Friday, December 30, 2011

INTERVIEW: Bob Russell: Acquaintance of Jim Elliot - PART TWO

Jim and his team’s disappearance made national news in America.  What was going through your mind while they were missing?

Our local church was in intense prayer—most of the adults had some knowledge of what the five were trying to do and their specific efforts to that point.  When they were “missing,” there was heavy concern and intense prayer. 

Our family first heard (of their deaths) through the media.  My most vivid memory of Fred (Jim’s father) at that time is how he clung to Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” 

The feeling of Jim’s dad and others was that the five had “overcome the Accuser by conversion, confession, and consecration.”  That was the phrase they used—it was brought up at Fred Elliot’s memorial service.

I believe you are in possession of wire recordings of Jim’s messages.  How did they fall into your hands?

Fred and Clara Elliot, Jim’s parents, were always very good to me.  Fred was my primary spiritual mentor.  Sometime after Fred died, my wife and I were at the Elliot home. We were harvesting apples off Clara’s tree for her.  As we sat around the table having lunch, Clara remarked, “I wish I could hear Jim’s voice again!” 

I replied, “Sure, Clara.  We all do.”

Later she said again, “I wish I could hear Jim’s voice again.”  Once again we replied in an acknowledging manner.  When she said it a third time, we realized there had to be more to her statement and so we began to probe. 

It turned out that in a closet was an old wire recorder.  Wire recorders were forerunners to magnetic tape.  The machine no longer worked. 

I was a mechanical engineer in the electronics industry and volunteered to see if I could make the old recorder work.  Eventually I managed to get sound out of it and so I transferred everything with Jim’s voice onto cassette tapes and returned it all to Clara.  In amongst the recordings were four messages of Jim’s and a number of personal communications from Jim and Elizabeth’s honeymoon and from their time on the mission field. 

Sometime later Clara insisted that I have the old recorder and all the wires—she said she knew I would value them.  Then my wife Connie and I spent countless hours transcribing these messages.

Last year, 2010, I had those messages published in book form entitled, “Jim Elliot: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You.”

Clearly, Jim and his team remain an inspiration to the Christian world today through films, documentaries, books, etc.  Why do you think his story touches lives so profoundly?

I think there were many reasons.  For one thing, when the tragic event occurred, it was a different world than today.  Five protestant missionaries being killed was front page of all newspapers.  It was the lead story on radio and television for several days.  LIFE Magazine, then an extremely popular periodical, devoted an issue to the story.  Virtually all mainstream publications devoted many pages of prints and photos to the story.

Second, it was in the early days of the Billy Graham revivals which increased the spiritual awareness in society.

Third, it seemed like such a tragic loss.  But this was contrasted with the loved ones of all five  families holding their heads high—even in their personal loss—confident that they served a sovereign God who was not caught by surprise.  There was a strong, deep undercurrent of confidence that  “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

Fourth, to the average person on the street it seemed like such a tragic loss of five intelligent and bright men.  It was a subject of debate.  Were they foolish?  Why didn’t they prepare better?  Is God real?  If so, why would this happen?, etc.

Additionally, I think it became a great teaching moment in Bible schools around the country. And I am sure that there are other factors. 

The net result has been thousands of individuals accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.  Thousands more committing their lives to His service.  Of course, we know that a high percentage of the Waorani tribe, or Aucas as they were then known, have become believers.  When we get to heaven we will all be amazed at the impact of those five lives!

When you finally see Jim again in glory, what do you think you’ll say to him?

Great question?  My first reaction might be, “Hi, Jim.  Where are your Dad and Mom?”  I’m sure I will also want to spend time with Jim, but my strongest ties were with his Godly parents!

What lessons would you say you learned from the Elliott family?

One of the overall lessons I learned from the Elliot family is to be faithful wherever God has put you.

Bert Elliot, whom I mentioned has spent his life ministering to the people of Peru, has put it this way: “While my brother Jim was like a comet streaking across the sky which caught the attention of those on earth, God chose him to serve in a different capacity as one of the many dim stars from earth’s viewpoint—stars which are countless in the vast universe.  There are many who consistently shine as lights where God has put them but never achieve the recognition that has come to Jim Elliot and the other four Christian martyrs at that time.  But God chooses to use both a few streaking comets and the many stars!”

Another obvious lesson is the tremendous influence Godly parents can have on their children who in turn influence their worlds for God. n

If you’re interested in knowing more about the man, Jim Elliot, Bob highly recommends a book edited by Jim’s widow, Elisabeth, entitled The Journals of Jim Elliot that can be purchased HERE.

And do yourself a favor and visit these two websites from Bob that I highlighted as links, and even drop him a line to tell him how the Lord has used his story to touch your life!

Bob’s blog:  Abundant Life Now

Bob’s author site:  Author Site

Thursday, December 29, 2011

INTERVIEW: Bob Russell: Acquaintance of Jim Elliot - PART ONE

Robert Lloyd Russell is an award-winning Christian author.  But there’s also something very unique about him.

When Bob was only eight years old, he met Jim Elliot.  Having come from a down-and-out, dysfunctional home, Bob and his family moved to Portland, OR, having only one phone number and address as a contact.  They showed up at this contact’s doorstep without a place to stay.  Little did they know at the time, they didn’t just appear at any house.  It was the home of none other than Jim Elliot and his parents.

The time spent with the Elliots formed much of whom Bob is today, including being a child of God. 

In this first of a two-part series in which I personally interviewed Bob, I am confident you’ll enjoy learning about this special brother in Christ and the family who made international news when tragedy struck in Ecuador.

How did you come to know Christ and how old were you when it happened?

I was fortunate to have a Godly mother and Godly grandparents.  My mother and maternal grandmother were by far the most influential in my early life.  My dad was killed in an industrial accident two days after my first birthday.  Mom was left with three children—five, three, and one years of age—with no money or insurance.  When I was nearly eight she married a man fresh out of the Navy.  Looking back I really believe she was largely trying to provide a normal family environment for us.

It was a dysfunctional home.  My adoptive dad was abusive emotionally and physically.  As the youngest I learned how to survive by watching my older siblings’ reactions.  The positive thing that throughout this entire period mom insisted we always go to church.  I remember vividly Mom and Dad arguing on the way to church every Sunday—but this was one thing Mom never gave up on.

During my freshman year away at college the Holy Spirit started working in my life in many interesting and varied ways.  Eventually, toward the end of my freshman year I was totally exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I had been carrying 19 credit hours per quarter while working 40-hour weeks to put myself through school.  One night I went outside and knelt down, gazed into heaven, and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life—and He did.  I was nearing my 19th birthday at that time.

You were eight when you first met the Elliot family.  Describe how you met them and what your first impression was of them?

Within less than a year, after my mom’s second marriage, we moved from the support of our extended family to Portland, Oregon.  My new dad was jobless, and the only name and address we had in Portland was Fred Elliot (Jim Elliot’s dad).  We showed up on their doorstep.  They took us in for a number of weeks.  Jim was living at home of that time.  Later, we lived with another church family in Eugene, Oregon.  Still later, in Salem, Oregon.  And then again with the Elliot family in Portland.

Did all the experiences living with the Elliot lead you to becoming born again?

Absolutely—but indirectly.  When I left home and was in my freshman year of college, I had pretty much mentally said good-bye to my upbringing.  But the Holy Spirit was working on me. A key issue in my mind was my memories of the Elliot family as well as other Christian families I knew as a child.  I knew they were different and possessed something real. 

How much time did you spend with Jim in those two years leading up to when he left for Ecuador?

Jim was in and out of the home during the time we lived there. Jim was often gone fulfilling opportunities to speak about His Savior (every chance he could get)—sometimes being away overnight.  He often taught our Sunday school class and youth meetings.  But he was home most of the time.

So tell me about that time with Jim from a non-Christian boy’s perspective.  What was he like?  What do you think drove him?  What were his likes and dislikes?

Everyone loved Jim—except perhaps some of those who didn’t like to see somebody on fire for God.  But he related well to everyone—for example he was student body president of his large high school.  He was an athlete, a leader, a funny guy, and just an all-around likeable guy who seemed to genuinely care about everyone he came in contact with.  He was an immensely popular guy. 

How was Jim’s family with the idea of him going to Ecuador?

Totally supportive.  The entire Elliot family was sold out for God.  The oldest sibling, Bob, was the president of a local chiropractic college, a gifted preacher, and a key leader in the local church.  In fact, Bob officiated at our wedding. 

The next brother, Bert, and his wife Colleen, were already on the mission field in Peru (they left in 1949).  In fact, they are still there today!  That must be approaching 63 years now!  They have spent their entire adult lives as missionaries to Peru and Peru is their “home.”

Then there was Jim. 

Jim’s younger sister, Jane, married Jerry Hawthorne, who for many years was a professor at Wheaton College.

The entire Elliot family exemplified the verse in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”   The Elliot parents almost always had boarders of some kind—many times they were students at a local Bible school who could not afford to live in the dorms. 

Although you were around ten years old when Jim and his team left for Ecuador, were you aware of their goings-on while they were there?

One of my most vivid memories was the going-away party at the church when Jim was leaving for the mission field.  At that age I did not fully understand or appreciate what it all meant.  Of course, I did not have any conception that would be the last time I would see Jim Elliot this side of heaven.  Also, at the time, Jim was just another guy—certainly not famous.  n

Don’t miss tomorrow’s post of the second part in the series in which Bob discusses the news of Jim’s team’s martyrdom and the impact it has made in our Lord’s kingdom!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Obstacles Come...

When that steep mountain is staring you in the face...

When you can't see the forest through the trees...

You put on your armor and gear up...

Hannah-Claire and Cade

You don't let that mountain tell you how big it is...


You tell that mountain...


How utterly big your God is...

Then you can glide through the obstacles!

Me and The Fetching Mrs. Salem

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends!

WATCH OUT!!!  This Thursday, Dec. 29, I am featuring a personal interview I did with Mr. Robert Russell, a friend, student, and housemate of Jim Elliot (and his family), the team leader who, with four others, were martyred while reaching out to the Waorani natives of Ecuador in the 1950's.  Don't miss it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Perspective on Death and Life

I apologize to all my readers.  I have not been very good at blogging the past month.  As you may or may not know, I came down with a horrendous flu that also sent Hailee and Harpy to the hospital.  Then, when I became fully recovered, my spiritual mother went to be with the Lord last Sunday.  You can read about that HERE.

Before I learned of Lynn's passing, last week I wrote a post about Jim Elliot and his team who were martyred while trying to reach the Waodani people in Ecuador.  Read it HERE.  I mentioned lessons I learned from a documentary I watched called Beyond the Gate of Splendor.   Then, days later, the woman most dear to me in this life next to my wife and daughters left me.

I hate this world.  I really, really do.  Now that doesn't mean I'm going to "off" myself so I can enter that "gate of splendor" prematurely.

John 15:19 states: 

"As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

So me and the world have a mutual hate relationship.  All I know is that there is a very real enemy out there who wants to kill us (John 10:10).  And there's a very real human condition theologians call "depravity" which means we and all creation on earth are all subject to the "sin condition" brought to us care of Adam.  And I sometimes "do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing" (Rom. 7:19).

But some day...

But some day...


As in Sandi Patti's song, Another Place, Another Time:

So I'm waiting
For another and another place
Where all my hopes and dreams will be captured with one look at Jesus' face
Oh, my heart's been burning, my soul keeps yearning
Sometimes I can hardly wait for that sweet, sweet someday
When I'll be swept away
To another time and another place.

I know.  I know.  I can hear all my friends say, "Now, Anthony, there's work to be done here on earth.  Advance His kingdom while you have breath.  Let's get busy."

Thank you, guys.  I understand.  But I also believe we need to rejoice in His glorious coming.  Anticipate "all creation moans." 

Death was not God's plan.  You really come to realize how true that is when someone you love dies.  It's so...unnatural.  The heart of God is for mankind to enjoy relationship forever with each other, including with Himself! 

I have conducted some 50 or 60 funerals.  Each time, I am reminded of that "another place, another time."

Jim Elliot was 29 when he died.  My spiritual mother was a young 74.  My mother was 67.  My father was a young 83.  All of my older relatives I used to love and hang out with as a child--all my grandparents--are all gone.  I think it's perfectly okay to think about them and to wonder what they're doing this very second in glory.  What are they saying to Jesus.  What's He saying back to them.  What are they saying to each other?

Ah, the joy and laughter that must peal in the heavenlies--cackles and squeals of joy echoing against the pearly gates.  What a wonderful thought it is to be among them.

This life is nearly over.  Whether you're my age (53) or just three years old.  Relatively speaking, life is so, so short.

Until that time when the Lord calls me up yonder, I want to honor Him, my King, AND those who have gone before me.  Those heroes in my life and in public life.  I want that cloud of witnesses to cheer me on as I run this race, dragging as many as I possibly can through that Gate of Splendor.

See you there, Lynn.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Farewell to a Mother

Yesterday morning, my spiritual mother who first led me to the Lord in April of 1979 went to be in the presence of our Savior for eternity. 

I cannot possibly find words to describe my relationship with her nor how she has impacted my life.  It cannot possibly be contained in a very large book.

So instead, I would simply like to say thank you to Lynn.  You have molded me into the man I am today.  I will never, ever forget you.  Though the pain of our earthly separation is unbearable, I have a deep anchor of hope and a wonderful anticipation for the time when we will be together again in glory.

Thank you, Mom, for believing in me, even when others and even myself did not.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lessons to Me in Remembering Jim Elliot and the Other Martyrs

It's so hard to find anything wholesome on TV at night.  I spun the roulette wheel and tried Netflix.  I was shocked to see a documentary, Beyond the Gate of Splendor, on Jim Elliot and his team who were martyred in Ecuador as they tried to reach the Waodani people.  How rich!  There were interviews with the widows, children, and grandchildren of the martyrs.

Someone once told me Elliot was too eager and jumped ahead of God.  Otherwise, he would have survived.  Today, I cower at that interpretation.

Sure, he was young--only 29 when he died.

Sure, he was energetic and eager.  Who isn't at 29?  From what the documentary stated, I think Jim and I would've been good friends.  He had a fantastic sense of humor.  Always laughing.  Always playing jokes on people.  And yet, he had a deep conviction for the things of God.

For most of his life, he chose the path of celibacy because he wanted to serve God with all he had.  Until...Elizabeth came into his life.  They fell in love, married, and started a family not long before flying to Ecuador on their mission.

I never knew that "Betty" stayed in Ecuador even after her husband was killed with the others.  I always thought that she flew home for three years, THEN returned to witness to the killers of her husband.  No, she stayed there!  She told herself, "Well, I'm a missionary, and this is where I'm meant to be."

For three years, she stayed the course, serving the Lord where she was.  Then one day, two women from the tribe who had carried out the ambush, came to her home.  They invited her to visit her tribe.                                                                                      "Are they going to kill me the way they killed my husband?" she asked them.  The women laughed.  "No, they usually kill only the men."  That was all she went by--"usually."  This remarkably brave woman accompanied the women by boat to the very spot where her husband and four others were brutally slaughtered with spears and machetes.                                                                    Soon, she was face to face with the killers themselves.  Little did she know at the time, that immediately after killing Elliot and the others, the tribe and rival tribe in the area had decided to not spear each other, that they would only use their spears to hunt animals for food.  The soil was fertile for the Gospel.  The killers and the tribe gave their lives to Jesus!
I did not know that Elliot probably had not even shared on iota of the Gospel with the Indian tribe before they were murdered.  They had flown back and forth into their village several times each day on a relationship-building mission. 

The way they came to be killed is ironic, really.  They were not killed because they were sharing the Good News!  There were three tribespeople they were becoming friends with every day.  Two women and one man.  The man and one of the women were interested in each other, but the tribe leaders were violently against the relationship.  So, everywhere they went, the leaders sent another woman, a chaperone, to accompany them.

One day, the lovebirds came back to the village without the chaperone.  The leaders grabbed their spears and were going to kill them both.  But the couple spoke up and lied--"The foreigners on the beach.  They threatened to kill us, so we ran away by ourselves to save ourselves!"

Three young warriors went to the beach and systematically murdered each of the five.

Here is a photo of Mincaye, one of those young men at the time, who thrust spears.  Elliot's wife converted him and he changed completely--grew on fire for the Lord!

Lessons to me?

*  The enemy will kill you even before you share one bit of the Gospel if he knows what you intend to do.

*  The enemy is a liar and the father of lies.

*  You can be energetic and even be labeled rambuncious.  It is very hard to "overshoot" God if you lay down your life for the cause.  Elliot's goal was reached.  The tribe converted!  He just became an instrument for the cause by actually dying.

*  No one...but NO ONE...can say that such-and-such would not have happened if missionaries had acted differently!  God is sovereign!  God is in control...of EVERYTHING.  Once we step over into the dimension of obedience with a pure heart to follow God, we'd be hard-pressed to err.  Just look at the fruit of their deaths. 

*  God has a beautiful irony in our lives.  For example, Mincaye, the murderer of Nate Saint, water baptized Saint's grandson in the very same waters that covered his mutilated body.  "All things work for the good for those who love Him."

*  If one is called to the mission field, nothing should deter that calling.  Nothing, not even death of a loved one!  I am astounded at Betty's courage in this.  AND to visit the killers face to face, not knowing what her own fate would be.

Do yourself a favor and look at this short video of Steve Saint, son of martyred Nate Saint, speaking with Mincaye, the converted killer of Steve's father and four others.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Insanity of Obedience

We’re not even the Duggers and we get stares.

Whether our family of nine is strolling down a WalMart aisle, eating an incredibly nutritious McDonald’s meal, or piling into church, folks stare at us like we had just jumped the Grand Canyon on bicycles.  

Is it so unbelievable these days to have seven children, four of which were rescued out of horrendous orphanages?

In a very graceful way, I encourage people to not see us as “special,” but as obedient.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t want to ask God to challenge me with “impossible” things, because then I’d have to be obedient.  I can laugh at that now, but don’t we do that?  We get comfortable with our level of “surrender” and we dare not ask for more.  We, ourselves, determine how much we can handle, rather than ask God to go overboard with us if He wants to, knowing that He won’t give us anything that we can’t handle.

In a way, we are all hedonists.  Historically, hedonists weren’t really pursuing pleasure at any cost.  Their mission in life was to avoid pain and discomfort.

God wants us to get out of our comfort zone as a lifestyle.  We hear that phrase a lot, huh?  “Get out of your comfort zone, Christian!”  Every single day of our lives, during each moment that we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), we must continually say “not my will, Lord, but yours.”  We must tell him to tell us what He wants to do in us and through us.

Often, we get comfortable knowing that we have an assurance of our calling in this life.  We get so complacent in that assurance, in fact, that we make that calling a kind of status quo.  We don’t think (or want to think) that the Holy Spirit, at any minute, may want us to change direction in that calling or add to it or change it in some way. 

“This is how God made me, and dadgummit, that’s how I’m a’ gonna stay!”

You know, sometimes it’s even innocent.  Sometimes we just don’t know better.  We don’t know how we should relate to God, so we just carry on doing what we’ve been doing for years, perhaps.  There’s certainly minimal pain in that.  What a bonus! 

I have had to fight this religious demon of complacency in a profound way in my own life.  And trust me, I have not arrived!  Sometimes I’m AFRAID to ask the Father to use me as a ship’s helm, to let His hand touch me to steer our big family and calling.  It is not always easy.  Nor is it always fun.

Still, God’s grace is there.  He loves us just the same, but oh, how much more we can step into a spiritually explosive destiny just by asking for more!   But there’s that “thing,” though.  What if I ask for more and He gives it me?  And it’s painful!

What if, by asking God to give me more, our finances are placed in jeopardy?  What if He asks us to dress in black and move to Iran?  What if—oh, Lord forbid!—He asks us to adopt an orphan or two or three or four?  There’s goes our life.  Well, uh, yeah, exactly!

I was ministering to someone the other day and mocking a catchphrase that’s very popular right now.  If you ask someone how they’re doing, they might respond, “Just livin’ the dream, baby!  Just livin’ the dream.”

But just listen to what the apostle Paul says his life experience was like:

            I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.   

~2 Cor. 11:23-28

            I wonder if Paul were asked how he was doing if he would say, “Just livin’ the dream, baby!  Just livin’ the dream.”  You know what, he probably would!  But his perception of “the dream” is radically different from mine often.

            The closer I get to calling hospice care for myself some day, the more I realize how little my own life matters to me.  What I am trying to “save” is really nothing, in the scheme of things.

            I had mentioned to the congregation in Illinois a message I preached in a church in Mozambique once.  It was about “perspective.”

            If you take every grain of sand on the face of the earth, the moon, and all of the planets in our universe with sand.  That sand represents eternity. 

            Now pick up one grain of sand.  That represents my life.  And I’m trying to “save” that because…?

Putty.  That’s all we are.  We’re not special people in the least!

People may look at us like we’re crazy, but at the end of the day, we want to put our heads on our pillows knowing that we pleased the Lord in obeying whatever He would have us to do, regardless of what others think.  And sometimes those “others” include those whom we love the most.

One thing we’ve learned is that obedience is not only doing what we know God is telling us to do, but asking Him to do whatever He wants in us, even if it makes little or no sense to us or others. 

If God wants that, then I want to throw away my life for myself and give it to our amazingly loving and all-powerful Lord and Savior.  PLEASE join me in that quest.  You’ll never be the same, and you’ll never look back.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

UPDATE: Yep, We're Still Alive!

SOOOOO sorry you haven't heard from us.  We have been without internet for some time now because we have moved cross country, with a detour in Illinois to speak in a church of some new, great friends we met through my wife's and my blogs.  And what a journey!  To catch all the drama (and there has been a LOT of it), go here to my wife's most recent post.

In the meantime, here are some pics of our wonderful time in the middle of Illinois...

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Testimony by Jessica Whiteaker

My husband and I are in the midst of our first adoption right now! We are adopting Daniel from Eastern Europe through Reece's Rainbow. Daniel has Down syndrome. How did we get here?

On our first anniversary we decided it was time to begin our family, and we were pregnant within two months. Sadly, a week after finding out I was pregnant, I was in the emergency room having a miscarriage. We were devastated.

When the doctor said it had been long enough and we could start trying again, we did. Within a few more months we were pregnant again. As you can imagine, we were quite nervous this time and kept our news pretty quiet until we got to 13 weeks. Then we announced it to the world! We were overjoyed to have made it past the "danger zone" and began shopping and planning and discussing names.

At 16 weeks we found out we were having a girl. My husband, who thought for sure it was a boy, was a bit disappointed. But he rallied quite well and within a few hours he was excited! Of course our daughter was going to be perfect. A few days later I felt off. Couldn't explain it, but something wasn't right, so I called the doctor and asked if I could come in for a quick check.

When I got there the nurse couldn't get the fetal heartbeat on the monitor, so we went to do a quick ultrasound. As soon as she put the wand to my belly and I saw the screen, I knew.  Our daughter was gone. This was five days before Christmas, 2010.

Fast forward through the holidays, which at this point are a blur. In March of this year we were introduced to Reece's Rainbow by a friend of ours whose daughter has DS. She told us to just go look at it, and consider donating to one of the kids if we could. That Sunday afternoon I sat down and started reading and looking at the site. I was bawling within minutes. My husband thought I was crazy, but I had to ask them some questions. My email was responded to in less than an hour. On a Sunday! From that point on all I could do when I wasn't working was pore over the site. Every day we talked about having a baby and adopting. Could we do both? Maybe. What if we can't have a baby at all? Would a "disabled" child fit into our lives?

We prayed! Oh how we prayed! And we argued....a lot. My dear husband was not ready to "give up" on having a biological child. I was so ready to commit to a specific little boy. We were at a crossroads. About this time we went on vacation. This was supposed to be our "babymoon" trip. While on this trip we talked more and more about adoption and I was fully ready, but my husband still was not.

Two days in I started praying that God would change his mind. Fervently I prayed for five days but to no avail.

At the end of the week we had made it half-way home and were boarding the last flight. It was late and we were a bit slappy at this point, laughing and poking each other. Then I noticed a boy walking down the aisle of the plane. He was SO excited and just couldn't contain it! He had Down syndrome. I watched my husband watch the boy. After he had passed us my husband turned to me and said, “Tomorrow I want you to call whoever you have to...tell them we are coming for our son!”

God has been so amazing to provide for us during the past six months. We still do not know if God's plan includes biological children, but we do know that his plans include one of the cutest little boys I have ever seen in my life. We are finalizing our dossier this week, and hope to have it to his country by next week. The next step of our process includes meeting him and then coming back home for about three to four months for everything to be finalized. Daniel will be four on December 26, 2011. I have never in my life felt more right about anything. Our son is already loved more than he can imagine!

If you would like to read more of our story please go to our adoption blog. We update as often as we can.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A Testimony by Rena

Adoption.  A priceless gift that warms my heart, sparkles my eye, and betters my world.
We are blessed to have experienced adopting four children. We are honored that God chose US to parent these amazing children.  Looking back on our adoption journey, I love to see God's fingerprints along the way. So many fingerprints, so many lessons.
Our journey began with us looking into international adoption. My heart had always been in Africa and Haiti, so that seemed a logical place to start. When doors kept closing, we found ourselves discouraged and heartbroken. We longed to hold the baby that God had for us.... somewhere in our big world! Little did we know He had been working for a while. We just couldn't see it.
On a Monday morning we got a call about a little boy, born over the weekend, ready to go to a home. God had pruned my heart to be open to His plan--a domestic adoption, rather than my lifelong dream of international adoption. My heart was so full as we welcomed home our first son!
A year and half later, when we began the process again, it only took six weeks to bring home our baby girl. Then, when the agency called us back a year later looking for adoptive families to match with their many birthmoms, we followed God's lead. This time, it was only five days before our second son was born.
We had a crazy, busy life, so thankful for the blessings God had given. Much to our surprise, God was preparing our hearts to adopt one more time, just another year later. Our first son's birthmom was expecting again. We knew God was telling us to begin the process one more time. We had to trust His plan. It didn't seem possible for us to handle. We then had a three, two, and one year old!! What was He doing?? But thankfully we again trusted His plan. We brought our fourth child home just over four years after bringing our first child home!
What an incredible gift each of these kids are to us!  We are so grateful for God bringing them into our lives. The miracle of adoption is simply that...a miracle. Tears drop as I think of the blessings we would have missed if we would have taken the path I had planned!
Adoption is a way to experience God's amazing love for us. He loves us so much, knows us so well, only He can plan our family perfectly. Praises to Him!!
Extremely Grateful,
Extremely Blessed,

Monday, November 7, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: A Different Difference

A Testimony by Tracy

About a year ago, I really started looking into adoption. I found Reece's Rainbow and fell in love with one of the little girls. I talked to my husband about her, but he really just didn't want more kids. So I kept praying for her family.

I figured that God knew who they were and maybe they were us, but God had other ideas. She was adopted outside of Reece's Rainbow so her family was already in the process by the time I had found her.  She was home just a couple of months later.

I signed up to pray for a couple of more girls. One of them touched my heart and again I wondered if she was mine. I kept praying but didn't even mention her to my husband. God said no again, and within days of each other, both girls I was praying for had families committed to them. I was so happy for the girls but also a bit sad that I couldn't be their mother.

I continued to pray for both girls, but I signed up to pray for two more children.  This time a boy and a girl. The girl really grabbed my heart.

I began to think of her as my daughter. I thought of her constantly. I prayed for her constantly. I prayed for her family, again hoping that she was mine. She had some special needs, and everywhere we went I wondered which adaptations could be made for her so that she could participate in whatever we were doing.

I began to see that even with her limitations, she could probably do everything our family did. I talked to my husband about her. I wanted to beg him to bring her home, but he really wasn't interested in having another kid.

I did find an organization that worked in her orphanage. I was able to hire someone to take care of her (one on one). I was able to send her gifts. But what I really wanted was to bring her home. It is hard to explain, but I had taken this child as MY responsibility. I worried and fretted and even neglected my children at home as I searched the internet for pictures of this child. I was totally obsessed with her.

Then one day while I was praying for her, I realized that I needed to give this child to God.  All of my other children have been dedicated to God, both formally and personally, in my heart. So I prayed and told God that I gave this child to Him, and He spoke this to my heart, "Even if she is not yours?"

I told him, "Yes, she is yours. Even if I can't have her, I trust You to do what is right for her."

But then came the question, "Even if she dies?"

Well, that was hard, but she would be with Him, so I prayed, "Yes, Lord, even if you take her home, she is yours."

But then came the hardest question of all, "Even if I want her to grow up in an orphanage?"

WHY? Why would God want some kids to grow up in an orphanage? Tears streamed down my cheeks as I said, "Yes, Lord, she is your child. Do your will for her."

That was the hardest prayer I ever prayed, but then there was relief. This child was no longer my responsibility. She belonged to God. I still hoped that she could be mine, but I KNEW that God had a plan for her and that His plan was best. I still prayed for her, but I stopped worrying about her. I still cared, but I no longer fretted about her.

That week (did you get that, it was just a few days later) I found out that a family wanted her, that they had started their homestudy with the hopes of getting my girl!  It was not made official for several weeks because she was in a bad orphanage, but God was gracious enough to let me know that my girl had a family!

So you see, my testimony is very different than most. I don't have an adopted child in my home and I am not even working toward bringing one home, but I have made a difference. I have given money and gifts, but mostly I have prayed and God has honored those prayers. Of the five children that I have prayed for, three are home, one has a family working to get her, and one is still waiting.

I will keep praying for Galen (the one still waiting), and sometimes I even wonder if he is mine, but I no longer become obsessed. Because like my girl, he is God's child and God has a plan for him.

I trust God.

I trust God's plan.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: Forget the Red Thread; We Got a Big Red BOW!


And a big red bow all wrapped around THIS gift...

We were done. DONE. Three kids were perfect (in our view), and I had an easy life. Truly. My kids all in school during the day, a husband with a job he loves and that provides for us and allows me to stay home. Walking toward teenage years. Done.

God had different plans for our family. He used one little girl to open our hearts to adoption again. For years (since we had brought Katie Mei home in 2005), I had prayed for waiting children. Looking through the lists and praying for each child.  Then while doing that one quiet evening this little girl popped out at me. She was three years old and gentle and sweet. And she made my heart jump a bit. I think I gasped because Michael heard me and came in to see what I had gasped about. He looked at her photo and smiled and said "Oh!" and went back to brushing his teeth.
A moment later I hear him say, "So, would you want to go back?" My mind tried to understand.
"To California?" I asked.
He said, "No, China."
I was confused for a moment. Was he really asking me if I wanted to adopt again? Or just visit?  We looked at each other and I knew that he meant to adopt again. I wasn't sure how to feel. My stomach did a flip-flop and my heart was beating quickly. And I looked at him.
"Maybe so." 
He nodded and smiled. "Let's pray."  And so we did.
We decided to get more information about this sweet little girl. This was on Friday so we had the weekend to pray and that by Monday, we should be able to learn from our agency if it would even be a possibility to move forward. We had her file. We had seen her photos and had our doctor briefly look at the file. Monday came and we were in a waiting game. The kids were all for it from the get-go. But on Monday, Jack was very quiet. I spoke with him at lunch and he admitted that he was scared about adopting again. He told me, "Mom, I don't think this is the right one. We need to wait." I hugged him and told him we would know soon.
Jack was right. This sweet little girl had a forever family that had locked her file early on Monday. Our hearts were so joyful for her. There was no sadness. Only joy. And a knowledge that God had used this little one to open our hearts to bringing our daughter home.
This began the paperwork process. Dude. I think I have killed more trees then anyone else in this world.
Fast forward to April. We were done with our end of the paperwork, and we could begin to review files. We reviewed three amazingly wonderful children.  Three who were not meant for our family.  Three heartbreaking decisions. And then our family coordinator called with a little girl's file. "She is four and has hand and feet deformities" and "would you be interested in reviewing her file?" You bet! So over the phone Michael and I opened her file together. We saw her sweet concerned face and immediately both of us knew we wanted to take her info to our doctor.
 Our concerned little girl. Well, who could blame her with that creepy doll in her lap?
So while I waited for all the forms to print, I googled her province and her orphanage. One of the first hits on Google was a Love Without Boundaries blog. I clicked on the link and there was a photo of this sweet girl with a LWB volunteer. My heart skipped a beat. That red thread started to grow. When we first moved to Oklahoma, Katie was in a gymnastics class where I met another China adoptive mom and she invited me to a mom's group that met each week. I went to the group and met a group of moms who had all adopted from China, most on multiple occasions.
Two of the women I met were also involved with Love Without Boundaries. I e-mailed one of my friends right away to see if she knew anything about the orphanage or of this little girl. I got an e-mail back right away asking me to send her the child's Chinese name and she would let me know.  A moment later she e-mailed "and if this is Lauren, say yes RIGHT NOW…She is amazing!"
My heart skipped a beat. So I quickly emailed her name. And I got an immediate response… "This is Lauren!!! She is amazing, full of sunshine."  I sat there dumbfounded. Really? Could God speak this loudly and clearly? See, when we told the kids that we were praying about adopting again and had made the decision to move forward, Katie Mei said, "I am so excited to get a little sister! Momma, we need to name our little sister, Lauren."  This was a couple months before our referral.
I sat there dumbfounded. I called Michael who also sat in disbelief. We were in awe. Over the course of the next day or so, doctors told us that her file looked "perfect."  So we moved forward.
My friend was able to pass some updated information through our agency to us. We got amazing photos of this little girl whom we had already wound our hearts around. Each time we got a new photo, all our hearts melted into hers a bit more.
There are other big red bows upon our story with Lauren. Katie Mei's Chinese name is Jing Ying. Lauren's Chinese name is Jing Yan. In one of her reports, a LWB volunteer went to visit her with her daughter. In one of the photos was an older girl with Lauren and she was wearing a Mammoth Mountain, California sweatshirt. Sammy ran in pointing to it one night. I know it may seem far fetched, but we spent time skiing at Mammoth (Michael went yearly since he was a child)--and the kids were amazed that there was a Mammoth sweatshirt in China. Lauren also shares her Aunt Gigi's birthday.
We are in awe of the gift of this little girl. God's voice has been powerful throughout this entire process. One we had not intended to enter into again. He had other plans. And he wrapped those plans in a beautiful package. Tied with a big red bow. One end tied to us. One tied to Lauren and the knot tied to His heart. We are blessed beyond measure.
"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you" John 14:18

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: A Change In My Life's Direction

Testimony by Suzanne Damstedt

In January 2006, my daughter who was 17 was unexpectedly invited to go to China with a friend of mine and her family who were going to adopt a three-year-old girl.  My daughter started bringing books home from the library about China and adoption, which I started reading.  It wasn't long before I started thinking about doing the same thing.  I approached my husband with this idea.  First he laughed, because he was so surprised to hear me saying this.  I said, "I'm serious."

He said, "I've suggested adopting before." 

I said, "You did? When?" 

He said, "I didn't get a very good response."  I don't doubt that!  It wasn't time.   When we got married, I said I wanted eight children.  After our sixth child, I was at my limit.  Before my daughter left for China, we had already decided to adopt two girls.  This was not something we had planned on doing.  It was a change in my life's direction.

When I spoke with Small World Adoption Agency on January 30, 2006, I told her we wanted to adopt two little girls.  They said it really wasn’t done—it was very rare to adopt two children at a time.  But they were willing to ask. 
Two weeks later, I saw eight-year-old Sheng Li Wan on the waiting child list for the agency.  We went through the necessary process to adopt her.  I assumed we would just go back a second time to China for a second daughter like everyone else does. 

The next waiting child list came out.  A lot of children were already on hold the first time I saw the list.  Another eight-year-old girl, Jiang Li Jing, was listed simply as “Faith” on this list, but she was on hold.  Around the middle of June, I noticed that Faith was no longer on hold and was “waiting” again.  I phoned the agency to learn more about her.  As I heard about her special needs, which were similar to Li Wan’s, I also realized that hers might be harder (needing speech therapy since she had cleft palate as well as a cleft lip, and Li Wan only had a cleft lip). 

Five months later when Darrell and I were driving home after a family activity, I told him a little about Li Jing.  He talked about how he still wanted to bring home two if possible, and thought maybe we could just ask while we were there.  I told him that that would probably not be the best way because the children have to have ready paperwork.  I thought it would be better if the process started before leaving.  However, from the conversation, I believed that he would be open to adopting Li Jing if we could get permission from China to adopt her.  So I contacted the agency again.Days later, we were told we could adopt both girls!  I got info and photos of Li Jing from the agency, and after I knew Darrell had seen them when I wasn’t home, I phoned him and asked what he thought.

“Fine,” he said.

“Fine?” I asked.

He asked me if I wanted her and I said yes, and he was fine with it.  Later he said that he knew it was right before he even saw her picture.
After a week and a half of a lot of exciting preparation, we got a call from the agency.  It was not a good call.  The Chinese adoption bureau  had decided that we could not have Li Jing after all.  We asked our agency if we could come later for her, but China declined us.  In fact, they wanted the agency to find another family for Li Jing.  I was so disappointed.  I even wrote a story I titled, “Jiang Li Jing: I Was Almost Her Mother.”
In August, we flew to China with our children to adopt Li Wan.  It was an unforgettable trip.  I never imagined we would be doing this just a few months prior.  While we were in China, I contacted our agency to see if Li Jing had been placed yet, and they said she had. We looked into adopting another child and even committed, but in December, we still asked if Li Jing had been adopted yet. They told us it had not worked out with the other family!

We hunted down her file, BUT…we couldn’t do a thing because we had already committed to the other child.  Li Jing was not placed by the second agency and her file was returned again.  In the meantime, as fate would have it, the other child’s file was not approved.
I looked for Li Jing’s file and found it with a third agency.  I asked that her file be given to Small World and we were able to proceed with adopting Li Jing!  We went to China in January of 2008 and adopted her.

We had decided to go to China to adopt two girls and had accomplished that.  About a year after we adopted Gracie Li Jing, I wanted to do something for her orphanage, so with the help of other parents with children from this orphanage, we made donations that provided clothing, diapers, and toys for the children.  The Vice Director who worked with us knew I was the mother of one of their girls, and she asked me if I would try to help find families for two children who would be turning 14 and would then not be eligible for adoption.
Jiang Li Wang  and Jiang Li Jing
at the Lishui, Zhejiang, orphanage before Li Jing was adopted.
It was a girl, Jiang Li Wang and a boy, Jiang Li Qu.  The girl would turn 14 and “age out” on January 12, 2010.  I tried to get the word out to help her find a family.  After a few months, on August 12, 2009, I got up one day and that morning I started thinking about adopting her.  I told my husband and we talked about it.  
It was a race against time.  We had exactly five months to get a dossier to China and all other required documents completed in time to adopt her before her fourteenth birthday.  Through hard work and a lot of prayer, we made it to China and received our daughter on January 11, 2010, the day before her birthday! 
Adopting from China, or even adopting at all, may not have been on my list of things I would do in my life, but it has changed me.  I have learned much from this chapter in my life.  I am changed as a mother and as a person. 
Even though I cannot adopt any more children, I continue almost daily in volunteer work with Love Without Boundaries.  I try to help as many of these beautiful children as I can—children who still wait for their families and many who will not know that privilege but can benefit from the work I do to provide items for their orphanages. 
Yes, it really was a change in direction for my life, but one that will hold many great memories, new challenges, and fulfilling experiences.
  Christy LiWan Damstedt, age 14
  Adopted August 7, 2006
Shangtou, Guangdong
  Gracie LiJing Damstedt, age 13
  Adopted January 28, 2008
Lishui, Zhejiang

  Bonnie LiWang Damstedt, age 15
  Adopted January 11, 2010
Lishui, Zhejiang

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