Monday, October 14, 2013

Vulnerable children in Uganda - part one

"Abby gets a little excited when talking about orphans." My dear friend spoke with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips.  Her words struck me.  "Isn't everyone passionate about orphans and vulnerable children?" I thought.

I am immersed in the "African orphan crisis."

I live it, breathe it, sweat it, feel it, speak it, hug it.

The "crisis" is inextricably woven into my family.

I have kept silent for long, as we have sat back as observers and learners.  But as our two year anniversary in Uganda approaches, I have decided to put down some thoughts for others to read, hopefully to help our supporters and friends get a better sense for what it means to be a vulnerable child in Africa.

As a means of introduction, we adopted one special needs child from Liberia 7 years ago and are adopting one abandoned total orphan from Uganda where we live (we've already been a family for a year and a half).  We have three biologically birthed children mixed in between.  We inherited a children's home here in Uganda which was filled with vulnerable war-affected children who have been slowly reunited with their families.

We adopted our firstborn daughter before we understood much of the complexity of the African Orphan Crisis.  Now that we understand it better, we would still adopt her, one hundred times over, knowing that she is one of the many vulnerable children whose lives have literally been saved because of international adoption.  Having done assessments on special needs children eligible for adoption, followed their stories, and stood by as 40% of them passed away before they could be adopted... we know that our Gracie's adoption was right, was ethical, was pleasing to God, and met the need.  International adoption has its place and we LOVE adoption!

But international adoption is not the first choice.  We view it as third choice in a string of options...

The African orphan has options?! We thought the African orphan was destitute, unwanted, dying in the gutters!

Some are - please understand that I am not diminishing the weight of this problem.

But WHO is the African orphan and what are her options?

To be continued....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Belonging (or lack thereof)

Today I ate a feast of goat meat with my fingers, encouraged my children digging in the dirt and told them to stop bothering the goats, caught a chicken to show Gracie, and laughed about rats while sorting through dusty books...

I've been pondering "belonging."

I grew up to be a third culture kid - an American missionary kid who didn't belong in America.  I looked American, but wasn't.  My passport said I was American, but my heart didn't.

Over the years, through college, medical school, residency, I drifted into becoming more American.  I started to belong to America.

Then I moved back to Africa.  And I don't belong in Africa. I will never be Acholi, no matter how hard I try.  But now, after two years of living in Africa again, I certainly don't belong in America.

So... where do I belong?

My children will (hopefully) struggle with this very question.  Yes, I pray that my children feel that discomfort of belonging (or lack thereof).  Because this struggle is essential to the Christian life, as we live as "aliens and strangers in this world" (I Peter 2:11), looking forward to an eternity of belonging to Christ (II Peter 3:3-18).

Within our own culture, within our own family, surrounded by friends who understand us, it can be too easy to slip into a false sense of belonging.  We DON'T belong anywhere in this world.  As Christians, we are NEW creations in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).

Take comfort and find joy!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A bittersweet anniversary

This day marks a bittersweet anniversary.  An anniversary that my older sister is very good at remembering - for very obvious reasons! This photo (above) was taken a day or two before the anniversary... maybe you can guess what happened! 

Two years ago today, we left Pennsylvania, left my family, and I haven't seen them since (except for my little sister who visited us in June!).

Two years ago today, we anxiously delayed leaving Pennsylvania as long as we could... waiting for my baby nephew to make his grand appearance! He finally obliged, at the last possible minute, and we got to hold him for a precious hour when he was just hours old... and then we said goodbye.

Happy Birthday, Matthias!! (My mom with her 6 grandkids on that day.)

Two years later:
- We have five children (two of whom have never been out of Uganda).
- My mom has 9 grandkids (two of whom she has never met in person).
- We have two more nephews (on Josh's side - who we have yet to meet).
- Matthias is turning TWO years old! Talitha (another niece that we last saw as an infant) turned TWO just over a month ago.
- My children are more accustomed to living in Uganda than in the USA.
- My children view Skype as the only way to see our family in the USA.
- Three of our children only know Uganda - they talk of the USA as a far-off wonderland where Mimi, Papa, Mama Mac, and Papa Mac live.
- Boxed cake mix no longer tastes good (we're used to making everything from scratch now!).
- We're 20-30 pounds lighter without all the cheese in our diet. ;-P

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