Guest Blog: Update from Bill & Tracy

We had a big disappointment Thursday. After eight hours in the airport, we were not able to make our flight to Ethiopia due to inclement weather in Chicago (one of our stops along the way). There was a lot of additional anxiety wrapped into the evening.

Since we couldn’t get out Thursday, we missed our opportunity to meet our son’s birth family over the weekend before we pick him up on Monday. This was devastating because we wanted to not only gather as much information for him, but we also wanted to give the family whatever they needed so they could heal.

Getting the flight rescheduled was looking pretty hopeless. Since two airlines were involved, no one was taking responsibility. If we were not able to reschedule so that we could arrive in Addis by July 4, we would miss our embassy date and would likely have to reschedule our trip for August.

Our luggage was temporarily lost. The airline thought they had sent it on to Ethiopia, which would mean it would be long gone before we arrived. This in of itself was not a big deal, but we had gathered some very special things for our son, and it was upsetting to think he would not receive them.

We kept reminding ourselves that none of our troubles were a surprise to God.  He is in our midst and was and is in control then and now. We are currently sitting in the airport awaiting “take two” of our trip.  Reading Tracy’s journal entry to our son, below, also helped put things in perspective:

Friday, July 1

Today I am sitting alone having lunch wishing I was on a plane to Addis Ababa.

Daddy and I were supposed to fly out last night and arrive in Addis late on July 1st. But, there were bad storms in Chicago and we could not fly out of Detroit into Chicago to pick up our plane to Istanbul, Turkey and then Addis. So, now we must wait until tomorrow to leave and pick you up.

We were supposed to travel to the southern part of Ethiopia to where you were born and to meet some of the members of your birth family. We are no longer able to take that trip. There is not enough time. We are sad for both them and us. We really wanted to meet them, take pictures for you, ask questions, answer theirs, but mostly to tell them we wouldn’t even be there, or even have met you, if it weren’t for JESUS. HE is the reason we even know what love is.

But, the most important part of the trip will still occur. YOU! We get to pick you up from the orphanage on July 4th – your ‘Gotcha Day’ and become your ‘Forever Family’.

Everyone is excited to meet you, especially Riley, John and Benjamin. So many friends, family and even strangers have been praying for you. It’s crazy to think that just one week from today you will be sleeping in your new home, in your own bed with your big brother right above you in his bunk.

Counting down the days…

 

Editors Note: We expect to hear from Bill & Tracy any hour today (Thursday) or tomorrow. As soon as we have an update, we will post it immediately.

In Our Arms Forever…

This year the Fourth of July will take on new meaning, as we will be picking up our son that day in Ethiopia to join our family forever. The Fourth of July will also make me think of rhinos.

Yes, rhinos.

Let me explain. Our adoption journey began in earnest about sixteen months ago when Tracy first filled out an online informational application on Bethany Christian’s website. Since then, anticipation has been steadily building. At first we did not have much to show except for stacks of paper several inches thick and excited conversations with friends. We read many books and attended hours of training in preparation for the big arrival. The anticipation began to balloon when we received our referral with pictures of our future son. We painted rooms, rearranged furniture, talked to doctors and made other preparations. The anticipation grew dramatically when we got to visit him in his orphanage in Ethiopia. The adoption was completed on that trip, but still it was not time yet. Early last week we received notice that his passport had been issued. Every day this week and last (often times every 5-10 minutes during Ethiopian business hours) we checked our email in anticipation of receiving THE notice we have been waiting for: the U.S. Embassy’s invitation to travel for our son’s visa so we could finally bring him home. Today, we made travel arrangement for his “gotcha day”—the day he is in our arms forever.

I remember when Tracy was first pregnant with our oldest son. Her pregnancy had a similar build up. That first pregnancy was pretty amazing as we anticipated all of the exciting unknowns. At the time, it seemed about all we could take as we waited. Mercifully, she was giving birth to a human (yes, I know, it sounds as if I say that in surprise) and we only had to endure nine months of unbearable, growing anticipation before that wonderful day we got to take him home.

So, this time around it feels like we are about to give birth to a rhino with its sixteen month gestation and, again, its about all we can take.  But, this time around, taking our child home for the first time will look a lot different.  We will be taking a five-year-old little boy that speaks another language, on airplanes, through airports, across time zones, on greatly disrupted sleep, as parents that are strangers, on a 27-hour trip home.

Celebrate this joyous occasion with us. (As our beloved Pastor Sawyer says, “Yay, Jesus!”)  And, please, please pray for us on July 8 as we travel home.  I will probably be holding a sleeping (hopefully) little boy on my lap on an airplane thinking about rhinos.

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VIEW SLIDESHOW OF LIFE IN ETHIOPIA >
Photos taken by Bill & Tracy during their trip in May 2011

Live From Uganda

This Saturday, in addition being in s new time slot – 9:00 AM Eastern! – we are pleased to be speaking with Karen Yates, board member of the Amazima Ministries. Karen will be talking to us live from Uganda and telling us about the founder of Amazima (pronounced uh-mahz-i-muh, Lugandan for “truth”), Katie Davis and the miraculous work being done by the grace of God.

We hope you will tune in for this extraordinary hour of radio this Saturday, May 28, at 9:00 AM Eastern. In Michigan and parts of Ontario, Canada, the program can be heard on WLQV AM 1500 in Detroit. Everywhere else, you can hear it live on the Internet at www.FaithTalk1500.com.

We also welcome your calls at (866) 423-9578.

Below is a brief history of Katie’s story, a video of Katie speaking in Nashville last year, and a link to her blog.

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In December of 2006, 18-year-old Katie Davis from Brentwood, Tennessee, traveled to Uganda for the first time. She was immediately captivated with the people and the culture.

In the summer of 2007, Katie returned to Uganda to teach Kindergarten at an orphanage. As she walked the children home, she was shocked to see the sheer number of school-aged children sitting idly on the side of the road or working in the fields. She learned there were very few government-run public schools in Uganda, and none in the area where she was working. Most schools in Uganda are privately operated and therefore require school fees for attendance, making impoverished children unable to afford an education.

God laid it on Katie’s heart to start a child sponsorship program, matching orphaned and vulnerable children who are unable to afford schooling with sponsors anywhere in the world. Sponsors pay $300 per year to send one child to school, providing school supplies, 3 hot meals each day, spiritual discipleship, and medical care. Originally planning to have 40 children in the program, Katie had signed up 150 by January 2008. Today the program sponsors over 400 children.

Shortly thereafter, Katie established a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Amazima Ministries International. The organization seeks to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Uganda who need it most. In the Lugandan language, Amazima means “truth.” Also, Katie became a mother for the first time in January of 2008 to three orphaned girls.

Katie also reached out to the Karimojong people of the Masese community. The poorest of the poor, and losing their children to malnutrition and starvation at an astounding rate, she noticed their desperate need for nutritious food. She started a feeding program to the community, nourishing over 1,600 children Monday through Friday. This allows the children to attend school and therefore not go to the street to beg. Also provided is medical care, Bible study, and general health training.

As friendships developed with the Karimojong people, Katie wanted to help the women in the village provide for their families. She initiated a self-sustaining vocational program to empower these women to make unique Ugandan magazine bead necklaces. They are also taught money management skills. The necklaces made by the Karimojong women are purchased and sold in the United States.

Katie recently announced a dream to start, staff, and operate an Amazima school in Uganda. As a mother herself, she recognized the need to teach children critical thinking, problem solving and the fundamentals of learning in a Christian environment. Amazima hopes to open the school in 2012.

Now the mother of 13 daughters, Katie offers, “People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”

www.kissesfromkatie.com

 

Guest Blog: Update from Bill & Tracy in Ethiopia!

Sent by Bill Gottschalk at 5:24 Eastern, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Wow! What a day! We awaken to a rooster crowing across the street.

After a peanut-buttered pancake breakfast at the guesthouse, a group of us headed to court for our interview with the judge assigned to adoption cases. Since we arrived late Saturday, we had not experienced traffic in Addis Ababa on a typical workday. The sights, smells and sounds were engrossing as we travelled along the road on our way to the courthouse. Children greeted our van offering great big smiles, eager to shine our shoes.

At this almost 8,000 foot altitude, we became winded easily as we climbed four flights of stairs to the waiting room outside the judge’s chambers. The room slowly filled with other hopeful parents, eagerly anticipating the call of their name by the clerk. After a two-hour wait that seemed like four, our group was beckoned into her chambers. The judge was so soft spoken that we had to lean forward and carefully listen to her questions. After several minutes the judge simply announced to us, “They are yours.”  It was immediate; we were now officially the parents of FOUR boys!

From court, we went directly to the orphanage to meet our son for the very first time. We entered the compound and proceeded to a small playroom. After about ten minutes, a group of about a dozen children was ushered in—our son leading the way—and obediently formed a line along the wall. One of the caregivers motioned to them, and they all rushed toward us at once to give us hugs and kisses. The new parents brought bubbles, balls and sunglasses to entertain the kids. They clearly loved having their pictures taken and being the center of attention, as they no doubt had become accustomed to visitors. Little did they know that that very morning they finally had been received forever into their respective families.

After a short while we moved out to the courtyard to play. We blew bubbles, kicked and threw balls, tickled, chased and laughed. Children delighted at being carted around up high on our shoulders. We watched our son interact with others, but he was clearly content playing on his own much like our other sons. We could already imagine him in our home blending in with our boys as they played with Legos on the floor with their extravagant creations. It was such a joy to play with all of the children today. How they will both be blessed and bless others!

All too soon our visit was over as the children prepared for their lunch routine. We too left for lunch, where we reflected on the day’s events. Later we attended a three-hour cultural training session where we learned more about Ethiopian food, customs and history. It has been a lot to process for one day (and the lengthy travel and time change has made the experience all the more surreal). We only have two more days to visit him and soak in more of the culture. We will be sad to leave our son here, but are confident he is in the care of a loving orphanage staff.

Between the replay of today’s events and the sounds of dogfighting in the streets, it will be a very long night with little rest, but this day will certainly remain one of our most cherished memories.

 

Someone You Should Know: Katie Davis

Every once in a while I meet someone who simply knocks my socks off. Katie Davis is one such person.


In truth, I have never met Ms Davis in person. Our literary agent is her literary agent – we both have our first books being published in 2011 – and he first brought Katie’s ministry to our attention earlier this year. I have exchanged notes, letters, etc. with Katie and have come to learn about her story through mutual friends. I also, along with Gina and our 14 year old daughter, follow her blog faithfully.


In December of 2006, high school senior Katie traveled to Uganda for the first time. She was immediately captivated and fell in love with the people and the culture. While in Uganda, Katie met Pastor Isaac Wagaba who implored her to come teach Kindergarten at his orphanage in Buziika, Uganda, called Canaan Children’s Transit Center.

In the summer of 2007, Katie returned to Uganda to teach Kindergarten at Canaan. As she walked the children home from class each day, she was shocked to see the sheer number of school-aged children sitting idly on the side of the road or working in the fields. It was then that it came to Katie’s attention that there were very few government-run public schools in Uganda, and none in the area where she was working. Most schools in Uganda are privately run and therefore require school fees for attendance. Due to the extreme poverty in this region of Uganda, many children are unable to afford schooling.

God laid it on Katie’s heart to start a child sponsorship program, matching orphaned children who are unable to afford schooling with sponsors anywhere in the world. Sponsors pay $300.00 per year to send these children to school and provide school supplies, 2 hot meals each day, and needed minor medical care. Originally planning to have 40 children in the program, Katie had signed up 150 by January 2008. By the grace of God, in December 2008 the sponsorship program had successfully sent all 150 children to school for a full  year and provided them with all life’s essentials.


That she was able to accomplish so much of God’s work, in a continent halfway around the world, in an area dominated (to say the least) by men, and do it all before she turned 21, is nothing short of miraculous. 


We are trying to arrange having Katie herself on our radio program in January. If the logistics of setting up a live interview from Uganda prove to daunting, we will speak with another member of the board from Amazima Ministries International, the non-profit organization set up to provide financial support for what she is doing there.


We will keep you all posted on the date for this important show. In the meantime, please offer Katie your prayers, and follow her journey at: kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com