Sunday, August 31, 2008

Update on Gogos!

The other day a woman named Leslie Lewis contacted me on the blog because she had seen my posting about gogos. It turns out she works with the organization Gogo Grandmothers that helps gogos in Malawi. We exchanged some great emails. For those of you that are interested, here are parts of some of the emails she sent me about how we can help these grandmothers (and grandfathers) that are raising numerous HIV/AIDS orphans with little to no support:

"People are helping as individuals, "Partners" and and as a "Group". Partners and Groups actually charter with us and can fund raise for the grandmothers and orphan children using our name and tools. You can find these described under "Groups" on the website Then we can supply you with lots of info and supplies and even products we bring from Malawi to use in fundraising.

I also have a conference call with leaders each month to share ideas and pray for one another. This is just available when people can connect. We are having our first one day leaders conference on Sept. 13th. We will have high school students, 20 somethings all the way to 80 year old grandmothers there. I can't wait! Gogo Grandmothers is new in the US where some of us heard about the need and what was happening and decided to come along side to help. But it has much deeper roots in the work in Malawi.

The core of our work connects a group, which could be campus, church or community to a specific village in Malawi.The group helps support that village with prayer and fund raising or sponsorship. I will send you a couple attachments about sponsorship. We are working on the ground establishing community based Early Childhood Education Centers for orphans and vulnerable children with feeding programs and biblically based education. It is making a huge difference and I just heard today that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has selected Makungula Village preschool as a national model for a peri-urban ECD work in the country!! It was our first village preschool. The other emphasis, work with the gogo, grew out of the preschools as we realized it was grandmothers and some grandfathers who are now trying to raise these children with almost nothing. I wish you could see the impact this is making in villages as these groups so much hope. Right now we have eight villages who are receiving some help from people in the US, but UNICEF gave us a grant to train childcare workers and form groups in 30 new villages, but no money to help sustain the allowances and other things you will see is our goal to cover in each village.

The huge need right now is for fertilizer. Their planting time is October and without fertilizer they cannot grow what they need. The cost has shot up to $65.00 a bag. We are praying that vouchers will be given to the elderly poor raising orphans which could bring down the cost for them so we could help even more.

I haven't heard about the purse. I know from being over there that most of the gogos have never held a needle and thread and their eyes are poor. But we teach them to make a little bag we call a Little Maize Bag out of african cloth along with needles and thread that we supply and make a french knots on the outside to represent the number of orphan children in their care. We then write their name and sometimes the children's names on a slip of paper they tuck inside. We bring those to the US and add corn kernels and a tag explaining leaving some of the gleaning of our fields for the poor. Groups use these to raise donations.

There are simple ways to help gogos and orphaned children when you are at a secular school. The high school girls attended two afternoon street fairs in San Clemente, sold some of our necklaces that are of a gogo and child and did face painting. They made over $1,500 to send to villages that will go to fertilizer. Another public high school girl, for part of her senior project, made bracelets and sold them for a dollar and earned $600.00 that she sent with her Westmont sister who bought over 250 sweaters for street children for a dollar a piece at a flea market in Malawi and used the rest to buy blankets for some of the gogos.

Your group could do a fundraiser like this group that just sent me this e-mail notice. You can just pick one popular restaurant that gives a good percentage...they just went crazy with this idea.

Another group put cans around that had a picture of a gogo and child and it said, A dime a day can save lives. Let your heart gogo!"

When I read this I couldn't help but think of that cheezy 80's song from Wham, "Wake me up before you go-go..." I wonder if that could be used to market a fundraising event for gogos. That could be kind of fun. Bring on the leg-warmers, blue eye shadow and bad hair! Maybe George will kick in a few bucks!!!

A Movie You Need to See and Something Cool

This weekend we saw a powerful movie called War Dance (it's available at Blockbuster). The movie follows a group of grammar school students from Uganda who are competing to win a national music and dance competition. The film details the lives of several children in the school, several of whom were kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army and made to serve as child soldiers. The movie presents a very real look at some of the atrocities these amazing children have had to endure. The movie also shows how at heart these kids are just that - kids. In that regard, the filmmakers offer a hopeful view of the resilient and courageous Achioli people in Uganda. This movie was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007. We urge you to check it out! Uganda is another country that, like Ethiopia, has been ravaged by poverty, disease and war. Uganda is also close to our hearts as we were inspired to adopt by a family at our church who added a beautiful little girl from Uganda to their family of 5. There are many great organizations that are working to help the people of Uganda. Two of our favorites are called Invisible Children and GuluWalk. The filmmakers that made War Dance are part of a group of filmmakers called ShineGlobal that work to raise awareness about the plight of children in need around the world. Their website has some great links to information about Uganda and groups (including Invisible Children and GuluWalk) working to bring relief to this country. Check it out!

Another cool thing that happened this weekend was that we met two pediatricians who have done mission work in third world countries. We met one at church and one at a baby shower for a friend's daughter. Both offered to provide care for our children (free of charge if our insurance gave us any problems!) and any professional advice we might need. One of the docs does medical missions in Africa and has a specialty in infectious diseases. He just got back from Sierra Leone and told us he'd love to have us join him sometime on a mission trip. If our adoption process continues to be delayed, it would be cool to do some mission work in Africa before our kids get here. It's neat to see how God allows your paths to cross with others at exactly the right time in accordance with His larger purposes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

1.2 Billion

ABC News did a piece tonight about the money that is being spent to put on the Democratic National Convention in Denver. It's MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars. In the investigative piece they are running called "The Money Train", ABC cited how the DNC has raised $1.2 BILLION dollars for Democratic candidates. I just can't help but think of how many orphans could be fed/clothed/educated for the cost of these conventions (DNC/RNC). Or how about how many gogos could be supported? How many malaria nets could be purchased? We could even use some of that money to help those here in our own US backyard. The Republicans are certainly no better. The whole thing is just downright irritating. If we could take all of that money that is wasted on these bad-hat-wearing, flag-waving, hot-air-filled conventions and the nasty attack ads that go along with them, we might be able to do some good. Here's the link to the ABC News piece:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Want to Help a Gogo?

There are so many wonderful groups to get involved with if we are going to do something to help sub-Saharan Africa. It has been described as a "continent on fire" because of the many ways this region has been ravaged by disease and poverty. Here is one organization that helps fund "gogos". Gogos are the grandmothers in a community. These women will often be raising multiple children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. I read about being able to help sell handbags made by Gogos. I think that could go over really well in my community. There are lots of small shops that sell specialty items like that at pretty high prices. Ebay or Etsy could also be a cool way to sell those. That's another project I need to look into!

Will They Be Cute?

During the long plane ride to Ireland for our kidmoon trip, I was finishing up Red Letters. One thing (among MANY) that I have been scared of is that day we will actually see our kids' pictures. I have been very afraid that maybe I won't think the kids are cute. It's horrible to admit that but I have been worried about how I will feel on an emotional level when I see those pics we have been waiting so many MONTHS to see. At the very end of the book, Tom Davis talks about beginning the adventure of living a life devoted to Christ - a "red letters, hope giving life". He says that this journey is one "you will never forget because of the people you will meet. And believe it or not - you'll recognize every one of them. They look just like Jesus." That hit me so hard. I realized that I will love my children when I see them (and see them as beautiful) because I will see Jesus in them.

Shoes for Orphan Souls

My friend Jenna turned me on to this amazing ministry called Shoes for Orphan Souls. I cried reading one article on their website about how the feet of orphans often tell their story - they are dirty, cracked, swollen, tired. The website talked about a recent trip to a village in Ethiopia where almost none of the children had shoes. What an amazing opportunity to minister to those in need by providing such a basic necessity. Jenna asked me if she and her moms' group could help collect shoes to send with us to Ethiopia. I'm not sure how that will work (if at all) given the ridiculous bag restrictions when flying these days. I need to look into that. It would be so cool to bring suitcases full of shoes with us. It's funny that this summer (before I ever heard of this shoe ministry) I bought a bunch of kids shoes on clearance thinking they might be useful as a part of the humanitarian aid we are bringing with us. God must know what His kids need. Check out their great website!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Our "Kidsmoon" Trip

We thought we might have to head to Ethiopia to get our kids this summer. When we found out that we would not have to go in August after all, we were able to pull off a last minute "babymoon" trip (or as Davis pointed out - "kidsmoon" trip in our case!) to Ireland to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Here's a fun pic from the trip. Traveling internationally was sobering knowing that we will do it again soon with two little ones in tow. Frankly, the thought was a bit terrifying to me! Traveling 40 hours across the globe with two little people who hardly know us and don't speak our language - and knowing that we are now their parents forever. Whoa! Sobering indeed. I'm praying that God will give us the courage to pull that one off when the time comes.

Plumpy Nut!

My friend Joy directed me to this interesting article on the Plumpy Nut peanut butter that is being used to help with the famine in Ethiopia right now. It costs roughly $7 for two weeks. That alone can mean the difference between starving or not. How convicting! Davis and I can easily drop seven bucks on a morning run to Starbucks!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman on Faith in the Midst of Trials

Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth are powerful advocates for adoption. The story of his family's journey to adoption played a role in inspiring us to consider adoption. In this recent interview with Larry King, he and his family discuss how faith in God is their stronghold even in the midst of such a horrific tragedy -the loss of their adopted daughter, Maria Sue. The Chapman kids' story of faith is remarkable. The entire interview is in parts on YouTube.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

This is one of the BEST books I have ever read. It's going to be a biggie on my Christmas giving list. Tom Davis talks plainly about how Christians need to be active in bringing justice to our broken world. I love that!!!

Our Blog is Now Live & A Tough Week

So our blog is now officially ready to be put out there for you to see! It took us quite a while to get around to doing this (we planned to do this back in January when we started with Gladney!) but we are excited about sharing our story with you and we hope you will check back often to see where we are in this process. It is a bit daunting to be a new blog in the "adoption blogosphere" given that so many of the blogs out there are SO GOOD. We have been notorious "blog lurkers" (sorry!) and we can't help but feel a bit of performance anxiety! Our blog may not be the most exciting one on the block but we do promise to do our very best to tell you our story as we walk down this road. Please make sure to check out some of our earlier posts. There are some cool videos posted there!

This week was a hard one. We got some more information from Gladney and to date we still do not have our referral. It has been 4 months. We are trying to be faithful in prayer for God's timing but it is hard not to get discouraged. The waiting process has been more difficult than we anticipated. It feels so strange to be reading so much about the desperate need for orphan relief in Africa and want to help meet that need only to be told that there is not a way for you to help right now (at least in the sense of providing children a home with us). It's just seems weird. Two things did happen this week that were special and encouraging. One is that I (Sarah) read Tom Davis' wonderful Red Letters book. What an inspiration! I LOVE that book. It is probabaly one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I really needed to feel inspired to stay the course this week and Red Letters was perfect for that. I'm already thinking of how we can fit more kids into our house someday! Also, my dad called to share with me a scripture from Deutoromy about God blessing your family with children. I really felt like God was speaking to me in that in my specific place of need. It is so easy to forget who is running this show - especially if you are control freak like me. Hopefully someday I will learn that I am not able to control absolutely everything - as much as I would like to sometimes!