Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Two month mark

Today it has been two months that we have been waiting for a referral. We are number one on the list, but no word yet. I know of several people behind us on the list who have received referrals for single infant babies (seems like referrals have just been rolling in lately, except of course for young siblings!)

So no news, nothing to report. We're still just waiting anxiously. I feel like I love these kids already--God has already given me so much love for them in my heart.

In the meantime, while we're waiting, I'm trying to get things around our house more organized because once we have three kids I'm not going to have the time I do now and I'm sure being extra organized will be a huge help (more like a huge necessity!) I'd say most things are somewhat organized, but a lot of things could use some improvement.

Friday, December 02, 2005

World AIDS Day

I don't have any adoption news to share, so I wanted to do something in honor of World AIDS Day. (Ideally I would have done this post yesterday, as December 1st was World AIDS Day.) In the process of adopting from Ethiopia and then in learning more about the world we live in, my eyes have been opened to this devastating disease that is ravaging much of our world, and the effect it is having on millions upon millions of people. (My eyes have also been opened to the fact that much of the western world is largely oblivious to the seriousness and urgency of the matter. People just don't care. Sadly, I didn't either up until several months ago.)

World Vision says that worldwide, each day, 6,000 children are orphaned by this disease...6,000! Every day! That's 6,000 new kids each day without parents to care for them or provide for them. By 2010, they say there will be more than 25 million AIDS orphans around the world.

So what can we do? Lots of things! Here are just a few:

  • First off, there is an AWESOME organization, AHOPE, that has an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, solely dedicated to caring for orphaned children who are themselves infected with HIV/AIDS. Sponsorship of a child is $30 per month. These children are receiving an education, are fed and cared for and are, as of recently, receiving the ARV medications (what we treat AIDS with here, it slows down the disease. Being treated with these drugs gives these kids a future.) This is a great, great way to help out and I guarantee you won't miss that $30 a month. Not only have these kids lost their parents, they are living with a horrible disease. They have a wesite, www.ahopeforchildren.org.
  • Adoption! It's not the whole solution, but it's part of the solution. Like I mentioned above, 6,000 kids are being orphaned daily because of this disease. That's a lot of kids who need loving homes. Sometimes we make things so complicated, but opening our homes and hearts to a child without a home is absolutely necessary and important. What else will they do?
  • Go sign up with the One Campaign. Go to www.one.org. It's "the campaign to make poverty history." Maybe you've seen the t-shirts or the white wristbands (I wear mine all the time.) Basically it's a ton of people from all over banding together as "one" to make a difference. It's celebrities, regular people, and relief organizations. The One Campaign is calling on our leaders to do more to help combat AIDS and poverty globally. They don't want your money, just your voice. Go to the site and check out the different stuff you can do to make a difference!
So that's my World AIDS Day post (a day late.) If you're politically conservative when it comes to social issues, please don't let the politicization (is that even a word? It is now! :) ) of AIDS in our country keep you from reaching out. (I myself never thought I'd ever "band together" with Susan Sarandon on ANYTHING--but she's part of the One Campaign...go figure! God must be broadening my horizons!) I found this article written by Richard E. Stearns, the president of World Vision, that I'll close with...please share what you think about it. I will do the same later.(I apologize, it's maybe a bit long for a blog but in my opinion it's really worth the read!)

Samaritans in the AIDS Crisis

A biblical parable offers important lessons about how Christians should respond to the global AIDS epidemic.
By Richard E. Stearns

Two thousand years after Jesus gave the church the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are still asking the question, "Who is my neighbor?" And we’re still getting the answer wrong.

Jesus used this parable to challenge the religious establishment of His day. Today, the parable compels us to challenge our own community of faith, an American Church that is only belatedly responding to the AIDS pandemic, which last year alone killed 3 million people. Most of them were in Africa.

The lesson, which begins in Luke 10:25, answers one of the most profound questions in all of Scripture, asked in the story by an expert in the law: "Who is my neighbor?"

We find Jesus' answer in the actions of the four main characters: the victim, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan.

The only thing we know for certain about the victim is that he was in dire need: beaten, wounded, bleeding, and possibly dying. We don't know why he was beaten. He may have been an "innocent" victim, unjustly attacked. He may have been a robber, beaten by fellow thieves. Jesus did not feel that it was relevant whether the man who had been beaten was at fault.

Today, as many as 46 million people are infected with the AIDS virus. In southern Africa, one in five adults is infected. If Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, did not distinguish between those who became victims because of sinful behavior and those who were innocent victims, should we? In truth, we are bound by Scripture to respond to all those beaten and left by the side of the road by this devastating virus.

Scripture makes clear who has the right and the responsibility to judge: It is God, not us. Yet we judge people with AIDS. We conveniently forget that we all would be dead if we faced such a certain death for any of our sins – including indifference to those who are suffering.

That sin, of course, is the only one Jesus condemns in the story of the Good Samaritan, and is embodied by the next two characters in the drama: the priest
and the Levite. They represent the religious establishment of the day. We are told that they saw the man and yet they passed by on the other side of the road, unwilling to help. They knew what was right, but failed to act.

In 2002, World Vision commissioned a study through the Barna Research Group to determine the willingness of the Christian community to get involved in fighting the AIDS epidemic. When evangelical Christians were asked whether they would be willing to donate money to help children orphaned by AIDS, only 3 percent answered that they definitely would. More than half said that they probably or definitely would not help. The survey found that by many measures, non-Christians were more inclined to help.

How should the Christian community respond to those affected by AIDS? The fourth character of Jesus' parable shows us.

The Samaritans were often despised by the Jews, and considered them heretical and unclean. Nevertheless, this Samaritan saw the man at the side of the road “and took pity on him." He bandaged his wounds and poured oil and wine upon them as a salve. He put the man on his own donkey, transported him to an inn, and left money for his care. And he promised to return to check up on the man again. It was not a minimal response. It was a complete engagement.

The Samaritans of the AIDS crisis seem just as unlikely to today's religious establishment: the homosexual community, Hollywood, political liberals, the U.S. government, the United Nations, secular humanitarian organizations, and even a rock star. Bono, lead singer of the group U2, has been a prophetic voice on AIDS. When addressing a group of Christians in Washington, Bono asked, "Will American Christians stand by as an entire continent dies for 'small money'?"

Years from now, the AIDS pandemic will be judged as one of those rare crossroads in human history, where everything that comes after it will be seen through its lens. Every generation struggles with events and crises that ultimately define it. Every generation has its sins – of commission and omission. The lens of history can be brutally honest in its judgment.

How could American pioneers justify their treatment of Native Americans? How could pre-Civil-War America have tolerated slavery? How could churches in America have turned a blind eye to racial discrimination in the '40s and '50s? And how can the American church, with all its resources and influence, fail to respond proportionally to the greatest problem facing the world?

I am certain that God expects His people to act, not remain silent. I am certain that God sees these widows and orphans as our neighbors, lying beaten and bleeding on the side of the road, helpless and needing our help. And I am certain that He calls us to stop, show compassion, comfort them, bind up their wounds and see that they and their children are cared for.

How? By advocating for right theology in our churches and right policies by our
government. By praying for people with AIDS, for the children they leave behind, and for their caregivers. By volunteering with local organizations serving people affected by HIV/AIDS. And by supporting our brothers and sisters in Africa and elsewhere in their efforts to stop this epidemic and care for those whose lives already have been shattered.

Jesus ends the Parable of the Good Samaritan with a powerful challenge. When He asked the expert in the law which of the three men had been a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers, he answers with a new understanding: "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus then looks at this man and concludes what is perhaps the most powerful moral teaching in all of history with a command of just four words. "Go and do likewise."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

CIS Approval!

Yesterday in the mail we received Form I-171H, our CIS approval letter!!! This is a big thing; basically it means that we can legally bring two orphans into our country! (It also will allow our children to get visas to leave their country.) We've been waiting and waiting (we were fingerprinted in August) and it finally came. It also verified that our advance processing application has been forwarded to the American embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At any rate, this is one more thing that is done and one step closer. We're so thankful there weren't any problems with our prints, etc. and that as far as our government is concerned, we're cleared to go!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Weekly update

No news to report, unfortunately. Except that the stroller came and it's awesome! We got it out of the box and pushed Anna around the house in it. It's great. Now we just need to fill it!

I also just sold something on ebay! My first time. We bought (well Kevin bought) this DVD of Ellen's standup comedy at Costco a couple of months ago. We watched it and it wasn't all that great, and we knew we wouldn't want to watch it again. SO I sold it on ebay! Hee, hee! I have to ship it out today (gotta get that positive feedback.....) Ebay is the embodiment of the expression "one man's junk is another man's treasure" or something like that.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we're spending it at Grandma and Grandpa Perruzzi's house (my parents). Last night as we were tucking Anna in, I asked Anna if she wanted to see "Moses", "Rose", (my parents' cats) and Grandma and Grandpa the next day. She immediately started saying "Momees" and trying to climb out of her bed, and then started to cry! Poor kid! I apparently got her all excited about the cats and Grandma and Grandpa and she wanted to see them right then! She cried herself to sleep! Too much Thanksgiving excitement I guess...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The List

Well Kevin called our agency AAI this morning to pay a fee we owed them, and spoke to the head of the agency. He asked where we were at on the "waiting list" so to speak, and found out that we are FIRST on the list of families wanting siblings!! We are number four overall although the three families ahead of us have all received referrals (for single babies), they just haven't formally accepted them yet. SO that is very, very good news!

She said that the orphanages they work with in Ethiopia know that AAI has a family ready to go for twins--meaning us! Very exciting. Even though it could still be awhile, it's good to know that we aren't behind someone else waiting for the same thing, and that all of the orphanages know that there is a family waiting to take twins.

One thing we are praying about is that the referral will include a little girl--we would really, really love Anna Beth to have a sister. So please be praying for that and that we won't have to wait too terribly long. This waiting stuff is hard!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

First purchase!

I just had to post and say that today we made our very first purchase for our babies from Ethiopia: a double stroller! For some reason this makes me really excited, I think because it makes it seem so much more real! We found a good deal online on the Peg Perego Aria 5 Twin MT Stroller in black. It's pretty stylin'--check it out!

Even though we don't even have a referral yet, we bought it anyway. :) Can't hurt to be prepared!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quick update

I just heard today that things in Addis Ababa seem to have calmed down. The medical clinic has reopened, most of the taxis are running, the courts are reopening, and families have gotten new travel dates to collect their children. So for now, things seem to be getting back to normal. Let's pray they stay that way!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Political unrest in Ethiopia

Just wanted to share a little about what is currently going on in Ethiopia. Back in May elections were held and starting in June, the opposition party began saying that the election was rigged, corrupt, etc. These people have been staging protests. The police have been shooting and killing many of these protestors (prime minister Meles Zenawi and his government are responsible for having the police do this.) Meles' government is said to have little tolerance for opposition. At any rate, these violent demonstrations primarily took place in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa (where our agency's facility, as well as most of the NGO's, are located, as well as the American embassy, medical clinics, etc.)

The last couple of days have been peaceful, with no shootings. However the entire city has shut down due to the opposition party "organizing" a taxi strike (taxis are the main transportation there), in other words anyone operating their taxi or going somewhere in a car is risking being hurt by the opposition party.

What does this mean for adoption? Sadly, many of our agency's parents were scheduled to pick up their children this month, but that has been postponed for two weeks at least, because due to the fact that no one in Addis is going out of their home to go to work, the American embassy isn't able to offer travel visas to these kids and the kids are unable to go to the medical clinic to get their final medical (required for them to get the visa to leave.) Also, because the town is essentially shut down, that means that no deliveries are happening (to stores, etc.) so grocery stores that are open hardly have any food and our agency's facility is running low. No one knows yet what the next day will bring. Please pray that these political issues can be sorted out peacefully with no more lives lost and that life can return to normal for those living in Ethiopia.

I don't know if any of this affects us directly, but obviously it could affect our eventual travel to Ethiopia. Interestingly, just as quickly as these things crop up, they can calm down, at least for awhile (as evidenced by the last two days being extremely peaceful, and the fact that since June until now things have been calm.) Travel would be a long way off for us anyway being that we don't have a referral yet, but we are thankful that Ethiopia would allow us to just have the children escorted home, if unrest is still a problem then.

I find myself so thankful to live in a country where we (for the most part) have the freedom to disagree, voice our dissent, and walk down the street without fear of being arrested or killed. I know I take that for granted but have been reminded of our amazing freedoms these last few days.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Since beginning this adoption, we've noticed that people are pretty curious about what we're doing, why we're doing it, and when we're doing it. So I've decided to compile some of the more "frequently asked questions" and our answers to them.

  • Why are you adopting when you can have "your own" children? I think that many, many people associate adoption with infertility and are genuinely surprised when someone chooses to adopt that is able to have biological children. The simple answer to this question is, "because we really want to!":) The fact is that there are millions upon millions of orphaned children in the world. The Bible tells us in James that "true religion" is caring for the widows and the orphans. When God spoke these things to us through James I believe He meant more than simply giving them money occasionally. We have a roof over our heads and plenty of food, and we believe that is meant to be shared. God has given us hearts for growing our family and hearts for the "least of these" as the Bible says. With so many Christians world-wide I think it is tragic that so many orphans languish in these orphanages year after year. And finally, these children WILL be "our own." That is the amazing, beautiful thing about adoption.

  • Why are you adopting from Ethiopia when there are plenty of orphans here? A child orphaned in the United States of America, the most prosperous nation in the world, still has much more opportunity than a child orphaned in Ethiopia. Many kids in the foster system in our country also come from abusive homes with a lot of psychological damage, which we don't currently feel equipped to handle at this time. AND, there are currently 20 couples waiting to adopt for every infant born here, so there is not really a need for adoptive parents of infants in the U.S. right now. Some people are perhaps of the opinion that we should "take care of our own" first, however John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world...", and therefore so should we. Our government has systems in place to care for "our own," while many children orphaned in Africa live on the streets. Africa has a huge orphan crisis, the result of poverty, AIDS, and other poverty-related illnesses, and I believe that God is calling on us who have more than we need, wanting to use us to help those who are in need. We can be part of His plan if we let Him work through us.

  • Why Ethiopia? I guess the simple answer would be that God has drawn us to Africa. Ethiopia is a beautiful country with an amazing history and amazing, hard-working, beautiful people. We are also eligible to adopt from Ethiopia even though only one of us is 25 (many countries require both parents to be 25, some 30.)

  • What age/sex child are you getting? Our only age specification is that they would be younger than Anna (although we're approved for up to age 3.) We are waiting for a sibling set of two, which will most likely be twins, with at least one girl.

  • When will you get them? I have no idea. :) Right now we're waiting for a referral and all of our documents are in Ethiopia. We could get a referral tomorrow, or it could be another few months. (A referral means that they contact you with children meeting what you had specified.) We have been waiting four weeks and a day so far. :)

  • Do you have to travel to get them? No, but we're going to! Ethiopia is one of the few countries that allows a child to be escorted to the United States, but we look forward to traveling to Ethiopia and seeing their homeland and culture.

  • Isn't it like you're buying children? Nope. We pay certain fees but they are all for paperwork processing, our agency, legal fees for your case to go to court, travel/escort fees, etc. You do not pay any sort of fee for the child. It's a pretty complex process involving a lot of different people, governments, and languages!

  • Will they be healthy? Most likely, by third-world standards. That means that sometimes they will have things like lice, scabies, ringworm, etc. which are all treatable. We are approved for moderate special-needs but most likely our referral will be for healthy children. Sadly, most children born with special-needs in Africa don't survive due to lack of medical care. All children are tested for HIV, TB, and Hepatitus upon coming into care at the orphanage.

One month mark

Well as of yesterday it has been exactly four weeks that our documents have been in Ethiopia and that we have been waiting for a referral. I have to admit I am getting very impatient! It is hard to have to wait!

In the meantime, I have been doing a lot of reading on related topics:

  • I read a WONDERFUL book which I wholeheartedly recommend, "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World: A Guide for Parents and Teachers." Written by a black psychologist with two children of her own, it is extremely practical and offers so many insights into how children perceive race, the different issues black children will face and how as parents we can minimize those issues.

  • "Codeword: Catherine," written by a missionary who lived in Ethiopia and helped the grandchildren of the late emperor Haile Sellassie escape out of Ethiopia during the revolution in the 70's. Sad but great story that offers a glimpse into the somewhat recent history of Ethiopia.

  • "Too Small to Ignore: Why Children Are the Next Big Thing", by Dr. Wess Stafford, the president and CEO of Compassion, Intl. It's an amazing story that details his growing up in a remote tribe of Africa as the son of missionary parents and talks about why it's so important to help children in need, and why children need to be valued more than they are.

  • And I'm currently reading "Notes From the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood" , which is also pretty interesting. It is an autobiography by Nega Mezlekia, an Ethiopian man who grew up in Jijiga, Ethiopia. It is definitely more of a cynical look at life in Ethiopia, as opposed to a memoir full of warm, happy memories. It also has a lot to say about the revolution of the 70's.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tough decision

AAI faxed us Mimi and Yonas' information today, and we have decided that, sadly, we do not feel called at this time in our lives to take on that magnitude of a challenge. Their medical conditions appear much more complicated than we had believed, especially Mimi's, who in addition to nystagmus exhibits some behavior that could potentially be autistic (or best-case related to neglect.) Our hearts go out to these kids and we hope and pray that they will find a family very, very soon. They are of utmost value in God's eyes and their special needs make no difference to their worth or value. It is comforting to know that He is looking out for them.

It is a hard call to make because the bottom line is that they need a loving home regardless of whatever problems they may have (and really, especially BECAUSE of their problems), and I also believe God will give you the strength and grace to do His work. However we have decided to wait for a more manageable situation. There will always be unknowns and challenges with children, no matter who they are and where they're from, but right now we don't feel like we are wanting to take on what could be serious developmental disorders. Someday down the line this may change, but for now we will continue waiting for a referral of somewhat healthy infant twins (though will of course remain open to waiting children as well.)

So please continue praying for a referral to come soon, and also keep Mimi and Yonas in your prayers. We will keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

And we're STILL waiting...

Yet another post to say that we still haven't received Mimi and Yonas' medicals and background info! I contacted AAI today and they said that it was mailed exactly a week ago. Who knows what happened to it? They said to let them know if it didn't arrive today or tomorrow and that they would resend it if it hadn't. I let them know it didn't come today and that I'll contact them tomorrow as well. I also asked if these papers could be faxed--Kevin has access to a fax machine at work.

We are both very anxious to look over the information and make a decision! I am hoping that we will be able to do so very soon!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Still waiting

I just wanted to write a quick update to essentially say that we have no update! Mimi and Yonas' information has still not arrived in the mail so we are still waiting anxiously. :) I would imagine it would be here today--of course I said that Saturday, too!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mimi and Yonas

I just wanted to update you all on our latest adoption "news." We are now considering two of the "waiting children" from the video our adoption agency mailed us this past month. Waiting children are kids who are waiting right now in either an orphanage or our agency's care center in Ethiopia. (As opposed to basically us being the waiting ones for children to come into AAI's care.) They are either older children or younger special needs children.

There are two children from the video that we are looking at, a 7 month old baby girl, Mimi, and a 12 month old baby boy, Yonas. The girl has a correctable eye problem and the boy had meningitis as an infant, spent a bit of time in the hospital, and while he's currently healthy and has made great progress since coming to the orphanage, he's still a little behind developmentally (which makes sense.) Our agency normally doesn't place more than one non-related child at the same time, however they often do make exceptions for special needs kids as they are, sadly, more difficult to place.

So we will see! Yesterday our agency mailed us their lab reports, medical histories, photos, etc. so we should receive those within a few days. We will probably consult with a physician about their medical issues. Please pray that God will give us confidence and joy in whatever we decide. At this point we are very, very interested. We've always been open to special needs adoption (of course as far as we know the "needs" of these children are very minor.)

Above this post (I can't figure out for the life of me how to add a picture to this post) are pictures of little Mimi and Yonas. Mimi, in addition to her eye problem (some mild form of nystagmus we're told, which is where your eyes sometimes flicker back and forth involuntarily; she's been fitted for glasses which they say will correct the problem), is also malnourished, but she is one of the most gorgeous babies we have ever seen. Just beautiful. (The picture is taken off of the DVD so it's poor quality and you can see the reflection of our lamp on her head but oh well.) Yonas just seems full of personality and seemed to be a favorite of the person narrating the video.

We will keep you all posted and thanks so much for your prayers!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Dossier and Cruise

Some exciting adoption news: this week our dossier was mailed to Ethiopia! This means that we are now on "the list" and eligible for a referral. What THAT means is that as soon as a pair of siblings comes into AAI's care over in Ethiopia that matches our request (siblings under 2, at least one girl) and that no one higher up on "the list" is interested in, we will be notified and have the option to accept the children. Very exciting!

However, from all reports, it will probably be somewhat of a long wait. We're trying to settle in and not be impatient, though it's hard! We would love your prayers during this time, that God would be watching over our children, wherever they are, and that He wouldn't make us wait TOO long. :)

We just took our first real "vacation" since we've been married: a cruise to Mexico (Royal Carribean) at the end of September and had a fantastic time (minus what I will refer to as the "forgotten driver's license dilemma.") Lots of good food--I think we must have gained about ten pounds each! We left out of Los Angeles (San Pedro) on a Monday evening and docked in San Diego the next morning. Monday afternoon, right after boarding (thank you to my mother who saved the day by rounding up people at Creston School to repeatedly fax my driver's license to US Customs officials until they finally got a fax that was clear enough for them-boy were they picky), we enjoyed a big buffet style lunch. Then we hung out until it was time to go to dinner. We got to sit by some really awesome people, Sheila and Megan, who we really enjoyed getting to know over the course of the cruise. That evening we checked out some of the entertainment aboard the ship. We also took advantage of the late-night (11 p.m.!) Mexican buffet.

The next morning we docked in San Diego. After sleeping in (I referred to our room as a dungeon, as it had no porthole and was pitchblack 24/7 unless you had the lights on), we had a big breakfast onboard and set off to explore the San Diego shore. We got to see some really neat ships, and also went to the top of the Hyatt to see a BEAUTIFUL view of San Diego, the water, etc. We headed back onto the ship for lunch. Kevin entered a ping-pong tournament, but unfortunately lost in the third round. Most of the people playing weren't as good as him (we own a ping-pong table for goodness' sake!), but he had to play one of the best people in the third round. Kevin climbed the rock wall that afternoon as well, and we spent some time up on the pool deck. More good dinner and company and entertainment that evening.

Wednesday morning we arrived at Catalina Island. We got up early and took the ferry to the island (about a ten-minute trip)--the big cruise ship drops anchor a ways off-shore. We went kayaking and it was an amazing way to see part of the island. It was also a lot of work! We walked around for awhile, ate lunch at a cantina and went on the glass-bottom boat. We headed back to the boat late in the afternoon. I took a nap while Kevin went back to the rock wall. :) That night was formal night. We got dressed up and attended the "Captain's Gala" in the big theater. There were complimentary appetizers and drinks, which was fun. The ship's captain, from Norway, came out and talked about the ship. Not too exciting but it was fun being waited on and being dressed up. Afterwards we headed off to dinner. We stayed up late to enjoy the amazing midnight dessert buffet, complete with ice- and chocolate-sculptures. It was quite a sight to behold! We were so exhausted however that we downed our food and went to bed.

Ensenada was the final stop on the cruise. Thursday we got up early, ate breakfast, and got onto a charter bus to go to Fox Studios Baja. The studio was built to film "Titanic" and some of the sets are still up. They have the old car from the movie, for example. It was pretty neat to see all of the recognizable scenes. They also had some displays from "Planet of the Apes" and some other movies too.

The neatest part of Ensenada, however, was the bus trip to the studios. It was about an hour-long trip through Ensenada and then up the BEAUTIFUL coast. It was so neat to see a bit of Mexico and learn some of the history behind the country from the tour guide. The last night on the cruise we enjoyed some time out on the deck looking out on the vast ocean. Pretty amazing. (I think the cruise rekindled my enjoyment of traveling--I can't wait to go to Africa!)

Friday morning we returned to San Pedro, and drove home. The cruise was tons of fun but we were both so happy to get back home to Anna!!!! We missed her terribly--I think it was too long to be away. But we had a great time and she had a WONDERFUL time with Grandma and Grandpa Perruzzi. I hear she even got to treated to breakfast at Starbucks!

That's the latest news here. Please keep us, our adoption, and Ethiopia in your prayers!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wonderful Article

This is an amazing and touching article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2002. It is written by Melissa Fay Greene, an award-winning professional author who adopted through AAI (our agency). The "Enat House" that she refers to is the AHOPE orphanage that Brianna has previously written about. Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Related Developments

A few months ago, Brianna's dad, Steve Perruzzi, seeking to start a pen-pal relationship with a school in Africa for his 6th grade class, came in contact with Peter Amunga, a teacher and school chaplain at Kisumu Day High School in Kenya. What started as simply correspondence quickly blossomed into a beautiful outpouring of generosity and real assistance, much of it initiated by the kids themselves. Click here for a write-up that the San Luis Obispo Tribune did on what has become "Project Kenya."

Since I'm not sure how long the Tribune leaves articles on its site, here is the text in its entirety:

Posted on Sun, Sep. 25, 2005

Creston students reach out to Africa
Elementary students who started with money, now give bicycles
By Nick Wilson
The Tribune

Kenya has severe poverty and widespread AIDS, and some children run to school past wild animals.

Students at Creston Elementary in northern San Luis Obispo County enjoy the comforts of bus and car rides and drinking fountains, and they run on the schoolyard grass during recess games.

The distance between the two areas is great, and Kenya may seem like another world to Creston youngsters. But sixth-grade elementary school children in the tiny North County town feel for struggling youngsters in the African country -- and are working to help some of them in a vital way.

Students in teacher Steve Perruzzi's class started by donating their own money to support a 10-year-old girl whose parents and younger sister died from AIDS. Now, they are providing bicycles to help Kenyan children get to and from school, Perruzzi said.

Since school started Aug. 24, students have raised $79.16 for the girl and $134 for the bikes -- money that goes a long way in Africa -- after initially being asked by their teacher to bring a quarter to class each month. They call the effort "Project Kenya.

"Donations are voluntary, and the outpouring of support has impressed and touched Perruzzi.

"I'm always amazed at the heart children have for helping other children," Perruzzi said.

The effort began after Perruzzi's daughter decided to adopt two Ethiopian children. That prompted the teacher to put a posting on a Web site at www.epals.com seeking to form a pen-pal relationship with an African school.

He was contacted by Peter Amunga, a teacher and school chaplain at Kisumu Day High School in Kenya. Amunga was enthusiastic about an e-mail exchange with Creston youngsters, since lessons are taught in English at the western Kenya school.

Initial correspondences revealed to the Creston students that Kisumu City, one of the largest cities in Kenya, has among the highest population of street children in the country since a vast number of adults have died of AIDS. Of the 920 students at the school, located on the outskirts of the city, 258 are orphans.

Children at the Kisumu school range from 8 to 19 years old.

Ten-year-old Lilian Isendi wrote that she runs 45 minutes to class past wild animals such as giraffes. She joked Kenyans are among the best marathon runners because they have to run so much.

Isendi lives with her mother; her father died of AIDS. She lamented having to interrupt studies to retrieve water at a nearby lake since the school building has no running water.

In her writings, she expressed excitement over a visit from two guests from England and a feast they had together.

"I had never been so close to a white man before," Isendi said. "We gawked at them! ...We sang traditional songs. They joined us in a jig. It was fun!"

Creston students have become enthralled with the e-mails and eagerly anticipate them.

"They have to run so far to school," said student Tyler Van Tassel, 11. "I'm surprised they're not attacked (by animals)."

Compelled to help

Before the students got involved, the impressions of life in Africa led Perruzzi to personally want to help. He and his wife donated money for a bicycle for a 12-year-old boy named Oscar Onyango, who was walking four hours a day round trip to school from his grandmother's home. Both of Oscar's parents died from AIDS.

Oscar wrote he was overjoyed to get a new bike. He hopes his education will enable him to become a scientist and find a cure for AIDS.

"I chose a bicycle christened 'HERO,' " Oscar wrote. "I liked its shape and name. I hope to be a hero one time."

Amunga, the Kenyan teacher, leads a humanitarian project called Mission to the Fatherless that helps orphans by giving them meals, raising funds, offering counseling and support, and ensuring basic needs such as school uniforms.

He told Perruzzi about Lavender Bosco, a 10-year-old orphan girl who was burned in a fire at her grandmother's thatched hut. She was recovering in a hospital and needed $32 a month for food and clothes.

So Perruzzi asked his students to get involved, urging them to donate a quarter a month. Students started bringing in their spare change.

"It's good to be able to help and make a difference and learn about their lives," said Amanda Gutierrez, 11.

So far, the Creston students have donated $79.16 to help Bosco -- putting their donations in a black metal box with a slit for money, welded by Van Tassel.

The cost of a re-conditioned Kenyan bike is $50, and Van Tassel donated the entire amount for one. Students Justin Hunt and Ryan DeBusk also joined together to donate a bike.

At the end of the month, Perruzzi plans to wire about $300 for five new bicycles from staff and student contributions.

Meanwhile, Perruzzi said he has formed a long-distance friendship with Amunga, and they share the Christian faith.

"We both knew our getting together was not an accident," Perruzzi said.

The American teacher and his wife have donated money for three bikes. And Perruzzi said he hopes to visit Kisumu City.

As far as the students' efforts, "Project Kenya" will continue at least through the end of the year and into the future, Perruzzi said.

"The generosity and compassion shown by my students has been a genuine blessing to me," he said.

Nick Wilson covers North County education for TheTribune. He can be reached at (805) 238-2720 ext. 20 or nwilson@thetribunenews.com.

There was also an article in the Atascadero News about it. (I couldn't find that one online so if anyone has a link or a softcopy of it, email it to me at kevinheldt@hotmail.com and I'll include it here as well.)

You can also read about the little girl they are sponsoring (Lavender Bosco), the "Bicycle Blessings" program (read Oscar's story), and read a story by Lilian Isendi, a 10-year old at the school here.

As a result of the newspaper exposure, several others have contacted Steve wanting to help, including a man from Kenya who resides in Paso Robles. God is definitely at work, and it is truly amazing to see Him working in such visible and tangible ways. In looking at the endless need in this world, we tend to assume that to accomplish any real good requires something far surpassing what we have. But we forget that so often God chooses to work on a small scale, in the individual hearts moved to help a fellow human being in need. And in doing that, He accomplishes so much more than moving resources from point A to point B. Just ask the kids in Mr. Perruzzi's class.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dossier mailed off!

Well today we are mailing our dossier off! This is happening much faster than we'd anticipated. It was supposed to be a few weeks before our homestudy would be written up/notarized, but apparently the first draft is already at AAI for review and we were told to go ahead and send in our dossier!

This marks the end of any real "work" on our part (well until the children are home!) and begins the "waiting" phase. As far as I know we may be eligible for a referral in as little as two weeks, which technically means we could be matched with our children in as little as two weeks!! Crazy! It could also take months, for that matter. It all depends on what children are coming into AAI's care.

Today AAI mailed us the DVD of waiting children at the orphanage. Most likely our children will not be on this video (as infant twins or super young siblings are not generally "waiting" as there are generally people wanting to take them) but it's possible. At any rate it will be so neat to see the orphanage and see all the children we'll eventually get to meet when we travel there. Hopefully it'll be here in a couple of days!

So that's that. Thanks to all for your prayers and well-wishes. It feels good to have the paperwork behind us!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Moving Forward!

Well our homestudy is finished! We are now just waiting on the social worker to write it up (should probably be a few weeks.) She is approving us for the adoption of two little ones from Ethiopia! We are so happy to have this behind us. It's been a draining day-and-a-half, but it went well and things should go smoothly from here. God gave us the words to say and continues to bless the adoption.

The homestudy itself was a little nerve-wracking. A social worker from Ventura (actually a licensed Marriage/Family Therapist who does this on the side) came to our home Sunday afternoon. We were both a little nervous and unsure what to expect. She toured our home and asked tons of questions. :) She interviewed the two of us together and then Kevin by himself. Then today she came and interviewed me by myself. She seemed to think we did well and was extremely impressed by little Anna, who was all smiles and her usual charming self. :) The social worker shared with us a little about some issues we may face in adoption and was overall very encouraging.

In a few weeks, once our homestudy is notarized and written up and sent to our adoption agency (AAI), we will mail our dossier to AAI (miraculously it's all ready to go) and that will be sent off to Ethiopia where it will be translated, etc. Once that happens, we'll be eligible for a referral and the waiting begins!! We hope the wait won't be long but you just never know. It could be pretty much instantaneous, or could take several months.

So that's where we're at. We're thanking God that everything is going so well so far!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Homestudy update!

We officially have a social worker! She is out of Ventura and called me today. Looks like we'll be doing our homestudy on Sunday and Monday! We are so happy as this is a lot sooner than we had thought it would be. It will consist of interviews at our home. Please pray that all goes well and that we survive. :) At the soonest we could be "approved" in a few weeks I would think, and at that point we would send our dossier to AAI. At the rate things seem to be going, it appears we could possibly be eligible for a referral within a few months!

We're very grateful that we don't have to travel at all for our homestudy (our social worker's mom lives in Santa Maria so that's why she'll be in town this weekend!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


So yesterday we got our fingerprints taken at the CIS (used to be INS) office down in Goleta. Quite the experience.

Anna and I picked up Kevin from work and went over to the office. The employees were extremely unfriendly (maybe trying to be professional?) and there was fully a bouncer-type who meets you at the door to find out what you want and to tell you what to do, etc. First he said we couldn't have a drink in there so Kevin had to take it outside. (They let Anna keep her milk thankfully!) The place was dead silent except for Anna babbling away. I was worried they were going to make her go outside! After filling out some paperwork and giving them our ID's they took our prints. Kevin's went fine but apparently my fingers are too small or something, so he kept having to do them over (they do them electronically). He was twisting my pinky finger and pulling it in ways it wasn't meant to bend trying to get enough of it on the screen, which was extremely painful and my whole hand ached for a long time afterwards!

Luckily we finally made it out of there. As a result of our visit Anna can now say the President's name. There in the office there's a picture of President Bush on the wall. Kevin was holding her and said, "That's President Bush" to which Anna responded, "Bush." So now she likes to say "Bush." Very cute.

All of that to say that on our end we are basically done with CIS. Now we just wait for approval from them (our homestudy has to be done before they can give final approval).

On the homestudy front, they said that they are in the process of assigning us a social worker. I don't know how long that will take.

Those are the only updates for now. It's so nice to have the fingerprinting behind us!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Michael W. Smith and Activism

I've been meaning to post something about this but until now have forgotten. Kevin and I attended a Michael W. Smith concert at the end of July at the Mid-State Fair (yes we're fans of his cheesy 1980's pop music!) We were thrilled to learn that he had joined forces with U2's Bono to launch the "ONE" campaign which is the latest effort by DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) to save Africa from the AIDS epidemic. This is what he says about his latest CD:

"From this record, I hope people are convicted about Africa and the AIDS crisis. I hope people's hearts are prepared to receive news about the devastation in Sudan. I hope they see the hurting person next to them and are moved to act. And I hope, more than anything, that people are encouraged, that they know God loves them and because of that there is in fact hope."

We were so excited to see how the Lord had touched his heart for Africa. He wrote a song with some convicting lyrics specifically about all of it, "We Can't Wait Any Longer." The song features the Ugandan Children's Choir singing in Swahili. Listen to the song if you get the chance. In the meantime here are the lyrics:

A silent call from a distant land
Crying for a helping hand, so
How long will it go on?
Ignorance and vanity
Supercede humanity, so
How long it will go on?
I want to know
How long will it go on?

We can't wait any longer
They're crying out, doesn't it matter?
We can't wait any longer
No, no.
Too long in a slumber
Shaking up, waking up now.
We can't any longer.
No, no.

Another child is laid to rest
Another day of hopelessness, so
How long it will go on?
And every day we're on the fence
Brings a
nother fatal consequence, so
How long will it go on?
I want to know
How long will it go on?

Yuko awezayo kusikia kilio chetu?
(Can somebody hear us crying out?)
Twaomba msaada wenu
(Somebody help us)

Aweko mwenye kuttuoka
(Somebody save us)

Aweko mwenye kutupa uhuru
(Somebody free us)

It is so amazing to see Christians stepping out and loving our brothers and sisters around the world, and fighting to help them. Just yesterday at church our pastor talked about how it's so easy living on the Central Coast of California to forget about the hurting people in the world and how we need to actually DO something to help. It was so neat to see that our pastor is passionate about our world and about reaching out to love others.

I think the fact that AIDS has become so politicized in our own country, coupled with our insulation from (and attitudes toward) the rest of the world, have caused many people (even Christians) to shy away from any activism related to the African AIDS crisis. Thank goodness that people like Bono and Michael W. Smith have taken the initiative to use their celebrity status to bring awareness to such important issues.

On a side note, the Ugandan Children's Choir, "Watoto," is worth checking out! A pastor and his wife started this ministry for orphans in Uganda. There is a huge center where these orphans come to live. Orphans from this facility make up the choir, which travels around the world performing and sharing how their lives have been transformed by Jesus. Very, very cool. They have a website, www.watoto.com.

Random update

Well on the adoption front all things are quiet. We completed/mailed off the last of our homestudy paperwork (hooray!) and so now I guess we're just waiting to hear back for an appointment for an interview with a social worker. We've compiled pretty much everything for our dossier (packet of documents to be mailed to Ethiopia) but have to wait until our homestudy is done and approved before we send it to AAI.

Sooo we're just waiting. It all seems so surreal right now. It's hard to believe that in a matter of months (maybe around 6?) we'll be going from being a one child family to probably having three little ones! I just can't wait to see Anna as a big sister playing with her new siblings from Ethiopia! It is exciting as well as I have come in contact with a woman in San Luis Obispo (30 minutes away from here and where we spend a lot of time) who with her husband is adopting two girls from Ethiopia, through our agency! The girls are 3 and 5 and they travel to pick them up in less than a month. We hope to get together at some point. I think it will be so neat for our Ethiopian children to know other children who share the same history and homeland.

At this point we are planning to adopt two babies from Ethiopia (don't know if we mentioned that yet.) Possibly twins or siblings or even unrelated children from the same orphanage. I heard that there are currently four sets of infant twins waiting to be adopted but I don't know if they will still be waiting once we're eligible for a referral. We stated that we want at least one to be a girl and that both would be younger than Anna. There is always a need for families to adopt sibling groups, as they're harder to place. I can't wait to find out who our children will be!

I guess that's all there is to report. :) Anna is currently loading up her John Deere gator (kind of like a tractor but a 4X2) with dolls and blankets and a paper clip, and is now trying to climb onto it herself. What a goofy little kid! :)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Eden and Addisalem

Well this isn't adoption news but I thought I'd share it anyway. :) I posted before about the organization over in Ethiopia, AHOPE, which is a home for HIV-positive orphans. Well, we just found out that we are sponsoring two little girls there (they are sisters), both HIV-positive and both have been orphaned. Their names are Eden (which means "paradise" and is of course from the Bible) and Addisalem (meaning "new world.") Eden is 4 years old and Addisalem is 9 years old. Their mother passed away only a few months ago from AIDS and these little girls just came into care at AHOPE. We'll be able to correspond with them through mail and I'm hoping we'll get to meet them when we travel to Ethiopia somewhere down the road to get our adopted children.

Eden and Addisalem are from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. They have three older siblings, the oldest who they have lost contact with and then two older brothers (ages 14 and 17.) The boys were forced to drop out of school as they couldn't afford it any longer and have been working as shoe-shiners. The people at AHOPE are looking into finding support for the boys so they can at least finish school. I'm not sure if the boys are HIV-positive as well.

AHOPE is an amazing place doing an amazing work. These children have not only lost their mothers and fathers, they are also facing life with a terminal illness. AHOPE provides them with a loving home, good nutrition, health care, and an education. They always need sponsors (each child requires 3-4 sponsors to cover the cost of care) so please prayerfully consider sponsoring one of God's precious children in Ethiopia!

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Our homestudy is well underway. We've gotten our Livescan fingerprints done (at the Sheriff's office--we even got to see an inmate!), completed pretty much all of the paperwork, have filed the I600A form with CIS (formerly INS), and will have our physicals this week. Once our physicals are done and the forms mailed off, all that will be left will be the interviews with the social worker and more fingerprinting for CIS. Yayyyy!

Yesterday in the mail we received a HUGE packet of information from AAI, the agency we're adopting through. YIKES! It's all of the things we need to do for our dossier (essentially a packet of certified documents that will be sent to Ethiopia.) I am in disbelief---every single thing has to be notarized. A letter from our bank, Kevin's employer, our doctor, two letters of reference---it all has to be notarized! Sheesh! Just when you feel like you're making progress....:) The good news, however, is that once all of THAT is done, we'll be completely good to go! We won't be eligible for a referral of a child until our homestudy is approved anyway, which should take maybe 8-12 weeks, so that gives us plenty of time to get this dossier done (I think you can be eligible for a referral before the dossier is finished but I'm not positive.)

What a crazy process! We are so excited though, and obviously it will all be well worth it. I look at Anna and know without a doubt there's nothing I wouldn't have done to have her as my daughter.

So until next time, please be praying that we'll be able to get all this crazy stuff done! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pops chimes in...finally

I'm sure both of you out there reading this are wondering why there's an extra name on the contributors list when only Brianna is contributing. Well by golly, I work for a living! Well, ok, sort of... Brianna has done such a great job establishing all the facts that I think it frees me up to just be kind of goofy and waste your time. It won't all be a waste. I intend to share my heart and reflect on things in a written forum and I'll probably have some blubbery, sensitive moments where you'll all pity me and stuff, but yeah, I'll definitely be wasting some time with pointless banter. Like this paragraph for example. By the way, I trust my joke at the top was received -- implying that only two people are reading this. Ha ha, ha ha. Hmmmm. Yeah, I know, the sign of a truly insecure comedian. That's one of those great things though where you're right either way (or at least can't be proven wrong) -- before anyone is reading this, no one can find the irony in the fact that actually not even two people are reading this, and that by the time anyone is reading this, there's a real good chance that more than two people are reading this in which case the joke works. Get it? Good, now explain it to me. It's like when you're a kid and someone is hiding from you and you call out, "Just come out, I know you can hear me." And you're safe because if they can hear you, they're like "Whoa, how does he know that?" and if they can't hear you, then no one knows you're wrong.

So Kevin, what on earth does this have to do with your Ethiopian Adoption "journey" (as the people like to call it)? Well, it's like this... Okay, did you really think for a split second that I was going to tie it in? You have a lot to learn.

Now for a paragraph that does relate to the topic at hand. God is so good. Can I just start off by saying that? I think I just did. I mean seriously, though. He loves every single person on this orbiting globe with a love that can't even be described. That can only be approximated with allusions to shepherds, and husbands, and fathers. But the moment we say that He loves everyone, we've most likely already missed something. If you're like me, you've probably subconsciously replaced the "everyone" with a picture of "everyone that you know" or "everyone that you like" and maybe in addition to that a fuzzy, vague idea of the rest of the world's strangers in some indefinite form. But for God, there's nothing indefinite about it. For Jesus Christ who hung on the cross and bled for each and every person He created, there's nothing fuzzy or vague. I think it's good to at least acknowledge that. I think it's only natural that our mind pictures work this way, and perhaps it's only even possible to be otherwise for the most right-brained and imaginative among us. But the point is that God doesn't see the world the way that we do. God doesn't spend 98% of His time intimately concerned with the details of your own life and then with the remaining 2% throw some blessings around to the rest of the world's people. Nor does He only spend 2% of His time on you because it's spread between six and a half billion living souls (or whatever the world's population is up to these days). No, He spends 100% of His time intimately concerned, lovingly in tuned, passionately engaged with each and every person. (One of those neat things about being God: being above and beyond the whole mathematics thing.)

So if Jesus cares so much for everyone, and if we're supposed to be followers of Jesus, then why do we so blithely accept the fact that most of the time we really just don't extend care and compassion beyond the people in our immediate circle?

These are some of the ideas that God used to first start softening and changing my heart. A message by Gary Haugen was instrumental for me in God growing my heart outwards. He is the president of an organization called International Justice Mission and you can learn more about them at http://www.ijm.org/. To read straight off their website: "International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression." The work they do is truly amazing, and I wholeheartedly recommend you check them out and maybe even consider how God might use you to advance His cause of justice around the world. Brianna and I first heard him speak in September 2002, and we were blown away by what he had to share. I strongly encourage you to take 45 minutes sometime and listen to that message we heard. You can still access it at the website of Santa Barbara Community Church.

Go here:


On the Speaker pulldown, go to Guest Speaker.

Scroll down and it's just called "Gary Haugen" and the date is 9/8/02

(He was also a week-long guest on a Christian radio program last month and you can hear those messages and interviews as well at:

In recent months, we've revisited the subject and while the topics are not directly related to adoption, I have found that God has used the same eye-opening experiences to open my heart to serving the "least of these" in other ways -- for us, namely adoption.

And in referring to orphans as the “least of these”, I feel the need to add a disclaimer. (I know that I am probably the least concise writer ever but supposedly that's okay in a blog, right?) Lest I be misunderstood to be saying that I look at our decision to adopt as some noble endeavor where we're just "selflessly serving the Lord" and then I can't even explain further because my pride is so puffed up that it is smothering my face... Let me be clear. I do think that caring for orphans is a noble cause. God's Word says so. And not noble in the sense that only a few wonderful souls take it up but because it’s so important and because God is so passionate about it. But I've heard people (mainly reading written accounts on others' blogs etc.) describe their adoption experience as this wonderful thing where they were able to "save" a child, etc. And while I don't even think it's necessarily wrong to say that, for me, that doesn't describe my outlook. And by way of confession, if I did see it that way, knowing myself, I think my pride would puff up. So yes, it is a wonderful thing to adopt a child who needs parents, a family, and unconditional love for a lifetime. We're incredibly excited at the privilege and opportunity to do just that. And, irrespective of adoption, God calls all of us to care for the orphans. I do think God is in the business of saving children, both spiritually and physically. It's a cause near and dear to His heart. And I think He looks to accomplish His purposes through His people. And I firmly believe that He will be accomplishing some of His purposes through us as He moved us to make this decision and as He continues to move us to love and care for this precious child or these precious children that He will place under our protection and care. So I find kind of a dichotomy (and I think I'm misusing the word but it's such a cool word and, by gum, I'm going to use it in my blog!) between the philosophical outlook at the general principles involved on the one hand and my own practical outlook towards the specific situation on the other. (Okay, I couldn't stand it -- I looked up the word and it turns out I'm using it properly after all. At least properly enough.)

The philosophical outlook, which is what I've been largely describing, is very important. It's the "big picture" that God uses to melt your heart and make it useable in His service. It contains the truths that I would use to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters to get involved (in some capacity) in God's work for the orphans around the world. It holds the sobering reminders of just how small my heart really is but also the hopeful encouragement of what is possible if I place that small heart into God's skillful hands.

So what about my own practical outlook about this very specific situation, that of adopting a child or children from Ethiopia? Well the mood shifts. It's like so many of the things that God wants me to do. As soon as I get behind Him in obedience, He shapes my desires in such a way that now I'm doing it because I want to. I'm downright jolly! It's exciting! (Now granted, right now the process of filling out forms and getting millions, yes millions, of things done for the applications and home study makes the jolly part seem a little distant but I know that's only temporary.) I'm excited to see God at work. To see Brianna and I take a step of faith together. To meet that precious kid, our newest family member. To get to know him. (And I will here employ the "PC" method of alternating gender references...) To see what makes her tick. To invest my life in him. To make her laugh and smile. To learn more about Ethiopia and about adoption and about the challenges involved so that I can be the best father possible and love him with an unconditional and effective love. So I can be a place of safety for her. I so look forward to seeing Anna as a big sister. To watching her dote on him. See them playing and getting into mischief together. Hearing them giggle in the other room. Seeing the daily reminders of the truly beautiful thing that God has accomplished through our family. I'm excited to take further steps along the path which God has shown me is my primary life passion: that of being a Godly husband and father and pouring my life and love into the family God has given me.

And maybe I've stumbled on something here, at least something that I didn't really understand before. We really do live on two different planes (not like the airline kind but like the geometric kind -- just thought I'd clear that up). The abstract ideas are important and necessary. Without the realization that God cares so much for all people, maybe I never would have found myself on this road. Without the humbling awareness of the need, perhaps we would have never looked to love outside our immediate circle. The philosophical ideals and the abstract values that God imparts to us motivate proper day-to-day living. But the real life itself is not lived there. There's no fire in the fireplace, no steaming hot food on plates. No Christmas trees or laughter or kids begging to lick the beaters. No knowing glances passed between parents over oblivious children. No racing on the beach, no flying kites, no campfires, no reading together under the shade of a tree on a cool summer day. Those are the things that excite me, that fire me up. That is what I think of first when someone asks me why we’ve decided to adopt. The ideals and the philosophies that are so important need the hard edge of reality in order to be lived out. Without it, they remain cold and lifeless and ineffective. But once they are lived out, they gain potency as living testimonies to their inherent truth.

I look forward to seeing the seeds that God planted in us as ideals and passions and particular giftednesses grow into the fruits of that wondrous and amazing-sounding everyday life.

Wherever and whoever you are, I can't wait to meet you. I promise to love you with all that I am and to be the best father I can as my Father enables me. Hold tight...your new family is on its way...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Homestudy madness

Well we have chosen an agency to do our homestudy, Across the World Adoptions (ATWA.) They're located in Pleasant Hill, California (near Sacramento) but are also licensed to do international adoption homestudies in Santa Barbara County.

This homestudy thing is a lot of work! So many documents to get together for the INS, we have to do two seperate fingerprint scans each, we each have to get a medical, get Anna a medical, fill out detailed questionnaires about our lives, etc. I think this will be the most work we will have to do in the process (at least I hope so!) Meanwhile we are waiting to hear back from AAI to find out what we'll need to get together for our dossier, to be sent to Ethiopia.

We'll hopefully be sending in our homestudy application/fee agreement/fee tomorrow. I'm not sure at what point we'll actually meet with a social worker.

I'm enjoying reading the book AAI sent to us, "Raising Adopted Children." It's very interesting and gives a lot of good things to think about.

Anyway, that's the latest. Until next time...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Second Step!

Well we heard back from AAI today and we are officially "pre-approved!!" We received a large packet in the mail from them and the book "Raising Adopted Children" by Lois Ruskai Melina as well, which we are both supposed to read. We now must send AAI the following items:

  • Photocopy of our marriage certificate
  • Insurance letter (a photocopy of the part of our insurance booklet verifying coverage of adoptive children)
  • Letter of commitment (stating what we will do to assist orphans who are still unadopted)
  • Family photo
  • Family Questionnaire (a huge list of various health conditions stating whether we would or would not consider taking a child with that condition.)
  • Communication form (letting them know the best ways to keep in touch with us)
  • Release of homestudy form
  • Adoption processing (contract and fee)
We already have the marriage certificate, insurance letter, and family photo ready to go (we knew ahead of time we'd need these things), so once we fill out those forms (which we're doing tonight), we should be able to get all of this sent off. This will complete our file at AAI. At that point we can begin preparing our dossier that will be sent to Ethiopia (meanwhile starting our homestudy with a local social worker.) We are so, so excited and praising God for this amazing blessing and opportunity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Just thought I would post about an amazing organization affiliated with our adoption agency, AAI. It is called AHOPE and stands for African HIV Orphans: Project Embrace. You can find them on the web at www.ahopeforchildren.org.

Many orphaned children test positive for HIV. Because there is so much misinformation and superstition surrounding HIV and AIDS in the Ethiopian population, relatives are often reluctant to take in children whose parents have died of AIDS.

Adoption Advocates International (AAI) screens all of the children who come into their care for HIV. ONE in SIX children tests positive, so AAI established a special facility to care for these children. The executive director of AAI encouraged a friend to establish a non-profit organization in the U.S. to fund the home for HIV orphans. That is how AHOPE came to be.

AHOPE for Children provides:

  • Pleasant and well staffed children's homes that care solely for children who have tested positive for HIV.
  • A loving and stimulating environment for the children as long as they live.
  • An ongoing community program to educate about how to curtail the spread of HIV and how to live safely with a person who is HIV positive.
Fortunately, it looks like the Ethiopian government is about to allow the importing of ARV drugs (anti-retroviral medication) into their country, which will offer these children a much brighter future. So, AHOPE will also be preparing these children to lead independent, adult lives as well. The HIV positive children at AHOPE are also no longer considered "unadoptable," so many of them have been finding "forever families." There are two AHOPE homes in Ethiopia now caring for 60 HIV positive orphans.

The website has a wonderful, short video on these precious children who are just happy as can be, singing Bible songs, etc. They need people to be sponsors ($30 per month to sponsor a child and you receive photos and info on the child, plus you get to correspond with them, etc.) or you can also make a one-time, tax deductible donation. And of course they need your prayers!

I was not aware that there were so many orphans living with HIV and AIDS. We're hoping to travel to Africa to get our child (when the time comes) and if we're able to do that, we hope to spend some time with the beautiful children at AHOPE.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Our family

Easter 2005: Brianna, Kevin and Anna Beth

Friday, July 08, 2005

Adoption Advocates International

AAI is the adoption agency we decided to go with. There are only about four agencies in the United States that place children from Ethiopia, and we chose AAI based on their dedication to keeping costs low for adoptive families, their obvious commitment to orphaned children, and their flexibility (some agencies have strict rules regarding becoming pregnant during the adoption process, for example.) Merrily, the executive director, has been so wonderful and prompt about answering our questions, and has even adopted 15 children herself!

The mid-sized agency is located in Port Angeles, Washington. They have been licensed since 1983, and were approved to work in Ethiopia in 1997. After children are medically screened, they live in AAI facilities in Ethiopia while adoptive families are guided through processing the necessary paperwork required by both the U.S. and Ethiopian governments. This agency also places children from Thailand and China.

There are two AAI-run homes in Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia.) The babies and young children are cared for at Wanna House. The young children attend preschool, play with toys and sometimes go on field trips. Babies are held during each feeding and loved on by the staff members. School age children live at Layla House, a compound of four buildings. Teachers instruct children in English, math, science, geography, music and sports. The children play games, go on field trips, do chores, etc. All of the activities are geared to prepare them for life in America.

All of the children are given emotional support to help them deal with losing their family and also to prepare them for being adopted. They recieve a healthy diet, medical care and immunizations. (AAI is currently preparing to build a larger Layla House complex where children of all ages can be housed. This should be completed by September.) Needless to say AAI is doing an amazing work in Ethiopia!

The website for Adoption Advocates International is www.adoptionadvocates.org


Ethiopia is a fascinating country with an impressive history. With records dating back
5, 000 years, it is located near the Red Sea with a population of 53 million. It is the only African country to have never been colonized and has remained predominantly Christian. It was home to the Queen of Sheba , and the empire beginning with Sheba's son (Menelik) continued until 1974 when the death of Haile Selassie marked the end of the 3, 000 year dynasty. Following Selassie's death, there was a civil war in the country until 1991 when a transitional government was formed. Due to war, poverty, drought, and HIV, there are millions of children without homes in Ethiopia.

Amazingly, these children tend to have a cheerful outlook despite their difficult lives.

First step

Today we send off our adoption application! I had decided that when we officially began the adoption process, we would have a blog for people to stay updated on what's going on, as well as for other prospective adoptive families, as a resource for information. We have decided to adopt a child/children from Ethiopia through the agency Adoption Advocates International. They're a mid-sized agency based in Washington state. We're so excited to be pursuing adoption although it doesn't seem real yet. Today we mail off our application, application fee, and proof of income for the last three years.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


God led us to start considering international adoption several months ago. While we'd never given it much thought in the past, God planted the idea in my head (seemingly from out of nowhere) and upon doing further research, I was amazed by the HUGE number of children orphaned in other parts of the world. I also felt sad that prior to this, I'd really had no idea that so many little ones were without homes.

I guess I just really didn't have a "global perspective" on life---I'd never gone on a missions trip or really thought much about what goes on in other parts of the world. In February we attended a missions dinner at our church where different missionaries spoke and gave updates on what they've been doing. I was particularly moved by the missionaries to Romania and the stories of the millions of children there living on the streets and in orphanages. I think God planted some seeds in both our hearts and minds that night, even though we didn't know it at the time. In addition, some close friends of ours had gone to Sri Lanka on a missions trip last summer. Seeing their hearts open to these people a world away was an amazing thing to see.

Initially, the whole concept of international adoption challenged me in terms of thinking about what a family is. It's not all "neat and tidy." As members of an adoptive family, we won't all look alike. We'll be asked some tough questions here and there. We will have to face and overcome some stereotypes. Yet God's kingdom isn't always "neat and tidy" by man's standards. He loves variety and we see that everyday in all aspects of His creation. And often He calls us to do things that challenge our more narrow ways of thinking. At this point I am just plain excited to get to take this child as my own and count it a privilege to get to raise a little one from another part of the world. What a blessing he/she will be to us, to Anna, and to our friends and family. I see what a precious creature Anna is and cannot wait to meet the child God created to be her brother/sister. (And I can't even begin to imagine the mischief they'll get into together!)

As for why we're specifically adopting from Africa, we were instantly drawn to the children of Ethiopia. Located in East Africa, it is an amazing country with an amazing history and a truly strong people. While adoption isn't always "neat and tidy," we are just so excited and we know the Lord will give us the grace, strength and love to give to one of His precious children in Africa.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Hi! I'm Brianna, and welcome to my blog.

I started blogging in 2005 to share about our Ethiopian adoption process. (We brought home twin boys in 2006.) What began as a simple way to chronicle our journey has become an outlet to keep in touch with friends, share my heart, meet dear people from all over the world, and process through my personal thoughts.

I love writing about my husband Kevin, my five children, adoption, homeschooling, and my life here in sunny Denver, Colorado. God is continually teaching me to move beyond myself, out of my comfort zone, and that there is profound beauty and spectacular joy in the mundane. (Yes, that includes the never-ending piles of laundry! But maybe not scrubbing the shower.)

What else should you know about me?

am an introvert,
love ethnic food,
live in an old 1912 brick bungalow (with kitchen cabinets that don't really close),
am obsessed with reading,
love to laugh,
buy most things second-hand,
could spend 24 hours a day with my husband and not get tired of him,
am afraid of the dentist,
adore reading Roman Catholic authors,
think my blog template is way too foofy (but it was free),
don't like whining (from adults, kids, or otherwise),
enjoy sarcasm,
hate celebrity gossip,
had three chidren ages 2 and under at one point and lived to tell about it.

I also want to tell you that I volunteer with an amazing organization, From HIV to Home, that seeks to pave a way home for the world's HIV+ orphans.

I think that's it. I hope you enjoy reading along!

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