time. I hope we have made a difference in their lives, to know that someone would come thousands of miles to let them know they are important. Important enough that the God of the universe would die on a cross for them and maybe that we are willing to come and tell them that is enough to believe it. I know I do. I know they could see it in our eyes and heart it in our voices
So who are these kids?

Jennifer The baby. I called her Jen after a friend of mine. So sweet. The first day she just was looking around. Yesterday she was smiling and bubbling. She was there with 4 siblings. Her mother shows up and takes them then brings them back every couple of weeks.

Alexis, The blind boy. I hung put with him the most. Very funny and boy when he talked it was a blur of Spanish.

Katia, The oldest of the girls, such a beautiful young lady, She became very silent when we left and didn’t want to be in the picture. Please pray for her heart and body to remain safe. She is so full of joy.

Karen, a girl with I think MS. She was always in a chair and never talked to me but had a wonderful smile and eyes that knew.

Raul, we were told he was very protective of his space and he would lash out. He sat and didn’t pay attention to anything in the room. Whenever he was engaged he would play or take part in the crafts. I wondered if he ever ate. He was so thin.

Raphael the stud. The oldest of the young men. The last day he was visited by 3 Chiquita’s and became so typical latin cool. He loves football and has such a heart for the other kids in the home.

Ariele The littlest boy al typical always running always into everything smiling laughing boy

Antonio The skater. Loved the skateboard and fell perfectly. Scared the stuff out of Autumn

Mayury I didn’t spend a lot of time with her. Hopefully there will be a comment by someone on the team. She is the one I was pulling out of the pool when Jason squirted me with water and caused me to fall.

Maria I loved the way she jumped at jump rope. She totally did a heal grab kick type of move.

Jessica didn’t spend a lot of time with her either, OK team bail me out.

A funny Story

So I decided to take a walk on the beach at sunset. Nikki was on my computer and I knew I wouldn’t be missed for awhile. I walked across the street and down a 30 foot path strewn with coconut shells and leafs. There is a pile of driftwood at the high tide mark that hasn’t been swept out to sea yet. I remember from some discovery show that sea snakes sometime hide in there so I was careful crossing it. The water was amazingly warm. Mid 70’s and I love the black sand. I walked maybe a third of a mile to a creek that was running to the sea. The water was cooler and you could feel the texture was different from the salt water. I realized it was getting really dark so I turned back. As I took a step my feet brushed what felt like sticks in the water. As the wave receded I didn’t see anything. The next wave the same thing happened again. It felt as though I was walking over tiny little tree limbs. This time I noticed an outline in the sand. It was a crab. I wondered if it was alive and it stuck out its claws at me and made a jumping move and sound. The next wave I saw another one about a foot away from the first and then another one a couple inches from that one. As that wave receded I saw literally thousands of crabs with their claws raised between where I was and where I needed to be. Oh, did I ever mention that I was barefoot? All I could think of was. ‘Well, this isn’t good!!!’ There was no escaping what came next. It was dodging little pinchers not stepping on the crabs and running like heck to the drift wood pile. Didn’t see any snakes. Of course I didn’t stop to check anything out either.

Mental note, bring shoes to the beach.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Blog for our El Salvador Team

Here is the blog authored by our March El Salvador Team Leader. Follow along as they travel to orphanages on the coast of El Salvador:

The Boy Autumn Fell in Love With..

This post is from my co-worker and friend, Autumn Kerr:

The first full day we spent here, we visited an orphanage in Limon, Costa Rica called Coco's. There were about 10 kids there. And this little boy was the absolute cutest thing ever! He's 2 years old and he's really shy - I don't think he talks. Or if he does, he hasn't yet in front of us. He seems kind of scared and really does not respond well when you try to pick him up and hug him. He let me pick me up on day 1 but he clearly didn't really want me to so of course, I put him back down. He did let me play with him for a long time - I tried to get him to color but he didn't seem to know how or want to. But he was having fun putting the crayons in and out of the box - he probably did this for about an hour. And whenever he would get the crayons all back in, I would clap and say "yay" and he seemed to really love the praise. In fact, it was in that moment that I got a big ole smile out of his adorable face and was able to snap this most adorable picture. He's so cute!!!! I found out through our translator that him and his 4 siblings have been in and out of the orphanage - their mother picks them up and takes them for awhile and then drops them back off. I would imagine that's probably harder than if they had just been dropped off but I don't know for sure. I'm just thinking that they probably never get used to being any one place or with the same people and that's probably why all of them are really shy and don't seem to respond all that way to affection. In fact, I also noticed that they don't seem to be used to anyone playing with them - for how young they are, they seem to just play with each other and a lot by themselves. They are precious, beautiful children. And my heart so breaks for them. I wish I could adopt all 5 of them.

Today, we took the kids from this orphanage and another orphanage to the beach. It was a total blast. We all had so much fun. Thankfully, it stopped raining and we had a rain-free day It was very cloudy but I think that was good because then it wasn't super hot. There was also a pool there and covered pavillion where we ate lunch. And a local company that wanted our tour guide to bring future tours to them for business, took us on a free boat ride down the river and we saw monkeys, slauths and cool birds. And the kids seemed to love it.

The little boy I mentioned above was there today and shy as usual. He got hit in the shoulder by the swingset that a little girl was on and he walked in front of. He started crying and my natural instinct was to run over and just hold him. I tried to and that didn't seem to help. I decided to pick him up and take him to the caregivers that know him but unfortunately they didn't console him as I hoped. And he sat in the chair crying by himself and I was helpless to do anything because I knew if I went to him, he'd cry harder since he doesn't know me or trust me. It totally broke my heart. I had to walk away because I just started bawling. It really broke my heart to see him crying like that, knowing his little shoulder was hurting and he's only 2 years old and I can't even pick him up or do anything to make him feel better. Whew, it took me awhile to collect myself after that. But after a little while, I saw that he was no longer crying and he went near the pool with his siblings and seemed to be ok.

So many beautiful children here. I pray that they will all end up in loving families that will console and encourage and adore them the way they deserve. And I pray that somehow our time here has encouraged and helped them to see their value. And to point them to their father in heaven who will never leave or forsake them.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mission Trip Fundraising Ideas

Meet Kari Gibson, blogger extraordinaire! She is one of the leaders for our July Africa mission team. She has created a wonderful blog for her trip. What I want to feature though is her blog post on fundraising. This woman sold over 800 t-shirts last month for Children's Hopechest, raising over $24K! So, if you are wondering how to raise money for a mission trip, I would take some of her ideas to heart...


Monday, March 01, 2010

Britt Nicole's Video About Africa

I wanted to share Britt's new video about her newly released song, "Walk on the Water". She's shares her experience with Visiting Orphans and footage from her time in Africa. I just love this girl and her heart! Enjoy...

Costa Rica Bound!

Our Costa Rica team heads off to Limon, Costa Rica this Wednesday, March 3rd until Wednesday, March 10th. The neat thing about this team is that the entire team is from Nashville, TN, where our office is located! So this team has gotten to meet weekly and really get to know each other.

Our team members are:
1. Carrie Grace-Congdon
2. Mary Botha
3. Art Wasem
4. Jason Crossman
5. Autumn Kerr - the Team Leader
6. Me :)
7. Tiffany Lankford
8. Tara McWilliams
9. Nikki Dunaway
10.Alicia Jordan

This team will be visiting two orphanages in a part of Costa Rica that is still third world. I know most of you, when you hear Costa Rica, think resorts and vacation, or atleast I do. But honestly, most of Costa Rica is still very much still third world, especially on the Caribbean side of the country.

I have a wonderful friend from high school, Brian Benson, who runs an eco tour business and through this connection, he was able to meet with the government and the respective orphanage directors. He has been living in Costa Rica for years and had never seen the orphanages. He so happy we are investing in these children and is so happy that we opened his eyes to the plight of the orphans there in his beloved country.

These children have never recieved a mission team before. I can't imagine how special they are going to feel when our team arrives. This team is coming with toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothes, school supplies, towels, and bathing suits for each of the kids! They are leaving personalized journals for the older kids as well and a skate board at each orphanage! God has been so present in this team, confirming each team member in His unique and awesome way. This is a great trip for anyone who is going on missions for the first time and our two Summer Costa Rica trips are already almost full!! God so SEES these children. "I will not leave them as orphans...I will come to them!"

Here is the itinerary for the week:
Thursday March 4th
We get on the road after breakfast and drive to Limon (3.5 hours) where we meet the Director of the Limon PANI orphanages and her partner. We head to the Coco’s orphanage for lunch and spend the afternoon with the children.
Dinner is served in the hotel.

Friday March 5th
On the road at 8am sharp to commute to Limon ($5 min) and visit another orphanage called Villas del Mar. We spend the entire day (Until 3-4pm) at the Villa orphanage. In the evening we meet up with Barrett, a Christian man who runs a ministry and skateboard park in Puerto Viejo (near-by town 20 min. south of Cahuita). We will have a BBQ cook out dinner at the skate park and enjoy the evening. We head back to the hotel around 8pm as a group.

Saturday March 6th
Today will be a beach day with all the children for both orphanages. After breakfast we commute to Limon and spend the day on the beach. Bring your swimsuit, towel and sun block. It is going to be a great day!
Dinner is served at the hotel.

Sunday March 7th
On the road at 8am to Limon. Today we spend the entire day in the Coco’s orphanage (Until 3-4pm). The late afternoon is free.
Dinner is served in the hotel.

Monday March 8th
On the road at 8am to Limon. Today we spend the entire day in the Villas del Mar orphanage (Until 3-4pm). After we leave the orphanage, we drive to Puerto Viejo (near-by town 20 min. south of Cahuita) to enjoy the town and have dinner at 7pm.
Dinner will be at one of Puerto Viejo’s top restaurants, Loco Natural. We head back to the hotel after dinner as a group.

Tuesday March 9th
Free day for the team: rafting or beach and return to San Jose for our farewell dinner in our hotel.