Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to Ethiopia!!

Above: photo of a threadbare soccer ball taken at A-Hope orphanage in Ethiopia.


Back in July, I wrote a post titled "Weighing Heavy on My Heart". In that post, I voiced what I think many adoptive parents feel once they have returned home with their children, feeling forever changed from the experience they just had. For me, being aware every day of the dramatic difference in my sons lives between "then" and "now". And then also recognizing the fact that there are MILLIONS of children around the world still living without the love and protection of a mommy or daddy. My heart hurts for the pain my little boys have had to endure and yet there are MILLIONS of children enduring that pain right now. And some of those children I held in my arms, and wiped away tears, and played with, and laughed with in Ethiopia less than one year ago - and they are still there.

About a month ago, I wrote ... "Ever since returning from Ethiopia with our two little boys, there is something heavy weighing on my heart. ... I remember seeing news clips about the famine in Ethiopia or the genocide in Rwanda, and turning my face away from the horrible images on the screen. Terrible images to see, but they did not affect me because I had personally never seen a starving child, or the look of desperation and hopeless pleading in the eyes of that child's mother.

After awhile, the images start to look the same and we become immune to the horror. Then one day it struck me, that the only difference between my child (my precious, beautiful and valuable daughters) and that starving, orphaned child on TV was an accident of lattitude and longitude. Simply where they were born.

What if that was me, living in poverty in Africa or Asia or India, and what if I was watching my child starve in front of my eyes. Worse yet, what if I was dying (of some stupid infection that could have been cured with a simple antibiotic) and when I was gone there would be NO ONE to love or protect my children. NO ONE to tell them they are loved and valued, NO ONE to give them hope. In fact, when I am gone, they will likely starve to death, become prey to some sick child predator, or they would have to sell their bodies for a scrap of bread so they can survive another horrifying day.These thoughts are so horrible that as quickly as they enter my head and nauseate my stomach, I can banish them because that just isn't the reality for me, here in America.

I know that is the horrible reality for other mothers, but what can I really do about it???

But then we chose to adopt, and yes, the experiences we had and the things we saw in Ethiopia continue to haunt me and continue to stir my heart and hands to action. But that's not the main thing that compels me to action right now. It's my two little boys, our sons that we adopted from Ethiopia. It's my 8 year old son, who could not look me in the eye when he first came home with us. I would bend down to his level to look him in the eye as I spoke to him, and his eyes would dart away. I would cup his face in my hands and turn his eyes back toward mine, and he could not, would not hold my gaze. Why was that?? Is it because he did not know his worth and his value? What a difference just 8 months later. Tonight as we sat on the sidelines for his soccer game, he glanced over about 100 times during that game to see if we were watching. "Do you see me?" he wondered as his eyes searched for ours and his face would light into a huge smile when he saw us looking back.

It's our 3 year old son, who at first responded to us with glares, and rhythmic crying and biting because of the pain and distrust he had learned - and now he wraps his little arms tightly around my neck each night when I carry him up to bed. And when I tuck him in, he kisses me on each cheek and then my forehead and whispers "I lus you mommy". And when I pick him up after work, he looks into my face with delight and asks, "Home??". "Yes, we are going home" I tell him.

And the problem is, whenever I see those sad images now ... a sea of dirty faces, of skinny children desperately smiling for the camera, with flies on their eyes and the corners of their mouth, and protruding bellies, and scrawny legs, and rag clothing - I catch my breath and tears well up in my eyes and my throat chokes ... because I see Wesley's eyes in that child, or Jayden's smile in that child and I know that my sons were there. Those could be my children, my sons and my daughters, and who is going to protect them, and love them, and tell them they are valuable, and worthwhile and precious beyond measure??? Who????

Those orphaned children are no different than your son or your daughter. The one thing they want most in the world is a family - a mommy and a daddy. Someone to protect them and to love them and to teach them their immeasurable worth."

So what do I do with that??? What do YOU do with that???

There is something WE CAN do about that? Would you consider partnering with me and a few other families as we return to Ethiopia in November with Children's Hopechest (www.hopechest.org)? We will be visiting several orphanages and care-points during our trip, with plans to develop them into long-term care-points.

A community of people here - that will partner with a community in Ethiopia - to make a long-term impact.

It starts with child sponsorship - agreeing to sponsor one specific child for about $30/month to meet the primary needs of food, clothing, education and medical care - all within the framework of physically demonstrating and teaching God's love for them. But it does not stop there!!!

That community of sponsors will build long-term relationships by sending a group to Ethiopia 2 times a year - and embracing capital campaigns to dig a well, or build a kitchen, or provide electricity, and eventually to teach these children to be self-sufficient by developing and sustaining small businesses - sewing, gardening or chicken coops, etc.

It's a long-term plan for a community of people here, to unite and build relationships with a community of people in Ethiopia - starting with an orphanage or carepoint that reaches out to care for orphaned children.

If you are interested in being involved in any way (large or small), please email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com or find me on face book and let me know (Karen Wistrom). We leave for Ethiopia Nov 30 - Dec 8, and upon our return to the U.S. we will immediately begin to match sponsors to orphaned children and build long-term relationships to demonstrate God's love for them, while teaching them to become self-sufficient, confident, hope-filled young adults. I am so excited to see what God will accomplish through this endeavor!!

For those of you that have never been involved in child sponsorship or overseas mission work, please consider taking this step with us. And for those that have adopted a child or sponsor a child, and want to take the next step in making a lasting impact, please get in touch with me. I look forward to partnering with you as we personally connect, community to community, with orphans in Ethiopia!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Adoption Seminar in MN - See you there!


If you are interested in learning more about adoption, please join us for an informative seminar. Choose the date and location most convenient for you. Meet other MN adoptive families and hear their personal and profound adoption experiences.


If you, or someone you know is thinking about adoption and would like to find out more, please forward the seminar information to them. I hope to see you there!!

Register today at www.awaa.org/events

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happenings ...

The boys love to help shuck the sweet corn. They must be Iowans at heart like their mom and dad.


Jayden has told us many times that when he grows up, he wants to be a fireman. During the National Night Out block party, Minnesota's finest were on the scene with horns and sirens blaring. Jayden was beyond excited to sit in the cab and pull the airhorn. Then the guys got him all dressed up in their protective gear, which weighs about 50 lbs. He was delighted!


The raspberries were HUGE this year and the batch we picked was gone in one afternoon, and enjoyed with vanilla ice cream.




It's been plenty busy here lately and school is just around the corner. I know school has started in many other states, but here in MN, we are enjoying the dog days of summer and school does not start until September 8! But the kids have received their teacher assignments and class schedules, and the phone has been ringing off the hook with friends wanting to compare schedules and planning for the new school year. Emme and Maea will both be in middle school this year (7th and 6th grade) and Jayden will be starting 2nd grade.

Jayden's great aunt, Mary, has spent quite a bit of time with him this summer to brush up on his English language skills as well as reading, spelling and math, so that he is more prepared for 2nd grade. He has only been in America for 8 months and when we first brought him home, he barely spoke English. It has been amazing to watch the words and sentences start to flow from both of the boys!

We've had a busy summer - between soccer season, basketball camp, sailing school, swim lessons and a few family vacations too - summer has flown by. The kids will be busy with the start of the school year and school soccer season.

I am coordinating 2 seminars this Fall for Amercia World Adoption (www.awaa.org/events) to inform prospective families about adoption. I'm also scheduled to take a photography class from Ria Lee in September (www.rialeephotography.com/blog). Check out her blog and be blown away by her INCREDIBLE talent - she creates the most beautiful images of children, babies and families!

Of course, I can't blog without posting a few pictures of all the kids and recent happenings. I know I've commented a few times on facebook about the baby turtles that are hatching, so I am posting a few pics of them as well. Here's the nutshell version of the turtle story ...


Our oldest daughter, Emme (12) will spend hours a day in our little oar boat on the pond behind our house. She has an eagle eye for the tiny little turtle heads that pop out of the water to breathe, and she'll silently and slowly paddle the boat right up to them, and then scoop them up in a net. We usually have several baby turtles in our aquarium during the summer and then we release them again in the fall. The kids love to watch them sunning themselves, and swimming around the tank.

After seeing a few turtles actually laying their eggs earlier in the summer, Emme did quite a bit of research on the web as to how to incubate turtle eggs. So we went ahead and let her find a female turtle as it laid its eggs, and then mark the location of the nest. A few days later, Emme carefully dug up the nest and delicately lifted each egg from the hole in the ground, careful to keep its exact position as she transferred it to an incubator she had made. She told us that the eggs should hatch in about 60 days as long as she was able to maintain the temperature at about 84 degrees and keep the environment moist. I must admit, I wasn't really expecting any survivors, but over the past week they have begun to hatch and what an amazing process that has been.

The eggs themselves are oval-shaped and pliable (soft). At first, they kind of crumpled in upon themselves but as the weeks went by, they began to fill out and plump up. When the baby turtle is ready to emerge, it slices through the egg with its "egg tooth", a sharp little temporary "beak" on the front of its nose. The turtle then lays in its shell for about 3-5 days absorbing the yolk through its umbilical cord. Which means that turtles have "belly-buttons" which heal up about 5 days after they are done absorbing the yolk. At first, the belly-button protrudes from the bottom of the shell, but then it slowly turns into a flat area. Just the process of hatching has taken nearly 1 1/2 - 2 weeks. Once fully hatched, they bury themselves in the sand for a few days before emerging and becoming more active - which means they are ready for their first swim!