Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Bazaar - Come buy my stuff!!!

I'm doing my first craft fair this weekend!! Please come and invite all of your friends! The location is:

Life Centers
8650 Commerce Park Plaza
Indianapolis, IN 46268

11 am to 3 pm

I'll be selling earrings and baby burp cloths; all of the money raised with go to our adoption fund!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Serving His Children In Uganda and Baby Daylon

I recently found this blog through Katie in Uganda This girl, like Katie, also lives in Uganda. She helps to run a feeding program, but also uses her home as a center to care for and educate parents of children who are extremely malnourished or extremely sick. The children and sometimes the parents will stay with her while she helps to bring the children back to health at the same time educating the parents on how to properly care for their sick children. Nearly every post I've read from her has brought me to tears. There have been stories of 20 something year old girls who only weigh 36 pounds and have been abandoned by their families for a disability they have; the parents didn't want the responsibility to care for them any longer. It hurts to read those stories. But the most recent one I think has been the most difficult to read. A one month old little boy named Robert who suffers from an extremely rare genetic disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa. It's a skin condition that causes the skin to be extremely sensitive to nearly EVERYTHING, the slightest movement or friction causes the skin to tear or rip right off of the body which leaves open wounds that generally will fill with fluid or blood and cause blisters all over the body. There are many different forms, sometimes it's mild and will only affect the soles of the feet or hands. In Robert's case, his whole body is affected. Through reading the post about Robert I started reading some of the comments people had posted, and one in particular caught my eye, it was a link to another blog about a little boy named Daylon from California that has the same condition, and his is extremely severe. I clicked on the blog link, and as soon as I saw the pictures I couldn't stop sobbing
I spent most of the day yesterday reading about this little boy and just the struggles he faces on a daily basis, and I couldn't stop crying. I hurt for how much pain he is in and I hurt for his parents knowing how much pain he was in, and there was nothing they could do and I was mad at God for allowing this little boy to have to go through this at just 13 months old. WHY?
I had called Scott earlier in the day crying for these two little boys and asking him what we could do to help. We know of an organization called Hands That Heal that helps to get medical visas for extremely sick children in third world countries to come to the US to receive medical care. I thought maybe we could refer Robert from Uganda for this program. But right now there is no cure for this condition. There are some clinical trials that are being done and Daylon is actually participating in one now at the University of Minnesota. He received a bone marrow transplant from his brother, and they hope this will help the body to heal itself, although he's had a pretty tough time over the last 80 days. You can read about his whole story through their blog.
When I got home last night I wanted to show Scott both of these blogs, and again as soon as I opened up Daylon's blog I was crying uncontrollably. I'm so sad for him. I look at his swollen face and in his eyes and I immediately feel so hurt for him. This has never happened before, I've read about young kids and babies that have leukemia or cancer and have to go through all sorts of treatments, and it's sad, but I usually don't think too much more after that. But this was completely different. I haven't been able to stop thinking about these two little boys. I asked Scott last night, through sobbing tears, "why does God do this, why would He let anyone hurt so much"? And he said, "because we live in a fallen world, but this isn't our final home and you have to know that whenever Daylon and Robert go to heaven that they won't be in pain anymore." And it is comforting to know that, that someday there will come a time when they won't hurt anymore. But selfishly, I don't want these little boys to go to heaven yet. I don't want their families to be sad if they're not here anymore. I want God to heal them and I know He can. Please God, these boys are completely under your care and I just pray that you miraculously heal them of this horrible disease.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Isaiah 65:24

I recently read this story on Renee's blog and wanted to share.

This story was written by a doctor who worked in South Africa.

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies, and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). And ‘it is our last hot water bottle!' she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. 'All right,' I said, 'put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts Your job is to keep the baby warm.' The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. 'Please, God' she prayed, 'Send us a hot water bottle today. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon. While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, 'And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?'As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say 'Amen?' I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, 'If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!' Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, 'Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her? 'Of course,' I replied! That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child – five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon.'

“Before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”
Isaiah 65:24
Isn’t that AMAZING! Before we pray, He has already provided for that need/request/desire, before we even speak it. We may not see right away, it probably won’t come in our timing, but in HIS timing, in HIS timing all things are perfect. He knows. He knew before that baby was even born that she was going to need to stay warm: He provided. And did that 2 year old sister need a “Dolly”? No, but that’s just like our, God. To give us the unnecessary joys in life, the things that we don’t really need, that make us smile, laugh, and remember that, “God loves me”! He will grant me (and you) the desires of my heart; He knows what they are before even I. But first, we must have “childlike faith”, we must trust like, Ruth. She had no doubt that God was going to send that Dolly & water bottle (that very day). No second thought. She knew; she had confidence.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

For Sale

We recently went to this super cool bazaar when we were on vacation. It was sort of like an outdoor market that totally reminded me of the markets in Africa, except that everything at this one was EXTREMELY expensive! They had so many cute things though, just way over priced. So at that moment I decided that as soon as we got home I was going to try to make some of the things I saw at the bazaar and I would use all of the money I raised for our adoption. So this is what I've come up with so far. This is all new so I haven't set up any type of online payment. If you're interested just leave me a comment or email me at
Price: 1 pair for $4 or 3 pairs for $10
I'm also working on some cool tote bags, but they still need some w
ork. I'll let you know when those are ready.
Hope you like the earrings!

Monday, July 12, 2010

More Pics Coming Soon!!

This is just a teaser! This was at the first school we visited. At each of the schools as we would approach you could hear the kids singing and clapping. Once they could see us the singing would get even louder and they would start dancing. It made my heart beat faster every time I saw them all crowded into their tiny little school going crazy for us just being there. I should have been the one singing and dancing for them; thanking God for all of the blessings that I receive each and every day. These kids have nothing, most had no shoes, they only received one meal a day, which generally consisted of nothing but rice and a tiny piece of chicken. They have nothing to be hopeful for, yet they still are, and it melted my heart every time I looked into a pair of those dark brown eyes.

FYI: You'll have to pause my music player at the bottom of the page to be able to hear the singing in the video, which you definitely have to hear to experience all of the cuteness! OH, and sorry I can't rotate it, I turned my camera to get a longer shot and I shouldn't have done that. Just turn your computer screen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Countdown to Take Off

I leave for Africa in 3 days!! I can hardly believe it! People keep asking if I'm nervous, I don't know how to take that question. Does it mean maybe they know me pretty well and know that I tend to get nervous about lots of things, or does it mean that maybe this is something I should be nervous about? Either way, I'm not at all. I have dreamed about this day for years, and now it's actually here. I told someone the other day that I still can't believe that God chose me to go on this trip. He could have picked someone smarter, someone more outgoing, someone more wise, but I don't think he could have picked anyone that wanted to go to Africa more than I do. So I think he has some really cool stuff planned for me while I'm there.
I've gotten tidbits of information about our trip, but I'm still not totally sure what to expect. Every free minute I get I look up information about Nigeria. Lagos, which is where we'll be staying is a very populated city. They say it's about the size of New York with 3 times as many people, and it's chaos all the time. We'll be staying in a hotel and then going out from there each day to do our distributions.
I daydream alot about what I'll see and how I'll feel and how difficult it will be to leave the kids in the orphanage and it's all little overwhelming. I'm not even there yet, but what I picture makes my heart sad already.
So, I have alot to do in the next two days. I have most of my stuff laid out, but I haven't packed anything yet. I'm overwhelmed with how much I need to take and what little room I actually have to take everything. Since we're taking shoes with us and that's what will be considered our checked luggage, I only get to take a carry-on item for all of my stuff. I'm not a light packer, but I'm determined to make this work and not let it stress me out. Although there is a huge pile of medicines, sunblock, bug repellent, sanitizing wipes, nair (yeah, can't shave my legs because they said not to take a chance of any water getting into my system...please pray the Nair works...Nancy, Mandy and April, you know what I'm talking about), shampoo & conditioner (can only pack the travel sizes, which I can go through in 2 days), face wash, lotion, snacks and who knows what else. I hope security doesn't think I'm trying to build some contraption on the plane and throw away all of my liquids.
Anyway, tonight we're going on a bike ride and then dinner for my birthday (at La Piedad, YUM) with friends and family. It will be a great night and will get my mind off of the packing dilemma at least for a little while.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I need some help!! I've been thinking of all I need to do to get ready for Africa. I spoke with the travel clinic this morning, and got a better idea of all of the shots and antibiotics that I need to get/take. That's kind of out of the way meaning I now know exactly what I need, but now I just need to get over my fear of shots and schedule my appointment to get them all done. I think it's going to be better for my mental well being to just get them all done at the same time, so I don't have to think about going back a second or third time. Although with the Hepatitis A & B, it's a series of 3 different shots over a period of time, so I will have to go back a couple of times. Ok, so you might think, seriously Whitney, stop being such a big baby, it's only a few shots. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! When I was in first grade I had to have my tonsils taken out. So, before the surgery I had to have my blood drawn. I don't remember alot of my early years, but I do remember this, and it was nearly WW3 with those nurses trying to get blood out of me. They were literally sitting on top of my trying to get that needle in my arm. I remember lots of screaming and crying, seriously, I thought I was going to die. Anyway, I'm not looking forward to this whole shot thing, but I know it's seriously not even an issue if it means that I get to go to Africa. I'll take 20 shots if it means I get to go.
Please stay tuned. They told me that I didn't have to come in until 2 weeks before we leave, but I would really like to get it out of the way in the next week or so. I promise to give a full report, and hopefully there's no episode this time.

I'M GOING TO AFRICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had almost kind of put it out of my mind for now, that a trip to Africa probably wasn't going to happen this year. Originally we thought we would be in South Africa for the World Cup. The organization I work for has a partnership with the World Cup and we are distributing 100,000 pairs of shoes to children in need in and around the cities where all of the games will be played. Things didn't quite come together though like we thought they would, and it turned out that our team that is already on the ground will be working with YWAM to distribute all of the shoes. Basically we were no longer needed in South Africa. I was disappointed, but not crushed. My dream is to go to Uganda, so I kind of felt like God had something else planned.
So, Scott and I came up with a plan that we would go to Uganda on our own, we would try to visit Katie, and visit the orphanage that we want to adopt from. And we were going to raise money to take enough shoes to distribute to all of the little ones that Katie supports. We were trying to come up with some creative fundraising ideas. And we decided, or mainly Scott agreed, to run the Mini Marathon in his bare feet. He has been practicing the Pose method of running which basically is the most natural form of running, it teaches you how to run with the least amount of impact on your least I think anyway (should probably ask him for a more scientific explanation). Anyway, to make a long story short that really didn't come together all that well either. We never really got a final decision that we could do this until just a couple weeks ago, and we never got a final answer about what the best time would be for us to come to Uganda. Scott ran 4 miles in his bare feet on the Monon, and he literally couldn't walk the next day. He had several, very painful blisters on his feet. So, all of this combined...I just kind of thought it wasn't going to happen this year.
Well last week, one of my co-workers got a call from the founder of our organization saying that someone had donated some extra money to be used for an employee to go on a mission trip. They wanted her to go because she hadn't been on one yet. And they wanted her to go on the Nigeria trip. She was super excited, and I was super excited for her. She said though, "I really wish you could come". I thought it would be pretty cool, but I didn't really take it very seriously. Honestly I thought there was no way I could raise $3500 in just 6 weeks. A couple days went by, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to go to Africa. So just out of curiosity I sent an email to the director of our International trips and asked her if the Nigeria trip was still open, when she would need a final commitment from me and as an employee, knowing we get a percentage off of trips, what would my total cost be? She said she would do some checking and get back to me, but the trip was still open, she would just need a commitment ASAP because I would need to get the Visa process started right away. At the end of the day I got an email back from her saying that I needed to talk with Manny (our founder) and his wife regarding what my cost would be. I sent him a quick email right before I left the office for the day. Later that night I checked my email again and he had responded by saying that they would give me 50% off of the total trip cost!!! Bringing my total down to $1700. I was almost in tears I was so excited. Scott was hanging out with the guys, so I called him right away and told him all about it. He was so excited for me, and said we couldn't pass it up. So, I'M GOING TO AFRICA!!!!
I sent off all of my paperwork this past Monday, so they could start working on the Visa. Sent my support letters out yesterday. My next step is getting all the shots I need. Hepatitis A & B, MMR, Polio, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. Just looking at that list makes my arms hurt already. I'm waiting on a call back from the travel clinic to make sure there's not anything else they suggest. Hoping to get all of these taken care of though in the next few days.
I leave on June 16th, which is only about 6 weeks away...I can't believe it! There is just a small group of us going, only about 5 people, but we'll be traveling with a team of Dentists who will be providing dental care. We're going to Lagos, Nigeria which is the capital and also where Manny is from, so we'll be meeting his family. We'll be distributing about 2,000 pairs of shoes, and hoping to do more. We have a shipping container full of about 10,000 pairs of shoes that has been siting in Lagos for about a year. When it was shipped, money was given to the director of an aid organization in Lagos to pay to have the container released. Well, he spent the money, so the container hasn't been released. We're praying that having Manny there in person will help and that the container can be released.
The most exciting part about this trip for me is that we'll be visiting several orphanages in Lagos. We'll be playing with the children, helping during meal times, conducting basketball clinics, just doing lots of fun stuff. Please pray for me though, it's going to be really tough for me to leave those kids. Pray that I can pour out God's love for these children while I'm there, but when it's time to leave that I'm at peace with knowing that I'll be back in Africa soon when we go to pick up our new son or daughter. Pray that God reveals his plan for us regarding adoption while I'm in Africa.
I'm so excited...I think about Africa all the time. Who will I meet while I'm there, will I get to hold a little baby in the orphanage. I hope we get to go out to a remote village and meet people there. So many questions and pictures that my mind keeps coming up with.
Please stay connected with me while I'm gone, through my blog. I'll post as much as I can, and take tons of pictures.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adoption Meeting

This past Saturday Scott and I had the opportunity to attend an adoption informational meeting. They broke us up into groups based on whether you were interested in being a foster family, or if you planned to adopt domestically or internationally. There were only about 5 other couples in our group, and we had two other women who did most of the talking. They along with their families had already gone through the process and already have their children home with them. One of the women who spoke started their paperwork over 5 years ago, and they just got back from India with their little boy and girl 9 month ago...WHOA, that's a long time to be waiting.
Anyway, it was so cool to hear their stories and get some tips from them about what to expect during the process. We had so many questions, not questions about whether or not we wanted to adopt. That actually has been such a blessing to both of us. It's been very clear that we should adopt, and even where we want to adopt from has been very clear to both of us. We just had questions about the process. Like for example, right now we live in an apartment, and will be living there for the next year. Can you still adopt when you live in an apartment? We found out that YES you can. Basically when you have your homestudy done, they just want to make sure that the child will have his or her own space when you bring them home. One thing we didn't realize though is that should we move out of our apartment while we're in the process of adopting...which we hope to in a year, we would need to have our homestudy done again, which obviously would be more fees. So anyway, just lots of things we didn't know, that we do now and can be more informed when we start calling agencies and asking questions.
We were able to stay and talk with one of the girls a little more after the meeting. She and her family already have a little girl from Guatamala, and are in the process of adopting again from Ethiopia. So, she found out that we wanted to adopt from Uganda, and guess what?????? She knows all about Katie and Amazima, and all of the wonderful things she's doing in Uganda. She checks her blog the first thing every morning, just like I do.
I think Scott and I both walked away from the meeting with a renewed excitement about our upcoming journey. We know that this is God's plan for us, and we don't care how long it takes. One day we'll go to Uganda to pick up our son or daughter, and I am so excited. I constantly find myself wondering what it will be like, what does our child look like, will it be a boy or girl, what does Uganda look like, what will that day be like when we get to meet him or her for the first time????
I think we're going to get started in the next few weeks with all of our paperwork.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Freedom House

I have an amazing job. I work for a faith based, humanitarian relief organization called Samaritan's Feet International. Basically we provide shoes to children and adults in need all over the world. About 70% of the work that we do is in Africa, which of course is AWESOME. The cool thing about what we do though is that we don't just pass out shoes to people. We wash their feet before we give them their new pair of shoes, and we spend a few minutes praying and talking with each person/child. It truly is one of the most unique experiences to be involved in one of our shoe distributions.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to coordinate a distribution in the Detroit, MI area. Recently we've been working alot with the Detroit Pistons, they have been so great to work with and several times the players have actually even come to wash the feet of those receiving shoes. This time we were doing a distribution at The Palace, which is where the Pistons play. We were going to be distributing shoes to about 100 children, mostly boys who lived in a children's home or were living in foster care. This distribution was actually pretty small compared to what we generally do. So, since we were only taking about 100 pairs of shoes this time. I thought I would try to find another organization that we could distribute to. I started thinking of some different organizations that I could call. I called a few more children's homes to see if they might be able to come to The Palace, I wanted to try to find some younger kids, but we really didn't have much notice that we were even going to be doing this event. So most of the places that I called weren't going to be able to do it, because of such short notice and I also found out that younger children really don't live in group homes, most are out in foster care. Again since this was such late notice we wanted to be able to have a group come all at one time. There was no way we would be able to contact individual families like we usually do. Generally we'll work through an agency and they will help us contact families that are in need, but it wasn't going to work that way this time. So anyway, I knew that Detroit was an area where sometimes, refugees are resettled. I started doing some research and actually found a residential facility for refugees who are seeking asylum in the United States. I did more research and found out that Freedom House was actually the only place like this in the country, and it happened to be in Detroit. So I called and spoke with the Director, told her who I was, and that we would like for them to come to The Palace so that we could give them shoes. She thanked me, but explained that it wouldn't be possible for them to take all of their residents to another location. For many of them, their status here in the US wouldn't not allow for them to even leave their main location. They wouldn't be able to have their pictures taken, and of course the media was going to be there for this distribution. Many are basically in hiding. They have all been persecuted for some reason, for many it's because of their faith, others it's for political reasons. All have been tortured in some way, most of the women AND the men have been raped. It's unthinkable to us what these people have been through. So anyway, she and I talked a little bit more and I told her about what I do as a volunteer for the refugee families here in Indy, and how each one of them are so special to me. I told her that I would see what I could do, and maybe since we were already going to be in the area, we could just come to The Freedom House and do a distribution there with the residents. So, in a sad voice with tearful eyes, I went to my boss and asked him if I could set up another small distribution at Freedom House. He pretty much knows not to say "no" to me when it involves refugees or orphans. He's great by the way, and said to go for it. He said we could plan to go by there before we did the distribution at The Palace. So I called the director again, and told her the plan, and asked if that would be ok. She started crying over the phone. She said it has been so difficult to provide financially for everyone at Freedom House. They are not a government organization, which means they don't receive any type of funding from the government, they rely solely on donations or grants. And because so many of these people are waiting on the proper documentation regarding their status here in the US, they are legal to be here in the US, but they're not legally able to work yet until they receive their I-94. Freedom House provides for them in every way until that happens. Deb, the director, couldn't believe that we were going to be able to come.
So, early Friday morning we headed out of Indy. We got to Detroit around 1 or so. We got everything unloaded and got the foot washing stations set up. All along we thought there were going to be some volunteers from Freedom House that would be able to help us out with the foot washing, but it ended up just being the 4 of us from our organization plus Deb from Freedom House. Anyway, we got to work...I didn't actually get to wash feet this time because we needed someone to run back and forth getting the correct sizes of shoes for every one. All I know though is that there were alot of tears as feet were being washed. Just as many tears from our group as their were from those at Freedom House. One woman in particular who was from Rwanda sat down and one of our people asked what they could pray about with her. She was already in tears and said that she was just so humbled by the fact that we were even there. That she didn't want someone to have to bend down and wash her feet, that she should be the one washing our feet. After a few minutes of praying and talking though, she allowed for her feet to be washed. She has obviously been through something horrible, and I found out later that she has had to leave two young children behind. I don't know for what reason, and I don't know her whole story but my heart ached for her, and I just wanted to comfort her, to make her feel better. She's safe here now, but for these people I still feel so much pain for them.
It took us about two hours to wash the feet of 53 people, but the time went by so fast. I didn't want to leave...I wish I could have stayed all weekend. But when we were finished and everyone had helped us pack up everything. We went back inside because they wanted to tell us thank you, and they had a song they wanted to sing for us. They made the 4 of us stand in a circle, and then they surrounded us in another circle. They gave us the words to the song which talked about Freedom House, and how God has blessed this house and allowed these people to find freedom here in the US. I obviously was in tears, as was everyone else. Then they each wanted to pray for us. So they said a prayer in their own language as they surrounded us in the circle. Then each and every single one of them gave each of us a hug. And you know when you get a hug that is forced, there's not much feeling behind it, and there's wiggly arms and a loose wrap around your back. These hugs were not that way at all, every single one was sincere and they were truly thankful and overjoyed that we were there. OK...they were thankful, but I was the one that should have been thankful. Honestly this was one of the best experiences I've ever had. I couldn't believe that I was there, that I was in the presence of these wonderful people. It was a true honor to be able to serve them, to be there for just the few hours that we were. I've said this before about the families that I serve here in Indy, but I have never felt so welcomed in all my life. And what a strong bond that was developed so quickly...I was in awe! I don't even have the words to describe how I felt, and also just how broken I was all at the same time. I was thankful to be there, and I had been looking forward to going ever since it was planned. If you would have asked me, even two years ago I never could have guessed that I would be in the position that I am now. That God would have chosen me to be at the Freedom House meeting all of these people. He put me in that position and He knew even before He created me that on that day I would be standing in an old church hall, downtown Detroit with 53 people from 12 different countries all praying in different languages praising God for their new freedom. It's such a humbling though, I can't wrap my mind around it fully. My heart was so filled by the time we left that afternoon with such joy and thanksgiving to the people at Freedom House, but mostly to God for giving me such an amazing opportunity. I had and still have so many questions about each of these people, and their lives before they made it to the US, and just exactly what they went through to actually get here. I read an article about Freedom House in some of my research, it was an article from the Detroit Metro Times that was written in September of 09, this is what it said:

They come from the hellholes of the earth, from the torture cells of the former Yugoslavia, the military prisons of South America and the killing fields of sub-Saharan Africa. Usually tortured, with family members murdered, they show up on the doorstep of the century-old former convent they call Freedom House.

They have risked their lives to get to the address they have carried halfway around the world, scrawled on a sheet of paper or painstakingly memorized.

All of the people that I met were from Sub-Sahara Africa except for one woman from Colombia and one from Guatamala. I found out while we were there that every single person at Freedom House right now has left behind a family, a husband or wife and many had to leave their children without knowing if they will ever see them again. I don't know their situation and why they had to leave, but I'm sure it was a heart wrenching decision for each person. It's something that we will never have to ponder probably during our lifetime. We live in a country where we have the freedom to worship God, and to vote for the President of our country. These people want that freedom and they obviously have expressed their desire for that freedom, only to be tortured or raped and in most circumstances they're killed...the majority of those in situations like this don't even make it to the US. God is begging us though to be his hands and feet and to take care of those that have made it here. And for those of us that feel like we're being called to take it even a step further...if you feel like God is telling you or pulling your heart towards one of these countries...GO, please GO and help these people. Don't dismiss those feelings when your heart breaks hearing about stories like this. Find out more, pursue more ask God to show you what you can do to help.
I almost forgot another really cool part of this story. So, as we were making the plans for Freedom House I asked the director what some of their other needs were. We were bringing the shoes, but were there other specific needs. I get donations all of the time for the families here, and I thought if I had some things I could take them with me. She told me though that their greatest need was for toiletry items, like toothpaste and shampoo, lotion...those kinds of things. So I sent an email to our small group and close friends and family asking for donations to be able to take with us. The response was absolutely overwhelming...I couldn't believe it!! I had countless bags of toiletry items that people dropped off, and on top of that cash donations that I used to be able to purchase even more. By the time we left Friday morning, and thank goodness there was a large truck taking all of the shoes and supplies because my car was absolutely full of toiletry donations...I couldn't have fit anything else inside. AWESOME!! So, I didn't tell them that we had collected all of those donations, I wanted it to be suprise and boy were they suprised. They couldn't believe that people in Indiana had heard about them and actually donated these things to them. The director again was in tears, she couldn't believe it either. She said it was such a huge blessing to them. So thank you so much to everyone who made that possible. I wish you all could have been there so that you could see their faces. It was an honor though to be able to represent everyone who gave, so thank you again and especially thank you to my awesome husband who helped sort all of the donations and allowed me to go on this trip, he supports me in all of my endeavors even when I can get a little wrapped up in them sometimes.
I hope to have some pictures maybe tomorrow. We weren't allowed to take any, but there was a photographer there who volunteers his time to documents things that happen at Freedom House. Because of the status of most of the residents we are not able to receive any pictures that show the faces of the residents, but he did take others that he'll be able to send me, so you'll get a general idea of what happened that day.
If you get a chance, please check out the Freedom House website. They can't share much information, but there is a great article you can read and just some other general information.
I will be back in Detroit the end of this month, and will be staying at Freedom House Feb. 26th-28th. I can't wait to sit down and talk and share a meal with everyone that I met. I have no idea what the agenda will look like, I just can't wait though to spend more time with everyone. I'll hopefully get some of my questions answered and will post more soon!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

I just love going to ESL, I know I say that alot but I look forward to it so much throughout the week. A few days ago we had class, and we have had several new people from Eritrea, Africa that have been placed here recently. A few families, but mostly young men in their early twenties. Their English is much more progressed than I had expected and a couple of the guys are actually taking a GED class at the local high school. Probably the most advanced guy of the group, Major Hailu, told me that it's very difficult for him to get to class because he has no transportation, and the school is not really within walking distance. So, I asked him if had a bicycle and he said, "no, I can't afford to buy a bicycle". I told him that I would see what I could do, maybe I could find someone who would be willing to donate a bicycle for him. So, we put the word out, and several weeks later one of the other volunteers called and said that she had someone at her church that had several bicycles they would like to donate, but most need some major work and adjustments. Some of the work was minor, but most would need to go to a mechanic for major adjustments to make them safe to ride. (As a side note...I do most of the bike maintenance at our house, well anything that doesn't need to be taken to the bike shop. So, if it's changing a flat or making minor adjustments I usually do that). So we went to pick up the bikes, not knowing exactly what we were going to do with all of the ones that needed work. I called a local bike shop (not the one we use...they're kind of far away and it wasn't going to be convenient for me to get everything over to them even though I knew they would help me out...we LOVE Matthews Bike Shop) I just thought it would be more convenient if we could use the local one, which will remain nameless, (they're on the corner of 116th and Rangeline). They refused to donate any time or parts...just an FYI. I didn't know what we were going to do. These bikes were just sitting at our house waiting for some love so they could go to a new owner. But they needed more help than I could give them. So, a few days after picking up the bikes we were back in class and we had received some job applications from a local business to use as practice but there was also a chance that they might be able to hire some of my Eritran guys. So I took them all aside and we started working on filling out the application while the rest of the group continued with their normal lesson. They filled in the information about their address and phone number, blah, blah, blah. So then we got to the part where it asked about previous work history. They weren't exactly sure what that meant so I started asking questions about what kind of work they had done in the past. All of these guys had been living in a camp in Ethiopia for the last few years, and usually in the camp they can find work. So I'm going around asking each of the guys what kind of work they did when they were in the camp, and I get to Major Hailu. He says that when he lived in the camp he was a BICYCLE MECHANIC!! WHAT!! Imagine a complete look of shock on my face. I couldn't believe it! These guys that are in my class, they want to work so bad, even for now if they don't get paid. For them to feel like they are actually doing something, to have something to work on during the day instead of sitting in their tiny little apartments while they're trying to learn English so that they can even go through a job interview. He was so excited, and I was so excited for him! He knew what this meant too, that he would be helping others that were in the same situation that he was. People that have no transportation and wouldn't be able to afford to purchase even a used bike. He was going to be able to provide for the other refugees in his community. He looked at me though and said, "but Whitney, I don't have any tools to fix these bikes". I immediately called our bike shop this time, and like always, they helped us out. They gave me all of the tools that he would need at a major discount. And who knows, maybe there's a chance that they would be willing to hire him at some point. I was so excited to be able to give him all of the tools so that he could start working on the bikes. The first one I gave him he had it fixed in just a few hours and the next week I saw him out riding it on the way to his GED class.
So that was kind of a round about way to tell a really cool story. But seriously, I never would have gone through all of this work on my own. God has really planted a seed in my heart for these dear people, and he's truly giving me all of the tools to make sure that they're taken care of because I would have no idea how to do this on my own.