When I returned home in May of 2009, I walked into my pastor's office and asked him if we could engage in a sponsorship program through Children's HopeChest. He smiled and told me he had just been reading Isaiah and felt that we needed to do something more for orphans. I explained that I had just been on a vision trip with Children's HopeChest and had found an orphanage that would be perfect for us. We moved forward.
In October 2009 we launched the sponsorship program at EBC and approximately 35 kids were matched with sponsors at our church. I hung a bulletin board and sent out emails periodically, reminding the sponsors to write. I rarely received any response, except for the occasional question or complaint from someone who hadn't heard from their child.
Though Dirt was very supportive, he didn't really "get it". I was lonely and there were times where I cried out to God asking him to pick on someone else. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I felt like I was carrying His burden for orphans around by myself and I wanted out. God had provided me with a network of Christian women across the country who had similar burdens for orphans and a passion to follow Jesus and I found solace in those long distance relationships. We emailed and prayed together over the phone, which was great - but I also longed for local fellowship. I prayed for my church to take our responsibility for orphans seriously and I boldly asked God to move the "spirit of adoption" through our church.
A year into the sponsorship program my pastor approached me about planning a trip to meet the kids. God assembled a team of 12 of us, including Dirt and Avery. In the months leading up to the trip I asked for volunteers to organize crafts and games, but no one raised their hand. Some of our team members would talk about their different missions experiences and I began to think that no one was really invested in this cause; maybe it was just going to be another stamp on their passports. I prayed and asked God to lay the burden to help on someone else's heart. Apparently He laid it on my pastor's heart because the next week at our meeting, he assigned tasks to different members of the team.
Once we arrived in Ethiopia, I was done. Literally done. As in I didn't have to do anything else. At all. Um...I almost felt like I wasn't doing enough. I literally sat back all week and watched God break the hearts of these unsuspecting travelers. I saw God's passion for orphans sweep through the team in a way that I hadn't anticipated or imagined.
This was His Provision...for me.
I suppose it would be wrong for me to say that the kids didn't get anything from us; I know they did. I know it fills them with joy to have people love them, hold them, kiss them, look into their eyes and tell them that they love them - and mean it. I know that they see us as part of God's love and provision for them - both physically and spiritually. But what we gain from them is so much more.
These two (our pastor and his 8 year old sponsor daughter) - God is working it out for them to be together forever. Our pastor and his wife came home last week and immediately began the adoption process. (An amazing story for another day!)
..and of course, our church left behind it's legacy: a basketball hoop.
On our way home I asked our pastor if there was anything I could do to help prepare
for the service where we'd share the trip with the congregation and he told me that they were all set - other people had stepped up and were working on it.
When God calls you to something, He provides. 'Nuff said.