Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Widows and Orphans

I'm totally stealing this blog post and copying it word for word because the author, Becky , who is the coordinator for the Tulsa Russian Lighthouse Project, is able to say this much more beautifully than I ever could. I've blogged about my friend Justine in the past? Remember her? Well she has amazed me once again. Here is why:

(Written by Becky, Tulsa Coordinator of the Russian Orphan Project)

Widows and Orphans

Having coordinated ten Lighthouse Project trips, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for not hosting. Some reasons are legitimate, some less so. A caller once claimed they couldn’t host because the trip was coming up too soon. Next time they had a few months’ notice, but they couldn’t plan that far ahead. I tire of the charade; sometimes I wish people would just say they’re not interested.

Copious notes taken during the course of myriad phone conversations show I can expect to speak with ten callers to come up with one host family. While I try not to judge callers’ decisions, it appears many people choose not to host when they reasonably could. Others can reasonably host, and do. But my favorite callers have good reasons not to host, and choose to anyway. They understand they can make a difference in the life of a child, and whatever legitimate excuse they might have voiced is silenced by this more substantial realization.

Justine called me for the first time one morning when I was in Missouri with the Lighthouse Project. Running late for Vacation Bible School, I begged out, asking if I could call her later in the day when I had time to do the conversation justice. She agreed, but I fretted all day that her first impression of my availability might discourage her from hosting. Back in my hotel room that evening, we spoke. As she shared her story, I was relieved to find it would take more than a conversation deferred to discourage her.

Justine had always wanted to adopt. She and her husband discussed it, opting to pursue it later after they’d had biological children. Son Alden followed. Two and a half years later she was eight months along in a pregnancy when her husband fell ill; one day later, he died of complications related to diabetes. Justine was left to deliver daughter Lilly alone.

She grieved, but found the hardest part was the demise of her dream of a large family. Over time, she began researching adoption online. Hong Kong stood out based on cost and openness to single mothers, but almost all available children had moderate to severe special needs. Justine decided to wait, believing Hong Kong was not in her future. She bought a house, her parents bought next door, and she began home schooling. Life was good again; she was content and hoping for no changes.

But two years ago, she began a word study of every use of “widow” in the Bible. As the months passed, she handwrote most Biblical references to the subject. God’s concern for widows clarified, she discovered that in almost every passage, orphans, too, received specific mention as recipients of God’s special compassion. Within a year, God rekindled her desire to adopt; Hong Kong was her clear directive. As she shared her plan with her children, family, and friends, she found unanimous support.

Beginning her home study, she hoped to adopt a child between the ages of Alden, now 9, and Lilly, now 6. Her agency balked at her plan to adopt out of birth order, preferring that she make her new child the youngest. Justine was open to physical needs like blindness or cerebral palsy; Down syndrome was on the list of special needs she did not expect to consider. But scanning a list of Hong Kong’s waiting children, an eight-year-old boy with Down syndrome tugged at her heart. Already traveling a circuitous path, both Justine and her agency altered course. The agency allowed her to sandwich a child between her two biological children, and Justine realized the little boy she’d seen with Down syndrome was her son. Wondering why such a precious soul waited alone over eight years, she concluded he was “just reserved for our family.”




In November 2008, Justine heard about the Lighthouse Project trip through a friend’s blog. She hoped to host next time in Tulsa, but we were already in town for the January 2009 trip before she was aware of it. When she got word that we’d be returning to Tulsa a third time, her initial reaction was dismay since she obviously couldn’t host in the middle of her adoption. She might need for her own adoption the $1000 it cost to host a child. Worse, if she hosted, she’d fall in love, want to adopt, and be unable due to Hong Kong law prohibiting concurrent adoptions through other sources. God reminded her she had $1076 in a memorial fund in her husband’s name, and brought conviction that her reason not to host was flimsy. Would she let a child stay in a dismal orphanage with a hopeless future because she might be hurt if she opened her heart? She had the money, and she had the time. The only issue was fear of emotional injury. All the while, God was asking, “How selfish can you be?”

Not very, as it turns out. Justine did call as I flew out the Missouri door toward VBS, and she was still polite when I finally called her back over twelve hours later. When she told me about her special needs adoption, needing to fund her own process, single parenthood, and busyness home schooling, I knew her excuse for not hosting would be more watertight than most. Remarkably, after listening to all the obstacles and mentally rehearsing my speech for when she would end, “God bless you, but I can’t host,” those words never came. Instead, she matter-of-factly told me her husband’s memorial fund had waited for just such a time, she planned to host, and to send her the details. Justine had enough potential excuses to fuel several of my callers who decline to open their homes; she didn’t use even one, choosing to give a little of herself to give a second child a chance at a future. “I’m just going to follow God’s leading,” she declared.

As I struggle to find hosts for kids for whom precious little hope exists outside traveling on such a trip, Justine sends out e-mails to her friends, asking them to consider hosting a child alongside her. She lamented tonight that she hadn’t yet found anyone. Meanwhile, her “yes” is far more moral support for this discouraged coordinator than all the “God bless you”s with which I’ve ever been rejected while promoting the Lighthouse Project.

Oh, that enough families would follow God’s leading so that none of our sixteen Lighthouse Project kids have to stay behind in Russia, staring down hopelessness! God can bless, and I trust He will, but it happens through people who, like Justine, put others before themselves to be part of that blessing.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

By the way, Reece's Rainbow mommies, although Justine didn't find her son on Reece's Rainbow, she recently joined the RR yahoo group so be sure to welcome her!


20 comments:

thedickinsonfamily said...

WOW! What a selfless act of kindness. I wish we lived closer, we would host in a heartbeat. We hosted two young boys from the African Children's Choir over a weekend and it was ONE of the most memorable times of our family's lives. They were not adoptable but it sure did plant the seed for our families hearts towards adoption...we didn't have a clue but HE sure did. Look at us now. :) I am giddy with joy that God would use us like He's using so many other willing families. God Bless you and God Bless these innocent children. Your time will be precious.
Blessings,
Meghan
Sorry about the LONG post - my heart is stirred and blessed!

JUST A MOM said...

Thank you for sharing her story. What a beautiful family.

Kelsie said...

That's amazing! :) Wow...what a wonderful lady. If only more Christians would be like that.

Charissa, do you know if there are hosting projects in any other cities than just Tulsa? If there was one in Texas I would love to get information about it...

Charissa said...

For Kelsie, Meghan, and anyone else, regarding hosting outside of Tulsa, from the ROLH program coordinator: "Families from out of state are welcome to host, as long as they are either within reasonable driving distance of Tulsa (OKC, Dallas, etc.) or they can come and spend the week in Tulsa and host in a hotel. Hosting in a hotel actually works out better than people might expect, as long as the hotel has a pool. Also, the people in Tulsa are always so nice, they welcome out-of-towners to their activities. The problem frequently is the out-of-town families might have too much to do! For people who would be host-only, they might not want to make the time and money investment in staying in a hotel, but for potential adoptive families, it makes more sense. And if the families are just a little out of town, they could stay at home most of the week and then be in Tulsa for the VBS and stay in a hotel then. It would be a lot of driving, but if someone is motivated to make it work, it can be done. If families want to speak with others who have hosted out of town, I have a list of several people who have done it, and they'd likely be willing to tell about their experiences."

Molly said...

Wow. How could that not make you think about this? Seriously, that sweet woman is amazing and should all make us think twice about why we say no when God pulls on our hearts.

I just sent this and the original Russian Orphan post to all my Tulsa peeps in hopes someone might say YES!

Charissa said...

Molly, thank you. Appreciate your support.

Lisa said...

I am not even sure where to start, other than just to start...... I have enjoyed reading your blog ever since Rachel(O.T) shared your address with me. I have been on vacation so as I logged on tonight to catch up I was amazed at how many ways we are connected. Rachel, Desires of our heart concerning adoption, Molly ( her sisters and I go to church together here in Tulsa). I was reading her blog about the lighthouse project and when I say the name Charissa, I thought this must be the same person, and sure enough..... I would like to know if there are enough host families yet for the Russian children/ VBS? Also, we have always known we wanted more children and we discussed on vacation about starting the process again, I left a message today for CPO and will probably call our original adoption agency later this week to check on the Russian program. I would love to be involved with a support group, and it sounds as if your church home has one?!?!? Did I understand that correctly? I am headed to see Rachel in the morning, so I am off to bed now. I look forward to visiting with you in the near future. P.S I asked Rachel what direction you lived because your home/land is beautiful and a dream of my husbands to get out and find a place with some land. Bye for now...

Adeye said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. Incredible!

soontobemomof9 said...

Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing! Justine sounds like a wonderful example of a true Christian woman! She has a heart like His! :)

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