Ryan said he'd love to, which surprised me because he is busier than he's ever been at work right now. My mom was lined up to watch our 7 kids. Now, sparing you all the crazy details of things like my thoughts going to places like "what if Ryan and I die in a plane crash and leave our 7 children orphans" and a facebook friend posting at that same time on FB "More people are killed annually by donkeys than they are in plane crashes" we were going to California ... and by the time we had everything planed it was Saturday and we were leaving on Wednesday.
This Summit is near and dear to my heart. Two years ago when I went we were just deciding to adopt. Today our sons are home. One year ago we could not go to the this annual Summit because we were in Ethiopia meeting our sons for the first time.
I remember after leaving the last conference I wrestled with many thoughts. At that time we were researching agencies and focusing on the ethics of adoption agencies in particular. It was a bit overwhelming, but so necessary. And, as I sat in the conference two years ago, I saw the "adoption" story in a beautiful light. The beautiful light that it is. I did however leave knowing that I needed to learn more about orphans and how to best help. I admit - I wasn't very educated and it was just the beginning of a learning curve that will last my entire life.
Two years later, after walking through the adoption of our sons I was in a different place as I stepped into the Orphan Summit. A bit more broken and a bit more whole at the same time. There were amazing times of worship with Saddleback's worship team as well as people like Geoff Moore and Steven Curtis Chapman... singing songs like the one that was part of the inspiration for me to name my blog ...
Strength does rise as we wait upon the Lord.
There were amazing speakers, like Rick and Kay Warren, Francis Chan, Jed Medefind, Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Ryan Bomberger, Russel Moore just to name a few.
We heard things we needed to hear, like how to make sure our marriage was what it should be, how to parent our adopted children as well as our biological children and we were simply in kindred spirits with many, many others that have a heart for the orphan and love Jesus Christ. And I got to meet and hug a sweet momma whose blog I have followed for a few years. You should go check her blog out. Amazing God stories have unfolded over the years that I have read her blog. Jesus shines as she continues to go to battle for the orphan - especially orphans who have special needs. Right now we are praying for her little one that they are in the process of adopting.
This time at the conference I still saw "adoption" as the beautiful story that it is. I met many people that have been blessed to have adopted a child, or two, or three, or four, or eleven :) We heard a lot about the story of children in foster homes. We heard "God" stories from the mouths of young ladies that experienced foster homes. We listened to the Honorable Inyumbia Aloisea who is Rwanda's Minister for Gender and Family Promotion. She shared how Rwanda has been working on emptying orphanages and have actually done that to several orphanages through adoption. She understood the importance of children having a forever family ... a mom, a dad ... a home and has dedicated her life to making sure that all the children of Rwanda have that. Oh, it is my prayer that every orphan would have a family. A mom, A dad, A home. It is my prayer that anyone that God is calling to adopt will step up and answer that call. I am so very, very excited to watch God unfold adoptions in our friends' lives right now.
Then, we went to a class that one of the speakers was Kimberly Smith from Make Way Partners. She told the story of the orphan to which adoption is not an option. Honestly, we had stopped at her booth the day before and Ryan asked me if we should buy her book. I didn't know who she was, was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information we had already got and said, "NO! I have too many books to read and too much to process right now. Don't buy it." Well, after we heard her speak we marched right back to the table and bought her book "Passport through Darkness". I've just started reading it.
Kimberly spends her life taking care of the widow and the orphan who will never be adopted. She has spend much time in Sudan. Sudan will not allow adoptions to happen. Sudan is a wore torn country. Sudan has been torn apart by genocide. There are millions of orphans in Sudan that are unreached and have no hope. Human Trafficking is a huge problem. Much, much money is being made by human trafficking in Sudan at the expense of children.
I think Phillip Yancey summed it up best on the Make Way Partners website when he was talking about Kimberly Smith. He said ... "Kimberly Smith voluntarily walks through the gates of hell. If you can read her accounts with out being affected, you should check your pulse." But she herself is so very humble. She loves Jesus. It is not about Kimberly Smith, it is about Jesus. She stated many times that God has a plan for each of our lives. Everyone can not do what she is doing and everyone has a unique call of action to spread the gospel.
You can listen to some interviews that Kimberly did with Focus on the Family here. They are worth the time to hear about how God is using her and her family to answer the call of the widow and the orphan.