Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Malaria Bites! Bite Back!

Yesterday I brought my youngest daughter to the doctor... again. This time to be tested for Malaria. She has had a fever for 7 of the past 9 days, and her symptoms look more like malaria than a cold or flu virus. When I told the nurse I wanted a malaria test, she absolutely freaked out. She stepped back, covered her mouth and asked if our daughter needed to be quarantined. Fortunately the doctor came into the room, and calmed her.

That nurse's reaction was indicative of the lack of awareness many people have about people living in developing countries. Malaria is transmitted by the bite of certain types of female mosquitoes that carry a parasite which causes the disease. The fact is, over 1 million people die every year from malaria, 90% of those deaths are children in Africa.

That is why Compassion International has developed the "Bite Back" program. This program provides bed nets that are treated with insecticides. This very effective program reduces the transmission of malaria by 90%. You can help support this program by visiting the link above, or by sponsoring a child in a developing country by clicking on this link: Compassion International

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Question of Social Justice

Lately I've noticed what, to me is a disturbing trend. Every time I read an article on-line about someone doing good things, the article is followed by comments from naysayers who are critical of those who try to make the world a better place. Maybe it's nothing new, but is becoming more obvious because of our interactive world.

The most recent example is the story of Tara Livesay. She is part of an amazing family living in Port au Prince, Haiti. The Livesays are a family filled with compassion (a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering). Tara Livesay set out to raise $5,200 to help severely malnourished children in Haiti. When she was done, she had raised over $63,000 (that number is still on the rise since this article was written). Read about her here.

The comments following these types of stories seem to have a common theme; others are not as important as us. Read the comments following the article about Tara, and you will see remarks like, "Why not help the children in the US? Why are we always so willing to help other countries but yet we forget that we have families here that struggle?" Or this gem, "Haitians won their independence some 205 years ago, not that long after we won our independence. If they can't get their act together in that time I suggest it is unlikely that they ever will on their own."

In a separate article about Compassion International's president, Wess Stafford recently, rather than appreciate what he's doing to help children living in poverty, some wrote comments like, "How many poverty stricken children in the USA does this ministry help?" "More promotional evangelicalism hidden as a new report." "I could point out a number of areas in the US where children are going hungry but that wouldn't matter 'cause they're Americans."

Here is my response:

• Different people find different causes to be important to them. If we all supported the same cause there would be far less balance and justice in this world.

• Just because people like Tara and Wess are helping those who are suffering abroad, that does not stop you from helping those who need help where you are.

• I think we should support those who get off the couch, and do something good, rather than criticize them from the comfort of our living room.

Here's what I want to know from you.
• Do you really think that poverty in the U.S. is as bad as it is in Haiti or other impoverished countries?

• Do you believe that we should only take care of people in our own country, and let people abroad fend for themselves?

• What cause do you believe in?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Daniela's Story

This is a video made of photos taken over a 2-1/2 year period - the time it took to get Daniela home. The song, "Amos Story" was written by Aaron Ivey. He and his wife Jamie are adopting two children from Haiti. This song is about their fight to bring their children home. Thanks Aaron for allowing me to use it. We pray your children are in your arms again very soon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Home at Last

If you've been checking in here, you know that our daughter was coming home at last. We arrived in Seattle on September 13. I intend to do a more comprehensive update soon, but for now this is all I have time for. There is much to do to get her on our medical insurance, and other immediate needs. The video was taken during her fist few minutes exploring her new bedroom. She is doing great. Eating well, playing hard, and sleeping 11 hours a night.

Most of all she has filled our home with joy. People have commended my wife and I for what we are doing. The truth is, we are selfish... we have been blessed by her beyond measure. We are so grateful that God has brought her into our lives.

I'll try to post more about our trip to Haiti soon.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Daniela's Homecoming

We've had lots of questions about when Daniela is going to be home. The Adoption Timeline on this page has been updated with our travel dates. We will try to send regular updates to Facebook or you can follow us on Twitter @mjp2.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Coming Home

It's hard to believe this day has finally come. We have been working for nearly 2-1/2 years to get our daughter home from Haiti. This morning Daniela got up early. She was all smiles because she got dressed in nice clothes (she's all girl). She got on a plane in Cap Haitien, and flew to Port-au-Prince. She went to the American Embassy, and sat before the Consulate... again. Then she was issued a Visa.

That means she's coming home! The date is not certain, but Daniela should be home by Sept. 12, 2009.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Story of Faith and Compassion

Last week I had the honor to spend some time with one of Compassion International's Leadership Development Students. Faith grew up in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. It was a difficult life in a dangerous place. She grew up in a home without plumbing. Cooking was done over a fire, and eating 3 meals a day was merely a fantasy. Fortunately, Faith had someone in Central Wisconsin that cared about her. They sponsored through Compassion's Child Sponsorship program. That simple act gave her hope. Hope for an education. Hope for a better life.

Today, Faith has a bachelor's degree in economics, from the best university in Kenya. She will never be impoverished again.

This is what I love about Compassion International. They don't throw money at a community with the hope that the improved environment will improve the lives of individuals. Instead, Compassion teaches children of their value, and potential. These children who are filled with hope always improve their community.

The linked video is of Faith telling her story at Creation West to a crowd of 20,000. At the end, Faith is stunned to learn she was standing beside her childhood sponsors. It is a wonderful surprise.

If you are interested in helping a student earn a college degree go to www.compassion.com/ldp

A Glimmer of Hope?

We learned today that the orphanage believes they have delivered all required documents to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. I have e-mailed the Embassy staff to confirm that. They return e-mails within 3 days, so hopefully soon we will have more news. It has now been 9 months since the Haitian government issued her a passport. We are hoping the disappointments are done.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Disappointment

We are now facing another unbelievable delay. After finally getting the archived copy of Daniela's birth certificate, it did not match the registered copy.

What we understand is that in order to get Daniela a visa so she can come home, the orphanage needs to either get the archived copy amended, or have a judge rule that the two documents are indeed referring to the same child.

We are praying to receive a positive judgement quickly. If the archive copy needs to be amended, it could be a very long delay.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Still Waiting

Since there are a certain number of people who check in to see if Daniela is coming home yet, I wanted to just post that we are still waiting.

Three weeks ago we learned that the last document needed for her visa was in hand. We are just waiting for an appointment at the embassy, where hopefully they will issue her visa. Unfortunately, we just don't know when that will be.

So for now (as we have for the past 2 years) we are waiting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Youngest Daughter

Yesterday we received the wonderful news... we finally have the last document required by the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Soon we will have an appointment at the Embassy, and if all goes well, we will be bringing Daniela home!

Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of our decision to adopt.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Does Child Sponsorship Really Work?

This is Lovena. She is one of over a million children sponsored around the world, through Compassion International. In many ways her circumstances are not unlike the other children being sponsored through Compassion. She lives in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Life for Lovena is difficult. Like other Compassion sponsored children, because Lovena is sponsored, she has hope for a better life. There is something that makes Lovena different, however.Lovena is sponsored by a group of Compassion sponsored kids in the Leadership Development Program (LDP). What makes it even more amazing, is that these are students in the Dominican Republic.

You may have read about Juan David. He is one of those LDP students. Juan is sponsored by 12 firefighters of the Valley Regional Fire Authority. He completed high school and enrolled in the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo. When I saw Juan David in October, 2008, he was speaking to a group of 300 Child Advocates from around the world. Juan told about how important his sponsors were to him as he was growing up. The Hopper family of Australia sponsored Juan for 11 years. Juan spoke also of his current sponsors who are putting him through Medical School. He said that some day he hopes to sponsor a child, and give that child the support he has received. After that speech, Juan returned to the table, and sat next to me. He told me that he would some day sponsor a child from Haiti. This meant a lot to me, because my family is adopting Daniela from Haiti.

Just a couple weeks later a group of Leadership Development Program students in the Dominican Republic decided they would collectively sponsor a child. A child from Haiti! In order to understand just what a big deal this is, you must first understand that, even though these students are being sponsored to go to college, their lives are still VERY difficult. Juan travels 1 hour each direction every day to the university. He lives in a home with no power, with his mother. Juan keeps most of his belongings at his pastor's home for fear that his clothes and books will be stolen from his home when he and his mother are away.

You should also understand that even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island of Hispañola, the two countries are worlds apart. They speak different languages, and there is a great amount of discrimination.

These Compassion LDP students truly appreciate the help they have received from their Compassion sponsors. Now they understand the joy of being a sponsor! They look forward to receiving letters from their sponsored child, just as I do. They pray for her just as I pray for them. They look forward to seeing what God has in mind for Lovena's future.

If you ever ask yourself if sponsoring a child is making a difference, all you need to do is look at these amazing sponsored children.

Below is an excerpt from Juan David's speech in October, 2008.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Picture Doesn't Tell the Story

My family started sponsoring Yonalda about 12 years ago through Compassion International. She was 6 years old then. We didn't give much thought to what her home was like. We did notice that she had her hair done nicely, and was wearing a pretty dress. How bad could things be? After 10 years, I finally had the opportunity to meet Yonalda in person. That's when I started to understand what sponsorship means to children in poverty.

Above is the first photo we saw of Yonalda,
followed by her photos for the next 12 years.
The last photo (below) I took myself when we finally got to visit her in person.

To get to her home, we drove 5 hours from the city of Santo Domingo, to the North side of the island of Hispañola. We visited briefly at Yonalda's school. The building was made of concrete. The power was out, which is common more often than not. I soon recognized that this school was the background for her photos I'd received over the past 12 years .

From her school in Puerto Plata, we drove through a large sugar cane field, and arrived at her home built on a hillside in a tropical forest.

This is her mother, father, and youngest brother. Dad is a big man!
He only looks angry, but wasn't. Culturally, men don't often smile for photos.
He was a kind-hearted man.

It was an amazing day. I had seen video on Compassion's web-site of well known Christian musicians visiting their sponsored children (Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Point of Grace, Jeremy Camp, Bebo Norman, Mercy Me). I had always been a bit dubious about those videos, thinking that because of their fame, they had access to their sponsored children, that I would not. I was very pleased to see how happy the Compassion staff was to help me visit my sponsored child.

Above, I am sitting with Yonalda's grandfather. Shortly after this photo was taken, he walked into the jungle, and returned with a bunch of banana, offering me one.

Below is Yonalda's grandmother. I think you can see the family resemblance.

The above photo is Yonalda's great-grandmother.
Sadly, she has since passed away, but I am honored to have met her.

I was able to meet cousins, aunts & uncles, nieces & nephews. We laughed together, and talked about our families, and visited her church. We walked to the river, where they collect their drinking water, wash clothes, and swim.

Yonalda's sister Yenifer seemed to especially enjoy the visit, and younger brother Yordy
(the "Y" sounds like "J" in their names)
really enjoyed the candy I brought with me.

Our 4 hours together went by way too fast. Before I left, I took the below photo of Yonalda and her siblings in front of the school she attended through 8th grade. School was going on inside, and we created quite a disturbance with all of the children wanting to see the funny looking guy who had come to visit.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to my next trip to visit with Yonalda. She is on schedule to graduate in October, 2009. In February, 2007, Yonalda asked if I would come to her graduation, and honor her by presenting her with her diploma. I asked her if she wouldn't prefer to have her father do that. She told me, "no - it was his idea that you do it."

It was then I realized how much our sponsorship means to this family. No one in his family had ever had the opportunity to get an education. Poverty means that often times, children must work so the family can have barely enough food to survive.

Yonalda's father has offered to step aside during the moment of his daughter's graduation, in order to express his gratitude for the little help we offered.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2 Years Old Today

This is not quite how we wanted to celebrate Daniela's 2nd birthday.  We had hoped to surround her with family, give her a couple gifts, eat cake with her, and do all the other things one does with a two year old on her birthday.  Instead today, we will look back on this journey of adoption, and take comfort in knowing that she is enjoying cake with others who love her, and have cared for her so well during her first 2 years.  To them, we will never be able to express our gratitude.

Our adoption journey really started many years ago. I wrote about it in my blog from March 2008. Today we are close to bringing our beloved daughter home, and we are thinking about the volunteers who have given years of their lives to care for Daniela and the other children at the orphanage. Some of them spent years at the orphanage, others spent weeks.  All of them gave of themselves to children who do not understand the depth of that love.  Some of them we have met in person, others only by e-mail. Many others we have not met at all.  Nonetheless, when I think of them, this verse comes to mind:  "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" - Matthew 25:40

Maria and Arlyn have been with Daniela since she arrived. They are two of the most amazing people we know.  Maria is from Ireland, and Arlyn is from Canada. Both of them have given the last 2 years of their lives to care for "the least of these."  How do you say thank you to people like this?

We have a mix of emotion today.  It is with great sadness that we cannot be with our beautiful Haitian Princess on her 2nd birthday.  Yet we have great joy in knowing that she is celebrating her special day with cake, and love from some pretty amazing people.

You can change the life of a child too.  By sponsoring a child through Compassion International, you can make a real difference. The cost is just $32 per month. In doing so, you will provide that child with food, clean water, education, medical and dental care.  Most of all, you can show that child that she is loved.

Please consider changing a life by sponsoring a child living in poverty. You can even sponsor a child whose birthday is today!  Just visit Compassion.com.

He who is kind to the poor, lends to the Lord who 
will reward him for what he has done. 
— Proverbs 19:17

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Almost Home

I haven't been good about keeping up with this blog. There's been many reasons for that, not the least of which is just laziness. Other reasons include, a major remodel project in our home, followed by damage to our home from a frozen pipe (in the newly completed remodel), and a recent promotion at work.

Waiting for Daniela has been very difficult, especially in light of what has happened in Haiti over the past year.  During our visit in April 2008, we arrived just before the food riots began.  During the previous 4 months, the price of rice and beans had doubled in Haiti. Families who were already struggling in ways we cannot imagine became desperate. While we were complaining about gas that was $4 per gallon, in Haiti it was as high as $9 per gallon.

That was April.  By late fall hurricane after hurricane had crossed Haiti. Over 1,000 people died as a direct result of the storm.  When people are in such desperate circumstances they can't even consider sending their children to school.  Paying the fees for school hardly seems to be a priority when you have nothing to eat.

Today we are waiting for the US Embassy to issue Daniela a visa.  In mere days we could be traveling to Haiti to bring home our daughter, our beautiful Haitian Princess.  For the rest of our lives we will strive to give her what she most needs, and teach her of God's love for her. We will also always wonder, and never know, what her life might have been like in Haiti.

The experience of adopting Daniela has only increased my appreciation for Compassion International. Children in Haiti who are in Compassion's sponsorship program have their school fees covered.  They are involved in their local church, and in addition to their education, they are fed, and given health care, and dental care.  Most of all, they are shown love in a safe environment.  Isn't that what we want for our own children?

As you consider the economy, and how much tougher things are right now than a few years ago, please consider the circumstances of those living in poverty.  It's not their fault. It's not because they're lazy. It's because of circumstances beyond their control.  All they want is hope for their children.

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." —Mother Teresa

Please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International.