Friday, December 22, 2006

HIV and adoption part III

I wasn't going to post today but Jeannett left an interesting comment so here I am, posting again. In case you didn't catch it in the comments section of the last post, here it is:

I think a big issue that I struggle with in terms of AIDS in America, is that it is, in fact, a preventable disease. Okay, of course that excludes babies who have no choice and are born with it and the other sorts of things like that...but far and wide, I don't want to say a disease of sinners or that people deserve such a horrendous fate, but I admit it's hard to have a great deal of empathy when you can't help but think that in some ways, if people did quit doing drugs, being sexually promiscuous, the disease as we know it in the United States would phase itself out. Meanwhile, we have a whole laundry list of diseases that are genetic, with no cure (cancer, autism, etc) that are completely void of any kind of behavioral cause/effect. I'm trying to care about it because I think that's what Christ wants of me...but I'll admit it's a little hard to want to focus my efforts on something that is in many ways preventable, when there are so many others out there that maybe aren't nearly as "trendy".

Somehow though, it's much easier for me to have a soft heart towards those in Africa with the disease. Why? I guess because it really is such a pandemic, and the lack of education about it, the very real social stigma you get if you admit to have it (not that there isn't one in the US), and the lack of medical care available makes it such a vicious cycle that it's heartbreaking. And it's much harder to envision an "end" to it.

I think that it's kind of hard to think that with all of the advertising and whatnot we are exposed to here, that anyone would ever say that he didn't know how AIDS was transmitted, etc. In fact, there was even a Law & Order episode about a guy who purposely went around infecting people after knowing he had the virus...and even the poorest of the poor in America has a TV (which is really depressing). There is certainly miseducation about the details of AIDS and how it can be "caught" (as evident in your post) but for the most part, everyone knows some of the basics.

It's an interesting line, and one I've been surprised to see in myself. If I'm open and honest, I will admit outloud that I have a very difficult time wanting to participate in a local AIDS march or donate to the AIDS Center of SLO...but if you ask me to do something that would benefit the cause of AIDS education in Kenya, I'm all for it.

I think this is a very common viewpoint (thanks for being honest and sharing!) I used to wonder/grapple with some of the same things. My perspective has changed a bit over the last year, so I guess I'll share what my thoughts on it are now, and why.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul writes about not associating with sexually immoral people--"not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral...In that case you would have to leave this world...What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."

From this passage I take that it is not my responsibility to worry about what I perceive to be the poor decisions or sins of people in this world we live in. If someone doesn't currently have the hope of Jesus, or if they live a high-risk lifestyle (or take a risk even ONE time), I think Paul would say for us to not concern ourselves with that. In my view, my sin is no different/better/easier to forgive than someone living that lifestyle (do I live in light of that all the time? Absolutely not. But I wish I did--humility is a good thing.) The only difference is that by God's grace and through Christ's sacrifice I can know the hope that is Jesus, His unconditional love and forgiveness for my sin.

SO, if we're not supposed to judge Joe, who happens to be an AIDS patient and is considered "outside the church" in that he is not a believer in Christ, then what SHOULD we be thinking about him? Well, we know from the Bible that we're to love him as ourselves. We know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. We know he has a disease and that he is suffering. I think we love him, strive to meet his needs.

There are all sorts of medical conditions we have today that are sometimes the result of unhealthful behavior: heart disease, certain cancers, adult onset diabetes. Yet nothing quite gets people fired up about "making poor choices" like HIV and AIDS. I don't think sexual sin is somehow "worse" in God's eyes than other sins. In fact, when Paul is talking in 1 Corinthians 5 about the "church people" not to associate with, he also lists the "greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler." Yikes!

Personally I would have no qualms participating in an AIDS walk or giving to an AIDS center, in the name of raising money for research or to assist AIDS patients or their families. In the end stages this can be a truly debilitating disease. Those suffering from HIV and AIDS may feel hopeless, depressed, shunned by society because for most of them it means their past decisions are laid bare for everyone to see. I also think it is a pretty cool opportunity for Christians to band together with people of all different backgrounds and to reach out in love.

In addition to all of this, when you look at who AIDS is affecting in the United States, in 2004, 49% of those diagnosed with AIDS were African Americans, even though they only account for 13% of the general population (28% of the diagnoses were for Whites, who comprise 69% of the population.) Studies show that there's an association between higher incidences of AIDS and lower income. And it's said that racial minorities today account for about 75% of all new AIDS cases. Most cases are found in urban areas.

What do the numbers mean? One thing I think they demonstrate is that we must care in general about the human condition--not only about those living with HIV/AIDS, but also about the conditions that lead to poverty, that limit opportunities, and that ultimately contribute to addictions and unhealthy sexual behavior. I think we need to show people that they are valuable and worth something and made in the image of a God who loves them.

Okay, that is quite enough out of me for today, and for the next few days. :) Jeannett thanks for posting. I'm off to have some hot chocolate--yum!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Some background: HIV and adoption part II

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS; left untreated, HIV progresses to AIDS in about 10-13 years, though everyone is different (and treatment should prolong it even further. AIDS is the final stage of HIV and can include opportunistic infections as well as a very compromised immune system.)

How did HIV begin? It was first diagnosed in the US in the early 1980's and was present in Africa even earlier. The simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) found in monkeys and chimpanzees is believed to have been transmitted to humans in Africa (Africans have been hunting these monkeys for centuries in the bush), resulting in HIV. What scientists have struggled to understand is how and why HIV exploded in Africa all of a sudden, and why SIV wasn't hurting the monkeys or the people who had it in their system. The going theory that they are working on right now has to do with serial passage. Apparently when HIV really started coming about in Africa, it was the same time that disposable needles were invented and westerners were making huge humanitarian efforts to vaccinate Africans against all sorts of diseases. However, people were generally not too concerned with sanitation at that point--it just seemed easier and more effective to get as many people vaccinated as possible. What scientists now believe happen is that basically the virus mutated; from getting passed from person to person (thus called serial passage) it changed and essentially became harmful. (I apologize for this oversimplified, crude explanation. I'm not a scientist--heck I didn't even graduate college! PLEASE read "There is No Me Without You" for a far more in-depth look at this. And if I misquoted something someone call me out!)

HIV is spread through sexual contact and blood. It is NOT spread through saliva, you CANNOT catch it from sharing food or drinks or from sitting on a toilet seat, you CANNOT get it from giving someone a hug, kissing them, or from any sort of casual contact.

Yet there remains a lot of fear surrounding the disease, both in our country and in the third world. (Up until very recently, for example, the children at AHOPE in Ethiopia were not allowed to attend the public schools. Now, thank goodness, they are.) It had always seemed to me that taking up the cause of AIDS in the US was a very trendy, celebrity-like thing to do. It seemed very social-conscious and even politically correct.

But I have to be honest and say my experiences over the last year or so have shown me that talking about HIV and AIDS is NOT "popular", or fashionable. There remains a lot of fear, ignorance, and stigma in this country. When we brought our boys home the first question that many people had--including strangers--was if they'd been tested for HIV. I assured them they had, and that they don't have the virus, but what I REALLY wanted to say was, "So what if they DID have it? Would they somehow be less my sons? Would their lives be considered so insignificant and worthless that they wouldn't deserve a family?"

I was at a child's birthday party not too long after returning home and was sharing with someone about one of the orphanages our boys had lived at in Ethiopia, Missionaries of Charity, which is an orphanage for children with AIDS. (Remember Yosef and Biniam tested positive for HIV initially due to their mother's antibodies in their systems.) This person, college educated no less, said, "You're really lucky they didn't catch AIDS there." Huh? That one caught me off guard (and kind of bugged me.) I nicely told her that HIV is not spread through casual contact. She seemed surprised or maybe like she didn't fully believe me, I don't know. Let's just say it wasn't the greatest afternoon, going to a kid's birthday party and having someone tell me I'm lucky my kids didn't magically catch AIDS. Yuck.

I've also been dismayed by what appears to be the Christian response to the AIDS crisis. I think we Christians have kinda been taught (maybe not in such obvious terms but more subtly) that AIDS is a disease of sinners: gay men, drug addicts, promiscuous heterosexuals. They're choosing high risk behaviors and so they're getting what they asked for, right? We don't need to feel too sorry for them or concerned about it. I've even heard the "Christian" theory that AIDS is God's punishment for sexual sin (didn't Jesus already pay the penalty for our sins?)

As for the Christian response to the situation in Africa specifically, you don't hear much about it. What I HAVE heard is the idea that Africans are irresponsible, promiscuous, backwards. (I don't even like writing this stuff out, it is so icky.) Nevermind that families are being torn apart, moms and dads and children are dying, and lifesaving medications are largely unavailable due to pharmaceutical patent laws. Even some adoption agencies refuse to place HIV positive children.

Anyway, I feel like the first step we have to make in fighting the AIDS pandemic and advocating for HIV positive orphans (and children who have been orphaned due to AIDS) is softening our hearts towards those affected and trying to understand more about the implications of the disease: social, physical, emotional, economical. On World AIDS Day the local newsstation did a story on AIDS. But the extent of it was a Cal Poly (go Mustangs) sorority member being interviewed about how she does the "responsible thing" and gets tested for HIV twice a year. I was honestly a little saddened that they didn't at all mention the huge continent that is dying, or the rising rates of HIV in India and Russia.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HIV and adoption part I

Someone had asked some questions about the previous post so I decided to post something on the topic. I am really no expert on any of this stuff (not that I would be mistaken for one!), but I HAVE done a bit of research and reading and talking to people about it over the course of the last year. Why, you may be asking?

Well for one thing, my sons' birth mom is HIV positive. As they grow and learn about their story and past, I feel like they ought to have accurate and real information about the disease and the reason why she could no longer care for them. Not only that, but both Yosef and Biniam tested positive for HIV themselves at one and a half months old, as they were still carrying their mom's antibodies--very common for children born to parents with HIV/AIDS. Because of this they spent the first several months of their lives in Mother Theresa's Sisters of Charity orphanage for children with AIDS, and were thought to be unadoptable. (The boys were retested months later, tested negative, and were moved to Layla House.)

I've also felt compelled to learn more about all of this after visiting AHOPE while we were in Ethiopia. Every orphan at AHOPE has either HIV or AIDS. It was the first time I'd been around people that I knew had the disease and the experience impacted me in a profound way. On the one hand I was amazed by the fact that these were, well, just average kids! They were running and playing and singing and yelling. I was devastated sitting there though because not only did these kids have a disease that living in Ethiopia would probably cut their lives short (and that carries a horrible stigma), they had no families, they'd lost theirs. That may rank as one of the hardest days of my life.

I guess I also felt intrigued once some of these kids started being adopted. So I started reading a couple of blogs, then just researching the disease in general. (The book I've recommended, There is No Me Without You, is an EXCELLENT way to learn more about HIV.) I began to feel sad that this disease gets no real "airtime" in the US anymore. I began to explore my own thoughts about the whole thing and also think about peoples' thoughts in general. One of the first questions people would ask about Yosef and Biniam once we got them was, "Have they been tested for HIV?" There is a LOT of fear surrounding this disease and a lot of misinformation too. People have told me I'm "lucky" my sons didn't "catch" the disease having lived in Ethiopia.

I also began to feel convicted that an entire continent is being ravaged by what in the US is a very treatable, preventable disease, and yet what have I done about any of it? What is the church at large doing about it, and why? Why is there such a huge stigma attached to this one disease, to Americans who have it, to Africans in general because it's such a problem there?

All of that is why I've tried to learn what I can. Like I said earlier I really am not an expert on this. I don't have a child with HIV or even a friend (that I know of) who has it. But I DO know that Jesus cares (therefore so should I) and that He must be saddened by the way people with this illness are treated, talked about, looked at. People have referred to it as a modern day version of leprosy and I wholeheartedly agree. SO, in my next few posts, I will talk some about HIV, what it means to have it, and ways to help, which include being open to the adoption of a child who happens to be HIV positive.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Link of the day

I thought this was interesting, heartfelt and worth reading. It's by an adoptive mom in Colorado on the topic of AIDS and the adoption of HIV positive children. Here is the link:

Oh Come On

Just another Friday night for the Heldts...

Kevin locked his keys in the car at his vanpool spot on Friday, so the kids and I had to meet him there that evening. We had some returns to make to WalMart too, so we all headed over there afterwards. We still needed to eat dinner, and there's a Wendy's in the same area as WalMart, although a bit of a walk through the parking lot.

Now one thing that is hard about having three little ones is the whole carseat thing. Loading and unloading three kids from their seats is kind of a pain. Especially when it's just for a short drive. After we left WalMart and put the stuff we bought in the car, Kevin had the brilliant idea of just pushing the kids in the cart over to Wendy's. HA!

So there we went, walking through the lot, all the way over to Wendy's with our kids in the cart. Truly a sight to behold I am sure. I've never taken myself all that seriously (have you seen the cars we drive?) but this was perhaps a new low. I wish we'd had the camera to take a picture!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Watch this video

This is a great video on MSNBC about AHOPE that is truly worth watching. It features Jane Aronson (well-known international adoption doctor, fellow AAI adoptive parent and head of WWO) and also has an interview with Sidisse, the director of AHOPE who we spent some time with when we visited last February. (Cool side-note, there's also a clip of Dr. Sophie Mengistu talking. She's an Ethiopian doctor who did Yosef and Biniam's checkups while they lived over there. Kinda neat to see who their doctor was for the first 16 months of life!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Me and the husband

So I've been thinking lately about what my identity/role as a person is, and realized that for awhile after we first got married (back in 2002), I first and foremost thought of myself as a wife. This makes sense being that we didn't have any children yet. We lived in this little apartment in Santa Barbara where we knew just about no one. We liked going out to eat, going to the movies, and visiting friends and family up in SLO. Of course that season of our lives ended in a sense when about a year later we bought a house, moved to Santa Maria and got pregnant with Anna. (Well not in that order, I just didn't know I was pregnant yet when we moved.)

So anyhow, I've been thinking lately about how doing the daily grind with three kids (and being 7 months pregnant) almost makes you forget that you're a wife to a cool guy. Not that I have literally forgotten I'm married, and not that things play out much differently, but I don't really THINK about it much. And I've decided to make more of a conscious effort to do so because the truth is I LOVE being married!

Kevin and I were pretty young when we got hitched. I was 20 and he was 21. I guess we broke all the rules, because not only were we young but I wasn't done with college yet. In fact, he wasn't due to be done yet either, but ended up finding a way to graduate several months sooner than planned. We just knew we loved each other and that God wanted us to be together. And I couldn't be happier with the way it played out. I loved being married young; I have tons of super fond memories of that first year together.

And now things are even better I think. The kids are in bed at 7:30 every night, and we totally look forward to and value our "us" time. We love playing games (even if they start a fight, which sometimes they do!) like Monopoly or cards or Parcheesi. Sometimes we rent movies or watch Seinfeld or just talk. Or sit there too exhausted to move! I love that I get to feel so comfortable to just be myself with Kevin. It's always been that way, one of the things I've always loved about him. We never had to go out on extravagant dates or to special places to have a great time, which is maybe what makes our current situation (being the parents of three two year olds and a baby on the way) less daunting. We love just being together.

So those are some of my recent reflections on marriage. I love being married to Kevin and I love being a wife. It's a lot of fun and therefore I should think about it more often!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Q & A's

I don't know if anyone reading this blog is considering adoption or has questions about it, but it occurred to me that there are lots of things I used to wonder about, but that I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable asking an adoptive parent. Now that I'm on the other side of that fence, I figured I'd post some questions and answers about stuff that maybe people think, but don't ask. SO...

1.) Is it different loving your adopted vs. biological children? I thought about this a lot as we waited for our referral, and then as we waited to travel. What would it be like to have a child I hadn't given birth to or even known from birth? Our sons were 16 months old when we met them, hardly little babies anymore. To be honest I worried a lot--what if I don't feel for them enough or what if I don't bond to them enough, etc. I loved them before I met them, but obviously in a different way than I loved the child I'd already had for two years. Then I met them and the bonding process began. Ten months later, I can honestly say that genetics are just that: genetics. Being pregnant and birthing a baby is part of the bonding process (just like receiving a referral photo and traveling to a child's homeland), but it's only the beginning. I love my boys more and more every day, just like I love Anna more and more every day. (I think it is more difficult in general attaching to a toddler than a cuddly newborn, but that's okay, it comes through time and shared experiences.) Giving birth to Anna was a miraculous, amazing, magical experience (minus the pain of labor)...and so was getting the call that we had two sons in Ethiopia, and traveling there (minus the 25 hour flight), and experiencing a new world and culture. Both are amazing and if I sit and think long enough about either one I get teary-eyed.

2.) Do you feel like you missed out on a lot of their lives?
Yes and no. Like I said they were almost a year and a half old when we got them, and they'd been in orphanages for all but the first month and a half of life. So in a sense I desperately wish I had been there for them the moment their mother relinquished them. But I am comforted by the fact that God was looking out for them and they were well cared for and nurtured. I don't have newborn pictures of them and I missed Yosef's first steps. But I don't dwell on it much right now. I imagine as they grow older they will think about this and at that point, if it's something they feel sadness over, I will definitely feel it more too. I know as they process their lives and their past we will all go through a lot of emotions. My primary"regret" these days is that I don't know more about their biological mother, father and sister (though I know a lot compared to many adoptive families.) Which brings me to the next question...

3.) Is it strange that your kids have another mom?
Not at all! This is probably something I would have thought would be weird before adopting, but it's really not. I honestly don't feel "threatened" or uncomfortable with the fact that they had a life for awhile which didn't include me. Now granted we are all so far removed from their past (unlike a child in an open adoption) so I'm sure that's part of it, but if anything I just feel tied and connected to this other woman out there, and I wish I knew her. I don't at all begrudge her the honor of having been the first mommy to my boys.

4.) Is it strange having kids that don't look like you?
Well, I don't think Anna looks like me either, so I am used to it! :) Honestly, no it's not. It goes back to my genetics just being genetics thing. I LOVE that my sons are Black, Ethiopian, and I think they are extremely cute. But that has no bearing on whether or not I "feel " like their mom. They could have white skin with brown hair like me and they wouldn't feel any more like my sons than they do. When I see Kevin holding one of the boys I see a daddy holding his son, I don't first see a white person holding a black person. Their Blackness and heritage is all a beautiful part of who they are and I happily embrace that, but just like I'm not constantly thinking about how Anna has straight hair or blue eyes, I'm not constantly thinking about what my sons look like.

5.) Do you think a white family can successfully raise a black child in the US?
This question gets talked about a lot in adoption/adult adoptee circles. I think we ALL worry to some degree about how our kids will turn out, will they be well-adjusted, will they be able to make it on their own eventually. So just like I worry from time to time about how I'm raising Anna, I worry about Yosef and Biniam too. And some of my parental worries about them ARE unique to the fact that this is a transracial adoption in a country still very polarized by race and class. Absolutely there will be some tough things to process and overcome. But we have faith that God is bigger than all of it and will give us wisdom in navigating those waters. And we're committed to doing what it takes to make it easiest on our kids. Ideally, in a perfect world, no child would have to be orphaned...or leave their country. But in the broken world we live in, it happens, and I feel really blessed to get to be the mom of two awesome little boys. I think God loves uniqueness and diversity and I think mixed-race families can be a sweet thing.

Okay those are the questions and answers I came up with. If anyone has any other questions, they can ask and I'll do my best to answer. (But no one better ask if Yosef and Biniam are actually twins!)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas pictures

Okay so when you have three two year olds, plus the two of you, getting a decent family picture to send with your Christmas card is HARD! We took all these pictures on Saturday. Um, yeah, the only ones that turned out all-around good were the ones of just me and Kevin!!! (We joked about sending one of those and writing "Not pictured: Anna, Yosef and Biniam". HA!) There's one picture that the kids are great in, but it was windy and my hair is blowing (not to mention I don't like the face I'm making.) In the ones where I look a little better, the kids don't look nearly as good. (PLUS, being 7 months pregnant, I've gained a good deal of weight and so of course my vanity is kicking in.)

This is quite complicated. Here's hoping we find a good solution!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Good helper

So the other morning I went into Anna's room to get her up, and lo and behold discovered that she had made her entire bed all by herself! I had to take a picture.

It is crazy how quickly kids seem to grow up. I think they get a little more independent every day, and as nice as it is it's also kinda sad!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So I've decided that Christmas is a lot of work! Doing the Christmas tree is a job that, to be honest, I don't really like. We're one of those families that has a (brace yourselves) fake Christmas tree. The tree is pretty big so it takes quite some time to assemble, do the lights and then decorate. Every year I fight the temptation to just plain not put it up--but I LOVE having a tree, and I don't want to be a Scrooge, so I press on. AND, more importantly we have three kids, this is our sons' first Christmas with us, and they really ought to have a tree.

Well, the tree was a little easier to assemble this year due to Kevin's great idea last year of not unshaping the branches (and making them more compact) when we put the tree away. At the time I thought it was silly, it'd take up extra room in the attic, wouldn't work, etc. But boy oh boy, Monday night I didn't have to shape ANY branches; it was wonderful! AND Kevin did the lights this year, which was great. I put the ornaments on yesterday morning to the sounds of Bing Crosby (and my not-so-empty threats of time-outs to any child who touched the tree/ornaments.)

I look forward to starting some family traditions this year. I bought a gingerbread house kit for us all to do, and plan to make some Christmas cookies as well. We're also going to bundle up one of these nights and walk through our neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights/displays. I always thought that stuff was so tacky but I have to say my kids LOVE seeing the life-sized snowmen on peoples' lawns!

Now if only this warm California weather would go's December for goodness sakes!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brotherly love

Saturday night Biniam was crying really hard because we'd had to take a choking hazard away from him. All of a sudden Yosef sidled up to him and starting rubbing Biniam's back, to comfort him. Biniam instantly stopped crying, turned and gave Yosef this HUGE hug, which Yosef returned, and they stood there hugging and giggling.

I get so excited to see the bonds my kids have with one another!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Talkin' 'bout a revolution

I didn't want today to go by without acknowleding that it's World AIDS Day. Up until recently I'd never known of anyone personally with AIDS (that was not a celebrity) and would never have imagined that it could ever touch my life--no matter how direct/indirectly--but we now have two sons whose birthmother is HIV-positive. Sadly we've never met her but we do know her full name, her situation and her heart-wrenching story, perhaps a little unusual to have so much background information on internationally adopted babies. What a blessing and gift.

It is ultimately because of AIDS that this woman was unable to keep Yosef and Biniam for longer than the month and a half that she did. I wish their family's tragic story was an exception or an example of a really extreme situation. Unfortunately it's life as usual in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia.

HIV and AIDS have been off the media's radar screen in the US for awhile now, in large part because we are blessed by having access to amazing drugs that have led to HIV now being classified as simply a "chronic, manageable disease" as opposed to a fatal one. HIV-positive people who take the medications can lead long and fulfilling lives now.

But in other parts of the world these special drugs are not available. 6,000 new children are orphaned every day by this disease world-wide. Many, many children are also living with the disease themselves, and a lot of those kids are orphans, too. Basically, it is an understatement to say that AIDS is a major, major problem and that the Western world truly needs to wake up, reach out and help (starting with myself of course.)

This is an excellent article, written by Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision. I think that like so many other things, fighting this disease has to begin with our hearts being transformed, people like you and me coming to a place where we recognize the huge need for help and where we commit to meet that need. One easy way to do that is by sponsoring a child at AHOPE in Ethiopia or making a donation to them. This facility does an amazing work, taking in orphans with HIV. We visited back in February and it is a precious place, and the children there are even receiving the ARV medications.

It is also possible to adopt a child from Ethiopia with HIV now! It is so exciting as more and more families are adopting children who happen to be HIV-positive. Check out this blog to read about Erin, whose family just brought home a two year old girl from AHOPE. This blog belongs to a family traveling to bring home two sisters from Ethiopia, one of which is coming from AHOPE as well.

One of my favorite books of all time is There is No Me Without You, which was just recently written by a fellow adoptive mom with kids from Ethiopia. It is an EXCELLENT book on the subject of AIDS and the effect it's having in Ethiopia. I treasure this book as well because it is a precious glimpse into the lives of my kids. I really, really recommend reading this; I couldn't put it down and it is truly an eye opener.

There's an old song by Tracy Chapman that the kids (and I) love called "Talkin' Bout a Revolution." The lyrics describe the poor rising up to take their share and includes the line "finally the tables are starting to turn/talkin' bout a revolution". I just recently did some research and discovered that our sons' birth mother's name means, of all things, "revolution" in Amharic. This floored me because this adoption journey, trip to Africa, all of it has brought so much revolution about in our hearts. We remain changed because of it.

And my prayer is that many, many hearts (including ours!) will continue to be transformed and desire to see revolution come about in terms of loving our brothers and sisters and reaching out to help them. I would love to see the tables start to turn, one heart at a time, fighting the stigma of HIV and AIDS, fighting the horrible notion that it's a "disease of sinners", finding ways to reach other countries with treatment so families won't have to be torn apart. I think God is all about revolution, bringing change and transformation, "making all things new." So on World AIDS Day I pray He can use me to help in this way!

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